Category Archives: Laptop replacement

What Makes the Nexus 7 So Great?

In my opinion, the best Android tablet on the market is the 2nd generation Nexus 7.
The hardware may be a little on the fragile side, but under normal use it won’t be a problem. Especially when you consider the advantages the Nexus 7 has over other tablets:

– It has the best display on the market.

– It has premium specs at a budget price.

– It gets updates to the OS immediately

These OS updates are great. Have you ever tried to update Android on another device. It’s a pain if it’s even possible. In the video below, check out how easy it is to update Android on a Nexus.

I received a notification that said System update downloaded, touch to install.

When I did, it let me know that this was the Android 4.3 System Update. There was a button that said Restart & Install…so I did, and the Nexus 7 did the rest.

The Nexus 7 is powered off and rebooted on its own, then it began installing the system update. It took several minutes, so be patient.  When it’s done installing it continued to boot for a few more seconds. The Nexus splash screen appeared for a few seconds as well. When the device is done booting, it will begin upgrading Android:
– First it will optimize your apps. The length of this step will depend on the number apps you have installed.
– Then it will start your apps, upgrade contacts and media databases, and finish booting.

…and that’s it. You can unlock your screen.

If you look in the notifications you’ll see that apps are still upgrading so your tablet may be a little sluggish until its done.

*Update Description:
This software update will upgrade your Nexus 7 to to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, which improves performance and stability. Create restricted profiles, for example, to limit family members’ access to apps and  content on your tablet or to secure a tablet in kiosk setting. Capture your thoughts on the go with Google keep. To find out more, visit http://www.android.com/about/jelly-bean/

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Apple Certified Refurbished iPad mini Review

If the iPad mini’s relatively high price is holding you back from purchasing one, maybe you should consider an Apple Certified Refurbished iPad mini.

Here’s how retail prices compare to refurbished:

Wifi only
Memory Retail  Refurb  Savings
16GB        $329     $279      $50
32GB        $429     $359      $70
64GB        $529     $439      $90

Wifi + cellular
Memory Retail  Refurb  Savings
16GB        $459     $389      $70
32GB        $559     $469      $90
64GB        $659     $549      $110

Refurbished iPads arrive in boxes that resemble retail packaging.  The only notable difference is the absence of the picture on the lid. Other than that, everything else is identical. My iPad came wrapped in cellophane and when I removed it, the tablet did not have a scratch, a fingerprint, or even a speck of dust.
That’s because Apple tests and certifies all refurbished products. All refurbished iPads include a brand new battery and outer shell. They also include a 1-year warranty and you have the option of purchasing an AppleCare Protection Plan.

I have the 16GB wifi + cellular model. I chose the white & silver version because finger prints and scratches appear to show up more on the black & slate version. The natural aluminum back still picks up finger prints, but they’re not as visible.

The ipad mini is well designed and feels solid but light. The volume buttons are on the right side with nothing opposite them on the left. That’s an important design element for me, because I hate accidentally putting a device to sleep when I’m trying adjust the volume with one hand. The sim tray is also on the right side with the lightning port and speakers along the bottom.

I use the switch above the volume buttons as a mute switch, however, in settings you can change it to a rotation lock.

On a Nexus 7, the power button is Above the volume rocker so I frequently turn the tablet off when I’m trying to adjust the volume. I like the placement of the power button on iPads…up top & out of the way.

I’m not an audiophile, but the sound seems sufficient. I do prefer headphones when watching videos, but earbuds are not included with iPads, so I use the ones that came with my iPhone 5 and they sound great.

The iPad 2 and iPhone 4 charge via a 30-pin connector where orientation matters, while the iPad mini and iPhone 5 use the new Lightning connector. Unlike the original charger, the lightning connector works regardless of direction.  The iPad mini comes with an  iPhone style  power brick.

When I was researching the iPad mini, I was concerned that the screen would feel cramped. Many of the apps I use have an iPad version and a version optimized for the iPhone. But when I’m forced to use productivity apps on my iPhone, I’m usually left annoyed at the lack of space and wishing I had my iPad. I don’t get that claustrophobic feeling when working on the iPad mini. The experience of using an app on the iPad mini is identical to the experience I had using an iPad 2 – I don’t even think about the missing space so, I can stay focused on my work.

This is what editing a document looks like in Pages on an iPhone 5.
iPhone doc

This is what the same document looks like in Pages on the iPad mini.
iPad doc
The iPad mini and the iPad 2 have the same resolution screens – therefore, both displays contain the same number of pixels. However, since the iPad mini’s screen is smaller, it has a higher pixel density and in theory a sharper display. In my experience, I haven’t noticed a difference between the two – I’ve been equally satisfied with both. I have to note, though, some people have expressed strong opinions about the lack of retina displays in the iPad mini. If you have the opportunity, check one out in person and see if the ‘less than retina’ display will be an issue.

So far, I don’t have anything bad to say about the iPad mini. I really liked my iPad 2, and the iPad mini is all the good things about the full size iPad, wrapped up in a more portable package.


Get an iPad Mini Now or Wait?

It’s about time for us teachers and students to start thinking about heading back to school.  I love this time of year:  shopping for back-to-school clothes, and supplies…and GADGETS!

I decided to sell my iPad 2 wifi and get an iPad Mini 3G, but I was faced with the ever present tech shoppers dilemma: Do I get the current generation or wait for the update?

I watched/read tons of reviews of the 1st gen iPad Mini to make sure it would meet my expectations. I investigated every rumor pertaining to the unveiling of the 2nd gen iPad Mini. I determined that the 1st gen iPad Mini exceeded the iPad 2 in performance – so it would be an upgrade for me. And, if the rumors are correct, the 2nd gen iPad Mini will be revealed sometime in the next 2-6 months – not very specific.

If a retina display is a high priority for you, and you can wait up to 6 months (according to rumors), and you don’t mind paying full retail price, then wait for the 2nd gen.

I’m not already spoiled by a retina iPad so even though the resolution of the current iPad Mini is the same as the iPad 2, its smaller display has a larger number of pixels per inch, giving it a sharper appearance. I decided to go with the 16GB iPad Mini 3G that retails  for $459. However, you can get the same model, only refurbished, directly from the Apple Online Store for only $389. Even if Apple announces an new iPad Mini in a couple months, it would probably be well after the 1st of the year before they started showing up in the refurbished store. I ordered the refurbished device. You can watch my unboxing below.


Mom’s Chromebook: Update

I got my mom a chromebook for Mother’s Day to replace the laptop I got her for Christmas several years ago. Teaching her how to login and navigate Chrome was significantly easier than teaching her the intricacies of Windows XP. We bookmarked some sites she was likely to visit. I’ve tested her a couple times and she is able to login and find information on desired websites without my assistance…and those are the only two times that she has cracked the thing open! She may have fired it up when my sister was home, but sister’s almost as technology averse as my mom (but at least she has a Kindle).

Oh well, mom seemed to enjoy browsing antiques on eBay and at least it’s there if she needs it.


Equation Editors for the iPad (or Android Tablets)

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Last year I tried replace my laptop with an iPad. I’m a math teacher and I needed to be able to create and edit word documents that contained equations…lots of them. I found a few apps (like MathBot) that would allow me to create equations. The downside with these type of apps is that they are not word processors. You have to export each equation as a photo or PDF, then you have to paste it into a document you’ve created in another app, then you have to adjust the size and if you have several equations on the same page it is nearly impossible to get them all a uniform size. And there is no editing the equations once they’ve been exported.

It’s a lot of work, and the end product is not that great.

I continued to look for a word processor with a built-in equation editor. I nearly bought a Microsoft Surface RT because it came with MS Office, but the price ($599) convinced me to keep looking for a more affordable option.

I found the perfect solution: Refurbished iPad 2 ($319) + CloudOn (free).

CloudOn is an office suite with built-in equation editor, just like MS Office.

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It’s a web app, so you must have internet access, but finally there’s a productivity suite with a built-in equation editor. I’ve used it on an iPad 2 and a Nexus 7 and it works great on both tablets.

Check out my overview of CloudOn’s equation editor.


Google Drive – Spreadsheet and Docs on a Nexus 7

I wrote a post last summer describing my experience using the spreadsheet editor in Google Drive’s Android app. My opinion was that editing existing spreadsheets was acceptable, but creating new ones was not very intuitive.

However, the spreadsheet editor is now much more user friendly. Here are some screenshots of Google Drive on my daughter’s Nexus 7.

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I find thumb typing in portrait mode very comfortable on the Nexus 7.

20130206-225542.jpg

I prefer landscape view on an iPad, but on the Nexus 7, you can’t see much of the document.

20130206-225600.jpg

Google Drive has a very clean, attractive user interface.

20130206-225609.jpg

Here’s a YouTube video showing a Google Drive Spreadsheet on my iPad.

…and here’s a Google Drive Document on my iPad.


Apple Refurbished iPads

image

Like new.

Yesterday I unboxed my Apple Refurbished iPad 2 (16 GB) and posted the video on YouTube.
Apple Refurbished iPad 2 Unboxing

*The packaging is different than a new iPad, yet still very attractive.
*A new 16 GB iPad Costs $399, while the refurbished devices cost $319 (I couldn’t find a deal to beat that on eBay).
*Shipping was free and prompt – I ordered it and a new Smart Cover on Saturday and the cover arrived Wed. while the iPad arrived Thur.
*I could not tell the difference between the refurbished device and a new one.

Apple refurbished iPads have:
-a new battery
-a new outer shell
-a one year warranty

The less expensive models tend to go faster, so if you set your heart on getting one, you may have to wait until more of your desired model becomes available. I’s worth checking out.
Apple Refurbished iPads

You can also purchase refurbished laptops, desktops, and iPods from Apple.

I’m curious to see how much the iPad mini will cost when the start selling refurbished models.