Saturday, December 17, 2011

WiFi Hot Spots

Dear Reader,

About six years ago, I faced an interesting dilemma, a client that I had been working with for years booked me on a job.   Two days before the start of the job, my client informed me that he needed Internet access on my motor home.  This was 2004, before the wireless carriers like Verizon and AT & T sold wireless hot spots. My only other option was a very expensive satellite dish, that was extremely expensive, unreliable and very slow.  I contacted one of my colleagues in the motor home business, and he put me in touch with Matt from “Hot Spots” 818 340 5481, Matt saved me from losing a job and a good client.  He sold me a router that had a PCI slot, and used Verizon’s air card.  The router also had four LAN ports (Ethernet ports) that you could connect a computer with an Ethernet cable.  The LAN ports came in handy, because in 2004 built in wireless cards was an option on many PCs.  Matt set up the router for me, all I had to do was slide the Verizon air card into the PCI slot and plug it in, two minutes latter I had Internet access.  A very simple device that worked, that is as long as I was in cell range, if I was in Death Valley forget it or any area that did not have a cell tower, which does not happen often.  I informed my client that I had Internet and I was ready to go, I retained the job and his people were very happy in the course of the photo shoot to access the Internet.

Matt is still part of my team, he has kept me up to date on the latest technology and solved many of my wireless solutions.  Case in point 2005, I had another problem, I was about to embark on a job for a major car company in Portland, Oregon from Los Angeles.  The client would need to fax various documents when we were on the road; I needed a solution for my vexing predicament.  I called Matt again, explained my problem and he sold me a device that converts digital data to analog, yes todays fax machine still use technology that Thomas Bell invented in the 1800’s.  To this date I still use this device, it was more reliable than using the Motorola’s brick phones of the nineties, and when the wireless carriers dropped the analog spectrum the Motorola phones really became bricks.  It still amazes me that in the age of smart phones and tablets, that people still need to fax paper documents.  Sometimes old technology is still vital in today’s world. 

My clients needs have changed too, they want fast 4G Internet access so that they can send huge picture or video files without waiting until next spring to receive or send files.  Again Matt came to my rescue this year, Verizon launched 4G LTE late last year (2010) I needed the fast speed for an upcoming job, Matt set up my CradlePoint router to work on the new 4G network.  I am amazed how fast 4G is, I am also amazed how expensive it is, if you use the 4G to watch movies or download songs as the phone carries advertise, expect to pay a several hundred dollars a month for that service. Fortunately I still have a 3G USB card with an unlimited plan; but I know my unlimited plan will end some day.  I hope that the phone companies build up their infrastructure in the next couple of years and offer unlimited plans in the future for 4G.  As such, 4G LTE is only good for those who can afford a huge monthly bill or limit their use of 4G to a minimal.   

Monday, March 21, 2011

The iPad Review

Dear Reader,

As you know I have been testing the iPad 2 for the last week, when I use the iPad in public; people approach me, and start asking questions about the iPad. Last night a woman told me she did not see what the big deal was about this tablet, she owned a lap top computer and a smart phone. I handed her the iPad 2, her eyes opened wide, it did not look like any devise she had ever seen, I showed her how to use it, she was amazed how intuitive the iPad is, you did not need to read a manual the size of a phone book, I explained. The Google Map App for instance can not only find you the nearest Starbucks, but it can give you driving directions, public transit and walking directions, along with the phone number and address.

Though I LOVE my iPhone 4, there are some limitations as with any Smart phone, the size of the screen. When I open the Google maps on the iPad, the map is large; there is more detail, it easy to read. As a Baby Boomer, my eyesight is not what it once was; therefore larger fonts are easy on my eyes. The iPad 2 launches programs much faster thanks to the A5 processor, the first generation iPad was fast, and the iPad 2 is lot faster, this is important if you are editing your next blockbuster film in iMovie. A nice gesture by Apple, the iMovie that I purchased for my iPhone 4, did not cost me an extra dime for my iPad. In fact a lot of the programs that I purchased for my iPhone worked fine on the iPad, though I have upgraded some of my favorite Apps for iPad HD Apps, because they are optimized to take advantage of the A5 dual core processor.

I purchased Verizon 4G LTE card, I have it in my Cradle Point MR 1000 router. I tested my iPad with this network, the speed is awesome, and I benchmark speeds up to 24,000 kilo bits per second in Los Angeles, though average Internet speeds ranged from 7,500 to 12.500. This presents a dilemma for anyone who is hesitant to buy an iPad 2 with 3G because of the 3G slower speeds. Buy the Wi-Fi version, when the 4G routers like Verizon MiFi come out latter this year you will have the faster Internet speed. However the Wi-Fi version of the iPad 2 does not have GPS built into the unit, if you plan on using your iPad as a GPS, you will need the Wi-Fi plus 3G iPad 2.

My rating from one to five, five being the best, I give the iPad 2, four and half points, I would had like the 4G network instead of the slower 3G network.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Review on the iPad 2

Dear Reader

This week everyone went gaga over Apple new iPad; across the country long lines were reported on Friday. By Saturday most stores were sold out, for good reason the iPad is a great piece of technology. I was one of the fortunate that was able to purchase an iPad 2 on the first day and I did not have to wait in a long line. How did I do it, I went to my local Verizon Store at the Glendale Galleria the day before the iPad was released. I spoke to one of the sales associates and traded phone numbers, the next day I made several calls to her to see if there was a line forming. To my surprise there was no line at the Verizon Store, I arrived at 3pm and for the next thirty minutes I was by myself. I wondered if I was there on the wrong day, or at the T-Mobile store instead of the Verizon Store. A smiling Verizon rep assured me I was at the right place and I would have a choose of any iPad I would want to purchase. I picked the black iPad 2 with WiFi and Verizon 3G. It took about thirty minutes to purchase the phone and have it up and running. I decided to taunt the poor souls waiting in line at the Apple Store on the second level, walking by the endless line and saying, "wow I just got my iPad at the Verizon Store and I did not have to wait in line." At that moment half the line went running down stairs to the Verizon Store, of course I did not tell them Verizon was sold out. It was time for me to leave, I did not want to make the 11 pm news, "man gets mugged at the mall after telling customers at the Apple Store Verizon has iPads and no lines".

Does the iPad 2 live up to the hype? Yes, it does, it is a responsive as a sports car, fast and nimble. The screen is bright, the touch screen responds to my fingers, no need for a keyboard or a mouse. I did not need to read a manuel the size of the yellow pages, the iPad is intuitive like any product made by Apple. The only real issue I had was where to connect my headphone, a very kind sales associate at the Apple Store explained to me how to connect my headphone, the jack is located at the top right conner of the iPad.

When I got home, I attached my iPad 2 to my MacPro, iTunes launched automatically, taking me through several simple steps. When the process was completed, my photos, music, books and all my other stuff was sync to my iPad. When I opened iPhoto my library of pictures looked awesome on the screen, even Apps that were not designed for the iPad functioned and look great.

Take the iPad 2 for a spin at your favorite electronics store, see for yourself what the hype is about.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Verizon 4G LTE Network-Should you get it?

Dear Reader

I’ve been testing Verizon 4G LTE network the last ten days on my MacBook Pro 2.4 using Mac 10.6.6 on the Pantech USB card. This card is not officially Mac supported, but I was able to go online at and find an easy hack. I’m lying; it took me over an hour to make this process work, and still I failed. I went to my neighborhood Verizon Store at the Glendale Galleria and a very nice, well several nice tech people helped me properly configure my network with the card. Note, if you are tech savvy, which I thought I was, in ten minutes you can be on the Internet, if you are not, bring your Mac with you when you purchase the Pantech card. Have the happy tech people at Verizon set up the card before you leave the store. In order to set up the card you will need to activate it on a PC first, again unless you are tech savvy, let the Verizon people help you. As of today (January 29, 2011) there are two 4G LTE USB cards, only use the Pantech card for the Mac, the other 4G card will not work on the Mac.

Once I got the card up and running, which it sometimes took me several tries, the network is fast. At home I have AT & T U-verse; which I thought was fast, I was able to obtain speeds up to 4,800 kilobits-per-second. Dial up speeds; remember AOL, and “you got mail” is only 56-kilobits-per-second. My Pantech was registering speeds up to 13,000 kilobits-per-second, I had to put on seatbelts so that I would not fall out of my chair. I wish my aging Altima could hit those speeds. What does this speed mean, watching movies on NetFlix you will not be hit with those nasty buffing messages. Making searches will come almost instantaneous; accessing the Internet will be fun again. Uploading pictures from iPhoto 2011 to Facebook is quick; it does not take five to ten minutes to upload an image as it did on Verizon 3G network. I am still testing the speed of the 4G networks, therefore in a future Blog I will announce my results.

The 4G LTE network only works in a certain cities, Verizon was smart to launch 4G in Los Angeles. Sprint did roll out their 4G services in Los Angeles until last fall, opting for smaller markets for the initial launch. Before you buy your card make sure it works where you live and places you plan to visit. Verizon web site is very easy to navigate, just look for the 4G LTE menu button.

My biggest complaint is why are there not any Mac compatible 4G cards available? Mac users are early adapters, yes they represents a smaller market share than Windows user, usually “we” like to be the first on the block to have the latest gadgets. My other complaint, I have a Cradle Point router that I am still waiting for a firmware upgrade, why does it take so long for an updated firmware? I found a way to share my signal with other users, but I would rather have a native appointment. Fortunately for me I have a great tech person who keeps all my routers up to date on the current firmware and helps me choose the best wireless equipment and phones for my business; Matt at Hot Spots 818-340-5481. The great thing I like about Matt is he is able to get me better deals on my equipment and he makes sure I have the best plan based on my use.

The bottom line should you be the first on the block get Verizon 4G LTE card? Yes and No. If you do not live or plan to live or visit in a city that does not have 4G, don’t waste your money until Verizon launches the service in your local. If you are like me who lives in one of the cities that offer 4G go for it, you will love the speed of 4G LTE. Just remember if you are a Mac users make sure you buy the right card and have Verizon configure y

Friday, January 14, 2011

Verizon iPhone 4 (Good or Bad ?)

Dear Reader

I got my first iPhone in 2008, it was the iPhone 3 or second generation iPhone, it was a lot better experience than my aging BlackBerry. I am a Mac user and have been a Mac user since 1996; the problem with the BlackBerry it was not very Mac friendly. One would have to buy a copy of the "Missing Sync" to make it compatible with the Mac. The iPhone 3 worked flawless with my MacBook Pro, especially since I had a Mobile Me account. One complaint, "Apple can you make some of those features like iCal and address syncing free?" I regress, the iPhone 3 became my personal assistant, helping me find nearby restaurant or a mall. When I went to Seattle for the first time, it helped find the right bus from Seatac to Seattle and back. I really like the Google apps too, especially the map.

Move forward this week to Verizon announcement that they are FINALLY getting the iPhone; one question, "why so long"? Though my experience with both the iPhone 3 and the iPhone 4 was positive, the dropped calls was and is annoying. Verizon has a better network, who but AT & T would argue. There are things I like about AT & T too; being able to surf the net and talk at the same time; the 3G network is fast, I have recorded speeds up to 3800 kilo bits per second, my Verizon speed on their 3G network was/is twice as slow. Verizon is rolling out their 4G LITE network, sadly the new iPhone 4 will only work on the 3G network.

I am glad Verizon is going to be selling the iPhone 4; it makes sense for Apple and Verizon. Many would say that the iPhone is the best smart phone, it has the best ecosystem in terms of iTunes and over 300,000 apps. It syncs flawlessly with my Macs, and the iPhone 4 has excellent battery life. I think Apple needed Verizon to expand its growing domestic base, because Google Android phones is a great alternative to the iPhone. For the first time, the Google phone outsold the iPhone in the fourth quarter of 2010. By having the iPhone with Verizon givers consumers an option, other than AT & T.

Their are both pros and cons about Verizon, this iPhone will not work on their 4G network which is unfortunate; but it will have better cell coverage. If you are a Verizon customer who has been waiting for the iPhone to come to this fold, this is great news. If you are tired of AT & T, this is the perfect time to jump ship. For the moment, I am going to stay with AT & T and wait to see what Apple is going to do to update the iPhone latter this year. In my opinion, the network is a lot better, I am not getting as many dropped calls and AT & T has lowered the cost of the various plans.

What do you think? E-mail me I would like to know.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Intro & The iPhone 4 review

Dear Reader

My name is iMike (Mike Green); I like that alias because it describes me, I'm always connected, connected to the Internet that is. In some ways I feel I am a late bloomer towards technology, I did not get my first computer until 1996 and old Classic Mac (all-in-one). Some of my more savvy friends tried to educate me about world wide web, foreign terms to me at the time. The game changer for me was when I started working at Vision Crew Unlimited and watched the CG artist create special effects for commercials, TV and films. At the time they were using Mac's 8600's and 9600's, state of the art in the late 1990's. I asked a ton of questions and watched the techs do their amazing work.

Today, I consider myself a tech head, I love technology, especially gadgets that enhance my life. I bought my first iPhone 3 two and half years ago, after being an avid Black Berry user. I liked the sleek design, the ease of use and how easily it sync to all three of my computers. On the negative side, the battery life was less than acceptable and the AT & T coverage was challenging in areas outside major metropolitan areas. The iPhone 4 has good battery life, and AT & T has improved their cell and data coverage to more places.

I did not experience the death grip as some users have experienced, but I should note I bought a case for my iPhone at the time of purchase to protect the phone from accidental drops. Comparing the iPhone 3 to the iPhone 4 is like trying to compare a Kea to a Porsche. Programs opened faster, games played better and the screen was two-hundred percent better than the iPhone 3. I cannot compare the iPhone 4 to the 3GS because I did not own one. The single feature that stands out for me is the camera. The camera is amazing, the still images are sharp, the colors are vivid, the video quality is life like. Light is important, if you want to shoot a good image you need proper lighting; especially if you are using existing light and not the flash. I shot some footage on the Amtrak heading to Eugene, Oregon from Los Angeles. I placed the iPhone 4 against the window and held it very straight. The footage was clear, the hues were very realistic, my friends were stunned by the quality the footage, my point and shoot camera is now collecting dust under my bed.

I plan on writing more about the iPhone 4 in future blogs.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Verizon New 4G Network

Dear Reader"

Verizon Wireless just launched their new 4G Network called LTE. LTE is promising speeds from 5 to 12 Mbps, what does that mean in layman terms, put on your seatbelt fast. I have been using the Verizon 3G network for years first with the Junxtion Box router, more recently the Cradle Point router; this allows multiply user on my network at the same time. The CP does not have the limitations of the MiFi 2200 which only allows up to five people on at the same time; I have had sometimes as many as ten users on at the same time without any problems in terms degrade in speed. I regress, Verizon 3G network was Ok at best, if one was in a major city one could expect speeds up to 1.2 Mbps, decent but not fast, if one was outside the 3G network smoke signals might be a faster option. I'm kidding of course, even the slower network allowed users acceptable speed for checking e-mails and surfing the web; however I would not consider watching NetFlex "On Demand" movies or "YouTube" videos.

Verizon 4G LTE will allow users to surf the web on the go at speeds that tech guys like me could only ascertain at home using cable or DSL. Sprint launched their 4G network earlier this year, however, Los Angeles did not get Sprints 4G until this month (December 2010). Sprint uses a different technology than Verizon with speeds only up to 5 Mbps. I have not had a chance to try out the 4G LTE yet, I am waiting for a firmware update for my Cradle Point, however once I do get my new card I am going to write about my experience and test it in real world situations.

Though I applaud Verizon and Sprints efforts to update their networks, most of Europe and other nations have faster networks, the United States unfortunately has a lot of catching up with the rest of the world. My other complaint is the cost; Verizon is offering five gigs for $60 and 10 gigs for $80 a month, and $10 per gig after ones limit is reached. If one watches movies on NetFix like I do, you could reach your limit in one day. I would rather wait an additional year for Verizon to rollout their 4G network and give users the option of an unlimited plan. I feel like we are in the early nineties when dial-up plans had limits and if one went over those limits one would pay dearly for that mistake.

Though I am excited about Verizon new 4G; I am hoping for a better pricing plan and a quick roll out to more markets. I am also waiting for the 5G network to roll out, but I surmise, I might have to wait a while.