Category: Acronym Update

Tablet Overview: iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook, Android

It’s a time of year when tablet computers  are bought in large numbers as gifts for self and other.


In my opinion, the iPad is still the champion.  There is really no comparison out there.  All iPads have the same performance and hardware functionality.  The only thing you are shopping for is storage and you will find a 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB model.  For the vast majority of people, the 16 GB model will be an exceptional experience.  If you really needed to store a lot of songs or data on the iPad itself then, the 32 GB or 64 GB models seem appropriate.

$499 will get you the WiFi 16 GB version of the iPad.  It will connect to your home wireless network and to other WiFi networks such as coffee shops, hotels, and libraries.   There is still plenty to do on the iPad offline, such as reading books, playing games, and working on documents.  However, if you know you will be needing to get online often in areas that do not have WiFi, well then one of the WiFi + cellular iPads starting at $629 is what you really want.   The $130 upgrade gets you a chance to connect to Verizon or AT&T’s advanced wireless networks for a charge of $20 or $25 extra per month respectively.


The press is ablaze about Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablet.  It is substantially smaller than the iPad (9.7 in. vs. 7  in.), however, it is large enough for reading purchased Kindle Books.  I cannot emphasize strongly enough — THE KINDLE FIRE IS NOT AN IPAD REPLACEMENT.  Amazon’s knows this even though it make take some subtle advertising jabs at the iPad.  The Kindle Fire will succeed and iPad sales will not slow down at all during the 4th quarter of this year.

If you as as parent or a gift buyer are thinking, I really can only afford $200, so I will buy (name) a Kindle Fire instead of the iPad that he or she really wants,  IT’S A BAD IDEA.  You would be better to get them an iPod Touch if its a $200 Apple product they were after.   The Fire is an Amazon consumption device.  I see it has being more suited toward adults than kids.   The Fire is a very limited tablet computer.

If you or the recipient are someone who ….

A)  Wants to buy Kindle e-books from Amazon,  B) Purchase music from Amazon (which can also be downloaded into iTunes — different topic for a different time),  C)  Rent movies from Amazon,  D) Subscribe to Amazon Prime for $80 a year which allows you to watch thousands of movie and TV show titles for FREE similar to Netflix, E) Shop often at

…. then the Kindle Fire is a great purchase.   It has very weak web browsing capabilities and no built in e-Mail client.   If you or the person you are buying for,  only wants a Kindle for book reading one of the other Kindle’s such as the Kindle Touch (a black and white device), is a much more appropriate purchase.  If the person using the Kindle DOES NOT have easy access to a WiFi internet connection, please purchase one of the “3G” Kindles.  These start at either $139 or $149 depending on the model you choose.  There is no charge for the 3G data use.


I don’t know what the future holds for Barnes and Noble, but I don’t see them going the way of their late competitor, Borders, any time soon.  One year ago, the Nook Color was rated the best e-Book reader on the market.   And B+N just updated the Nook Color with a new version this fall.   You can buy many of the same e-Book titles for Nook as you can for a Kindle device.  However, you cannot mix and match.  Some Nook fans argue that their device is more versatile because it allows one to download e-books loaned by local libraries.  Personally, this doesn’t turn me on.  I still check out books from a physical library, but I would NEVER do it in e-book format.

Don’t buy the Nook Color at $200 because you want an e-Book reader.  If that is the case, the Kindle Touch w/o ads at $139 is a far better buy.

However, if you really are looking for that cheaper, “near iPad” substitute, then the Nook Color is a good buy.  Unlike the Kindle Fire, the Nook Color has an SD card slot just like your digital camera.   And you can buy an SD card ($20) and load the Android operating system on it to use the Nook in its full glory as a true tablet computer.  When turning on the Nook, you will have the option of booting to it its internal memory or the SD card.  Setting up the Nook this way does not affect any Barnes and Noble content that has been purchased or the original software.

However, Barnes and Noble isn’t going to help you set this up.  You will need to follow these instructions to load Android on your SD Card.

It may seem like a scary process, so your friendly, local technology consultant would be happy to do it for you.  You want the Nook Color and not the newly introduced Nook Tablet.

Android Tablets

While I’m such a big fan of Android phones, there is  A LOT of inconsistency among the Android tablets.  While Apple controls the software and design process on every iPad,  Google is like Microsoft in the sense that they do not have a major say in the Android devices that are built.  You can buy a Dell computer, Lenovo or HP without the maker of Windows having a major say in the building of that product.  I think the iPad and Nook Color are excellent choices in the tablet computer market space.  The Kindle Touch is great if you only want a book reader.  Android tablets, advertised as such, are only good if you have some burning reason for an ANDROID TABLET.  You or your recipient has to really want it.  And…. the good ones are really not that much cheaper than the iPad.  So if you want a tablet that’s as big as the iPad — roughly 10 inches — and you aren’t into the whole Apple ecosystem then go Android.

If you fall in this category, please buy one that has been or will soon be updated to the latest Android software, 4.0, known as Ice Cream Sandwich.   Hungry yet?    Sony is making quality Android devices and this one is belongs at the head of the class — the Sony Tablet S.  Interestingly enough this device is marketed as being very friendly for OLDER ADULTS, however a young person will love it as well.




Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams, our man on the radio for so many years, is thinking of making a COMEBACK.   His new show will likely not be on the AM/FM airwaves but “stream” onto your computer and mobile gadgets.   No one is more excited than me.   You may remember his nearly 30 years of broadcasting business and consumer advice, which ended in March 2010.  Bruce was a pioneer in talk radio.  He and Sally Jessy Raphael launched the first daytime nationally syndicated radio programs out of NBC’s Rockefeller Plaza in 1981.

Bruce Williams has meant so much to my growth as a person and a businessman.   I began listening to Bruce when I was 9 years old.   He inspired me to think of starting a business in my early teens and eventually start this business when I was 17.   Bruce was with me through the tough times of my life it is the lessons that Bruce taught me that drive me to want to start new businesses in the future.

Bruce Williams sent out this letter to his loyal listener list today (below).  If you remember the warm fatherly voice of Bruce Williams and would like to hear him on the air again — please  email him at the address found below.   Well here it is

If you could just drop him a line like this, I would really appreciate it and I know Bruce would too.

Hi Bruce — I am writing you from _______________   I enjoyed listening to your show in the past.  I would love to have you back on the air again, streaming live over the internet or as a “podcast”.    I miss your perspective in talk radio.

If  you never listened to Bruce,  please ignore this message.  Otherwise, thank you for helping to get Bruce back on the air.

MacBook Air 2011 – 13 inch

I had the privilege of setting up a new MacBook Air, 13 inch for a client this week.

It was impressive.   There may be some misconceptions about the MacBook Air and I would like to clear those up.

When the MacBook Air was first released a few years ago, it was designed to fulfill the niche ultra-portable, ultra light laptop market.   However, netbooks came along and then came the iPad which has sales of well over 20 million since April 2010.  Priced above $1500, the MacBook Air was honestly a poor value.

The product line changed a year ago, with modern styling, a performance boost, and prices starting at $999.  The product line was further updated in July of this year.  MacBook Airs got the latest Intel processors, a backlit keyboard, and Apple’s latest operating system among other features.  Pricing remained at $999 and above.  Since October 2010, the MacBook Air has been available with an 11.6 inch or 13.3 inch screen.

However, the big news of the summer was that the MacBook Air got a promotion in Apple’s product lineup.  The MacBook Air is Apple’s new consumer level laptop.  The white MacBook laptops are no longer sold to the general public.  FYI, the MacBook Pro models are still Apple’s line of professional level laptops or for any of you who want a laptop with a big 15 or 17 inch screen.

The MacBook Airs are priced as follows:  11-inch, base model $999, 11-inch better model $1199.  13-inch, $1299.  13-inch PREMIUM model $1599.  Unless you are a gadget person, I really think the more expensive 13-inch model is an overkill.

My client opted for the $1299 13-inch model as a replacement for a late-2006 MacBook.   We were stunned at first by its thinness and lightness.   Its fast boot up and shut down times were a welcome surprise.  The Air’s backlit keyboard offered the potential of typing accurately in low light environments.  However, the speed of the machine is its biggest selling point.  We had ZERO problems keeping 3 or even 4 programs open at once.

Be warned, the MacBook Air does not come with a CD/DVD drive.   However, 95% of the software you buy these days can be downloaded.  Perhaps, it’s more like 99%.   One could always buy an external disc drive from Apple for about $79 (or another vendor).  However, if you regularly need to burn discs when you are away from the desk you may want to consider the 13-inch MacBook Pro which is still sold  $1199 or $1499.

Ultimately, if performance plus portability is what you are after and you don’t care about not having a built in CD/DVD drive — this MacBook Air would look great on your desk and you will be very productive with it.  With this or any laptop, an ergonomic stand to keep it at eye level is advisable.

A new free e-mail account from Apple for most of you

I have some really good news for most of you.   Apple released its new iCloud service this week and I’m pleased to report that all the bugs were worked out within a few days, not a matter of weeks or months like other services.

iCloud is the replacement for Mobile Me (which was formerly known as dot-mac).   I don’t know if any clients were Mobile Me subscribers for use primarily with your Mac or Windows computer, but I know several of you did use the service with your iPhone / iPad.     Mobile Me was an online collaboration service that gave you e-mail, contacts, and calendar (along with some other features) for $99 a year.   The best part about it was that it backed up your contacts on your iPhone / iPad and also synced them with your Mac or Windows computer.   An iDevice was not required to use Mobile Me.

Fast forward to now and Apple has decided to make Mobile Me into iCloud and turn it into a free service.  It is free with no gimmicks attached, much like a Gmail or Yahoo or Hotmail account.    You get an email address, address book and calendar.  Some other exciting features will apply if you also have an iPhone / iPad / iPod touch.

So how do you get this new account?  First of all existing Mobile Me customers WILL NOT be charged again for a subscription.  You have until April 30, 2012 to convert to iCloud.  Conversion will happen when you authorize iCloud for the first time.

To convert to iCloud or sign up for the first time you need ONE of the following:

Windows — Vista SP2 or Windows 7 and download the iCloud program

*For Windows, this service will be web based unless you use Outlook 2007 or 2010.  With Outlook, you are able to sync e-mail, contacts, and calendar.

Mac — OS X 10.7.2 which was released on Wednesday.  If you are already running 10.7 Lion, this is a free update.

An iOS 5 device — iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, iPad, iPad2, iPod Touch 3rd or 4th gen.

When you log in for the first time, you will be asked to create an Apple ID.  If you have purchased from iTunes before or, you have an Apple ID, your e-mail address.  You can use this, you will later have the option of attaching a new e-mail address to this later.    If you don’t have an Apple ID or want to create a fresh profile, then you can do that as well.   In this scenario your address is your new Apple ID.

I’ve always shared how having a second or third e-mail account, not connected to your Internet service is crucial.  If you don’t use an iPhone or other iDevice, here is why the iCloud still makes sense.   What if your primary e-mail just isn’t working when you NEED to receive an important email from someone?  Now you have a backup.    Want to keep a separate account for your online shopping?  Perhaps your johnnybegood(at)yahoo(dot)com account that you created when you were in a humorous mood or when you were a student is NOT the professional presence you would like to use for job searching.   Well, a account could give you that edge.

Please ask for help, if necessary in creating an iCloud account or converting to it.   This article should be read as a primer.



The Windows version you should buy

One of the confusing choices when it comes to buying a new Windows computer is selecting which version of Microsoft Windows you want installed on your new system.  In the Mac world, there is one version of Mac OS X to choose from.  So that I don’t inflict too much brain damage here, I will let you know that on a typical online order form Dell, Lenovo, or Vision Computer (the three vendors I would be most likely to steer your toward) you are faced with the daunting task of choosing between Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate and then within each of those designations 32-bit or 64-bit.   Wow, that means you will have 6 Windows options to choose from.

Computer operating systems (Windows, Mac OS)  are moving toward the 64-bit variety.   Think of a four lane highway as a 32-bit operating system.   However, the 64-bit option is a 8-lane superhighway.  It allows many more paths of data to flow to and from all the internal components of your computer.   Ordering your new Windows computer with the 64-bit version of Windows does not prevent you from running most 32-bit programs.  However, its important that we use the free tool on Microsoft’s website to check if your other programs and devices (printers, etc.) will be compatible.

As of this time, all new Macs are sold with OS 10.7 which comes in the 64-bit flavor only.   Unless you have a very specific reason to do otherwise, with your next Windows computer you should be selecting the 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate option.  This will ensure that you ensure that you have all Windows features available to you.   In terms of future troubleshooting situations and getting the most enjoyment of your Windows computers, going Ultimate puts you a step ahead of the crowd.

Some Windows computers sold in stores come with the Ultimate version installed, but please choose wisely.  Having an expert custom configure the right Windows or Mac computer for you (or doing so online yourself) represents a much more sophisticated option than taking the risk of buying through a big box store.

A different view: Bank of America debit card fee

There has been a lot of outrage in the past few days over the fact that Bank of America has decided to impose a $5 per month service charge on all customers who use the debit cards for purchases.  Recapping what has been reported already:  the $5 is on top of all other fees assessed to your account, will not apply if you only make ATM deposits and withdrawals, and will not apply to Premier accounts.

Protestors, whether privately or publicly, have found one more reason to protest against mega-banks.  Another avenue of outrage is focused on the “Durbin Amendment”.   To make a long lesson really short, merchants typically pay between 2 and 3 percent when they accept your credit card for purchases.  While a small fraction of this fee goes to the credit card processor that the store signed up with, and a tiny bit goes to Visa, MasterCard (and in some cases AMEX), most of the fee goes to the sponsoring bank.   I can recall debit cards bursting on the scene about 16 years ago.  Since then, many smaller to medium sized banks have been able to survive due to the fees they have collected from debit card purchases, processed as credit. In fact a large number of these institutions stopped issuing credit cards (outsourcing them to other banks) because dealing with debit cards was so much less risky.  Make a purchase with your debit card, it comes out of your checking account — win win for everyone, right?

In the wake of the 2008 financial collapse, there was a lot of anger toward large banks.  Congress passed legislation to reign in the banking industry.  One addition to the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, was the Durbin Amendment.   In the past debit card transactions processed as credit carried with them the same 2 to 3% processing fees as regular credit cards.  Of all of the standards in the banking industry, this seemed like one area that needed no tweaking.  However, the amendement was approved and then Dodd-Frank became law.  Initially the processing fee for debit card as credit transactions was set to a flat rate of .12 cents.  Percentages would no longer apply.  Finally, federal banking regulators relented a little and set the fee at .21 cents, effective Oct. 1, 2011.  This is why B of A and other banks’ monthly debit card fees became a major part of the news cycle this week.

I think this will ultimately drive many customers to credit unions and smaller banks, but my strongest response is not one of politics or one of protest.  I THINK THE FEE MAKES SENSE AND PROMOTES PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for a public wary of taking on more credit card debt.   For a long time, I believed that the classic American Express (green) card was the best credit / charge card on the planet, even with its fee of about $60 per year, if someone had no use for the benefits that come with the Amex Gold / Platinum cards.  Consumer advocates like Clark Howard hate the Amex “charge cards” because of the annual fee.  However, with the exception of extending payments on occasional major expenditures like a family vacation, an Amex charge card needs to paid off IN FULL each month.  I see the annual fee as a firewall against taking on more debt than you can pay off in 30 days.  You are paying and in return, your card issuer is going to hold you accountable.

Bank of America’s annual fee should be interpreted in the same way.  The debit cards issued by large banks are virtually as secure as credit cards in terms of the protections afforded the consumer.  Currently, with the cards issued by B of A, Wells Fargo, and others you can charge fairly large purchases of $2,000 + and have the peace of mind that the money is going to come right out of your checking account.  The transaction is over and done with.  You don’t have to be faced with paying off your credit card next month.  Therefore, this monthly debit card fee encourages you to keep using your debit card and not add to your revolving debt load.  I predict that many banks who do not institute a monthly debit card fee or find another way to replace the lost processing fee income  will severely limit the amount that you can charge to your debit card — imposing extreme caps as low as $50 or $100.