BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 Review

By Nevin Buconjic
For www.digitaladventures.ca 

With the recent launch of RIM’s Blackberry PlayBook 2.0 software update, the device now has integrated/improved email, calendar and contacts, Android support and other features.  Were the improvements enough to make the PlayBook a worthy competitor to Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, the NOOK Tablet, and all the other Android tablets on the market?

Since I already own an iPad 2, and a Barnes & Noble NOOK Color (7″ e-reader/tablet) I wanted to compare the PlayBook to my experiences with them.

First Impressions

The PlayBook is sturdy in your hands, and seems to be a good build.  It definitely feels different than the iPad 2 (which I am used to handling).  The PlayBook feels slightly heavier, even though it is a 7″ tablet versus the 9.8″ iPad 2, but the rubber backing allows for a comfortable grip.

While powering on the unit, I noticed it took several minutes to boot up.  I was not sure  if this was a normal occurrence, but I definitely did not expect it.  Being a tablet, I would not expect to have to wait over a minute to boot up — it reminded me of my Windows PC.  After additional tests, I have confirmed that the PlayBook takes over 2 1/2 minutes to boot up.  Compared to the 43 seconds it takes to boot my iPad, this is completely unacceptable.  If this is somehow an anomaly, and not common for other users, please let me know!

The first thing I did upon boot up was entered my email, and social media account information.  This was all accessible from one screen, and I quickly had signed up with each of my accounts.  I found this to be unique, as typically you would login to these accounts through their particular apps or websites.  In this case, the PlayBook used my information to pull in contact info from all of my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.

I opened the Contacts application and it was already full of contacts — all from my social media accounts.  I clicked on a few to see what information it had pulled.  It was really quite amazing.  The PlayBook had filled in the email, phone numbers, and birth date, as well as providing a brief bio of each person — including job title, and employer.  There were several icons to the right, which when pressed displayed more information pulled from the social media accounts — including recent status updates, shared meetings and common contacts.

It was both interesting and useful to have all of this information at my finger tips — without having to look for it online.  My only reservation was, the application had pulled in ALL contacts from the various social media services.  The problem clearly being — the majority our social media contacts are friends or acquaintances, whom we do not regularly communicate with, and do not even want to.  I did not want most of these “contacts” on my PlayBook.  I hope there is a way to mass delete or filter out many of the contacts — without having to simply delete the connection to Facebook or Twitter.  I will have to investigate this.

Next I tested out the integrated email.  I quickly drafted a test email and sent it to my other account.  No problems here, and the keyboard was decent — it seemed to display all the necessary characters, including numbers — all on one screen.  I did not have to hit the shift key in order to enter numbers, like I do on my iPad.  This was helpful.  I then set up a few meetings in the calendar for good measure.  Within minutes, the appointment reminder popped up on screen to warn me of an upcoming meeting.

My verdict on the newly integrated email/calendar/contacts applications?  I had no complaints other than that all of them could only be viewed in landscape mode — which I guess made sense here…but I am used to being able to choose either landscape or portrait view.  When receiving a new email, the PlayBook beeped, and a red LED flashed as a notification.  This works well, in case you walk away and miss the beep, when you return you will know there is an email or calendar notification waiting to be checked.

Games and Apps

Next I moved onto the BlackBerry AppWorld.  Like many of you, I have already heard that there are not a lot of apps for the PlayBook.  I was anxious to see exactly what was available.  After briefly reviewing the “featured apps” I clicked on the Games tab.  The first thing I noticed was there were three great games being offered for free!  These were Asphalt 6, Modern Combat 2, and Need for Speed Undercover.  I downloaded each one by one.  With an average size of about 450 MB the games took a while to download over Wi-Fi.  While I waited I began writing this review.

I’m not sure how these game downloads compare to my other devices, as I normally download large apps to my computer (wired Ethernet) which was faster , and then sync to my iPad.  It definitely seemed to take a long time, but this could be related to my relatively slow Internet service.

All three games provided excellent gaming experiences.  The 7″ screen provided enough room for decent game play, the graphics were solid and sound from the unit was also high quality.

I then moved onto free apps.  Since Facebook had already been installed, I moved on down the list.  Not a lot looked familiar.  There is definitely a smaller pool of apps to choose from.  But at the end of the day, of the hundreds of apps on my iPhone and iPad, I only use a handful of them.  So is a huge selection of useless apps really necessary?  I think most apps are a novelty, but there are definitely more useful, creative and fun apps available for other platforms, and part of the fun is finding these new apps.  I think this excitement is currently missing in the BlackBerry AppWorld.  This could change, however, as more Android apps get ported over, and more native apps are developed.

Social Media

Everyone knows that social media is very important to mobile users.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube apps are taken for granted.   And new services like Pinterest are popping up each week.  The PlayBook does have a Facebook and YouTube app available.  I could not however, find a native Twitter app or a LinkedIn app.  No problem right?  Both have mobile sites, easily accessible on the Internet.  I fired up the browser and pointed it at Twitter.com — it would not load!  LinkedIn did work fine, however.

Eventually I did get Twitter to load properly.  I’m not sure if it was a Twitter or a PlayBook problem, but the browser did seem finicky — I seemed to have issues loading certain websites every once in a while.

Perhaps it is unfair to judge the PlayBook for not having native apps for all of the social media services, as I am used to with my iPad.  Hopefully as the number of PlayBook/Blackberry 10 users increase in the future, many of these companies will see the need to develop for the QNX platform.

Ebooks

Reading ebooks and other things is one of my iPad’s main functions.  I have apps for the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks as well as other reading apps on my iPad.  I love the variety, and ability to buy books from any of these services (plus I can price shop).  The only official e-reading app for the PlayBook is Kobo (a spin-off of Canadian bookseller Chapters-Indigo).  According to their website, Kobo has over 2.2 million books, newspapers and magazines and because I have purchased books from Kobo before, I know that it is a good service.

But how does the reading experience compare?  I prefer Kobo on my iPad because of the bigger screen, and the page animations — which the PlayBook version does not have.  However, one major advantage of the PlayBook version is the ability to buy books from within the Kobo app.  Apple forced all iOS e-reader apps to pay a percentage of ebook sales to Apple, if purchased within the app — so essentially every company removed their ebook stores from their apps.  Now iPad users must purchase ebooks from each company’s website and then download or sync the to the iPad.  This is somewhat of an inconvenience.

I have already purchased a number of ebooks from Amazon Kindle.  I can read these books on my iPhone, iPad or on my PC.  I assumed I could also read them on the PlayBook, as Amazon offers the ability to read your digital books right on their website.  This should be possible right from the browser on the PlayBook.  Unfortunately, I got an error each time I tried to open a Kindle book!  Not good.

Getting Work Done

The BlackBerry PlayBook is first and foremost geared to the enterprise user, so how well does it do for getting work done?  Well the PlayBook has some advanced features for using it directly with your existing BlackBerry phone — the Blackberry Bridge program allows you to link the devices, share information, use BlackBerry Messenger, and even use your phone as a wireless mouse and keyboard.

With the included Documents-To-Go I was able to create spreadsheets, presentations and Microsoft Word-compatible documents.  You can also edit existing Microsoft Office files.  Adobe Reader allowed me to read PDF files, including books in PDF format.  There were also many work and business type applications available on AppWorld.  I think the PlayBook works as a decent extension of the Blackberry phone, which will be helpful to existing BlackBerry clients.

Overall Impression

So after playing around with the PlayBook for a couple of days, I do think it is a decent tablet.  It is really good at some things, but just ok at others.  I don’t really see it as a fun consumer device.  But then it was initially built for and geared towards existing BlackBerry customers, and mostly business ones at that.

Does it compare to the iPad 2?  Not in my opinion.  There is just so much about the iPad that is better, easier or more fun.  But I think that at current prices — $199 for 16 GB and $249 for 32GB models, the PlayBook is in a different category.  At these prices, the fair comparison should be made to e-readers like the Nook Tablet, Nook Color, Kobo Vox or Kindle Fire.

I can say one thing for sure…the PlayBook blows away my Nook Color.  I got the Nook for Christmas 2010 — just over a year ago.  At the time it was the first affordable color tablet/e-reader — retailing for $250.  You can read my review of the Nook Color here.

The Nook Color, while fun at the time, is quite slow and not very user friendly as a tablet.  A recent OS update for the Nook Color allowed it to use Netflix and other Android apps — but it is still very clunky.  it is simply just really good at being an e-reader.  The Nook Tablet may be another story, but I have not tried one.  My wife now uses our Nook Color exclusively for reading books, and the price has been lowered to $169.

While all of these e-reader competitors are Android-based tablets with 7″ color screens, I think the real difference when compared to the PlayBook is that they are consumer devices made for reading ebooks, and accessing other multimedia like videos, movies and music.  They each have custom interfaces and controlled environments, including limited access to apps.  The PlayBook, on the other hand, is a true tablet — putting work and productivity first, together with media and fun stuff as a bonus.

If ebooks are your thing, you might want to look at the Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet, and even Kobo Vox before considering the PlayBook.  But if you are looking for a device which you can use for some work and some play, the PlayBook is a solid choice.  If you are already a BlackBerry user, then this is a no brainer.

On the other hand, if you have $500-700 to spend on a tablet, then the Apple iPad should be your choice.  While there are some limitations with the iPad, I simply can’t think of one  reason other than cost that would make you choose another tablet at this time.

The BlackBerry PlayBook cannot compete against the iPad, but neither can any of the other tablets on the market.  I think RIM realized this almost immediately (as HP did), but have persevered as the PlayBook is more than just a product — it represents  RIM’s future OS platform.

While the PlayBook’s discounted prices may not continue forever, I don’t think any 7″ tablets can be priced at more than $300, to compete.  Consumers have overwhelmingly shown that $200 is the sweet spot for any tablet, unless it is an Apple iPad.

Final Verdict

The Good

  • Compact device -easy to handle
  • Decent battery life
  • Great for multitasking
  • Plays music and video files and music/video store
  • New Android support — I will assume the number and variety of apps will increase in the future
  • Current low pricing makes it a good investment
  • Built-in HDMI for connection to your HDTV
  • Integration of social media services

The Bad

  • Not use to the different user interface, it was not always intuitive navigation
  • Browser issues — problems loading Twitter and could not read Kindle books online
  • Very slow boot-up time — over 2 1/2 minutes!
  • Touch screen response slow — sometimes did not register tapping
  • Smaller selection of apps

Steve Jobs: The World Loses an Innovator and an Icon

By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine

November 2011

Many years ago, while attending business school, I used to look up to Bill Gates (Co-founder of Microsoft) as a visionary and successful entrepreneur. His 1995 book entitled, The Road Ahead was a glimpse into the future of computers and technology. Gates spoke of the growth of the Internet, smart appliances, ebooks and other future concepts. Make no mistake, Bill Gates is a genius, and built Microsoft into the company it is today.

But as much of a visionary as Gates was — he never created the future products he spoke of, but instead capitalized on them. He will never personally be credited with changing the way we do things, or for creating products that would define how we interact with technology (even MS Windows was based on the Macintosh). For this we must look to Steve Jobs, the iconic co-founder and CEO of Apple.

Jobs, the individual who brought the world the iPod, iPhone, and the iPad died on October 5th following a battle with Pancreatic Cancer. He was just 56 years old.

Long before these products revolutionized their respective industries, Jobs, along with his friend Steve Wozniak were credited with creating the personal computer industry with the Apple I computer in 1975.

It was the beginning of what would be a series of revolutionary products and product designs that would change the world we live in. Jobs was a perfectionist, and had an amazing ability for knowing what consumers wanted before they knew themselves. He brought simplicity and technical elegance to the masses by focusing his attention to detail on the user experience.

As expressed by an early Apple employee in Walter Isaacson’s biography entitled Steve Jobs, “Jobs thought of himself as an artist, and he encouraged the design team to think of ourselves that way, too.” Jobs appreciated beauty and would become obsessed with product design. He would force his designers to make change after change until it was perfect.

An early motto of the company was, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”, a quote from the famous artist and inventor, Leonardo Da Vinci. Simplicity, along with beauty and reliability would eventually come to define the Apple experience.

Some argue that Jobs was a visionary, while others claimed that he did not come up with ideas as much as he “knew great ideas when he saw them”.

A classic example of this was in 1978, when Jobs and several Apple Computer employees visited the research and development offices of Xerox company, where they were shown stunning developments such the graphical user interface (GUI), computer mouse and more. Although Xerox was not yet commercializing the technology, Jobs immediately saw its potential and instructed his team to develop similar technologies for the Apple Macintosh. Apple took these ideas and developed what we see and simply take for granted on any computer today.

Jobs could be ruthless as he demanded greatness from his employees and often criticized and shouted at those who did not meet his huge expectations. But as Isaacson would go onto say, “even though Jobs’ style could be demoralizing, it could also be oddly inspiring. It infused Apple employees with an abiding passion to create groundbreaking products and a belief that they could accomplish what seemed impossible.” His behaviour and inability to censor himself would eventually lead to his very public ousting from Apple Computer in 1985, by John Sculley, who Jobs had brought in as CEO in 1983.

Jobs would go on to found NeXT computer company and become CEO of Pixar Animation Studios — the small computer animation company which would become famous for its movies like Toy Story 1-3, Cars and Finding Nemo. Pixar was sold to Disney in 2006 for $7.4 billion.

In 1996 Apple bought NeXT, bringing Jobs back to Apple as its interim CEO from 1997 to 2000, when he would become permanent CEO. This was the beginning of Jobs’ and Apple Computers’ comeback, and rise to become the most valuable company in the world by 2011.

With Jobs back at the helm, Apple would not only release some of the most successful products in history, but would redefine entire industries and the digital age, including music (iTunes, iPod), mobile phones (iPhone), and tablet computing (iPad).

The company changed its name from Apple Computer to just Apple in 2007, to reflect the company’s new focus from just computers to consumer electronics. Downloading Apps, music, movies, TV shows and books were all streamlined into a simple, seamless process through iTunes, making Apple a lot of money.

Six weeks before his death, Jobs announced to the world that he was stepping down as CEO of Apple, but would remain as Chairman. Following previous health-related leave of absences, he had told shareholders that if there ever came a time when his health might interfere with his ability run Apple, he would step down — he announced that time had come.

Shareholders, and Apple fans alike worried that Jobs might not return this time. On October 5, 2011 their worst fears were confirmed.

Whether we see Steve Jobs as a creative genius, an innovator or as someone with a skill to improve upon other people’s ideas and make them better, it is hard to argue with the results.

To be sure, Jobs did not invent the digital music player — but he certainly made it better with the iPod. And Jobs did not invent the smartphone, but the iPhone has certainly become one of the most popular smartphones on the planet, and Jobs did not create the tablet computer (tablet PC’s have existed for over a decade), but Apple was the first company to make a tablet that people wanted to use.

One of his greatest gifts was seeing all of the details for what they were — part of the user’s experience and something they would have to live with everyday — and he wanted that experience to be the best it could be.

Steve Jobs will not be remembered for being a jerk, or a ruthless boss, or for getting run out of his own company. He will be remembered for creating products that impacted our everyday lives, and for defining the way we purchase, and listen to music, download movies and even read books.

Jobs changed the way we consume digital media.

It could be argued that Steve Jobs was this generation’s Thomas Edison. The grandchildren of today’s youth will learn about Steve Jobs in their history classes, just as we learned about Edison, the Wright brothers or Alexander Graham Bell.

But, however you see Jobs’ accomplishments, perhaps Apple’s new CEO said it best in a letter to Apple employees, “Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being.”

Something few of us can argue with.

Barnes & Noble NOOKcolor E-reader Review

By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine
March 15, 2011

I am a big fan of ebooks — I have been for a long time. Although I’ve never been a fan of reading books on my computer screen, now that e-readers have evolved and the iPad has single handedly created a tablet market, the options today are greater than ever.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, consumers spent $1 billion on ebooks in 2010, and that is expected to triple by 2015. The number of e-readers increased from 3.7 million in 2009 to over 10 million in 2010.

I have been wanting an e-reader for a while now, but the grey-scale versions just didn’t have enough appeal for me. When the KOBO e-reader (from Chapters) came out last summer for under $150 I was really tempted, but then Barnes & Noble announced that a color version of their NOOK e-reader would be out by year end!

The NOOKcolor was released on November 19, 2010 and received good initial reviews. Not only was it a full-coIor e-reader running on Google’s Android operating system, but it promised users the ability to play music and video, surf the Internet and lots of other extras — this was basically a tablet optimized for reading. I had to have one.

I received a NOOKcolor for Christmas and after using it for a few months I wanted to share my experiences. In just the short time since Christmas, the market has been flooded with over 100 new tablets and in March 2011, Apple released the iPad 2. I think it will become harder and harder for dedicated e-readers (like KOBO, Kindle and Nook) to compete in the future, but for now, they continue to sell very well.

From all appearances, the Nookcolor looks like a 7-inch tablet computer — it has a sleek and stylish design. But when you power it on, you immediately see that it was designed and optimized first and foremost as an e-reader. Barnes & Noble has done a good job of designing the menus and screen layout to focus on quickly picking up where you left of in your latest book, magazine or newspaper. You can easily find everything in your library, including other files such as PDFs, music, videos or Microsoft Office files. You can customize your home page, personalize your bookshelves, and even share passages, recommend books or update your reading status directly to Facebook or
Twitter.

Through the integrated NOOKbooks online store, you can choose from over 2 million books, 125 magazines, and several dozen newspapers. After setting up my account (requires a credit card), the buying process was fast and efficient. Upon clicking the “Buy Now” button, your book or other item downloads in seconds.

I decided to purchase George W. Bush’s new biography entitled Decision Points. The price was $9.99 US. Not bad, considering I had recently seen the hardcover in a bookstore for well over $20.00. I have purchased several other books and magazines since. Magazine subscriptions are substantially cheaper than normal as well.

Of course, I have read ebooks before both on my PC and iPhone, but this was a different experience all together. It actually felt like reading a real book. I had purchased a leather case for the Nook which not only protects it from scratches, but, adds to the “real book” effect. I will admit, the unit does feel quite heavy compared to an average sized book. So heavy in fact, that I chose to read by placing the unit on my leg or knee and just holding the top of the case for support. I have also tried reading without the case which lowers the weight quite a bit and makes things a bit more comfortable.

The reading experience itself takes a bit of practice. You are able to make adjustments to the page brightness, font and text size, which comes in handy and helps the eyes as well. The unit has an LCD screen similar to that of a laptop, so I don’t think it’s quite as easy on the eyes as a regular book. So far I haven’t had any problems, but if you are a voracious reader and spend hours at a time, you might need to take breaks.

Pages are turned by swiping your finger or simply pressing on the side of the screen. Page turning is quick — much quicker than the grey scale e-ink units such as the Amazon Kindle, where the pagemust refresh each time. The advantage of e-ink, however, is that they require much less power, so the battery charge lasts a lot longer.

Which brings up the issue of battery life. I have found that with steady reading and use the NOOKcolor lasts me several days before it needs a charge (6-7 hours of battery life). It really depends on how you are using it. The NOOKcolor has built-in Wi-Fi, a browser to surf the Internet, as well as some extra features such as a picture gallery for your favorite photos, a music and video player, games such as chess and Sudoko, as well as a Pandora streamingmusic app (which only works in the US). WithWi-Fi on and regular browsing, the battery is used up much more quickly. Placing the device in standby mode — the NOOKcolor lasts up to a couple of weeks (with occasional reading), and with the device shut off completely it can last considerably longer.

The NOOKcolor can read Microsoft Office files so it can come in handy if you want to review anyWord, Excel or PowerPoint files — perhaps on the commute to work. I really like the device’s ability to read PDF files as I already had several PDF books from over the years — which I was quickly able to transfer by connecting the NOOKcolor to my PC via the included USB cable.

The NOOKcolor can also read Adobe Digital Editions formatted books, which I quickly learned was the format of choice for digital books you can borrow from your local library. The format prevents books from being copied, but also has a built in lending feature — which is obviously the main attraction for libraries.

Using services like the Ontario Library Service, via your local library, you can download free ebooks and audiobooks for up to two weeks at a time. All you need is your library card number to sign up! Although I found the selection was somewhat limited, it was nice to have the ability to “borrow” up to three books at a time, right from home. The service, which uses technology by Overdrive, is also available for your iPhone, iPad and Android device. I was able to download books directly to my iPhone, because it has an Overdrive app, but with the NOOKcolor I had to download first to my PC and then transfer over — a simple step once you figure it out.

I really like the online Ontario Library Service, because it presents an affordable way to load up your device — especially in the beginning, when you are most anxious to try it out! And with Barnes & Noble’s own LendMe function, you can lend your own books to your friends and vice versa (there are some restrictions).

So what is the verdict? Well, I definitely found the device to be compact, convenient, and fun to use. The fact that I can have a considerable sized library in the palm of my hand, the ability to borrow digital books from the library for free, surf the Internet, check email and buy books right on the device is great. Some of the functionality I found to be quite quirky though — I had trouble playing some music files, the video player was a great added bonus, but is quite limited in the formats it will play, the Pandora streaming music service does not work in Canada, and the built in games got boring fast.

Although I still enjoy using the NOOKcolor for reading ebooks (although I use much less than even a month ago), I find myself wishing for more andmore of the Android functionality it has promised. I see so much potential for this device, once there are more apps available from Barnes & Noble. I hope that it will someday have access to the Android market (tens of thousands of apps) as well — which is probably unlikely.

I don’t think I would recommend the NOOKcolor to someone who is looking for a tablet experience. The NOOKcolor is first and foremost an e-reader, but both the iPad and its Android tablet competitors do a good job of e-reading and a better job at everything else.

If you are a dedicated reader, and would be satisfied with the more “book-like” experience of grey-scale readers, then the Amazon Kindle might be a better buy at just $139 CAN. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have excellent online ebook selections (millions of books), and prices are similar. It is definitely cheaper to buy ebooks instead of paper books, and might save you some space as well.

If you are seeking a great tablet experience then I think there are better options out there, with much greater features and capabilities. So that leaves the NOOKcolor somewhere in the middle. It is an excellent device, and provides a solid reading experience, with the added functionality of a tablet for a pretty good price. With the selection of options on the market I don’t think you can go wrong with any choice. Both e-book readers and tablets have finally hit the mainstream, after years of false starts and I think this will only lead to more and more choices in the future.

Are Books as We Know Them Dead?

By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine, June 2010

The printed book is an amazing thing. Between those two covers, are thoughts, facts, knowledge and imagination. Books have represented the power of ideas and wisdom of humans for thousands of years.

Knowledge was once passed along through writings on stone, papyrus and even animal skins.

When Gutenberg invented the printing press around the year 1440, mass printings of books were finally possible, and authors could share their writings with more and more people.

For me, books represent many things. Fantasy, mystery, adventure, experience, and knowledge. And to me knowledge is power. I have quite a few books – over 800 in fact, enough to form a small library. Some people might think that is a little excessive…but to me books have always been a source of inspiration, imagination, and wisdom.

I may not have read all of the books that I own – not even close, in fact. But I know they are on the shelf, should I need to look something up, or if I am in the mood to read up on the history of tech companies like Intel, Microsoft or Google (ok I did read that one), then they are at my disposal. I’d like to read a lot more of my books – but honestly, I just don’t have the time. Oh and did I mention I am trying to write a novel of my own? Well that’s another story…

So why would I ask if books as we know them are dead? By this I mean traditional books…books printed on paper, and available at your favorite bookstore.

With the increasing popularity of digital ebooks, and the vast amount of information available on the Internet, will the printed book soon be relegated to libraries and private collections? Ebooks are cheaper and more portable than paper books. Today’s eReaders can hold thousands of books – and these books are always at your fingertips.

Amazon’s Kindle is perhaps the most popular device, having sold several million units over the last couple of years, and Amazon has a digital library of over 500,000 books available for download – most at lower prices than the paper copies. In fact, most best sellers are just $9.99, a definite selling point!

Numerous other eReaders are on the market as well, including those from Sony, Barne’s & Noble’s Nook, Chapters/Borders’ new Kobo eReader, and even Apple’s iPad or iPhone.

And now Google itself is getting into the business. With the upcoming Google Editions, according to PCWorld, “E-books will be universal in that users can access them from anyWeb-connected device, and roughly 500,000 titles will be available at launch. Online books are cached once you’ve loaded them, so they can also be viewed offline.”

I have my own opinions, but I thought that I would ask someone who actually works in the field, and would have some insights on the subject. Ken Hernden, the Library Director at Algoma University was kind enough to share his thoughts:

Q. As the Internet has developed and become a daily tool for many people, have you noticed any impact on library use or traffic? If so, what age groups?

A. As more resources have migrated to electronic, networked formats, we’ve noticed an increase in traffic and use virtually and physically in the library. Despite the fact that most resources are available from home or anywhere through the library’s proxy server, the library still seems to serve as a space for people to focus their efforts.

Q. What are your thoughts on digital books?

A. I like them; they have enormous potential…the main challenge (for librarians) will be preventing information overload, letting people know about these resources, and teaching them how to be informed users of so much information.

Q. Do you think that books retain their “essence” if they are not on printed paper?

A. In some ways, the ebooks offer more “essence”: you can rapidly keyword search the content and they often offer features like chapter annotations not in the hard copy version and linking to related or cited articles, books, images and audio files that enhance the core content. The danger again is that the reader is led away from the book’s content and becomes overwhelmed by the enhancements. I liken learning ebook literacy to showing a non comic book reader a graphic novel or comic book – it takes time for them to learn to be literate in that format and consider the words, images, layout and spaces in between the elements.

Q. What do books mean to you?

A. I think books are critical to maintaining the health of a society. They transmit wisdom knowledge across time and are available to anyone with the inclination to open them up.

Q. Do you see digital books replacing written books some day? If so, when?

A. Possibly, but I think it would take at least a couple of generations of readers and it depends on the ubiquity of readers and networked content. There are many parts of the world where this is not true yet. Much will also depend on reader tastes and the marketplace as well.

Q. With the digitizing of so much information, growing popularity of ebooks, and convenience of e-readers like the Amazon Kindle, do you think that traditional printed books will decline in importance?

A. Hard-copy editions might eventually fill a role that vinyl does for high-end audiophiles. Also, preservation of information remains a conundrum and PH neutral paper lasts hundreds of years, whereas digital formats and hardware do not. At the very least the printed codex may remain our permanent archival format.

So what do you think? Will you continue to buy traditional books, or are you planning to buy more and more digital ebooks for your mobile phone, eReader or even your computer? How long do you think it will be before digital overtakes the printed word?

A Look at the Last Decade in Tech

By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine, January 2010

Wow. 2010…it’s hard to believe! If you would have asked someone 50 years ago, what it would be like in the 21st century, they might have said we would all be driving around in flying cars or communicating with our wristwatch picture phones.

We have come along way, and this last decade is no exception. So when reflecting back on the last ten years of technology, I wasn’t surprised at all that there was so much that I could talk about.

The year 2000 brought with it a new millennium, the Y2K bug – which never fully materialized, and the end of the Dot-com boom. Amazon.com was already the most successful online retailer, and Google was still a fledgling start-up company – not a verb!

This decade has seen the creation of the iPod, iPhone, Blackberry and other smartphones, HDTVs, and next-gen video game systems like Xbox 360, PS3 and the Nintendo Wii. Blu-ray beat HD-DVD, ebooks finally began to catch on, and Netbooks became one of the most popular computers in years.

As an “early adopter” I tend to jump in to new technologies as they come out. I picked up the iPhone when it hit Canada – and can’t live without it. I own all three video-game consoles, which I use not only for gaming and movie/music streaming, but with my new Wii I can also get fit!

I was rooting for HD-DVD during the high definition video war (it was cheaper and more advanced) because I already had the add-on unit for my Xbox 360, but I am ok with Blu-ray winning the war. It still appears that DVD is king, however. When you are an early adopter, you sometimes get burned because it is inevitable that technology will become cheaper, faster and better. But even though my $2,500 HDTV now costs $700 to buy, I have enjoyed every minute of it over the last 4 years.

Getting back to innovative tech, digital music was revolutionized when Apple launched the iPod in 2001, and then iTunes in 2003 – now the most successful digital music marketplace in the world, with almost 10 billion songs downloaded.

Apple did it again with the iPhone – a smartphone that puts email, Internet, music, video/movies, games and over 130,000 apps in your pocket. It is now the number two smartphone in the world, behind RIM’s Blackberry, which had a significant headstart. Over three billion apps have been downloaded since the App Store was launched in 2008.

Apple is expected to announce a new “tablet” computer in January 2010 – could tablet computing (which has been around for at least 10 years) finally be the next big thing?

From its early beginnings in the first half of the 1990’s, theWeb really came into its own in the last decade. Websites went from being cheesy-looking experiments, to truly attractive, engaging, and interactive mediums. The concept of Web 2.0 has taken this even further with web-based communities and social networking sites, video-sharing sites like YouTube, blogs, wikis and other online technologies.

Social networking exploded in the last five years, first with the popularity of MySpace — perhaps the first successful mainstream social networking site, followed by the current king, Facebook. I personally use Facebook to keep up with my friends and share a little bit of my life.

Blogging became a hit as millions of people took to the web to express themselves, provide professional advice and information, or just voice their opinions about everyday stuff. There are now hundreds of millions of blogs on the Internet. I too have a blog – mostly for posting articles I write such as the one you are reading, but I hope to do more with it in the future. You can check it out at www.digitaladventures.ca.

Twitter is another popular service (referred to as micro-blogging) that allows you to express yourself in 140 characters or less, and share it instantly with all of your followers. Personally this is one online innovation I just don’t get…but if you want to know what Ashton Kutcher is up to every moment, be my guest.

YouTube has become so popular that the site hosts over 100 million videos and over 13 hours of video is uploaded every minute. Google bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion. The site costs over $1 million a day to operate, but Google says it will soon be profitable because the number of people viewing videos supported by advertising is increasing.

The web continues to grow as technology evolves and more and more users log on. It is estimated that the number of Internet users has increased from 361 million in 2000, to over 1.7 billion in 2009. This is over 25% of the world’s population.

The technologies and products I have discussed are only a fraction of the innovations we have seen in the last decade. And if that is any indication of what is to come, then we have even more to look forward to in the coming years! If you are like me, then I know you can hardly wait to see what is ahead.

Is Buying Old Tech a Bargain or a Bad Idea?

By Nevin Buconjic
February 8, 2010

This weekend, on a whim, I decided to see if I could find a deal on HD-DVDs on eBay. Boy was I pleasantly surprised! For those of you who aren’t familiar with HD-DVD – I recommend you read my previous article entitled (March 2007). But as a quick synopsis, HD-DVD was another format of high definition that lost to Blu-ray and is now for all intents and purposes, dead.

As you might recall, I was a fan of HD-DVD for a lot of reasons, not the least being cost – they were simply the same quality to Blu-ray but significantly cheaper. HD-DVDs out of the box had internet interactivity, something Blu-ray would not have for a while. Because it was very similar technology to DVD, you could even buy movies with HD on one side and a regular DVD on the other – something impossible for Blu-ray. But I digress. Blu-ray won the war in March 2008 and HD-DVD was relegated to the junk heap. Or was it?

I still have my HD-DVD player for my Xbox 360 and have about 10 or so movies. So I decided to take a look on eBay to see what kind of deals there were for any HD-DVDs still kicking around. They are HD movies after all –the same quality as Blu-ray or HD movies you download from various online services like Netflix.

I was surprised to find not only individual movies selling for $1, but different bundles as well – in lots of 10, 20, 35, 52 and even 77! These are brand new, sealed movies being cleared out at incredible prices! So I decided to bid on a package of 77 – including movies such as 40-Year Virgin, 300, Season 1 of Heroes, and Battle Star Galactica, The Skeleton Key, Transformers and 71 other titles! I will admit, about half of the movies I would never even consider buying on their own, but what the hell – for a buck or two a movie, wouldn’t it be worth it?

So I put in a bid, and even stayed up until 2AM to see the results. I won, and for about a $1 each! There are still plenty of bundles for sale on eBay.

But what about those of you who can’t even watch HD-DVDs because you never bought a player way back when? There are still some options. By far the cheapest is still the Xbox 360 add-on player, if you own the Xbox already. I found these on eBay for $40-60 (although the bids start much lower). There are also dedicated HD-DVD players from Toshiba which at the time were getting great reviews – not only as HD players, but upscaling DVD players as well. These players, I was very surprised to see, were selling for much higher! Probably averaging $60-90, and I saw one go for over $150! I guess there is still some demand out there. But if you are patient you can still find a better
deal.

So do I recommend you go out and purchase a dead technology? Well, not exactly…but if you can get a great deal on a player, I know you can get a steal on the HD-DVDs. So I’ll leave it up to you. But I know that I will enjoy watching HD versions of many of the 77 movies I have won, for a long time to come!

What do you think?

Has Online Etiquette Gone Out the Door?

By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine

October 19, 2009

Online etiquette or “Netiquette” is defined by Wikipedia as a set of social conventions that facilitate interaction over networks, ranging from Usenet and mailing lists to blogs and forums.

Some of these rules have been in use since 1983, and a lot of it is common sense so why don’t the rules of real life interaction apply online? Is it because we are for the most part anonymous or hidden behind an online nickname that we feel we can slam somebody, their ideas or worse?

How about replying to email or online messages in a timely manner? This article was not meant to be a commentary on our lack of online etiquette per say, but rather I wanted to focus on a couple of observations I’ve made while using Facebook.

For the one or two of you out there who doesn’t know what facebook is, it’s a social networking website that allows you to communicate with and keep in touch with friends, by posting pictures, writing on walls, and essentially sharing information. The site has over 300 million users, and continues to grow rapidly.

Facebook is a great platform to stay in touch – by adding friends and sharing information. But I think most would agree that the vast majority of our Facebook “friends” are merely acquaintances or old friends you used to know – not good friends that we actually still hang out with, or even speak to for that matter.

I’m sure most of us are guilty of adding friends of friends we don’t really know (perhaps to chat up later?) and for some it even seems to have become a contest for who has the most friends. I know I’ve received friend requests from people I don’t know and I’ve even dated a few girls I met on Facebook, who added me because I was a friend of friend.

But do I really want to see daily updates from someone I knew in high school and haven’t seen since, or share information with people I don’t really know? Which poses a question – is it ok to delete Facebook friends? Should this be considered rude, or a slap in the face?

Personally I haven’t bothered to spend my time going through my list of 400 or so to figure out who I really want to be friends with and who needs to go. But sometimes I find that I get a little miffed when my number of “friends” goes down — I can’t help but think to myself, “who the hell deleted me?”

And then the odd time I’ve been scrolling through someone’s pictures and click on the link of another “friend” in the picture and suddenly realize they aren’t my Facebook friend anymore, or some other scenario. Is it ok to feel insulted when you get dumped by a Facebook friend? Or is this what we do all the time in real life – just without the proof? I suppose we shouldn’t take it too seriously.

Another online pet peeve of mine is when you invite people to an event on Facebook — a party for example, and they don’t seem to have the time or courtesy to respond with a simple “yes, no or maybe”! I liken this to receiving a wedding invitation in the mail…we request your response by a certain date. Common courtesy dictates that whether you plan to attend or not – you will check off a box and drop it in the mail. Certainly this takes more effort than simply replying to a check box in your online invitation. But invariably there are several people who just don’t respond at all online.

I suppose we perceive online activity as somewhat less formal, and maybe I am expecting too much. If most people on Facebook are like me, then they receive lots of invites to see live bands, and other events – and don’t bother responding because it is similar to an email blast. But a personal invite to a party – I think that is different.

As Facebook continues to grow, we have learned to live with the fact that we see advertisements on the right side of our screen, and businesses are definitely jumping on the band wagon by setting up their own groups and allowing people to join. But another trend I am starting to see, which probably goes against proper netiquette, is individuals using Facebook to market products or services they personally sell.

Where else can you blast information to hundreds or thousands of “friends” for free? I’ve also seen people use their “status” update to push products on their friends. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a business or other group inviting their followers to events such as a bar or club sending information about upcoming concerts – because you have joined that group specifically to get information, but I find it rather annoying to see advertisements via status updates every other day.

So as our online world continues to evolve I don’t think our online etiquette is quite keeping up. For today’s youth, online social networks, chatting and texting are just a part of life. Facebooking too might be a big part of their social life. I sometimes wonder if this lack of etiquette – either real or perceived, which seems to be the norm online will eventually transfer over into real life or has it already begun?

Growing Up Digital

By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine
(Originally published October 2009) 

Cell phones, iPods, laptops, digital cameras…we are living in the digital age. The age of instant gratification. Hear a song on the radio and like it? Just download it from iTunes or other services right to your cell phone. Don’t feel like driving to Blockbuster to rent a movie? Just order it on-demand from your cable company, or download it to your Xbox, or PC from Amazon.com, iTunes or Netflix. Some even get it for free through peer-to-peer torrents (but this is the illegal way to get it).

Living with such convenience and easy access to digital content has changed our behaviour, created new business models (and crushed old ones), and opened up new ways to communicate with anyone around the world.

So with this in mind, the idea for this article came to me the other day when visiting the family cottage up north. No cell phone coverage meant no texting, email or Internet access on my iPhone. In other words, no access to this endless supply of content and definitely no contact with the civilized world (there is no electricity or telephone service at the cottage).

Suddenly I was faced with the prospect of not being able to check Facebook, upload photos, or see what my friends were up to. But is this really a bad thing? It made me think about what it was like before the Internet and other technology so common today.

As a 30-something “young” professional, I still remember when the web and email were shiny and new – still at University (for my first degree) I remember being provided an email address, and logging into the Internet (world wide web to be exact – the Internet is just the network behind it) in the computer lab to see what this was all about. Not very impressive stuff in the mid-90’s and I don’t think anyone realized how far we would come in such a short time.

But kids and teens today take the Internet, email, texting, digital music and YouTube videos for granted. They have grown up in the digital age, and it is truly a part of their being.

If the thought of having no cell phone or Internet access for a few days unnerved me, I could just imagine what it would mean to today’s youth.

My niece is part of “Generation Z” or the “iGeneration” (born mid-90s – 2000s), and just starting high school this fall. I know that she has embraced technology. She’s had a digital camera since she was seven or eight, is attached to her iPod, got a laptop this year, and I think she has already had more cell phones than me! When she’s over for dinner, it’s hard to say a few words without her phone buzzing away with a new text message. It annoys my parents to no end, but the thing is I get it.

I get that kids today are growing up with instant access to information, and instant communication through texting, instant messaging and Facebooking. I envy them in a way, but I sometimes wonder if all this technology makes things too easy, makes us too connected and makes our relationships too impersonal.

Why call someone when we can just text? Why ask someone on a date in person when you can send them a message on Facebook? Why research a topic at the library for a school essay when we can just Google it?

I remember writing papers in high school using books and encyclopaedias. Now today most kids will just look it up on the Internet. With all that information at their fingertips is it any wonder that plagiarism is on the rise in high schools, colleges and universities?Probably not all of it is intentional – they just don’t know any better. According to a New York Times study, most students don’t consider “copy and pasting” from Internet sources, without proper citation, as cheating.

Our world is changing and the older generations are just trying to keep up. If I wasn’t such a tech junkie I might be in the same boat. We’ve come a long way since my first Atari computer, Sony Walkman, and camera with actual film!

Today we can shop, communicate, download movies and songs, share photos and learn about almost any topic on the Internet. We can hold tens of thousands of songs in our pocket. We can watch TV on our cell phones, and download movies right to our smartphones.

Technology is both fascinating, and life altering. Good and bad. Today’s kids are the first generation where technology is widely used and accepted by both the parents and kids. Nothing will stop the stampede of technological progress, our evolving way of life. Let’s just hope we don’t get too caught up in it, and lose sight of the important things in life – our relationships with family, friends and loved ones. Because technology still can’t replace that.

So looking back now at my weekend at the cottage. Being disconnected from the outside world, and spending quality time with the family wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Sometimes it’s a good thing to drop the techno gadgets and get back to basics for a while – if anything just to clear your head and relax.

I’ll try to remember that next time.

Hot Tech for 2009

By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine
(Originally published – January 2009)

In January of each year the world gets a glimpse at the next generation of great technology at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  It is this year’s show that serves as part inspiration for this article, as well as other observations I have made in tech.  Below are only a few of the products that I feel will be hot in 2009:

Netbooks

Last year a new genre of laptop computer was introduced – dubbed the “netbook”. These small (7 – 10 inch screens) devices are essentially miniaturized notebook computers which are useful for surfing the Internet, email, listening to music and other casual computing activities.  Because the devices are relatively underpowered they cannot fully replace a “real” laptop but have proven to be immensely popular, with price points of between $299 – $499.  Beginning with 7 and 8 inch screens, more recent models have expanded to 10 inch screens, making them much more user friendly.

Netbooks have quickly proven themselves as popular and now most of the top PC companies have released models.  The only major holdout remains to be Apple, which said it would continue to watch the space develop.  There was speculatation that Apple would announce a netbook at the recent MacWorld event, but alas this did not happen.  2009 should prove another successful year for the netbook category as these tiny devices continue to improve in both style and capability.

Touch Screen Computing

Millions of iPhone owners have proven that consumers like touch screen technology. Competing smartphone models have been introduced by numerous competitors such as Samsung, LG, HTC and more recently Blackberry.

Another technology that never fully caught on (tablet computing) touch screen computing has begun a resurgence in popularity.  Microsoft has had a Windows Tablet version for several years now, but recent devices have fully embraced “touch” and consumers finally seem ready for it.

HP recently introduced several sleek “All-in-one” touch screen computers (up to 25” screens) that allow users to move objects, open windows, edit photos and much more using their fingers instead of a mouse.  Microsoft itself has developed a Surface computing device which resembles a table – but the entire surface is a computer screen that responds to touch!

Net Connected TV’s

Fresh off the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show, almost all of the major TV manufacturers (Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic) have announced net-enabled TV with direct access to streaming movie or video services such as NetFlix, Hulu, YouTube, as well as streaming news, weather and more.  These TV’s have built in Ethernet (some also have wireless capability) allowing for direct connection to the Internet.  Direct access to streaming movie services could mean a world of hurt in the future for video rental chains such as Blockbuster, Rogers Video and others.

Ebooks

Once thought to be the next big thing — Ebooks have been kicking around for at least a decade.  An interesting idea – a digital copy of books you can read on a handheld device — they have just never fully caught on.  But 2009 might be the breakout year for the ebook.

Amazon.com’s Kindle ebook reader was introduced in November 2007 and sold out in 5 hours.  With more inventory, sales resumed in 2008 and the company has had difficulty keeping the unit in stock ever since.  An endorsement from Oprah in October – as one of her favorite products – created another four month waiting list for the device.  Oprah’s endorsement may have finally opened the market to mainstream consumers – which represents a huge market opportunity compared to traditional buyers of these devices.

Amazon may have achieved what no other manufacturer in this space has done before – not only making a device that is easy to use but one that has easy access to a large inventory of new digital books.  With over 200,000 titles currently available for download using the device’s free wireless service, consumers can purchase ebooks for typically much cheaper than printed versions (New York Times best sellers are only $9.99).  Unfortunately, the Kindle is so far only available in the US, where it offers the free wireless service.  Hopefully in 2009 they will expand to other markets, including Canada!

Although unconfirmed, some analysts estimate that Amazon may have sold up to 1 million devices to date.  Sony’s latest readers have also been selling well, and smartphones such as the iPhone are also proving to be capable and popular devices for downloading and reading ebooks.  In 2009 it is expected that Amazon will release the next version of their Kindle device and a number of other companies are set to release readers as well, to capitalize on the ebooks growing popularity.  Even with increasing sales, ebooks still represent less than 1% of book sales, but this may be the year that things begin to change.

Blu-Ray High Definition

Last year at this time, Blu-ray finally defeated its rival, HD-DVD, in the high definition (HD) war.  Now that consumers were not forced to choose sides in the war of competing technologies, Analysts predicted that Blu-ray would explode in popularity.

Blu-ray HD video was finally poised to take the reins from DVD in the consumer video market.  But so far consumers continue to overwhelmingly support DVD.  The trouble with HD is that consumers faced a double whammy – requiring both an HDTV and a Blu-ray player – both being costly investments.

I stated in a previous article that I believed the price for Blu-ray players would need to come down to $200 (from $600-$1,000) before sales would pick up.  This has happened just recently and along with the dramatic reductions in the cost for HDTV’s, I believe that Blu-ray has finally reached a price point that will register with consumers. Unless the economy continues to take the wind out consumer spending, Blu-ray should experience greater success in 2009,

Conclusion

I have briefly discussed only a few products that I think will be hot in 2009.  As technology has proven throughout the years, it just keeps getting cheaper, better and faster.  By this time next year, we are bound to see even more exciting developments in computing, gaming, home audio/video, GPS, smartphones and more.   Here’s to another exciting year in tech!

Apple iPhone 3G – Regular Smart Phone or Technology Breakthrough?

By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine
(Originally published – July 2008)

I’m a PC, as the Windows Vista-bashing commercials go, but I have always admired Macs and other Apple products for their style and quality. I do own an iPod Shuffle, but never switched to Mac computers due to the lack of games and gaming capabilities. But when the iPhone was first released last year, that changed everything.

I just had to have one, but alas they were not released in Canada. No, we Canadians would have to wait until version 2.0.

On June 9, 2008 Steve Jobs, the infamous CEO of Apple launched the next version of iPhone, at an even lower price than the first, stating that “Just one year after launching the iPhone, we’re launching the new iPhone 3G that is twice as fast at half the price.” The great news was, that the pricing would be the same in most countries – just $199 for an 8GB or $299 for the 16GB version.

Immediately after the launch, Rogers formally announced that the iPhone 3G would be available for sale in Canada on July 11, 2008. Needless to say, I was pretty excited.

Because I still had my Telus phone until October, I decided I was going to hold out for as long as I could…besides the monthly Rogers pricing was quite expensive. In fact there was a public outcry and rumour that Apple itself had contacted Rogers directly to communicate their “disgust” in Roger’s proposed monthly charges. By launch time, Roger’s did in fact change their plan pricing to include essentially unlimited data for $30 to go on top of any regular Roger’s voice plan – but the deal would end August 31st. This was enough incentive for me to make the purchase!

The staff at the Rogers store in the Station Mall were very helpful in answering my questions, and setting up the phone. I had read about bad experiences by customers in the US, but I was in and out in about 20 minutes!

The first thing I did after leaving the store was try out some of the built in applications. The new model comes with built in GPS – so I fired it up and next thing I knew I was looking at a satellite image (courtesy of Google Maps) with a blinking blue dot showing my location. Wow, this was awesome! But the coolest part was watching the blue dot move along the map as I drove down the street! As it turns out there are a plethora of applications that utilize the GPS functionality.

One program called “TimmyMe” determines your current location, and then finds the closest Tim Horton’s locations to you. When you click on the particular location you are interested in, the program provides directions overlaid on a Google Map for you! Other examples include applications that show you the closest movie theatres along with current movie times, as well as restaurants, clubs and other attractions. You really can see the power and convenience of such information the minute you step off a plane in a strange city.

Next I touched the web browser icon and the Safari browser loaded. I typed in a few websites and they loaded up fairly quickly. The device can display full web pages (as opposed to most cell phones) although this sometimes takes a bit of time. Some websites will automatically detect that you are using an iPhone and load their mobile site which is optimized for the iPhone’s screen size.

Since we don’t have 3G (3rd generation wireless) in Sault Ste. Marie (it is currently only in major centres) I was curious to see how fast the pages would load using EDGE. I have to admit some sites do take a while to load, but overall I found it to be acceptable.

3G is supposed to offer download speeds twice as fast as EDGE. On a recent trip to Toronto, I was able to switch on the 3G and did notice an appreciable difference in web surfing and download speed. But this came with a price – with 3G on I noticed my battery drained surprisingly fast.

The phone has a number of other built in applications such as push email (think Blackberry), contacts and calendar, stock prices, weather, world clock, calculator, and more. Let’s not forget the built in 2.0 megapixel camera, iPod music and video player, YouTube application and other innovative features!

The next step was to check out Apple’s new “App Store”, filled with thousands of games, and programs – many of which are free. The first thing I did was search for the Facebook application. Within minutes I had downloaded and installed it and was checking out my profile. I decided to update my status to “using my new iPhone!”

Apple has always been the champion of user interface and user experience, and the App Store was no exception. Applications were broken down by category, featured apps, top 25, and you can also search for anything specific you are looking for.

I proceeded to download a number of applications both useful and useless. One application called “Drinks” has a fully searchable database of over 4,000 drink recipes! Imagine, you have friends coming over for drinks, and all you find in your liquor cabinet is a bottle of Southern Comfort…what to do? Load iDrink, choose ingredients, type it in and you will discover over 40 different drinks are possible! Wow, not bad for $3.99! Click the Drinks page and you have the entire database listed alphabetically — it might just make you the ultimate bartender at your next party!

So I have now been using the phone for almost two months and I really have no serious complaints. I’ve found the battery life to be decent on a typical day, but I’ve noticed that heavy texting or GPS use can drain the battery quickly. Under normal circumstances you can get over a day of use before recharging.

The iPhone has built in Wi-Fi so you can connect to your wireless network at home or your neighbourhood café (and avoid data charges). The Wi-Fi is much faster than using the cell connection, plus you can only use the iTunes store over Wi-Fi, something that hopefully Apple will change some day. I have downloaded complete music albums right to my iPhone, and then synced them to my PC at home later. The Wi-Fi does tend to drain the battery as well, so I shut it off when not using it, but if you leave it on you will be notified the next time you walk within a wireless zone (a pop-up asks if you would like to connect).

Apple likes to lock down their devices and the iPhone is no exception. When syncing your PC or MAC with your iPhone, everything happens through iTunes, including transferring music, videos or removing any applications. As well, Apple engineers test and approve every program that is placed on their App Store, allowing the company to monitor and control just what kind of applications and content is allowed on the device.

My monthly bill is currently over $100 (including taxes) including the phone, data and additional upgrades, about double my old cell phone bill. But so far I am very satisfied with my purchase. As I continue to use the device, I will tailor my packages to my needs, hopefully lowering the price over time. For example, on my first full-month bill I saw that I used only about 1.4 GB of data download, while my current package allows up to 6 GB of data. Rumour has it that Roger’s will be announcing some new all-inclusive plans on October 1, 2008 and the 2GB plan may indeed be more than enough for my regular use, and could save me money each month.

In conclusion, I am extremely satisfied with the iPhone 3G. While there are definitely some improvements Apple can make over time, it is really a remarkable all-in-one device. Essentially you’ve got a phone, music player, game device and wireless computer all in the palm of your hand.

While it’s certainly more expensive to use than a typical cell phone, if you can afford the roughly $100 a month in charges, I would highly recommend getting the iPhone 3G when you are looking for your next cell phone purchase.

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