Monday, July 18, 2011

Interesting Apps Episode 3 - Splashtop vs Teamviewer

I'm probably late to the party once again but if you remember my Teamviewer blog, then you know how useful I think remote desktop apps can be. Since the writing of that blog, Teamviewer has been a staple app on my iPad as well as on my android phone. It's worked so well for me that I never bothered examining the competition, after all, you get what you pay for, and being free i've been content with the few adjustments working with Teamviewer from a iPad or phone. To be honest, I'll probably still continue to use Teamviewer for the foreseeable future but i couldn't help but be impressed with a new app I discovered that does the same thing. Allow me to introduce you to Splashtop.

Now I'm not gonna rehash the benefits of using a remote desktop, so instead i'm going right into the differences and similarities of these two apps.

The similarities...

Both are very easy to set up. Download the app. Download the server program for your PC. Connect. Done!

Both have decent security measures and can support connectivity from other sources as well.

Both apps stream at a excellent display resolution, but more on this later.

Both provide mouse and keyboard control.

Both apps are free, (kinda)

The differences...

Back to display resolution. The resolution Teamviewer uses depends on the connection speed. This can be overridden but then the refresh rate is affected even more. The resolution on Splashtop is constant and the refresh rate is a whole lot smoother. So much so that you could stream video from your PC or Mac straight to your iPad. This leads me to the next big difference...

Sound! Splashtop also streams sound from your PC/Mac to your iPad. This is not a feature of Teamviewer. This opens up a whole new set of possibilities.

Although both apps have mouse and keyboard control, they are done differently. Teamviewer essentially turns your screen into a large trackpad. You move the mouse using the whole screen in this manner. Splashtop uses more touchscreen support. You just tap what you want to select to select it. Multitouch gestures control scrolling, zoom, etc. It's a little confusing when your used to Teamviewer but its a great feature. the only problem is when some precision is required in clicking. My big fingers have a problem sometimes closing windows/minimizing windows, or selecting text.

I mentioned that both apps are free, and to a certain extent they are. Teamviewer is free to use unrestricted, but wants you to "play fair" and pay $99 dollars if you plan to use the app for business. Splashtop has a free version of the app that is limited to 5 minute connections while the $10 regular app has a unlimited connection time.

The wrap-up

Splashtop probably deserves a dedicated review to cover all it's features, as well as tests on how well it streams with various connection speeds but this blog has dragged on long enough. I'm sure someone else has already reviewed it anyway, (I'm too lazy to search...) Both are excellent apps. I'm still a Teamviewer fan because I also have the option of using my Android phone to connect in addition to my iPad (in contrast to popular belief, i don't carry my iPad everywhere I go...)

I know there are other remote desktop apps out there and if they have free versions, i'll probably try them out too. (Hey money is too tight right now to be paying for what I can do for free.) I do however think that $10 could be worth a remote desktop app with multitouch support, high res display, and sound, but only for those that could really benefit from the added features.

Give it a try, and see ya' next blog...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Life with Diabetes

It's been about 2 months since I took the trip to the emergency room that lead to me finding out that I have Diabetes. Many changes were necessary for me to live with this life threatening condition ranging in various levels of difficulty. So for those interested here's the "two months later" blog on my health.

Most people thought the hardest adjustment I would make would be the sugar and carbs I eat. Not true! It's been easy for me to stay away from sweets for years, and after experiencing the consequences first hand, cutting back of breads and pastas was a no brainer. I actually went from having too high a blood sugar level to having too low of one. The balancing act is a bit weird, but manageable, and that leads me to my next adjustment.

With my blood sugar fluctuating I have very often had to deal with symptoms associated with low blood sugar. The ones that affect me the most deal with my mental state. I get irritable quick, depressed, and sometimes angry for no reason. At my worst I lose coordination. That being said I think it's wonderful when friends and families educate themselves on diabetes. They can then be supportive of your situation and give you space when needed. Unless, of course, if they're inconsiderate and unloving...

The biggest problem has been my eating schedule. Before, I used to skip meals or eat after both jobs, which lead to eating late at night, but I'm so active that if i was to not eat anything my blood sugar would easily fall into the danger zone. Keeping candy to adjust this is easy to do but I still need proper nourishment.

With proper nourishment comes eating smart. If you've read a previous blog I made, then you would know that I have recently been using to track my calories and eat smarter. On top of that I have a regular exercise schedule that has been very fruitful. As of this posting I have lost a total of 16 more pounds in addition to the 30 lost from being in the hospital. 14 more and i'll reach my goal!

Overall, in conclusion I would say, "so far so good." But the X Factor that has been the biggest thorn in my side through all this has been STRESS! Trying to stay positive is hard, especially when everything seems to go wrong at once. My advice to anyone coping with diabetes is to avoid stress like the plauge. It will kill you. One of the best ways I take my mind of my problems is by writting/blogging (Maybe thats why I posted blogs 5 consecutive days versus the regular once a week schedule...)

Thanks so much for reading and I'll see ya' next blog!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Best Buy Follow-Up Blog

A few day's ago I gave a few tips on buying "open box items from Best Buy stores. If you missed that one check it out here.

Well, I ended up going back to Best Buy with my findings and I'm sad to say things didn't go well. I explained the situation to the store clerk and he proceeded to check the computer for the price I saw. To my surprise he said the item was not in their system. He asked me when I bought it and I said a day ago. He then scanned the SKU number and found no difference in the price. I went home and did the same exact search my self and found nothing on the site. So either Best Buy has taken interest in my blogs and has spies trailing me 24/7 to keep the man down or by sheer coincidence I bought a item on the LAST day it was available and got screwed...

You win this round Best Buy... No love lost. If only I could have gotten back to them the same day, but that would a have meant taking off work, and in the long run that's not worth 10 bucks...

Oh and to add insult to injury, last Sunday, Best Buy sent me a coupon for 10% off any open box item. A tad late to the party don't cha' think.

See ya next blog.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Final Cut X

I recently made the transition from Final Cut 7 to Final Cut X so like everyone else I must add my two cents...

...actually does my two cents even matter? In the end our beloved Mr. Jobs will do whatever he wants and it looks to me like he's more interested in his newer customers than he is the older ones. But I actually think it's more than that. Just look at all the attention that Final Cut X has received in the past month. Negative yes, but i think that negative was the plan. As many of you have probably already read FCPX has a list of missing features that has many professional editors justifiably upset. But what about people that never used earlier versions of FCP? Well, there's no adjustment to be made. The design has been revamped to look a lot like imovie which has many amateur editors less intimidated with a program with "Pro" in its name. The cheaper price helps too.

I do miss some of the features not present in the current version of FCPX but I have no doubts that many of them WILL return. Consider this example.

When the iPhone was originally released it was a pretty solid device with many good features. The main problem though, was that it was AT&T exclusive. What was, in my opinion, a effort to expand the App store sales, Apple then announced a iPhone for people that didn't want AT&T, or a phone. Enter the iPod Touch. Now the first gen iPod Touch had many differences with the iPhone and I wont go into the obvious ones, like phone and speaker parts. Instead lets consider a few simple things like the calendar app. When I first heard about the iPod Touch my first idea was to use it as a PDA right out the box, but that wasn't possible. The "+" button to add memos and appointments was mysteriously absent from it. Instead you had to always sync it with Microsoft Office or the calendar program on a Mac.

This was one of the stupidest omissions I had ever seen! As far as computer code goes it was a matter of changing a "true" statement to "false"! At the time many others felt that this feature "crippled" the possibilities of this device, and it received a lot of attention, but did it stop the iPod Touch from being successful? No. And what happened next? Well, a paid upgrade toted the ability to add calendar entries as a "new" feature. In the end, the device got the attention it needed and Apple got the money they wanted.

Back to the present; FCPX is missing some features that probably wouldn't have added a single hour to the overall production schedule, but Apple needed a cheap way to get the word out that this is the program to bridge the gap between amateur and professional. Let's face it, Apple is going off their brand name to attract new customers. Every negative article compares FCPX to iMovie and that's exactly what Apple wants to impress on new customers.

"Hey, it's a new Final Cut Pro! And people say it's just like iMovie. I know how to use iMovie! It's cheap too! Who cares about all the other stuff people say is missing. I'll probably never use that stuff."

And that, my friends, is how Apple makes money. Class dismissed...

...Oh wait, what about the long time customers! No worries there. Just keep slapping patches and updates on every other month until they stop complaining.

Opinions welcome, see ya next blog!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Its not a secret anymore...

It's been a interesting couple of months health wise and the internet has proven to be a great source of information when it comes to research on diets, diabetes, exercise, and support. (Note: Although the internet has countless resources it should never replace regular doctors visits)

Now, more than ever, it's been important for me to watch what I eat and in this day and age counting carbs is easier than ever before. It's one thing to buy supermarket items based on the nutritional information found on packaging, but what happens at restaurants, picnics, or anywhere else where your in the dark on how bad or how good a meal is for you? In the past I liked using a iPhone app called "lose-it." It's a great app with a large database of restaurant and supermarket foods. It lets you track calories, monitor weight, and combine common items for custom meals. The only problem I have had is while it does have a large database I still find many meals I eat not making the list. Making custom entries is possible, but time consuming.

So I started searching the net for a website with a larger database of nutritional info and I came across It's a great site. The first time I used it was to find the info on the Sizzlin Chicken and Cheese at TGI Fridays. The results were fast and accurate. I was also impressed at the fact that the site was free to use. Without any form of registration you can go and get info on tons of food. But so much more comes with registering.

I've been using as a reference site for close to two months now, but only recently decided to register to see what else they had to offer. And that is what prompted be to write this blog. This is a great site for anyone interested in tracking and maintaining a diet. I'm still exploring the many resources offered but so far a few things have really impressed me.

First, the fact that it's free. No Subscription fee, no "lite" version, no trial period. Just free. To quote the site:

"...FatSecret is not like those other diet sites that promise free consultations, profiles, plans or advice and then try and push you into some paid product or 'premium' service. We are totally free and we very much aim to stay that way..."

The next impressive part of this site is the options you have in searching for, recording, and tracking diet plans. Lets face it, it's hard to stick to something when it becomes too much of a inconvenience in your daily life. I don't carry my iMac everywhere I go, but you know what I do carry? My phone!

"FatSecret has integrated applications for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, Android, BlackBerry & Windows phones, Facebook, iGoogle and a great tool for Firefox users."

Each interface is simple to use and syncs automatically so whether I'm at my PC or out and about all my information is up to date.

While on the subject of the interface. It's a breeze to work with. I just search for a item or meal, and it gives me the option to add it to my Food Diary. If it's something i regularly eat that I can find it again in the "Most eaten", "Recently eaten," or "Quick Pick" categories. Putting in goals is just as easy and you have the option of sharing your goals and progress with "buddies" through a integrated friends list similar to Facebook.

I'm sure there are hundreds of sites like this but all I need is one thing that works for me, and right now, this is the thing. The website gets a A+ and my book. The Calorie Counter apps get a A+ as well. One small note though is that a internet connection is necessary for searching through the database so if you don't regularly have a internet connection I would still suggest the lose-it app since the entire database is actually on your iPhone vs. the web.

Everything's free so why not give it a try. Feel free to add me as well (dvdeluxe), and see you next blog!

PS: I am in no way affiliated to and the opinions provided in this blog is based solely on my personal experiences with the site so far. Feel free to share your opinions below.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Open Box? Best Buy Shopping Tips

Lets talk a bit about Best Buy.

Not really going to go on a rant here, although there are SO many things i could say about Geek Squad. Today I'm gonna touch more on their "open box" items. Basically they are either returned items or floor/display models that are being sold at a discount price.

For the most part it's the same as buying a new item with the exception that sometimes there are missing parts. To my knowledge Best Buy does a good job detailing what may be missing from said equipment but I'd love to hear comments saying otherwise. I've bought open box items many times in the past and I can honestly say that I've never had a problem with a used item that made me wish I bought it new (from Best Buy.)

So then what's there to talk about? The pricing. Take this example:

I recently saw something I was interested in buying and I had 3 choices. The "new" which was priced at 79.99. A "open box" item that was previously returned with all components at 69.99. And finally another "open box" item that was missing the manual and the actual box it came in, for 79.99! Obviously something didn't make sense and after asking a few questions I discovered that the ORIGINAL price of said item was 99.99 so the 79.99 price tag was a discount from that, ($20 off.) Some time later the item went on clearance for 79.99 and thats why the other open box item was even cheaper.

Which leads me to tip #1; compare prices of identical items. Mistakes are made all the time so don't get caught paying too much for something that recently went on clearance. If you see a discrepancy don't be afraid to ask questions.

Well, it turned out that both "open box" items were supposed to be marked as 69.99. And that leads me to my next question. Why? Why does a item missing parts get the SAME discount as a item that is new, with the exception of being opened once before. They told me that it has to do with the age of each item, but that really didn't help explain anything.

I ended up getting the one that still had a box and manual since it felt like I'd be getting the smarter deal and went home. I decided to do some price comparisons to see if I could have gotten a better deal somewhere else and I was surprised to see a 69.99 price tag... from BEST BUY'S WEBSITE! So, in the end, I ended up paying the regular price for a open box item.

Tip #2; always compare online prices with retail locations. For the most part large stores like Best Buy all go by the same price structure so the website would probably be the most accurate source for price updates. Just make sure that any online pricing is not exclusive to online promotions or deals.

Now comes the fun part, going back to the store to question the price discrepancy. Tip #3; make sure that if you complain about a price difference that it's actually for the correct model. Check model numbers. Sometimes discounts only apply to certain models or packages so don't start a fight you cant win.

Well I'll make a future blog with the results of my investigation, but before I close, just one more question. If the original price was 99.99 and the open box discount was $20 off, then shouldn't the 79.99 price been $20 off? What should the discount be for the 69.99 price tag? Also, how much money would need to be on the line for you to want to dispute pricing? Leave your comments below and see ya' next blog!