Saturday, December 29, 2012

Shopping For A New Tablet Or eReader

In the past people used to come to me around the holidays for advice on purchasing a new laptop computer -- this year, I've been asked more about what I think concerning tablets, such as the Apple iPad.

I have personally had a chance to check out most of the popular tablets on the market right now, so I'll share some tips with you here, and some info that will hopefully make your decision easier.  Surely, no one wants to make this kind of investment without being aware of the choices they have to decide from.

First, let's talk about what things you should look at, regardless of what tablet you go with.  There are several factors to consider, but the big three are:  1) size, 2) storage capacity, and 3) cellular data or wifi only.

Basically screen size comes down to two types, the 7 inch tablets, or the 9-10 inch tablets.  While the 7 inch tablets, such as the Kindle Fire, do fit very nicely in your hand, and are easy to carry around, they are significantly smaller, which means less screen real-estate.  This also affects the weight of the tablet, so you should also consider that as well.

For storage size, you'll need to know whether or not your tablet has a fixed amount (such as the iPad) or if it can be upgraded via micro/ SD cards (such as the Nook).  If the tablet is a fixed amount of storage, it is important to consider how you will be using it, and how much storage you will need.

Next up is to determine if you want to get your tablet with the ability to join a cellular data network (such as AT&T or Verison), or if you will only need to use it on wifi (which they can all do).

Once you have decided on the "big three" features, then you can start to look at the name brands available.

Apple's iPad

Without a doubt, the Apple iPad is the leader of the tablet market today.  The Apple App store is very robust, has been around for a long time, and has lots of free and inexpensive apps to make your iPad do all kinds of wonderful things.  Recently the iPad 4 (retina) was released, so this is a good time to purchase an iPad (even if you don't want the new one, the older versions are now coming down in cost).  Also, Apple released the iPad Mini, which gives the smaller tablet version, with all the loveable features of its big brother.  The iPad is available with or without cellular data, and comes in 16, 32, and 64GB of storage.

Amazon's Kindle Fire

The Kindle Fire and the Kindle Fire HD are really nice tablets, at a very affordable price.  They have a beautiful screen, and some awesome features.  Integration with Amazon's online cloud services is really cool too.  The Fire HD is available with wifi only, in 16 and 32GB of storage.  (The larger version of the tablet is available with cellular data).

Google's Nexus 7

Recently, Google released the Nexus 7 -- this is a beautiful, well thought-out tablet packed with features, at a great price.  Backed by Google Play and all of the wonderful Google apps, this thing is rock solid.  It starts off with wifi only, 16GB, but is available all the way up to 32GB with cellular data for only $100 more.

Barnes & Noble's Nook

The Nook HD is another newer tablet, and has been getting lots of great feedback.  The screen on this one is very crisp.  There are lots of awesome apps, and the ability to upgrade the storage is very nice.  This one won't break your wallet, either.


There are also a plethora of other tablets on the market, many different manufacturers, makes, models, and operating systems.  One for sure that I won't really talk about is the new Windows Surface.  If you are a heavy PC user, this one might be worth considering, but most people, in my opinion, will be happy with any of the above 4.

So, with all these name brand, models, and options, which one is right for you?  Honestly, there is no one size fits all when it comes to picking a tablet.  The best thing to do is to consider how you want to use it, and then base your decision off which tablet has the most features that will complement your requirements.  For example, if you are a movie buff, you will probably want to get a tablet with at least 32GB of storage, or the ability to swap out memory cards.  If you are a mobile worker, or always on the go, you should really consider getting a tablet with cellular data -- that way, you won't be relying on finding that next McDonald's or Starbucks to get a wifi signal.

A big part of your decision will of course be cost.  A base model iPad ($499) would also buy you two Kindle Fire HD tablets -- this is often a big decision swayer when it comes time to pony up those greenbacks for your new tech.

Make sure to give some serious thought before making a purchase decision -- don't just jump on the first thing you see!!  Most of these tablets will last for several years, so this is an investment that will be with you for quite awhile -- you want to make sure you are getting what you want, so you are not disappointed later.

Also, be sure to check out accessories such as screen protectors and cases -- it would be ashame if your new tablet got a scratch!

What are your thoughts on these tablets?  If you own one, we would love to hear your feedback in the comments below.  If you do have any questions, please comment and I'll do my best to answer :-)

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Backup!! Before its too late!!

Hello friends, today I'd like to talk about a very serious subject -- backing up your computer.  If you are reading this, and are not backing up, then you are in the right place.  And if you are backing up-- a big thumbs-up to you good Sir or Ma'am.

Most people don't ever think about backing up their computer, until it is too late.  Don't be one of those!  Think about all the things on your computer right now- photos, docs, things you may never ever be able to get back.  All it takes is one dropped laptop, one virus, or (God forbid) one stolen computer.  You need to make sure, right now, that your data is safe.  You can always replace that computer, but the things on it are really what is valuable.

I always recommend three different, basic types of backups.  Some are automatic, some are manual.  The best thing is to use a combination of at least two of these.

1.  Backup to CD or DVD.  This is an inexpensive way to backup your data.  Burning a CD or DVD allows you to make "offline" copies of your data, that can be stored at your home, in a safe deposit box, or at a relative or friend's home.  I always recommend this method for the most important data, such as your photos.  The best thing is to make two copies of your backups -- that way, if a disc gets scratched or damaged, you have an additional shot at recovery.  If you don't have CD/DVD burning software on your computer, I highly recommend the free ImgBurn.

2.  Backup to external drive.  External hard drive prices have really come down- you can get a good Western Digital MyPassport for less than $100.  Using an external drive has the advantage of setting up a good backup program for your computer.  If you are on a Mac, Time Machine is second to none.  On the PC side, the Windows 7 built-in backup does an excellent job.  Both of these are free, and very easy to use.  Alternatively, you could just manually copy any files you want to keep backed up to the drive.

3.  Cloud backup.  This is a new one that many of you may not have heard of or have experience with.  Basically, you pay a service provider to allow you to back up to their servers- in the "cloud."  Right now I am using CrashPlan to back up all of my home computers.  Their fees are extremely reasonable, and I enjoy knowing that all of my data is safe and accessible from anywhere- even from my iPhone with their free app.

Other ways of backing up files exist.  If you only have a small amount of data, you could get a USB flash drive to copy files to.  Also, if you have a Google account, you can use Google Drive to store your files in.

Regardless of what method or methods you select, make sure you are backing up your data.  Trust me, the day will come when you need it, and when that day does come, you will be thankful you planned ahead!

If you have any questions please post in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer :-)