Friday, October 26, 2012

What I Use: Logitech Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650

Ever since the release of the Apple Magic Trackpad, I have been hooked on using a trackpad instead of a traditional mouse for desktop computing. Unfortunately, there were not many, if not any, similar devices for Windows. Logitech released the Wireless Touchpad about a year ago. It was nothing compared to the Apple Magic Trackpad. It was bulky, plastic and had a very cheap feel to it. It was the only thing available for Windows that worked. Until now.

Wireless Touchpad (on left) next to T650
Logitech just released the Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650 in conjunction with the release of Windows 8. I can say that this is a major improvement over the original Logitech touchpad.

The Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650 features an ultra-smooth upper glass surface that's fingerprint and scratch-resistant. It doesn't look or feel cheap like it's predecessor. It is rechargeable with up to one-month battery life on a single charge. No need to change out batteries. Just plug in the included USB cable and instantly begin charging, even if it is in use. It connects using Logitech's proprietary 2.4GHz wireless technology that allows you to connect multiple wireless peripherals with the Logitech Unifying Receiver. Mine is paired with a Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750.

The T650 is capable of supporting a number of Windows 8 gestures, such as edge gestures for app switching, app bar and charms bar activation, pinch-to-zoom and three-finger swipe to take you back to the Start Screen. This is great if you are running Windows 8 on a device that is does not support touch. Here is the link to the gestures that you can do.

Something to keep in mind is that you may need to install and use the Logitech SetPoint application to adjust the configuration of the T650 for your specific style. The defaults just didn't work for me.

The Logitech Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650 is the perfect accessory to any desktop computer running Windows 8 especially if you want to use the related gestures.

Touching the Surface

I did something today that I've never done before. I waited in line for the release of a shiny, new gadget. Even more shocking, I didn't buy it. I know, shocking. This morning I waited in line at the Microsoft Store in Lenox Square Mall with other people waiting to purchase the Microsoft Surface.

Let me start by saying that I did not buy one, but is was not because I did not like it. The Surface is a fine piece of hardware. I consider it the best looking and best designed Windows-based tablet currently on the market today. The keyboard works surprisingly well. I did not buy one because $499 is too much in my opinion. Keep in mind that I did not buy an iPad for that price either. While it might be more justifiable for Apple to charge $499 for their device, that same price does not fit the Surface (they also had the ASUS VivoTab RT for the even higher price of $599). If it was priced at $399, I probably would have pulled the trigger and picked one up, but at $499 I have to compare it with other similarly priced devices such as the Acer Iconia Tab W510 and Dell XPS 10

Microsoft Surface
Additionally, the Surface comes with Windows RT. Essentially, Windows RT (RT stands for RunTime) is a version of Windows 8 that will only come pre-installed on devices that have ARM based processors. The one big drawback to ARM powered devices is that they can’t run legacy Windows programs. In a nutshell, this basically means that software that you current use on your computers won’t work with Windows RT. The only non-Microsoft applications that you’ll be able to install are apps that come from the Windows Store, which are all approved by Microsoft. Therefore, the Surface will only support applications written specifically for Windows RT (e.g. Windows 8 "Metro" apps).  If I'm going to spend $500+ for a tablet, I would prefer to get one that runs Windows 8.

While I'm tempted to get the Surface, I would rather wait to see what Windows RT devices other companies have to offer as well as see if there will be a price drop with Windows RT devices. Right now, the Acer Iconia Tab W510 is the one I'm favoring right now in the $499 price range, which actually runs Windows 8 instead of Windows RT. Who knows, I may end up with a Surface after all before it's all said and done.

Acer Aspire S7
On a side note, I also got my hands on with the 13-inch Acer Aspire S7 ultrabook. The S7 is one of the best looking laptops I have seen in a LONG time. Ultra-thin, Gorilla Glass and touchscreen. Had to wipe the drool off the aluminum body before anyone saw it. While it is a beautiful laptop, it's a bit on the expensive side. Apple expensive.

Friday, October 19, 2012

New CompTIA A+ Exams

CompTIA, the leading provider of vendor-neutral certifications, just released a updated version of the popular A+ certification. The A+ certification is the starting point for a career in IT. The exam covers maintenance of desktops, laptops, mobile devices, operating systems and printers. In order to receive the CompTIA A+ certification, you must pass two exams: CompTIA Exam 220-801 and 220-802.

Exam 220-801 covers the fundamentals of computer technology such as installation and configuration of computer hardware and basic networking concepts. The exam is based on the following domain objectives:

  • PC Hardware - 40%
  • Networking - 27%
  • Laptops - 11%
  • Printers - 11%
  • Operational Procedures - 11%

Exam 220-802 covers the skills required to install and configure common features for operating systems, including mobile operating systems. The exam is based on the following domain objectives:

  • Operating Systems - 33%
  • Security - 22%
  • Mobile Devices - 9%
  • Troubleshooting - 36%

Each exam consists of 90 multiple choice and performance-based questions. Test-takers have 90 minutes to complete each exam (you don't have to take both on the same day, which I don't recommend). On of scale of 900, you will need to score 675 in order to pass exam 220-801 and a score of 700 is required for exam 220-802. You MUST pass both exams in order to be A+ certified.

If you’re currently studying for the 220-701 and 220-702 exams, no need to worry because you’ll have plenty of time to complete it. You can take those exams until August 31, 2013. 

The biggest change with the new A+ exams is the inclusion of performance-based questions. Traditionally, CompTIA exams have been basically multiple-choice questions that asked test-takers to select one or more correct answers to a specific question. Basically all you had to do was click on the correct answer(s) and then move on to the next question. However, for performance-based questions, the exam prompts the test-taker to perform a specific task or solve a specific problem. A simulated environment is then launched for the person to complete the required steps.

While I have not fully reviewed all the changes in the new A+ exams, I have to say that I am impressed by the subject material that has been added to the exams. Some of the new material include mobile devices (both Android and iOS), wireless troubleshooting, IT security and desktop virtualization. It's more than just CPUs, RAM and BIOS settings now. 

As both an IT professional and instructor, I feel that there is an argument to be made that all IT professionals should have the A+ credential on their resumes. I tell my students to use the A+ certification as the foundation to build your IT career on. Doesn't matter if you plan to go into desktop support, web development, networking, etc.  In my opinion, the A+ certification is the best benchmark for potential IT professionals to determine if they have a fundamental understanding of a computer as well as other basic subject matter related to the IT field. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What I Use: Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard

After buying the Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse, I decided to get the Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard as well. The decision was easy since I got a new bag recently and my old portable keyboard would not fit in it. The Wedge Mobile Keyboard fit perfectly.

The Microsoft Wedge Mobile keyboard is made for mobility. It smaller than most mobile keyboards, but has a very solid feel to it. The look and feel of the keys is reminiscent of netbook keyboards, but much more comfortable to use. I was actually impressed by how solid the keyboard felt. It's not plastic. It connects to your device via Bluetooth and requires two AAA batteries (which are included). Because it is Bluetooth, it can be paired with any tablet, even iPads and Android-powered mobile devices.

Even though the Wedge Mobile Keyboard will work with any Bluetooth tablet, Microsoft designed it specifically for use with tablets running Windows 8 and Windows RT devices, such as the Surface. The keyboard has several hot keys specific to Windows 8/RT. It also has built-in media keys, making it easy to control music and videos.
The cover is made of a flexible, grippy rubber that allows it to double as a tablet stand. Cool! The cover's design is so simple that it will work with any tablet in portrait or landscape mode. An added plus is when you put it over the keys, it turns the keyboard off to conserve battery life. Cool!

The Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard is the idea travel companion for anyone needing a keyboard to use with their mobile device. It's very well made and beautifully designed. While it's more expensive than most portable keyboards, the price is well worth it if you are in the market for something ultra-compact and simple to throw in your bag with your tablet.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ful Strummer Messenger Bag

Ful Strummer Messenger
Strolling through the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport after dropping my parents off for their flight, I discovered a store called Techshowcase.  Being the geek that I am, naturally I went inside to look around. While checking out what they had, I discovered the Ful Strummer Messenger Bag and fell in love. Finally, a decent bag made specifically for tablets that could accommodate additional items without becoming to bulky. It's slim and made out of good material. It's simple especially if you want to just carry the necessities for the moment.

Durable outer material
2 pouches and 2 pen holders 
Inner padded pocket for tablets 
Magnets keep it closed