Robert’s Ramblings

Robert Alonso’s Thoughts on Technology and More…

Archive for the ‘Opinions’ Category

January-6-12

My Law Firm

Posted by Robert Alonso under Opinions

AirSplash, Inc. just released a new iPad application. The new app is dedicated to the legal community and is called, "My Law Firm." It is useful for attorneys who want to take documents, audio recordings, videos and picture evidence into court on their iPad. The software keeps all the information private with a double password protection scheme.

Private BrowsingThe app also includes a private browser that does not save any cookies or history and many other privacy features which are useful when dealing with confidential information. The screen image to the right shows the private browsing module displaying thebestdwidefense.com website.

The app also makes it easy to distribute any document stored within it. You can select the document and send it via e-mail directly from within the app. Lawyers can customize the folder structure to accommodate any type of Client/Matter structure that corresponds with their internal policies or time billing system.

Planned enhancements to the app are client relationship management and time billing with an on-line service component. Other enhancements will be based on attorney recommendations.

My Law Firm is based on an app that was previously released as, “AirSplash Media Safe.” The new app has been on sale in the Apple app store since December 20, 2011 and is priced at $3.99.

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

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January-6-12

TheBestDWIDefense.com

Posted by Robert Alonso under Opinions

Alonso Consulting just introduced an all new design for the web site http://www.thebestdwidefense.com (aka: thebestduidefense.com). Besides having a new look and an easier-to-navigate structure, it also has a refresh of all the state laws.

The Best DWI Defense

The new site now includes a brand new section with listings for rehab facilities in all fifty states. Each entry includes the name and address of the rehab facility, the phone number, web site, information on the type of care, services and programs that are provided as well as payment types. This is obviously a very valuable resource for anyone accused of a DWI or DUI.

There are helpful links to other web sites like National College for DUI Defense, Inc and also to individual lawyers who have paid advertising fees to sponsor a state. Although the site does not offer a rating on any of the lawyers, these are typically highly skilled defense attorneys who will not simply plead a case as guilty and hope for the best. They will take a case to trial and will examine every bit of evidence to try to achieve a positive outcome.

Although not preachy in approach, the site offers valuable insight into blood alcohol content measurement and, more importantly, the harmful effects of alcohol on various parts of the body. It also offers a variety of links to books on DWI/DUI defense as well as breath testing machines and how they work.

Since avoiding a DWI/DUI is the best course of action, we plan to add taxi and limo services by city to a future enhancement of the site and also plan on adding an iPhone and iPad application that will derive their content from the site.

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

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March-16-11

iPad 2–Part 2

Posted by Robert Alonso under Hardware, Opinions

In a previous post, I wrote about the deficiencies that I discovered in the iPad 2. I also admitted that I would be a lemming and purchase one on March 11th. I am pleased to publicly announce that, at least in this instance, I resisted the urge to buy anything Apple puts out and calls “amazing.” Let’s face it, the iPad 2 is not amazing. It is just a minor improvement over its predecessor and not worthy of my hard earned cash. I will be holding out for the iPad 3 or 4. Maybe Steve Jobs will relent and provide an SD slot, a micro-USB connector and Flash support. Until then, that cash looks great in my account.

My advice to you is to do the same. Don’t buy this minor update and if you really want an iPad, buy the previous version which is selling at a $100 discount.

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

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March-4-11

iPad 2–The Missing Features

Posted by Robert Alonso under Hardware, Opinions

I like what I have heard about the Apple iPad 2. I like that it is 33% thinner and supposedly much faster without losing battery life. I will be one of the multitudes who will be buying it on March 11th, 2011. However, that has not blinded me to the fact that the media is completely crazy about anything Apple does. There is such a lack of unbiased and clear-headed reporting that someone has to point out that the emperor (Apple or Steve Jobs) is missing some clothes.

I have yet to read in any newspaper, magazine or web-based news site what the specs are on the new cameras that are built into the iPad 2. How many megapixels do they feature? Do they have optical zoom? Is there a built-in flash? Good luck finding any of this without without some very determined sleuthing. The only number I have been able to find is that the rear facing camera can shoot video at 720P. This would put the camera in the paltry .92 megapixel range. This is not exactly state-of-the-art nor is it up to par with the 5 megapixel camera in the iPhone 4.

So now that we know why Steve Jobs did not say, “The camera is just amazing!” during his presentation, let’s examine some other deficiencies. The iPad 2 does not have a built-in SD card slot nor a standard micro-USB port. These two would make the device ideal for photographers who want to see their photos on a large screen while they are out in the field taking photos. Apple charges $29 for the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit which includes an SD card and USB adapter that plugs into the the Apple dock port. I think these should be designed into the iPad 2. I would gladly pay more for the iPad 2 if these were accessible on the edge of the device.

The bottom line is don’t drink the Apple Kool-Aid. Look at each new device they release with a critical eye and decide for yourself if it really meets your needs.

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October-24-10

AirSplash Media Safe for the iPad

Posted by Robert Alonso under Opinions

AirSplash Media Safe is a password protected media organizer, document safe, private browser and slideshow viewer in one exciting and highly functional product. It makes it easy to keep all your private files safe and secure from prying eyes.

Unlike other, more expensive products, Media Safe offers you two layers of protection. You can create a regular password and a master password. Users with the master password can see hidden (top secret folders) while others can only see the folders that you have not designated as hidden.

Media Safe - Secret Folders

You also have an extensive set of file operations that make it simply to cut, delete, rename and copy files into folders. It is completely menu driven and easy-to-use.

Media Safe - File Operations 

Key Functionality

- Password protected storage
- Two layers of password protection
- Hidden folders
- Private browser
- E-mail pictures to friends
- Create unlimited folders to organize your media
- Many document types supported with viewer
- Safely store other files and transfer them as if it were a USB flash drive
- Multi-touch support to zoom, go to next picture and save pictures from private browser
- USB file transfer through iTunes
- Apple VGA connector support (not many others have this)
- Composite AV Cable connector support (view on TVs)

Media Supported

All Apple supported picture formats are available in Media Safe. These include files with the TIFF, TIF, JPG, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, BMPf, ICO, CUR and XBM extensions. All of these can be displayed through the Media Safe application and through Apple’s VGA connector on a large screen. Audio formats are MP3, WAV and AIFF files. Video formats are MOV, MP4, MPV and 3GP. Some AVI files are also supported if they use an Apple supported codec.

Media Safe is truly a versatile program. In addition to the various media formats supported, it can also display files with the following extensions: PDF, KEY, NUMBERS, PAGES, XLS, XLSX, DOC, DOCX, HTM, HTML, PPT, PPTX, RTF, and TXT. When you save one of these files into Media Safe, it is displayed with an appropriate icon to show the file type. The name of the file is also displayed. If you select one of these icons, the file is opened in the viewer.

Media Safe - Document Viewers - PDF

Private Browsing

Media Safe makes it easy for you to safely view sites that you do not want tracked. The built in browser will not save a history of your browsing, nor cookies. You can go to any site, browse the information and pictures there and then save any pictures you like directly into the Media Safe application. This is the ultimate in safety and security.

Media Safe - Private Browsing

USB Stick Functionality

Media Safe supports many types of documents and media types. However, you can use it to safely store non-supported file types as well. Just use the iTunes Share feature and copy any ZIP, RAR or other type of file that you want to transport into Media Safe. These will be displayed with a safe icon and file name. This will let you know that they are safe and secure until you decide to move them back to a desktop computer.

Slideshows

The slideshows are simply awesome. You can select a folder with your favorite pictures. To start the slideshow, touch a picture and then touch the “play” icon. Sit back, relax and enjoy the show. If you have the Apple VGA or Composite AV Cable connector, you can view these on a big screen.

Movie Playback

Media Safe makes it easy to travel with movies that you do not want to be discovered if your iPad is lost or stolen. Those home movies of the kids and family are safe and secure in this application. With the correct password, you can navigate to your movie folder and select the movie you want to view. There are controls for audio, zooming, fast forwarding and going backwards through your movies or video files.

Media Safe - Movie Playback

Audio Playback

You can also store and play audio tracks with Media Safe. Any of those special songs or messages that someone has left you on voice mail, can be stored and listened to securely with the right password.

Bottom Line

This application does more than similar one on sale in the App Store, is less expensive and is incredibly easy-to-use. Buy it now for $2.99 and please give it a review once you have used it for a while.

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting
AirSplash, Inc.

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I have not written about Windows 7 Phone because I have been contemplating its implication to the advancement of computing, telephony and gadgetry in general. Microsoft wiped the slate clean with Windows Phone 7 and acknowledged that its previous offerings were less than stellar. I never thought that the Windows Mobile platform was undesirable, it had just become very dated compared to offerings from Apple, Sony, Nokia and Google. Windows Phone 7 may just be Microsoft’s lucky seven that wins back some of the phone users that have moved on. It may also lure in a new set of consumers. I can easily see it as very appealing to two sets of customers—the very young, hip social crowd and the serious business user. You may not think that this is possible, but it is because of the magnificent user interface that Microsoft has designed (and is still improving).

The user interface is no longer an underpowered version of the Windows desktop with a “Start” button and menu system. Instead, it is a series of large colorful tiles that expand into spaces. Each of these spaces is a window into a large pane that is full of information. Some of these spaces are dedicated to People, Music & Videos, and Pictures. Others are more business oriented like e-mail, search and office connectivity. The People space includes information gleaned from Facebook and presents a constantly updated view of your friend’s updates and profile pictures. This will attract the socially voracious younger crowd. The Xbox Live platform that is integrated into the device will also appeal to the younger user. Everyone loves Music, Videos and Pictures so these spaces will have broad appeal and are so well designed and tightly integrated with the phone that they surpass the iPhone. The business oriented space contains sophisticated Outlook-like e-mail that is constantly synchronized with Exchange server. It also synchronizes with Microsoft Office OneNote and SharePoint Server. These business functions put it ahead of all other phones and makes the Microsoft server offerings even more appealing.

The hardware that is planned for the Windows Phone 7 must adhere to a hardware specification that Microsoft has created. All the phones must have multi-touch screens, a powerful processor and three buttons for navigation. This is a departure from Microsoft’s laissez faire attitude from the past. Fortunately, it should help create a Windows Phone 7 experience that rivals Apple’s iPhone experience. The viewing spaces are all larger than the viewing area of the screen and are navigated by dragging them across the viewing area with your finger. Responsive hardware is critical to making the Windows Phone 7 navigation work well and feel like a quality product.

I am excited about Windows Phone 7, but not because it is a new generation device that integrates personal and business information seamlessly. I am excited about it because it is a new software platform that demonstrates Microsoft can still be creative when challenged. It has the potential to be much more than a phone platform. I believe that Microsoft could use it as a new tablet operating system. I can see it being more useful on a tablet form factor than the iPhone (or iPod Touch) operating system. It is more intuitive, more beautiful and encompasses everything that the vast majority of people would want to do on a tablet. I also think it is better than having Windows 7 on a tablet. It is perfectly geared for touch computing. I give Microsoft an A+ for Windows Phone 7 and for the potential that it has on other form factors.

To see demos of the user interface: http://www.windowsphone7series.com/

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

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February-22-10

CardScan 800c = Excellent Support

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Hardware, Opinions, Software

I purchased a CardScan 800c based on a recommendation from a colleague. I saw him scanning a stack of business cards effortlessly and asked him what he was using. He told me that he was using a scanner called “CardScan Executive.” He stressed the “Executive” part because he said that he had purchased a lower end unit from the company that he did not like. The “Executive” version is also known as the CardScan 800c.

The scanner is extremely easy to use. You connect it to your computer, load the software and start placing your business cards into it one by one. The unit will scan the card, save the image of the card and then recognize the relevant company, address, phone, fax, web site and e-mail fields. The data is automatically entered into the included organizer software. You can then verify that it has obtained the correct data by looking at it and the image of the card on the screen. From experience, I can say that it is over 90% accurate. It sometimes gets confused with elaborate logos that are placed on cards in lieu of the spelled out company name.

Once the data is in the organizer software you can have it synchronize with Outlook manually or automatically. This is a great feature and a time saver. I have it set up to automatically sync with

Outlook. Since I have my iPhone automatically synchronizing with my Outlook contacts, all it takes a simple and quick scan of a card to get all its data into my iPhone. This is how gadgets should work.

I am very happy with the scanner and with the results. I am even happier with the customer service that the company provides. Dymo is the company that sells the CardScan. My unit would not work after an upgrade to Windows 7 on my machine. I am not sure what happened to it, but after suggesting I try a new driver, reinstalling the USB cable and other things that I had already tried (I am a computer consultant.), the customer service representative thought that it might be a hardware failure. He sent me an RMA number so that I could return it to the company. Being without the unit for a few days and having to pack it up and send it were not an exciting prospect for me. However, the next day I was pleasantly surprised to receive a box from the company with a replacement unit and a prepaid Fedex slip to use for sending the defective one back. I unpacked the new unit, plugged it in and it has been working perfectly. I sent the other one back in the new unit’s box. That is what I call excellent service. I will buy products from Dymo before I ever buy from a competitor based on this excellent experience. Kudos to Dymo!

I wholeheartedly recommend this product.

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

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December-25-09

Google’s Secular Problem

Posted by Robert Alonso under Opinions

Google is a very successful company that is very worrisome to me. It has a corporate culture instilled from the very top of the company that is disdainful of religion and of any conservative view points. One obvious example of this behavior is their logo designs. They change the “Google” graphic logo to represent various holidays and remarkable events throughout the year. They typically do a good job with scientific or historical dates. Whenever the date is related to religion they tend to ignore it. The following image is what they chose to put on their home page on Christmas. I find it it offensive that they refuse to put anything religious or any image that is remotely associated with the spirit of Christmas. Over a billion Christians celebrate the birth of Christ on the 25th of December. One would think that Google could provide something a little less secular than a space ship and peace symbol along with some other stupid little images. (Yes, this gets me very angry.)

image

Bing, chose to place some Christmas imagery on their home page, but chose to minimize the religious aspect of Christmas as well. By comparison, I must commend them on not ignoring a billion plus believers worldwide. They also included several linked areas of he images that include references to interesting facts about the decorations seen in Rockefeller Center. What I found the most heartwarming is that one of them uses the word Christmas. Bravo Microsoft! I think that I will advertise with your search engine and not Google’s.

image

The only way to stop large companies like Google from ignoring the beliefs, hopes and feelings of a large majority of the world is to vote with our pocketbooks. I, for one, do not intend on supporting Google. I will also limit any future positive blog entries about them. (If you look through the older entries here, you will see quite a few positive entries on various Google products or services.) Google ads have been removed from this blog and I will be removing them from my other web sites as time permits. It is only fair that their lack of respect be met with my indifference and total lack of support for their corporate empire building.

Merry Christmas world. Much love to every one on earth.

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December-17-09

SkyGrabber – Satellite Stream Capture Software

Posted by Robert Alonso under Hardware, Opinions, Software

It was reported today that the Taliban in Afghanistan are using inexpensive software to view video from United States drone airplanes. The software is called “SkyGrabber.” It can capture picture, video and audio streams that are downloaded from satellite Internet connections. You do not even need an Internet connection to have this work for you. All you need a satellite dish. The software can then let you select what you want to capture. You can do it by by file type, IP address, by the hardware MAC address of the source, or by send or receive port. You can download the software from http://www.skygrabber.com.

You would think that the United States military would be smarter than sending live video streams from multi-million dollar aircraft without encryption. Unfortunately, they are not. You can see the unencrypted, live feeds using this inexpensive software.

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

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October-20-09

BitLocker To Go on Windows 7

Posted by Robert Alonso under Opinions, Software

The clock is ticking towards the release of a faster and generally more robust operating system for PCs. As many of you know, Windows 7 will be released in two days. What does this release mean to you? The most immediate impact is that it will become increasingly difficult to find any machines with Windows XP. Vista was so unpopular that Microsoft allowed Dell and other PC makers to offer downgrades to XP. Most of my customers chose that path and paid an extra $100 for the privilege.

Once Windows 7 is released, Microsoft will try to never talk about Windows Vista again and will instead tout the great new improvements in Windows 7. This is not without precedent. The same thing happened with Windows Millennium Edition (Me). Most people have forgotten about Windows Me but it was the worst operating system that Microsoft has ever sold—far worse than Vista. It followed the successful Windows 95 and 98 and preceded Windows XP which was arguably the most hardy PC operating system produced by Microsoft so far. Maybe magic will strike twice and Windows 7 will be a huge success and, more importantly, be a solid replacement for Vista.

If you are a reader of this blog, then you know that I have been testing Windows 7 for some time. I have also been reporting about features that I find useful or interesting. I have found one that makes Windows 7 worthwhile to me. That is the “BitLocker To Go” feature. This is an extension of the BitLocker functionality that Microsoft released with Windows Vista Ultimate. BitLocker is still only available on the Ultimate version, but now comes with this additional feature that enables the complete encryption of external hard drives or USB thumb drives. I find this extremely useful because I am always worried about losing a USB drive with important documents or pictures that I would not want a stranger to have. With BitLocker To Go, I can live in peace knowing that my data is secured.

You enable it by inserting the removable device into the computer and then starting the BitLocker application. Once it is started, you tell it to encrypt the USB drive and give it a password. It takes care of the rest. The next time that you insert that USB drive into the computer it prompts you for the password before you can access the data on it. If you provide the password and check off an option on the screen, the PC will recognize that drive and make the files available each time that you plug it into that specific machine without you having to retype the password.

If you are wondering if that USB drive will then work on an XP machine, you are in luck. It does. When you insert the USB drive into the XP machine, it prompts you for the password and loads an application that lets you copy the data off the device and use it. However, one of these encrypted drives will not work on Apple Macintosh computers.

If you are like me and are worried about your laptop being stolen or lost, you can use BitLocker to encrypt the entire drive of your machine. The process is straightforward and works automatically. It takes a long time to process initially, but once completed, you have peace of mind. That hard drive’s data will be inaccessible without your password. This is the case even if the drive is removed and put into another machine.

To me, these two related data security features are enough of a justification for upgrading to Windows 7.

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