iPhone 5S vs. 5C (5S Edition)

iPhone 5S Review

iPhone 5S (CC by Ashok Govind)

I’ve been using my iPhone 5s since the week after launch, so about 5 weeks now, and it truly is the best, fastest iPhone to date. The casing and screen are virtually identical to the iPhone 5, except for the dual flashes and touch ID. It ships with iOS 7, and is remarkably light and thin for a device that packs such substantial improvement in power. An article I read on imore.com points out that the power under the hood from the A7 chip in the 5s is equivalent to that of a 2010 MacBook Air.


Maker: Apple
Price: $199 with a 2 year contract from AT&T
Ownership Length: 5 Weeks


Pros:

1) The iOS 7 user interface is silky smooth and quick, but probably not appreciably better than the iPhone 5.

2) The camera quality is improved. The slow motion and burst mode options both work really well and are useful for action video and photos.

3) The battery life is good. I know there are phones with better battery life, but I can quite easily go the entire day (from 8 AM until midnight or later) and still be at 10-15% battery or higher, depending on use.

4) Touch ID is awesome; it’s the best, easiest to use feature security feature I’ve witnessed. You set it up with up to 5 fingers and it allows you to unlock the phone or pay for apps in the app store without having to input an alphanumeric password. Putting your thumb—or whichever finger you choose—on the home button unlocks the phone. The only time I’ve had a problem is if my finger is damp. It is so much easier than inputting a 4-digit code every time you unlock your phone. Also, if the “nuisance” of having to input a password has kept you from putting a pass lock on your phone, this is such an easy way to secure your phone and your personal information (I don’t think it blocks the NSA though).

5) In addition to the A7 processor, there is a M7 coprocessor that registers motion, so exercise, GPS, pedometer apps or whatnot can track that data without taking away memory and battery/efficiency from the main processor.

Cons:
1) Size. I personally love the size—it’s the same 4-inch screen as the iPhone 5. I find most large Android phones, like the Samsung Galaxy, too huge to slip in and out of my pocket easily. But if you want a larger screen, get an Android or Windows phone.

2) No external card slots. There isn’t and never will be a card slot on an iPhone. If you need one, the iPhone 5s is probably not for you.

3) Slick surfaces. The iPhone 5s is is very shiny and possibly a little slick. If you are like me and want to keep it pristine, get a case for when you are out and about. I like to uncase it when I’m at home.

Summary

iPhone 5S BackMy overall final thoughts: it’s a great phone and if you like Apple products, you’ll really enjoy using the iPhone 5s. That being said, I was eligible for an upgrade on contract, and with selling back my previous iPhone, I basically got it for the activation cost. While the iPhone 5s is certainly an upgrade from the iPhone 5, it’s not necessarily worth paying full price if you aren’t eligible for an upgrade on your contract. But if you have the iPhone 4s or earlier, upgrade to the iPhone 5s if you can. It is the creme de la creme of iPhones.

Mac vs. PC

How I was ensnared by Apple

By David Holthausen

Apple Products

Let me begin this post by stating that I used to be an absolute Mac hater (Jeff can attest to my disdain towards all things Apple). Since I was a child, we only ever had PCs, usually Dells, in the house, all the way from Dos to Windows 95, ME and XP. When the iPod was all the rage in the early and mid-2000’s, I bought the Creative Zen instead, which were, in fact, awesome MP3 players:

[I thought the click wheel was the dumbest thing ever and was generally enraged by those Justin Long Mac vs. PC commercials.

Yes, PCs do pie charts, but that’s ONE PROGRAM, YOU CAN STILL LISTEN TO MUSIC AND WATCH MOVIES. Clearly, they still make me angry.

Throughout college, I was still vehemently anti-Apple. My trusty Dell laptop lasted solidly all 4 years and still is going strong as a backup computer my parents use, 7 years after I originally purchased it.

At the same time, though, I remember seeing all those shiny aluminum MacBook Pros. Even though I hated Apple, I couldn’t deny that they were very aesthetically pleasing machines–technological eye candy, if you will.

When I decided to enter the world of the smartphone around 2009, I went again against all things Apple and that swanky iPhone and got a Windows Phone with the LG Incite.

It had the worst touchscreen ever, had an awful stylus, and it completely turned me off from touch screen keyboards. When I was due for an upgrade, I went with the Blackberry Torch 9800 with the touch screen, but also the full physical QWERTY keyboard. I really liked that phone; it was a solid performer, and the only really big drawback was the lack of apps. Nonetheless, I really liked that experience.

A couple years later, I was entitled to another phone upgrade and I was excited to get the new Blackberry Bold 9900 on AT&T. However, when it got released on Verizon over the summer, but not on AT&T (and didn’t come out on AT&T until the end of November) I started getting fidgety: I had a “free” upgrade burning a hole in my pocket, and I was yearning for something new and shiny. I was thinking more and more of jumping from the sinking Blackberry boat when I went and had brunch with a buddy of mine. While we were waiting for a table, I decided to try out his iPhone 4.

The UI, the sleekness, the touch screen, all the cool apps–for an Apple basher, it was difficult to come around and see how good of a mobile experience the iPhone 4 provided, but the difference was undeniable. After watching the product unveiling for the 4S, I took a leap to the dark side and decided to see what this Apple thing was all about. I even got up at 3am and pre-ordered it so I would get it on launch day.

The iPhone 4S really washed away my stigma against Apple. It was just so sleek, quick, and easy to use, and I finally saw what people had been saying about the quality of Apple products. Believe it or not, fall 2011 with the iPhone 4S was the first time I had ever used iTunes on my computer. I made the switch and moved everything over from Windows Media Player, which was a worthwhile pain.

As I mentioned earlier, during my undergrad days I used a Dell laptop, with which I had never had any major issues (other than it not being as shiny as a MacBook). Moving from undergrad to grad school, it was time for a new computer, and I made the misstep of moving away from Dell and getting an up-scaled Sony Vaio EA series with Blu-ray drive.

To its credit, the Sony Vaio was a nice computer when I got it, but it just didn’t last (which I have noticed about a great deal of Sony products). The hard drive died within a year (luckily, there was still a week left on the warranty), and over the subsequent 6 months, the screen started getting a loose connection, and the headphone jack and one of the USB ports died as well. So, as my Vaio was slowly making the turn from work computer to being a glorified home backup desktop, I began saving up to invest in a new laptop, one that would hopefully last for more than 2 years without breaking. After having a disk hard drive die I decided I wanted to go solid state; I wanted something light; and since I loved my iPhone so much, I thought it would be wise to complete my turn towards the evil empire and have all of my electronic devices on the same platform and sync seamlessly. Thus, I bought a 2012 MacBook Air.

My biggest concern with going with the Air was the lack of a disc drive; however, thanks to Apple, I can wirelessly use my disc drive on my Vaio if I need to get anything from a disk onto the Mac. Additionally, I thought I would use Boot Camp so I could also run full windows on the Apple hardware, but a year into having this laptop, I haven’t even thought of using Boot Camp, and this laptop is still running as well as the day I got it. And this past Christmas, I completed the Apple trio (actually the quad–I bought an iPod Shuffle for the gym after I got the iPhone) when I received the iPad mini as a present from my parents. (You can read my review of the iPad Mini HERE.)

It may have taken me two years, but I am living proof that it’s possible to go from being an absolute Apple hater to basically running the gamut of Apple devices–and all because AT&T and what used to be RIM were slow in getting the Bold 9900 released.

What’s the Deal with Paleo?

Tips for Success

Written by Erin Cummins
Paleo SaladA few years ago, I had a meeting with my college’s nutritionist where she suggested I go carb-free. (I imagined a police scene: “Step away from the bagels and no one gets hurt!”) So I valiantly embarked alone on a new way of eating, trying to eliminate carbs from my life entirely. It ended, as these things always do, in a wild scuffle for a half-eaten cannoli.

My dreams of making a change were over until a few months ago, when I joined a new gym and was introduced to the Paleo diet: a more “official” version of what I had tried to do before the day of the fateful Cannoli Battle. I have subsequently thrown myself into this lifestyle with the abandon of Honey Boo Boo hopped up on go-go-juice. If you are considering going paleo, here’s what you should know:

What it is (and importantly, what it isn’t).

With the paleo diet, the focus is ostensibly on “eating what our ancestors ate”—and by ancestors, I mean people who actually used their wisdom teeth and for whom a fun Saturday night meant fingerpainting the cave walls. In actuality, the name “Paleo” is just a trendy name for a fairly simple way of eating. The focus is NOT to go out into the wild, battle a dinosaur, and finish it all off with some (hopefully not poisonous) berries—the point is to eat real food, food that hasn’t been overly processed and pumped full of salt, sugar, and fat. The point is to get back to the basics.

There are some other arguments about evolution and our bodies’ capability to handle certain types of foods (namely, grains) but the most salient argument for me is that it’s about putting the “food” back into, and removing the “stuffs” from, our foodstuffs.

What you eat.

Eat what is good for you. Look not at the calorie count, but at the nutritional content of that which you eat. For example, many paleo-eaters will only eat grass-fed beef: they argue that while you can get protein from regular beef, you’re probably not helping yourself out by ingesting pink slime. (Personally, I am not the Lehman Bros, so I eat non-organic/grain-fed meat. That is a sacrifice I’m ok with).

Also, fear not the fat. Healthy fats are good for you! As I understand it, they allow you to store up nutrients in case you get sick, so your body has something to fall back on. Let me put it this way: if you are up against a wall, and have to choose between eating something that’s sugar-free or something that’s fat-free, eat Sugar-Free. Sugar-free foods are supplemented with fats (to make them taste good), and vice versa for fat-free foods. It’s way, way worse to eat sugar than fat. At least fat has something to offer.

How to succeed

1) Do your research. There are a lot of detractors out there (link and link). Not everyone is sold on this lifestyle—and that’s fine. If you are considering switching over, you should read what they have to say (the good as well as the bad), and find out if this is for you.

The other research you need to do is internal: find out how different foods affect you. For me, I discovered that my gross adult acne was tied to eating dairy. If I had never tried cutting it out, I would never have known how nice my skin could be! So try going a few weeks without different food groups and see how your body responds. This is the best way to find the right combinations of foods for yourself. You may find that a strictly paleo diet won’t work for you, but certain modifications are extremely helpful.

2) Get a buddy. If nothing else, you need someone to commiserate with—someone who won’t think you’re insane if you start having dreams of chocolate bars and pasta.

3) Forgive yourself; don’t give up. My Nana likes to tell me that attitude is 90% of life; this is definitely true when it comes to changing your habits. There are many moments where I have to stop and remind myself why I do paleo in the first place (especially going out to dinner; I hate to be that person who has so many specifications to her order!), but in the end I have found that forgiving myself for making mistakes and keeping myself excited about trying new recipes has made this process more “real.” Concurrently, it’s easy to quit something if it feels like a temporary fix; by changing my attitude to realize that this is a permanent change, it’s easier to come back after making a mistake.

4) Use tools: recipes, blogs, cookbooks. The quickest way to lose steam is to eat the same thing every day. When I first started, I got so bored of eating salad every day for lunch, I wanted to stray to sandwiches just to mix things up. The only way to pull myself back in was to find new recipes- eating leftovers became much more satisfying! Creativity doesn’t hurt either; instead of sandwich bread, use lettuce and create mini wraps. Instead of fries, make your own sweet potato fries. There are a lot of great blogs and resources out there. I will be honest though- some of them are not that great because they require you to have fancy food implements, like food processors and stuff. Some people who are really into paleo are also really rich; I have had to modify a lot because (as I may have mentioned before) my last name is not Rockefeller.

5) Listen to great music and read awesome books. This is more general “life-success” advice, but I can’t say enough how Serena Ryder’s Stompa has been able to pull me out of a bad mood. And when I’m happy, I have the energy and desire to take care of myself. So find an anthem. Memorize a poem. Learn about the Peloponnesian War.

Personally, there are a lot of good things that have resulted from my switching over to paleo. For one, I’m no longer feeling guilty that I’m not following “doctor’s orders” (and I’m also not clawing for Italian baked goods… most days!). Another great thing is all the experimentation that I’ve been able to do; having a limited set of ingredients often forces me to find creative ways to mix things up. I’ve also lost weight (which is nice) and gotten stronger (which is nicer). Ultimately, though, for me, the best part of eating this way is connecting to ancient peoples. I don’t mean cavepeople when I say this, by the way- I mean the Ancient Romans (those of you who know me should not be surprised that I brought it all back to Rome). Romans had a common Latin expression, ab ovo usque ad malum, “from the egg to the apple”, essentially meaning from start to finish. Typical Roman dinner parties would have eggs to start off the meal, and apples for a sort of dessert. Since switching to paleo, I have started most days with eggs, and finished each night with a nice snack of an apple- literally living out a proverb from 2000 years ago. This hasn’t been the easiest change in my life, from the egg to the apple I have seen a lot of great results.

iPad vs. iPad Mini

Review: iPad Mini

iPad MiniAs a recent convert from Windows products to Apple in 2012, I began to consider purchasing a tablet to fill the gap between an iPhone and a MacBook Air. While I found the super-light laptop great for making a backpack less cumbersome, it is still difficult to use on something other than on a table or other hard surface. Additionally, while the iPhone is nice for pocketability, it isn’t a great size for reading at the airport or watching a video while lounging. While the iPad, of course, already fits this niche, to me it still seemed somewhat cumbersome for things like reading, and too expensive for something that would be used purely recreationally, so I decided to try the iPad Mini.


Price: $329 from Apple
Ownership: 3 Months
Buy at Amazon.com (aff)

 


Pros
1) Build Quality – It’s a sweet, well-engineered, solid product.
2) Size and Weight – Unlike its bigger brother, the iPad Mini is the perfect size for reading and one-handed use. Plus, it’s super light. (Sidebar: I will go more in depth about in a future blog post about cases, but suffice it to say, I’ve stopped using any kind of case when I’m at home because the machine is just too awesome sans any kind of weighty nuisance.)
3) Software – If you like iOS, then you will like the iPad Mini. If you don’t like iOS, why are you still reading this review?
4) Screen – Some people hate that the iPad Mini does not boast a Retina display. While it is not as sharp as the iPhone, it’s not a very noticeable difference to me, as I currently type on a perfectly fine non-retina computer.
5) Battery – The battery life of the iPad mini is good. I can watch a full hour of video with the battery only decreasing by about 3-5%.

Cons
1) Ports – Lightning isn’t bad, but it should be cheaper to get an HDMI to Lightning adapter if you want to hook it up to show something on a TV.
2) Muting – The mute switch will only mute app and general sounds. It will not mute the video, which is dumb.
3) Flash – I still wish you could get flash content on iOS.

Summary

I really like the iPad Mini. I think it’s a better form factor than the iPad (though the rumors about the iPad 5 seem intriguing and might make it a wash). For me, it still isn’t as much of a “go-to” device as my iPhone or Macbook Air, but it’s really good for home lounging, as well as a cramped location (airplane, sitting in a seminar). If you are into the Apple ecosystem and want a fun, less expensive (though not inexpensive) tablet, I can only recommend the iPad Mini.

Should I Upgrade to Windows 8?

Experience from Erin Cummins

Windows 8 ScreenshotYou know that feeling you get when you’re standing on the edge of a cliff? With the wind whipping at your hair and your face, your heart is pounding out a fearful tattoo.  Even so, you slowly, almost against your will, shuffle your feet forward, closer and closer to the edge… because as scared as you are to stand there, there’s a tiny part of you whispering “jump… jump…”  That’s how I felt about switching to Windows 8: I was standing on a frightening but seductive precipice.

Well. I did the perhaps-inadvisable thing and took the leap.  It felt more as if I had been pushed, actually; my previous computer (a Dell) died at an unfortunate moment, and I did not have much time to spend poking around doing more research.  I decided to buy a Samsung laptop that came equipped with Windows 8, and for the past few months I have been playing with it.

So now I, as the unfortunate first penguin who has been pushed into the freezing sea, have the duty to tell the rest of you what’s going on down here in the water.  Is Windows 8 a glorious sea full of tasty fish? Or am I dinner for the killer whales?

Built to accommodate tablets

If you think I’m being a tad dramatic, yeah–I am.  Really, Windows 8 is not so different from Windows 7 (or even Vista, actually).  The biggest difference is in aesthetics; Windows 8 is built to be compatible with touch screens and tablets, so you do not get the classic “desktop” view upon first logging in. Instead, when you log on to your computer you come to the Start page, your home screen full of apps.

Many new PC ultrabooks are coming out with touchscreens, so this new start page is really helpful with that: the icons are large enough to tap with a finger.  I like the apps, even on a non-tablet device; Windows apps have the “live tile” feature and flip with new news and pictures, so you can be caught up without having to actually do anything. I particularly enjoy the Kindle app and Netflix (both of which are free, like many apps).

Getting down to Business (to defeat the Huns)

When it’s time to actually use your computer as a computer (use a browser, write a paper, etc), it’s easy.  Your desktop is an app on the home screen so you can just click on that and you basically have Windows 7 open. You can set things like Microsoft Word or Firefox as apps on the start page as well and those will both take you straight to the desktop.  I haven’t noticed any differences in the way Windows 8 handles these programs; it’s just like any other computer.

Having two different home screens (the start screen and the desktop) is revolutionary; at least in the sense that it means I can basically have two computer wallpapers.  Now my pictures of a saxophone-playing hamster and my head photoshopped onto Dame Maggie Smith’s body can be given equal billing on my computer, as they do in my life.

Navigation

The biggest difference between the desktop app and Windows 7 is the lack of a Start button in the lower left of the page.  But because of the layout of Windows 8, you actually do not need a start button.  If you want to access any program, you can go back to the start page and do it there.  If that other program is not part of the desktop app, you can lock it onto the side of your screen and have two apps open at once on your screen.  If you have a touch screen, doing this is very easy; it’s a bit harder with a mouse, where dragging things around the screen takes a bit more effort.  Luckily, there are plenty of keyboard shortcuts that take the place of the touch screen motions; for example “Windows button + [period]” will automatically snap the app to the side.

Administration

Shutting the computer down is less intuitive.  But once you learn how to do it, it’s not that tough: just use “Windows button + C” and the settings hover on the right of the page. You can then go ahead and click on the power icon, and can choose from the classic options (“shut down”, “sleep”, “restart”).

You can access the task manager the same way you always have been able to- Ctrl+Alt+Delete. Some things never change.  You also still have the Control Panel, which can help you to uninstall programs, connect to the internet, and basically access the behind-the-scenes of your computer.  And if you need to do something with your computer that you can’t figure out easily, there is always Google… just saying.

Downsides (let’s rant)

So far this review has been pretty tame, so I might be accused of being some kind of propagandist spy-blogger if I didn’t tell you about all the things I do not appreciate about Windows 8.  So here’s a list of rants:

1) The Netflix app causes the screen resolution to overload when you are connecting the computer to your TV (or other screen).  WHAT’S THE POINT OF THAT? People often watch Netflix on shared devices… it’s confusing that I would have to use my browser instead of the specially-made app for this. Get yo act together, Netflix.  Inconceivable! Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line!

2) A lot of techy people do not like the fact that there is no Start button.  And yeah, it kind of sucks if you just used the Calculator and have to go all the way back to the apps to open it again, instead of clicking on the recent items in the menu.  But overall, I really don’t think there’s a lot to miss from the Start menu; you still get it all, just in a different place.

3) Internet Troubleshooting.  Over the holidays I went home with all my brothers, sisters, and their significant others–and everyone had a laptop.  My parents’ router just did not have the bandwidth to support all 8 computers at once, so I ran into a lot of issues trying to connect.  At first I thought it was my computer, so I ran a lot of troubleshooting tasks. This was not awesome. It was not-some? Anyway, in Windows 7 you could go to the Network and Sharing Center, click on the globe icon, and Windows would just troubleshoot everything.  Now, I’m sent to the Help section, and given 3 options of different types of problems to troubleshoot. And I’m like… can’t you just run all 3 at once and fix whatever it is? If I knew that the problem was my adapter, I’d just fix that.

4) Windows 8 is clearly engineered for “fun”–in my opinion, this is not a system on which a business computer would thrive.  Apps are largely built for watching shows, reading books, or playing games–nothing that should be done in the office.  Businesspeople will want to go straight to the desktop, and will be frustrated by the new extra step of bypassing the start page.  Then again, I have not tested with any business-y apps, which may be out there and be very helpful. And we have also seen the speed with which companies are making the switch to “keep up with the times”–many business executives have tablets they take on trips with them instead of computers–so it’s not crazy to think that businesspeople could adapt to Windows 8.  And the question remains as well: will they have the choice to stay behind? The worlds of technology and business obey the law of the wild: Evolve or Die.

Ultimately, out of all the operating systems for PC computers, Windows 8 is one of them.  As it was famously said, “we are unable to stem the tide of history.”  Whether we like it or not, Windows 8 is part of the future.  Chances are, if you have a PC, you will use Windows 8.  Even Vista, which is authoritatively regarded as “yucky,” was the primary operating system for years before Windows 7 came out.  Windows 8 is happening: software and apps are being developed for it, and newer computers and tablets will be equipped with it.

To return to my original musings about penguins and cliff-diving (two topics definitely relevant to technology…), the choice is still yours as to whether you are actually going to jump into the ocean.  This penguin survived (and is doing quite well for herself), so it looks like the coast may be clear. Windows 8 is not incredible, but it’s not terrible either, so you need to answer the following questions for yourself: Are you going to stick with previous operating systems as programs are made more and more for Windows 8? Will you spend your days searching for a non-existent start button (“Are you there Start? It’s me, Margaret”)?  If I jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?