5 best video games for 2010

So, here you have it, my top 5 list of video games for 2010.

1. God Of War

Best looking game ever (in my humble opinion). Tons of action a huge list of mythological creatures to destroy.

2. Red Dead Redemption

3. Call of Duty – Black Ops

4.  Super Mario Galaxy 2

5. Halo: Reach

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10 reasons to dump your iPad for a Galaxy Tab

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is a 7-inch tablet that looks a lot like an overgrown Galaxy S phone, without the phone functionality. It debuted in the U.S. this month and will be available from all four major U.S. wireless carriers. (Note: Versions of the device sold outside the U.S. do have phone functionality; this is a limitation imposed by the U.S. carriers.) Reviews ranged from glowing (”It’s a Tablet. It’s Gorgeous. It’s Costly) to scathing (”A Pocketable Train Wreck“).

I bought an iPad for one simple reason: I wanted a light, thin tablet I could easily use out on the patio, while riding as a passenger in a car, while lying in bed, or while sitting on the sofa in front of the TV. All of these are situations where a regular laptop or notebook, or even the bigger and heavier convertible tablets, just didn’t work as well. The iPad was the only thing on the market at the time that fit those criteria at a cost of under $1,000.

But I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the iPad from the beginning. I love the form factor and the ease of connecting to a network and setting up my Exchange email account. But I hate the lack of storage expansion, its frustrating inability to display Flash-based Web sites, and the difficulty of entering text on its keyboard. And it’s still just a tad heavier and bulkier than I’d really prefer for the uses to which I put it. Most of all, I hate Apple’s ironclad control over what apps I can install.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting a viable alternative. I’m a Windows loyalist from way back, and I’ve used Windows Mobile smart phones since I got my first, a Samsung i730 back in 2005. I still have an Omnia II running WinMo 6.5, but recently I was won over to Android, first by testing a Droid X and then by testing a Samsung Fascinate. I fell in love with the Fascinate, which is a Galaxy S phone, so I had a feeling I was going to like its big brother, the Galaxy Tab. And I was right. In fact, despite the Tab’s somewhat high price, I’ve decided to dump the iPad for the Tab. Here are 10 reasons why.

1: Size

Yes, I loved the iPad’s 9.7-inch form factor when I got it. That’s because it was so much smaller and thinner than the tablets (Windows-based convertibles and slates) I’d used in the past. But it still wasn’t quite enough. It’s just a little too big to slip into my favorite small bag. Want to put it in your pocket? Forget about it. And unless you’re a big, burly guy (I’m not), holding it in one hand isn’t easy to do.

Steve Jobs pronounced 7-inch tablets “dead on arrival.” He might think bigger is better, but I disagree. The Tab’s 7.48- by 4.74-inch dimensions (compared to the iPad’s 9.56-by-7.47) make it roughly half the size of the iPad. And that means it’s easier to hold onto and manipulate, easier to “thumb type” on, and easier to fit into a small bag or even a large jacket pocket.

2: Weight

At 25.6 oz. (a little over a pound and a half), the iPad seems light — especially if you’re comparing it to older style tablets that weighed 3 to 4 pounds. However, if you hold it up for a moderate period of time, you find that it gets tiring. This is especially important if you use your tablet for reading ebooks. And carrying it around adds a noticeable, if not burdensome, weight to your bag.

The Galaxy Tab weighs in at a trim 13.4 oz., less than a pound. The difference might not seem like much, but it makes it far easier to use for longer times without tiring and makes it more likely that I’ll bring it along at times when I might not bother to bring the iPad because of its bulk and weight.

3: Expandable storage

One of my biggest complaints about the iPad was the lack of a flash memory slot to allow me to add more storage space. Of course, Apple didn’t want me to buy an SD/microSD card from one of many vendors — they wanted me to buy a higher capacity, more expensive iPad from them. That type of blatant gouging is one of the reasons I hate giving any of my money to Apple.

The Galaxy Tab has a microSD slot that will officially accept cards up to 32 GB in capacity. I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we can tweak it to use 64 GB cards when they become readily available, just as we could use 8 GB cards in phones that officially only accepted cards up to 4 GB.

Another nice thing about the Tab is that the memory card slot is easily accessible — unlike on the Galaxy S phones, where you have to remove the back to change out the card (although I give Samsung credit for not making you remove the battery to change the card, as you have to do with many of today’s phones). On the Tab, the slot is on the side of the device and you just open the small cover to access it.

4: Choice of 3G carriers

The iPad has finally come to Verizon Wireless — well, sort of. The problem is that it’s the Wi-Fi only version, since Apple doesn’t make an iPad with built-in support for CDMA/EVDO (the technology used by Verizon and Sprint). To use it with Verizon’s 3G network, you have to buy their MiFi mobile hotspot device and then connect the iPad to that via Wi-Fi. The upside is that you can connect up to five devices to the MiFi — but it means carrying around yet another (albeit small) component.

The Galaxy Tab is going to be available through all the major wireless carriers and will have 3G capabilities built in, so there is no extra device to carry.

5: Better Bluetooth

The iPad comes with Bluetooth 2.1 support, whereas the Galaxy Tab has Bluetooth 3.0. The later version supports faster speeds, up to 24 megabits per second. (Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR supports a data rate of 3 Mbps.)

6: Two cameras

The iPad lacks a camera of any kind. I don’t really mind not having a rear-facing camera, since my phone has a camera and is much better suited for taking photos. Holding the big almost 10-inch iPad up to snap a picture would be awkward anyway. But I always thought the tablet form factor would have been perfect for video conferencing — if only the device had a front-facing camera.

The Galaxy Tab has two cameras, a 3.2 MP rear-facing and a 1.3 MP front-facing one. And the device itself is small enough so that the rear camera will be a lot less awkward to use.

7: Flash

Steve Jobs has made it clear that he hates Adobe Flash and doesn’t want it on the iPhone or iPad. I’m not a big fan of Adobe myself, but there are just too many Web sites out there that rely on Flash, and the lack of support for it can make browsing the Web with an iPad a frustrating experience.

The Galaxy Tab includes Flash Player 10.1, so you can access those Flash-enabled sites. This does slow things down a bit, but it’s far better than not being able to access them at all.

8: Swype

The iPad is too big for thumb typing, and although you can (sort of) touch type on it, that’s likely to result in a lot of errors, in my experience. That leaves me doing a modified version of touch typing, in which I have to look at the keyboard while I’m typing, and it slows me down. Worse, it’s uncomfortable to try to do it for any length of time. Thus, I use the iPad for consumption but try to avoid creating text content on it.

The Tab, like the Galaxy S phones (and other Android phones I’ve tried) comes with Swype. It’s a different way to enter text, by sliding your finger from key to key, and at first you can’t believe it would really work, but it does. I first became acquainted with Swype when I got my Omnia II Windows Mobile phone, and within a week was able to enter text at over 50 wpm — on a phone! I swore I’d never have another phone that didn’t use Swype. After you get used to the longer distance your finger has to travel, it works fine on the Tab, and it’s far less tiring than typing on the virtual keyboard.

We keep hearing rumors of Swype coming to the iPhone/iPad, but so far, it hasn’t happened.

Even if you prefer to tap the keys instead of Swyping, the Tab has a feature that makes text entry much better than on the iPad: You can tap and hold a key to get a secondary character. On the iPad, if you want to type a number, you have to switch to the alternate symbol keyboard. On the Tab, you can simply hold down the appropriate alphabetic key to type the number displayed above the letter. Switching back and forth between the alpha and numeric/symbol keyboards on the iPad drives me nuts, so I love this feature.

9: Comparable battery life

One thing I really did love about my iPad was the battery life. Compared to just about every other portable computing device (other than a simple MP3 player), its stamina was amazing. I easily got close to 10 hours of fairly heavy usage out of it, and since I don’t normally use it that heavily, I could go a week sometimes between charges.

This was the deal breaker on most of the alternative tablets I saw. Many of them sounded great — until you got to the part that said “Battery life: 4 hours.” I wanted something that was comparable to the iPad, that would at least let me use it heavily for a full workday without recharging. The Galaxy Tab doesn’t quite measure up to the iPad in this respect — but it’s good enough. It’s rated at seven hours for video playback, and longer for less intensive tasks. That stacks up well against the iPad, with which I got about eight hours when streaming video constantly.

Another plus is that you can charge the Tab from your computer’s USB port, although you have to use the cable that comes with the device to do it since Unfortunately, Samsung used a proprietary connector on the Tab’s side. This was a strange decision, given that the Galaxy S phones have a standard mini USB port.

10: Freedom

For those who chafe at being under Apple’s thumb when it comes to software, the Tab offers something that’s priceless — the freedom to install apps that don’t have to be “approved” by the phone’s maker. The Android Market is a convenient and easy way to download apps, but you aren’t limited to its offerings.

Of course, the carriers do lock down their devices to an extent, and depending on where you buy it, the Tab may have vendor-installed crapware on it that you can’t easily remove. However, rooting the Tab is easy; there is a one-click app for that called z4root. And it’s likely that custom ROMs for the Tab will emerge in the near future, as they have for Android-based phones .(Just remember that rooting — similar to jailbreaking an iPhone/iPad — voids your warranty.)

Summary

The iPad is slick and pretty and does some things well. I had fun with mine, even though at times I felt like throwing it into the lake. But it lacked a lot of the things I want and value most, such as the ability to expand storage, to “type” at a decent speed,and to carry and hold it comfortably for long periods of time without it becoming burdensome. I also need to be able to view Flash content and do video conferencing. The Tab offers all that, and more.

Sure, the next generation of the iPad will probably include some of these features. But there are some that the iPad is likely to never give us, such as expandable storage and freedom of choice when it comes to our apps. Those things might not be important to everyone, but they’re important to me. So important that I’m dumping my iPad in favor of the Tab.

Author: Debra Littlejohn Shinder


5 tips to get a good price on a laptop

As a web designer, I buy a lot of computer equipment, along with being constantly asked by friends to help them find “deals”. Of course, when I purchase a new computer or laptop, I have to pay out of my own pocket, I am always looking for a “deal”. Over the years, I’ve mastered how to get good prices on computer equipment. Here’s a few things I’ve learned.

1: Stay away from retail stores

If you want to get a good deal on a laptop, stay away from big box retailers. I won’t name names, (and even tho my son works for one such big box unit),  I have noticed that their prices are always the same as the MSRP listed on the Internet. Even the store’s sale prices are more expensive than what you would pay if you were to buy the same laptop online.

Price isn’t the only reason I recommend avoiding major electronics stores. Things like high pressure sales tactics and upcharges for things I don’t want (such as extended warranties, setup, software suites, and “optimizing my machine”) are enough to drive me nuts (short trip). Unless I need a computer immediately I avoid the electronics stores at all costs.

2: Decide what’s important to you

If you have to have the latest and greatest laptop, you’re going to end up paying a premium price for it. However, if you don’t absolutely have to have the best, you can save big bucks by compromising on a few features. You may also find that it is cheaper to upgrade a laptop than to buy one with everything you need.

For example, a few years ago, I needed a laptop for a project I was working on. The only real requirement was that I had to have 4 GB of RAM. At the time, laptops with that much memory were really expensive. I was able to save a fortune by buying a 1 GB laptop and then buying the memory for it separately.

Here are some other ways you can save money:

  • Buy last year’s model.
  • Buy a comparable system from a less expensive manufacturer.

3: Shop online outlets

Most of the major electronics stores have online outlet stores where you can purchase open box items at a discount. A lot of PC manufacturers have similar online outlets that sell refurbished computers.

Even though some people may look down on those who buy refurbished systems, I have saved a fortune by purchasing refurbished computer equipment. Not every computer I buy is refurbished. But if I plan to use a computer only as a lab machine, I have no problem with buying refurbished hardware.

4: Comparison shop

Several Web sites, such as My Simon and Price Grabber, will do the comparison shopping for you. Such sites query numerous online stores and show you which store has the best price on the laptop you want. Although I whole-heartedly encourage comparison shopping, there are two things to watch out for.

First, price comparison sites examine a finite number of stores. If you know of some stores that often have good prices on laptops, it may be worthwhile to manually check their prices in case they are not included in the price query on the comparison site.

The second thing to watch out for is that some online stores will charge an obscene amount of money for shipping, just so that they can claim to have the lowest price.

Incidentally, if you do decide to purchase a laptop from an online reseller, take the time to check out the store’s reputation. The Internet is filled with charlatans.

5: Beware of buying used laptops

Although I sometimes buy refurbished laptops, I tend not to  buy used laptops. The reason for this is that laptops just take too much abuse. A refurbished laptop is fully compliant with the manufacturer’s original standards and it comes with a warranty. A used laptop has no such guarantees.

If  you know someone locally who was selling a used laptop, I might consider buying it if I could test drive it first. However, I would never even consider purchasing a used laptop off the Internet. You never know if it has been dropped, coke spilled into it, etc….


5 ways to drive traffic to your website

1: Word of mouth
Sometimes, there is nothing like good old fashion word of mouth to
attract traffic to your site. I have lost count of the number of times
I have had friends tell me about a cool new site that I need to check
out. Remember, if you give people a reason to talk about your site,
they usually will.

2: Search engine optimization
I wasn’t even going to mention search engine optimization because it’s
such an obvious requirement. Even if a site has already been
optimized, it may be worth reviewing it from time to time. Search
engines change their rules all the time –and when that happens, a site
that is highly optimized today might not receive favorable rankings
tomorrow.

3. Social networking
Social networking sites can be a great mechanism for driving traffic
to your Web site. This might seem an obvious choice, but the number of
clients we have not utilizing this FREE form of marketing is
astounding.

4: Provide a reason to visit
The Internet is filled with so many sites, you have to give people a
reason to visit yours. One way to do that is to give them something
useful that they can’t get anywhere else.

5: Solicit reviews
If your Web site is set up to sell a product or service, I highly
recommend trying to get it in front of someone who writes reviews on
whatever it is you’re selling.


10 ways to manage your time

1: Use the right tools

Whether it’s hardware, software, or the chair you sit in, using the best tool for the job can make a huge difference in the amount of work you get done. It’s not always easy to determine which tool is best. Know your options and research which tool best meets your needs. New tools are being developed all the time. Keep up to date to determine whether more effective tools are available.

2: Properly manage your time and your tasks

Simple time management can help you make more effective use of your time. Know what you intend to accomplish before starting each day. You may want to write these tasks down, but I learned to do simple daily planning without any special tools. I found it easier to break my day into morning and afternoon and reevaluate my working plan at lunchtime.

There are tools designed specifically to help you prioritize your tasks. Whatever method you use to manage and prioritize your tasks, it should be flexible enough to allow you to choose an alternate task.

3: Learn to say no

It’s sometimes hard to do, but do it. You may not be able to say no to the boss, but when possible, pare back your to-do list. If the list gets too long, consider segregating it into current and future tasks. Having too many items on your plate can be discouraging, and a motivated person is more productive than a discouraged one.

Learn to say no to interruptions. You wouldn’t interrupt your child while in school. Except for emergencies and the occasional honey-do item, you should encourage others to avoid interrupting you when you’re hard at work.

4: Focus on one task at a time

It is a common misconception that the conscious mind can process more than one task at a time. It’s just not possible if the tasks require conscious selection and action. The best multi-taskers may quickly switch from one task to another, but they still can focus on only one task at a time. Experiments have shown that productivity drops when multi-tasking.

5: Know when you are not productive

We all seem to have those times during the day when we just aren’t totally with it. Recognize when you are unproductive. Is it mornings? Late afternoons? After lunch? Use these times to do repetitive, simple-to-accomplish tasks. I am unproductive in the mornings, so I read and answer my email, return phone calls, and schedule conference calls.

We are not machines. Productivity begins to suffer when focusing on one task for too long. When you begin to feel tired or unable to focus, stop working. Take a break or take an early lunch.

Lower productivity can be long-term as well as short-term. Recognize the warning signs of burn-out. Take a vacation, sabbatical or schedule some downtime when you see the first signs of physical or mental exhaustion.

6: Take advantage of nonproductive time

Any work that can be accomplished when traveling or during other lost nonproductive hours means that you can focus on more important tasks when back in the office. Waiting in line and walking to lunch are great times to accomplish tasks that require careful consideration and thought. You may be tempted to multi-task while driving, but that is a bad idea.

7: Sleep on it

It’s counter Intuitive, but when you’re stuck trying to solve a particularly difficult problem, set it aside until tomorrow. The answer to a difficult problem has often come to me in that quiet time between lying down to sleep and dozing off. If it didn’t, starting the next day with a fresh perspective often helped solve the problem.

In addition, getting the right amount of sleep will help you be more productive. This is different for each person, but is typically between seven and nine hours each night.

8: Use your resources

I call this the copy-and-paste method of increasing productivity. If you are a programmer, reuse proven code. If you have a presentation to give, there may be existing graphics, text, or slides that can be recycled from a previous PowerPoint. Use standards and templates when appropriate to save time. Consider developing a library of work that can be maintained and mined for reuse by your department or company. Sharing this library will make everyone more productive.

9: Take a break

Sometimes, I used to get up and go for a walk right in the middle of the workday. Thankfully, no one ever stopped me to question what I was doing, but I often wondered what others were thinking. And thinking is exactly what I was doing. Taking the time up front to develop a plan of attack away from interruptions can save hours of wasted effort.

10: Know “the” business and “your” business

IT often supports many types of businesses. From manufacturing to nonprofit, knowing how the business you are doing work for works will make you more productive. Whatever your job, you need to know it inside and out. If your skills aren’t up to snuff, ask yourself what you can do to improve them.

1: Use the right tools

Whether it’s hardware, software, or the chair you sit in, using the best tool for the job can make a huge difference in the amount of work you get done. It’s not always easy to determine which tool is best. Know your options and research which tool best meets your needs. New tools are being developed all the time. Keep up to date to determine whether more effective tools are available.

2: Properly manage your time and your tasks

Simple time management can help you make more effective use of your time. Know what you intend to accomplish before starting each day. You may want to write these tasks down, but I learned to do simple daily planning without any special tools. I found it easier to break my day into morning and afternoon and reevaluate my working plan at lunchtime.

There are tools designed specifically to help you prioritize your tasks. Whatever method you use to manage and prioritize your tasks, it should be flexible enough to allow you to choose an alternate task.

3: Learn to say no

It’s sometimes hard to do, but do it. You may not be able to say no to the boss, but when possible, pare back your to-do list. If the list gets too long, consider segregating it into current and future tasks. Having too many items on your plate can be discouraging, and a motivated person is more productive than a discouraged one.

Learn to say no to interruptions. You wouldn’t interrupt your child while in school. Except for emergencies and the occasional honey-do item, you should encourage others to avoid interrupting you when you’re hard at work.

4: Focus on one task at a time

It is a common misconception that the conscious mind can process more than one task at a time. It’s just not possible if the tasks require conscious selection and action. The best multi-taskers may quickly switch from one task to another, but they still can focus on only one task at a time. Experiments have shown that productivity drops when multi-tasking.

5: Know when you are not productive

We all seem to have those times during the day when we just aren’t totally with it. Recognize when you are unproductive. Is it mornings? Late afternoons? After lunch? Use these times to do repetitive, simple-to-accomplish tasks. I am unproductive in the mornings, so I read and answer my email, return phone calls, and schedule conference calls.

We are not machines. Productivity begins to suffer when focusing on one task for too long. When you begin to feel tired or unable to focus, stop working. Take a break or take an early lunch.

Lower productivity can be long-term as well as short-term. Recognize the warning signs of burn-out. Take a vacation, sabbatical or schedule some downtime when you see the first signs of physical or mental exhaustion.

6: Take advantage of nonproductive time

Any work that can be accomplished when traveling or during other lost nonproductive hours means that you can focus on more important tasks when back in the office. Waiting in line and walking to lunch are great times to accomplish tasks that require careful consideration and thought. You may be tempted to multi-task while driving, but that is a bad idea.

7: Sleep on it

It’s counter Intuitive, but when you’re stuck trying to solve a particularly difficult problem, set it aside until tomorrow. The answer to a difficult problem has often come to me in that quiet time between lying down to sleep and dozing off. If it didn’t, starting the next day with a fresh perspective often helped solve the problem.

In addition, getting the right amount of sleep will help you be more productive. This is different for each person, but is typically between seven and nine hours each night.

8: Use your resources

I call this the copy-and-paste method of increasing productivity. If you are a programmer, reuse proven code. If you have a presentation to give, there may be existing graphics, text, or slides that can be recycled from a previous PowerPoint. Use standards and templates when appropriate to save time. Consider developing a library of work that can be maintained and mined for reuse by your department or company. Sharing this library will make everyone more productive.

9: Take a break

Sometimes, I used to get up and go for a walk right in the middle of the workday. Thankfully, no one ever stopped me to question what I was doing, but I often wondered what others were thinking. And thinking is exactly what I was doing. Taking the time up front to develop a plan of attack away from interruptions can save hours of wasted effort.

10: Know “the” business and “your” business

IT often supports many types of businesses. From manufacturing to nonprofit, knowing how the business you are doing work for works will make you more productive. Whatever your job, you need to know it inside and out. If your skills aren’t up to snuff, ask yourself what you can do to improve them.


Slow Computer? Tip #10 File system issues and display options

Some file systems work better than others for large disk partitions. Windows 7 should always use the NTFS file system for best performance.

Cleaning up the file system will also help speed performance. You can use the Disk Cleanup tool to:

  • Remove temporary Internet files.
  • Remove downloaded program files (such as Microsoft ActiveX controls and Java applets).
  • Empty the Recycle Bin.
  • Remove Windows temporary files such as error reports.
  • Remove optional Windows components you don’t use.
  • Remove installed programs you no longer use.
  • Remove unused restore points and shadow copies from System Restore.

To run Disk Cleanup in Windows 7, click Start and type “Disk Cleanup” in the search box. Select the drive you want to clean up.

Another way to increase performance is by turning off some of the visual effects that make Windows 7 look cool but use valuable system resources. In Control Panel, click the System applet and in the left pane, click Advanced System Settings. Under Performance, click the Settings button and then the Visual Effects tab. Here, you can disable selected Aero effects or just click Adjust For Best Performance, as shown in Figure G, which disables them all.

Figure G

You can turn off selected (or all) visual effects to increase performance.

Conclusion

When troubleshooting a system slowdown, you should always look for potential hardware problems first. Then, investigate the common software problems. If you use a systematic troubleshooting plan, you should be able to improve the performance of most computers suffering from system slowdown.


Slow Computer? Tip #9 Background applications

Have you ever visited an end user’s desktop and noticed a dozen icons in the system tray? Each icon represents a process running in either the foreground or background. Most of them are running in the background, so the users may not be aware that they are running 20+ applications at the same time.

This is due to applications starting up automatically in the background. You can find these programs in the Startup tab of the System Configuration utility, as shown in Figure F. Uncheck the box to disable the program from starting at bootup.

Figure F

You can disable programs from starting when you boot Windows.