All posts by Craig Lloyd

Craig has been writing and blogging since 2008, but his love for technology goes back much further. Aside from his deep and passionate love for writing and technology, he enjoys watching/playing baseball, DIY projects, and the occasional long walk on the beach.

Google Brings Back Offline Support to Gmail, Adds Offline Docs and Calendar

Ever since the demise of Google Gears back in December 2009, we’ve always been yearning to get some kind of offline support back to our essential Google applications. Finally, they’ve added offline mode to Gmail, Docs and Calendars. However, it’s only available through the Chrome web browser.

Why only Chrome, you ask? Well, Google says that other browsers haven’t implemented the specifications that are needed to run their Offline Mode, specifically the FileSystem API. Will we see Mozilla make room for Google’s Offline Mode anytime soon? Probably not.

To get your sans-Internet Gmail shenanigans going, you’ll need the Gmail Offline app from the Chrome App Store. From there, it’s just a matter of clicking on it whenever you don’t have a connection. The interface should look very familiar to tablet users, since it looks almost identical to the Gmail tablet web interface. Once you establish an Internet connection, the Gmail Offline app will automatically synchronize everything.

Offline Google Docs and Calendar are a little different from Offline Gmail. You won’t need an extension or app, since they both work seamlessly between online and offline modes. All you have to do is head into the upper-right corner and click the gear icon. From there it’s just a matter of checking the box for offline access. If you’re not yet seeing this option, Google is slowly rolling out the new feature throughout the week, so be patient.

At the moment, Docs and Calendar are view-only in offline mode, but Google is making it a point to edit offline in the future.

Samsung Galaxy S II Phones Finally Land On U.S. Soil

Back in May, South Korea and the United Kingdom were the first territories to get their hands on Samsung’s Galaxy S II smartphone, which was announced in February. More countries were slowly being added to the list, with Canada being the first North American country to receive the phone in late July. Finally, we Americans can now join in on the hoopla.

Samsung will be releasing the Galaxy S II for AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, but mysteriously not for Verizon. All three models will sport a Super AMOLED Plus display with Sprint’s model (called the Epic 4G Touch) getting the larger screen size of the three at 4.52 inches. AT&T and T-Mobile will carry the smaller, but still huge 4.3-inch variant. Sprint’s version will also be packing a slightly larger, 1800 mAh battery compared to the thinner, 1650 mAh battery that AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s model will carry. And you bet that AT&T’s taking advantage of that fact by giving it the title of “thinnest 4G smartphone.”

Other than that, the three Galaxy S II models are no different from each other. They all sport a 1.2 GHz Exynos dual-core processor with 1 GB of RAM, as well as 16 GB of internal storage and an 8 MP camera on the back (2 MP on front).

Sprint is the only one so far that has announced pricing and availability — September 16th for $199. AT&T and T-Mobile says they’ll release their Galaxy S IIs “soon.”

If your curious mind is aching for a better look at these three phones, look no further than right here on the Internet, which has gladly provided us with plenty of hands-on photos and videos.

Also, if you’ve been in the market for a brand-new Android smartphone or if you’re wanting to get a great deal on an older phone, now is the time to get serious.

5 Easy Ways To Geek Out Your Vehicle

A vehicle is one of the most important assets we have. It gets us to all the vital places that we need to go, like to work and to the grocery store. The time spent in our cars can really add up, so why not make those commutes more enjoyable by adding a few bells and whistles that would make any fellow geek jealous?

Add USB Ports

It’s a shame that the auto industry hasn’t caught up to modern times yet as far as power sources go. I mean, we’re still using cigarette lighters as a power source. How ridiculous is that?

By spending as little as a few bucks, you can be charging your devices the modern way by equipping USB ports inside your vehicle. USB car adapters are available pretty much anywhere. I bought this one on Amazon and while it costs about $20, knowing that it’s made by a quality manufacturer ensures that I won’t get that annoying whining noise that comes with cheaper, lesser-quality car adapters. It also pumps out 2 amps to charge larger devices like an iPad (a feature that many USB car chargers lack).

Add Bluetooth

Image Credit: Crutchfield

Not only is equipping your car with Bluetooth a pretty geeky thing to do, but it can also be a literal life-saver when you’re on the road. Having your hands free while chatting with someone on the phone is both a convenience and a safety precaution.

A lot of newer vehicles have Bluetooth built right into the factory stereo system by default, but if you own an older vehicle that doesn’t have Bluetooth, you can still take advantage of the feature by installing either a universal kit or a stereo-specific adapter. Universal kits are merely just Bluetooth speaker boxes that you can place anywhere in your car, like these.

Stereo-specific Bluetooth kits are generally more expensive, but it allows you to use your factory stereo and speakers to talk on your phone without the need for an extra speaker box. Of course, there’s always the option of going the headset route if you don’t mind things sticking to your ear during the car ride.

Make Your Stereo MP3 Player-Compatible

Image Credit: Truck Trend

Newer vehicles nowadays have an auxiliary (AUX) input built right into the factory stereo, allowing you to easily connect an MP3 player and start rocking out. However, older vehicles don’t have this. If you’re one of those with an older vehicle, you might try looking to see if the back of your factory head unit has red and white RCA female ports and if so, you can easily plug in a RCA-to-3.5mm cable and route it through the glove box and into the interior.

If you have a cassette tape deck, you can use a cassette-to-3.5mm adapter. If both of these options are not available, you’re only choice (without using the awful FM transmitter) is to buy an aftermarket head unit with a built-in AUX input that sell for as little as $60.

Hook Up A Dedicated MP3 Player

Using your smartphone as an MP3 player can be really nice at times, but it can also be a pain in the rear end to bust it out and plug it into your stereo every time you want to listen to music in the car. Not to mention whenever you get a call, you have to reach over and unplug it. That’s why I just ended up getting a cheap, dedicated MP3 player to leave in my car that’s always plugged in and ready to go. That way all I have to do is turn it on and press play. I currently have an old iPod Mini that only cost me $25, so if it happens to get stolen, it won’t be too much of a biggie.

Install A Laptop Stand

Image Credit: Instructables

This modification is more aimed at passengers rather than the driver. Putting a laptop stand in your vehicle is an easy way for you to take your laptop on the go and provides passengers great hospitality. You can plug it into your stereo system and blast your music library or watch movies in surround sound on the go!

You can buy a pre-made laptop stand or make your own for cheaper. Since laptops only last a few hours on a charge, it would also be a good idea to get a power inverter that you can plug into your cigarette lighter, like this one.

If you have any other ways to geek out your car, leave them in the comments!

Google To Acquire Motorola Mobility For $12.5 Billion

Despite being a small contender in the mobile market with only a 3% market share and a net loss of $56 million in Q2 2011, Motorola Mobility (Motorola’s handset division) is being acquired by Google for a cool $12.5 billion. Of course, it has to pass through the government and Motorola’s shareholders first, but if the acquisition really happens, it could be big.

From the press release:

“The acquisition of Motorola Mobility, a dedicated Android partner, will enable Google to supercharge the Android ecosystem and will enhance competition in mobile computing. Motorola Mobility will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. Google will run Motorola Mobility as a separate business.”

One of the biggest aspects that attracted Google to Motorola was the bevy of patents that they owned – all 17,000 of them. Larry Page, CEO of Google says that this “will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.”

Wonder what other handset manufacturers like Samsung, HTC, Sony Ericsson, and LG are thinking about all of this? Surprisingly, all of them approve of the acquisition and welcome it with open arms. Then again, this whole thing is about protecting the Android platform and it does not negatively affect the ecosystem for other manufacturers.

Apple Releases Sub-$1,000 iMac For Education-Only Use

Just in time for all the back-to-school shenanigans, Apple has silently added a cheaper iMac model to its lineup of all-in-ones. This new 21.5-incher is priced at just a dollar shy of $1,000 and comes packed with a last-generation 3.1GHz Intel Core i3 processor, 2GB of RAM, 250GB of hard drive real estate, 256MB of AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics, and has OS X Lion pre-installed. However, a Thunderbolt port appears absent.

As you can tell, this $1,000 model has a lot less horsepower than the rest of the iMacs in the lineup. The next slowest model that Apple offers is priced at $1,199 and comes with a 2.5GHz Core i5, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and 512MB of AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics. However, Apple also sells a refurbished iMac with more RAM, but lesser graphics for $929.

This isn’t the first time Apple has released education-geared iMacs. They did it back in 2006 when they released a cheaper $899 model. It had a 17-inch display, a 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo processor, 512MB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive, and Intel GMA 950 graphics.

Here’s the kicker for these “education-only” iMacs, though (you knew there’d be one). They’re only for sale to education institutions, not for individual students. So, since you won’t be able to grab one yourself, be sure to call up the head honchos of your school and plead to them for all its worth.

Apple Reigns As Largest Smartphone Manufacturer; Android Still Rules Mobile OS Marketshare

It’s pretty impressive that a company that only sells one type of phone in a given year has grabbed the top spot of the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer (it’s also pretty impressive that the same company has more cash than the U.S. government). Apple now owns 19.1 percent of the smartphone market share followed by Samsung with 16.2 percent and Nokia, RIM, and HTC finishing out the top five.

While Samsung is close to overtaking Apple, don’t get too excited when/if that happens – it won’t be a fair fight. Samsung will have had a plethora of smartphone models on the market, while Apple will still have their lone iPhone. Frankly, I’d still be impressed with Apple if they weren’t number one.

Unfortunately, that’s where the impressiveness of a single phone dominating the market share comes to an end. Android still reigns number one as far as mobile operating systems are concerned. 40.1 percent of smartphones are running Google’s platform, while Apple’s iOS is in a not-so-close second at 26.6 percent.

AT&T To Throttle Top 5% of Heaviest Unlimited Data Users

If you’re one of the veteran AT&T users that have been grandfathered into an unlimited data plan and are set to stream all-you-can-play TV shows, movies, and music from your smartphone, be prepared to have your data speed throttled if you make it into the top 5% list of AT&T’s heaviest unlimited data users come October 1st.

However, AT&T will be kind enough to give you multiple warnings and a grace period before they start throttling you down, and they will also restore you back to full speed once your next billing cycle starts.

So what would it take to get you in the top 5% of AT&T’s heaviest unlimited data users? Well, AT&T claims that 98% of their data customers don’t use more than 2GB, so it’s safe to assume that if you use any more than that, be careful.

AT&T hasn’t spoken yet on exactly how much they’re going to throttle speeds by, but we do know that T-Mobile, which is currently in a merger deal with AT&T, throttle their heavy data users down to EDGE speeds, so it’s possible we could see the same from Big Blue.

Apple Updates MacBook Air and Mac Mini; OS X Lion Released

Today is a big day for Apple. They’ve released updated versions of their MacBook Air and the Mac Mini along with finally unleashing the Mac OS X Lion into the Mac App Store.

Their new MacBook Airs are now equipped with newer Sandy Bridge chips, Thunderbolt ports, and backlit keyboards. The 11-inch model includes a 1.6GHz Core i5 processor, 64GB of solid-state storage, 2GB of RAM, and starts at $999. The slightly larger 13-incher starts at $1,299 and includes a 1.7GHz Core i5 chip, 128GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM. Both variations have Intel HD 3000 graphics on board, as well as FaceTime webcams, two USB ports (SD slot on 13-incher), and of course the speedy Thunderbolt ports.

The Mac Mini line has received a similar internal upgrade with the addition of Sandy Bridge processors and Thunderbolt. The base model starts at $599 and includes a 2.3GHz Core i5 CPU, AMD Radeon HD graphics, 2GB of RAM, 500GB of hard-drive storage, and Turbo Boost 2.0, which allows you to easily overclock to 3.4GHz whenever you’re using resource-intensive programs. Apple also released a server version, which will cost you $999 and includes a Core i7 processor and has Mac OS X Lion Server on board.

Mac OS 10.7 Lion is now available in the Mac App Store and is ready to be downloaded and installed onto your Snow Leopard-equipped machine for only $29.99. Upgrading to Lion requires that you have an Intel Mac with a Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 processor, and at least 2GB RAM and 4GB of hard drive space. You also need to have Mac OS 10.6.8 Snow Leopard installed before you can upgrade to Lion.

In other less-known Apple news, the company also rolled out an updated version of their 27-inch display that comes packing with Thunderbolt, built-in 2.1 speakers, and an HD FaceTime webcam. There’s also a FireWire 800 port, Ethernet, three USB ports, MagSafe charging for your MacBook, and a single DisplayPort that’s capable of daisy-chaining six devices. Oh, and did we mention that the display rocks an awesome 2560 x 1440 resolution?

If you have a keen eye, you might have also noticed while surfing the online Apple Store that the infamous white MacBook is now kaput. It looks like no more plastic for Apple.

Google’s Swiffy Converts SWF Files to HTML5

Amidst of all the recent announcements from Google comes a lesser-known feature that’s available now in Google Labs. It’s a small service called Swiffy, and it will convert SWF (the file format for Flash) files into HTML5 versions for use in most modern browsers like Chrome and Safari.

Google says the process works by first converting the SWF file into a JSON file, then rendering it using HTML, SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics), and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). The result is a complete HTML5 file with a size that’s just slightly larger than the original SWF file that was converted.

Of course, we’re all probably thinking that Swiffy would make a great tool for developers to use to develop and port content for iOS and other devices without Flash capabilities. Obviously, Swiffy is still in its early stages, so it can’t convert every SWF file under the sun just yet and Google doesn’t know if it’s going to turn Swiffy into an open-source project. Either way, Swiffy is waiting and ready for you to begin your Flash-converting monstrosity right now.

Tiered Data Plans Coming To Verizon July 7

Thanks to an official training document that has been leaked, the rumored tiered data plans for Verizon customers are definitely coming. Android Central ended up with the leak, which contains a slew of details about the new data plans that will most likely answer some of your hankering questions.

The most important aspect of the change are obviously the different data/price options. Plans will start at $30 a month for 2GB, with $50 a month for 5GB being the next cheapest plan. If you happen to be a data hog (and wealthy), they will have a $80-a-month plan that will get you 10GB. If you go over your allotted data, it’s $10 per gigabyte. As for the mobile hotspot, it will cost $20 a month for 2GB.

Here comes the good news for current Verizon customers who have an unlimited plan (like myself). So far, you’ll be able to keep your unlimited plan even when you upgrade your new phone and renew your contract in the future (This could possibly change sometime, though.) If you add a new line to your account, you won’t be able to get the unlimited data plan for that line. This means that if you’re even slightly considering adding a line or upgrading to a smartphone, now would be the time to do it, since you’ll be able to snag the unlimited data plan until July 7.