Two Sites that Generate Tweets on your Behalf

As a person who frequents the social status-updating platform Twitter, I have always pondered if there will come a time that, like the annals of history itself, my tweets will eventually become cyclical and redundant in nature.  As a human being, I thrive off being a creature of habit and learning from past experiences, so it would make sense to argue that the more I tweet, the greater the possibility that I will either repeat myself or become void of concentrated thought.

So to counteract the days that I feel disconnected with my tweeting realm, I decided to consider two non-stressful “tweet generating” options to fill in the gaps: That can be my Next Tweet and Automatic Tweet Generator.  And yes, by “tweet generating,” I mean that they generate the tweets for you.

That Can Be my Next Tweet

That Can Be my Next Tweet is a site by Monokai in which takes the repetition of Twitter statuses to the level of personalized tweet mashing.  Essentially, one places a Twitter account name into the text box, and once “get your next tweet” is pressed a fancy computer algorithm (black magic) cuts, copies, and pastes words and phrases from your tweeting history (also known as tweet DNA) to give you an aggregate, individualistic tweet that theoretically should be similar to what you might normally tweet about.

Now unfortunately (or fortunately) for everyone, it is not perfect in its responses.  Most of the time it creates fragmented, grammar abused tweets with hilarious content, but if you give it a little time it does produce some that could pass 10th grade English.

Here are some funny examples of both situations based off three different Techerator celebrity’s accounts:

Me:

I might actually say something like that

Kevin Schulte:

Evan Wondrasek:

I hate when that happens...

This site also comes in an Android and iOS mobile app so that one can generate doppelgänger tweets on the go as well.  The mobile app also allows for two Twitter accounts to be entered so that even more conjoined tweets can be created with humorous results.

Automatic Tweet Generator

If one feels that their Twitter account already is already saturated with personalized thoughts, an alternative is to have this website (known as the Automatic Tweet Generator) create a random, topical tweets for general purpose tweeting.  This site goes off the same principles of the Video Game Name Generator (which I highly recommend trying if you have a few hours to spare), where a database of generic phrases, celebrity names, and words (with some profanity and reference to drug use) are accessed to form complete and utterly random tweets to potentially post.

Here are a few to consider:

Those darn vegans and their bikes...

If one finds the grammar and topics still not humorous enough, you can suggest to the creator ideas and topics for them to add, thus helping the random tweet generating odds.

Conclusion

So if you are a concerned, repetition-fearing person like myself, take comfort in fact that these two tweet generating sites provide a quick way to keep those tweets coming (with entertaining results).  After all, no one wants to be like the Invasion of Russia.

(Many Thanks to Evan Wondrasek and Kevin Schulte for letting me humorize their Twitter Accounts)

Use Bubbles and Your Android Phone to Create Memorable Phone Calls

In a world filled with short attention spans and thinning short-term memories, it can sometimes be difficult to remember to mentioning  important topics while making a phone call. Heck, give a person 30 minutes of phone conversation to wander, and their mind will stray further than the island of Lilliput (hint: it’s a fictitious location from a book).

Well I don’t know about you, but I’ve struggled enough with trying to remember what to say during my phone calls. To fix this, I’m switching to Bubbles.

Bubbles?

And what pray tell is Bubbles, you ask? Well, Bubbles (the full name for all you searchers out there is “Bubble – Pop Up Bubble Notes” in case one is lost in all the bubble popping games the market has to offer; otherwise use the official Android Market link is here) is an app that allows one to link important to-do’s and reminders (now in “bubble” form) to Google contacts so that phone calls can stay productive, memorable, and on-task. Here’s the lowdown.

From left to right: contacts, contacts with bubbles, and past contacts called

Once installed on your Android phone, Bubbles automatically grabs all your Google contacts and makes them available on the main screen. Once a few bubbles are created for contacts, they will show up here on the right side. If it makes more sense to filter one’s contacts by bubble reminders only, the second (and appropriately named) “bubblers” tab will do just that. And finally if one wants to see if they have been successfully following up on the bubble reminders, they can check their phone’s call log on the third tab.

Select a contact, create a bubble, and color it appropriately

To actually create a bubble, one must first select a contact and then hit the “add bubble” button in the bottom left. From here all it takes is a some text and a suitable bubble color, and the bubble reminder is created for the contact.

Now when one accesses the person’s contact card from the main menu, the bubble reminders will appear in order of creation date on their profile. But wait, there’s more:

I can't believe I forgot to forget his birthday...Good work, bubbles

This is where Bubbles takes personal reminders to the next level. Whenever one makes a phone call to a contact with an attached bubble reminder, the mentioned bubbles will appear on the phone call screen. That way before you start talking, you know exactly what you need to mention in the conversation. When, where, and how long the bubbles show up during phone calls can all be changed in the “Settings” menu.

Shouldn't I be popping the bubble instead of deleting it?

When done with a bubble reminder, deleting it is as easy as going into the contact’s profile again and hitting the “X” on the bubble in question.

Conclusion

Regardless if you always remember what to say or never get around to saying what you want to, Bubbles is a solid app that can help keep contacts in order and phone conversations on task. You’ll be so contact task-oriented, the only place you’ll use the word “wandering” is a Scrabble board.

The Asus Eee Slate with Windows 7: A Tablet Computer on Steroids

I had been lusting for a tablet computer for quite some time. And no, I didn’t want one of those tiny, feature-limited Apple or Android tablets with a 6” screen and far too many smartphone similarities. I wanted the real deal: a 12”- 14” portable computer with full touch capabilities, an absurd amount of RAM and CPU power, and an operating system that can do just about anything. That’s right, I required a tablet on steroids.

When Asus came out with the EP121 Eee Slate with Windows 7 Home Premium and a Core i5 CPU, I thought to myself, “Maybe this is the Barry Bonds of tablet PCs that I have been looking for.” So I marched on down to my local Microsoft Store (yes, they do exist) and procured one for myself.

The Unboxing

*XBox 360 sold separately

In case you were curious, this is what Asus gives you in exchange for $1,200.00 (not including the Xbox 360). Yes, $1,200 is asking a lot considering one can get an iPad 2 for $499 or a Motorola XOOM for $199, but once again: I wanted a tablet that could hit 600 home runs in a season and bench press an entire church choir.

As the picture above shows us, besides the standard power supply Asus also supplies a Microsoft 6000 Bluetooth keyboard, a digital stylus pen with spare nibs (or in layman’s terms, the little plastic tip on the stylus pen that touches the screen), and a leather carrying case/easel to secure/prop-up the tablet PC for any level of ergonomic usage. All in all, plenty of accessories to get one’s tablet usage to a pleasant rolling start.

Hardware

Please excuse the plaid

The Asus EP121 is a 12.1” tablet with two USB 2.0 ports, a mini HDMI port, a 2 megapixel webcam, a headphone jack, a power button a virtual keyboard toggle button, an SD card reader slot, and a little hole to manually reset the device. The screen is a capacitive LED multi-touch 1280 x 800 display that works with both a pen and a human finger. Overall, the device weighs about 2.56 pounds, or rather the equivalent weight of a half-gallon of milk (if that helps at all). If one is concerned with lap burn from the device, be at ease. The device runs pleasingly cool and can be held for extended periods of time without any notion of heat transfer.

On the inside, the EP121 contains an Intel quad-core i5 CPU at 1.33 GHz, with the potential to be overclocked up to 1.86 GHz (if one is willing to tweak it). This CPU combined with the 4 GB of DDR3 RAM allows the EP121 to run Windows 7 at impressive speeds, allowing a cold boot to occur in 8-12 seconds (boot times may vary). The SSD hard drive allows for fast file accessing and writing, but is limited to 64 GB in size; those of us who want to store our 360,000 pictures of dogs in silly costumes might have to split our photo storage with an external device. Oh, and it has an integrated graphics card as well, which can easily handle some of the videogames out on the market today (I’ve heard that Civilization 5 works well with this tablet’s touch interface).

The battery is a 4 cell lithium-ion 34 W/h module that can be fully charged in less than 8 hours. Of course, the smaller battery combined with the beefy hardware mean that this guy has a short lifespan: about three hours to be exact. But really, when you’re dealing with high-powered internal components running a full-blown operating system like Windows 7, one cannot entirely complain. It’s a major drawback, but easy to overcome by just bringing the power cable along.

Software

The EP121 is running a 64-Bit Windows 7 Home-Premium with Wacom tablet digitizer software to allow one’s finger to do all sorts of beautiful touching and multi-touching. With that in mind, though, it is clear that Windows 7 was not designed specifically for tablets in mind, since finger touches to small check boxes and drop down menus can take a few hits to select. This of course can be solved by trying to recalibrate the screen or by using the stylus, but it would be nice to have more precision already there. To speed up one’s touch usage, I highly recommend learning the “flicks” touchscreen shortcuts that Windows 7 uses to move forward, backward, up, and down a page.

Using standard applications with the touch-based operating system seemed fine, and really the only issues I found was Chrome and Firefox do not allow for finger scrolling on webpages. After some digging a solution was found (more specifically, see: Chrometouch and Grab and Drag for Firefox).

For the graphic artists out there, the RAM and CPU of this tablet more than satisfy the performance beasts known as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, and to date I have seen no issues working with them. The stylus pen does wonders for photo editing and graphics design, and when paired with the Bluetooth keyboard makes editing fast and precise.

The virtual keyboard included with Windows 7 is quite user-friendly and reliable. I have seen instances where the virtual keyboard will be stubborn and not appear when summoned, but fortunately that can be remedied by pressing the physical “keyboard” button on the top of the device. I also have seen issues with the physical Bluetooth keyboard being unresponsive with the EP121’s Bluetooth module, but it is a rare occurrence. Besides that, both methods provide ample QWERTY goodness and enhance the overall non-laptop experience.

If you prefer to actually write out everything, the handwriting tool built into the virtual keyboard can be used as well. I was surprised that it could figure out my abominable chicken-scratch handwriting and convert my written words to text – a nice bonus to the text input options.

I get easily distracted when I take notes...

A step above the simple handwriting interface is the Microsoft application called OneNote, which comes extremely in handy for scribbling notes and collecting thoughts. When linked to your Windows Live account, these virtual notes and scribbles can be pushed into the cloud for continual availability to revise and update. With OneNote, the EP121 goes beyond the realm of a computer to become a notebook, a stetchbook, and even to-do list.

Conclusion

So did the Asus EP121 with its massive CPU and RAM power and full Windows 7 touch capabilities live up to my figurative steroid enhancing expectations? The short answer is absolutely yes. Its fast, touch-friendly, and perfect for doing just about anything tablet related.

The long answer? Yes it is a fantastic tablet, but that honor comes with a signature “Barry Bonds Hall of Fame Asterisk” attached. If one looks at the current state of the Windows 7 based tablet PC market (which according to a Newegg search contains a total of five other competitors, none of which have an i5 Processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, or a 64-bit architecture), the over-powered Asus EP121 obviously stands out in its class. But that is like trying to argue that a middle school boy who hit puberty before his classmates is the best hitter in baseball. So what I’m trying to get at is this: until a slew of newer, higher performance tablets enter the market (which will most likely happen with the eventual release of the tablet friendly Windows 8), it is hard to say if the EP121 is truly the best.

But until that day comes, I’d just go with my short answer.

Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Build a Gaming PC Edition

This year I decided to use my holiday wish-list to build an entire desktop PC. I mean, as long as a majority of the parts needed to build a high performance machine are gifted to me over the holidays, in the end all of them can be combined for the common goal of playing Skyrim for 100+ hours with the maximum refresh rate and graphics settings.

So from one PC gamer to another, here are a few essential and non-essential recommendations to build a high-end gaming machine. Let the PC gaming rig wish-list begin.

CPU / Motherboard

The year 2011 showed the world some great processors (most notably Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture and AMD’s Bulldozer), and it should not be difficult to pick out one for the list that satisfies all your gaming needs (as well as your Secret Santa’s budget).

1. Intel Core i7-2600K or Intel i5-2500K CPU ($220-$320)

This is where it all begins

According to this article by Tom’s Hardware, Intel has the best CPUs around for $200-$300. In the article, the quad-core i5-2500K is recommended for its lower cost and 3.3 GHz clock frequency with the Sandy Bridge architecture, but the i7-2600K gets a step ahead with its 3.4 GHz processing speed and by having hyper-threading technology (essentially making it 8 cores instead of 4) as well as an integrated memory controller that quickens the access rate of the DDR3 RAM.

In the end, the only noticeable difference here is price ($220 for the i5, $320 for the i7), so don’t immediately jump on the Core i7 train if you don’t think the family will fork out the extra $100.

2. EVGA Z68 Motherboard ($299)

Once the CPU is picked out, be sure to then find an appropriate motherboard suitable for the architecture. This EVGA board was chosen not only because it has the right socket for the Core i5 and i7 (the LGA 1155), but mostly because it has six PCI-Express 2.0 slots. That’s right, six. That means that technically you could put six video graphics cards in parallel and run them simultaneously. Furthermore, it allows for DDR3 Memory with speeds up to 2133 MHz (which is fast, by the way) and plenty of SATA/RAID connectivity.

Sounds like a bit overkill for the wish-list? Then I guess the ASUS P8Z68 would work as well. That one is under $300 and comes with just two PCI-Express 3.0 slots for graphics cards.

Graphics Card / Memory

Speaking of graphic video cards, there are lots of beautiful options to choose from this 2011 season and each one has its share of pros and cons (see: Tom’s Hardware for more research). But most notably, here are two options from both ends of the arena.

3. GeForce GTX580 or Radeon HD 6950 ($269-$499)

Two graphics card options; two different prices. The GeForce GTX580 is from EVGA and comes with 1.5GB of video memory and a 772 MHz clock, while the Radeon HD 6950 is from HIS and comes with 2GB of memory and an 840MHz core clock. Both allow for DirectX 11, 2560 x 1600 screen resolution, and at least three DVI/HDMI ports for output.

So why the price difference? Well the GTX 580 is SLI capable, meaning that it can be run in parallel with a similar device (like a second or third GTX580) and share the graphics processing power. How crazy is that? The only issue there is that if one wanted to run two at a time, that means that at least $1000 would have to be spent to achieve this goal. So maybe save one of them for next year.

4. G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB DDR3 Memory 2100MHz ($50-60)

Nowadays, memory comes in sticks of two and runs with DDR3 from 1300 MHz to 2100 MHz. These G.Skill Ripjaws (really, they are called that) are at 8 GHz and can run up to 2133 MHz. And they’re not $300, which is a pretty nice change from the other items on our wish-list.

Since the motherboards I’ve recommended in this article come equipped with four DDR3 dual channel slots, up to 16GB of memory is possible.

Power Supply / Drives

Now that the brains of the gaming PC have been chosen and added to the wish-list, the next step is to pick the other internal organs that complete the base computing components.

5. Corsair 750W Power Supply ($90)

This is the component that will give your future Frankenstein PC life, so don’t be stingy on the wattage or the price when adding this one to the list. This 750W beauty by Corsair linked above is an acceptable option for giving juice to the overpowered components, but if you’re feeling the need to go overboard the 950W option goes for just $150. That’s almost a thousand watts of gaming power!

6. Hard Disk Drive ($119-$249)

Right now, hard drives are not that cheap. So for the sake of the wish-list as a whole, a 500 GB drive at 7200 RPM is a good starter at a slightly reasonable price of $119. Western Digital still seem to be the king of the hill in terms of reliability and operating speeds, so any one of their Caviar Black, Blue, or Green products would be sufficient for one’s wish-list.

7. LG DVD/Blu Ray Drive ($65)

This is no-brainer for computer components: If you buy a PC game, most likely you will have to insert a disk of some sort to install/play it (unless one has jumped onto the digital download bandwagon). So when building your new PC, it wouldn’t hurt to add the Blu Ray reader/burner drive option to the holiday list just in case that whole digital streaming revolution doesn’t pan out.

Peripherals / Externals

Now that the internals have been selected, it is time to add the external inputs to the list as well. These recommendations are a bit fuzzier than the others, mainly because the price of these components will depend on how much your Secret Santa feels like spending on you (case in point, an optical mouse can be as cheap as $7 and a keyboard as inexpensive as $5).

This looks 'shopped. I can tell by the pixels

8. A Good LCD Monitor or Two ($190 each)

For a couple hundred bucks each, one can get their monitoring set up quite nicely. The LCD monitor shown in the picture above is a standard 23″ monitor with a 1920 x 1080 screen resolution and DVI/HDMI ports. Just don’t stare too long at it, you may hurt your eyes.

9. Gaming Keyboard ($9-$199), 10. Optical Mouse ($12-$69), 11. Audio Speakers ($20-$49)

In reality, these are going to be based on your personal preferences. Once again, for the sake of the list I would recommend going cheap on these so that money can be spent on the more crucial components, but if you’re curious as to what might be “cool” and “extreme” for your PC, here are some options.

For a keyboard, the $110 AZIO Levetron Mech4 seems to be right up the alley of gamers with its mechanical keys, modular design, and anti-ghost technology. For a mouse, try out the $69 Corsair Vengence M60, designed with a special “sniper” button and FPS gaming in mind. And finally, for a simple audio speaker bundle try out the $45 Creative Inspire T3130 speakers with 2.1 watts of acoustic harmony.

12. Computer Case ($40-$300)

Keep your computer from running around naked. Buy a tower for it.

Finally, let’s pick a computer case to drop all these gifts into. Again, this choice is entirely based on preference. Pick a case that suits your personal likes and dislikes (preferably medium to large to fit all these beastly components) and add it to your wish-list. The Antec Nine Hundred mid-size case for $99 is not a bad choice in terms of space and affordability.

Grand Total

So now, here’s the brilliance of this combinational theory. Since your family and friends will be buying your components individually, they can expect to spend around $100 to $400 for just one gift. But once all the computer gifts come together, you end up with a single PC gaming work horse at a total cost of about (let’s see here…carry the one, subtract the two, divide by the sales tax): $1500 to $2400. So just think, the bigger your family is, the more they can spread this cost over all your gifts!

One other thing to note is the factor of un-gifted gifts. It is a known fact that during the holidays, we don’t always get what we want. But the beauty of the theory is that even though you may get only 7 out of the 12 computer component items I mentioned, those 7 are still bundled to a common goal and value, so you still feel like you accomplished something with your wish-list. Let’s see Aunt Edna’s knitted socks gift do that.

So PC gamers, if you’re in the market for a serious new platform this holiday season, be sure to put my theory to work. What could possibly go wrong?*

*Actual results may vary, things might actually go wrong.

How to make your Windows tablet look like Windows Phone 7

I recently noticed that when I told people I bought an ASUS EP121 Eee Slate tablet PC with Windows 7, they usually asked me “What do you do for easy access to nifty apps and news and stuff?” And sadly, it was a question I could not easily answer without adding sarcasm or criticism (a very tough thing to do, mind you).

In all fairness, I did agree that my overpowered, $1,200 multi-touch tablet PC was lacking a nice home-screen user interface like the iOS or Android 3.0. So like all the other problems I had faced in my life, I turned to the internet for help.

Immediately, the internet told me to wait for Windows 8 (which Techerator has been covering already). But unfortunately, I have never been one for waiting for solutions to my life’s problems and, more importantly, I have stopped purchasing operating systems when they are in their product infancy (lesson learned: Windows Millennium Edition). But thankfully, a few short Google searches later I found that the folks at How-to Geek had located a better solution than just waiting for a new OS: use Rainmeter and Omnimo UI to make your Windows 7 desktop look like a Windows Phone 7.

So that is exactly what I did.

Rainmeter and Omnimo

Before
After

Rainmeter is a free program that allows for custom skins to be added to one’s computer desktop for added functionality. All the skins are user-created, and can range from simple battery meters to to-do lists and RSS feeds. If you do enough searching, you’ll find a skin to load into Rainmeter that fits your liking. For my tablet, I followed How-to Geek’s lead and chose Omnimo UI, a custom skin that takes its influence from the Windows Phone 7 OS design and its sleek Segoe UI font. Installation of both Rainmeter and Omnimo UI are accurately detailed in the How-to Geek article, so I will not elaborate too much.

Once installed, Omnimo walks you through the skin selection process and gives you three options: two skins with nifty Windows Phone 7-esque panels and clear text, and the third skin being a blank slate to start from.

If one chooses the pre-built skins, it is important to note that thanks to Omnimo’s features, they are not set in stone. Rather, every single panel and text item can be tweaked, moved, and deleted to suit one’s preferences. Editing a panel can be done by finding the wrench icon located nearby and the deleting can be done by right clicking anywhere on it and going to the “unload skin” option.

So...many....OPTIONS

The right click menu is also where all the other tweaking happens. Panels can be added and subtracted, and whole homescreen skins can be backed up and stored for future reference. The configuration options are extensive and comprehensive, with the only things being excluded are adding one’s personal preferences to the panels.

If one feels ambitious enough to start from scratch, they can use the “WP7” menus to choose panels to add and place them on the screen to their liking. This one above was created in one evening to suit my “Quick demand for what’s happening around the world while eating breakfast” mood.

I will say this, though, creating a custom home-screen is not as easy as it looks due to the fact that some of the panels and editing menus are tiny and tweaking them to exactly your liking can become increasingly frustrating and tedious.

Two tips when dealing with custom panel movements:

  1. Use the tablet pen to move the panels around and edit them (that makes a huge difference).
  2. Lock the panels into place once they are in a suitable location by right clicking on the panel, going to “Manage Skin,” and deselecting “Draggable” in the lower right. Adding shortcuts can also become extensive as the editing menu will not find the icon for you once you add the path of the executable.

So take that, tablet PC objectors. Thanks to Rainmeter and skins like Omnimo, one can have the luxury of an expensive, high-powered tablet with Windows 7 and a clean user interface at the same time. No sarcasm intended.

Make your apartment search easier with Padmapper

Finding an apartment on the internet is equivalent to hopping into a tractor tire and being rolled down a hill. You start at the top with high hopes: using the power of the internet for finding desirable rental properties and listings. From there, though, the process spirals downward. Apartment searching sites are hard to navigate, the contact information for the apartments isn’t always up to date, and worst of all: the places you like don’t have a single opening in the price range or size you are looking for. In the end you are left dizzy, confused, and wondering how you are going to pick up that tire and carry it all the way back to the top of the hill.

We here at Techerator are aware of these apartment searching woes, and have been looking into it with mild intensity. Although we may not have a sure-fire solution to fixing every single issue in the search process, we do know of a site that is a pretty good place to start. May we present: Padmapper.

This is Padmapper

This is the map for the main page of Padmapper

Padmapper is an aggregate site that not only compiles readily available apartments from sites like Rent.com and Craiglsist, but then turns the intensity up to 11 by throwing them into Google Maps based on their location. So basically, it’s a map filled with available pads. The name truly says it all.

This little box in the bottom left corner is where the pad searching begins. You select a U.S. city, choose your rent pricing scheme as well as number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and then hit “Go” to see apartment complexes have available in the area. Other options like pets, lease options, and keywords can also be used to filter down the apartment results on the map.

Zero bedrooms?
Shown left to right: Details, Streetview, and Walkscore

Once the filters have been engaged, one can then click on the filtered available apartments on the map (the little red flags) and see who is offering the open apartment, how much it is compared to the average price of rent in the area, and contact information. The apartment listing also shows you the Google Streetview of the area (if available), as well as the area’s Walk Score, or rather its walk-ability based on amenities like restaurants, schools, shopping, and metro transit stations in the vicinity based on community input and a fancy algorithm. Furthermore, if you create an account with Padmapper you can also save pads to your favorites for evaluation later.

Besides supplying open apartments in a topographical setting, Padmapper also has some not so “Super Secret Advanced Features” in the bottom left search panel that can assist one in their apartment reconnoitering.

Super Secret Advanced Features

The first is the commute time overlay. By entering your work address, Padmapper will provide a nice green blob that shows the region in which apartments are within the area of the commute time specified. For example, the picture above shows a 20 minute commute region and the major freeways one would use to travel from a future apartment to work. Of course, this does not include traffic times in the calculation.

For those of us who have forgone the modern combustible engine vehicle and opted for the beautiful sights and loving community of the public transit system for our commute, Padmapper has an overlay just for that as well (although the city you’re looking at must have a metro transit system before this will work, mind you). That way all available apartments can be referenced to a transit stop or subway line.

Finally, the last overlay that is helpful is a graphical diagram of the city’s Walk Score, based on the items mentioned earlier. If one is confused with the color coding, green means that the area is filled with good vibes like short walk times to transit locations, parks, and amenities, and red means…well the opposite of easy access via walking. The whole methodology on Walk Score can be seen here.

The other two overlays (The Spot Crime and Neighborhood ones) are for crime reports and ratings and for quick information on the city region from Wikipedia, respectively. The SpotCrime overlay is not featured for all cities just yet, but rest assured it will be sooner or later.

In Closing

Padmapper definitely has the potential to be highly beneficial to the burdens of apartment searching (hence why we are reporting on it). The rentals shown are readily available, precisely located, and filtered to please any need. Unfortunately, there aren’t really any individual apartment reviews on Padmapper just yet, so you might have to check out the rental properties on a site like Apartment Ratings to see if the management is kind as a rabbit or as lethargic as a hippopotamus. But besides an apartment review feature, Padmapper pretty much encompasses everything else one would consider when looking for that next place. And that is aces in our book.

At the bottom of the website, Padmapper states its motto: “Making Apartment Hunting Suck Less.” And truthfully, we could not have said it better.

A Windows Phone and My Mother: A Perfect Match?

It’s that time again. Yep, I am of course talking about contract renewal day for the family cellphone plan. For me and my sister, the phone choices are pretty obvious (an Android for me and an iPhone for her). But once mom starts talking smartphone, the whole cellular arena starts to get a little grey.

Now granted, my mother is already at an average level of technological intelligence. She does approximately 75% of her job with a company computer, uses a digital camera and can organize and back-up her digital picture library, and has all of her contacts precisely managed via Microsoft Outlook. So with that in mind, which smartphone OS is truly the best for her? Android? Apple? Or how about that newcomer by Microsoft, the Windows Phone 7? Well, I got to the bottom of it by doing an exclusive interview.

The Interview

Me: For starters, what phone did you have prior?

Mom: I had the HTC Ozone, which was similar to a Blackberry. It was a smartphone with a physical keyboard and [non-touch] screen. I didn’t like that the screen was too small, and it was hard to find the settings for the phone. It had plenty of settings options, but it had many different menu screens to get to them. The phone was complex and not very intuitive.

Me: Which new phone did you pick then?

Here's a hint: she got the HTC Trophy

Mom: I picked the HTC Trophy in the end [Which is a 3G Windows Phone OS 7 device by Verizon]. It has easy syncing with my Microsoft Outlook [through Microsoft Exchange]. Also, I really wanted a touchscreen.

Me: Is the touchscreen easy to use then?

Mom: It takes a bit to get used to…some training. Some days, I will touch where I do not want to, and an unwanted program will open. Ultimately I wanted to get to a new technology, and Windows Phone was the easiest.

Me: Alright, let’s talk contacts next.

Mom: Everything was done with Microsoft Outlook, so all my contacts synced well. I didn’t need to manually load any of them. I like the search function in the contacts app, and [when immediately opened] it shows me the last six to eight people I called. I can then take a person and pin them to the front home screen. Like speed dial. Besides that, [the contact interface] is easy to use. Once I dial a number or get a call I can add it to my contacts, which makes it very intuitive.

[Authors Note: Due to the liability of personal information being leaked, the home screen and their customizable boxes were not photographed. See the official website for more pretty pictures of the Windows Phone OS in action.]

Me: Any other things you like about the HTC Trophy?

The Windows Phone 7 main app menu

Mom: I like the physical little search button on the phone; it takes me right to the internet. The main menu screen is easy to use and everything I need is right at my fingertips. I am just learning how to add apps, but I do not know how to get rid of the programs I don’t use. For a phone with new technology, it is so easy to figure out. I added the family’s home email account all by myself. I thought, “Oh, that’s pretty easy.”

The messaging application is simple, and gives me a list of who I’ve talked to most recently. Also I like the text messaging conversation boxes. It shows what I said, then on the other side of the screen it shows what they said.

I also like that I can move boxes around on the home screen…[Gets engulfed in her new phone for a few seconds]…I can get apps now; I couldn’t do that before.

Me: Okay, so what don’t you like about the phone?

Mom: The phone feels clunky when it is dialing. I also don’t like how I have to use the volume control to set the phone to Vibrate Mode. I just want one button to set it; boom and done. I am getting used to using the top button to turn the touchscreen on and off as well.

I also do not like the where the physical camera button is. It’s in the wrong place. See how the adapter is on this side and the camera is placed in the exact same spot on the other side? When you plug the adapter in you can accidentally hit the camera button. The adapter should be on the bottom. I’ve taken more pictures of nothing than anything else! The camera itself is fine, though.

I had to setup a Windows Live email account with this phone, which is crazy as I will never use it.

I haven’t tried Bluetooth yet; I wouldn’t even know how to set it up. I also don’t like how the Airplane mode is hard to…Oh wait, here it is. And Bluetooth too. The settings menu is so easy to use.

Me: So it appears that the Windows Phone OS has a few pros and cons associated with it. If you could ask Microsoft to change one thing, what would it be?

Mom: I want more choices for changing the reading panes [On the home screen and main menu screens]. Currently, I can only do White font on a Black background or Black font on a White background with the colored panes; I’d like more color options. When it asks to “match my mood,” its either “dark” or “light.” I wish it had more.

Me: Bottom line, would you recommend this phone?

Mom: Yes I would. I know I can’t convert anyone else to this phone and between Apple and something else I can’t really compare it, but from what I went from to this has been positive and easy. Overall, I’ve been very pleased….except for the battery life, of course.

[End of the Interview]

Author’s Closing Comments

Sometimes, it is important to take a piece of technology and see how a different demographic would handle it. Therefore I wish to thank my mother for allowing me to capture her opinions and reconstruct them into a honest review of a Windows Phone device. From what I can tell, the Windows Phone 7 OS operating on the HTC Trophy is crisp, easy to navigate, and fairly intuitive for the average user. More importantly, these conclusions equate to my mother being satisfied with her smartphone choice. And really, that is all I truly care about.

A Chrome Experiment that (Literally) Shakes up the Google Homepage

Give people the option to work with Google Chrome using JavaScript, HTML5, and other browser tools, and they’ll start designing some pretty creative things.  For example:

Is that the Google homepage?  It certainly appears that way.  But something is wrong.

Did I break it?

Sweet mercy…the Google homepage has developed its own gravitational force.  The second you hover over the page with your mouse the buttons, search bar, and logo break apart and all fall down to the bottom of the browser.  This crazy creation is from a designer called Mr.doob, and comes from the Google Chrome Experiments site, which houses tons of user created tweaks, graphics, and experimental coding to make Google Chrome more exciting and aesthetic.  In this forceful experiment, each component from the home page can be moved about and thrown around before eventually settling down.  But wait, there’s more.

I hope science can fix this

Every time you use the search bar, results just fall down and fill up the frame.  It’s gravi-tastic!  So go ahead, waste some time on this awesome Chrome experiment, and maybe you’ll be inspired to make something just as great.

Embrace Better Predictive Typing with SwiftKey X for Android

It happens millions of times a day, and most people don’t even know its a problem: The issue of auto-correction errors while typing on a mobile smartphone. At first, one sees the errors and manually uses the backspace to fix it. But sooner or later those fingers get quick on that virtual keyboard, and next thing you know a text or tweet goes out poorly corrected, fragmented, and, in some rare auto-correction cases, inappropriate. Heck, there are even websites devoted to submitting odd and comedic auto-correction errors.

So how do you remedy this poorly predictable texting malady? By finding a keyboard with a better prediction program, that’s how.

This is Your Auto-Correct Solution: A Keyboard.

SwiftKey

Fortunately, a program is out there to help with the auto-correct blues. It’s called SwiftKey X (Or SwiftKey Tablet X for Android tablet users), and it is available through the Android Market or Amazon App Store for $3.99. The application presents to you a brand new keyboard, new styling (choose from White, Black, or Neon colors) and most of all, the power of predicting what you are going to type next.

Using the Application

Setting it up is just a cinch, and easily numbered so one does not get lost. First, one selects the languages that they want to type in. SwiftKey X supports up to three languages at one time, so multilingual users can be pleased with that.

Once enabled, the application gives you two options for typing: Precise or Rapid. Precise is for the user that wants SwiftKey to predict words for them, and Rapid is for the user that wants to type away rapidly and have SwiftKey automatically correct errors and typos for them. The virtual spacebar is used on both styles to either insert a prediction, finish the word, or just insert a standard space when clicked.

But wait, there’s more…

By Jove I think it's learning...

This is where SwiftKey X takes keyboarding to the level of conscious intelligence. Under an area called “Personalization” in the Language Profile Settings, one can enter login information for rights for SwiftKey X to gather minute information from SMS Messaging, Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook (Here is their Privacy Policy if any concerns are culminating).

If you allow access to these accounts, SwiftKey X uses the power of something called a Fluency language inference engine (sounds pretty space-age to me) to adaptively learn how you as an individual type. As you type on your phone, SwiftKey X learns from your mistakes. And as SwiftKey X learns, your typing gets more efficient via better predictions and corrections.

Conclusion

Statistical Proof that the Hunt-and-Peck Method is Efficient

If one wants evidence that their permission to allow SwiftKey X to learn is paying off, there is a Stats page that shows the new efficiency level and the raw keystroking data. After only a few days of use, this author found that his keyboard typing skills became 32% more efficient.

Furthermore, SwiftKey has quick swiping options that makes individual typing easier; just swipe right to left on the keyboard to instantly remove the last word typed or swipe the keyboard from top to bottom to have it be minimized from the screen. Even these little features make it a very competitive keyboard for all those who aren’t to keen on the Swype method.

So don’t be a victim of poor auto-correction. Let SwiftKey X help.

Google Releases New Themes for Gmail and Google Calendar

Dear people living under rocks this past week: If you haven’t noticed, Google has decided to tackle bold new things recently, with widespread success. First, they came out with Google+, a type of digital, communal gathering site that allows one to keep up with friends and collaborate with them (Which I am sure that Techerator will summarize into article form). And that was pretty cool.

But then, they did something even cooler and bolder than diving into the social networking realm: they updated Gmail with new themes and revamped Google Calendar! Isn’t that amazing! These new changes are a direct result of the Google+ launch in order to make Google’s products look more streamlined and uniform, as well as continuing the progress towards cleaner aesthetics.

The new look for Google Calendar will be turned on automatically, but you’ll have to activate the new Gmail themes yourself through the use of special new “Preview” themes. Gmail themes can be found by clicking the settings icon in the top right corner of your Gmail account (by your email name), selecting “Mail Settings”, and then going to the “Themes” tab. You can then select either “Preview” or “Preview (Dense)”, the latter having less padding between each item in your inbox.

And for those of you still living under rocks without a Google account, here’s a few pictures to show off the neatness.

Before:

Old Gmail

Old Google Calendar

Don't judge a man by his calendar

After:

New Gmail

Clean, clear, and shiny. Divine email inspiration.

New Google Calendar

Now with 10% more minutes per day (results not typical)

I’d say that Google cleans up quite nicely for its couple hundred million users. And that’s something you can truly leave the rock behind for.