In Search of the Holy Grail Screen Protector (Review)

iPhone 5 ProtectorHoly Grail iPhone 5 Screen Protector (clear)
Sir Lancelot’s Armor
$9.95 Available in clear or non-glare

The Sir Lancelot’s Armor iPhone 5 Screen Protector (Protector) is a reusable iPhone 5 screen protector made of bulletproof glass. I received the clear version of the product to review. There is also a non-glare version available but be aware that it causes a slight pixelation when you look at your screen. If you’ve ever used a non-glare or privacy screen over a computer or mobile device screen, you know what to expect. Some people don’t like the effect. I’m one of those people. It makes me a bit dizzy to look at a screen that has a non-glare or a privacy product attached.

The clear product is thin and practically unnoticeable when attached. It is unobtrusive and doesn’t slip or slide around on your phone. I tend to keep my phone in my back pocket and the protector hasn’t budged since I placed it on my phone two weeks ago.

If you don’t get the protector on just right, you can move it. It’s reusable. Just pry it up with your fingernail at one corner and lift. Reposition as necessary.

The protector also comes with a Home button protector as well but it isn’t mentioned in any of the literature. You’ll find this button protector handy for two reasons. First, it protects the Home button from impact damage due to drops. Second, while the protector is very thin, it still adds a bit of an extra layer to your screen so the Home button protector raises the button up to a better level.

In fact, I found that repositioning the protector with the Home button protector installed helped me better align the protector, so my advice is to install the Home button protector first.

To install the Home button protector, peel off the backing and place it over your Home button. Doing so will likely press your Home button but that’s not really a problem. Just lock your phone before installing it so that any presses will occur without issue.

Installation is very easy and consists of these four steps:

  1. Clean your screen with the supplied screen moistened cloth cleaner.
  2. Peel off the back plastic layer.
  3. Align the protector and press to set.
  4. Smooth out any bubbles with the supplied dry cloth.

I didn’t have any bubbles to smooth out on my iPhone, so I can’t speak to that aspect of how effective the cloth works for that. Keep the dry cloth handy to remove fingerprints from the protector. The protector won’t fingerprint as bad as the bare screen but you’ll still want to occasionally wipe it clean.

If you’d like to see the product interactively installed, check out the installation videos.

Notable features of the iPhone 5 Screen Protector:

  • Made from the highest quality recyclable materials
  • Protects your screen from scratches, cracks and the every day elements
  • Designed to inhibit bacterial growth
  • Easy to install
  • Lifetime Warranty

It’s difficult to show you the product because it’s clear glass. The installation videos are the best venue for viewing the product in action.

I wondered, as I installed the product, if it decreased the sensitivity of the original screen. Would I have to tap harder or leave my finger on the surface longer to use the phone. If so, those things would be a deal breaker for me. I want good protection for the device but I don’t want to have to think twice about using the phone because of it.

The good news is that it doesn’t decrease the original screen’s sensitivity or hinder you in any way. It doesn’t magnify the icons or require any extra tapping or pressing from you. It’s as if the screen protector doesn’t exist at all.

Why it’s frugal: The Sir Lancelot’s Armor iPhone 5 Screen Protector is frugal because it protects your iPhone 5 screen with a proven technology. To repair an iPhone screen costs an average of $250. The Protector is $9.95. You can do the math.

The manufacturer has tested the product in some very harsh ways: drills, razors, hammers, knives, and saws. The protector ranks at 9 on the Mhos hardness scale. A diamond is 10.

It feels the same as your regular screen and it’s much better than those little plastic screen protectors that only protect you from surface scratches. In fact, it’s kind of funny that the manufacturer basically provides you with two of those cheap plastic screen protectors as product backing for the Holy Grail Protector. They’re the ones that you peel off of the product and discard during installation.

Sir Lancelot’s Armor also produces protective products for other Apple devices, LG, Blackberry, Motorola, HTC, and Samsung smartphones. If you have another device, check the website as they continue to expand the line of offerings.

I really like the iPhone 5 protector product. What’s not to like? It was easy to install. It protects my phone. It doesn’t impeded usage, performance, or attaching chargers or other cases. And it only costs $9.95.

The product also comes with a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects. So, the bad news here is that you shouldn’t purposely test the product by abusing your device. The damage you do to your device isn’t covered.

Review rating: 10/10

Recommendation: Buy it to protect your device’s screen and your investment.

Watson’s Mobile Challenge: What could it mean?

WatsonBy now you’ve probably read all about IBM’s Watson Mobile Developer Challenge, but what you might not know is what the long term implications of such a challenge are. The primary implication is that mobile developers will be able to tap into the power of Watson via mobile applications or apps. I know it sounds like a cliché, but the implications of the mobile to Watson connection are only limited by developer ability and imagination.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Carlos Paez, IBM’s Lead Mobile Developer, MobileFirst Global Center of Competency. Carlos will be developing some reference applications to help challengers get started on creating mobile apps. You can watch the IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge Virtual Roundtable video (below) to get a full explanation of what’s going into the challenge and how it works.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQCfzYNHqow%5D

The video is 32:31 minutes long and also features Jen Knecht, Director for IBM MobileFirst Marketing, Sridhar Sudarsan, CTO for IBM Watson Ecosystem, Ron Norman, Chief Architect for IBM Mobile Innovation Labs.

And now back to the implications of this challenge and what it could mean for developers and users alike.

One significant implication is for driver-assisted navigation. For example, if you’re travelling by car, you could ask the app about weather reports, road conditions, hotels, gas stations, restaurants, rest areas, and points of interest without ever looking away from your steering wheel.

For television watching, not only could the app learn your watching habits, but it could also steer you toward shows and series that you want to watch based on a question such as, “I’d like to watch a comedy starring Steve Martin.” In seconds, the app would display a list of those comedies in order according to your watching habits and preferences.

Emergency responders could use an app to diagnose and treat trauma patients in car accidents, in fires, or in natural disasters. More lives could be saved and shorter recovery times might be possible by giving the proper treatment to patients in the field.

In education, a Watson-powered app could be used to drill students prior to an exam or to assist students in learning a new language. Teachers could use an app to create adaptive tests for students to assess their level of achievement on a particular topic.

“The power of Watson in the palm of your hand is a game-changing proposition, so we’re calling on mobile developers around the world to start building cognitive computing apps infused with Watson’s intelligence,” said Mike Rhodin, Senior Vice President, IBM Watson Group.” Imagine a new class of apps that deliver deep insights to consumers and business users instantly — wherever they are — over the cloud. It’s about changing the essence of decision making from ‘information at your fingertips’ to actual insights.”

But not every example of a Watson-based app has to be so practical. One could design an app to help predict March Madness outcomes or to narrow down the possibilities in a dream team challenge.

I see this new era of computing as expanding the possibilities for intelligent applications. It will allow humans to interact with computers in a natural way, via spoken or unspoken language. Wouldn’t it be cool if someone could write an app that would watch a deaf person using sign language and interpret those gestures into spoken words to a listener on the other end of a telephone conversation?

The Watson Mobile Challenge is an opportunity for creative thinkers to really show the power of their own innovative ability plus unleash the power of a supercomputer via a mobile app.

From IBM:

The IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge is part of the IBM MobileFirst strategy to help businesses of all sizes adopt mobile technology to better engage with customers and extend their businesses to new markets. The news also represents the latest milestone in the newly formed IBM Watson Group to fuel an ecosystem of developers, start-ups, tech companies and venture capitalists building Watson powered apps as part of the Watson Developers Cloud

To date, more than 1,500 individuals and organizations have contacted IBM to share their ideas for creating cognitive computing applications that redefine how businesses and consumers make decisions. In fact, global developers have created and plan to go to market in 2014 with Watson apps across a variety of industries.

IBM_logoThis post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Categories: Articles, IBM Tags: , , ,

Infrastructure Matters: Cloud Infrastructure Socialcast

Infrastructure Matters SocialcastThis post is based on the Infrastructure Matters Socialcast panel discussion that focused on midsize business cloud infrastructure. The panel included in this Socialcast is host Paul Gillin, Scott Hawkins, Cal Braunstein, and John Alday. The Infrastructure Matters Socialcast is a one-hour video discussion about key topics facing midsize businesses concerning IT infrastructure, infrastructure outsourcing, cloud solution costs, and the changing nature of information technology.
About The Panelists
Paul Gillin - A veteran technology journalist and a thought leader in new media. Since 2005, he has advised marketers and business executives on strategies to optimize their use of social media and online channels to reach buyers cost-effectively.
Cal Braunstein - Chairman/CEO and Executive Director of Research at Robert Frances Group, Inc. (RFG). RFG provides concierge advisory, consulting, and research services to business technology executives as well as to marketing/sales management for companies that provide IT communications services and products.
Scott Hawkins – IBM’s Program Director of X86 and Pure Systems Solutions organization.
John Alday - CEO of Cima Solutions Group (CSG). CSG delivers reliable and efficient IT solutions that create financial value for their clients. CSG offers its clients technology solutions from manufacturers such as IBM, VMware, Google, FalconStor, Compellent, Scale, and others.
Build or Buy Infrastructure
The first major topic covered by the panel is the question of infrastructure “Build or Buy”. Midsize businesses are focused on cost-cutting and optimization to better align themselves with today’s market. Some of those cost-cutting activities include making decisions about consolidation, virtualization, cloud, and outsourcing.
In the past, companies have built their own infrastructures and found that their systems were expensive to maintain, expensive to manage, and were vastly underutilized. Business discussions then turned to virtualization, optimization, and outsourcing.
The problems facing midsize businesses in this are a general lack of expertise in moving away from traditional computing models, a sticker shock of moving all infrastructure to an outsource provider, and a fear of using cloud-based solutions for a variety of reasons including cost, security, and control.
Infrastructure: On Premise or Off?
Then came the question of developing an on premise solution or opting for off premise. In other words, depending on where your business is in its life cycle, the correct answer might be different. For example, if your business is a startup or in its infancy, your best option is an off premise, cloud-based solution. You haven’t yet committed resources to on premise infrastructure.
Mature businesses will likely develop in-house cloud solutions to better serve their internal needs as well as their customer’s requirements.
It is every business in between those two that creates the dilemma, but the consensus is to implement a hybrid solution, which means to migrate some infrastructure to a provider as systems “age out”. This hybrid approach makes sense for most businesses. Financially, migrating toward a hybrid infrastructure means that business critical systems will remain in-house, while other systems will be placed at a cloud provider location. Think managed service providers (MSPs) here.
Cloud Cost Creep
Unfortunately, as the panel noted during the discussion, sometimes businesses find that there’s a cloud cost “creep” involved in migrating to an outsourced model. Cloud cost creep is the upward spiral of costs associated with moving your infrastructure, especially storage, to the cloud. Storage costs are still not where they need to be for a mass exodus from the private data center to the cloud.
However, there are currently available solutions for businesses to take advantage of, such as “pay as you go” models and metered usage. The pay as you go scenario involves using cloud infrastructure on an as needed basis and only paying for what you use.
Metered usage gives businesses the opportunity to charge back cloud costs to clients, to business units, and to individual teams. It also provides an excellent means of tracking usage per application so that businesses can make future deployment and support decisions based on cost vs. benefit of their solutions.
Investment Decisions and IT
The panel brought up an interesting topic about involving IT when making decisions on business direction. The problem with business integration with IT, historically, has been IT’s reluctance to become involved and the lack of understanding, from the business perspective, of what IT actually does.
The solution is fairly simple: Integrate IT into business direction discussions, without the use of jargon, and empower the IT staff to focus more on the business instead of just its niche piece of the company’s operations.
Is the Cloud Changing the Culture of IT?
Cloud is changing IT’s focus from its traditional role into a more “services” culture. There’s a lot less focus on hardware, maintenance, and management and more time spent on business and providing service to its customers. People skills are now more valuable than technical ones.
The reasons for this are not surprising given that hardware is getting “smarter,” automation is more available, management is centralized, virtualization and cloud infrastructures are more prevalent, and businesses now want employees who are more in tune with customer’s needs and the forward movement of the business.
The ultimate IT staffer will not only have an understanding of services and architecture, but also about business needs, such as cost-cutting, optimization, and intelligent outsourcing.
Future of VARs
VARs will also have to change their focus from providing a combined hardware/software/consulting solution to businesses with a service and consulting role. As the days of individually owned hardware come to a close and MSP and data center-owned hardware increases, VARs will have to alter their business models to partner with those providers.
Currently, MSPs and other providers concentrate on supplying infrastructure, environmental protection, and maintenance and leave most of the consulting and software solutions to VARs.
Infrastructure Matters
Your next steps in looking at your infrastructure are to evaluate where you are from an efficiency perspective. Look at your utilization. Look at your infrastructure resiliency. Look at your overall technology. Extreme advances have been made in the past five years in power consumption, speed, virtualization, and management. If you don’t have the expertise in-house, seek out a solution partner and find out what’s available to you.

IBM for Midsize Business
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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Categories: Articles, IBM

Twitter and the Internet of Fake Things

Twitter Follow Ad ExampleIn January of this year, I decided to conduct an experiment on Twitter. I was partly inspired by the Kevin Ashton article: How to become internet famous for $68 and many reports that celebrities had huge fake Twitter and Facebook followings. No one seems to care that they do, although there are dozens of articles “exposing” the whole thing. I found it intriguing that people could actually purchase Twitter followers, Facebook Likes, positive reviews, and retweets. Social Media has sparked all these new markets and I was curious to get the inside story.

My own experiment’s goal was twofold: First, to find out what the real story is on purchasing Twitter followers (because I wasn’t convinced that you could do so) and second, to experiment with purchasing them with Bitcoin. The results of the experiment are interesting, but not nearly as interesting as the Twitterati* itself.

Excerpt from Kevin Ashton’s article: How to become internet famous for $68.

“On social media, it is easy to mistake popularity for credibility, and that is exactly what the fakers are hoping for. To most people, a Twitter account with tens of thousands of followers is an easy-to-read indication of personal success and good reputation, a little like hundreds of good reviews on Yelp or a long line outside a restaurant. Looking online to learn more about somebody has become a reflex—blind daters do it, potential employers do it, potential customers do it.
Specialist social media analytics companies do it too. These businesses claim they can analyze somebody’s social media behavior and accurately evaluate their level of influence.”

Background

On Twitter, it’s all about how many followers you have. It’s also about what you tweet to your followers. The theory is that you’re supposed to carry on 140 character conversations with your followers and fellow tweeters for entertainment and edification. Everything works in theory, doesn’t it?

Twitter has become one of those forums where speakers (tweeters) want to speak but not listen. It’s much the same as in any other forum, digital or physical.

I’ve found that Twitter has very little to offer outside of reading marketing bytes, automated tweets, or rancid dialog from those who disagree with what I’ve stated in an article or in a post. Occasionally, there are those who carry on a constructive dialog, but they are very few and far between. Some tweeters simply tweet just to tweet. It’s analogous to hearing your own voice. It’s both self-medicating and self-satisfying.

And perhaps the most entertaining of all is those who hide behind cryptic pseudonyms. They wish to remain anonymous because they want to tweet things that they’d never say in person. Refer again to my earlier digital graffiti reference.

Experiment Part I: Buying Twitter Followers

I researched the process and decided to try it for myself to see what happens when one purchases Twitter followers and to see if it was truly a scam or not. Spoiler Alert: You can purchase Twitter followers but you might not want to because a lot of them are fake.

I began my quest on January 8 with my own, organically grown 2,761 Twitter followers.

I found some fiverr.com** sellers advertise Twitter followers for $5. For that $5, you can purchase anywhere from 100 to 5000+ Twitter followers, depending on your “vendor.” Some vendors go so far as to advertise “Real” Twitter followers to differentiate themselves from those who sell you fake followers, also known, in some cases, as “Eggs.”

I started out by purchasing a batch of 5,250 followers who were guaranteed to be real.

So my goal from that purchase was 8,011 followers. It took a couple of days for the “delivery” but it finally happened. As if by Internet magic, 5,000 or so followers were now in my tank. I had more than the promised 5,250 followers. The reason is that when Twitter finds fake followers, it deletes them. I’m sure it’s done by some automated algorithm that scans the site for “Eggs” and user accounts that have never tweeted at all.

I was so excited by this, that I had to try again. This time, I went for a whopping 5,550+ followers for just $5. What a bargain. Sure enough, in about a day, I had another 5,000+ followers. Unfortunately, while waiting my total had gone down to 12,959 by January 11. By January 13, it was 12,823 and by January 15 my band of loyal followers had dropped to 12,730.

The 5,500+ followers were advertised as: 100% Real, No Egg Emage (Image, I assume), Fast Delivery, Full Customer Support. It was fast, for sure. In just a day, I had 5,000 more followers to my name. And I didn’t have to setup automated tweets or battle it out with the Twitterati to get them. Such a deal at only $5.

I thought to myself, “Wow, this is easy and cheap. I’ll just keep doing it.” I ordered up another ’3,000 Real Active Twitter Followers in just 12 hours.’ Yep, just as advertised, by January 16, I now had 15,983 followers. By the 17th, I had 15,931. I stopped counting on January 20th at 15,604.

I then tested my numbers at: http://www.twitteraudit.com.

To my surprise, I found that roughly half of my ‘Real’ followers were in fact fake.

You can only imagine my reaction to this. I kept watching my total number of followers go down every day, sometimes by more than 100 followers. I was devastated. To think that I paid good Bitcoin for those followers and half (or more) were fake.

Just out of curiosity, I checked the following accounts for fakes to see how I fared in the fake Twitter follower realm.

  • Charlie Sheen @charliesheen 40% (3 million+) fake
  • Bitcoin @Bitcoin 23% (6,857) fake
  • Chelsea Handler 43% (2 million+) fake
  • CNN @CNN 54% (4 million+) fake
  • Wall Street Journal 40% (900K+) fake
  • Dwight Howard @DwightHoward 47% (2 million+) fake

So, a full month after purchasing all those Twitter followers on February 17, I had 14.8K followers. I purchased another 3,000 from one of the people I’d purchased from before to see if she had another 3,000 100% Real followers to send my way. Sure enough, she did. She said my target follows would be 17.8K. In about a day, I had just over 18K followers. They always give you more because, as I explained earlier, the blatantly fake ones get deleted.

As it stands now, two months after my original purchase, I have 17.4K followers. According to twitteraudit.com, I have 50% fake, which would give me 8,600+ real followers. According to another auditing tool (http://fakers.statuspeople.com), 63% are fake, 24% are inactive, and a whole 13% are real. Calculating just the real from my current number of 17.4K, that leaves me with a total of 2,262 real followers.

But wait. I started with 2,761 organically cultivated followers. And now, I have as few as 2,262? What’s up with that? One can argue that some of my original ones were fake, maybe a few dropped out, or maybe something is wrong with the algorithms to calculate the totals.

Another tool at: http://www.socialbakers.com/twitter/fakefollowercheck tells me that I have 25% fake or suspicious, 0% inactive, and 75% good. So, who knows for sure?

Experiment Part II: Buying Stuff with Bitcoin

I really don’t like Bitcoin or bitcoin or however it’s supposed to be written. Sorry, the proper terminology for it goes into the “Who Cares” bin. However, for my test, it was the perfect solution. I could purchase something fake, or potentially fake, with something that is borderline illegal. But that’s another story. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus on my purchases with Bitcoin.

Remember that standard gigs on fiverr.com are $5.

Here are three of my Bitcoin transactions with fiverr.com:

  • -0.00786 BTC
  • -0.007965 BTC
  • -0.00828 BTC

You see, each time you buy something with Bitcoin, the amount changes because the “value” of Bitcoin constantly changes. Unfortunately, not always in your favor, as you can see by mine. There is also a small fee for carrying out the transaction. I’m not sure how much it is in Dollars or Bitcoins because I didn’t pay a lot of attention.

The problem is that if you use Dollars to pay for something and the amount is $5, you pay $5 on whatever day it is. Not so with Bitcoin. As you can see, I paid three different amounts of Bitcoin each time, although the value of the transaction was $5. Well, $5 in Dollars, that is.

This is one of the strongest arguments against Bitcoin. You don’t really know how much you’re paying because the value fluctuates so much, so often that you can’t track it and there’s not a single exchange value for Bitcoin. So, your favorite exchange might value Bitcoin at $500, while another exchange values it at $450.

One day you might barely be able to buy lunch with a certain amount of Bitcoin and the next day you could buy the restaurant with that same amount. Weird, huh?

I still don’t see the point of using it for transactions because of that point. There are many others, but again, that’s another story.

The jury (literally) is still out on Bitcoin. If I were a betting man, I’d say that the Federal Government or InterPol will shut down all Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency transactions in the near future. And if you think that Silk Road and Mt Gox left people feeling the pain, just wait until Uncle Sam decides that Bitcoin is not only shady but illegal.

Lessons Learned

You might believe that purchasing Twitter followers has left me with a less than enthusiastic endorsement of the practice, but it hasn’t. I think that growing your following organically is the best thing to do. It’s the most honest thing to do, for sure. But hiring “shills” is nothing new to the business scene. It’s actually a very old practice. People, by their very nature, are crowd followers. If you see that someone only has 100 followers, you’re not as likely to follow as you are if that same person has 150K followers.

It’s just the way we’re made. Do I believe that everyone I’ve listed in the examples above have “plumped” their following with purchased or fake followers? Certainly not. The fact is that anyone can buy followers for any account. If I wanted to, I could purchase 5,000 followers for a Twitter account other than my own. That part might surprise you. If you don’t believe me, I’ll buy someone, maybe you, 5,000 Twitter followers. There’s not much you can do about it.

You can buy a subscription to a service that will delete them. But what if they’re wrong? What if they delete real ones that are simply inactive? It’s a dilemma, for sure.

Unlike Kevin Ashton, and who knows who else, I only spent $20 to test this idea of purchased fame. I think the $20 was well spent. It gave me fodder for this post and a bit of entertainment as well. Can’t go to a movie and buy a Coke and popcorn for $20.

Do I think it’s a good practice to buy Twitter followers or Facebook Likes or any other form of fake fame? No, I don’t. It’s kind of silly, really. But, I wonder, is it really all that different than having a Publicist strategize a “chance” photo shoot of a celebrity doing something in public? Is it all that different than running a commercial on TV or sending out a Press Release? Or filming a music video where the artists lip sync while thousands of screaming fans look on?

I think the best practice is to grow your audience, attract your Facebook Likes, acquire multi-star ratings on Amazon, and gather +1s on Google+ by doing something well. That seems to be good advice.

However, in the grand scheme of things, who really cares how many Twitter followers someone has, fake or otherwise? I really don’t care. If you’d have told someone, even you, 20 years ago about Twitter, you’d have laughed a part of your anatomy off. It’s really a silly thing. Social networks in general are silly. Facebook is silly, Twitter is silly, and so on. LinkedIn is pretty good because it’s professional and you can actually measure its value but it’s the exception.

So many people use bots and automated tweeter software that everyone is tweeting but not that many people are reading. Twitter users tweet about everything and they expect that someone is reading their stuff but it really just goes into the electronic aethers to compete with all the other bots and automated quips, fluff, and “sage” advice.

This was an experiment for me. The greatest lesson that I’ve personally learned from it is that Twitter, Twitter followers, Facebook Likes, and Bitcoin only have value if you give them value–or if “everyone else” gives them value and you join in. On their own, they have none.

Now, how much will it cost me to get rid of the fake Twitter followers? Adding followers is easier than getting rid of them. There are services that want to charge you to do this but I think I’ll just wait it out and let Twitter Darwinism take effect. There is a person on fiverr.com, oddly enough, who’ll remove 500 fake followers for $5. So, it costs $20 to buy 15K followers and $150 to remove them. Not a chance.

*People who use Twitter, often as their own platform. Think digital graffiti artists.

**fiverr.com supports sellers of all kinds of “gigs” as they call them. From voiceovers to art to music and, of course, Twitter followers. The site is legitimate and most of the sellers are as well.

Related Articles:

I Bought 27,000 Fake Twitter Followers—and Then Twitter Zapped Them Into Oblivion

Categories: Articles Tags: , , , ,

Micron and Crucial Introduce Next-Generation SSD for Personal Storage, Media and Entertainment Markets

M550New M550 SSD Offers Faster Performance, Longer Battery Life and High-Capacity Storage with Advanced Feature Set 

Key Messages:

  • Reaches 20 times higher performance[i] than conventional hard drives for lightning fast boot, file and application load times
  • Stretches battery life through dramatically better power efficiency, consuming as little as 6 percent as much power versus a traditional hard drive on comparable workloads[ii]
  • Offers an advanced feature set that includes hardware-based encryption, data protection against unexpected power loss and an advanced adaptive thermal monitoring system
  • Available in 2.5-inch, mSATA and M.2 form factors with capacities up to 1TB

 Multimedia Elements:

1.      Media Kit

2.      How We Make Our SSDs (video)

3.      The Benefits of Upgrading to an SSD (video)

4.      Installing an SSD Is Easier Than You Think (video)

Boise, ID, March 18, 2014 – Micron Technology, Inc. today announced a new personal storage class, solid state drive (SSD), continuing a legacy of developing foundational memory technology into reliable, high-performance storage solutions. The M550 SSD is designed to meet the increasingly demanding needs of high-performance computing, ultrathin, and media/video applications. It is available today to consumers, businesses and system builders under the Crucial® brand and to OEM customers under the Micron® brand.

Faster Storage Performance

The M550 SSD offers 20 times higher performance1 than a traditional hard drive, while consuming significantly less power. It enables quick boot-up, speedy file and program access, near instant wake from sleep, as well as ultra-efficient power management for increased battery life. In fact, the M550 draws as little as 0.15 watts during normal operation1.

The M550 design tightly integrates Micron NAND and firmware to deliver up to 95,000 input/output operations per second (IOPS). The drive’s sequential speeds reach up to 550 MB/s for reads and 500 MB/s writes, which maxes out the capabilities of the SATA 6 Gb/s interface.[iii] To understand the benefits of upgrading to an SSD and see the dramatic performance gains compared to traditional hard drives, watch our video.

Advanced Feature Set

The M550 SSD incorporates a host of advanced features to provide users with a powerful computing experience:

  • Best-in-Class Hardware Encryption: Keeps personal files and sensitive information secure in the event of device theft or loss.
  • Device Sleep Low-Power Mode: Enables the drive to draw practically no power while in sleep mode and respond instantly when the laptop is opened.
  • Data Protection: Employs onboard power-loss protection and advanced error recovery techniques to protect the integrity of stored data.
  • Adaptive Thermal Management: Dynamically adjusts power consumption based on system temperature for ultra-small, thermally constrained systems.
  • Reliability: Our proprietary RAIN technology provides built-in fail-over protection at the NAND level.

Micron Quality You Can Trust

The M550 SSD is built start-to-finish by Micron, providing the comprehensive quality control that only a NAND Flash memory manufacturer can supply. With more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron is one of the world’s largest and most trusted Flash storage manufacturers. The new drive utilizes Micron’s proven 20-nanometer (nm) multilevel cell (MLC) NAND Flash to achieve terabyte capacity on the 2.5-inch form factor. Watch this behind-the-scenes video to see how Micron designs and builds SSDs.

“Built on our years of storage expertise, the M550 SSD combines leading-edge performance with an advanced feature set to create a powerful computing experience,” said Darren Thomas, vice president of Micron’s storage business unit. “For consumers, the Crucial M550 SSD offers a reliable storage solution from a trustworthy brand. For OEM customers, the Micron M550 SSD offers a slim, lightweight form factor for ultrathin designs, and advanced features for media and video applications.”

Micron’s advanced NAND Flash technology provides more storage in a smaller footprint, making it possible to pack half a terabyte of storage onto an SSD module the size of a stick of gum (80mm x 22mm). This M.2 form factor, along with the mSATA form factor, are key designs for current and next-generation ultrathin computers, including Ultrabook™ devices, tablets and convertible PCs. Visit micron.com/ultrathin to see how Micron SSDs transform the ultrathin experience to meet the needs of the mobile computing market.

High-Performance Storage for Video Applications

The M550 has also been chosen as the preferred storage solution for AJA, a leading manufacturer of high-quality digital video interface, conversion and desktop solutions for professional broadcast and post-production. “Our customers demand high reliability for capturing the very high data rates of HD and 4k video. Whether it’s a motion picture or a Major League Baseball broadcast, data degradation is unacceptable,” said John Abt, CEO of AJA. “The Micron M550 easily meets AJA’s performance requirements.”

The M550 also leverages controller technology from the industry leaders at Marvell. “Marvell is excited to collaborate with Micron to bring a new generation of cutting-edge SSDs to the video market,” said Rajan Pai, General Manager and Vice President of the Data Storage Business Unit at Marvell. “The combination of Micron’s leadership in NAND flash memory coupled with Marvell’s industry-leading 88SS9189 SSD controller creates a powerful solution that fuels exceptional delivery of digital entertainment and video content to meet the next wave of consumer demand.”

Compatibility and Availability

The Crucial M550 2.5-inch SSD is offered in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB capacities, and it is available for immediate purchase through select global channel partners or direct through www.crucial.com. The smaller M.2 and mSATA form factors will be available through Crucial later this year, in capacities up to 512GB. The drive is backed by a three-year limited warranty[iv] and is compatible with both PC and Mac® systems.

The Micron M550 SSD is also available in a 64GB capacity; all configurations are available for immediate sampling and are sold direct to OEMs and via the company’s distribution network.

[i] Performance level based on averaged PCMark Vantage HDD test scores of five leading hard drives compared to the M550 SSD. Actual performance level may vary based on benchmark used and individual system configuration. Test setup: 256GB M550 SSD (firmware MU03), 2TB Western Digital® WD20EURS 7200RPM hard drive, 2TB Seagate® ST2000DM001 7200 RPM hard drive, 1TB Western Digital WD10EZEX 7200RPM hard drive, 750GB Seagate ST3750640AS 7200RPM hard drive, and 500GB Western Digital WD5000AVDS 7200RPM hard drive, all tested on an Intel® DZ87KLT-75K motherboard, Intel i7-4770K 3.50GHz processor, BIOS Rev. 0446, and Windows® 8 Pro 64-bit operating system using PCMark Vantage HDD test suite.

[ii] Power calculations are based on published specs for the 500GB Seagate® Momentus® 7200 rpm internal laptop hard drive, one of the most popular hard drives according to NPD data published in September 2013. The Momentus uses 2.5 watts of power on an average workload, compared to 0.15 watts on the M550 SSD. In everyday terms, this means significantly more battery life and substantial savings on power costs.

[iii] Quoted performance figures are based on 256GB, 512GB and 1TB capacities.

[iv] Micron-branded and Crucial-branded M550 SSD warranty terms may vary. Contact your Micron or Crucial sales representative for complete warranty terms.

The Dell Chromebook 11 (Review)

2014/03/12 2 comments

Dell Chromebook 11Dell Chromebook 11
Dell
$299.00

The Dell Chromebook 11 is an educational Chromebook, although, in my opinion, the Dell Chromebook 11 (11) is a Chromebook suitable for general use as well. At three pounds, its weight is in line with other Chromebooks. The 11 feels solid and good in my hands. It doesn’t feel cheap like some Chromebooks do. It feels more like a regular laptop than an inexpensive Ultraportable computer.

The 11 sports the new 1.4GHz Intel 2995U Celeron Haswell processor (CPU) with 2MB of cache. For you less technical types, that’s all good stuff. Just think speed and low power usage. The memory is 4GB DDR3, which means you have plenty of memory (RAM) to handle a large number of Chrome browser tabs with ease.

The Dell Chromebook 11 Technical Specifications:

  • Processor – Intel Haswell 2955U processor 1.4GHz
  • Operating System - Chrome OS
  • Memory - DDR3 Memory 4GB (internal) Advanced
  • Chipset - Intel Integrated
  • Video Card – Intel Integrated
  • Display - 11.6″ LCD Min 1366×768 HDMI 1080p
  • 720p Front-facing Camera
  • Audio and Speakers - 4W Internal Stereo Speaker (Min 2W x 2)
  • Hard Drive - 16GB SSD storage (SATA)
  • Power - Internal 220 Watt Power Supply (PFC. nPFC. EPA)
  • Primary Battery - Greater than 8 hrs.
  • Warranty - 1 year depot repair/service; 1-4 years warranty extension options
  • Security - Browser based security with hardware TPM: Phishing and malware. SSL certificates content settings Kensington Security Lock
  • Wireless - Dell DW1901 (Atheros). A/B/G/N 802.11
  • Two USB 3.0 ports
  • Bluetooth 4.0 support

The two things that the 11 doesn’t have as features are a standard 15 pin video out interface and a standard wired Ethernet interface. They aren’t essential features, but they are nice-to-haves. In their place, the 11 has an HDMI interface and, of course, wireless networking. You could use a USB Ethernet connector in one of the 11′s two USB slots.

Why it’s frugal: For $299, you get a fast, solid computer that will easily last you three to four years and possibly longer. The Dell Chromebook 11 is well-built and features a lot of RAM for a Chromebook at 4GB, a 16GB disk, and a fast CPU. Unless the Chrome OS bloats drastically (not likely at all) within the next 4 years, you’ll have made a very wise computing investment.

Dell Chromebook 11 ScreenThe Chromebook 11′s sound is clear and noise free. The camera is a front-facing 720p (YouTube quality HD) and is as good and clear as I’ve seen on any laptop–not just a Chromebook.

Because this model is targeted toward students and education, I should note that the 11 feels sturdy enough to withstand being carried to and from school in a backpack without damage. And the battery has enough life in it to last an entire school day, if plugged in to charge overnight before the school day begins. It’s small enough and lightweight enough to fit into all but the smallest purse, messenger bag, or backpack. Students will love the “instant on” feature that places them at a login prompt upon opening the computer.

Unless you really love trackpads, buy a wireless mouse for your Chromebook. You can buy small ones that are roughly half the size of a regular desktop mouse. The reason for the external mouse is that Chromebooks, including the 11, leave out essential mouse buttons from the trackpad. To right click, you have to press the ALT key while tapping the trackpad. A minor annoyance, but still an annoyance.

The only major drawback to the Chromebook 11 is that it only has two USB slots and they’re both located on the left side of the computer. They’re both next to the HDMI slot, which makes using external HDMI video and two USB devices somewhat cumbersome or impossible, depending on the USB connector widths.

I like the Dell Chromebook 11. What’s not to like? It’s a fast and furious Chromebook with a bright, clear screen that would be perfect for students and just about anyone else regardless of learning status. It’s a good value and you won’t be disappointed with its performance, styling, or durability.

Rating: 8/10

Recommendation: Buy it for a student, for yourself, or for anyone.

Camtasia 2.5 for Mac (Review)

Camtasia Recording ControlsCamtasia 2.5 for Mac
TechSmith
$99.00

Techsmith’s Camtasia is one of those essential programs for anyone who needs to create interactive content by capturing a live computer screen. That’s what Camtasia’s main job is: to capture live screen actions as video. Simply put, it’s a screen recorder. But it’s also much more than that. Camtasia comes bundled with a powerful video editor, sound editor, and picture-in-picture (PIP) capabilities. You can also share your videos to Screencast.com, Google Drive, or to YouTube.

Sharing MenuNote: This review covers Camtasia for Mac version 2.5/2.6. My initial download was 2.5 but has updated since that time. [Late update: Camtasia just updated to version 2.7.1].

Camtasia is available for both Mac and Windows computers and I have used both with equal success.

Capturing video, video and audio, or audio alone, plus screen capture is very easy to do with Camtasia. The small control panel makes it easy. Here are the ten steps:

  1. Open Camtasia.
  2. Select a screen recording area.
  3. Choose to use your camera or not.
  4. Select an audio source.
  5. Press the Record button.
  6. Wait for the countdown.
  7. Begin recording.
  8. Stop recording.
  9. Edit recording (if needed).
  10. Share.

Here’s a short video of Camtasia in action:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6LBZw0Dcm8GSWdRS3czVEx4SFU/edit?usp=sharing

The only step in this list that’s more complicated than what I’ve listed here is editing your recording (Step #9). After you stop recording, your recorded footage opens in the Camtasia editor, ready for you to clip, to add effects, to add voiceover, or to do whatever editing you need to do. The editor is very good, but is no match for higher end editing applications.

Camtasia Editor Effects MenuThe Camtasia editor isn’t meant to compete with high-end audio/video (A/V) editors, but it does provide you with the tools you need to produce a very high quality video presentation from your screen captures. Alternatively, the higher end A/V editors are very difficult to master, but Camtasia’s is not. So, it’s really a trade off.

Why it’s frugal: Camtasia for Mac is frugal because there’s no other available professional program of its quality on the market for $99.

The $99 price might seem high for a screen capture program, but Camtasia is much more than simple screen capture. It provides you with a professional quality A/V tool and a professional editor at a fraction of the price of buying the two separately. Camtasia is also very easy to use. That ease of use is worth something because it’s difficult to create an application that is user friendly and powerful. Camtasia is both.

Techsmith has also surpassed every company I’ve ever dealt with for customer service. The only exception is Intuit, whose customer service is perhaps the best of its kind anywhere. Techsmith’s customer service professionals are well-trained, polite, and absolutely knowledgeable about their products and problem resolution. Simply put; they’re impressive.

In my opinion, Techsmith’s Camtasia is the best product of its kind on the market. Coupled with its excellent customer service, it’s a winning combination. It will be the best $99 you’ve ever spent.

Rating: 10/10

Recommendation: Buy it. Rely on it.

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