I have been a GarageBand user for quite sometime, but I have to say - I almost like the iPhone/iPad edition more!   There are so many cool things you can do, without being hooked up to your instruments!

If you are a songwriter type, you know that when inspiration hits -- you want to get on it right away!   This version of GarageBand is always in your pocket!   Anytime the mood strikes you, start writing!   If you are not a songwriter, well -- you soon will be!  There are many built-in drum patterns, loops, and various styles of playing traditional instruments.  I for one, am a guitar player.  I ROCK on GarageBand - each guitar has different styles of play, for example if you want finger style, it's there.  If you want a fast strum, it's there.  If you want to indivitually pick the notes, you can.  If you want to use a particular effect, like Chorus - go for it.

This is such a fun app, that anyone can play and it's well worth the $4.99 at the app store!  Give it a try and have some fun!
Let's face it.  GT likes things FAST & STYLISH.   I like my computers to be fast, I like my boat to be fast, I like my cars to be fast and they all have to be cool, look good and be extremely functional. 

 I am also VERY passionate about this world we live in, the environment needs our attention.  I am really passionate about great jobs too -- ones that are in service to others and our environment.

I support impacting the END of POLLUTION; ENDING our reliance on FOSSIL fuels, and hense the end of  the fight about DRILLING for oil off our beautiful shores or in protected national treasures such as our National Parks...it helps us end our hostage arrangement with the middle east.  If you love the outdoors and environment, make a new year's resolution to ACT.  Your car is a good place to start!

There are some really awesome cars out now, and you know what?  EVERYONE should get one. What would life be like if we all were driving cool and efficient cars.   They may be an expensive upfront purchase, but KEEP IT for 10 years like GT does.  I never rotate my car before 10 years.  I buy great cars, that are high quality, cool - fast of course -  and I commit to keeping.  Do we really need to 

Here are some GT favorites  - my personal goal is to buy one of these cars by year end, so I gotta work hard!
  • TESLA motors offers several all electric cars that offer amazing performance.  They are about to release the Model S - a BEAUTIFUL car that will be about $70,000 with a range of 300+ miles.  Now, if you committ to keeping it for 10 years, like I do -- this car cost you 7K a year.  It's only $6 to "fill it up" for your 300 mile drive.  HELLO?  What don't you get about that math and the great green streak you will leave in your wake!
  • The FISKER Karma is gorgeous and green.  A primarily electric vehicle, with a sport mode that uses a small gas engine to extend range.  Another sport sedan that is truly a gorgeous driving machine.
  • You can be GREEN in an SUV too.   I like the Volkswagen Toureg TDI -- Clean Diesel.  Great performance and NO, it doesn't sound like one of those old klackyity-klack diesels.  You will LOVE any of Volkswagen's TDI offerings.
  • Those are my favs -- learn more at  http://www.greencarreports.com/ on all things green car!

Happy New Year everyone!
If you haven't gotten your iPhone4s or don't plan to, you can still enjoy many of the new features of Apple's latest IOS.  This generation adds some features the Androidian camp has enjoyed, for example the way that notifications are handled feel a bit like Android's - however, much more elegantly implemented in true Apple fashion. 

If you have at 3GS or 4 -- you can upgrade with IOS5 through iTunes.  You can then enter the iCloud world, and which promises to syncronize all of your devices without your involvement.  For example, when you take a new photo using your phone, it will automatically update your PhotoStream, making it instantly viewable on your other Apple devices.

Some of the cool features touted on the iPhone 4S is the camera; while your hardware is what it is in terms of pixel count; you do get the nice upgrades to the camera app.  You can snap a photo now by tapping the "volume up" button instead of being just restricted to the soft button on the screen.  You can do the edits to your photos, such as cropping, right there on your phone!  If you are a Twitter user, you can directly 'tweet' a photo from within the viewer.  Once your photo goes out, you hear a little "tweet".  Nice touch.  You can watch your photos in a slideshow mode, along with music.

That's just one example of fun.  You also get some great new apps like Reminder and Newstand.   You do not get Siri, but there are other apps you can use that will simulate similar features, such as Vlingo, Dragon Go, Dragon Dictation and Bing for audio search.

The challenges you may experience in updating the phone can include a need to manually restore your apps, as I had to do.  For whatever reason, all of them don't come across.  There have been other issue cited by users who were early adopters, and most blame the "incredible" strain on Apple's servers due to all the update seekers.  If you decide to do this upgrade, which I do recommend, I would suggest connecting with yours truly...

Have a trouble-free-tech-day!

If you are like me, you have a growing stockpile of electronics that are sitting unused or growing out dated quickly. 

By now, you may be aware of programs that are designed to give you options to turn in your used tech gear for cash, gift cards or even for making a charitable donation.  Perhaps heard the radio ads for new online companies like Gazelle (now Second Rotation) who are encouraging you to get busy dusting those old products off before they lose even more value!   You can trade in just about anything tech - cell phones, personal computers, iPads, digital cameras, video recorders and more. 

The recession and the green movement are seeming to drive this activity.  Retailer's are getting in on the act too, with active trade-in programs and "protection plans" that gaurantee a trade in value if you bring the product back to the store within a given time frame.   Other variations include a combination of Trade-in online or at a retail store.  

I did a quick analysis of some of these programs so you can make an informed decision when you decide to do some Spring Tech-house cleaning!  In this post, I discuss Online Recyclers, Buy Back Plans and Retailers who will allow you to bring in your gear to their location for a trade-in for cash or gift card.

First - let's look at the various ways you can move your gear through online storefronts.  In the chart below, I have quickly profiled BuyMytronics.com, Gazelle.com, Nextworth.com, Ebay and Craigslist as your sales vehicle.   While you may be able to get more money by selling through Ebay or Craigslist - the other three make it super easy, which could be good if you are the procastinating type!   Just log in, find the product that you want to sell, provide honest information on the condition of your gadget, get a quote, accept the quote, pack it up, send it and get paid.   Not much to it.  

I used a 3 year old iPod Touch, 2nd Generation to compare what you could expect to get in the various selling methods. 
  - GT's Pole Position PickNextWorth.  They provided the highest payout for the Touch and seem fairly willing to accept what you tell them about condition.   This is like the stock market though, it changes daily and it's so easy to get a quote, I would recommend getting a quote from all of the Recycler's to make sure you get the most for your gear.
Next, I took a look at one of the Buy Back protection plans.  This is where you can up-front, buy a "trade in value" if you will, at the time of purchase for your gear.  You ususally have up to 30 days to purchase such a plan - so you have a little time to consider it, which I think you should.    BestBuy is one of the stores offering such a program or you can buy a plan for $39.95 directly from a site called "TechForward" (www.techforward.com).   I broke out a few examples below.  

A couple of analysis points to call out:   In the iPod Touch, 2nd Generation example, we are well past the 24 month period (it's a 3 year old product) and you can see you would get more for it through one of the Online Recyclers like NextWorth.  I would suspect that this scenario would play out for just about any PC or Mac, so I can't truly recommend such a program.  The exception could be Cell Phones.   TechForward uses the un-subsidized price of your phone to determine the payout - if you look at the 32GB iPhone 4 example, you can see that it could be a pretty good deal.  Most of us buy our phones with a subsidized price, so if you had obtained your iPhone 4 for $299.99, you would get $360.00 if you turned it in within 6 months, and $280 if you used it for a year and turned it in.  You'd be making money on the deal in 6 months!   (Ignore the $299 iPhone 4 section in this table, it was just there to show you how it would look if they didn't use the full, unsubsidized price).    BuyMyTronics, in contrast - pays pretty well too, and you are not restricted to a specific time period to get that price.  That's the going rate, right now.   In short, I would mostly "just say no" to the Buy Back programs.  Not a sweet enough deal - just an easy one.
Lastly, RETAILERS.   This is worth checking into if you are a frequent shopper at places like Radio Shack, Target or other brick and morter locations that sell electronics.   These retailers allow you to bring your product to the store and they will provide you with a gift card  loaded with the value of your trade-in, to use in their store on the spot.   If you aren't into the whole quote-pack-mail scenario, this could be for you.   It's still a good idea to go to the retailer's website first to get an idea on how their plan works and see if they offer a quote before you drag your goods to the store.  Some retailers also have limitations on how many products you can bring in at once.   I would recommend getting a quote from one of the Online Recyclers too just to make sure you have a good understanding of the value of your product.

That's all for today folks - let me know if you found this post useful or share your experience! 

-- GT
Yesterday it was announced that the last company on earth to produce typewriters, has discontinued manufacturing them.   A moment of silence please, for the death of this once life changing technology.

Ok, that's enough of that --- And with lightening speed of the technology era, let's move on to the topic at hand - My Geekfest at Starbucks!

I woke up this morning and decided to "launch" my new GirlTechnician services by spending the morning at Starbucks in Dana Point - heck, I am a regular anyway, but usually via the Drive Thru.  So regular in fact, that they know me by name and sometimes hook me up with a freebie! (You do not want to know what I spend at Starbucks, but those finance book writer guys would have a field day with my investment!).

I dawned my "Geek Girl" sweatshirt, one of my last purchases from the Microsoft Company store, packed my bag of portable tech and headed out the door!  Just a minute from home, I was at my office-of-the-morning by 7:10am.    I grabbed a highly visible parking spot, so that my fellow drive thru buddies would see my car, now decked out with my VistaPrint car door magnets that say "GirlTechnician" with a very bold red likeness of my phone number. 

As I got ready to go in and make camp, I tucked a few business cards into the corner of the door magnets, so interested parties could get a hold of me later.  I didn't really have a "launch plan" so to speak, just decided that it would be an interesting social experiment for myself to see if sitting in a Starbucks, using my car as a billboard would net any interesting business opportunity for some little consumer side business!  So far, one person needs help with a router.  My fee would be higher than the cost of a new one...

Now here's the thing that I wasn't expecting to do this morning.  A social experiment on my own use of tech.   I was thinking I would pull out the tech for "show" to be the Geek my shirt says I am and invoke some geekspeak with fellow Starbuckian coffee addicts!   I have a MacBook Air (running OSX this morning), Samsung Galaxy Tab and my iPhone with me.   Oh, and a regular, paper-based tablet notebook/calendar that I use a REAL ink pen to write with to capture those momentary inspirations or take down a phone number real quick-like.

As a warm up to my day, I thought it would be great to pick up a USA Today and read first while enjoying my Venti Vanilla Non-Fat Latte (which is actually making me fat I think) and ease into the morning with a little news refresher.   What actually happened though, is that I became bored with the paper almost immediately, and grabbed my iPhone to check mail, Tweet my whereabouts and then, oddly - I began reading a few news stories on my tiny little iPhone screen!!  (In all fairness to me, I grabbled my iPhone to use the Microsoft Tag app to see what the Tag was all about on the front page of the paper.  Now, ask yourself - why the heck is USA Today trying to distract readers from the REAL paper that they make money from by having them use their phone to link to a website that might have a couple of pictures and the same news story.   Hmm.  What is the marketing brilliance here?  I must be out of it...)   

Anyway - I caught myself with the paper sprawled across the table, and yet I was reading my iPhone.  I thought this must look ridiculous and so I went back to the paper.   Again, within minutes - I was lured back to the iPhone because I got a text, but soon found myself checking the stock prices, which led to another news story.   Then I noticed someone Tweeted me (I am a new Tweeter).  Dang.    Back to the paper.   The only thing that really caught my eye in the paper, was the Tablet advertisement from HP about their new Windows based Slate offering for $799.   I think I'll try to get a hold of a few of these various tablet devices and review them here.  But I digress...

So what am I learning?   Papers are really boring to me now.  They don't hold my interest in any way, shape or form.   I find that i prefer reading on a tech device so that I can follow my interests to related stories or look up something from the story, that I don't understand or want further information about.     I found that my primary device for this, despite having a tablet here at my disposal is still my phone.   Maybe that small screen is just perfect for my now-small attention span!!

In either case - the move to e-Reading has been underway for quite some time.   The Kindle and the iPad have really kicked this into high gear.   There are so many advantages to doing your reading this way, and again - if you are a student, it's a no brainer.   All your books and your notes in one device!   Heck, this is going to kill books, papers and even the professional organizer industry since they won't need to help people like me organize their papers!!!

A moment of advance silence for the impending death of the pulp-based news-delivery medium...  GT is sad about this, since I come from a long line of newspaper publishers, while not for everyone, the advantages are significant.   This is the way of the now and the way of the future.

Thanks for reading -- this story, available exclusively on the web.
The Apple iPad2 is a nearly perfect computing device, as Leo Leporte "The Tech Guy" said last week on his radio program.   Apple truly shifted the market with the original iPad, and the newest offering ups the anty significantly.   Some believe that the tablet market will ultimately crush the laptop/desktop computing environment.   Remember that pundits thought laptops signaled the death of the desktop - which didn't ultimately come to pass.  What it did was reduce the price of desktops, and there are those that are more comfortable with a specific spot in the house or office to do their work.  What also happened, is that some people chose to have both a desktop and a laptop.   These devices all have a place and will remain viable, even necessary components in your tech investment.

Tablets and variations of these devices will ultimately become a significant sales line item, most likely the fastest growing for the manufacturers who develop them.   Apple has a significant lead in this market, and competitors will really need to work hard to match the elegance, ease of use and add a differentiator if they want to be a real contender.   Most will use a lower price as their differentiator.

I have both an Apple iPad2 and a Samsung Galaxy Tab, which runs the Android OS.  I have Macs & PC's at home - and I use them mostly to learn so I can help you make great decisions on what devices would best suit your needs and so I can show you how to get the most from the device once you acquire it.

I can tell you from experience, that it is better to make the right investment in your tech - not based on dollars, but based on usability and what you really want to do with the device.  

Students have the most to gain from using devices like iPad - with the ability to download their textbooks, make highlights and notes on screen - these devices become not only powerful content delivery tools, but study tools that will really add interest and value to their learning experience.

I will take time to review these devices in a bit more detail -- but it's a beautiful sunny day here in Dana Point, CA!   My resident mocking bird has been singing for a solid 3 hours now (fortunately it's a good song!) - so I am going to join him in enjoying the beautiful day away from the screen!!

Take care & HOPPY EASTER!

This post is not a technical one.  This is a personal note dedicated to my Grandmother, Louise Sawyer, who passed away last month.  She was 90 and she is deeply missed by the family.  

When you have a monumental life moment such as this, it is a reminder that there is a REAL world out there worth connecting to.  Now all too often, people have their eyeballs glued to the big screen of TV or PC or the little text screen of their cell or smart phones.    We get caught up in our speedy tech and the absolute coolness of it.

Just don't forget to get caught up in the absolute coolness of friends and family and the real life outdoors that you can live every day without tech and without commentary.  You really don't need to know what the Kardashians are doing or who is with who in the celebrity world....Wars and car chases and a media that turns a family's tragedy into a "news story" in an attempt to get you to watch is not what life is all about.  Most of you know this...but for the one or two who have paused to ponder this thought.  GET OFF LINE AND GET OUTSIDE!  GO KISS YOUR GRANDMOTHER!

xo to Louis Sawyer "a kiss on the cheek might be nice" 
It would have been highly inappropriate for me to comment too much on the iPhone while I was working at Microsoft.  I am absolutely a loyal employee - however, that is no longer an issue since I was part of the July 2010 layoffs at Microsoft.   So let's talk iPhone!    

One of the cool things about the iPhone, if you are not an iTunes loyalist - is that you can actually maximize your subscription music investments.  This blog post will focus on music apps -- one of the things the iPhone does best of course!  

My top 4 non-iTunes Music Apps are:

       1.   Rhapsody
       2.   Pandora Radio
       3.   iHeartradio
       4.   XM

All of these apps can be downloaded of course, at Apple's AppStore via your phone or through iTunes. 

I subscribe to Rhapsody, as you know, if you have read through the previous posts.   I prefer streaming my music vs. owning it.  Unless you have a particular attachment to an album or track, I see no reason to own anymore.  In fact - I recently ripped all of my CD's into my computer and then carted them off to a used CD store & sold 'em.   Streaming just makes sense - now, a true audiophile would argue about sound quality, but for most people - you aren't going to be bothered nor notice a difference from your CD - convenience to choose any song from a library of over 2M albums with CD quality, far outweighs the audiophile high sound requirements for most people.  With Rhapsody, you can also buy tracks like you can with iTunes should you find that you JUST GOTTA HAVE IT!  

I use my Rhapsody account on my Sonos System at home (see previous post) as well as my portable devices which include a Rhapsody Sansa e200 player, iPhone and iPod Touch.   Now that is leveraging your investment!

The Rhapsody app for iPhone/iPod/iPad allows you to stream music via your iPhone or you can download your playlists and not have to rely on good connectivity if you are on a road trip!   If your car has an AUX jack, you just plug in a stereo mini-8 cable into your jack and your iPhone and you are on your way.   Don't have AUX?  Well, you can still listen old-school style with cassette adapter.  If you don't know what that is, send me a note.

By the same token - if you are an XM user - pitch your XM handheld, maybe even your subscription on your car and move to the app on your iPhone.  You still have to subscribe to XM, with an 'internet' subscription.   This is a monthly subscription.   You can tune in your favorite stations commercial free.   I personally like the CoffeeHouse station.  I have to revisit my need for XM, because right now I have the subscription only on my boat (did I mention I have a hot boat and an amazing stereo set up there? -- another post, another day).

Pandora - unless you have a reason to pay for XM...you really ought to just use Pandora.   If you aren't familiar with Pandora. go to www.pandora.com and find out what it's all about!   Briefly, Pandora allows you to pick a favorite artist or track and it will build a custom radio station for you based on your musical taste, over time you tweak the station by giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to tracks that play.  You like a track, give it a thumbs up and you get more songs that are similar in musical composition.  The reverse is of course true for a thumbs down.  Pandora is free, and now with some commercials.  If you want commercial free - pay the $36 for a one year subscription (WORTH IT!).

The Pandora app for your -- shall we just call them "iDevices" -- streams music and lets you listen to 'your music' without having to create a playlist or think about it.  Good stuff.    If a call comes in, again - your iPhone will be a phone first and a music device second.   The call will ring through and when you are done talking you have to launch the music app again (or with IOS 4.0 it will still be active). 

Let's talk iheartradio.   Now, I like this because you can get some awesome commercial terrestrial stations (that's non-satellite AM/FM) over your iDevice without actually having a tuner.  I use this mostly to pick up talk radio programs I like, such as the TechGuy (Leo Leport), the Dave Ramsay show and if I think I need therapy, I tune in Dr. Laura to learn that I don't.   I also like KBCO -- a Boulder, Colorado station that rocks (thanks MKT!).

That's all for today - hope you have a rockin' day or night!

--- GT
Ok...I get an "F" in blogging.  I mean, the conversation here has been well, dead.  I was too busy being a 'corporate puke' as we sometimes refer to ourselves...but no more, I am BACK.   Today starts a new ERA!

Your humble servant, your GirlTechnician is here to chat up the good stuff.  The lifestyle stuff.   It's time to get back to living the good life of fun, frolick and TECH.

You too can influence the conversation - let me know what you want to hear about, or maybe share what you have learned.  

I can't blog anymore now - I have to go wipe out my PC and give it back to Microsoft, today is my last day there and my first day of freedom to create and play with the toys!  

Chat with ya later!

I recently moved into a new home that has it ALL!  OMG!  This is a tech geeks dream house let me tell you!  There are four LCD monitors and multiple receivers - today, I will just cover the home theatre set up.

The house came with a private, fully enabled home theatre!  YEE-HAW!!  Since after all, I am a GIRLTechician - I am going to start with the estethics....The theatre itself is painted in "Cabin Red" - the only color, that when the lights are dimmed, looks totally black and non-reflective. (And yes, the lights are on a dimmer!)  There is a handsome half-wall-height walnut trim around the room for a very finished look.  I am told by a very good source, that the "Cabin Red" paint color is the color of choice for most public theatres.   The matching "theatre quality" carpet is old-school red with black swirly designs that you probably saw in the first real movie theatre you went to as a kid.    Next, it has a set of six VERY comfy, black leather theatre chairs.  They are fully automated for reclining!   There is a wine-tasting room just off the theatre for those who simply get bored with all the great movies!  It can be really hard to choose with room to hang out in!!

Front and center is the  65" Sharp Aquos LCD TV; the room has a killer sound output through a KEF speaker set with sub-woofer (this is what you will find in the IMAX theatre).  It fills the room with true theatre surround sound - I mean you need to be ready for this so you don't jump out of the chair when glass breaks or something!  The room was "Chirped" and is fully dialed in for IMAX quality sound!   My favorite room is not the theatre itself, not the wine-tasting room, nope - it's the little tech room that houses the AV gear!  I go in there and I feel like the Wizard of Oz!  I can spend lots of time in there tweaking away while guests enjoy a movie!

The A/V Gear in the tech room:
The A/V receiver is the core of the operation, a Pioneer Elite.   Connected to that is a Sony 400 disk DVD changer and a DirectTV DVR/Receiver.  To accomodate "old school footage" there is a GoVideo combo VHS/DVD player.  This room also is the hub for all home connectivity which I added in myself.  So you will find a LinkSys N router; a Vonage router and a SlingBoxPro HD.

Let's take a breath & come back tomorrow for more details on this room.  I am gonna go watch a movie!