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RSS Zen: Syncing Google Reader blogs with Your PC and Smartphone

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RSS - Really Simple Syndication - is, contrary to popular belief, and according to my opinion, not dead, or in any state of becoming dead. At least, it's quite alive and kicking for the foreseeable future.

If you don't know as yet, RSS enables blog readers to keep up-to-date with all the blogs that they follow from a single interface (known as an "RSS Reader"). And the best reader out there at the moment is the Google Reader from Google. It's a web-based reader, and allows you to access your feeds from wherever you are, so long as you have a mobile phone with you.

But for me, Google Reader can become a little complex to access daily. What I wanted was a "flow" where I could access my favourite blogs from a clean, stylish Mac OS X interface when I'm at my laptop, and when I'm on the road, load up a lightweight reader that synchronises to the feeds on my laptop, so I can catch up with my blogs from wherever in the world I am.

So in this post I am going to tell you how you can achieve "RSS Zen", with a Google Reader account (free), a smartphone, and a Windows or Mac computer.

1. Get a Google Account
First things first: make sure you have a Google Account. This will give you access to Google Reader, along with a host of other really cool services.

2. Download the desktop RSS app
Next, you'll need to get the application that you'll use to read your RSS feeds on your computer with. Here you have two options, depending on your computer. If you're using Windows, you can download FeedDemon from NewsGator. If you're on Mac OS X, get the Mac version of the RSS reader from NewsGator, called NetNewsWire. With these apps on their respective systems installed, you can access your Google Reader feeds after providing your account login details when prompted. Both apps are synced to Google Reader through the Google Reader APIs by default, and so this is a rather painless process.

3. Download the mobile RSS app
Here comes the cool part: the mobile application for consuming your favourite blogs and staying in sync with the feeds on your computer. The application in question is called FreeRange, and you can download directly to your mobile phone by pointing your phone's browser to: http://mwap.at/. Once downloaded, need to create a free account with the providers of the app, so that you can later do a few quick configurations to make it all work.

To properly configure FreeRange to access your Google Reader feeds, you need to go to the FreeRange website, and log-in with your details that you provided when you signed up. (This is done on your computer, with your computer's browser).

Once logged in, select the link on the left sidebar labelled "Select Provider". Then choose "Google Reader", and enter your Google Reader log-in details. And you're off!

Now you can access your favourite blogs from your desktop with FeedDemon or NetNewsWire, all in the same interface with easy-to-use controls. And when you're on the go, you'll still be able to be in the loop with your blogs via FreeRange on your phone.

Viewer Request: LED Projectors

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Firstly, let me begin by apologising to our followers for the delay in this post. There have been a few technical hitches that I have spent time ironing out with the posts themselves, and hopefully, this won't happen again.

Well, now that that's over and done with, let us move on. While the Mobile World Conference gets under way, giving us peeks at new mobile wonders, here is a different kind of mobile: Samsung's P410M Pocket LED Projector.

The P410M is the next iteration in Samsung's range of portable projectors, following up from the P400M. It has the same 30,000 hr lifespan as the previous model, but the one major improvement is the luminosity, moving up from 151 Lumen to 170. Other features however, such as the 800x600 DLP Beamer and the 1000:1 contrast remain the same.



Now, while the Pocket Projector may not exactly fit into your pocket, it certainly is portable, weighing in as a smidgen under 1kg. With a USB port,standard VGA port, RCA inputs, as well as two 1W stereo speakers, this makes it the ideal portable office projector. Although, even with the increased light intensity, this projector is still best suited to the dim office. At a price of $599, it digs deep into your pockets too.

Symbian 3 Launches

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GigaOM reports that the Symbian foundation has announced it's latest version of the mobile phone OS, Symbian 3. Here's the Design Preview video from Nokia, a major Symbian partner.


Nokia S60 Users: We've Been Shunned (and I'm getting very mad about it too)

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Back in July 2009, after many months of research and convincing my parents, I finally received my Nokia N79, a mobile phone that promised me I could "share my passions".

Of course, being a blogger at heart, and a tech-savvy teenager, I was excited at the prospect of jumping on to the next generation of smartphones from Nokia, being able to easily connect to my digital social life. I'm an avid Facebooker, I tweet almost everyday, I need to check my Gmail on the go, and I follow many tech blogs that I need to consume RSS feeds for, so that I can provide the most updated, quality analysis here at Byte Lounge from a range of diverse, definitive opinions. And having GPS built-in doesn't hurt either.

In short, I was brimming with anticipation of taking my connectivity to new heights.

I was also excited to return to the Nokia brand, a brand I had grown up with, and that I respected and revered as truly connecting me to my world.

But then a shocking thing happened: the brand I had come to love had let me down. In fact, the way I see it, Nokia has let all S60 users down. And why? Because they've become so obsessed with churning out a myriad number of new devices, each worse than it's predecessor, and all for the sake of profitability. Of course, seeing how iPhone is killing the Finnish giant on it's own turf, one can expect Nokia to retaliate by attempting to regain market share in a once dominated territory.

But the real reason why I'm so mad at Nokia right now is not because they've become greedy, it's because the brand that I once loved has, as of current, refused to make a native S60 Facebook application for their Nseries devices, subsidise or support the creation of such software, or even intergrate Facebook into the social features of their devices. Let's face it, the generic Facebook Mobile site sucks.

Now of course Nokia is not responsible for actually developing these kinds of apps -- it's the duty of Facebook to do so -- I still feel that, if Nokia are loyal to their customers, and it they want to honour the commitment they've made of "sharing your passions", then they could collaborate with Facebook in developing this integration. It'd just make the whole Nokia experience more social.

Nokia has become obsessed with their Ovi offering, and while some of the service seems good, when compared to the might of Facebook and Twitter, it stands no chance. The mobile maker needs to wake up and realise that their little fantasy of owning a Web 2.0 social service site is just that: a fantasy. So they must acknowledge this, and build intergration into their current and new products. That way, we can all be happy.

I've been waiting for a native S60 version of Facebook for a long time now, and perhaps I speak for all you Nseries users as well, that my patience is running out. We S60 users need a Facebook application akin to Facebook for iPhone. We're being shunned, left in the dark, while iPhone and BlakBerry users can happily chat away on their slick social apps.

And Nokia wonders why their market share is slipping? Go figure.

Facebook's New Design: Yes or No?

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Facebook this week released its much anticipated re-design, which seeks to create a more streamlined user experience.

One of the major noticeable changes to everyone's favourite social network is the dismissal of the toolbar at the bottom, which had bookmarks for favourite applications. This has been swapped for a minimalistic tab at the bottom right for Facebook Chat.

Notifications are at the top, next to the Facebook logo, and a major move toward the streamlined sees the discarding of the user's name in the top right, which had a duplicate link to their profile under the tab "Profile" in the previous design.

Personally, I quite like this new design. It's less cluttered, more informative - I can access my friend's social feeds in a more simplistic manner, and all my applications and pages are listed in an accessible way to the left.

The unnecessary clutter of tabs for "Home, Profile, Friends etc." are now replaced with more Web 2.0-esque icons, which I'm liking too.

Now we're not all alike, and a few people are already disliking the new design. But this same uproar was heard of last time Facebook introduced a new design, and I guess only time will tell how Facebook's millions of users take to the new look.

The Big Question:
Do YOU like the new design? Take our quick poll below. We'd like to know how this new design fares with the rest of us. You can access the results once you've voted, but the poll will close next week Tuesday at 11:59AM. I'll release the full analysis then.

The Revolutionary iPad...Just How Revolutionary?

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With the dust settling on Apple's announcement of the iPad, as well as the publicising of the of the internal specs, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look a just what Apple is offering us. The iPad is powered by Apple's new A4 system on a chip, a chip that according to Steve Jobs, is made specifically for the iPad. It promises a more snappy interface, fluid video playback and all in all, an improved user experience.


The iPad is slightly smaller than an A4 sheet, and weighs in at 1.5 lbs (1.6 if you include the OPTIONAL built-in 3G). The multitouch LED screen has a resolution of 1024x768, and with a 9.7" diagonal, resulting in a pixel density of 132 ppi (pixels per inch). The 16GB model will cost $499, 32GB $599, and the 64GB version will set you back $699 (R3 700, R4 500 and R5 200 respectively - subject to change with conversion rates). The optional 3G modem will cost a further $130 (R980) on top of the base price. A pretty steep price, regardless of which model you choose.


The specs that Apple have given the iPad have the potential to make it a really powerful and versatile machine. However, that potential lays it foundations in one factor alone: the ability to multitask. That, unfortunately, is something the iPad cannot do.


Combining this with the fact that there are no Flash capabilities in the Safari browser, nor cellular features; and you end up with yet another failed iteration of the iPod.


With all that said and done though, I wanted to take a different approach with this one. I wanted to compare this iPad with a similarly specced Windows Tablet PC. The Tablet in question is the HP TC1100. A simple comparison of basic specs and features should be enough to show the product that has better value. Here it goes:


It seems that the HP TC 1100 out-specs the iPad very slightly, but even more so when you look at the hard drive capacities and the fact that the tablet has USB ports, the iPad has none. What is frightening though, is not the lack of expansion ports, it's the age difference between the two products. The HP tablet was released way back in 2003. That's an age and a half in technology-years! I find it hard to believe that a product as old as the TC1100 can outrun the iPad. Sure, it doesn't have the multi-touch ability, nor does it have a very long battery life (about 2hrs compared with the iPad's 10hrs); but what it can do is play Flash, replace/recharge the battery and most importantly, multitask.

Apple has given us a product that was supposed to revolutionise the way we use touch-computers. And yet, with all its bells and whistles, I'm still going to feel something missing when looking blankly at that screen while listening to music because I can't access my favourite Facebook games, or many of my favourite sites don't work. I expected Apple to pull out all the stops with this one, but I’ve had to stop myself pulling my hair out in frustration. Let’s hope HP, Toshiba or the other leading tablet brands can come up with a better solution.




iBooks and the iBookstore: the iPad’s Killing Tool

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The launch of the Apple iPad has caused much jubilation, yet at the same time dismay in the tech world. The dismay comes from the fact that the rumours had really psyched people up to anticipate a remarkable, perfect device.

But, of course, we don’t live in a perfect world. And Apple loves to fall just short of delivering the full goods, probably partly as an excuse to lengthen the product excitement with slowly releasing the excluded features well after the initial product launch (iPhone, anyone?)

But for me, the one lethal feature of the iPad comes in the form of an expected inclusion: the e-Reader capabilities of this new iTool. Apple’s called it iBooks, and it even has its own online store — the iBookstore.

While reminiscent of the MacBook’s precursor (the iBook), this new feature is going to be the iPad’s killing point, the way I see it.

And its going to be just that, because the iPad has a wonderfully large screen in the 9” area, and that screen just happens to be in full colour too, something the main competitor, the Amazon Kindle, lacks.

iBooks also benefits from riding on a subset of the platform and ecosystem that has proven to be a tremendous success: I’m talking about the App Store. By building this new store on the basis of the App Store model, Apple is playing it safe. And by signing up some of the heavyweights in the print industry, they’re proving that this is certainly going to be a serious venture.

And let’s not forget what Apple has, that its competitors (i.e. Amazon) don't: the cool factor. Apple products are stereotypically cool; they’re beautifully designed, and work in a minimalist, yet functional way. Just take the iPad and put it next to a Kindle: immediately, you’ll be able to notice what the future looks like (i.e. iPad) and what it’s not going to be (i.e. current Kindle model). Even the iBookstore looks good: the whole “shelf” concept really mimics the real life, showing us that the iPad’s aim is to seamlessly integrate with our daily and current lifestyle. The animations are beautifully rendered, and the page-turning realness of the books in iBooks make you feel that you’re reading a real book, and not just bytes on a screen, as the Kindle does.

I think that Amazon, and its brethren, really need to tread carefully. Perhaps even take a few notes from the books of the fallen Walkman empire that was slain when the iPod was released all those years ago, least they want history to repeat itself. It seems like the iPad is here to stay, slay and write its way to the top of the desirable gadget lists.

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