Sunday, June 25, 2017

Xara Product Review 2017

by Tony Thomas

It is a bit different reviewing Xara software this year since they have moved to the 365 model. Instead of annual upgrades, continuous, incremental improvements are made to the software. The obvious benefit of this model is that users receive new features as they become available, rather than having to wait for an annual feature "roll up".

Xara Web Designer Premium is a slimmed down version of Designer Pro with a subset of features that are will benefit web designers. Instead of having to code websites by hand, the program provides an easy to use WYSIWYG interface. This allows web design creators to focus on graphic design rather than code. An entry-level version of Web Designer is also available at an extremely attractive price.

By contrast, Xara Designer Pro is a full-orbed vector drawing, photo editing, graphic design and layout program that enables professional designers to develop and implement all of their creative concepts in a single package. The simplicity of its UI can be deceptive, as it is capable of producing amazing output that is only limited my the creativity and skill of the user.

New features common to both programs include:

Full-width slideshows
23 new photo grids
Larger library of vector images and stock photos
Improved import and export for Word, PDF, Powerpoint and SVG
Can now export images as a group with separate settings
Google Forms widget added to the content catalog
New Smart Shapes
More filters added: now 115 in total

In addition Designer Pro also now has the ability to automatically add a TOC (table of contents) to any document which is a huge time saver for those who work in long form documents.

My test drive of both of these programs demonstrate their maturity and stability, as well as speed of task execution. Both are highly recommended!

Disclaimer: Xara has provided review copies of these programs for evaluation.

Friday, June 2, 2017

You Tube Drone Crashes

Is You Tube Search Broken?

My Favorite YouTubers

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The ChromeOS Freeze

by Tony Thomas

As winter sets in, it appears that the Chromebook platform is in a deep freeze. It is been quite a while since Google announced that the Google Play Store was coming to Chromebooks. To date, only seven models have it and most reviewers see it as a work in progress rather than a finished product.

Rumors have abounded about the so-called “Andromeda” project, which would unify Chrome and Android under a single operating system. However, Google Chrome and Android chief, Hiroshi Lockheimer, has thrown cold water on that theory. He announced that ChromeOS and Android devices would remain separate product streams, sharing some of the same technology, such as Google Assistant.

I was hoping that manufacturers would introduce a number of new models for the holiday shopping season, optimized for Android integration. But, it was not to be. During my trip to a local Best Buy, I found only a handful of older models on display. Bummer.

While Chromebooks are still selling well in the education sector, they seemed to have stalled in the consumer market. Perhaps that is because manufacturers and potential buyers are standing on the sidelines and waiting to see if a new operating system emerges from Google.

Will Chromebooks and ChromeOS re-emerge from the deep freeze in the coming months? Will Google Play be unleashed on all of the Chromebooks on Google’s list? Will more Android-ready Chromebooks emerge from the ice?

We will have to wait and see.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Phones On Fire

by Tony Thomas

Cell phones are catching fire.  Literally.  The recent problems with the Galaxy Note involving their lithium ion batteries has generated quite a bit of fear and concern.   And for good reason.   Spontaneous combustion is not a feature that phone buyers look for in a cell phone.
Should we be concerned that this problem will spread to other phones?  We certainly should. 

Lithium Ion batteries are powerful.   They are what give us devices that last for many hours. That is also a big part of the problem. These batteries produce power via a chemical reaction involving highly volatile lithium.  If damaged or improperly charged,  these batteries can pose a safety risk.  And with skinnier cell phone designs with increased battery life,  the design tolerances are much tighter,  thus increasing the risk.

As a result, cell phone manufacturers are going to have to decide whether it is really worth producing skinny phones that may catch on fire. 

In the interim, let the buyer beware.

The Galaxy Note 7 is Dead (from The Verge):

Why the Galaxy Note 7 Catches Fire (from CNet):