Quiet Launch For Lenovo’s Powerhouse Y510p

Lenovo quietly let slip the media powerhouse YP510p.  Stylish and versatile.

Lenovo quietly let slip the media powerhouse Y510p. Stylish and versatile.

I must confess that when IBM sold its laptop business to Lenovo, I had my doubts. ThinkPads had always been my go to choice for rock solid business production and selling off the vaunted brand left ripples of insecurity in IT departments everywhere.

I’m happy that Lenovo managed to not only carry on the ThinkPad tradition of solid reliability but over the years has extended the line in imaginative ways without sacrificing the quality of the name. It is a rare and largely unheralded successes in the technology industry.

Lenovo has continued to field some powerhouse beauties in its laptop line and recently let slip the IdeaPad Y510p with little fanfare.

The Y510p is powered by Intel’s new Haswell i7 2.4 Ghz quad core processor paired up with NVIDIA’s 750M GPU. If one GPU isn’t enough (is it ever enough?) the Y510p can accommodate a second 750M GPU in the Ultrabay slot. If you don’t need the second graphics card you can also use the spare bay for more drive storage or another fan for additional cooling.

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The YP510p features an Accutype backlit keyboard.

Boasting 5 hours of battery life the Y510p is geared toward users who still need big power on their desk for gaming, video editing and other high-powered multimedia tasks. The 15.6 inch LED display has a non-glare finish and the unit ships with a 720p HD webcam and dual microphones backed by Dolby Home Theater audio.

The Y510p is built to move a lot of data with USB 3 which is always on so you can continue to charge your phone or other devices, even the laptop is unplugged. The 1 TB of internal drive space is not blazingly fast but you can supplement it with a 24 GB SSD in the Ultrabay if you need more speed. Other upgrades available include substituting stock DVD drive with a Bluray/DVD drive.

Nice touches to the fit and finish include a brushed metal exterior and Accutype backlit keyboard. Base model starts at $989, Newegg has the model with 12GB of RAM and an 8GB SSD for $1,149.99.

All in all the Y510p is another example that Lenovo is doing a fine job carrying on the name and tradition of IBM’s laptop business.

Microsoft Modifies Office 2013 License and Three Alternatives If You Don’t Like It

officeChanges to Microsoft’s Office 2013 licensing agreement have users and journalists alike confused about the future of Office installations and what it means if your computer dies.

The most consistent answer is that the new licensing agreement binds Office 2013 to a single computer for life. If that computer dies or you have to reinstall Windows and Office 2013, the most frequent, though not universal, answer is that reinstalling on the same machine under those circumstances will be alright but transferring the license to another computer will not fly under the new rules.

The latest puzzling ding to Office users comes on the heels of the somewhat unpopular Windows 8 offering and have left many casting a wary eye on the future of their productivity applications. Many of the Microsoft faithful have determined their best option is to stay on Windows 7 and Office 2010, essentially forever. In the meantime here are some options for those considering alternatives.

GoogleApps For Business

Probably the best indicator of how fast GoogleDocs has grown in functionality are the number of companies scrapping Office and Outlook in favor of the business version of GoogleApps. I’ve helped many small businesses make that transition and, after a period of adjustment, most end up liking the portability and platform independence.

As more companies transition to a Bring Your Own Tech business model, device and platform compatibility become more important. In combination with services under development, like GoogleVoice, Google may be closing in on a turn-key office system with many compelling features.

LibreOffice

Now up to version 4, LibreOffice was forked from OpenOffice in 2010 and pursued a divergent development path. LibreOffice is a full-featured and powerful desktop productivity suite with a wide base of OS support.

While functional, the downside to Writer and Calc can be that there are formating and compatibility issues with Microsoft products. LibreOffice may be fine for you, but if all your customers use office and the documents you send back and forth don’t look right, that’s not a win.

OxygenOffice Professional

Another OpenOffice fork that comes packaged with templates, clipart, and 3D models so you don’t have to chase all those down yourself. It also comes with VBA support for automation.

Caligra Office

Calligra Office is one of the few that has a project manager built-in along with an app called BrainDump that lets you capture and organize your thoughts and brainstorming ideas. Calligra Office has some compelling features and it’s an application package worth watching.

If you stick with Office 2013 and run into a situation where you have to reinstall Office and you don’t like the answer you get from one tech support operator, try a different one.  Right now there is a lot of confusion, even inside Microsoft, so don’t hesitate to shop for a better answer if at first you don’t succeed.

Using 1Password To Organize Your Digital Life


When it comes to paid software, I’ll admit to being tight with a buck. It’s one of the reasons I’ve used GIMP for so many years instead of springing for Photoshop. Sometimes I’ll loosen up the wallet, but only for a particularly good piece of software or to support continued development of a product like Corel AfterShot Pro (which is one of the few professional photo products that is available for Windows, Mac and Linux).

Another class of software products that get my money are the ones that save me time, because at the pace business moves today, time really is money. If the time I get back is worth the investment the developer gets my money, which brings us to 1Password by AgileBits.

1Password is more than just a password manager

1Password is one of those applications that you marvel has not been developed before now, as it goes beyond password applications and fills a unique role as an online identity manager. One of the biggest bonuses is integration between your desktop, laptop and mobile devices.

The biggest handicap for most people using secure passwords is remembering them. A password like SD1798$z33A#CC98!13 is a fairly secure, but most people could not remember it without writing it down. Even if you could remember it, imagine trying to use a different but similarly secure password at every website you visit!

With 1Password, security and convenience combine into one application that lets you generate and use unique, secure passwords and store them in an encrypted wallet that integrates with your browser. But the real bonus with 1Password is the integration between your desktop, laptop and mobile devices. You can pass the encrypted password container between any Windows, iOS or Android device.

If that was all it did 1Password would be a winner, but the functionality doesn’t stop there. It also securely stores your credit card numbers and bank account data. On top of that it integrates secure notes about each site. So, if you’re like me and keep forgetting the answers to your secret questions, you can make notes in 1Password and be confident those notes are safe from prying eyes.

1Password will organize your online identities, site logins and software licenses in one place. In the newest version, 1Pasword3, is a feature called PasswordAnywhere, that lets you access your password and login information securely from any web browser on any OS.

For tech administrators who may access a wide variety of accounts on customer machines, an application like 1Password can be a lifesaver. No more unencrypted spreadsheets loaded with sensitive customer data or group passwords used by everyone in the company! You can even set up separate business and personal logins on individual sites and set up secure notes to yourself about customer systems.

Once you get used to 1Password you quickly start wondering how the world got by without an application like this for so long. It’s one of those gems in the software world that’s way overdue and well worth the money.

My only ding is they don’t have a Linux version and no plans to develop one, though you can use the PasswordAnywhere feature with any operating system. Still, it is convenience combined with security, and that alone makes it worth a look.

How To Run Android Apps On Windows or Mac With BlueStacks

It all started when a developer was on the train with his daughter, who was playing a game on his Android powered smartphone. When they got home, his daughter wanted to play the game on their computer at home – but she couldn’t. From that idea was born a product called BlueStacks that allows anyone to run Android apps on a Windows or Mac computer.

When the first release of BlueStacks was downloaded millions of times in just the first nine days, the company, AgileBits, knew they had a winner. Venture capital flowed into the company and the product developed quickly.

How BlueStacks works

Like all brilliant ideas, BlueStacks seems obvious in hindsight – just run a virtualized instance of Android on your desktop so you can run your favorite mobile apps. The app player for Windows 7 is still in beta and there are a few issues related to fit and finish. I had to restart the player twice when it crashed on my system. Those are pretty minor niggles and, for the most part, the application is smooth and responsive.

Downloading new android apps in BlueStacks is as easy as clicking a button. Once the app is done downloading, you can access it through the MyApps tab.

How to install and use BlueStacks

Download the beta app player at bluestacks.com

Install the app player

Download your favorite apps

Additional tips and observations

One feature I don’t particularly care for is that BlueStacks adds a status icon to your system tray that is not conveniently disabled. The only time that’s really handy is when you’re downloading apps and want to go do something else (the status icon will alert you when your app has finished downloading).

To transfer apps from your Android device to your PC, use the Cloud Connect mobile app. You’ll need to register with an email or Facebook account to get a PIN for Cloud Connect. Basically the service lets you upload apps from your smartphone or other Android device and then download them from Cloud Connect to your BlueStacks player on your PC.

The fact that BlueStacks is so useful and popular, even in beta, bodes well for the success of AgileBits. Right now the player is still saddled with some of the slightly annoying limitations of Android, but development is progressing quickly and I expect those to be smoothed over as the application matures.

Bottom line: For those of you who have been missing Angry Birds (or your other favorite Android app) on your desktop, the wait is over.

Music in My Ears: A Review of Bose’s MIE2i Headphones

Post by David Pierce. Find me on Twitter.

For the longest time, I didn’t particularly care about my headphones. I had two basic requirements—playing music, and no just kidding that was it—and beyond that, I didn’t really think about them.

Then, by virtue of working at PC Magazine, I got to try out some actually good headphones. You know, like $1,000-plus headphones. And I realized, quickly, that headphones are one of the few things where you definitely get what you pay for. The difference between the Apple headphones that came bundled with my iPod and a pair of decent, $100 headphones, is absolutely astounding: music is clearer, louder, crisper, more accurate to the recording, and is a much more enjoyable listening experience.

I should say this before going any further: if you don’t want to spend money on a decent pair of headphones, that’s fine, but don’t even test out a nice pair. Once you hear what good headphones sound like, you won’t be able to go back. I couldn’t, and that’s why I started shopping around. I landed on the Bose IE2: in-ear headphones, with controls for Apple products and the fantastic StayHear tips. But more on all that in a second.

I’d been vacillating back and forth on buying IE2s for a few weeks, when all of a sudden a pair showed up at my door courtesy of The Greatest Girlfriend In The World (my girlfriend Claire). She bought them for me, and they just showed up. The pair I got was the MIE2i, which include an in-line microphone and iPod controls. I’ve been using them almost non-stop for a few days now, and have put them through all of my tests (the names of which I totally didn’t just make up):

The “Does It Stay?” Test

The most important thing for me with a pair of headphones, more even than how they sound, is whether or not they stay in my ears. I need to be able to walk around, go to the gym, or get the cord a little caught on my zipper, and not have them fall out of my ears.

Thanks to Bose’s proprietary StayHear tips, the whole IE2 line passes this test with flying colors. The StayHear tips are made of silicone (they come in three sizes), and they sit in the bowl of your ear and create a super-snug and comfortable fit that’s much better than most in-ear headphones. Running, jumping, or just during normal everyday use, the IE2s always stayed snug—they feel a little loose, but that’s a sign of how comfortable they are. They’ve never fallen out, except when I wanted them to.

The IE2s don’t actually go in your ear canal—they poke into the canal, but don’t actually seal in there. It’s a much more comfortable solution for your ears, and are much easier to wear for a long time than most. Even if there were nothing else notable about the IE2 headphones, I’d still recommend them because they’re so comfortable—if you wear headphones for hours at a time, you can’t beat these.

There’s an extra bonus, too: the IE2s have a shirt clip on the cord, and the cord is crazy-long (45.25 inches), so it’s extra easy to keep the IE2s connected and secure, even if you put your iPod in a bag or a backpack. Clip the earphones to your shirt or strap, and it’s a perfect fit.

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The “Sounds Like…” Test

As with all things Bose makes, the sound of the IE2s is the hallmark feature. And the headphones do sound great—they need less volume to play music at listenable levels, and they don’t distort even at extremely high volumes.

Bose has a tendency to accentuate the bass a little on its headphones and speakers, and the IE2s are no exception. Bass is heavy, but I haven’t found it to be too much. PCMag’s audio analyst, Tim Gideon, a Guy Who Knows These Things, is much smarter about the intricacies of sound quality than I am, so read his review of the IE2s for more on the sound quality.

The other thing I really like about the IE2s is that they don’t leak a lot of sound, meaning I’m never that guy on the subway playing embarrassing music that everyone around me can ear. They leak a bit, and at really loud levels the headphones are audible from a distance, but at moderate volumes (all that’s normally needed, since these are loud headphones), they leak little to nothing. Most in-ear headphones have at least a bit of a leaking problem, and the IE2s aren’t the best available, but they’re far better than the Apple earphones I’ve been using for forever.

The “Say What?” Test

Sometimes—particularly on the subway, on a plane, or when I’m at work and my co-workers are especially obnoxious—I need to be able to pop in my headphones and not hear a darn thing. The IE2s aren’t really designed to be noise-canceling, and they’re certainly not as capable of it as some other headphones, but they get the job done. Low rumbles and the like come through a bit (meaning they’re not the ideal thing for blocking out plane noises), but as long as I have music playing the headphones drown out talking and most other ambient noise.

Noise-canceling headphones are typically a lot more expensive than $99 or $129, and if that’s what you want most these probably aren’t the right one for you, but the IE2s are a totally serviceable way to drown out distractions around you when you need to focus.

The “Can You Hear Me Now?” Test

When headphones have a microphone in-line, the obvious test is to see how it works with your cell phone. For me, the unfortunate answer is that it doesn’t—well, not completely anyway. If you buy in the IE2 line, you get three options, all with trade-offs: you either get the headphones without any in-line controls (the $99 IE2), headphones + microphone that supports most phones (the $129 MIE2), or headphones + microphone + audio controls (the $129 MIE2i). No matter which model you buy, the headphones work with anything you plug them into, but the controls don’t always work. The MIE2i, for instance, won’t control volume or phone calls on my Samsung Fascinate, but audio sounds as good as ever.

If you’re primarily going to be using them with an Apple device, there’s absolutely no downside to the IE2 line of headphones. If you listen on something else, you’ll lose the in-line controls, but still get the great audio. For me, someone who listens to an iPod much more often than on my phone, it’s a worthwhile tradeoff to have to actually, you know, hold my phone to my ear sometimes.

If you’re in the mood to upgrade something in your tech arsenal, headphones are a great choice. For $100, you can take a giant step up from the headphones that came with your phone or music player, and you’ll notice a huge difference in your music experience.