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Category Archives: Product/Service Review

Twitter & Penn State

What are you doing?  One million-plus Twitter users certainly want to know.  I discovered the increasingly popular social network after I noticed a few coworkers at my summer internship using the service.  Initially, I used the service to keep in touch with them after I came back to school.  Then things got a lot more interesting.  I began to discover people from all across the Penn State community.  It turns out that fellow students, professors, alumni and even Penn State services all have Twitter accounts.

The best way to describe Twitter is that it is like Facebook status updates- but better.  Messages are limited to 140 characters at a time, which gives just enough space for short and easily digestible information.  You can use the service from your cellphone, through a web browser and through any number of mobile devices.  To further explain the simple social network, I’ll test your SAT skills with a nice analogy: Followers are to Twitter what Friends are to Facebook.  Followers are people that have elected to see your updates in real time.  The “Following” category of your account lists the Twitter users that you follow, and therefore receive their updates.  Below you will find a list containing some of my favorite Twitter users around Penn State, as well as some other members of the Twitterverse.

Penn State People

@BlueBandSteve
Naturally, you should all follow me.  Like the name suggests, I am in the Penn State Marching Blue Band and my name is most certainly Steve.  During football games, I’ll post updates via cellphone about the score/conditions of the game.  During the Rose Bowl on Jan 1, I gave updates about the pep rallies before the game, the Parade of Roses and the Rose Bowl game.  Outside of football season, I tweet links to new blogs posts and cool stories around the internet.

@shcdean and @targuman
The Dean of the Honors College here at PSU has a Twitter account.  Although the @shcdean account isn’t really active, he does post more actively on the @targuman account.

Penn State Clubs/Services/Things

@PennStateLive
This Twitter account is great to keep up with Penn State News.  Penn State Live is the official online news outlet for Penn State.  Everything from research to events are covered on this website.  Following Penn State Live on Twitter is a great way to keep up to date on all your official Penn State News.

@PalmerMuseum
The museum you always pass on the way to class (but have never been in) has a Twitter account to keep followers updated on new exhibits and events.  Sidenote: It is definitely worth it to take a trip to the museum.  It is free and pretty cool.

@sraclub
The SRA Club (Security & Risk Analysis Club) keep followers abreast about the next cool event that they are hosting.

@OnwardState
The Onward State Twitter account updates you with the latest and greatest news and events around the Penn State community.

@IST2U
The official news source for the College of IST.

Other Great Twitter People To Follow

@BarackObama
The official Twitter account of President Obama.  This account remains the most followed Twitter account to date.  Though the account was most active during the campaign, I hope the President uses Twitter in the future as an avenue of news and conversation.

@CNNBRK
CNN Breaking News posts on this Twitter account when something groundbreaking happens somewhere in the world.

@NASA
To keep up with NASA missions, follow this Twitter account.  They post pictures, videos and other info from the space program.  If you every wanted to be an astronaut (or a space shuttle), follow NASA.

@MarsScienceLab
This account represents the mission to mars in 2011.  They were scheduled to launch a few months ago, but technical difficulties prevented a launch.  As this mission explores Mars, they will update the Twitter account on the fly.  Check out @MarsPhoenix for comparison.  When they found evidence of ice/water on Mars, the people following @MarsPhoenix heard first!  Pretty cool stuff.

A Final Note

I encourage you to sign up for a Twitter account.  To sign up, click here.  It is free and really simple to do.  Start following some of the above Twitter accounts to start your experience, and before long you will have a following of your own.  Be especially sure to follow @BlueBandSteve and @OnwardState.  If you have suggestions for cool Twitter users to follow, leave a comment below and I will update this post.  If you have questions, let me know in the comments.

This post originally aired on the blog Onward State on 2-3-09.

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The Switch Easy Rebel Touch for the iPod Touch (2G)

It’s been a long time since I last posted and I thought I might start posting again with a short review on a product I just got in the mail.  I purchased my iPod Touch (second generation) about two months ago when it debuted and have been searching for a suitable case ever since it got its first scratch.  Fortunately, the glass facade does not scratch easily but the aluminum backing scratches like a chicken.  I spent some time on forums and review sites and decided to bite the bullet and purchase a case.  I decided on the Rebel Touch from a company called Switch Easy.  You can find the product page here.  It took about a week to get to my house from the West Coast but it was definitely worth the wait.  The case shipped in a small blister pack (the type of packaging that will ruin your hands) inside a medium sized envelope via USPS.

In the package you get: the case, two screen protectors, a headphone adapter,  a docking station insert, a screen cleaner and a stand to hold up the iPod for easy viewing- all for $30.00.  After following the instructions for applying the screen protector, I decided to peel it off and not use it.  In reality, I didn’t like the tiny air bubbles between the screen and the plastic overlay, clearly a direct consequence of my application.  The instructions for putting the case on the iPod make the process seem daunting, but it really isn’t that bad.  The case is in two parts: a silicon underlay that sits next to the iPod and a hard plastic skeleton that holds the primary skin onto the device.  What results is an incredibly functional and well-fitting case.  It adds very little bulk or heft to the device, making it easily pocketable.  What sets the Rebel Touch case apart from its peers is that it slides easily into a pocket.  Those of you who have ever owned a traditional silicone skin/case knows that the normal person has a moderate to difficult time trying to insert or extract the device from a standard pants pocket.

Switch Easy includes a headphone adapter in case the headphones you use don’t fit the contours of the case quite right.  I have used simple Sony earbuds and large Bose can-style headphones and the plugs fit without the help of the adapter.  The included dock cover fits snugly and nulls most of the worries I had about foreign objects entering the dock port.  What’s even better about this case is that it provides perfect (and I believe improved) access to the volume rocker and the sleep/wake button.  I always found the volume rocker on the side of the device difficult to use and this case provides the perfect amount of tactile contact to use it without having to utilize both hands.  The sleep/wake button on the top of the device remains just as usable as before, which is always a good thing.  Some people have shared concern about quality control standards with this case and the sleep/wake button not being very accessible.  Apparently, those problems have been fixed and all cases that are now shipping are free of defects.  Switch Easy is working with affected customers to replace their defective cases.

If you have a iPod Touch, this is the case for you.  For around $30.00 shipped, you get the best case that I’ve ever come across.  If you have questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll get back to you.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2008 in Product/Service Review

 

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How to Sync Google Calendars To Your iPod Touch/iPhone

While searching the seemingly infinite expanse of Google for directions for syncing my iPod Touch with my Google Calendar, I finally found a solution. The traditional solution is to sync you Google Calendar with mail.app or Microsoft Outlook and then sync it with iTunes. I had been using OggSync for a while, but it never seemed to actually sync the Outlook calendar and my Google Calendar correctly, 100% of the time. The only way I can stay organized with with Google’s products including Gmail and Gcal, so proper and functional syncing are a necessity.

Alas, my Google searching yielded acceptable results. I found a service called Nueva Sync which uses Microsoft Exchange servers to sync your Google Calendar with your iPhone or iPod Touch calendar. The instructions are simple (taken directly from Nueva Sync’s website):

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Posted by on October 9, 2008 in General, Product/Service Review

 

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When Interns Rate Companies

At job fairs around the country, recruiters promise a summer internship program promising bountiful opportunities and plenty of hands on experience. As some of us know, those promises can sometimes be shattered by menial “intern” work and little opportunity to explore. Ever want to cut through recruiter’s tactful spiel and find out first hand what previous interns think about the company that they worked for?

Enter internshipratings.com, a new, free service that bills itself as “a resource to rate, research and compare internships in various industries across the United States.” Recently featured in a September 16, 2008 Tech Crunch article, the website has a goal to collect information about intern’s experience and relay it in a easy to digest way.

Click “more” to get a taste of what internshipratings.com looks like.

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Posted by on September 18, 2008 in Product/Service Review

 

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Mini Review

Yesterday I purchased the second generation iPod Touch in the 16 GB size. I’m currently writing this post on the device and I am slowly getting used to the virtual keyboard. I am amazed how fast and painless it was to connect to the Penn State wireless network with the VPN. I promise a comprehensive review in a few days.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2008 in Product/Service Review

 

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LG Chocolate 3 (vx8560) Review

My cell phone contract expired a few weeks ago and I decided to stick with Verizon as my cell phone carrier. I find that in most areas that I’ve been in, the reception is excellent. The two areas where I spend most of my time, D.C. Metro Area and University Park, PA are well covered by Verizon’s network. Upon doing research on their decently large selection of cell phones, I decided on the new LG Chocolate 3. All reviews were positive, and I didn’t mind paying a little extra money for a better cell phone. In the past, I have just gotten the free cell phone they offer with a new, two year contract and it has proven to be more trouble than it is worth.

It turns out that my choice proved to be the correct one, as the Chocolate 3 is one of the best phones I have ever used. Having sold Cingular, T Mobile and AT&T phones at a large consumer electronics store in the past, I have seen a ton of phones. This phone packs in the right features mixed with an attractive body.

Click “more” to read the pros and cons of the device.

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Posted by on August 31, 2008 in Product/Service Review

 

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Eco Button: “One Small Click One Big Change”

A few days ago, I received a package containing a product called the Eco Button.  I read about this product on the internet and after a little searching, found the company’s contact information.  I requested a unit to review for this blog and additionally for my interest.  The company gladly sent me the Eco Button in the hopes that I might share some information about it (since there’s not a ton of info about it on the web).

Let me start out by saying that I found the concept of this device is quite interesting.  The shtick is that by pushing the bright green LED button your computer goes into a state of deep sleep and therefore saves energy.  The website has this to say:

“The Ecobutton™ acts as a strong visual reminder and prompt for you to save electricity each time your computer is going to be left idle.”

So the idea is that every time you leave your desk for a break or a meeting or for the day, you push this button and it manages your computer into hibernation/sleep/standby.  Their argument for this device is that people don’t want to spend time putting their computer to sleep (which generally takes less than 3 exhaustive mouse clicks).  Because of this fact, they have invented the device to be a one push button for accomplishing the same feat.

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