A Couple of Updates on Previous Posts

Hello,
This is a follow-up to two previous posts of ours:

  1. NOOKcolor Hack
  2. IR Camera Hack

Let’s start off with the NOOK.

  1. NOOKcolor Hack:
    We mentioned in that post that we didn’t know of a way to “unroot” the NOOK; now we do. Recently we successfully reset the NOOK to factory defaults. To accomplish this, make sure the NOOK is powered off. Then power it on — wait until the “CyanogenMod” screen with the rotating icon pops up. As soon as that screen pops up, hold down the power button until the NOOK turns off, then wait a few seconds. Repeat 7x (for a total of eight boot interruptions). After the eighth one your NOOK will do one of two things: it will either A) start up as a NOOK by reinstalling the default boot image, or B) you will have to reset it by turning it on again while holding down the volume up (+) button at the same time. After that, you should be good to go.
  2. IR Camera Hack:
    We announced in that post that we didn’t know if you could replace the IR filter, making it a risky hack. About two weeks ago we were in need of another camera for a production, and so decided to try to replace the filter, and we were able to do so successfully, and the camera is now functioning normally. If you are going to do this, just make sure you have the filter and the rubber seals that go around it.

We hope you enjoyed this update and found it helpful. Be sure to check around soon — we’ll be releasing a review of Fitbit’s new ChargeHR sometime soon! Please subscribe to the site (over in the menu bar), and check us out on Google+. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Handz Studioz YouTube Channel!

This has been on our list for a while, and as the year gets off to a start, we finally did it. Handz Studioz now has its very own YouTube channel! Be sure to check it out and subscribe! Below is the channel trailer — tell us what you think in the comments.

Official Handz Studioz Review — The Best Apps of 2014

logos

You’re probably aware that there are a lot of apps out there. But do you know how many there really are? The facts are pretty stunning — Android users have access to 1.3 million apps via Google Play, and Apple users have access to 1.2 million via the App Store (data from July 2014)! That’s a lot of apps, so we thought we’d simplify things for you a bit. As the year draws to a close, Handz Studioz presents you with our list of the best apps of 2014. We’ve broken them down into the top three for each category (such as games, note taking, education, etc). Enjoy! (Please note that this is mainly geared towards Apple users, but most of these apps are available on the other platforms)

We all like to play, but sadly, work comes before play — so let’s get right into Category 1: Productivity.

First place: Pages, by Apple, Inc. It’s essentially Microsoft Word for Apple products, and despite many other word processors, Pages is still the cream of the crop when it comes to word processing.

Pages

Second place: iA Writer, by Information Architects Inc. This app replaces the default iOS 8 keyboard and adds a new row of keys that let you skip lines and individual letters, parenthesize and quote without switching keyboards, and more. All in all a very good application, although perhaps not quite as good a deal — it’s $4.99; Apple users with newer devices can get Pages for free.

iA Writer

Third place: Evernote, by Evernote. This app is great. It syncs with your Mac or PC, keeps checklists, notes, pictures (they have a neat feature that lets you search the text in an image), and can use your calendar to help you plan. As always, Evernote continues to impress, whether on the computer or the tablet.

Evernote

Now that we’ve done some work, let’s play a little in Category 2: Games. This category is a bit tricky since there are so many different genres of games to choose from, but we’ve decided to rank these based on aspects they all share, such as graphics, performance, etc. Plus fun factor — personally we find Trial Xtreme 3 more interesting and fun than Candy Crush Saga, but that’s open to debate I suppose…

First place: Temple Run 2, by Imangi Studios. The second installment in the Temple Run saga, Temple Run 2 is loads of fun — and that’s not all. Good graphics, high frame rates (we videoed gameplay with a slow motion camera [which we reviewed here], and found it to go up to 60 fps), and a nearly spotless performance record round this app out at #1 on our list. Users around the world enjoy these apps — the first version, Temple Run, is the ninth-most-downloaded app on the App Store!

Temole Run 2

Second place: any of the Angry Birds versions, by Rovio Entertainment, Ltd. Angry Birds comes very close to Temple Run 2 for first place. Ultimately the thing that decided it for us was the challenges that Temple Run 2 does, such as the Daily Challenge and the Weekly Challenges. Maybe we’re just goal-oriented or something, but that little bit of “zip” that a challenge provides tipped a nearly level scale. Either way, you’ll want to have both of these on your phone or tablet.

Third place: Deer Hunter 2014, by Glu Games Inc. Third on our list, Deer Hunter 2014 is king of the castle when it comes to graphics. Let’s back up a little and say that Glu Games is king of the castle when it comes to graphics — every game of theirs that we looked at has stunning visuals, and DH 2014 is no exception. Looking at performance, the app can be slightly frustrating. Occasionally there can be a timer error that means your energy (which you need to go hunting) doesn’t replenish itself over time like it is supposed to do. Luckily, this problem is easy to fix — just connect to a network and start the app. DH 2014 also can take a while to load, sometimes up to two or three minutes; it’s usually faster when connected to a network. As for fun factor, it depends on your taste. Our nearly all-male staff finds playing with guns and shooting animals in Africa to be quite enthralling, although this may not appeal to all audiences.

Deer Hunter 2014

Honorable mention: Clash of Clans, by Supercell. There are so many good games out there that we just had to do one more. Clash of Clans isn’t the most engaging game, and that’s one of the reasons it’s on our list — it’s still fun without requiring all of a user’s brain function in order to operate it. Graphics are good and performance is stable. The only problem we have had is server maintenance, which results in temporary inability to play…which brings us to another point: you have to be connected to the internet in order to play Clash of Clans.

Bonus! Hardest game: Geometry Dash, by RobTop Games AB. Download it (or the Lite version). Try it. Fail. Try again. ‘Nuff said.

Let’s move on to Category 3: Document Management. So much of our lives now revolves around our documents — resumes, essays, letters, and or just plain grocery lists all have to be stored and managed. Here are Handz Studioz’ top three picks for document management from 2014.

First place: Documents, by Readdle. This app handles everything — it’s pretty incredible! If you can name it, Documents can handle it. .pdf’s, .zip’s, pictures, audio, .doc’s — they all work with this app — you should definitely get this app going into 2015.

Documents

Second place: Google Drive, by Google, Inc. We’re talking about Google Drive here, folks. What can you expect other than seamless integration and performance? The app doesn’t dissappoint — it’s every bit as functional and useful as the online drive — we highly recommend it.

Google Drive

Third place: iBooks, by Apple, Inc. iBooks isn’t particularly impressive as document managers go, but it’s still our favorite for managing .pdf’s. The sleek new look introduced in iOS 7 and the bug fixes in iOS 8 make handling .pdf’s a pleasure in iBooks — it now comes standard when upgrading to iOS 8, so if you haven’t upgraded yet, it’s something to consider. We reviewed iOS 8 in two installments this summer. Check out the first one here.

iBooks

We’ve arrived at our last category. With all the new camera abilities on recent Apple products, we feel that we should mention Category 4: Photo Editing.

First place: Autodesk Pixlr, by Autodesk Inc. This app is pretty nice, especially for the price ($free). While it’s certainly not Photoshop or Gimp, it gets the job done quite nicely on your devices. The UI is simple to use and powerful, with a wide range of effects, overlays, text, collages, and more. We highly recommend this to just about anyone, and it certainly suffices for the needs of the average consumer.

Autodesk Pixlr

Second place: Sketchbook Pro, by Autodesk Inc. This app might not be on the App Store anymore, unless it has been replaced with another name. Regardless, it’s pretty powerful, and we highly recommend it. Why is it second place? The UI is not helpful at all…there are no labels with the buttons, so you kind of have to guess at what they do until you learn them all. Other than that, it’s great.

There is no third place for this category. If you have a suggestion, please comment below. One app that we have not looked at is Apple’s App of the Year, Pixelmator. It’s a highly rated photo editor that we may look into eventually. If anyone has looked at this in depth and has any feedback on it, please let us know in the comments.

That concludes Handz Studioz’ Best Apps of 2014 Review! We hope you enjoyed this post; please share Handz Studioz with others in your community (online or physical). Disagree with any of our choices? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks for visiting Handz Studioz! If you find our content interesting, consider following us and we’ll let you know via email every time we release a new post!

-The Editor

Apple Releases a Look at Their New 5K iMac

On Thursday the 16th, Apple released a look at its newest products: the iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 3, and a new, 5K iMac.

5K iMac

Image from Apple.com

Today we’ll take an in-depth look at the new iMac, and you can expect a post on the new iPads soon.

The first thing to be mentioned here is that this computer is pretty big, with a 27″ display. However, Apple went a step further and added a Retina Display, which basically means the pixels are so small that they can’t be seen with the naked eye. But wait — that’s not all! Not only does the new iMac have Retina Display, it also has a screen resolution of 5120 x 2880 (which comes out to 218 ppi). That’s 5K — not 4K, 5K. In other words, this Apple machine has a higher resolution than a movie theater screen (which is typically 4K)!

Now that we’ve looked at the display, let’s look at the performance:
iMac Graphics

Image from Apple.com

Apple tells us that its new iMac will have stunning performance, with the latest AMD graphics processors, with up to 3.5 teraflops of graphics power. This will provide stunning images, games, and 3D. Apple claims that these will provide a 45 percent performance upgrade from the Nvidia GeForce GTX-powered Macs. The new iMac will be built around the 4th-Gen Intel Core i7 processor, boasting up to 4.0 GHz with the integrated Intel TurboBoost.

Apple’s new supercomputer will utilize the new Fusion Drive system, which combines the storage capabilities of a hard drive with the performance of an SSD. You can get up to 3TB of storage total in the system, with up to 1TB of that being SSD (flash storage). The Fusion Drive will provide outstanding performance because of the way it works: the OS boots from the SSD, and most of the data is stored on the hard drive. Essentially, it’s a tower-computer drive system rolled into one unit.

The new iMac will feature the new Thunderbolt 2.0 ports for the fastest data transfer possible, with speeds up to 20GBps, 4x faster than the USB 3.0 system.

Finally, Apple topped it off with the fastest internet speeds, up to 1.3 GBps of the latest three-stream 802.11 ac WiFi. The new iMac will feature channel bandwidth of a stunning 80MHz, for about twice the bandwidth of standard channel bandwidth.

So, there you have it: Apple’s new 5K iMac, in a nutshell. If you enjoyed this post, please like and follow! Please share Handz Studioz with others in your community (online or physical), and let others whom you think would enjoy our site know about us!

-The Editor

External Links:
http://www.apple.com/imac-with-retina/?cid=wwa-us-kwg-mac-com
http://www.apple.com/imac-with-retina/performance/
http://www.wired.com/2014/10/new-apple-5k-imacs/

Hack Your Nook Color to Run Android 4.2 (Overwrite OS, No SD Card!)

A while we did a post showing a Nook Color that I hacked to run Android 4.2 Jellybean, and today you get the knowledge; I’m going to tell you how to do it. The title of this post is a little misleading, but not completely. It says, “No SD Card,” but you do need one in order to perform the root. However, once the root is done, you can remove the SD card and use the Nook without it.

PLEASE NOTE: This root is not the kind where you pop out the SD card and reboot and it’s a Nook again. To my knowledge, this is irreversible. The MicroSD card I used was 16GB, but I believed you can go as low as 4GB for this. Some people used 2GB, but using at least 4GB will speed up the process (and make sure you have space for all the files that you will use).

That aside,
Today I’m going to tell you how to make you Nook Color into an Android 4.2 Jellybean tablet. Here’s what you’re going to need:

OK. Now that you’ve downloaded from the provided links (use the links that I provide, because they all work with each other. If you try to use the wrong version of gapps for CM 10.1.3 it won’t work. These are the files that I used when I rooted my Nook and they should work.), this is what you need to do:

  1. Insert your MicroSD card into your computer using an adapter (or a cable or whatever you need).
  2. On a Windows PC:
    • Launch Win32 DiskImager
    • Make sure the drive letter selected is the location of your MicroSD card (in other words, choose to burn the file to the MicroSD card).
    • Select the ClockwordMod Recovery IMG file that you downloaded and unzipped.
    • Click “Write” and wait. As I recall, this took a while.
  3. On a Mac:
    • Use Disk Utility to erase the MicroSD card and format it to FAT32. Then unmount the MicroSD card from a terminal prompt and use the command line to burn the image to the card. (Detailed instructions here)
  4. Once you have completed the instructions for whichever machine you are using, copy all the other downloaded .zip files files (CyanogenMod 10.1.3, gapps, repartition, and reformat .zips) onto the MicroSD card. DO NOT unzip these files, and DO NOT put them in a subfolder.
  5. Safely remove (unmount, eject, whatever your system calls it) the MicroSD card.

OK, now it’s time to actually hack the Nook. Once you have done this, YOU CANNOT REVERSE IT TO MY KNOWLEDGE. So if you want to use the Nook as a Nook in the future, STOP NOW. If you want an Android 4.2 tablet, continue.

Your Nook should be shut down (turned off completely) to start the hack.

  1. Get into ClockworkMod.
    • Insert the MicroSD card and turn on the Nook Color
    • I believe you will see a loading message in the middle of the screen with skulls on either side (I can’t remember for sure; I did this in February).
    • Then you will come to a menu in amber colored text (I think that it might be blue, actually; once again, I can’t remember).
    • You use the volume buttons to go up and down the menu, Nook button to select an option, one click of the power button to go up a menu
  2. Repartition and reformat Nook’s internal storage (you can skip this if you have done it previously, but I would recommend doing it anyway).
    • Navigate to “Install .zip from SD card.”
    • Select the repartition package (repartition2GBdata-v1.zip).
    • Go back to the main menu (press the power button) and select reboot. (Note on this: I believe that when you do this it reboots as a Nook. If it DOES reboot as a Nook, shut own the Nook [by holding down power] and continue with the next steps.)
    • Navigate back to “Install .zip from SD card.” This time select the reformat package (reformatData-v1.zip).
    • Go back to the main menu (press the power button) and select reboot. (Note on this: I cannot remember whether or not it will reboot as a Nook at this stage. I believe it DOES. If it DOES reboot as a Nook, just shut down the Nook [by holding down power] and continue with the next steps.)
  3. Install CyanogenMod 10.1.3
    • Navigate to “Wipe data/factory reset” and follow the steps to convince the machine that you actually want to factory reset.
    • Navigate to “Install .zip from SD card.”
    • Select the CyanogenMod 10.1.3 file.
    • Select the Google Apps (gapps) file (this is optional, but if you want to download apps from the Play Store, you must select Google Apps).
    • Navigate back to the main menu (press the power button).
    • Remove the MicroSD card from the Nook Color.
    • Select reboot.

When the Nook reboots, it will not run CyanogenMod the first time (It might, but usually it will boot as a Nook from my experience and everything I read online). Just power off the Nook and power it back on and it should start up running CyanogenMod 10.1.3 (which is Android 4.2 Jellybean).

After its first boot up, CyanogenMod will prompt you to configure the Nook (which is an Android tablet at this point) and provide Google credentials.

Well, that’s it! Congratulations, you now have your own Android tablet! You can put the MicroSD card back into your computer and remove the files, and after setting up the tablet, put it in as extra storage.

If you enjoyed this post, please like and follow! Please share it with others in your community (online, or physical) you think would enjoy it or find it helpful!

Thanks for checking out Handz Studioz!

-The Editor

External Links:
This is the tutorial that I originally used when I hacked my Nook Color this February (I didn’t follow the steps exactly, because I used a different [newer] version of CyanogenMod and Google Apps). Unfortunately, some of the links to his files don’t work anymore, so it is a bit obsolete.

http://www.jamesrigg.com/2012/11/android-4-1-jelly-bean-on-the-nook-color/

iCloud Drive — Apple’s “Dropbox-Killer”

iCloud Drive

With iOS 8 came a huge update to iCloud. Before, iCloud was just this service up on the web where you could store files and then pull them down for use. In the update, Apple added iCloud Drive, commonly referred to as the “Dropbox-killer.” It’s basically Apple’s version of Google Drive. Apple currently has a version set up for all of its iDevices (obviously) running iOS 8, Windows machines (7 or later), and Macs (as long as they’re running OS X Yosemite).

Today we’re going to do an analysis of iCloud Drive; we’ll also compare it to Google Drive and Dropbox. Is it really a “Dropbox-killer” or will Dropbox survive?

iCloud Drive looks like a great service. I personally don’t use iCloud, but I may start now that Drive is out. There are a few problems with iCloud Drive, however. First, you only get 5 free GB of space. Google Drive gives you 15 GB of free space. Dropbox, however, only gives 2 GB — but there’s a catch. With Dropbox you can get up to 16 GB of free space by referring friends, something that Apple doesn’t offer. So Apple didn’t beat Google with the free space, and it sort of killed Dropbox. Yes, you can get more space in Dropbox eventually, but to start, iCloud wins here against Dropbox.

Now let’s look at pricing. The pricing options options for iCloud Drive aren’t awful, but they just can’t compare with Google. Look at the following comparison of pricing. Google wins here in terms of storage for the price.

  • iCloud: $0.99/month for 20 GB
  • Google: $1.99/month for 100 GB
  • iCloud: $3.99/month for 200 GB
  • Google: $9.99/month for 1 TB
  • iCloud: $9.99/month for 500 GB
  • Google: $99.99/month for 10 TB
  • iCloud: $19.99/month for 1 TB
  • Google: $299.99/month for 20 TB
  • Google: $399.99/month for 30 TB

We see here that Google wins in terms of storage for price, but Google’s storage plans aren’t quite as user friendly as Apple’s are. I would probably only need 20 GB, so I might go with Google’s free (15 GB) plan. Apple’s plan costs $0.99 for 20 GB, then Google charges a dollar more for 5x as much (100 GB) storage. Sorry Apple.

Then things start to lean in Apple’s favor. Whereas Google jumps straight to 1 TB for $9.99 (few users need this much), iCloud goes to 200 GB for $3.99, a much more affordable price per year. Then Google jumps to 10 TB for $99.99/month! The problem here is that Google’s prices are better up to 1 TB, but then it jumps so high that the user would be paying A LOT for their storage. Ultimately, I probably would go with Google simply because it’s the same price for 1 TB as it is for Apple’s 500 GB.

How does Dropbox compare? Not very well. You have to upgrade to a Pro plan and subscribe to monthly or yearly (depending on how you would like to pay) Pro 1 TB plan. The Pro plan costs $9.99/month or $99/year, so it’s comparable to Google Drive.

Apple has a big marketing slogan for iCloud Drive, “Edits you make on one device appear on all of them.” What do we have to say about this? Big deal. Not! (More tactful comments, right?) Apple says “all of your devices,” but what about accessibility on Android platforms? That’s where Dropbox and Google kind of kill Apple. You can get Dropbox and Google Drive on all devices, but iCloud is only available for Apple devices. That’s not very helpful. Dropbox and Google Drive win here.

So is iCloud Drive a Dropbox-killer? Not currently. Is it better than Google Drive? Not currently. As Apple updates iCloud Drive (as I’m sure they will), and more pricing and storage options become available, iCloud Drive could become real competition for Google. Is iCloud Drive competition now? Sort of. It provides some competition due to the sheer number of Apple users, but on a large scale it simply doesn’t compare right now.

If you enjoyed this post, please like and follow! Please share it with others in your community you think would find it interesting!

-The Editor

External Links:
https://www.apple.com/icloud/
https://www.apple.com/ios/whats-new/icloud-drive/
http://www.apple.com/icloud/icloud-drive/?cid=wwa-us-kwg-features-com
https://support.google.com/drive/answer/2375123?hl=en
https://www.dropbox.com/pro

M-Disc — What is it?

Shucks. You hear it — the sound of a dying hard drive; the click-clack-whir of an unreadable DVD. It makes you wish had done that backup last Saturday… but that information is lost forever.  So what does that have to do with M-Disc?  M-Disc can solve those problems — permanently.

M-Disk is essentially a really souped up DVD. Where DVDs have a polycarbonate coating for protection and a dye layer to capture information from the laser, M-Disk has a glass coating for protection and a stone-like layer (made out of compounded metals and minerals) to collect information. They are a pretty expensive (about $3 per disc), but the manufacturer performed tests and claims a 1,000 year life…quite a bit longer than the 10 year life of a normal DVD. M-Disk’s two main parts are the glass, and then a stone/particle layer that is much more reliable than the dye layer in standard DVDs. Although the M-Disk is rated for 1,000 years, the manufacturer claims that the stone layer could last up to 10,000 years! However, the life of the M-Disk is limited by the glass to 1,000 years.

Unfortunately, you need a special burner to burn the DVDs — The stone layer in the M-Disk takes a laser that is 3x more powerful than that in a standard DVD. However, you can read it with a standard DVD port on your computer or TV. M-Discs are burned the same way as standard DVDs, it just takes more power to burn them. That is why you can read them with a standard DVD drive, just not burn them. The special burner and packages of M-Discs can be purchased from the Milleniatia’s (the manufacturer’s) website.

Here is some technical information about M-Disk:
M-Disk can withstand over 185 degree heat, 80% humidity, and 12 hours of sunlight without any data loss. They come in the standard 4.7 GB size. On average, that is enough capacity for 8,000 photos, 240 minutes of video, or over 100,000 documents, according to the manufacturer (there is also a Blu-ray version that holds 25 GB, which is enough for 21 hours of non-HD video, 120 minutes of HD video, or 42,000 pictures). If you are really technical and you thirst for more, check out this video:

The amount of scientific data gathered by Milleniatia is astonishing… far too much for me to put in one post. So, I’ll just put a link here.

Thanks for visiting Handz Studioz and I hope you enjoyed it!

Don’t forget to comment and follow!

-The Editor

External Links:
http://www.mdisc.com/