Author Archive for Joe HutskoPage 2 of 6

One-minute review: Invisible Shield for iPhone 3G – third time’s a charm

Last year I wrote about the Invisible Shield screen protector for my original iPhone. As many point out the iPhone, iPod touch and new iPhone 3G’s hardened glass surface is scratch resistant.

But it’s not smear resistant, and that’s the real reason I dig the Invisible Shield. So I was thrilled when the company sent me the updated version, which fixes something that irked me about the first one: The open circle around the Home button.

The new one closes the circle for a nicer finish – and also introduces two new flaps at the top and bottom of the shield that totally buzz-killed my first and second attempts to achieve the kind of perfect fit I attained with the original.

The flaps overlap the top and bottom metal edges, with little spurs on either side to allow for the device’s curvature. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the top or bottom flaps to completely seal, and blister/bubbles appeared in both tries.

Frankly I don’t see the point of the flaps in the first place, and when another set arrived I trimmed off the flaps and spurs with a sharp chef’s knife, which allowed me to achieve a nearly perfect fit.

I say nearly because I didn’t quite trim enough from the top flap and some of it extended beyond the glass. I trimmed most of it off without removing the shield, and I’m happy with the final result.

As mentioned in my original review, the Invisible Shield gives the screen a “watery”-like finish that I personally prefer to pure glass, and the fact that I don’t see smears will have me recommend it – though I also recommend you trim those pesky flaps and spurs so you achieve a perfect fit the first time around.


eReader 1.1 update for iPhone widens your virtual bookshelf

In my post for Salon’s Machinist column I wrote that eReader for the iPhone (and iPod touch) is a dream-come-true for me.

I’m pleased to see that FictionWise is sticking to its words to offer frequent updates and improvements to the program.

The first update offers the following enhancements:

eReader for iPhone and iPod touch version 1.1 includes the following new features:

  • The ability to download eReader PDB files from web sites other than and, as well as personal content in eReader PDB format. For details see the Personal Content FAQ.
  • New options to: lock screen orientation, tap instead of swipe to turn pages, choose white text on black background, turn off page animation, and turn off full justification of text.
  • Ability to sort the on-device bookshelf by author, title, or download date.
  • Better error messages and several bug fixes.


One-minute review: Griffin PowerDock 2 – brainless powerplay

This will take less than a minute. The Griffin PowerDock 2 allows you to charge two iPod or iPhone devices at the same time. That’s the good news – if that’s all you want. The bad news is there’s no USB connection. Deal-breaker for me because I want to charge and sync my iPhone 3G and iPod nano at the same time. End of story.


Linux-based cellphones promise better personal security

A few days ago I wrote a post for Salon about programs to protect smartphones from viruses and malware, this story about Linux-based cellphones in today’s New York Times takes the conversation in a new and interesting direction. To wit:

Regarding security, the new phones will be able to identify their owners. If, by chance, a stranger uses the phone and requests downloads at odds with the owner’s profile, Mr. Gillis said the phone’s security feature will kick in and shut it down. Profile information would also make it easier for a consumer to find points of similar interest when they are traveling in, say, Barcelona or Kyoto.


Ten iPhone 3G impressions: Good, bad and ugly features, faults and bugs

Ten off-the-cuff comments about the iPhone 3G after three weeks of day to day use, in order of brain-dump relevance:

1. Applications: The single most important improvement over the original, opening up the already amazing device to all manner of multiple-personality possibilities. My personal favorite is eReader, and others include PayPal and eBay and NY Times, while Facebook and iScopes represent two dedicated apps that are still better served by accessing mobile editions with Safari. Facebook app’s mobile pic upload is cool, yet status updates don’t appear, and iScopes requires a tap of the back button to select next horoscope category, whereas the Safari mobile edition has a Next button. But make no mistake – the iPhone 3G’s killer app is apps.

2. Speed bumps: The jump to 3G is a good thing. Browsing websites and auto-checking mail are now matter-of-fact processes, though the hit on battery life is evident with heavy usage.

3. Speed slowdowns: Overall the 3G feels slower than the original when switching applications or doing things like accessing contacts and checking SMS text messages. I’m guessing the ability to run multiple apps while running with Push turned on are causing the slowdown, though turning off Push didn’t seem to make much difference, so I’m interested to hear what others think.

4. GPS: Sweet and surprisingly accurate in my experience. No turn-by-turn navigation yet, but I expect it’s coming sooner than later. Ditto for a 3G version of Nike+, which I use on the nano, and am so looking forward to using with the 3G.

5. Cut and Paste: It’s still missing, and it’s still my number 1 wish-list item. While the new notepad app MagicPad demonstrates cut and paste is doable, I can’t understand why Apple is taking so long to bring such a basic feature found on every other smartphone in the world.

6. Notes: Still no sync with desktop app like Stickies or Outlook, which sucks.

7. Bluetooth: Problem accessing voicemail with certain headsets; one of mine worked as a headset but not when listening to voicemail, the other worked fine. Obviously a bug that will likely be addressed in update.

8. Sound: Louder and clearer speaker and speakerphone than the original, which is a very good thing, though strange bugs like no user interface sounds at times, which come back only after I connect and disconnect Bluetooth headset.

9. Contacts: Finally, the ability to do what every other cellphone has been able to do since creation: search contacts.

10. USB connector: Sucks that the new 3G doesn’t stand in my original iPhone dock, though the new shape and all-around fit, finish and feel in the hand are definitely more appealing than the first iPhone.


Guest blogger posts for Salon’s Machinist column

On Friday I filed my last post as guest blogger for Salon’s Machinist column (complete list below). Special thanks to readers for taking time to comment – especially those who left very kind words for my final post.

So long!
How I spent (two weeks of) my summer as Machinist’s guest blogger.
A Grimm take on games
Video game designer American McGee loves the darkest tales best.
One-minute review: Jawbone 2 headset
A new Bluetooth is supposed to cancel noise, but all that’s canceled is the conversation you want to hear.
Give us a (virtual) kiss
Facebook gift designer Susan Kare on Mac icons, computer kisses and everything in between.
Leave my phone alone!
New software for protecting iPhones and smart phones.
The movie-download food chain
From big screen to hard disk, how Hollywood doles out digital media.
All you can eat — for cheap?
Comparing unlimited cellphone plans.
Mini-Note has many problems
The diminutive computer scores high on design but low on functionality.
Noisy and oh-so-nice
Das’ new keyboard has the look and feel of a classic.
Searching 101
Three tips for better search results.
Can Cuil kill Google? Not yet
The new search engine has its perks, but so far, it falls short.
How safe is safe?
Security expert Doug Camplejohn on building a smarter firewall to outsmart cyber slimeballs.
A bookmark for the iPod
Books on tape turn to books on iPod, and listeners must learn to find their places accordingly.
(World wide) web of intrigue
A high-tech mystery and more are on Machinist’s summer reading list.
Do-good phone doesn’t look good
Credo, a new green cellphone company, has great intentions but not such great gear.
E-books galore
Sony expands its e-library, challenging
Knol lacks knowledge
Google’s would-be Wikipedia competitor doesn’t have the goods to challenge the Free Encyclopedia. Yet.
Phoning it in
Blogging from your mobile: Tools for the writer on the go.
The DVD isn’t dead
More movie and TV downloading devices have entered the ring, but the DVD hasn’t gone down (yet).
User friendly
XBox Live for Windows gets cheaper and adds gamer-generated content.
A stickies situation
Simplify your workspace by squishing your stickies and separating your screens.
Remember typewriters?
Adios distractions, hello single-task focus, thanks to word-processing programs that re-create the simplicity of blank paper and ink.
One-minute review: A balancing act for small spaces
Staying cool in an upright and mostly locked-in position to get things done.
Digital disasters friends and family should have prevented
Oops, I was going to back up my computer, but…
Why the iPhone is the best and worst e-book reader ever
Reading a long novel on a tiny screen is claustrophobic, but if the book is good your brain will get the message.


Guest Spot on Computer America with Craig Crossman

Had a great conversation with Craig Crossman on his show Computer America. Tune in by clicking on Craig’s pic and logo. Thanks, Craig!


On Fox Business News: New iPhone, Big Deal?

On Fox Business News: New iPhone, Big Deal? (July 11, 2008)

Joe Hutsko, Courtney Friel and Aline Yu talk about the new iPhone.


Review: LG WM3431HW Combo Washer & Dryer

I first learned about combo washer/dryers in 1999 in Manhattan, while checking out a potential sublet. I wound up in another apartment, but the idea of the tiny all-in-one machine that washes then dries clothes always came to mind whenever I endured vying for washers and dryers at the laundromat or dropped $15 to $20 per load at the wash and fold around the corner.

What makes combo washers so special is they don’t require hookups or the exhaust vent common to standard dryers. Instead, combo washer/dryers spin clothes at a super high speed, wringing most of the water away so the dry cycle has an easier time drying the load. Which brings up the top two minuses I’d read about when researching combo washer/dryers: A very long drying cycle and very wrinkled clothes.

Since my usual attire is a tee-shirt and jeans or shorts, the wrinkled part wasn’t a big deal, however the long drying cycle might be annoying.

So I was surprised and excited when the new home I moved into was outfitted with a combo washer/dryer, the LG WM3431HW. While the LG can be mounted on wheels and moved near a sink to tap into a faucet for water and the drain cycle, this one was neatly situated beneath the bathroom counter and hooked up to hidden hot and cold water taps in back.

The on/off switch bears the international symbol familiar to computers and other devices, and the Start/Pause button activates and pauses the machine at any point in the cycle. A twirl of the big know selects wash and dry cycles, which include Sanitary, Cotton/Towels, Normal, Perm Press, Delicates, Wool/Silk, Hand Wash and Speed Wash. Other buttons enable options like Extra Wash, Extra Rinse, Rinse + Spin, and Dry.

I tossed in a few towels, poured half a cap of detergent into the dispenser (with two additional slots for bleach and fabric softener), hit Start and through the front porthole window watched as the machine did its thing.

All was well during the 30-minute Speed Wash cycle – then all hell broke loose when the spin cycle kicked in. The LG shook and rocked like R2D2 in shock therapy, vibrating so violently it actually hammered itself halfway out from under the counter before I reached it and hit Stop.

I checked the manual, which states the machine must be on a level surface in order to function. It also mentioned four shipping bolts around back must be removed before operating the machine, but I didn’t worry about those since the thing was already installed and presumably operated by the prior tenants.

I adjusted and tightened the four feet, turned the machine on, and chose the Drain + Spin option. No luck. The LD did the same as before, rocking so wildly that using it was out of the question.

For the heck of it I pulled the machine out from under the counter to confirm that those shipping bolts had been removed when the machine was installed – and discovered they had not.

I unscrewed the bolts, pushed the unit back under the bathroom counter, and tried again – and this time the machine worked flawlessly, spinning the laundry at an incredibly high speed with practically zero vibration. I was amazed by how well it rung away the water, and doubly amazed when the estimated time for the dry cycle went from 2 hours and 30 minutes to less than an hour, thanks to an auto-sensor that adjusts accordingly.

The clothes came out somewhat wrinkled and very slightly damp but not wet, per se. A few shakes took away the wrinkles, and setting the clothes and towels out for a little while did away with the slight moisture. A More Dry option offers better drying, however the summer sun and a clothing rack on the porch have taken over that job, and my satisfaction with the LG WM3431HW has me absolutely beaming.

My verdict? I highly recommended the LG WM3431HW for solo occupants in small spaces where outside venting isn’t an option.

Just be sure to remove the shipping bolts before you hit Start.


Contact search finally added to iPhone in iPhone 2.0 update

Nearly a year after its release, the iPhone is finally getting a feature every mobile phone already has – the ability to search contacts. The no-brainer missing feature was the number one item in my iPhone wish list story for MSNBC (iWish: iPhone updates we’d like to see – Our top 25 suggestions for making the super-slick device even better.)

From the iPhone webpage, in Apple’s own words:

If you have a lot of contacts, use the search feature to quickly find specific names.


At this rate, does that mean we won’t see the second wish list item (a feature found on every other smartphone): Copy and paste?


Boing Boing begins serialization of The Deal, by Joe Hutsko

I’m overjoyed by my friend (and one-time WIRED editor) Mark Frauenfelder’s decision to serialize my first novel, The Deal, on his web site, Boing Boing. Thank you, my friend!

Pre-order the new trade paperback edition of The Deal and I’ll sign and inscribe with words of your choosing.

From Mark’s post:

“My friend Joe Hutsko contacted me a few weeks back with the intriguing offer to serialize his novel, The Deal, on Boing Boing. I jumped at the chance.

I read The Deal when it first came out in 1999 and loved the thrilling story about a Apple-like company’s undertaking to create an iPhone-like device. It seems fitting to offer the first chapter of The Deal on the weekend before iPhone 2.0 is to be released.

We’ll post a new chapter of The Deal every Friday.”


Currently working on: Admin Guide Wiki

UPDATE: Project complete.
I’m new to writing wikis, and my first effort is the Admin Guide for The first rough draft is currently in “beta” as I and Inveneo-tech-goddess and co-author Jaime Bruner refine the text, tighten things up, and otherwise move the work to 1.0 status.


The New York Times: Downloading: That Other Way to Get a Video Game, by Joe Hutsko

Downloading: That Other Way to Get a Video Game
By Joe Hutsko
Game downloading services have been around for years and are only just beginning to make a dent in sales of packaged game software.


The New York Times: A New Cable for Your Maze, By Joe Hutsko

The New York Times:
Personal Tech | Circuits | Basics
A New Cable for Your Maze


The real estate on the back of an HDTV is crowded with ports for connectors of the past. Out of that mess comes yet another cable, but it is supposed to make everything simple: the HDMI.



Revisiting the iPhone iWish-list after MacWorld 2008 and iPhone 1.1.3 update

Last summer I wrote a story for the iPhone (Can the iPhone do double-duty as a laptop replacement?), and a companion story (iWish: iPhone updates we’d like to see).

With Apple’s release today of the iPhone 1.1.3 update for iPhone, a number of new features have been added. Weirdly, a number of the top wish-list items – like the ability to cut and paste, or lookup a contact by typing in a few characters of a person’s name or contact info, the way you can on every other mobile phone in the world – are still absent.

Although only one of the 25 wish list items was addressed in today’s 1.1.3 iPhone software update, it is a big one: The ability to “Manually manages music and videos.”

To many the value of this feature (which has always been an option on iPods) isn’t obvious. The short explanation: With this feature turned on, you never have to worry about whether songs on your various playlists duplicate one another, hogging precious storage space. Thank you, Apple.

As Apple chairman Steve Jobs stated today, there are still 50 weeks left in 2008 to release more iPhone improvements, so at a rate one every other week they just might get to those remaining 24 wish list items by the time we’ve got a new president in the White House.

Let’s hope.


A Big Kid’s One Laptop Per Child OLPC XO Arrives

olpcxonickMy One Laptop Per Child OLPC XO laptop arrived this morning. As the previous entry reports, I was one of the unlucky Day 1 Donors (D1Der, in OLPC lingo) who didn’t receive my OLPC XO on the promised first-come, first-serve basis, while other donors who joined the Give One Get One (G1G1) days or weeks later received their laptops before some of us D1Ders.

I’d been checking the FedEx tracking page day after day (sometimes hour after hour), and finally on the 28th the system recognized my reference number. Many donors reportedly received their laptops via FedEx Overnight before the 24th, but I guess OLPC stopped providing overnight delivery after that date, because my OLPC XO wasn’t slated to arrive until today, January 2, five days after it shipped.


As I mentioned in the below entry, I’ll be writing about “A week in a life with the OLPC XO” laptop in the next week or so, however I will share one first impression now: Many OLPC XO recipients report the device is much smaller than expected once they have it in their hands. With so many reports of Lilliputian-dimensions, I was actually surprised by how much larger the OLPC XO is than I expected. At the same time, the keyboard is going to be a challenge for speed typing – it’s definitely not designed for big-kid hands, though it will suit little hands (or paws) just fine.

Stay tuned.


When nice turns naughty: No OLPC XO laptop under some first-day donors’ Christmas trees

When nice turns naughty
Donors give laptops to needy children, kick and scream when they don’t get theirs in return
By Joe Hutsko

Their intentions were good: Pay $400 to donate one of the so-called “$100” laptop computers to a needy child in a developing country, and in return receive one for your own child (or the child in you, if you’re an adult). The window of opportunity to “Give 1, Get 1,” (G1G1) was limited to one month, and the information on the One Laptop Per Child website ( stated orders would be fulfilled on a first come, first served basis.

But when laptops began arriving on the doorsteps of donors who participated days after the program began on November 12 but not to “D1Ders” (Day One Donors) who were first in line, tempers flared, turning what started as a nice gesture of giving into an at times nasty online “conversation” by disappointed givers who hadn’t received their half of the bargain by Christmas Eve day, as promised.

“…considering people who ordered as late as the third day are already getting theirs before those of us who woke up before the butt crack of dawn to order them because we were told they were going to be shipped first come, first served who haven’t gotten even shipping notices is a little frustrating in my opinion.”


– forum user

Located on the site, thousands of forum readers have viewed hundreds of topics ranging from what day they donated and then received their O.L.P.C. XO, to trying to crack and track the elusive ten-digit confirmation code some donors received in an order follow-up email, while others did not. Continue reading ‘When nice turns naughty: No OLPC XO laptop under some first-day donors’ Christmas trees’

Share/Save/Bookmark Cool holiday tech – MP3 and media players, by Joe Hutsko

Cool holiday tech: MP3 and media players
Give the gift of tapping in and tuning out with these music and video devices
By Joe Hutsko


Smart phones that top the holiday list, by Joe Hutsko

Smart phones that top the holiday list
These phones will let you send text messages, email and listen to tunes
By Joe Hutsko


On MSNBC – Cool holiday tech: Headphones, by Joe Hutsko


Cool holiday tech: Headphones
Ditch your junkie freebie headphones for one of these sweet-sounding sets
By Joe Hutsko


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