AirPlay is Another Nail in Cable’s Coffin

airplay

I had an interesting experience while sitting around with some friends Saturday night. The subject of awkward pregnancy photos came up (my sister-in-law is weeks away from giving birth), so we decided to bring up the pregnancy category of Awkward Family Photos for a few good laughs at other people’s expense. Having just installed Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8), I decided to use AirPlay from my 11″ MacBook Air (best laptop ever) to my Apple TV so everyone could see better. The conversation eventually turned to politics and TED talks as it so often does, so I threw up Nick Hanauer’s excellent and very controversial TED talk. Eventually control of the Apple TV was passed around the room via iPhones, iPads, and AirPlay, and in addition to playing a few hilarious rounds of Draw Something and laughing at hundreds of photos, we watched some Olympics highlights, Portal: No Escape, Lego Black Ops, the JK Wedding Entrance Dance (there was an uninitiated among us), and finally, one of Stephen Colbert’s many excellent interviews with Neil deGrasse Tyson. By that time, it was getting late, however we’d barely scratched the surface of our favorite videos, sites, games, photos, memes, etc. so I’m certain we’ll pick right back up where we left off next weekend.

There were three things that really struck me about the evening:

  1. All of the entertainment throughout the course of the night was entirely free. We did have to watch a few YouTube pre-roll ads, but they were quick and relatively tasteful.
  2. The evening was much more interactive than if we’d watched a movie or a few TV shows.
  3. The experience was extremely collaborative and inclusive as control of the Apple TV was passed around the room and everyone got to have their say in what we all experienced.

I’ve been a cord-cutter for a long time now which means we’re as likely to spend our evenings with our phones, laptops, and tablets as we are with our TV. In fact, since I do most of my gaming either on a PC or handheld device, I’ve frequently wondered if we still actually need a 52″ LCD taking up space in our living room. However last night was the best reason I’ve come up with in probably two years to keep my TV.

If you’re a cord-cutter, next time you have people over, ask them to come up with some of their favorite internet content and put together your own interactive and collaborative programming. I’ve never been so certain in my decision to cancel my cable service as I am now.

(Note that AirPlay is not the only technology for making this kind of thing work, but in my experience, it’s probably the most hassle-free. I have a Nexus Q which I hope to use more for this kind of thing in the future, and I’ve experimented with all kinds of streaming media solutions in the past. At least for now, Apple’s technology is probably the easiest to use, most robust, and — since so many people have iPhones, iPads, or Mac laptops — it’s more or less ubiquitous.)

Video Review of the Google Nexus 7 Tablet

I’ve spent about a week with the Nexus 7 tablet now so I thought I’d do a quick video to capture my impressions:

If you’d rather read than watch, here are the highlights:

  • I really like the 7-inch form factor. Since I have an 11″ MacBook Air, 10-inch tablets don’t feel all that portable to me. 7-inch tablets are very portable, very light, allow me to easily type with my thumbs, and are much easier to hold for long periods of time while reading.
  • The performance is excellent. The combination of the hardware and Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) make the Nexus 7 as smooth and polished as any iOS device.
  • The battery life seems very good. I didn’t explicitly test it, but I’ve only had to charge the Nexus 7 a few times since I started using it. It may not be as good as something like the iPad, but I found the battery to be more than sufficient.
  • I’m not crazy about the emphasis on the Google Play store by default. Since it competes with the Kindle Fire, the Nexus 7 is designed primarily as a content consumption device (which also justifies the very aggressive pricing — Google wants to make money on the ecosystem rather than hardware). Fortunately all the conduits into the the Google Play store are implemented as widgets which you can just delete in order to get a more traditional tablet experience. I should point out that I actually like the Google Play store and have used it several times already — I just don’t want it to be the central experience of my tablet.
  • My only complaint/request is that I want to be able to buy a higher-end version. I like this device enough that I’d happily pay more for a rear-facing HD camera and 4G wireless support. That said, I know Google is competing with the Kindle Fire, and the price is extremely aggressive for such a capable device. I think Google is doing the right thing for now, however I hope they release versions with more features in the future.

To summarize: great device which is absolutely worth the $199/$249 price.

A Simple Phishing Vulnerability in Mobile Safari

I recently put together a demo of a very simple, yet very convincing, phishing attack targeting mobile Safari:

It works by first checking the user agent and determining what kind of device the request is being made on. If the device isn’t an iPhone, the user is simply forwarded to PayPal.com and will never know the difference. But if the request is made from an iPhone, the user gets the special phishing login screen which does the following:

  1. Shows an image of Safari’s location bar at the top which implies that the user is on PayPal.com.
  2. Scrolls the actual location bar off the screen quickly enough that very few people will notice it.

Since this attack targets mobile devices, it’s pretty safe to assume that many (probably most) users won’t be paying very close attention, and will likely not notice the actual location bar being hidden. The effect is so fast that even users who do notice probably won’t think anything of it.

I really like that mobile Safari lets you hide the location bar in order to have more pixels for actual content, but perhaps there’s a way to tweak the design in such a way as to make malicious applications of this feature less feasible.

Using a Mobile Device as a Desktop Computer

Part 1

Part 2

Part 2 Table of Contents:

Some friends of mine and I are experimenting with what it’s like to use a mobile device (in this case, a Galaxy Nexus) as a desktop computer. With the addition of a bluetooth keyboard, multi-touch trackpad, and a monitor, I found that the experience is surprisingly good.

I don’t demo all that many applications in the video for fear of inadvertently showing sensitive data, but I think I show enough that you can get an idea for how close we already are to this type of computing model. In fact, I think if you were to set up a workspace like this for someone who didn’t have “professional” needs (such as writing code or video editing), and/or someone who didn’t have a lot of preconceptions about how a computer should work, they would be perfectly happy with the experience. I was able to do all of the following with relative ease:

  • Browse the internet.
  • Read news.
  • Manage my calendar, tasks, contacts, etc.
  • Read and write email almost as easily as I can on my desktop.
  • Listen to music and podcasts.
  • Chat on IM.
  • Edit documents.
  • Do some light photo editing (in the default gallery application).
  • Participate in social networks (Google+, Twitter, and Facebook).
  • Watch videos on YouTube and Netflix.

In other words, I was able to do most of what many people do with desktop computers on a daily basis. Of course, there were a few key things I wasn’t able to do such as:

  • Write code. I’m sure it’s possible, but definitely not practical, and probably not something I would enjoy.
  • Advanced editing of things like photos and video.
  • Advanced file management. With this kind of computing model, you definitely want to keep as much data in the cloud as possible since the file system is generally de-emphasized on mobile devices.

Keep in mind that I’m using a stock Android device with whatever capabilities are already in the OS. If you’re willing to go as far as installing Linux on your phone, you can do far more than this. Additionally, operating systems will likely have much better support for this kind of model in the future — in particular, Windows 8 with Metro.

I’m really curious about whether this kind of interaction represents the future of computing. Are we moving toward a model where we use multiple computers and mobile devices with all our data in the cloud, or in five to ten years, are we all just going to use our phones for most of our computing needs? I’m guessing it’s going to be somewhere in the middle (as these things tend to be), but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Update: I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the cables I used to make this work. Here’s all you need to know:

  • For the display, I used a Samsung MHL to HDMI adapter (along with an HDMI cable, obviously). If you want to do audio through your monitor, make sure your HDMI cable supports audio.
  • For a USB keyboard and mouse, you’ll need a micro USB host mode OTG cable, and a powered USB hub. (I used a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, so this isn’t in the video.)
  • For audio (if you don’t have speakers in your monitor), I just used a standard 3.5mm audio cable from the phone to my computer speakers.

Thanks to Matt Pandina for helping to get this working.

Turn Your Old Phone Into a Complete Sound System

droid_x_sound_system

I haven’t had a real sound system in years. As soon as we gave up CDs, there didn’t seem to be much of a point anymore. Everyone in my house has their own devices with their own music, and if we ever want to listen to the same thing (rarely), someone just plugs their phone into the set of common speakers in the living room.

But even in an environment where everyone has constant access to their own personal content, it’s nice to occasionally share an experience. I’ve missed putting music on in the background while we eat, or sharing something new with those around me, so when I recently got a new Android phone (Galaxy Nexus), I decided to turn my next-to-worthless Droid X into a dedicated sound system.

Using a phone as a stereo is obviously not a new concept, but using one as a dedicated sound system is only now becoming practical for many people. Decent smartphones have been out long enough now that chances are you either have an extra one that isn’t worth anything anymore, or you probably will within the next year or so. I have a lot of phones and devices, but I think my Droid X is the first spare Android device I own that isn’t really worth selling, nobody else in my family wants, and that I haven’t come to completely hate (there are a lot of bad Android devices out there which I wouldn’t even want to use to stream music).

Fortunately, I’m not an audiophile, so I’m pretty happy with an underpowered and inexpensive setup. My “stereo” consists of the following:

  • An old deactivated Droid X.
  • The Droid X media dock.
  • A pair of old (but decent) computer speakers with a subwoofer.
  • A good wi-fi connection.
  • A few apps:
    • Pandora.
    • Google Music (giving us all access to my entire music collection).
    • Google Listen (for podcasts).
    • The NPR application (mostly for news).
    • An FM radio application (which I’ll probably never use, but that I feel like I should have installed anyway).

If it turns out we use the new setup frequently enough, I’ll probably get some better speakers (any suggestions?), but so far, an old phone, a good wi-fi connection, and a pair of previously disused Altec Lansing speakers are working out surprisingly well.

Don’t Pay AT&T $20 Per Month for Text Messages — Switch to Google Voice

google_voice_iconAT&T is “streamlining” their text messaging plans effective August 21st (full story) — no doubt in preparation for the iPhone 5. In this case, “streamlining” is a business euphemism for “taking away lower-priced options that too many customers prefer.” More specifically, AT&T is getting rid of their $10 per month limited texting plan, and only offering a $20 per month unlimited option. They claim to be doing this because “customers have expressed a clear preference for unlimited plans,” however I have a strong suspicion that this has more to do with customers who prefer to pay less.

Unfortunately, Verizon customers shouldn’t be too smug about the news because our day is almost certainly coming, as well. There is so little competition in the mobile phone industry that AT&T and Verizon essentially operate in collusion. For instance, one company goes from one-year contracts to two, and after waiting a respectable period of time, the other does the same; as one company’s early termination fee goes up, so goes the other’s; one carrier gets rid of unlimited data in favor of tiered plans, and rather than offering a more attractive and competitive service, the other eventually makes the switch, as well. As long as consumers don’t have realistic alternatives, it’s more profitable to raise rates for existing customers (and/or provide less service) than it is to compete for new customers. (I know T-Mobile is still an option, but they will soon merge with AT&T, and Sprint just doesn’t have the network coverage and device selection it needs to satisfy a large percentage of customers.)

AT&T is telling existing customers that they will be able to keep their $10 per month plans, and that the price hike is only for new customers. I suppose that’s some consolation, however that won’t last long. The next time you upgrade your phone (remember, the iPhone 5 is coming!), you will discover that your grandfather status has expired. At that point, you will be right where the mobile phone industry wants you: out of options.

That’s why I recommend switching to Google Voice. Google Voice still isn’t as easy to set up as it should be, but once you get it configured, you get all of the following features:

  • Free unlimited texting (on both Android and iOS devices).
  • The ability to send and receive text messages from your browser using a Gmail-like interface.
  • One phone number that maps to multiple phones. (When someone calls your Google Voice number, you can have the call forwarded to multiple numbers simultaneously — home, office, mobile, etc.)
  • The ability to make voice calls from your browser (this is how I make most business calls now).
  • Free voicemail with very humorous speech-to-text (it’s good enough to skim and get a feel for a message, but don’t base any important decisions on this technology just yet).
  • All kinds of very sophisticated call filtering, screening, and grouping capabilities.
  • Integration with Google Contacts.
  • Seemingly unlimited archiving and indexing of text messages and voicemails. (If there is a limit, it’s very generous.)
  • Completely free.

I should point out that I don’t expect Google Voice to remain free indefinitely; the service can still be a little rough around the edges, so I’m guessing they’re waiting until it’s more robust before actually charging customers. However, assuming it’s a fair and competitive rate (I’m guessing maybe $10 – $20 per year), I will be happy to pay. Google Voice is far more innovative than just about anything AT&T or Verizon have done in recent memory (or distant memory, for that matter), and I’m happy to pay for services that provide real value.

If you use Android, Google Voice integrates seamlessly with the OS to the point where you won’t even be aware that you’re not using your actual mobile phone’s number. If you use iOS (that is, an iPhone), your life isn’t going to be quite as good. Unfortunately the Google Voice iOS application is very buggy and not all that well integrated into the OS, but in my opinion, it’s still much more functional and feature-rich than anything you get from your standard mobile phone plan. And even on iOS, it’s certainly better than paying $20 per month for text messages which, believe it or not, cost carriers all of about 0.0002¢ each.

Mechanical Keyboard Roundup

mx_keyswitchesUpdate (2/11/2013): Added a review of the Realforce 87U with Topre switches.

Update (1/14/2013): Added a review of the Filco Majestouch-2 with Cherry MX Red switches.

Update (2/1/2012): Filcos (my favorite mechanical keyboards at this point) are now available on Amazon!

Update (1/27/2012): Added a review of the Leopold Tactile Touch.

After sensing something profoundly lacking from the modern typing experience, I decided to delve into the world of mechanical keyboards. As is the case with most fetishes, I discovered that there are entire online communities, cultures, and movements surrounding the magic of the mechanical keyswitch. I could have easily spent many months and several thousands of dollars acquiring, experimenting with, and reviewing all of the mechanical options out there, but with both time and money in short supply, I decided to focus on five specific models: the Das Keyboard Model S Professional, Filco Majestouch-2, DSI Modular, Matias Tactile Pro 3, and the Unicomp SpaceSaver M.

There is a lot of personal preference involved in picking a mechanical keyboard. Factors like key travel, clickiness, tactile feedback, weight, force, build quality and more all contribute to the typing experience, and all of these things mean different things to different people. Keep in mind that the reviews below represent my own opinions, and I tried to differentiate between things that personally appeal to me (clickiness, for example), and more objective characteristics (like build quality). The upshot is that there is no clear winner, and you will probably just need to try a few of these out to see which ones inspire you to get out of bed in the mornings and begin your day of typing.

If you know you want a mechanical keyboard and you’re just here to see and hear about some different models, skip on down to the video reviews. But if you’re wondering why in the world someone would buy a relative expensive mechanical keyboard when you can get a membrane or scissor-switch keyboard for far less (and sometimes for free), read on.

Continue reading

Review of the Galaxy Tab: the Good and the Bad

samsung_galaxy_tabNow that I’ve put a lot of hours into using the Galaxy Tab, here’s what I think: Samsung is very much on to something with this form factor and the build quality of the Tab, but they need to work out the bugs and get the price down by at least a couple hundred dollars. If the Galaxy Tab were, say, $300, I would recommend it without hesitation to almost everyone I know. At $600, however, I would still recommend it to gadget lovers, but to the proverbial mom, I would say wait for the next generation which should be more polished, and hopefully significantly cheaper.

But just to be clear: I really love this device, and have found myself completely attached to it. Although it doesn’t have the fit and finish (from a software perspective) of an iPad, it’s definitely much closer to what I’ve been looking for in a tablet: very portable, great battery life, and a data plan that I can mostly live with.

What I like about the Samsung Galaxy Tab

  • The size is perfect, in my opinion. There’s definitely a place for 10″ tablets, but the 7″ screen is the right size for me. It’s small enough that I can easily carry it around (I’ve had the Galaxy Tab with me since the moment I bought it), but big enough that I almost always reach for it rather than my phone now. In fact, if it had real voice capabilities, I could see it actually replacing a phone in some circumstances (with a headset, naturally — and only because the thing I do least on my phone is make voice calls). I’m also looking forward to getting a car dock which will give me the absolute best GPS in the world, and nice big controls which are easy to read and tap on while driving.
  • The keyboard. This is really a function of the device’s size, but it’s important enough that I wanted it to have its own bullet point. If you like thumb typing (as you BlackBerry and old Sidekick users out there invariably do), you’ll love typing on the Galaxy Tab. Although I can touch type on the virtual keyboard on my iPad, I find it far less accurate and far more annoying than thumb typing on some devices. Since I’ve been using the Tab, my email responses have gotten prompter, and my text messages have gotten longer.
  • The hardware. The build quality of the Galaxy Tab seems to be very high. It’s definitely not nicer than my iPad, but I would say that it’s not in any way obviously inferior (which, to be honest, I was kind of expecting). The screen is bright and apparently tough enough to shoot BBs at, and the case feels well-made. I would say the buttons are a tad on the soft side, and the power button should have been placed on the top rather than the side since it’s easy to inadvertently turn on or off while picking up by the edges. And power buttons on the top have become the standard for phones and devices, so it was an odd decision not to follow the trend for seemingly no good reason.
  • Battery life. The battery life this thing gets is amazing, and if you check out the iFixit tear down, you’ll see why. The majority of the bulk and weight of this Galaxy Tab is battery. With moderate use, you can easily go two days without charging it — maybe even three.
  • The data plan. First, let it be known that I basically unequivocally dislike mobile phone carriers. If you read my post entitled The Free Market Paradox, you’ll get a pretty good idea of how I think mobile phone carriers victimize customers and essentially collude in order to provide the worst service they can get away with at the highest prices. In most cases, I prefer the experience of buying a new car to buying a new mobile phone. But for the first time ever, I feel like I’m actually paying something close to a fair price for a service from a mobile phone carrier. I’m paying $20 per month for 1GB of data with no contract which means I can cancel anytime, and I can use the device for tethering. Now, to be clear, I really should be paying $9.99 for 1GB, or $19.99 for unlimited, but considering the fact that I bought the plan without muttering curses under my breath, I guess I feel like I’m finally getting something almost approaching a reasonable value out of my carrier.

What I Don’t Like About the Samsung Galaxy Tab

  • It’s buggy. Although the Tab is certainly usable, it does have several bugs which, if I’d been the Product Manager, I would have not shipped without fixing. For instance, the fact that the screen dims whenever I go to the browser is inexcusable. And things like the occasional (temporary) freezes, and the tendency for taps to sometimes be interpreted as swipe gestures is annoying. And my least favorite bug: I uninstalled the “Let’s Golf!” game that shipped with the device only to find that it’s only partially uninstalled; the icon is still there, and the app still seems to be taking up space, but it doesn’t launch, and the uninstall option is now disabled. Looks like I’ll have to root the device to remove the application entirely which is pretty sad. The bugginess of the Tab is really evident whenever I put it down and pick up my Droid X which feels much faster and more robust — kind of like a finished product.
  • Bloatware. This is one of the things I really love about Apple products, and I may find that I love about Microsoft’s new phones, as well. The bloatware on the last couple of Android devices I’ve gotten has been extremely disappointing. I can deal with a few pre-installed apps shipping on a device. Fine. But to disable uninstalling those apps is positively unforgiveable. This is something that Apple really got right in their dealings with AT&T, and something that has gone terribly wrong with Android. The fact that you can buy an Android phone with the default search configured to be Bing is an indication that there is something seriously wrong with the world. (Note that the search option on the Galaxy Tab is Google, not Bing. Note also that I don’t have anything against Bing — it’s just the irony that I’m pointing out.) I can only hope that market pressure from the iPhone and eventually Windows Mobile Phone 7 will eventually help to reduce this horrendous practice.
  • No notification light. I can’t believe the Galaxy Tab doesn’t have a notification light like every other Android device I’ve used. The little green light that blinks indicating that you have unread messages is hugely valuable, and one of the things I like about Android over the iPhone. Very strange that it was left off the Galaxy Tab, and another example of the lack of standards around Android devices.
  • No voice capabilities. Of course, mobile phone carriers don’t have plans that would really have supported adding a voice-capable device to your plan at a reasonable rate, but it would be great if the Galaxy Tab should share your mobile phone’s number (which it could with Google Voice), and you could occasionally carry just your Tab and leave your phone at home. It certainly isn’t a replacement for a phone, but with voice capabilities, I could see attending a conference with nothing more than a Tab. No laptop, and no phone. Just your Tab, a bluetooth headset, and a big cup of coffee.
  • Non-USB cable. The last thing in the world I need is another type of cable to worry about. Now I need iOS device cables, USB cables for Android devices, and this third kind of cable which seems to be an inversion of the iPhone cable. Why didn’t they just use USB? Perhaps it would have been too slow the charge the battery (which is already pretty slow)? I don’t know, but it was a bad decision.
  • Price. Although I really like this device and plan on taking it everywhere, $600 is still a significant investment. $399 is the right price for the Galaxy Tab at this point, and $299 makes it a complete no-brainer impulse buy. I’m hoping we’ll see the prices come down on 7″ Android tablets as we see more competition, and as components become cheaper.

To Summarize

The overall feeling I get from the Samsung Galaxy Tab is that it’s a really good indication of things to come. It feels very much like the original iPhone to me: a breath of fresh air, but destined to be quickly replaced with more refined models at much more realistic prices. Although I’m very attached to the Galaxy Tab, something tells me that in 6 to 12 months — and certainly no more than 18 — I’ll look back on the Tab as nothing more than a gateway into real 7″ Android tablets. Until then, however, I’m going to enjoy it.

Two Galaxy Tab Tips: Setting Up Google Voice, and Getting Applications to Run Fullscreen

Now that I’ve had a couple of days worth of experience with the Samsung Galaxy Tab, I thought I’d post a couple of tips that have made using the device a much better experience.

Setting up Google Voice on the Samsung Galaxy Tab

One of the first applications I installed on the Galaxy Tab was Google Voice. Although the Tab can’t make GSM or CDMA calls (of course, VoIP calls are theoretically possible), I still wanted to be able to send and receive Google Voice text messages. The Google Voice app installed fine, but I got stuck at the point where it asked for the device’s phone number. Although my device technically does have a phone number (something about Verizon’s data implementation requires devices to have phone numbers), it isn’t possible to actually call the number. That means the number can’t be verified by Google Voice which, in turn, means that it can’t be added to your Google Voice account.

I tried associating my mobile number with my Galaxy Tab, and while it worked perfectly and did allow me to send and receive text messages as expected, I found I could no longer receive text messages on my mobile phone. But the experience gave me an idea: I added my office number to my Google Voice account, and associated it with my Galaxy Tab. Perfect. Since my office phone can send or receive text messages anyway, I wasn’t inadvertently disabling any of its functionality. I can now send and receive text messages from my Galaxy Tab, my Droid X, and from my browser. (And I can still forward calls to my office phone should I choose to.)

To recap, here’s the process of setting up Google Voice to work with the Samsung Galaxy Tab:

  1. Add a Google Voice number to your account that does not need to send or receive text messages. Your home or office phone should work fine. (Note that you will still be able to forward calls to the number you use.)
  2. Install Google Voice on your Galaxy Tab.
  3. During the setup process, select the number you just added to your account as the Galaxy Tab’s number. Google Voice will accept it without requiring any form of verification.
  4. Complete the setup process by skipping the voice mail configuration. That’s not relevant on the Galaxy Tab.

That’s it. You can now send and receive text messages on your nice, new, 7″ Galaxy Tab.

Getting Applications to Run Fullscreen on the Galaxy Tab

Most of the applications I installed on my Galaxy Tab worked fine, but a few (The Weather Channel, New York Times, etc.) didn’t take up the full screen. To be honest, I have no idea why. It seems to me that if your application can run on different Android phones, it should be able to run on a 7″ Android tablet, but apparently not. Anyway, I found a workaround provided by jkkmobile. They made a six-minute video describing how to change your Tab’s configuration such that applications scale properly, but most of the video is spent waiting for the device to reboot (twice!). So, if you want to save yourself some time, I’ll list the steps here:

  1. Download an application called Spare Parts from the Android Market and install it.
  2. Open Spare Parts, and scroll down to “Compatibility Mode”.
  3. Uncheck Compatibility Mode, and then recheck it.
  4. Exit Spare Parts.
  5. Reboot your Galaxy Tab.
  6. Once it boots, open Spare Parts again.
  7. Scroll down to “Compatibility Mode” and uncheck it.
  8. Reboot again.

That’s it. All apps should scale themselves properly now. (Note that this fix is provided by jkkmobile — not me. I’m just listing the steps described in the video so you don’t have to spend six minutes watching a Galaxy Tab reboot.)

Some Miscellaneous Galaxy Tab Tips

  • Turn off the auto brightness adjustment. It doesn’t work very well yet, and it’s not uncommon to place a finger over the light sensor on the front of the device which causes the screen to dim. I’ve found it’s much more convenient to set the screen brightness to a constant value, and just adjust it manually when I need to (like when I’m reading in the Kindle app). You can adjust the screen brightness right from the notification “shade” — a nice addition Samsung made to the Android OS. (Note that it’s also possible to adjust the screen brightness from within the Kindle app by selecting View Options.)
  • Turn off the Swype keyboard. One of the great things about the Galaxy Tab is that the 7″ screen lets you “thumb type” while in portrait mode (which I find to be very efficient). But that pretty much entirely defeats the purpose of Swype which is meant to be used with a single finger, so I found the Samsung keyboard to be much better suited to the device. To turn off Swype, go to Settings > Language and Keyboard > Select Input Method > Samsung keypad. I would also recommend going into the XT9 settings, and turning off everything but spell correction since my experience was that all the other settings did more harm to my typing than good.
  • Install gesture search. Gesture search lets you search your entire device by drawing letters on the screen. I put the Google search widget at the top of the home screen, and since the screen of the Galaxy Tab is so wide, I had room to put the Gesture Search application beside it on the same row. That groups my two most frequently used search options together in one place.

Stay tuned for a full review of the Galaxy Tab coming soon.