The good-enough $99 Android tablet

Last month, low-end television maker Hisense introduced two new 7-inch Android tablets. The $149 Hisense Sero 7 Pro is a fairly close clone of the Google Nexus 7 that adds an SD card slot. With its quad-core processor and 1280×800 display, a lot of people are excited about it. Overall, the reaction I’ve seen on xda-developers has been very positive. The $99 Sero 7 LT, which is decidedly below the Nexus 7 in capability, hasn’t gotten as much attention.

But I found this teardown. Their verdict: Nothing to get too excited about, but it’s good enough for the average user most of the time, much better than the other sub-$100 tablets on the market, and as good as or better than most of the sub-$149 tablets on the market. The two weak spots are the wimpy camera and weak battery.

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Asus gets into the sub-$200 tablet fray

Now Asus is jumping into the sub-$150 tablet range too, but with a device that’s much more subdued than what Polaroid and Archos are offering.

It appears to me that Asus is trying to remain mid-tier, and hope that name recognition and reliability advantages (whether perceived or real) keep their tablet in the game.
Their $149 Memo Pad has a 7-inch 1024×600 display and a single-core VIA WM8950 CPU, running at 1 GHz. It will be running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and has the precious microSD card slot, which accepts up to a 32 GB card. Read more

Polaroid’s M7 and M10 tablets make me glad I didn’t buy a tablet last month

I didn’t buy a tablet last month. I knew about Acer’s new low-end tablet, the Iconia B1, and that they were at least initially reluctant to release it in the United States, but I hoped that either Acer would change their mind or that someone else would decide that the U.S. market really needs something in between the $80 cheapie no-name 1-ish GHz, single-core, 800×480 tablets sold in every drugstore, closeout store, and vacant gas station lot in the country and the $200 tablets that the likes of Samsung and Acer sell.

I’d be lying if I said I saw the Polaroid M7 and M10 coming. Lying like the evil spawn of a politician and a used car salesman. Read more

A tip for amateur moviemakers: Record everything!

Today was our first snow of the year. It started at 6 this morning and was supposed to be flurries with accumulation of a fraction of an inch. It’s still snowing right now and I suspect there’s a good two inches on the ground. But the long commute isn’t bothering me. Scraping snow isn’t bothering me.
I got called in to work early and didn’t have a chance to record any of the snowfall. That’s what’s bothering me.

You see, I’ve got this idea festering in my head. It’s a story that’ll make a great three-minute video, and it involves snowfall. A few snippets filmed today would have worked just fine.

I’m home now and I’ve got time to set up the camera, but the daylight is long gone. My opportunity passed me by. But it reminded me of a principle: Record everything. EVERYTHING. You never know when you’ll need it.

So the next time there’s a beautiful sunny day without a cloud in the sky, get out the camera and record a couple of minutes of it. Capture the birds singing and the full trees swaying in the wind. When autumn comes and the trees are changing their colors, film a couple of minutes of it. Record a couple of minutes of a thunderstorm. And record a snowfall.

If you’re going on a trip, take the camera. Record something distinctive about the place you’re going. Record anything you come across that’s safe and legal and halfway interesting. Define “interesting” as something your next-door neighbor doesn’t see every day.

Example: While driving around in downtown Kansas City last week, while stopped at a stoplight, there was an obvious drug deal going on in a gas station parking lot to the right. That’s something my next-door neighbor doesn’t see every day. Legally I was entitled to record it too–I was observing from public property. Now was it safe for me to be recording it? Good question.

Another example: We were walking around in Crown Center, an indoor shopping mall known for exotic stuff. Lots of interesting things to see there. Also something my neighbor doesn’t see every day. Perfectly safe. But illegal to record–Crown Center is private property. There were news cameras set up outside. They could record what was going on outside the building, from the public street.

Sometimes you can’t take a video camera where you’re going. So take a still camera. Digital is better for video purposes, of course, but take what you have. A ’70s-style Polaroid is better than nothing. A still shot (or series of still shots) of that drug deal going on might have been safer to shoot than a minute of video, and just as dramatic, if not more. And a still shot of something that doesn’t move is just as good as video of something that moves. You can pan and zoom on a still shot to make it move, or take a series of still shots from different angles.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that Gatermann’s just as likely to have a camera with him as he is shoes. And he gets a lot of really good stuff in the most unlikely of places. One of the pictures of me at the top of this page was taken in a restaurant, and the other was taken onboard Metrolink, which is St. Louis’ mass-transit train.

Also remember that mixing media works. It doesn’t really matter too much if some of your material is digital video, some of it’s analog video, some of it’s single stills, and some of it’s a series of stills. Nor does it matter if some of it is color and some of it black and white. Contrast can have a dramatic effect too. If all your stuff’s the same, figure out how to make it work. If all of it’s different, figure out how to make that work. Just remember that differences will naturally call attention to themselves, so figure out how to take advantage of that when it’s a good thing and to downplay it when it’s not.

Record things even if you don’t have an immediate use in mind for them. Sometimes creativity is having an idea in mind and then going and getting the parts for what you want to make. And sometimes creativity is looking at the parts you have and figuring out what you can make out of it. But usually it’s a little bit of both.

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