Review: Inateck USB 3 Enclosure & Wireless Presenter Stick

From time to time I get invited to review various things here on my blog. I usually turn those invitations down, but sometimes I’m intrigued and agree. That’s what happened back in December, not long after I purchased the Inateck PCI-E to USB 3.0 Expansion Card that I wrote about yesterday. Someone from Inateck emailed asking if I’d be interested in reviewing a couple of their other products. I hadn’t ever come across the brand until I started looking for that USB 3 expansion card, and I was surprised that they reached out so quickly after my purchase. I was happy enough with the expansion card, so I figured, why not? Let’s see what else they’ve got!

They invited me to pick a couple of items off their website to review (and they sent me one of each for free). I decided on the Tool Free USB 3.0 HDD Enclosure (FEU3NS-1E) and the Perfect Laser Pointer Pen for Presentation (WP1002).

Tool Free USB 3.0 HDD Enclosure

An enclosure might seem like a strange thing to want to try, but I have used quite a few over the years. It seems I always have a hard drive that needs attention. Currently I’ve got a few Vantec NexStar enclosures, but nothing with USB 3, and I liked the idea of a smaller one for 2.5″ drives.

Inateck USB 3 Portable HDD Enclosure

The Inateck USB 3.0 HDD Enclosure comes with the HDD case, a short USB 3 cable, and a user manual (which is completely unnecessary). The enclosure is made of plastic and is really light at just 70 grams. It supports 2.5″ SATA HDDs and SSDs, as long as they are 9.5mm thick or less. For 7mm drives, there’s an extra foam pad that you can use to stabilize the drive.

The main problem with most enclosures is the time it takes to get them open, screw the drive in, and then close them back up again (for temporary jobs, I have started using the NewerTech USB 3.0 Universal Drive Adapter, which is awesome). That’s why the “tool free” nature of the Inateck enclosure really appealed to me.

Inateck USB 3 Portable HDD Enclosure

To open the enclosure, all you need to do is slide the top forward. Then you can lift it up, revealing the connector for the drive. To close it, you simply reverse the action. Even though it’s plastic, the build feels solid enough that I wouldn’t worry about it breaking with use (as opposed to say, the plastic releases on the QNAP TS-451 that I recently got). To get the drive itself in, you just need to align it with the connector, and then push. There are two small screws that you could remove if you had trouble with this for any reason (they are the only thing holding the connector to the case…I see that Inateck is now selling the connector as a standalone product basically too).

After the drive is in and the enclosure is plugged in, you simply flip the power switch. There’s a handy LED that comes on too. I have seen a few criticisms of the USB cable, as the enclosure uses the Type-A cable, as opposed to an A to Micro-B that you likely use for a mobile phone. Just don’t lose the cable that comes with it I guess!

Inateck USB 3 Portable HDD Enclosure

I tested the drive with both an HDD and an SSD. I’m a Windows 8.1 user and had no problem with plugging the drive in – it was recognized right away with no reboot or driver install required. I didn’t measure the transfer speeds, but it was as quick as expected. The enclosure does support UASP (USB Attached SCSI Protocol) if your controller supports it and you’re using an SSD.

The Inateck enclosure is currently just $23.99 at Amazon, which is very affordable. So would I buy one? If I needed a basic 2.5″ enclosure, yes. The main selling feature to me is the ability to swap drives in and out very quickly. If that’s important, then the Inateck enclosure would work very well. If I was looking for an enclosure for one drive that I didn’t anticipate changing very often, I might look for something sturdier.

Wireless Presenter Stick

The second item I chose was the “Inateck Perfect Laser Pointer Pen for presentation”, which is a mouthful, so I’ll call it the Wireless Presenter Stick. It’s one of those devices you hold when you’re running through a PowerPoint presentations to switch the slides without having to walk over to the laptop to do it. I’ve never had one of my own, though I have used tons of them over the years.

Inateck WP1002 Wireless Presenter

The Wireless Presenter Stick requires one AAA battery, which is not included. It’s made of plastic and is really light at just 24 grams. Inateck says it has a range of 20m. It requires a little USB dongle that is conveniently stored in the base of the stick itself with a magnet for good measure. Bluetooth would have been nice, especially if the MacBook-led trend of fewer ports continues, but it’s not a deal-breaker. The stick also features a laser pointer, which is handy for pointing to thinks on the screen/wall.

Inateck WP1002 Wireless Presenter

I feel like a wizard wielding a wand when I hold the stick! It’s about 5 inches long, so it’s certainly going to be noticeable when you hold it. Most of the edges are rounded, except for the top edge which is straight. While it does help you orient the stick in your hand, it does make it a little less comfortable to hold. There are five buttons and a power switch on the stick. The three buttons along the top are the forward and back buttons, plus the laser pointer button. Along the right side are the Tab and Enter buttons. The left side is where you’ll find the power switch (the stick will automatically enter sleep mode if you don’t press anything for a while to save battery power).

I have used the Wireless Presenter Stick for maybe half a dozen presentations now, on a few different computers. No drivers or installation is required, you simply plug in the USB dongle and you’re good to go. I didn’t test the range but in a big conference room it never failed to work as I moved around. I am a little surprised to see some wear on the buttons already, maybe from dirty hands? Nothing functionally wrong, just some markings on the plastic.

I have also used it in a group presentation during which we passed the stick around to a few different presenters. Pressing the buttons always works, there’s never a stutter or pause, and you never have to press it more than once. But, the one problem we did run into, is that everyone kept pressing the wrong button! When you hold the stick properly (the way that feels comfortable), the “previous” button is at the top and the “next” button is at the bottom. But invariably people try to press the top button for forward/next! It’s a minor annoyance I suppose, but I was surprised at how consistently the issue came up with new people. Because there’s no software to install, there’s no way to remap these buttons, but that would have been one way to solve the problem.

Inateck WP1002 Wireless Presenter

You can use the stick for more than just presentations. If you’re inside a browser, you can use the up and down arrows to scroll the page. You can also use the tab button to move from link to link, and enter to select one. This is a lot slower than the mouse or touch of course, but it can be done. It would probably make most sense as part of a presentation.

Inateck’s Wireless Presenter Stick is currently $26.99 at Amazon. The most direct competitor is probably the Logitech Wireless Presenter R400, which is nearly double the price. The Logitech one is about the same length but is wider and thicker and slightly heavier. The Inateck stick is decidedly less ergonomic, but compared to most of the other options out there, it’s slim and light. It gets the job done for a great price.

Review: WIND Mobile Data Stick

Back in May I was contacted by a company representing WIND Mobile to see if I would be interested in test driving a data stick for free. I don’t often get contacted for things like this let alone accept them, but I liked the idea of the mobile data stick given my interest in wireless technology so I accepted. This was the pitch:

We’d like to offer you a free WIND Mobile Data Stick with two months of unlimited service to help you stay connected wherever you go. Your readers look to you to stay informed on the latest tech trends and Edmonton happenings – so whether you’re writing from this year’s Fringeopolis, or you want to share a new social media trend with Edmonton’s blogosphere while you’re on the go, if you’re in a WIND Zone, you’ll have access to the internet – and to your readers. All we ask in return is that if you like it, tell people about it.

I said I’d write about it either way, hence this post!

The data stick arrived right at the end of May, and I used it a few times throughout June and July. Setup was really simple – I was up and running in a matter of minutes (I didn’t have to do any activation steps, that was already taken care of). The main task was to install the software. The USB stick itself is manufactured by Huawei and the software they provide is pretty generic, it just gets branded for each carrier. I really dislike installing any extra wireless software on my computer – I prefer to let Windows handle everything. Aside from the dated Windows XP look however, the software thankfully didn’t cause any problems.

Clicking ‘connect’ was all that was required, though I did find it useful to look at the statistics from time to time. As you can see it has the ability to send text messages as well (after all, the data stick runs on the same network as your cell phone). I didn’t use that functionality – it seems kind of unnecessary when my phone is never far away!

I purposefully avoided doing any detailed speed tests with the data stick. If I were to buy one, I wouldn’t be downloading torrents or anything like that, so I figured I’d just test my “normal usage”. That means things like email, Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc. In general, I was happy with the performance!

The first time I used the data stick was at the Questionmark office, actually. We were in the process of moving from the 8th floor to the 5th floor, and we had all kinds of issues getting our Internet connection moved. And once it did get moved, it would drop all the time! We got it all resolved eventually, but I used the data stick quite a bit while waiting for a technician to show up, so that worked out well.

Not long after that, Sharon and I were guest speakers at a Travel Media Association of Canada retreat focused on social media. I think I could have connected to the wireless they had arranged, but it was easier to just use the data stick. With lots of browsing and demos, the connection worked really well! I never had to wait longer than normal for something to load. The only odd thing I noticed was with geo-location – Twitter would identify my location as Vancouver rather than Edmonton!

The first time I used the data stick for tweeting/blogging was June 11 at TEDxEdmonton 2011. If you were there, you probably saw me down front in the middle, live-tweeting the presentations. There wasn’t any wi-fi available so having the data stick really came in handy. I could have tweeted from my phone I guess, but looking up links, videos, and the other stuff I was including is just so much easier on a laptop. All of that went really well, but I ran into issues when I tried uploading photos to Flickr. The upload speeds were abysmal, and I eventually gave up and plugged in to a wired connection during the breaks.

I also found the data stick useful in a couple of volunteer situations. I am the secretary on my condo board, and we have meetings in our shared room on the main floor. It doesn’t have wi-fi so it was handy to have the data stick to get access to download files and look things up! Another situation was during a meeting for the new Slow Food Edmonton site that I am developing (no it’s not up yet). We were at Credo which usually has excellent wireless, but for whatever reason on that day it wasn’t working. I was able to connect with the data stick though and continue with the meeting as planned.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned above, I was really pleased with how easy it was to setup and use the data stick. For my “typical usage” testing, the performance was great. I just wouldn’t upload photos!

The thing is, on most days I’m never far from a wi-fi connection. My home office, the Questionmark office, Credo, Transcend, etc. – they all have good wi-fi connections. While it was certainly useful to have the data stick available for those times that I didn’t have wi-fi, I don’t think I’m on the go often enough to justify it.

REVIEW: Logitech Cordless Desktop MX 5500 Revolution

Usually I’m not in the city on boxing day, so I don’t have much experience with finding post-Xmas deals. I did venture out this year however, and managed to snag a fairly good deal on a new mouse and keyboard at Best Buy. Listed at $199.99 CDN, I picked up the Logitech Cordless Desktop MX 5500 Revolution for just $99.

Cordless Desktop MX 5500 Revolution

I had been using a plain old Dell USB mouse and keyboard since my last cordless Logitech mouse died about a year ago. It used two rechargeable AA batteries, but would consistently kill them with just a couple hours of use. The Dell mouse worked fine, but it’s most advanced feature was a scroll wheel. The Dell keyboard also worked well, and had some handy media controls on top, including a volume dial. Other than that however, I found it incredibly loud and the keys sometimes stuck. I knew it was time for a new mouse and keyboard, but it wasn’t a high enough priority for me to go searching.

I’m really glad I found the deal and picked up my new mouse and keyboard. The MX Revolution mouse has both a tilt scroll wheel and a thumb wheel (for more precise scrolling), back and forward buttons, and a search button. Best of all, it comes with built-in batteries and a charging stand so that I never have to change batteries. The keyboard includes the standard layout, plus media controls on the left and an integrated LCD screen on the top that can display the date and time, temperature, media information, and more. Both devices use Bluetooth.

The mouse feels very comfortable, and the soft built-in palm rest on the keyboard is a nice touch. The keys are incredibly quiet compared to my old keyboard, and feel very smooth. So far the battery life on the mouse has been great (haven’t had to charge it yet). The scroll wheel took a bit of getting used to (it turns into a hyper scroll wheel when you have a long document) but now I really like it!

I’ll admit that the LCD screen isn’t incredibly useful, but it is pretty darn cool. Based on the first week of use, I think I’m definitely going to like this mouse and keyboard.

REVIEW: Staples Copy & Print Centre Online

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! I did, and enjoyed a small break from blogging too. Time to get back into it!

staples logo One of the things I got Sharon for Christmas was a food calendar. I wanted to get her something related to photography and food, but another picture frame just didn’t seem that interesting. When I was in Staples one day, I noticed their advertising for the Copy & Print Centre, and specifically for the calendars. I took a card from the counter, and checked out the website when I got home. A couple of hours later and I had a professional looking calendar, filled with photos of food we’ve made together or of restaurants we’ve visited.

I found the website very easy-to-use, if a little basic. You can do pretty much everything online that you can do in the store. Want to print or copy something? Simply upload a file and go. You can also order custom items, such as business cards, labels, greeting cards, bookmarks, agendas, and calendars (you can download the price list in PDF here). Obviously I was interested in the calendar option.

There are four calendar styles to choose from: deluxe, classic, express, and year in view. I went with the deluxe, which lets you completely customize a full color calendar in two sizes (8.5” x 11” or 11” x 17”) and either 12 months or 18 months. Once you’ve picked those options, you can get started creating your calendar. They display some tips and tricks before you get started, which I skipped over the first time. I later went back and read them. They suggest organizing and uploading photos ahead of time rather than on the fly, and that turned out to be really good advice. By uploading your photos first, you can save your calendar before it’s finished and return to it later. It also makes it a bit faster to customize each page.

I chose a template in the 11” x 17” size and got to work. It took me quite a while to get all the images uploaded and organized and placed on the appropriate pages, but it was worth it. After you submit your order and select a store for delivery, you can download a digital proof in PDF (mine was just under 7 MB). A few days later, you’ll receive an email notifying you that your calendar is ready to pick up! Simply pay in store and you’re done. Very easy.

A few other quick comments on the website: it appears to be written in ASP.NET, which I thought was kinda cool. They also make use of some Telerik controls, such as the RadUpload component. Interestingly, I can’t find a single link back to the main Staples website – the Copy & Print Centre seems to be completely separate.

I was really impressed with the result (the photo above is from the proof). It actually does look like a professional calendar that you’d buy in a store! It helps to have high resolution photos too, I guess. On the very back of the calendar is the Copy & Print Centre logo, but otherwise it’s completely free from logos or advertising. I wonder if you could pay to have that removed? Maybe for large orders.

I’m happy to report that Sharon loved her calendar! So did her sister actually, so much so that she set about creating her own soon after seeing Sharon’s. It’s a unique, easy-to-create gift. Based on my experience, I’d definitely recommend the Staples Copy & Print Centre online.

REVIEW: Brother HL-4070CDW Color Laser Printer

Wireless!Like Tris Hussey, I received a comic from Darren Barefoot back in November with an offer to review a new Brother color laser printer. Unlike Tris, I am really late with my review! In any case, I jumped at the chance and have had the printer for a couple months now.

There were a few options to choose from (all part of the new color laser lineup) but it was an easy decision for me – the Brother HL-4070CDW has wireless connectivity! So that’s the one I received.

My first impression was "wow, where the heck am I going to put that?" The printer is gigantic, as is the box it came in. We’re talking 75 pounds of printer. It was immediately clear that this is a business printer, not a consumer one. It has been sitting on my kitchen table ever since. But because it’s wireless, I have been using it!

Setup took me quite a while, but it was no fault of the printer. I didn’t have a network cable long enough to go from the kitchen table to the router, nor did I have long enough USB or parallel cables (isn’t that odd, that a fancy new printer with wireless still has a parallel port? because it’s for "business" I guess). And while I have the popular Linksys WRT54G Wireless-G router, it’s one of the earliest revisions, so it doesn’t have the "SecureEasySetup" feature. That left me with some complicated wireless notebook setup routine, or entering the details manually via the LCD and buttons on the printer itself. I opted for the latter, and eventually got it working. I think an improvement would be some sort of USB-key support, where the installer on my computer would copy something to a USB-key that I could plug into the printer for setup.

LCD Information Panel The Printer The gigantic box it came in Parallel ports? Seriously?

I despise installing printer software, but the setup for this printer was pretty painless actually. No problems, and it didn’t install a bunch of unwanted crap. I think I’ve had a few too many horrible experiences with HP software, and that has left a bad taste. Fortunately Brother decided to keep it simple.

Oh yeah I had to stick in the toner cartridges too, but that was really easy. New printers these days are pretty idiot-proof with the labels and tape that must be removed, and the cartridges themselves clicked nicely into place. They sent me the standard yield cartridges which can print 2500 black and white copies, and 1500 color. The high yield cartridges bump that up to 5000 black and white, 4000 color.

Inside the front Now for the actual printing! Bottom line – the quality is superb. The color pages I have printed look wonderful, with really sharp, bright colors. The black and white pages are good too, nice and crisp. My main complaint applies to all laser printers – I hate how the pages are curved! Because of the heat used during the printing, the pages don’t really lie flat, they curve with the shape of the printer. Not a deal-breaker, but you don’t have that problem with an inkjet. I didn’t do an official timing, but printing black and white pages full of text seems pretty close to the advertised 21 pages per minute.

I’ve used laser printers before, and there’s one problem I’ve always had – paper jams! That’s all I can remember about the laser printers of the past. Fortunately, I haven’t had any paper jams with this printer. I have even stuck thick paper (like the greeting card quality) on top of normal paper in the tray without any problems.

How about the wireless? No surprise here – I absolutely love the ability to print wirelessly! It’s just so useful. Whenever I can cut a cord I will. It gives you more flexibility about where you can put the printer too. The printer has a sleep mode, which it goes into after a period of inactivity, but it wakes up when I send a job, even wirelessly (which I guess is obvious, but still seemed somewhat surprising for some reason).

As I said, this printer isn’t meant for the home user. It’s big, heavy, and expensive (MSRP $629.99 CDN). That said, it’s a wonderful printer for business users. Cartridges cost about $85 for standard yield, and $160 for high yield. That’s probably quite a bit more cost-effective than an inkjet. Business users who need to take advantage of the wireless capabilities should especially check this printer out. If I was doing a lot of color printing in an office setting, the Brother HL-4070CDW would definitely be on my list of printers to consider.

Zagat Survey up for sale

Post Image During my trip to New York in December, I became quite familiar with Zagat. As a foodie, Sharon assured me that Zagat was the final word on restaurants in NYC. And walking around certainly convinced me – tons of restaurants proudly display their Zagat rating or review in the window. If I had to guess, I’d say Zagat makes quite a bit of money, so I was surprised to see this in today’s Times:

Zagat Survey, the guide empire that started as a hobby for Tim and Nina Zagat in 1979 as a two-page typed list of New York restaurants compiled from reviews from friends, has been put up for sale, according to people briefed on the decision.

It is unclear how large a price Zagat will attract. While the company is a worldwide brand, its actual business is much smaller. People briefed on the company’s finances suggest the company could be valued at more than $200 million, which would still be a drop in the bucket for an Internet company or a wealthy executive.

The article hints that the reason for the sale is getting to the next level. Despite tons of success over the last three decades, more capital is necessary to move beyond organic growth. Potential suitors (as mentioned in the article) include just about every company with some cash, including IAC/InterActiveCorp, News Corporation, American Express, AT&T, and others. Heck, why not Facebook? The two companies have a partnership apparently.

I had no idea that Zagat had so many tech investors. The extremely well known Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers is one, as are former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold and Nicholas Negroponte, director of the media laboratory at MIT.

It depends who the buyer is, but I suspect the Zagat brand will lose some clout after a sale goes through.


REVIEW: Transformers

Post ImageWow, just wow. I went to see Transformers last night, and I left the theatre damn impressed. Keep in mind that I’m not a Transformers geek. I never played with the toys, nor did I watch the cartoon. Thus, it would have been hard for me to be disappointed about “staying true to the story” or something like that. Turns out even the big fans loved the movie though. Take Justice, for instance:

I will be proselytizing this movie to random strangers starting tomorrow; I won’t stop until the entire world recognizes how great this film was. If you were ever going to do Transformers as a live-action film, this would be how to do it.

Don’t listen to the critics, listen to the audience. I’ll echo what Justice said: go see the movie, you’ll like it.

I read the Wikipedia entry for the movie the other day, the most interesting part of which is the section on the development of the film. Fans of Steven Spielberg (such as myself) will notice his stamp all over the film. Alien comes to earth, finds boy. Boy is afraid at first, then develops a relationship with alien. Boy is only the only one who can understand alien. Later, alien is near death, boy is heartbroken. Sound familiar? It should. A large part of the storyline in Transformers might as well have been lifted right from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. And that’s not a bad thing.

Anyway, here are some comments:

  • I didn’t expect the movie to be funny, but there was some clever humor injected throughout!
  • Awesome action sequences, just incredible. Though if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen a lot of the major eye-candy-scenes. Still, the CGI in this movie is breathtaking.
  • Not one, but two incredibly attractive women in this movie: Megan Fox and Rachael Taylor.
  • Shia LaBeouf was incredible. Looking forward to more movies with him as the lead.
  • I suppose one negative is that the movie could be taken as an extended commercial for GM.
  • Great music, both original and included. The new Linkin Park stuff was featured pretty heavily.
  • Don’t let the length (144 mins) deter you from seeing the film. Like Pirates 3, it did not feel that long.

Apparently two sequels have already been greenlit, with Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox on board for both. I’d go see more Transformers movies! Heck, I’d go see this one again!

Read: Transformers

REVIEW: I think Pownce sucks

Post ImageI mentioned in my last notes post that I’d write about Pownce, so here it goes. Nothing can top the iPhone in the hype department, but Pownce has come close recently. And unfortunately for Kevin Rose and his crew, it doesn’t live up to any of it, unlike the iPhone (note: I don’t have one). Ted was a little mean over at uncov, but for the most part I have to agree with him.

Let me get this out of the way right now – I really like Twitter, but I’ve been just as annoyed as everyone else with their crappy service at times. It has gotten much better lately though. And my first impression upon hearing about Pownce was – what does it do for me that Twitter or Facebook or instant messaging doesn’t already do?

Here are some thoughts on Pownce:

  • It works kind of awkwardly in Opera. Scrolling is not smooth, and clicking on the “home” button at the top takes way too much effort (you have to be right on the text or something).
  • Spam. By default, Pownce thinks it’s cool to send an email to your inbox each time something happens. Problem is, you have to click through to see any details.
  • Crazy invites! Who are all these people that have requested to be my friend? I have accepted them all, but I only know a few of them. This hasn’t happened to me with Twitter.
  • Maybe I am blind, but I don’t think Pownce has ever heard of RSS. I’m surprised their blog has an RSS feed. Seriously, why can’t I subscribe to anything?
  • Lack of mobile support. That’s the second best thing about Twitter as far as I am concerned, so it sucks that Pownce is web/desktop-only.
  • The best thing about Twitter is the API – Pownce doesn’t have one.
  • The file sharing feature of Pownce strikes me as a solution looking for a problem.

Honestly, Pownce is a horrible attempt to aggregate the functionality of a bunch of services into one place. Twitter is better for messaging (heck so is IM). Email/IM is better for sending files to individuals, services like do multiple people. Facebook is better for creating a network of friends, and for creating and sharing events. is better for sharing links.

And here’s the thing: I already use all of those services, so why would I switch to Pownce? It would have to be ten times better than all of those services to make it worthwhile. It’s clearly not.

Sorry folks, but if it weren’t for Kevin Rose, Pownce wouldn’t have received a fraction of the attention it has thus far. I realize I am contributing to that attention, but I see this post as a sane reply to these idiotic ones. Two of the authors of those posts admitted their gut feeling was to hate Pownce. My advice? Learn to trust your gut.

Another thing: who gives a shit what technology Pownce was written in? Only the very geeky will know what django is. Twitter had the same problem – who cares that it’s written using RoR? Make it work dammit. And to anyone who thinks Pownce will get tons of people to install Adobe AIR – get a grip! AIR will be installed very widely, yes, but it won’t be because of Pownce. I’m all for getting my geek on, but shiny new web frameworks distract from having a solid, usable product.

One more thing (heh I sound like Steve Jobs…): why not use Leah Culver (Pownce’s lead developer) to your advantage, Pownce? If her photo appeared in every Pownce review I’ve read, or on every page of the site, I might feel better about the service. Heh, sorry for getting chauvinistic, but come on, I’m trying to find something that would get me to use Pownce. And besides, would you rather look at Leah or Kevin? Thought so. Maybe that’s what we need for Podcast Spot – an attractive, female lead developer. Hmm…

Okay, that’s it. If for some reason you’re dying to try Pownce, I have some invites left, just send me your email.

UPDATE: I just found some feeds! Turns out you have to visit someone’s public profile to see an RSS icon of any kind. Dumb!

Read: Pownce

REVIEW: Good Girl Gone Bad – Rihanna

Post ImageCan you believe it has only been two years since Rihanna released her first album? It was August 2005 when Music of the Sun hit store shelves. I reviewed that album, and wasn’t incredibly impressed. In April 2006 she released her second album, A Girl Like Me. I didn’t review it, but I did like it much better than the first. It spawned more singles than the first album too, such as the incredibly catchy track SOS.

Now Rihanna is back with a third album. Released on June 5th, Good Girl Gone Bad (wikipedia) has already reached #1 in Canada and #2 in the United States. Most reviews have been positive, as they should be – the album kicks ass!

You may recall that I was “completely addicted” to Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds last year (still am, looking forward to the concert in August too). I shouldn’t be surprised then that I love Rihanna’s new album, as Timbaland produced three of the songs, and Timberlake co-wrote and provided backing vocals on one of them. Other collaborators include Jay-Z and Ne-Yo.

To say that the album is different from her previous efforts would be a big understatement! It is more up-tempo, fun, and memorable. The first single is also the first track on the disc, Umbrella. It “features” Jay-Z though he really only has a short rap at the beginning. I think my favorite song on the album would be the fourth track, Breakin’ Dishes. The second single, Shut Up and Drive, is also really catchy. The Timbaland-produced Sell Me Candy is also a great song, but it’s too short at only 2 minutes, 45 seconds.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there are four or five singles released from this album – I think it’s that good. That’s probably a good thing for Rihanna, considering she probably will want to take a break after three albums in two years! I definitely recommend Good Girl Gone Bad.

Read: Rihanna

How could Zune's software suck so badly?

Post ImagePerhaps you’ve heard on the news recently that Microsoft’s new digital media player, the Zune, is hardly flying off the shelves. I guess that’s not too surprising given the early reviews the device has received. Now I know Microsoft is pretty good at hardware (Xbox, mice and keyboards, etc.) but they are still a software company. How is it then, that they could have screwed up the software side of the Zune so badly?

Now I haven’t seen or tested a Zune, so I can’t say I have had similar experiences. And granted, not all of the reviews are so negative (indeed there are quite a few positive ones), but still. A software company should have gotten the software part absolutely right, don’t you think?