The Bill and Phil Show

Surface Pro 4 vs. Surface Book

Post by Phillip Hampton on Nov 11, 2015

maxresdefault[1]When Microsoft introduced the Surface Pro 4, the fourth installment of its popular laptop/tablet hybrid, we were not surprised. Indeed we had been waiting impatiently as the “new” smell on our barely year-old Surface Pro 3 had just begun to wear off. What did catch us by surprise, however, was the introduction at the same time of a brand new laptop device from the folks in Redmond, the Surface Book. We were in a dilemma. Which device should we purchase? The long awaited Surface Pro 4, or this brand new form factor in the Surface Book that nobody saw coming? We settled the conundrum like we usually do. We bought both!

So, Bill took one device; Phil took the other. We each retired to our respective man caves and ran the devices through their paces. We then compared notes and decided that we would indeed keep both devices. There are good uses for each (or at least that was the excuse for us to add to our growing gadgets collection).

First, the Surface Pro 4, as mentioned earlier, is simply an upgrade to an existing product line. We are proud to admit that we have owned every iteration of this product since its inception in 2012. That being said, we were not particularly impressed with the early models. Microsoft finally put out a winner in 2014 with the Surface Pro 3. Now, the Surface Pro 4 builds on that successful release and adds even more reasons to upgrade. The first thing we noticed with the new Pro 4 is that it is actually thinner (and a bit lighter) than the Pro 3 model; however, the viewable screen surface is actually a shade larger. So far so good…we were duly impressed even before pressing the power button. After booting up the device, we noted, of course, that the device comes with Windows 10, which we have readily adopted on all of our PC devices, and find to be incredibly more accessible and business-friendly than Windows 8. We also noticed that Microsoft has increased the resolution on the Pro 4 screen even more, making the display beautifully bright and sharp. Other than the updated Windows 10 interface changes and the brighter screen, however, the Pro 4 pretty much functions the same as the Pro 3 model.

Amazon Echo Review

Post by Phillip Hampton on Nov 2, 2015

Amazon Echo

We saw it advertised on TV. It looked silly, slightly weird, and not really a practical gadget. So, of course, we bought it. We’re talking about Amazon Echo, a sort of wireless speaker/cloud connected know-it-all/digital assistant. Pre-conceived notions aside, however, Echo made a great first impression on us, and we have been using it quite a bit ever since.

Echo is really just a Bluetooth wireless speaker that comes equipped with voice-activated software that allows you to dictate commands, such as play music, read the news, give a weather update, or just answer some off-the-wall queries á la Siri. The speaker itself is housed in a weird looking tube that will not be mistaken for a decorative vase in your office or home, but as far as Bluetooth speakers go, it’s actually pretty good. It won’t replace our Bose or SoundBlaster Roar as our speaker of choice, but it’s a lot better than our smartphone speakers and some of the other less expensive pieces in our growing Bluetooth speaker collection.

Gadget of the Month – IOS 9 and Apple Watch OS 2

Post by Phillip Hampton on Oct 28, 2015

IOS 9 and Apple Watch OS 2

Where Is the Love?

As you all know, Bill has always been a fan of Apple and the innovations it has introduced over the years. Phil is still unimpressed. Phil is of the opinion that Apple’s latest innovations are mainly figments of the tech writers who heap endless amounts of kudos upon Apple products. The latest Apple tech “advances”, iOS 9 and Apple Watch OS 2, have Bill moving closer to Phil’s view of the Apple Dynasty.

Apple Watch OS 2

Apple released the two operating systems in late September (although not simultaneously because “bugs” in the new Apple Watch OS had to be worked out). There was quite a bit of fanfare in the technical press leading up to the release of these OS’s, although not quite as much as usual. After trying out both, on our Apple Watches, iPads and iPhones, even Bill is unimpressed.

Here are some specifics. Bill has always used and loved the Apple Notes App. (Phil calls it a poor substitute for Microsoft’s OneNote.) Still, the Notes App was always quick, easy to use and handy. You could sync it with your Notes folder in Microsoft Exchange, and it has always been a handy tool for jotting down ideas and “to dos” quickly. Apple touted the new Notes App as much more robust – adding checklists, bulleted lists, numbered lists, formatting, advanced sharing, inserting pictures and handwriting, etc. So, Bill anxiously awaited 2 pm Central Daylight time on September 16, and immediately downloaded iOS 9 onto his iPad and iPhone. Frustration ensued. First, it took several starts and shutdowns of the App and his iPad to get the formatting, etc. to work. Second, those features were only available if Bill stored the note in iCloud. Consequently, you cannot sync full-featured notes with Exchange – making the App much less handy, if you use the formatting features.

Windows 10 – Less “Touchy” Than Windows 8

Post by Phillip Hampton on Sep 8, 2015


It is no secret that Microsoft’s last major operating system upgrade, dubbed Windows 8, was not met with resounding fan support, especially from office denizens. While trying to appeal to tablet users with a touch-friendly “metro” interface and tablet-centric apps, Microsoft lost significant credibility with mainstream users who rarely use touch devices in the office. “Give me back my old Windows 7. Why can’t I keep Win XP?” were some of the comments we heard frequently around the office. “Where did my Start menu go?” was a question that Microsoft apparently heard quite frequently in their offices. When Microsoft released Windows 10 earlier this year, it highlighted the reinstatement of a Start menu loud and clear. Windows 7 refugees can safely cross on over now to the Windows 10 Promised Land.

But the reappearance of the Start menu was just one of the more visible changes to Windows 10. Under the hood, so to speak, Microsoft has crafted a brand new system that cleverly takes advantage of mobile, touch-friendly devices without alienating the masses who still use mouse and keyboard to navigate around their daily work. In other words, Windows 10 is what Windows 8 was supposed to be….an operating system that bridges the gap between the mobile and desktop worlds. The only difference is that now Microsoft at least seems to have it right. If you are working on a traditional desktop PC, Windows 10 will work remarkably like Windows 7, with some extra bells and whistles for fun. However, if you are using a mobile device, or even switch from desktop mode to tablet mode on a convertible device (like a Surface Pro 3), Windows 10 is smart enough to know and will optimize the interface to a touch-friendly mobile style.

Gadget of the Month – Sony Digital Paper

Post by Phillip Hampton on Aug 4, 2015

sony digital paperIf you’re a techie, or ever tried to look like one, you have no doubt toted your laptop or tablet into a high-powered meeting so you can demonstrate how “tech cool” you are by having ready access to a cache of digital documents and by taking digital notes, leaving the old yellow legal pad out of sight. Yes, we have done the same thing. No matter that we love to doodle on our legal pad in between taking serious notes, or draw pictures, diagrams, or just weird geometric shapes; with digital note taking on a laptop, it’s all “business” all the time. However cool it may be to fire up our electronic devices as we go into a meeting; many times there seems to be an invisible barrier erected when the laptop screen goes up, particularly in small meetings such as client interviews or depositions. Tapping away on one’s laptop when carrying on a conversation can be disconcerting to the other party and may even be perceived as rude. Certainly we never picked up that vibe when just jotting notes on a legal pad….somehow, that is socially acceptable.

Gadget of the Month – Beam+ Remote Telepresence Device

Post by Phillip Hampton on Jul 1, 2015

20150623_154127A couple of years ago we were smitten with a robotic “remote presence device” (RPD) that we saw at the annual Consumer Electronics Show. This gadget is made by Suitable Technologies ( and is called the Beam. We thought it was exceptionally cool and futuristic, but not necessarily practical for our own personal use. As is often the case, we began to rethink the practicality of this new technology as we revisited the Suitable Technologies booth at this year’s CES. No longer thinking it was “impractical” and desperately wanting to play with this new tech “toy”, we began to think of reasons (excuses) to buy the Beam. Our “reasoning” won the day and we raided our “gadget fund” to purchase the $1,999 Beam+ (a larger, more expensive model, BeamPro, is also available).

When our Beam+ arrived in a huge box, we anxiously unpacked the 4.5-ft robot, wondering how long it would take to set up our new remote telepresence friend. We were pleasantly surprised to note that hardly any assembly was required (just plug in the charging plate and place the Beam+ on the charger). We were even more pleased that the software setup was almost as easy. We just connected the Beam+ to our high-speed Wi-Fi, downloaded the control software from Suitable Tech and we were ready to roll.

And “roll” is what you do with the Beam+. Using the software app on your computer, you can maneuver the Beam+ robot anywhere you want it to go, as long as it stays within the Wi-Fi coverage area.   The Beam+ has a video screen near the top of the 4.5-ft frame that displays the camera image of the person controlling the robot from their computer. The computer operator can see through the “eyes” of the Beam+ by way of two internal cameras on the Beam+, one near the top to see people in the path of the Beam+ and one near the bottom to see potential obstacles near the floor where the robot is traveling. Using the arrow keys on the keyboard, we were able to roll the Beam+ off the charging pad, swivel it around to the door of the office and then move it down the hallway of our office. We were able to communicate and see people in the office that we met with the Beam+ and they could see and hear us via the built-in video monitor. After folks in the office got over the “creepiness” of us sneaking up on them with our robot, we were able to carry on conversations just as if we were in the room with the person….complete with eye-rolls, smirks, and hand gestures, relayed via the video screen.

Gadget of The Month A Tale of Two Watches

Post by Phillip Hampton on May 27, 2015

This month, we compare the Apple Watch to Android Wear watches. This is really more of a comparison of Android Wear software and Apple Watch software and their respective interaction with a Tethered Smartphone.

There are several Android Wear watch models. Bill has compared his LG G Watch to his Apple Watch. Phillip compared his Moto Smartwatch to Bills’ Apple Watch. Unfortunately, neither of us has the LG Watch Urbane, the only Android Wear Smartwatch that runs the latest version of Android. That watch has features that rival, and sometimes exceed, those of its trendy Apple rival.

android-watch-iwatch Both types of watches have numerous functions that are the same, or very similar. For example, you can answer telephone calls on your Apple Watch. You can answer telephone calls on most Android watches. You can track fitness and health data with both types of watches. You can read and review emails on both types of watches. You can read and review texts on both types of watches. You can listen to voicemails on both types of watches. You can look at your calendar on both types of watches. Both watches provide a plethora of notifications. However, the actual functionality of these features can vary significantly.

Given the functionality of both types of watches, you will immediately be recognized as having the ultimate in “geeky cool” when wearing a smartwatch on your wrist. Your friends will be so jealous….just don’t get a tattoo on the wrist where you sport your Apple Watch. (Apparently, a tattoo interferes with some of the Apple Heath-app functionality. (I guess Bill shouldn’t have gotten the “I <3 Apple” tattoo last year.)