iKlear Cleaning Kit

When clients give me computers that have lots of dirt and smudge on the screen, I grab iKlear to clean it. I saw a few years ago that it’s what Apple uses to clean laptops, especially the white MacBook prone to discoloration.

Now I also use iKlear to clean phones, tablets, and TVs. Do not to use Windex or other cleansers not specifically designed for monitors. They can permanently damage the screen. If you don’t want to spend the money, at least get a microfiber cloth and just use a small amount of plain water.

Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 Review

There are several MiFi devices out there these days but none as cheap as the one by Virgin Mobile.  A MiFi allows you to get on a cellular network via your devices WiFi.  Your laptop or iPad has WiFi but probably not built-in cellular network support.  This bridges that gap.  You can also use up to 5 devices thru the MiFi at one time so its more useful than a built-in connection like the high-end iPad.  This MiFi 2200 can be had from walmart.com for just $139.99 with no contract.  In comparison, the Verizon MiFi is $269.99.  The Verizon data plan is $60/month with a 5GB data cap while Virgin Mobile offers unlimited data for just $40/month.


The first thing you have to do is activate the MiFi.  This is actually different from paying for service.  Activation involves creating an account, getting some special IDs from Virgin Mobile, and entering them into the MiFi.  This is a simple guided process that you do by connecting to the MiFi via wireless and going to virginmobile.mifi in any browser.  One odd thing is that the MiFi will not connect to 3G (EVDO) until it is activated.  This means you have to go through the activation website via the older 1xRTT Sprint network which is only slightly faster than dial-up.  While annoying, you should only have to activate your MiFi once.  Once activated, you will then see it connect to 3G.

You can provide your billing info without actually starting your data plan.  You’ve got an option to have your plan auto-renew which is nice if you plan to use it always.  If you plan to use it only on occasional trips, there is also the option to only pay manually so when you sign up for a month of service, it will simply end at the end of the month.

Data Plans

In addition to the $40/month plan that most will probably get, there is also a $10/month plan with 100MB cap.  That’s a great cheaper option if you just need to use the MiFi for a short period.  There’s one other secret extra special plan only available to people who buy their MiFi from walmart.  For $20/month, you get a 1GB cap.  That’s a nice additional plan option since that would likely cover most people for a week long trip.  This is plenty reason enough to purchase your Virgin Mobile MiFi from walmart.


Virgin Mobile is owned by Sprint so it uses Sprint’s cellular network.  When you are connected to Sprint 3G, you can expect typical downloads speeds of 300Kbps to 1000Kbps.  While testing, I typically had 2-4 bars of 3G and averaged about 450Kbps.  This is no where near as fast as most DSL or cable speeds but for the price and mobility, I think its terrific performance.  If you are not in a 3G area, the MiFi will fall back to the older 1xRTT network where the best speed you’ll likely see is 100Kbps and more typical is probably half that.  I recommend you check out sprint’s 3G coverage map before purchasing to be sure 3G is available in the areas you plan to use it.  The 1x speeds are fine if you’re desperate for any connection but it will be painful to use.  As long as you’ve got 3G, you’ll be happy with the performance, especially at just $40/month.  If my home internet ever went out, I’d be happy to use this as an alternate internet connection.  And since you can start your data plan through the device, you can do just that whenever you have to.

Battery Life

You can expect to get about 4 hours of continuous use from the MiFi.  It can be setup to automatically power down after X minutes of no usage.  This can be handy to save battery life but it is also easy to simply press the power button until the light goes out to save battery.

If you are looking for a little more battery life like me, I recommend an external usb battery like the Satechi Battery Extender Pack.  The built-in MiFi has a 1150 mAh battery.  This Satechi has a 4800 mAh battery.  That means it has enough extra juice to fully charge the MiFi over 4 times.  It can also be used to charge almost anything else powered by USB such as iPhones, iPads or most other cell phones.

Admin Options

This MiFi offers terrific admin controls.  You can change the wireless SSID, the wireless password or admin password.  You can even setup port filtering, port forwarding, and mac filters.  Once you’ve setup your config, you can even back it up to a computer in case you ever have to reset your MiFi and restore your setup.


The Virgin Mobile MiFi doesn’t offer the fastest speeds.  It doesn’t offer terrific battery life.  But it is an amazing price with terrific data plan options.  If you’re a price conscious shopper that wants connectivity for any of their many WiFi gadgets, this is the device for you.  I think road warriors or occasional travelers would be happy with this device.

Canon S95 versus S90

King of Pocket Cameras, Improved

Canon just replaced their PowerShot S90 with the S95, so I did the same. The Canon S90 was my favorite camera ever so I wanted to see what Canon could do to improve it.

The S95 retains everything that made the S90 great.

  • a relatively large 1/1.7″ CCD sensor capturing 10 megapixels (same sensor as Canon G10 and G11)
  • excellent built quality
  • lots of manual controls that can be assigned to ring on front of camera

What’s improved?

  • body finish is more grippy
  • wheel on back has stop clicks (many people didn’t like the freely spinning wheel on the S90)
  • added 720p movie mode (only 24 fps though) with stereo recording
  • High Dynamic Range scene option
  • better image stabilization
  • can be used with a neck strap (holes at both sides of the camera)
  • just a little bit thinner (see photo). Some will complain about the camera being too small and losing the little thumb grip, but I prefer a camera to be as pocketable as possible.


There are loads of  pocket cameras to chose from that will take good shots in brightly lit situations. It’s in the poorly lit situations that the larger sensor of the S90/S95 really helps. It’s not about the number of megapixels, but about how good the image sensor is at collecting light. The image sensor on the S90/S95 combined with image stabilization makes the camera worth the money for me. By adding a plethora of manual controls, Canon has made a camera that many professional photographers will be comfortable using when they don’t want to carry their big DSLR.

Currently costing $399 at Amazon, the S95 is not a cheap camera. It isn’t a necessary purchase if you already own the S90. But the Canon S95 is the current best camera that can fit in a pocket and it’s a worthy successor to the S90.

AT&T 3G MicroCell Review and Recommendations

The MicroCell is an interesting product. Some believe it is a product filling holes in a carrier’s network that shouldn’t exist. No carrier has blanket coverage and often even when there is coverage, it is worse indoors so it is nice that products like this do exist.  For $150, you can pick up an AT&T MicroCell from any AT&T store.  This is a cheaper option than some alternatives and worth consideration if you have little coverage at home or work.


Account setup is rather simple and done through a website.  You provide your address and phone numbers and that’s it.  You are limited to 10 phone numbers that can work through a MicroCell.  The good news is that it is locked down by phone numbers so your neighbor can’t use it.  Your address info is verified by GPS in the MicroCell during startup.  Unfortunately, this means the device needs to be near a window so it can get a GPS signal.  This is the oddest thing about it but apparently a requirement by the FCC.  If the GPS light does not come on, you need to move it closer to a window.  In some cases, you may need to try various windows at your house until you finally are able to get GPS.

Once you get GPS and are connected to your Internet, you can move the device as long as it doesn’t lose power.  This might be easy if are just relocating it in the same room.  If you are moving to an area with no windows, you’ll need a battery backup solution.  A cheap good option is the Tripp Lite Compact UPS.  Once you get GPS by a window, you can unhook the ethernet and move the MicroCell and UPS (uninterrupted power supply) wherever you like.  Of course, if you ever lose power for longer than your UPS can last, you’ll have to go through that whole process again to set it up.  This battery backup approach can make sense though because placement is very important.


AT&T claims a 40 ft range.  This is pretty decent and works out to an area of about 5,000 square feet, even more if you have 2 floors.  You’ll drop about 1 bar of coverage per major obstacle (like a wall) so to cover a whole house, you’ll want to put the MicroCell in the most central location.  Unfortunately, central often means no windows, hence the need for the UPS approach.

Even if you’ve got 5 bars and are sitting right next to the MicroCell, your call quality might be awful if your Internet isn’t good.  This is often the cause of any VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) issues and everyone’s assumption that their Internet is good.  To test the VoIP quality of your Internet, visit this VoIP test site.  If you don’t do well on those tests, you shouldn’t consider any VoIP products.

Assuming you’ve got good Internet and good bars, the MicroCell performance is very good.  You’ll know you’re connected because your phone will say something like AT&T M-Cell instead of just AT&T.  If you’re far from the MicroCell or have many walls between it and you, your performance may suffer so be sure to place it near where you expect to make most calls.  If you’re heavily using your Internet, streaming a video for example, your call quality may suffer if you don’t have your router setup properly.

Router Optimization

The MicroCell can go between your router and DSL/Cable modem but additional routers is rarely a good thing.  We recommend you hook the MicroCell up to your router so it can plug in anywhere on your network. We don’t recommend the use of a wireless bridge as wireless can be too sporadic for VoIP.  To optimize MicroCell performance, it should be given high priority in your router’s QoS (Quality of Service).  The MicroCell MAC address is on the bottom of the device.


Before the MicroCell, the best alternative was the zBoost YX-510 Cell Phone Booster.  This is around $300 and requires that you have some signal near a window or in an attic.  Coaxial cable is run from an antenna to the zBoost repeating antenna.


If you’ve got poor Internet but some outside signal, the cell phone booster is your best bet.  If you’ve got good enough Internet, the MicroCell is a cheaper and superior option.  You may not like having to pay for such a device but it is a one time fee that should simply make your AT&T phones work at home.