Computer Corner

Here Comes Kit-Kat!

OK all you Samsung Galaxy owners! Tablets and cellphones! Samsung has announced that it's rolling out via OTA (Over The Air) software upgrades to Android 4.4 (Kit-Kat). Presently the "latest and greatest" version of the Android operating system. What does that mean to you? Well, for starters how your device "looks" will change. For some pretty significantly. Sure, your apps will likely be perfectly fine but how your screen looks quite likely will be different. What's next? Well, making sure your contacts/phone numbers are backed up would be wise. There are many apps on Google Play that can do this for you including your SMS (text) messages. For those on cell phones, check your carrier. Some offer online Contacts backup. Saving pictures stored on your phone to an external source (your computer or an onbaord memory card) never hurts!
Being prepared is always a good idea. And backing up vital information is just that...vital. Better safe than sorry.


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New Ipad Air?

Reports have surfaced in many avenues Apple had that was planning on upgrading the IPad Air sometime around the Fourth Quarter of 2014 were running hot and heavy. Numbers of units seem to be outpacing the IPad Mini setting the stage for such an upgrade. Changes talked about are a "12.9 inch" screen but many pundits are not so sure. There are some Android units breaking the 10.1 inch barrier with the release of the newer 4.4 KitKat and 4.3 Jelly Bean (JB) versions.
About the only thing we can pretty much assume is that the rush to come up with "bigger and better" between the tablet competitors show no signs of cooling off!


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Power Up Faster!

Our devices are getting bigger, higher resolutions and loaded with more and more ability. All this is great but the power consumption needs of all this is causing concern with many users. Once was you could charge up your device in the morning and be good all (if not most) of the day. With more users relying on their phones/tablets for Facebook, Twitter and various news/email updates handset makers are constantly searching how to squeeze or preserve every possible milliamp in their batteries. Keep in mind it not so much how big a battery is but how fast can it recharge! Qualcomm's Quick Charge 2.0 standard is a goal many manufacturers are reaching for allowing users to recharge multiple devices faster with a compatible charger. Always pay close attention to the specs of the charging capabilities of your devices. Get a lower rated charger and you may well find recharging or "topping off" your battery can go VERY slowly!


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Track Holiday Preparations

Making your list of items needed for your upcoming holiday parties? Many are and ridden with anxiety over forgetting “something” they’ll absolutely need but can’t find…usually at the last minute. Well, fear no more! Sweethome has assembled everything you may need (and things you possibly never thought of)! Not just plastic cups and such but kitchenware to bar supplies then moving to clean up items all parties find the need of at some point in time! Sure, some of the items might be a bit of overkill but wouldn’t a nice wreath be good as you greet guests? Go to Greathome for details.


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Full Windows on a Tablet!

By now many are so overloaded looking at one tablet after another. Now with the holidays fast approaching, get ready for an avalanche of new shiny devices packed with features and power. One in particular features an old friend. Yup. Dell is releasing Windows based tablets reviving the Venue name plate. Watch for the Dell Venue 8 Pro and Venue 11 Pro. Both sporting full Windows 8.1 with the quad-core Atom processor (Baytrail). Specs are impressive and early adopters report overall major satisfaction with the device.


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One Click Facebook!

For some time now Android and Apple users have enjoyed on-click access to their Facebook accounts on many devices. It’s been announced that soon Windows Phone and Windows 8 users will enjoy the same love. Still in the development stage work continues to smooth the login phase to Facebook via a handful of gateways such as Foursquare and Adobe. Smoothing out not just checking login credentials but making the posting of content such as images should be much easier also.


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Android Apps on Apple?

Well, it’s finally happened. Google Play Music is finally (after six months) available to iOS users! Took a bit longer than some had expected but the iPhone app hits the App Store for iOS users. Get this, it arrives with a free month of All Access. What, you may ask, does that do for me? Well, for starters, you save $9.99 (the monthly charge) along with access to over 20 million music tracks, custom radio signals and special new music search functions. Work continues for the iPad platform. Stay tuned.


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What Color Is My Apple?

Are you one of the Apple acolytes fervently waiting for the new iPhone? You’re not alone. But try and not get your hopes up too high for raw power increases the past iPhones have provided. Sure, the new iPhone 5S sports the new A7 64-bit processor, fingerprint sensor and a better iSight camera but the overall performance bumps from the past are somewhat muted this time around. Granted, a 20-30% performance uptick is nice but the almost triple-digit upticks of the past are pretty much absent. Screen size is the same as is the available storage amounts. Without external storage options, keep an eye on how much space you’ll have left. New 64-bit apps tend to be larger and will take up more room. So be prepared to download files from your phone more often. But the hard part will be…..what color iPhone 5S/C do you want?


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Un-Social Media?

Being on the internet can lose you your job? Yep. Reports are that close to 40% of companies said they use a candidate’s (or potential hire) presence on many social sites in their decision making process. Things such as bad spelling & grammar, profanity, drug use and of course, sexual activity can have a negative impact on perceptions. On the other hand, posts about volunteering, charity work and the like can have a positive impact on potential/present employers. Somewhere in the middle were overt political and religious postings. Overall, just think about your post before you click “Send”?


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Bye Bye XP!

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Time grows shorter by the day when Microsoft will stop supporting the venerable Windows XP. Don’t panic or put your house up for sale! Sure, you can keep using Windows XP. It’s just that “updates” and “fixes” will no longer be issued. Mark your calendar. April 8, 2014 is the date Windows XP officially passes. Of course, there are options. And they are worth looking into. Take time to really figure where your current computer needs are and where you want them to be in the future. Hardware has progressed so rapidly that if you decide to buy a new machine, your old programs might need upgrading also. Give it some thought and talk to friends or techie buddies. Remember, April 8, 2014. It’s closer than you think!


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Got a Vampire in your house? No, not “those” blood-suckers….the plug in devices that, while sitting idle or on standby, still drain electricity! Granted, in one house it’s not much but modems and routers in the average American home (like 90 million homes) can use up about $1 billion in electricity annually! And that’s when they are just sitting there idle. Companies are working on plugs with sophisticated chips that can detect then a device is just leeching power and not really “doing” anything allowing people to take action saving money and energy. Web search for many ways you can save power now while awaiting these alternatives!.


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Word is from StatCounter June 2013 results are showing Samsung surpassing Apple for browsing the internet globally via mobile platforms. The results don’t include tablets but other mobile devices. (Credit: StatCounter) Now the gap between wasn’t huge by any means but given the nip/tuck “battle” between platforms, movement can be significant. Reports were Samsung accounting for 25.5% page views, Apple at 25.1%, followed by Nokia at 22% then picking up the rear RIM Blackberry 3.6%..


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Remember when using a map especially in the car, was an exercise in frustration? And not just trying to fold the dang things up! Often they were horribly outdated and of course no traffic information. Then came GPS. Then close behind Google Maps. Given that, then the news that Google Maps is available for Android users is welcome but…the big news is that the same app will soon be available for iPad users! No hard date set for launch but iPad and iPhone users keep an “eye” out.


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Premium YouTube?

Earlier this month, YouTube introduced a premium paid channel to their service that features content unavailable to the regular channels. Stuff from the Jim Henson Company, Laugh Factory and several other producers including the PGA Golf Academy. What does the up to $4.99 subscription give you? Reports are instructional videos, clips and series. Not sure if there is a planned “trial period” as many other premium video providers offer (Netflix and Hulu come to mind) but if the content is compelling enough, this might herald a dynamic shift in the way YouTube functions in the future.


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Firewalls

Firewalls
Ever wonder what your computer is sending out to the internet or, worse yet, what’s coming into your computer without you knowing? Firewalls can help you monitor the incoming and outgoing data on your computer or network. There’s several options open to the general population. Probably your first line of defense is your router. Always change the password on this as savvy hackers know that unchanged passwords are usually blank or “password”. If your SSID (network ID) is visible then your network is vulnerable. Your Windows computer already has a firewall built in. While better than nothing, the Widows firewall doesn’t monitor both incoming and outgoing data. It’s also not all that configurable.
There are a few free firewalls that do a pretty good job of monitoring in and out data transfer. One of the better ones is from Comodo but look around, you may find one that better suits your needs.


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Looking Thru Google?

Well, they're almost here. We've been hearing about Google Glasses for some time now and the announcement has been made they will be available for shipping very soon especially to developers. So, wonder what you would get for the $1500 price tag? Other than looking cool, that is. The Explorer Editions are reported to feature a 5MP camera capable to 720p video, 16GB of storage wireless networking and a digital display akin to a 25" HDTV from 8-10 feet away. The battery life is said to last all day but then, as with most batteries, "your mileage may vary."
One thing to consider though. Given that if you are wearing Google Glasses you may not be able to wear them everywhere. Think about the places having someone able to take pictures and video without anyone else being the wiser. Restrooms come to mind for sure. Businesses that rely on privacy will be looking at their policies most certainly.
Just be aware ...... and cautious.


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Bigger is......better?

Samsung announced their newest phone....errr...tablet.....no wait....phablet? Appropriately called the Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3. This device sports a whopping 6.3 inch display with the latest version of Android (Jellybean 4.2) running on with a dual core processor, 8MP rear camera with up to 64GB of internal storage. Samsung includes a microSD slot so you can add more memory.
The cycle of size appears to be swinging towards larger (and higher resolution) screens which can be an effort to accommodate the increasing number of users who consume more media than ever online. Surveys have shown quite an uptick in usage for services such as Netflix as more people use their devices in place of home setups.
Is this monster phone for you? Stop in and check it out at your local service provider. Only then can you get a "feel" for this substantial device!


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Facebook Phone?

You may have heard the story by now. Facebook is considering releasing their own smartphone. Yup. The company that re-defined “social media” is thinking of getting into the cell phone business. Weather it’s true or now, you can get the “Facebook Phone feel” if you have an android phone. The Facebook Launcher will be available on Google Play around April 12th for download. The launcher is said to be compatible with your presently installed apps. You should be able to tap your picture and navigate to your apps, menu or, surprise, Facebook.
For those interested in experimenting in how your phone looks and operates, pop over to Google Play and give it a spin.
But not till April 12th.
Oh, and it’s never a bad idea to do a backup before. One never knows!


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Look Out Apple…here comes Samsung!

Ever been in one of the Apple Stores? The Cupertino-based company has numerous store fronts around the country (and world, for that matter!) populated with trained “Apple Genius” staff to assist and guide potential customers in the Apple Experience. Apple has done a remarkable job super-serving their loyal customer base but now, Samsung is looming on the horizon.
It’s been announced that Samsung is partnering with Best Buy in all their brick-and-mortar stores a Samsung kiosk. Or, if you will, a “store in a store”. If Samsung places specially trained staff (surprised if they don’t!) then by sheer numbers the accessibility if Samsung products will skyrocket when compared to Apple Stores.
Stay tuned.


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Smart watches…….are they really?

First it was Apple announcing they were developing a “smartwatch” capable of accomplishing more than simply telling the time. Now, Samsung announced they too were developing a smartwatch. Really?
Conventional thinking that if a company can bring so many tasks down to one item…it would be a boon to consumers. Sure, the concept of “One Device-All Functions” sounds a lot like the current crop of cell phones that can display movies, watch TV, work on spreadsheets and, of yeah, place calls. Large screen or smaller, smartphones are a wonderful device. But smartwatches? Stop and consider that studies have shown that a large portion of the under 30 crowd do not own watches. Why? They get the current time on several other devices (phones, laptops, netbooks, tablets, etc) so wearing a watch in not something as ingrained as with many older consumers. The question arises, will the “smartwatch” be such a compelling, game-changing platform that will modify already set habits and perceptions?
Only time will tell! Or perhaps REALLY tell out loud - digitally!


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Windows 8?

History has shown that Microsoft will do what Microsoft will do. Those of us who recall using DOS remember moving through the different operating systems like 3.1, 95, 98, Me, 2000, XP, Vista, 7 and now 8. OK, stop grimacing. I, too, was skeptical. It seems every other Operating System MS releases was, well, less than “optimal”.
At first blush, Windows 8 is a challenge. The “tiles” are unique and quite nice really. Having a touch screen makes them work very well. Editing them is smooth and easy. The “geniuses” at Microsoft decided the Start Button was not needed anymore. Fine, IF you don’t want to start anything I guess. But even this can be changed with the free program called Pokki or any of the other program additions. Probably the best add in for this purpose is Ninite (www.ninite.com). You not just get a Start Menu that is highly configurable but a bunch of add in programs that are very useful!
Check first to make sure your programs you have to use are compatible (most updated within the past year will be) and the hardware in your computer can handle Windows 8. Touch screens are nice especially with tiles but not essential. Give it a whirl.
You may be surprised!


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Extended Warranties – Yes or No?

We’ve all been there. The decision has been made to buy that latest shiny whiz-bang gadget that we just KNOW will make our lives so much better All confident we stride up to the counter to pay for our new geegaw and then comes “The Question”. Would like, for a small fee, get the extended warranty? Suddenly we fumble…lost in the dreaded “What if’s..”
Truth be told, extended warranties seldom make sense, if ever. Stop and think. The original warranty (usually about a year) covers a period of time that if something is wrong with the device, we’ll see it before that time runs out. If you stop and think about it your homeowner’s insurance could well cover your device also! Both of the above are logical alternatives to shelling out more money that you don’t need to. Oh, and there’s one more thing. Did you use a credit card to pay? Some cards include coverage also. Makes sense to investigate before buying. Stores want you to buy the extended warranties...a huge source of “free money” for them.
/Just think about it. If you really feel it would give you "peace of mind" go for it otherwise save it.


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Protector or Not?

OK. You got that spiffy new device. Of course you want to keep it as clean and nice as possible, right? You got a case for it now think about a screen protector. Not an each choice really. Some people sear by them. Some think a screen protector is useless. Actually, both are right.....to a degree. It comes down to a matter of preference. Good quality screen protectors, as a rule, do not inhibit your touch functions. So that issue is pretty much a non-starter. Gorilla Glass? Good stuff but it can and does scratch. It's tougher to do so but it can. So, what kind of screen protector?
Protectors come in two application types - wet and dry. Wet protectors require moisture to apply and settle in on your device whereas dry types do not. But what about moisture so near an electrical device? Good question! Personally, unless I can remove the battery from whatever device I am using, I shy away from wet apply protectors. Others just forge ahead regardless. Probably depends on how brave one is! Some retail stores will apply the protector for you which is a good option if you're not experienced with them.

Give protectors serious consideration. There's nothing worse than a scratched screen on a shiny new device. Even tiny almost invisible scratches can seemingly become visible when you "know they are there"!


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Tablets.


Seems like tablets are on everyone's mind. With so many to choose from one can get lost in a sea of features, brands and so on and so forth. Ok. Stop. Take deep breath and think for a minute. Just what is it you want to actually DO with whatever you decide on? Some tablets can actually accomplish "work" but realistically, not many. Sure, the occasional text document or simple spreadsheet can be handled well on many tablets using a variety of apps. Want to watch movies, cruise the internet, read a book or magazine? Again, most will handle with ease. Pretty much comes down to three things. One, Apple or Android. Two, how big of a screen and three, how much do you want to spend?

1. Apple? Fine piece of kit. Pricey? Yes but well known brand and full app store are plusses. Android? More options with ability to modify if one desires. Google Play store prices can be lower and selections are getting larger.

2. Screen size? Very personal decision. Best way to decide is go to retailer and handle the different sizes. If planning to watch movies or internet TV shows, opt for HD quality resolutions.

3. Price. Seldom can you find a 7 inch tablet less that $150 with a good screen, adequate storage and processor with enough power to do what you want. Want a 10 inch tablet? Start about $250 and work your way up.
Look for good return policy in case you find it just doesn't work out.

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E-Reader or Tablet?


As one who has had a "love affair"with books spanning many decades, making the transition to e-books was, at best, bittersweet. Yes, there is nothing comparable to the first time you crack open a book. The aroma of paper, ink and glue that combined says "enter and learn", has and always will hold an indelible place in my time on this planet. But holding what can be hundreds if not thousands of books on a single device all beckoning for attention is a most seductive thing.
OK. Now comes the thought. E-reader or tablet? These days one can secure a great e-reader for about $80. A serviceable tablet that provides all that the e-reader does and more can be had for an extra $45 or so. But the tablet can offer up services and avenues the e-reader cannot. Depending of course on the one you select.....wifi, net browsing, movies, tv shows, etc. All at your fingertips....should say....touchscreen.
Like the cassette desk, LP, BetaMax and minidisc....are dedicated e-readers going the same way of technological dinosaurs?



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