For years, I preferred Android over iPhone, usually citing its customizability and availability from a large number of manufacturers. This stands in stark contrast to iPhone, which has notably fewer customization options than Android and is only made by Apple. IPhone has no homescreen widgets; non-App Store apps are very difficult to install; it has no centralized storage; and the list goes on. There is one area in which iPhone continues to outshine Android though: security.
Because Apple makes their own devices and designs their own bespoke operating system (iOS) to work more or less seamlessly with their hardware, they have total control over critical security and system updates. When they detect or are informed of a serious flaw in their software, they can push out an update to all Apple devices at once.
This stands in stark contrast to Android. When the iPhone was released and took the world by storm, Google knew the only way they could compete was to adopt the opposite strategy from Apple, namely, making Android's operating system free, open source, and completely customizable by the various manufacturers. That's why iPhones are always iPhones, but Android phones vary wildly in design, features, internals, and software. A phone manufactured by Samsung looks and acts very differently from a phone designed by Lenovo, even though they are both running Android.
Online privacy has been in the news a lot lately. In response to this renewed concern, I’m hearing two main solutions emerge in the chatter among the digerati, one good, one less so. Let’s start with the latter: Web traffic “noise generators.” Noise generators are plug-ins that rapidly open and close browser tabs to random sites. The idea is to hide your genuine Web activity in a haze of random, meaningless traffic. Don’t bother. Obfuscation methods like these will hinder data miners not one bit.
The other idea is to use a VPN or Virtual Private Network. When you connect to sites through a VPN, information about you and the site you’re visiting is funneled through an encrypted network that your ISP (Internet service provider) cannot detect. VPNs are especially handy for public wifi when you want to make sure that no one else on the network can spy on what you’re doing.
Some years back, I wrote a blog post regarding the need to install only the necessary Web browser plug-ins. I’m now telling you to probably ditch most of them. The modern Web needs no plug-ins!
Retail software is expensive, sometimes running you hundreds of dollars. The good news is that there are some great, free alternatives that aren’t awful. The hard part is discerning the good from the bad and knowing the safe places to get it from. That is what I aim to do with this blog post!
- LibreOffice: http://www.libreoffice.org/
Anything Microsoft Office can do, the LibreOffice suite can do at least as well. With quality programs to answer almost every component of Microsoft Office, LibreOffice will cost you a whopping nothing.
- Notepad++: https://notepad-plus-plus.org/
Notepad++ is a free code editor and Notepad replacement that supports several languages.
The CRRL has a fantastic collection of popular digital magazines from Zinio which our customers can download and keep for free. In an effort to simplify the process of getting these magazines, Zinio has been implementing some changes to its apps and its checkout procedure. Here’s what you need to know:
Windows 8 has been a commercial and critical flop. The improvements made in 8.1 brought it more in line with the expectations of long-time Windows users. Overall though, Microsoft did a poor job of transitioning its customers away from an interface that had gone unchanged for 17 years—and a terrible job communicating why they should want to. With the Windows 10 Technical Preview, it looks like Microsoft will be addressing those problems and bringing to the table new functionality that users will actually welcome.
Wi-Fi changed the networked world. Our laptops could finally, truly be operated on our laps independent of a network cable. Wi-Fi has also made computing significantly less secure. It’s not as if relying on a hardwired connection makes you hack-proof, but relying on Wi-Fi alone for all your online needs is dangerous.
Did you know that the Central Rappahannock Regional Library has a large collection of popular descriptive videos? These are movies with audio descriptions of the actions taking place on the screen in addition to the standard audio tracks. We think you’ll be very pleased with the size and scope of this growing collection, most of which are on DVD.
A few times every week I’ll have customers approach me after searching our public catalogs and ask, “What does it mean if it says it’s an ‘eBook?'” When I explain, I always take care to emphasize that an eReader, tablet, or smartphone is not required for most of our digital materials in print—all that’s needed is a regular computer with a modern Web browser and active connection.