Tech Answers is back! Didja miss me? This time I've got something special for you. Now, I've sampled a veritable cavalcade of different smartphones over the years, from the Treo, to the Blackberry, to the iPhone, and, most lately, the Android. There I landed, and—for the foreseeable future—there I stay. The Treo is long dead (bye-bye!), Blackberry is a dead man walking (so sad), the iPhone's one-time supremacy in the smartphone market is faded (but not gone!), and Windows Phone? Please (no). Android is flourishing when other smartphone platforms are stagnating for one simple reason: it is free and open source. Developers and individuals can do whatever they please with it. You can go to the Android project's site and download the source code for the world's most powerful mobile OS right now for no charge. It is that openness and its benefits that I'm going to ramble about in this post.
Are you a Gmail user? Did you wake up a week or two ago to find that your new messages were now being automatically organized by Gmail into tabs of different, pre-determined categories? And, did you think, like me, that they were really ugly, stupid, and unnecessary? Here’s a quick tip on how to rid yourself of them!
Here's how Gmail looks now with its category tabs:
The iPhone’s simplicity is one of the key reasons it has been such a success. Pick it up and use it, no muss, no fuss. Sadly, that simplicity comes at the expense of customizability. Aside from changing your wallpaper and creating folders, the iPhone doesn’t really offer much in the way of “pimpin’ it out.” Android to the rescue! If there’s one way that Android shines over iPhone, it’s that you can make it look pretty much however you’d like, thanks to its open platform nature. The easiest way to accomplish this is by using different launchers. A launcher is the “desktop” user interface of your Android phone. Changing and customizing launchers can help you be more productive and provide an aesthetic better suited to your tastes. The following are my favorite launchers.
A few months back I wrote a blog post, The Best Cross-Platform Mobile Games, detailing the best of mobile games for both Android smartphones and tablets as well as the iPhone and iPad. In that post I noted that there are many excellent games that are, for the most part, exclusive to the iPhone and iPad. It was the iPhone, after all, that demonstrated just how much potential mobile games have and practically every mobile game studio publishes first to Apple devices before even considering Android, if they ever make it to Android at all. These are, in my book, among the best such mobile games.
This is a fantastic time for music lovers. Music downloads no longer suffer from copy protection. Numerous sites and social tools have sprung up to help us discover and connect with talented artists. One of the most exciting developments has been the rise of subscription-based, on-demand music services. One low monthly or annual fee buys you access to a huge selection of music to listen to at any time. Heard a song from a new band you like and you want to hear more from them? Bam! Listen to all of their work right then and there without worrying about the recording industry suing you. There are a number of these services to choose from, and in this post I'm going to help you decide which one to use.
As handy as our mobile phones and tablets are, there are times when they fall short and we wish we had our desktop or laptop computers in front of us. With this free software and the power of the Internet, you can access your home Windows PC or Mac from your iPhone/iPad or Android mobile device wherever you are.
Beyond my typical day-to-day programs like Google Chrome, Microsoft Word, maybe a game here and there, I have a selection of utilities that help me perform behind-the-scenes tasks and maintain my computer’s health. I have found each of the following to invaluable. Many of them offer paid versions with extra customer support options and a few extra bells and whistles, but you will find that the free versions offer everything you need, so be sure to get those.
I can’t believe I haven’t written about this sooner. Though consumers are buying tablet computers in greater numbers than classic computers, that hasn’t removed the necessity for a laptop or desktop computer. Sooner or later these need to be replaced and that will now mean buying a PC that ispreloaded with Windows 8. And I can say without hesitation, folks despise Windows 8. I might be able to help with that.
The American Library Association’s Choose Privacy Week was May 1-7. Oops—dropped the ball on that one. Still, one of the key points of Choose Privacy Week is that privacy awareness is something we all have to take seriously all the time, particularly online. A common mistake when considering privacy is assuming that it is something we possess naturally and have taken away from us by others. The reality is that privacy is something we have to actively claim for ourselves and work for every day. Our electronic world does not allow for anything less. People become understandably indignant when their sense of privacy is violated. I’m not trying to blame the victim—indeed, the potential victims are any or all of us. Nevertheless, we need to recognize that today’s world of hyper-connectivity and big data doesn’t allow us the luxury of treating privacy as a given.
First, let’s get real about privacy:
In the past I have lambasted Barnes and Noble's Nook products for a number of reasons, but none of them have to do with device itself. I dislike how eBooks purchased from B&N are encrypted with the credit card number used to purchase them (don't forget that number!). I dislike how stripped-down the app selection is. I dislike their severe lack of media offerings. But the device itself? It's got good specs! Nice HD screen, decent processor speed, expandable storage, slick design—it's got all the makings of a great tablet, save for the fact that it has been tethered exclusively to Barnes and Noble's horrible business practices. But that has now changed with a significant price drop and the addition of the Google Play app store. If you're on the fence about a tablet purchase, I now have to actually, grudgingly recommend the Nook HD over everything else!