Come April 8th, Windows XP will no longer be supported or updated by Microsoft. Windows is dead—long live Windows! Seriously though, what are so many of us going to do? We avoided Windows Vista because, well, it stank, and Windows 7 just seemed unnecessary when XP was still officially supported and time-tested. Now at the end of its life, XP leaves us with a hole in our hearts as we consider where to go next.
I'll admit it: at the end of the workday, I want little more than to sit in front of the TV and do nothing. This is an indulgence I allow myself far more frequently than I should. Of course, no one just watches TV anymore, do they? Thanks to wifi, laptops, and now smartphones and tablets, our lazy time is much more engaging. Who said technology has to be productive? Here are my top smartphone and tablet apps to zone out with.
Even though it may not seem like it to me, smartphones are not actually a necessity of life. Shocker, right? I love the suckers! To see if my affinity for all things “smart” was shared by my peers, I conducted a highly scientific survey of whichever of my Facebook friends chose to respond, asking them whether they owned a smartphone and if not, why? A surprising (to me) number of them confessed they did not own a smartphone.
I'm sure by now you're all-too-familiar with the annual mobile device product line refresh. Every fall we get updated versions of the now ubiquitous mobile devices. Apple, Amazon, Google, and others all push out slightly updated hardware just in time for the holiday shopping season. This year's upgrades are almost all incremental. If you already own a 2012 device, you should feel comfortable hanging on to it. Users looking to upgrade from models that are two or more years old or shoppers new to mobile devices have good reason to be excited.
In preparation for my soon-to-be-released 2013 device guide, I thought it might be a good time to explain the different versions of Android, the mobile operating system that powers the majority of the devices that I will be writing about. I've written a lot about Android in the last two years, but I've almost always assumed a certain level of knowledge on the reader's part - knowledge that you may in fact lack.
I read an article today stating that a new model of the sub-$300 notebook computers known as Chromebooks could be an “Apple-killer,” and that if they were stamped with Apple logo they would sell impressive numbers. That inspired an eye roll that nearly left me blind. Chromebooks are nice enough for limited purposes, and they get a lot of hype, but don’t let anyone sway you into thinking that these computers are a viable option for personal computing.
Technology: yawn. The last thing anyone expected a gadget addict such as myself to declare is that it’s time to stop. Yes, I know there’s something new and shiny on the market, and no one wants it more than I do—right here, right now. Here’s why I’m going to do my very best to ignore that impulse after this year, and I believe you should, too.
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.
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.
The Kindle Fire HD really is a fine piece of mobile computing hardware. Everything from the high-definition screen to the staggering Dolby audio fidelity to the grip of the device has been well thought-out. It’s designed with media consumption in mind, with access not only to Amazon’s vast library of ebooks, music, movies, and TV, but also to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, and more. And it’s cheap too, starting at $200 for a 16GB wifi variety. It's a shame then that such a great device is paired with Amazon’s App Store, whose offerings are laughably, pitifully lacking when compared to the Google Play store. What’s worse, you can’t put the Google Play store on the device without some serious Android hacking chops and voiding the warranty in the process. But, if you or a friend own another Android device with access to the Google Play store, like an Android smartphone, there is a way around this!