Science and Technology
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.
Updated November 15, 2013: Your old computer is capable of one more major feat: helping to cure diseases.
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.
When library customers ask me to show them how to use their laptops, I can't help but notice all the junk they've got that's slowing their computers way down. Some of this is manufacturer-loaded software, but the lion's share of it is from Web sites they've browsed to which inform them they need a particular program or plug-in to run correctly. This is something I addressed at length in my post on Avoiding Sneakware.
About a year-and-a-half ago, I wrote a blog post entitled "Common Computer Myths" that sought to debunk some of the misinformation I hear frequently regarding computers. Well, I'm always running into new techno-falsehoods, so for your consideration: "Even More Common Computer and Tech Myths" and their realities!
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.
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.