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!
2012 saw the debut of the latest version of Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8. Windows 8 debuted in an unusually tense atmosphere for a Windows device, as “Wintel” (Windows PCs powered by Intel processors) faced unprecedented threats from tablets and smartphones in the marketplace. Windows 8 PCs faced sales declines over the 2012 holiday period, and the changes in the interface of Windows 8 from Windows 7 have been a major cause of concern for many consumers. Questions such as, “How can I find my old files if I upgrade to Windows 8?” and “Will Steam run in Windows 8?” are extremely common. Another common topic for questions is the difference between Windows 8—the operating system for conventional Windows desktop and laptop PCs, and Windows RT—the operating system for Windows tablets. In this article, let’s take a look at how compatibility in Windows 8 works and what the differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT mean.
It’s no secret that the newspaper and magazine industries are under a period of terrible financial stress, as I reported in my article, "Where Have All the Magazines Gone?" Since then, even more magazines and newspapers have ceased publication of their printed format, including Newsweek at the end of 2012. As print magazines and newspapers become less viable, the companies that run them face a vexing choice—rely on Internet advertising on an open site for funding or charge fees for access to a pay wall site that inherently limits the size of their audience. Inspired by the New York Times’ recent implementation of a pay wall, many news magazines are implementing or plan to implement pay walls, including the Washington Post. As consumers, many find the concept of formerly free sites implementing viewing restrictions on content frustrating and counterproductive to their desire to know what’s going on in the world. But does it even benefit the companies themselves in the long run? Financial magazines and Wall Street praise the Times’ pay wall as the future, but the overall history of success for pay wall news sites is considerably less hopeful than it may first appear.
"Powered by ideas, ideals, and by idealism." This is one of the first few lines in the mission statement of Project Gutenberg, a Web site stating that it is the first—and largest—single collection of free eBooks. Another tidbit worth mentioning is the fact that it is completely run by volunteers, and there are no dues or membership requirements. While they do gladly accept donations and new volunteers, the site makes its main goal clear: “...provide as many eBooks in as many formats as possible for the entire world to read in as many languages as possible.”
Serial readers of the Tech Answers blog probably know that I would recommend either an iPad Mini or a Google Nexus 7 for an eReader tablet and that, though they are very pretty (the devices, not the blog readers, who could be pretty, but I wouldn’t know), I would guide most away from retailer-specific hardware like the Kindle Fire or the Barnes & Noble Nook. But that overlooks one very important buying category: Cheap Tablets. These are sub-$150 and often sub-$100 devices that you’ll find at convenience and drug stores.
If you own a Nook, Sony, Kobo, or other non-Amazon e-ink (black and white) eBook reader listed here and you’ve checked out eBooks from CRRL, chances are you’ve had the misfortune of dealing with Adobe Digital Editions, the gateway between most copy-protected eBooks and reading devices. If you’re planning on giving or receiving one of these toys this holiday season, you’ll want to read on. Adobe Digital Editions is poorly designed, non-intuitive and relies far, far too heavily on keyboard shortcuts and buried menus. Even with its recent, underwhelming 2.0 update, be you tech “dummy” or “genius," it’s a pain. Sadly, it’s what we’re all required to use in order to get our eBooks from the Internet to our devices. Read on to learn its secrets.
The iPad mini is awesome. You can read on if you like, but just know that this is a tech purchase you probably will not regret. With its slim size, diminutive weight, and full-sized iPad technology, the iPad mini is a winner with few drawbacks.
Philosophically I approve more of Google’s open source Android than I do Apple’s closed-off iOS. I also am not a fan of iOS devices’ lack of centralized file storage and exploration. But really, there’s no denying that Apple knows how to build a tablet that overcomes these issues. The mini is 0.28 inches thick, 7.87 inches tall, 5.5 inches wide, and weighs only 0.68 pounds. The front of the mini is entirely glass with a diamond-cut edge that fits snuggly into an anodized aluminum unibody that comes in both slate and silver. The left and right bezel of the device have been narrowed significantly; at times this can make holding the device in portrait mode slightly awkward, but not as much as you might think thanks to its surprising lightness. Apple is king when it comes to rolling out devices that are a pleasure to hold and the mini is no exception; you will not believe how light and thin it really is until you hold one.
Updated November 2013: After a year of living with much of this tech, I have some new insights that should help you decide if you want to settle for slightly older hardware at cheaper prices when shopping for the 2013 holiday season. I have also provided links to the updated versions of the devices that were listed in 2012 as alternatives to the standard Apple/Amazon/Google/B&N devices.
Here’s the hard truth: your password, well, it’s no good. Does it include a word found in the dictionary, a name, a date, or even numbers that look like letters (e=3, I-1, o=0, etc.)? Yup, no good. Do you use the same password for some or even all your websites? Tsk, tsk. The practice of password cracking has never been easier thanks to a number of landfall events for hackers, namely the release into the public of numerous huge password databases from hacked websites and the development of more advanced and specialized tools. What’s worse, the security of your password isn’t always wholly dependent on you but on the websites you use. I know it’s hard; you have trouble remembering your passwords, etc., and I’m sorry, but in today’s world those excuses just aren’t acceptable. Practicing good password hygiene isn’t a suggestion if you want to survive online, it is now a requirement. Please read on!
You wouldn’t know it by the state of things, but Adobe Reader isn’t the end-all, be-all of PDF. Standing for "Portable Document Format," PDF is a file format used to maintain the uniform appearance of a document no matter what type of hardware or software is being used to view it. You will see it used frequently for government documents such as IRS and court forms, job applications, ebooks and more since it looks the same everywhere. Adobe may have created the PDF format, but they made it a free-for-all file format in 2008, resulting in software for reading and creating PDFs that rival Adobe’s own.
You might be asking yourself ,“Why would I want to switch from Acrobat Reader?” Over the years Adobe Reader (once known as Acrobat Reader) has become a horribly bloated program that takes entirely too much space on your hard drive and, in my opinion, an unacceptable amount of RAM to use. It’s slow to load and slower to use. Furthermore, Adobe is constantly releasing updates for the program; it seems like every other time I turn on my Windows 7 computer there’s a notification for an Adobe Reader update, and I’m growing tired of it.