Tech Answers

Customizing Your Android Experience

Customizing Your Android Experience

Our smartphones are our lives.  Go ahead and deny it, but deep down you know you get jittery when you aren’t caressing your tiny portable computer that basically hands you the digital world on a tempered glass tray.  As I pointed out in my Must-Have Android and Must-Have iPhone apps articles there are a lot of apps out there that’ll do just about anything.  But there’s lots more that we can do to customize our smartphones and our tablets, especially for Android.  Sorry Apple users, your fantastic apps may bring all the boys to the yard, but Android has you beat fair and square on the customizability front.  Sure, you could jailbreak your iPhone or iPad (Google it if you dare, just know you’ll be put out in the cold if you take a busted jail-broken device to the Apple Genius Bar), but I’m not going to risk going there, so Android users, this one’s for you!

Rescuing Your Documents with Linux

Ubuntu logo

Sometimes catastrophe rains down on our PCs.  We turn them on and . . . nothing happens.  Could be any number of factors: virus; aging hardware; broken software update.  And, of course, sometimes things just go bad.  Sad thing is, we're never ready for these events when they happen.  Our files aren't backed up to any external media, and, with our PCs not running properly, we don’t have any easy way of retrieving them.  Sure, you could take the computer to a repair shop or run the factory recovery discs that may have come with the machine, but you run a very real chance either way, especially the latter way, of losing your files.  So, I'm going to tell you how you how you might be able to salvage your files, if not your computer, for free using Linux.

Back Up Your Stuff!

Back Up Your Stuff

I've written a few articles advising our users to back up their data.  Every so often, usually when we need them the most or when the warranty has expired, our computers stop working.  This wouldn't be so horribly bad if we'd backed up our files first.  So, let me reiterate for anyone who has read me before that backing-up your data means that the same files are stored in two completely different places.  If you've copied all your important files to an external hard drive, but then erased them from your laptop, they are not backed-up; maybe your external hard drive goes kaput,  and, even though your computer is still working, all those files are lost from the external device, aren't they?  To back up your files they absolutely need to be in two different places.  Redundancy is the name of the game, and I'm going to teach you how to play (wow that sounded corny).  

My Favorite Chrome Extensions

Google Chrome logo

Google Chrome is arguably the most popular Web browser currently on the market.  It took a few versions before I made the switch from Mozilla Firefox to Chrome, most notably due to Firefox's rich browser extension offerings.  Chrome is finally catching up to, and in many ways, surpassing Firefox with its extensions library.  A browser extension is special program written specifically for a Web browser that, as the name implies, extends its functionality.

Android VS iPhone

Android v. Apple icons

Something I get asked a lot as the librarian tech guy is whether a person in the market for a new smartphone or tablet should buy Apple or Android.  This is a far more nuanced question than most people realize, and the answer will depend on a number of factors.  Read on for a detailed comparison of the two.

DRM and You

DRM and You

I've bemoaned the existence and use of digital rights management, or DRM as it's more commonly known, in previous Librarypoint articles, but I'm not certain that I've gone point-by-point over what it means for you, the library user, and us, the consumers.  DRM is a means by which music, videos, eBooks, documents, software, and just about anything else digital are restricted from being copied, transferred, or used on unapproved hardware.  The American Library Association's Digital Content Working Group has recently put out a wonderful tip sheet regarding DRM that I can’t recommend more enthusiastically.   It goes over what DRM is, some of its consequences and legal ramifications, and what you can do to help work against it.  Reading through it is one of the best ways to arm yourself as a digital consumer against some of the more consumer-unfriendly tactics of today’s content providers. 

Must-Have iPhone Apps

Must-Have iPhone Apps

As promised in my list of must-have Android apps, here is a list of must-have iPhone apps!  The Apple App Store has a larger selection of quality apps than the Google Play store does, though that gap is quickly shrinking.  Unfortunately it has fewer free apps, so you’ll see more price tags attached to this article.  You may also notice several repeats from the Android list, as many of these apps are cross-platform and a joy to use on any device.  Your iPhone is a computing powerhouse, and there is so much more that you can do with it than you realize.  Take a look at my list below to get some ideas! 

Must-Have Android Apps

Must-Have Android Apps

With the rise of the smartphone we have entered the world of the app.  My, my, there is an app for that, isn’t there?  Problem is, there are thousands upon thousands of them, and I’ll tell you what, most of them are junk.  But this just makes the good ones stand out that much more.  This is a list of my favorite apps for Android phones; I will follow this up soon with a list for iPhone/iPad users.  And, please understand this list is by no means comprehensive and does not include games.  These are simply the apps that I have found to be the most useful and fun in my day-to-day life.  If you have a favorite Android app that you’d like to see added to this list please contact me here or leave a comment on Facebook!  Most of these apps are free, except for a few that I’ve marked otherwise. 

Utilities:

Lookout Security & Antivirus – FREE, w/ paid upgrades
Your Android smartphone can get a virus just as easily, if not more easily, than a PC or Mac.  Make this your first install.  The free version will run scheduled scans of your phone for viruses and make certain that every app installed is safe.  It will also allow you to locate your phone in the event that it is lost.  For a few dollars a month, you can get extra features like safe Web browsing and a privacy advisor which will keep track of which apps have access to personal data on your phone. 

The Best eBook Tablets Aren't What You Think

The Best eBook Tablets Aren't What You Think

Ask your average person what the best ebook tablets on the market are and they will tell you Amazon’s Kindle Fire, the Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet, and the Apple iPad. I'll tell you to look elsewhere. Barnes and Noble and Amazon may have created the $200-$250 ebook tablet niche, but others are rushing in to capitalize on it and they're much, much better options. Here's why.  

Bye-bye Carrier!

I gave up my smartphone contract the other day and I'm only too glad I did.  Wait, this is the library blog - what am I doing writing an opinion piece about cellphone carriers here?  Library patrons come to me on a weekly, sometimes daily basis with questions about their smartphones.  These little devices we carry around in our pockets and purses like so much loose change represent some of the greatest advancements in computing, telecommunications, and miniaturization technologies ever.