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All Things Appy: Top 5 iOS Utilities and Tools
June 24, 2014
While Apple's mobile operating system does hold users' hands when it comes to device management more so than competitor Android, there are additional steps you can take to optimize your iOS device. Free third-party utilities are available in app form to beef up battery management, cloud storage and camera backup, as well as to find lost phones, among other things.
All Things Appy: Top 5 Android Launcher Apps
June 05, 2014
One easy way to refresh an aging Android smartphone phone is to replace the home screen with a Launcher. Launchers are skins with themes and unique behaviors, like transparency and scrolling styles. Our No. 1 pick is Nova launcher, an extremely customizable launcher app designed to speed up performance. Neat tricks include substituting KitKat-styled icons for the aging Ice Cream sandwich versions.
All Things Appy: 5 Best Firefox Themes
May 21, 2014
If you're a daily Internet user, there's a good chance that you're also a daily Internet browser user. If your choice is Firefox, you may be tired of its look -- it hasn't changed much recently. However, Firefox allows you to customize its background look with more than 300,000 themes. Plus, with complete themes, you can separately personalize the address bar, buttons, menu, tabs and window frame.
All Things Appy: Top 5 New or Improved Android Apps
May 01, 2014
Five of the top free Android apps that either have been introduced for the first time or significantly updated this year are in the categories of password management, Web browser compression, lock screen functionality and media. Google's Android OS apps can be obtained in Google's Play Store. Browse to the Play Store -- you'll find it in your device's app drawer. Then search for the app.
How to Watch TV on Your Laptop
April 03, 2014
The big TV news this week is about hardware, with Amazon launching its Fire TV to rival Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast. Speculation had been hot and heavy that Amazon would launch its own pay-TV service, but that hasn't happened... yet. That's what the real TV wars likely will be fought over, though -- how content reaches consumers. A major battle will kick off this month in the Supreme Court.
All Things Appy: Top 5 Artistic Apps for Chrome
March 13, 2014
Photography, film, music and fine art are all noble pursuits. In this installment of All Things Appy, we take a look at the five best free artistic apps for the Chrome Web browser. Geared toward image showcasing and display across the Chrome ecosystem, our first choice, the 500px app, lets you browse and search for 500px photography. No work involved -- it's for viewing.
How to Encrypt a Windows 8 PC Drive
March 12, 2014
Real-life events -- the disclosures from website WikiLeaks; Edward Snowden's leaks of classified government documents to media outlets; credit card hijacks by the server load; and even Facebook's stumbles over its privacy policy explanation to the masses -- have created a general sense of unease when it comes to privacy these days, even at the consumer level.
All Things Appy: 5 Cool Chrome Desktop Apps
February 28, 2014
Chrome apps are the newest form of extension and helper for the Chrome Desktop environment, and as of late last year, any computer, including Macs, could use them. Here are five recently updated free Chrome apps that are worth a look. All of them can be run offline, outside of the browser, on the desktop. In the top spot, Google's Keep app allows you to take notes in a Post-it note-like UI.
Aqua Mail Pro Beats Native Android Email Hands Down
February 07, 2014
If you've been thinking that there must be a better way to handle email than the email client supplied natively in Android, I bring good news: There is, and it's called "Aqua Mail." As things are right now, my on-device solutions are a bit of a mess. I have my Gmail-produced work emails appearing in the Gmail client, while my personal, custom-domain email is housed in the Android-native client.
Minuum Keyboard Takes the Tedium Out of Typing
February 05, 2014
The holy grail of Android apps has got to be the one that best compensates for botched typing. The smaller the device I use, the more my typing deteriorates. I'm reasonably quick and accurate on a desktop PC; I slow down on a laptop; I get by on a tablet; and I am virtually incapacitated on most smartphones, though my thick peasant fingers work better on an iPhone than an Android.
Viber's a Worthy Alternative to Outgoing GrooveIP
January 30, 2014
Google has been clamping down on third-party apps that ride piggyback on its Google Voice telephony service. A merger between Google Voice and Hangouts this year will result in the shuttering of an open protocol exploited by apps that used the Google Voice service for free SMS texting and VoIP calling. The days of free Internet-based in-U.S. smartphone calls over Google's network are numbered.
Be-Bound Offers a Sip of Web in Data-Dry Deserts
January 24, 2014
As someone who regularly explores the back-roads of desert-adorned Southern California, I'm acutely aware of massive, gaping holes in wireless network coverage as soon as you leave blacktop in rural America. You can sometimes off-road all day out west with no mobile data coverage. Moments of connectivity might be the occasional hilltop-occurring set of phone handset signal bars.
How to Slim Down a Bloated Android Device
January 22, 2014
It's a good idea to prune an Android device periodically, for a few reasons. A mishmash of apps, some aging, have all kinds of on-device routines running that can negatively affect performance. Worse, some are continually accessing the Internet and eating into your data cap -- unlimited wireless Internet on mobile devices is practically nonexistent these days.
Moment Goes Big on Smartphone Camera Magnification
January 21, 2014
We love the functionality that comes with smartphone cameras, including inherent portability, powerful processors, and imaginative post-processing app solutions. However, what we supremely dislike -- with a vengeance -- are the little software-driven lenses that phone makers see fit to slap on the devices. Those horrible cheap lenses can in no way replicate larger precision ground-glass optics.
Outlook for Android Coulda Been a Contender
January 17, 2014
I've been looking forward to trying out Microsoft's official email product for the Android platform. Device OS mismatches have, until now, prevented me from doing so. However, a totaled and smashed tablet and an arbitrarily rebooting smartphone have prompted me to get some new kit. I'm a power desktop Outlook user, and for about 10 years I have relied on the desktop version.
With Nova Launcher Prime, the Problem Is Too Many Options
January 10, 2014
Here's a simple way to refresh the look and functionality of your newer Android device without going to the trouble of rooting, bootloader-unlocking or installing a customized ROM. It's by using a home screen replacement app called a launcher, which is essentially a super-customizable home screen with themes. The one I'm looking at this week -- Nova Launcher Prime -- is one of the most popular.
All Things Appy: 5 Best Number-Crunching Apps for Firefox
January 10, 2014
When you need to deal with numbers, nothing beats the old PC, along with its full-sized screen, keyboard and browser. Firefox is a robust PC browser with numerous add-ons that's well-suited to mathematics. This week, we look at the top five best and must-have add-on apps for crunching operations in that browser. First up: Status-Bar Scientific Calculator, a calculator that lives in your status bar.
How to Speed Up a Sluggish Android Smartphone
January 09, 2014
One of the disadvantages of retaining a phone after the expiration of a two-year contract -- as many of us do -- is that those older phones have accumulated a few years' worth of digital gunk. They're clogged up like an aging sewer on the wrong side of town. Just like on a PC, bits of app and OS code become discombobulated -- orphaned from the parent program.
With Graphite Electrodes, Heatworks Gets Water to Heat Itself
January 08, 2014
Traditional water heating equipment uses fuel as an energy source to heat a rod-like element in the water tank. The element then warms the water. If you've ever reheated a hot beverage by placing it in the microwave, you'll have an idea as to the alternatives. Microwave ovens heat liquids by moving molecules so that the molecules hit each other. This action creates heat.
How an Aging Sprint Device Can Reduce Your Android Phone Bill
January 08, 2014
In case you hadn't noticed while wandering the aisles of your local consumer electronics big-box retailer, there is an explosion of mobile virtual network operators hitting the marketplace. MVNOs are telcos that buy capacity from major operators like T-Mobile or AT&T, for example, and sell it on to you. Walmart and América Móvil's Straight Talk calling product is an example.
All Things Appy: Top 5 Cloud Storage Apps for Windows 8
January 03, 2014
Cloud storage is a fast-moving arena, with advancements including the ability to store files and folders in the cloud along with metadata on your PC replicating the actual file. The file isn't there and isn't taking up space, but you can see relevant attributes. Other cloud techniques include the ability to sync files only as you need them.
Setup's Sharp Edges Don't Mar TinCan's Network-Free Messaging Potential
January 03, 2014
One lesson that's easy to learn if you've been through any natural disaster is that you shouldn't rely on classic means of communications like land lines, cellphones or Internet. Capacity gets challenged; infrastructure gets destroyed. Where I live, neighbors have developed ham radio-based communications plans geared solely towards communicating in a disaster.

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