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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.
With B1 Archiver, No Need to RTFM
January 28, 2014
B1 Archiver is one of only a few archiver managers for the Linux platform that is reliably simple to use. Simplicity is a key trait that distinguishes the B1 Archiver from other Linux compression tools. In the category of smart-looking and simple archivers, one of my favorites is PeaZip. B1's GUI adds a new dimension that redefines ease of use on the Linux desktop, though.
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.
Quirky Linux Gets More Pep Out of Puppy
January 23, 2014
Quirky is a very interesting Linux distro that is a developmental sideline of the main Puppy Linux family. I expected some quirks in Quirky's design and performance, despite its mature growth to version 6.1 released on Jan. 1. However, the few quirks I found did not mar its performance. Quirky was easy to set up and fun to run. It is just as reliable and complete as the main Puppy Linux distro.
Horizon Keeps iPhone Video Shooting on the Level
January 23, 2014
Even if you've never been guilty of sharing one of those annoying vertical videos, you may have run into a situation where you've been filming and moving around at the same time -- and because you were scrambling over a rock or playfully wrestling while recording, your fun little video perspective spun vertical on you. Once you start shooting vertically, you're stuck.
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.
GnuCash Makes Money Management a Snap
January 16, 2014
GnuCash version 2.6, released earlier this month, fixes many of the nagging problems in earlier versions and is more convenient to use. It tracks bank accounts, investments, income and expenses. You can use it just to handle your checking and savings accounts -- but it is capable of much more. GnuCash is based on professional accounting principles to ensure balanced books and accurate reports.
Linux Mint 16: No Surprises, but Plenty of Solid Improvements
January 14, 2014
Linux Mint 16, also known as "Petra," is a very solid release that fixes a lot of annoying traits left behind in previous versions. The OS is based on Ubuntu 13.10, and that solid underpinning is made even better with the upgrade to Cinnamon 2.0 and new functionality in the Nemo file manager. Linux Mint 16 is one of the most well-rounded releases since the distro first adopted Cinnamon.
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.
CrashPlan: A Good - but Not Perfect - Linux Backup Plan
January 09, 2014
CrashPlan is an automated backup system that does the job, but it's not without its pitfalls. The software offers a cross-platform backup solution that's reliably easy to use once you configure the software. Installing it to your Linux system, however, is anything but user-friendly. More than a few Linux users will emerge looking for a less-finicky solution.
App Answers Universal Question, 'Where'd My Money Go?'
January 08, 2014
Managing a household's expenses isn't the sexiest task in our lives. Nevertheless, it has to be done -- so why not add a dash of fun to it? That's what a program by Raj Kumar Shaw of iLifeTouch does for the chore. Called simply "Daily Expenses," the software -- available from the Mac App Store for $19.99 -- offers a streamlined and colorful way to keep tabs on family finances.
Outline Sings Dandy OneNote Duet
January 06, 2014
Note-taking applications are very popular with many users, and that's probably why developers have flooded Apple's Mac App Store with those kinds of programs. A notable exception, though, has been Microsoft. That's not to say it has ignored the thirst of note-takers -- it makes a robust outline-notepad hybrid called OneNote. The thing is, it doesn't make it for the Mac.
Here's Lookin' at You, Kid: Dreaming of Privacy in 2014
January 06, 2014
Well another year has come and gone here in the Linux blogosphere, and what a different world it is as we enter 2014. Certainly most notably, our friends at the NSA have made it clear that any notions of privacy have pretty much gone out the window. Go Tor! Speaking of Windows, XP's final days are now finally being counted down. Cheers to that!
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.
NewsBar Raises the Bar for RSS Readers
December 27, 2013
"Out of sight, out of mind" is an old saw that's absolutely true about RSS readers. Relegating RSS feeds to a tab in a Web browser, website or standalone application keeps news out of sight and consequently out of mind. NewsBar addresses that problem by placing a vertical bar on a Mac's display where feed headlines can be constantly seen and read.
All Things Appy: 5 Best Apps to Make the Most of Apple Sensors
December 27, 2013
Your Apple device is full of sensors, including a proximity sensor, an ambient light sensor, an accelerometer, a magnetometer and a gyroscopic sensor. Also included in these devices are radios, which aren't strictly sensors but which include the GPS for location services. In this week's All Things Appy, we take a look at the five best free apps for playing with sensors and sensor-like radios.
A World of Skins Add Beauty to the Joy of ExDialer Pro
December 27, 2013
I was banging my head against the wall the other day because the dialer on my aging Motorola Photon 4G stopped working. Normally what I'd do -- and recommend doing -- is upgrade the OS to a later version while at the same time doing a hard reset on the device. However, you need an unlocked bootloader to do that, and Motorola has locked the bootloader on that model.
Startup Manager Renews Shine on Android's Boot
December 20, 2013
For some inexplicable reason, probably related to egocentric human nature, software developers can't seem to resist designing their programs as if they were default services: always on and ready. If you're familiar with maintaining a PC and like tinkering with programs, you'll know that you need to periodically disable or get rid of accumulating programs that automatically run processes.
All Things Appy: Top 5 Android Apps for Outdoor Adventures
December 20, 2013
Accelerometers, GPS receivers and other sensors in your smartphone let you track your outdoor activities in ways that go beyond just the common map. In this week's All Things Appy, we take a look at the top five free apps for exploring, including options for fine-tuning your GPS, measuring headings and bearings, logging your tracks and reckoning distance.
Kazam Screen-Recording: Do Try This at Home
December 19, 2013
Kazam is a screencasting and screenshot application that shows much potential, but it is not yet fully suitable for anything more than personal use. Screen-recording tools are a step or two beyond single-frame screen-capture applications. Kazam performs both functions and can record input from the computer's microphone as well as from the speakers.
'Systems Performance': A Definitive Guide for the Cloud Enterprise
December 17, 2013
Systems Performance: Enterprise and the Cloud is a must-have reference guide for any IT manager or sysadmin whose job involves working with computer systems that are tethered to the cloud. Author Brendan Gregg is no newcomer to writing definitive books on computer networks and system performance, but his latest release could well be his best work so far.
DaisyDisk Helps Keep Your Hard Drive Fresh
December 17, 2013
Since the dawn of personal computing, managing storage has been a persistent challenge. Certainly the pressure has eased up on the desktop with the proliferation of 1 TB hard drives, but for laptops and lightweight notebooks, the struggle continues. One of the problems with grappling with all the data on a hard drive is transparency. Eyeballing thousands of file names in the Finder is both tiresome and inefficient.

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