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Taking the Java Bull by the Horns
January 31, 2013
The United States Department of Homeland Security Computer Emergency Readiness Team has recently been advising computer users to update or switch off Java in browsers. Oracle's Java is a programming language that's used in browser plug-ins. It's used by vendors to make applications function across operating systems.
Set Up Windows 8 to the Beat of a Different Drum
January 17, 2013
Microsoft's latest version of its operating system, Windows 8, has more personalization options than any predecessor. Backgrounds, themes, colors, start screen, apps, picture passwords and more can all be customized. You can choose a new theme by opening the Search charm and typing "personalization." Then click on the Settings tab. Click Change the Theme to enter the control panel's Appearance & Personalization area. Then choose a theme.
Using 2 Monitors in a Windows 8 Environment
January 10, 2013
With screen real estate, as with the dirt version, more is generally better. Like earlier incarnations of the OS, Windows 8 has external monitor functionality that lets you spread out. However, there are Windows 8-specific features that especially benefit from having more screens.
Be Prepared: Build Your Own Backup Battery
December 20, 2012
"Normal connected lifestyle to resume in due course," could have been the tag line recently in New York and New Jersey. If there was one lesson learned from Hurricane Sandy, it was that even the most sophisticated of urban areas can experience an unexpected loss of essential services.
Whip Your Files Into Shape in Windows 8
December 13, 2012
There are three big changes in Windows 8, the latest version of Microsoft's operating system. All three affect how you organize your computer. First, Microsoft replaces its Start menu search box with a new, always accessible Search charm. Second, the Windows Explorer file browser gains ribbon functions like previewing and archiving.
Defy MS' Wacky Omission by Adding a Start Button to Win 8
December 6, 2012
So you just got Windows 8 and you're missing the Start button? No problem, just add one -- for free. If there's one user interface design choice that has caused the most hands-in-the-air bewilderment in the tech industry during 2012, it's got to be the omission of the Start button and Menu in Microsoft's Windows 8 computer operating system.
An All-Occasion Mobile Signal Booster in a Backpack
November 29, 2012
A simple AM radio can keep you abreast of events during a disaster. However, a smartphone is ideal for two-way communications, as well as for news and government messages via text message and social networks like Twitter. I've been using a signal booster kit while backpacking around network-sparse, sunny Southern California.
Finding the Real Deals on Black Friday
November 21, 2012
Take a laptop or smartphone in addition to blankets and chairs if you're looking for a spot in the tent cities springing up outside your local big box store this week. Smartphone-driven on-the-fly research is proving to make it easier this year to find Black Friday deals on TVs, tablets and other merchandise.
No-Sweat Windows 8 Networking
November 15, 2012
Easy sharing and streaming of media and other assets among computers at home or in the workplace is a good reason to get networked. Other benefits include sharing Internet connections. If you've been using email as a method for distributing files among family members or a small business, or are simply taking the Windows 8 plunge, Microsoft has never made it easier.
Tooling Around With Windows 8
November 8, 2012
My first impression of the bargain-basement $39.99 Windows OS upgrade: To all outward appearances, Windows 8 is a vivid, visual, deeply rewarding and aesthetically pleasing skin to the 2009-released Windows 7 PC desktop OS. Big deal, you might say. However, digging in a bit, I found that this rather beautiful desktop isn't just a revamp of Windows 95 and later incarnations.
Taking the Windows 8 Plunge
November 1, 2012
If you're used to Microsoft's stratospheric pricing email program -- Outlook alone is $139.99 estimated retail -- take a look at the small print at Microsoft's Windows 8 website, and you'll see that a Windows 8 Pro upgrade can be downloaded for a limited-time at the measly price of $39.99. This is a surprising bargain.
Souping Up Your Smartphone's GPS
October 25, 2012
At a recent search-and-rescue boot camp I attended, it was clear during unscientific tests I performed that a standalone, dedicated Global Positioning System device was more accurate navigating to waypoints than a smartphone with GPS chip -- but it was only by a few feet.
Doing the Two-Step With Google
October 18, 2012
Horror stories abound of electronic lives compromised by stolen passwords. One of the problems with a password-secured life is that the password is the single element that -- when compromised -- allows access. The User ID isn't protected, nor is any hardware. Shouldn't there be better methods?
Thinning Out Your Gadget Hoard
October 11, 2012
New iPhone? Now, what to do with the old one, and the one before that? Wondering what to do with the old, redundant gear spilling out of drawers, relegating your automobile to the driveway or street? Step 1: Gather it up. Collect all of the household electronics that are no longer being used and place the smaller items, with chargers and any peripherals, into a clear zip-style kitchen bag.
Make a Handy Little Android PC for Light Lifting
October 4, 2012
As many of us are gearing up for Windows 8's imminent release, it may well be worth considering some alternatives. I don't know about you, but after XP to Windows 7, via Vista, the idea of another OS from Microsoft, while not yet causing night sweats, is engendering some trepidation.
Bump Up Your Carrier's Lousy Signal With a Femtocell
September 27, 2012
If you've been experiencing choppy voice quality or dropped calls from your mobile provider at your home or workplace, there are steps you can take to correct the problem. Cellular phones use radio signals to communicate, and like any other radio, signal propagation issues -- including topography, obstructions, distance to tower and interference -- affect quality.
Getting Android on Your TV
September 20, 2012
If you've been getting into the convenience and usability of the smartphone and tablet User Interface and are wondering just why your cable provider is unable to create anything with the same elegance and function, it may be time to slap Android on your TV -- yourself. There are a few ways to approach this, and all of the methods have pros and cons.
Linux and Windows: Peaceful Coexistence
September 18, 2012
One of the stumbling blocks in migrating to the Linux desktop is the mistaken view that you can't take it with you. Your data must remain captive to the Microsoft operating system. Not true at all. A related misconception that stalls many Windows users from adopting the Linux OS is the belief that when you buy a new computer or install Linux to an existing computer, you must give up one operating system for the other.
Living Without Audio CDs
September 13, 2012
During a recent apartment move, I became aware of how much stuff I had that was redundant. It was with great pleasure that I was able to dump a lot of it rather than paying guys to move it all across town -- again. Books and CDs were the principal weighty items I got rid of, along with a svelte cherry laminate IKEA CD rack that my girlfriend told me made my pad look old-fashioned.
Making Your Tablet a Sturdy Little PowerPoint Pony
September 6, 2012
If you've ever had to give PowerPoint presentations away from home base, you'll know there's a certain amount of gear-related anxiety involved: Is the equipment going to be there? Is it going to work with my memory stick or version of PowerPoint? One way to take control is to use an iPad or certain Android tablets in lieu of the event-services supplied laptop.
Speeding Up Your PC, Part 5: Getting Secure
September 1, 2012
One of the most dreaded words for any computer user is "malware." Rogue software and infected files can implant bits of code that log keystrokes, spy on activities, slow down searches and snatch financial information. Users can help protect their PC by installing antivirus software, but even this comes with its own set of issues and is not always foolproof.
Speeding Up Your PC, Part 4: Managing Drivers
August 31, 2012
Driver software manages communications between a computer and its system components and peripherals, such as printers, graphic and sound cards, motherboards, game controllers, Bluetooth devices, and other hardware. Driver software acts like a translator, helping a computer's operating system communicate with its hardware, and telling the hardware how to work.
How to Plan a Server-Style Rack for Home Multimedia
August 30, 2012
Wiring your home for multimedia? Dreaming about it? Even if you're using an electrician to pull the CAT 5e cable, it's worth getting involved in the design of the termination -- the rack. The rack is the centralized point within the home where the wiring meets switches, router and so on. The rack will be around a lot longer than the electrician, and you need it to last.
Speeding Up Your PC, Part 3: Getting Crucial Updates
August 25, 2012
Lots of people think that updates aren't really that important. In the past, updating a program often involved implementing small features or fixes that, most of the time, didn't seem worth the bother. While this may still be true for some applications, there's no doubt that updates are crucial for much of the software running on your computer.
Power to the PC: How to Manage Your Laptop's Battery
August 23, 2012
I've written about gadget battery technologies and how to calculate basic battery needs in previous articles like "Juicing Up Your Gadget Battery Power." I've also covered some of the ways to keep yourself charged up on the road with extended battery packs for smaller devices. Continuing this theme of maximizing battery life on your devices, this article addresses specifics related to laptop PC power management.
High-Tech Flashlights Could Turn You Into a Collector
August 16, 2012
Significant advances in LED technology mean it's now possible to create light approaching that of a car headlamp with just a handheld device. If you're in the market for one of these advanced flashlights, you're going to see one word continually appear in the product descriptions. That word is "Cree."
Disaster Prep: Picking Up TV Broadcasts When Stuff Hits the Fan
August 9, 2012
As these dog days ramp up for hurricane season in the east, and wildfire season in the west, it's worth taking a look at ways to gather information that can help you decide when to evacuate, keep tabs on what's going on back at home, and find out when it's safe to return.
Juicing Up Your Gadget Battery Power
August 2, 2012
I've written about keeping your devices powered while on the road before, and looked at techniques to reduce draw. I also took a broad-brush look at different technologies, like battery packs and solar. Now I'm going to explain how to choose the right rechargeable battery, called a "secondary cell"; and choose the right technology, like solar, to increase your time between battery charges.
Pulling a Wireless Signal Out of Thin Air
July 26, 2012
A cruel fact of life is that mobile operators have a vested interest in building out their networks in areas where there are customers, not where there aren't any. Those towers are expensive, and they want a return. Unfortunately, that means those of us who enjoy puttering around the vast open spaces that make up most of the United States can't get a signal.
Ratcheting Up Your Web-Browsing Privacy
July 19, 2012
I've never taken that much notice of my privacy, or lack of, as I've been surfing the Web. However, after recent, obviously targeted advertising directed at me, where the ads blatantly reflected some product research I had just performed, I decided to investigate. Innocuous focused advertising, which can be informative, can simply feel like a violation. Other intrusions can be downright dangerous.
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What effect is social media having on the current discussion of sexual misconduct?
It's enabling many more people to engage in serious discussions.
It's functioning mostly as an echo chamber.
It's giving everyone a voice.
It's creating much more divisiveness.
It's enabling a cultural re-education.
It's making my news feed so unpleasant I'm staying away.