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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.
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.
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.
Remote Video Security Is Mydlink+'s Weak Link
December 13, 2013
As a smartphone app reviewer, I often like to include a bit of explanation for why I choose to review the apps that I do. It adds a bit of human interest, and can make for a more enjoyable read. This week, the story is especially exciting. This is a review of D-Link's Mydlink+ remote security camera Android app add-on, and I can explain the reason for the review in one word: goats.
Manjaro Smooths Out Arch's Rough Edges
December 12, 2013
If you want a Linux distro that is different and almost always up to date, look no further than Manjaro. If you can get it to load on your computer, Manjaro has a few features that could interest a Linux user who likes tinkering with the OS. The latest release failed to impress me with its cantankerous loading, but once I got it running I was pleased.
If You're Jonesing for a 2nd Screen, Air Display Is a Nifty Fix
December 06, 2013
I was intrigued when I came across Air Display, an Android app that lets you use your tablet as a second screen. Second PC displays definitely boost work productivity. I've been using two displays for years, keeping my email client open all the time on the left screen -- a laptop display -- and work-work on the right screen. I'm able to monitor incoming junk mail without having to stop working.
Terminator Ends the Terminal Window Blahs
December 05, 2013
Terminator is not for casual Linux users who rarely stray from the menu-driven applications. If you ever venture into what some regard as the dark side of the Linux OS, however, Terminator can end your discomfort by using a single-session terminal window. Terminator is a powerful and useful terminal emulator built with many features not included in standard terminal applications.
GoToMyPC for Android Shines With Striking Simplicity
November 22, 2013
If you've had any technical support dealings recently, you may have experienced the wonders of a tech agent taking over your PC remotely -- with your permission -- and running ghostly commands and installs using remote-access software. I saw this first-hand recently when a Microsoft support engineer had to repair a failed Office installation on a machine of mine.
Task Coach Keeps You on Target and in Control
November 21, 2013
Attention to detail is often the missing feature that separates really useful to-do managers from the mundane list-tracking options. Task Coach goes out of its way to help you keep track of the details. The latest version of Task Coach -- version 1.3.33-1 -- does a good job of servicing two categories, in fact. It is both a personal task tracker and a to-do manager.
CamScanner Delivers Document Freedom on the Go
November 15, 2013
If you've been trying to keep an aging all-in-one printer out of the graveyard, forget it. Move on. I've been banging my head against the wall with a bunch of space-hogging Dell printers. I had an 8-year-old, office-grey laser printer for manuscripts and an equally old and grumpy faded-white scanner-fax-printer inkjet combo for which the cartridge nozzles kept drying out, still half full of ink.
PCLinuxOS Makes Desktop Linux Look Good
November 14, 2013
PCLinuxOS is as close as a distro can get to masking all the technical things that scare people away from the Linux OS. It makes installing and using the distro beginner-level easy. That says a lot for attracting both new and experienced users. PCLinuxOS offers several very good desktop options. It also makes a solid choice for more experienced Linux users.
Silent Text: Basic Anonymity at a Hefty Price
November 08, 2013
The Tibetan government, law firms in Thailand and human rights groups in Sudan are all using a relatively new encrypted communications tool -- one that fits easily, if not cheaply, onto your smartphone. Silent Circle is an encrypted voice, video, text and file-transfer protocol that's available in app forms for Android devices, among others.
Ubuntu's Saucy Salamander is a Slick but Spiritless Upgrade
November 07, 2013
Ubuntu's latest desktop OS release, Ubuntu 13.10, is more of a plain-Jane release than its "Saucy Salamander" nickname might otherwise suggest. This release comes six months after the Raring Ringtail version, which was also a bit of a yawner in terms of offering any must-have-the-upgrade enthusiasm. Like the last release, Ubuntu 13.10 also does not deliver much "wow."
Yuilop: Free-to-Mobile Calling and SMS - With a Catch
November 01, 2013
I know, from correspondence that I receive, that readers of this column are pretty global, spread all over the world and in some pretty distant places. That's why I was intrigued when I came across VoIP Android app Yuilop. Here's an app that promises to provide the hitherto unknown Holy Grail of international voice and text calling: free calls to overseas cellphones.
Tomahawk Music Player Takes Listening to a New High
October 31, 2013
The trick to designing an all-purpose music player is to make it work the way you want. The Tomahawk Music Player performs that trick very well. It could well be a better listening choice than any other cross-platform music player application. It runs on a variety of Linux distros, Microsoft Windows and the Apple OS platforms. This flexibility is important to me as a user because I work on all three.
Scanner Radio Pro Helps Keep You in the Know
October 25, 2013
Fire season is upon us here in Southern California, and due to the lack of rain earlier in the year, we're seeing critically low live fuel moisture. The amount of residual moisture in grasses and brush is at levels lower than we've seen in years. This means that those inhabiting the wildland-urban interface are on tenterhooks. That unease has many looking for tools to mitigate the danger.
Linux Lite Is Heavy on Features and Usability
October 24, 2013
In a computing world distracted by distro overload, Linux Lite is a lightweight Linux OS that has no trouble handling a heavy workload. Long gone are the days when it took hours to install and set up Linux on a computer, but most Linux distros still need a bit of configuration to adjust the massive desktop options to your liking.
'Makers at Work' Offers Inspiring Journey Through the Creative Process
October 22, 2013
People have always honed their creative skills to make things, and societies have always had visionaries who turned their garage hobbies and kitchen table inventiveness into industrial breakthroughs. Makers at Work offers an insightful look at 21 unheralded makers who helped to change the way we think and interact with the world through the products they created.
Test Your Phone's Mettle With Benchmark & Tuning
October 18, 2013
Here's a novel way to find out if you do indeed need a new phone. It's a benchmarking app that will test components and provide a comparison with crowdsourced benchmarks from other common devices out there. If your 2-year-old, or so, phone or tablet seems a bit sluggish compared with the speed at which your colleagues and friends whizz through their smartphone-related tasks, it probably is.
Xnoise Makes Sweet Music - Once You Get It Installed
October 17, 2013
Xnoise is a new Linux Media Player for GTK+ environments that just keeps getting better. Perhaps the last thing that the Linux world needs is yet another media player, but Xnoise bridges the gap in this overcrowded software category. It has an intuitive user interface, speed and essential features. The latest version, 0.2.19, was released Sept. 17, 2013, and is not yet well-circulated.
Brave Blustery Climes With WeatherPro in Tow
October 11, 2013
I recently took a look at MeteoEarth, a rather spectacular Google Earth-like animated weather app. This visual, 3D globe-spinning weather app for Android provides zoom-in weather visualizations of the kind seen on TV -- and indeed, the publisher is a provider of weather-in-motion graphics to broadcasters. Well, MeteoEarth's visually stimulating show-off app has an all-rounder cousin, WeatherPro.
Chromium OS Vanilla Is a Plain-Jane Browser-Based Distro
October 10, 2013
The Chromium OS Vanilla Build by Hexxeh is a no-frills approach to trying out the concept of a browser-based Linux operating system without buying a branded Google Chromebook. It boots from a USB drive on any compatible computer. Unlike CR OS, Chromium OS boots into the Chrome browser environment. It does not have a full Linux desktop under it to run other Linux applications.

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