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Brian Cox's Wonders of Life Brings the Universe-Tromping Physicist Back to Earth
March 05, 2014
There are three elements that bring a great nature documentary to life: first, you need great video footage; second, you need to infuse the content with a sense of time, scope, and wonder; and third, you need a cool narrator. Brian Cox's Wonders of Life app delivers all three. I stumbled upon the app after Apple highlighted it as an Editor's Choice.
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.
LaCie Fuel Is Much More Than a Run-of-the-Mill Portable
February 26, 2014
Cords have been the bane of digital life since the introduction of PCs. As wireless devices proliferated, though, the need for cords has declined, thanks to technologies like Bluetooth and WiFi. One product area where cords have been persistent, however, has been storage. Sure, the cloud has provided some relief, but local storage units often require a cord to tap into a wireless net.
Old-School Event Management Approach Hampers ETM
February 20, 2014
Etm, an acronym for "Event and Task Manager," is a very useful calendar and planning tool. However, it is a bit cumbersome to learn and far less convenient to use than alternatives. It has an intuitive task-entry format, once you learn its plain text shorthand. Etm stores events, tasks and other user-generated notes and data in text files. You can create, modify and view entries using two primary methods.
Distro Astro Is a Stunning Star Voyager
February 13, 2014
The Linux desktop offers distributions for many diverse interests and specialties. Distro Astro is for astronomy enthusiasts. The latest version, Distro Astro 2.0, is dubbed "Pallas." It was released Nov. 20, 2013, at the South East Asian Young Astronomers Collaboration conference in Bandung, Indonesia. It is a major upgrade focusing on refinements for professional astronomers.
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.
Lightworks Video Editor Pulls Plenty of Weight
February 06, 2014
Lightworks is a professional-grade nonlinear video editor now available for Linux. It is a cross-platform editor from a well-known player in the media market, so this first-time Linux release could be a big thing. Lightworks version 11.5 for Linux was released late last month, following three years of development. Linux users now can download a free version or pay for a Pro version.
Cycloramic Pro Swims With the Sharks
February 06, 2014
How does an iOS panoramic photo shooting app first introduced in 2012 rocket to the top of the Paid App list in Apple's App Store? Answer: The developer takes it to ABC's Shark Tank, where he demonstrates how his iPhone can spin around, taking photos all by itself. He then shakes off a $200,000 offer for 10 percent of his business and holds out for $500K of venture investment.
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.
LXLE Gives New Zest to Old Machines
January 31, 2014
Just when you think you have found the sweet spot with an ideal Linux desktop distro, along comes yet another version to tug at your computing heart strings. In this case, it is LXLE. Lubuntu eXtra Life Extension, aka LXLE, is based on Lubuntu, a version of Ubuntu running LXDE. If you have yet to experience the LXDE desktop, prepare yourself for a wonderfully smooth computing experience.
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.

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