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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.
Following Microsoft's Recipes for Android Self-Programming
July 12, 2012
Microsoft is involved in a project geared toward self-programming and extending the functionality of the Android smartphone environment. That's surprising, because Microsoft has got its own phone OS that competes. However, on{X} in beta is bringing some unique JavaScript APIs to the table that let you program your phone remotely.
Put That Old GSM Dongle Back to Work
July 5, 2012
If you've been accumulating redundant, carrier-locked communications hardware like phones and data cards, and have been stuffing them all into a drawer likely never to be used again, you can repurpose some of it and realize some cost savings. Modem data cards, sometimes called "dongles," or "data sticks," are well suited to this repurposing.
Cheap, Easy DIY Website Design
June 29, 2012
All businesses can't afford pricey website designers, which is why Shanti Sosienski was inspired to start DIY Websites Now, a company that teaches people how to build their own. "Basically, we are a collective of designers, programmers and project managers who saw the need to service those potential clients who couldn't afford a $2,000 site," said Sosienski.
Staying Safe and Secure in the Public WiFi Wilderness
June 28, 2012
With the apparent clamp-down on formerly liberal U.S. data quotas by mobile operators, public WiFi hotspots -- like cafes -- for daily Web consumption may become an ever more likely Internet environment for many of us. Europeans have been used to limited mobile data quotas under various euphemisms like "fair use policies" and "data plans" for some time.
Blast From the Past: Using an Antenna to Grab Free TV
June 21, 2012
Bombarded by ads for cable and satellite TV packages, or seductive programming bundles offered by Internet service providers and phone companies, it may be easy to forget that it's possible to pick up much of that programming via a sub-hundred dollar indoor antenna reminiscent of the rabbit-ear days.
Liberating Your Locked GSM Phone
June 14, 2012
Wireless carriers sell you "postpaid" contract phones at a considerable discount. The carrier expects to recoup its outlay -- the full price of the equipment -- over the life of the contract that you sign. Often, it will lock the equipment to its network through a technique that stops the phone working if the SIM card ID and the phone serial number, aka "IMEI number," don't match what's configured.
No Ice Cream Sandwich for You? Clone It!
June 7, 2012
If you've been waiting with the patience of biblical figure Job for your handset maker to release a hardware-specific version of Android's latest incarnation, the 4.0 operating system called "Ice Cream Sandwich," or ICS, and it hasn't yet, you can try cloning it. You can achieve this without rooting, by taking advantage of a launcher replacement app.
Gorging on Data the WiFi Way
May 31, 2012
With Verizon's recent announcement that it intends to drop its grandfathered unlimited wireless data plan for existing customers who were around before tiered its pricing came into being, crackdowns are in the air. Both T-Mobile and Sprint continue to offer unlimited data plans, although T-Mobile slows data transmission after a point.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Smartphone
May 24, 2012
If your device is having difficulty completing tasks like file downloading, it's a dead giveaway that it needs some maintenance. We're used to the idea of spending a bit of time running hard disk defragmentation, spyware scans and other tools on our PCs, but we may not be so au fait with what's needed on the limited-memory phones and PC-substituting tablets we're using daily.
Leaving Your Mark on the Web
May 17, 2012
There are a lot of photographs out there. Photo sharing and album network Flickr alone reckons it hit the 6 billion image upload mark last year. If you consider Picasa, Facebook, and the current darling known as Instagram, we're talking gazillions of images floating around -- all freely downloadable. It may be time to start protecting your work.
When Wikipedia Vandals Attack
May 10, 2012
If you've been involved in a project that has been documented on Wikipedia and has earned its own Wikipedia page, it can be disconcerting to visit one day and see the page vandalized, as happened to an associate of mine recently. This incident led to a frantic email exchange. One consideration was how to deal with the problem without getting tagged as the vandal -- Wikipedia is collaborative, after all.
Sorting Out the Image Format Jumble
May 3, 2012
Have you ever wondered what the differences are among the scores of digital image formats out there? Some of the more common ones we see are GIF and JPEG but what does it all mean, and why are there so many? Plus, how do you know which one to use for the Web, and how can you take advantage of the different feature sets each one offers? Read on.
Ramping Up Your Laptop's RAM
April 26, 2012
One of the simplest ways to improve performance on a laptop is to add more RAM, or random access memory. RAM prices have been steadily dropping over the years, and it's now possible to see a significant performance boost with an investment of twenty or thirty dollars. If your machine is sluggish, you might need additional memory. Even if your machine is new, a memory upgrade is worth investigating.
Finding Your Way Around a Router
April 19, 2012
Have you ever accessed your home or small office router configuration settings and been bombarded with a mass of incomprehensible, cryptic computer-eze and senseless acronyms and abbreviations? Never fear -- you can quickly come up to speed on the basics. The router is a computer networking device that manages the data. It interprets the packet's address and directs the packet to its destination.
Run Your Software From a USB Stick for Security and Speed
April 12, 2012
Historically, freelancers have carried their software tools as compact discs, or as copies of the discs on a portable hard drive. Both have needed to be installed on the library, or client's computer. This has been time-consuming additional work. Security has also been an issue, with temporary document files and software footprints being left behind after an install -- a thorough cleanup being even more onerous at the end of the job.
Making the Most of Chrome in the Cloud
April 5, 2012
I've got a mini-laptop hooked up to my TV, a larger laptop on my desk, a 7-inch tablet in my back pocket for reading at coffee shops, a 10-incher that floats around the loft and rarely goes outside, and a 4.3-inch smartphone that works well on crowded transportation systems -- all lacking in synchronicity.
How to Overclock a CPU: Getting Started
March 29, 2012
Overclocking a CPU sounds seductive, right? Adjust a few settings on your phone or tablet, and the device goes faster. Games play without laborious, stuttering, forced slow-motion effects, and everything loads quicker. Well, like everything in life, these adjustments involve a tradeoff. Just as there are risks in taking your car out for a rural run and heavy-footing it, there are implications for a CPU speedup.
Taming That Spaghetti of Wires Taking Over Your Home
March 22, 2012
New home construction and remodeling projects, from a multimedia wiring angle, have the advantage of incorporating cable management at the design stage. That design is structured into the build. Unfortunately, existing homes don't have this luxury -- tearing into walls is disruptive and expensive.
And Now for Something Completely Different: Taking the Windows 8 Plunge
March 16, 2012
Microsoft has made available a consumer preview version of its upcoming Windows 8 operating system that you can try out. The OS caught my eye because the tile-like user interface appears radically different from the boring old reiterations of Windows 3.1 -- with minor tweaks that irritatingly require getting used to after every upgrade. This looks like it's worth it.
Diving Into GIS: A Starter Guide
March 8, 2012
If you were looking at television weather maps during last week's U.S. tornado activity, you were looking at a GIS, or Geographic Information System. Those red and purple splotches racing across the screen represented intensity levels of rotating storm cells. The map itself, the county lines, and the splotches were all data layer elements making up the map.
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