Thursday, December 26, 2013

Automatically Stop Unwanted Downloads and Add-Ons

There are a lot of great free programs out there, but some of these downloads come with a catch – many fold in extra features or even additional programs. If you're not careful, you'll end up with a new toolbar or a weird program that you never asked for! The trick is to monitor the install process carefully. Most of the time, there’s a sneaky little checkbox – already checked – that represents your permission to download. You have to carefully uncheck those boxes to avoid unwanted stowaways.

Unchecky is a free Windows program that can help you avoid all of that boring fine print. Unchecky automatically unchecks all of the extra add-ons you see in the install windows. The program also warns you if you are about to install a potentially harmful or unwanted program. This makes it easier to keep your computer secure and free of such things. Unchecky also updates programs automatically, so you don't have to constantly monitor your programs. Just install once and you're done!


Download Link:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Free Holiday Music for Smartphones and Tablets

Surprisingly, Apple's new streaming service has only one holiday-themed Featured Station, at least for the moment: the very good Rockin' Holiday. And if you search for "holidays," you get only a weird selection that includes, for some reason, comedian Jim Gaffigan. Search for "Christmas," though, and you'll find the Christmas Music Radio station, which offers a nice mix of classical tunes.
As any Pandora user knows, it's a snap to create a new station of Christmas or holiday tunes. However, when you start the process, you can also tap Browse Genre Stations, then scroll down to Holiday. There you'll find a wealth of stations already ready to go, including one for those of us who celebrate Hanukkah.
Pandora's extensive holiday selection includes a Hanukkah station.
Pandora's extensive holiday selection includes a Hanukkah station.
(Credit: Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET)
Slacker has been around nearly as long as Pandora, but it's often overlooked as a source for free streaming music. Now's your chance to discover what's so great about it: browse the Stations listing and you'll find nearly a dozen devoted entirely to Christmas tunes. These range from New Holiday Hits to Jazz Christmas to Yuletide Classics.
An app that specializes in slinging tunes based on specific moods and activities, Songza has plenty of holiday-themed stations available, starting with half a dozen main categories: A Christmas Concert Spectacular, Too Cool for Yule, Cozy Christmas Hits, and so on. This is arguably the single best app for finding exactly the kind of holiday music you want to hear.
The popular Internet-radio app can connect you to a variety of Christmas-themed stations. Just tap Browse, then scroll down to the Christmas category. You'll see upwards of 20 stations, a good choice being Christmas 365 -- Santa's Radio.
By the way, if you don't have a smartphone or tablet but still want an ample helping of free holiday tunes, check out Ed Rhee's roundup of online holiday-music options.

The Heat 2013

If you don't mind some salty language, which actually has a point in the movie, and don't mind that the vigor and freshness that lift the first half of the movie do not carry all the way through the movie, The Heat is quite enjoyable. While Sandra Bullock is Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy is Melissa McCarthy, they both turn in excellent performances. All in all, it's a well-done combination of action and comedy and a quie pleasant escape for a couple of hours.

IMDb Link:

PS: Christmas Eve Recommendation: Night Shift 1982

It has nothing to do with Christmas, but it's very funny and yet heart-warming, the cast (Michael Keaton, Shelley Long and Henry Winkler), even if you don't like them in other roles, turn in their performances of a lifetime and are excellent and Michael Keaton delivers one of the great lines in American cinema. Once watched on Christmas eve, it is likely to become a yuletime family tradition.

IMDb Link:

PPS: Alternative Christmas Eve Recommendation: The Wrong Box 1966

Wry comedy gets no better than this. The cast is classicly first rate with John Mills, Michael Caine, Ralph Richardson and more, but Peter Sellers steals the movie especially if you like or hate cats. If a fresh movie plot is something you crave, especially one that will not be remade, that plays as well 50 years after it was made as the day it debuted, this is that movie.

IMDb Link:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Data Control for Smartphones and Tablets

If your wireless plan has a limited amount of data, you definitely want a "data cop." I've used Onavo and really like it, which not only monitors and caps your usage, but also makes your data use more efficient. That said, this article has an excellent review of various alternatives:

Wireless Speakers

Wireless Speakers Let Music Roam Free

Samsung's Shape has its own central wireless station, called a Hub, that can connect to your router.
You may have noticed the spate of new wireless audio speakers on the market, many of them marketed to be sold in multiples and placed throughout the house. For the speaker companies, it isn’t all about function and audio science: their priority is to sell you five or six speakers at a time. Your priority should be to figure out what you want from music.
I’m a music critic who often travels long distances to hear something live but does not want recorded music, and especially the devices that play it, to gain ground on me. (I want to play it, not the other way around.) I’m skeptical about speakers the size of small monuments. I think kids who listen to music on their cellphones or through laptop speakers are expressing an authentic use of music in their lives. I’m used to better sound than that. But my basic attitude toward new audio equipment is condescension.
So I understand what I do not want. But what do I want?
For the record, wireless speakers — unless we’re talking about smaller, portable-by-design, Bluetooth-enabled ones that can be battery operated like Jawbone’s Jambox or Grain Audio’s new Packable model — are not truly wireless. The options with fuller sound — the kind I’m looking for — need to be plugged into the wall. Still, they do not need wires to connect to the source of the music, creating a permanent state of cord spaghetti.
The simplicity and reduced size of many of the new wireless speakers make sense to me. They are easy to move physically and boss around mechanically, usually with simple controls on a smartphone. I like the idea of shifting my speakers to another place or banishing them from my sight, when I want to. With wireless speakers, especially smaller ones, this is reasonable.
Multiroom wireless systems, with speakers placed in as many rooms as you like, bring on different concerns. Until recently, I saw only three uses for them. One was to become a crisper family autocrat. (We will now all, in different rooms, listen to my No. 1 record of the year.) Another was to help with hearing podcasts, so you don’t forget where you are in someone’s run-on sentence while you move from the living room to the kitchen. And the third was to help you imagine that you live in a department store, where your ambulatory shopping experience is made more elegant by an unbroken soundtrack.
But my family and I just moved, and I’ve been rethinking the audio question down to the root. Maybe there’s more to it than I thought.
My rethinking really started when I got my hands on the wireless Sonos speakers. The company’s speakers have been justifiably popular since 2009, when it introduced what is now called the Play:5 speaker: $400 and roughly 8 inches by 14 inches, a rectangle that sits on its long end.
To use the speakers, you plug the company’s Bridge component (roughly $50) into your router or Mac AirPort Express. This passes wireless signals to the speakers. You place the speakers where you want them in the house, then download the Sonos app into your various smartphones or computers. Each device can choose which speakers to play through, and draw from the same family well of music. (It can play from iTunes and several other music services including the popular streaming service Spotify, if you have Spotify’s premium subscription.)
When you listen through iTunes, all the different iTunes libraries in the house combine into one large Sonos library, displayed in effective and elegant graphics with a dark-blue background. You don’t have to look at the larger library, but you can. My children may not choose to listen to what lies outside their own iTunes collection, but the family holdings are easily accessible to them like one communal record shelf. Good.
The newest Sonos model is the Play:1 ($200), introduced in October. It’s smaller and lighter than the Play:5 or the intermediate Play:3 ($300). Sitting vertically, at six and a half inches tall, and with rounded edges, the Play:1 looks something like a wide-mouth Mason jar. It sounds almost unreasonably rich, much more than its size would indicate.
I work in a room that is about 10 feet by 20; the speaker made music vivid there, with depth and space among its parts. I am surprised to tell you that I’m not sure more than one per room is necessary. For a considerably bigger space, the 5 has the same clarity and depth but more power. Some may want to experiment with surround-sound and combine different models in one room. But really, don’t underestimate the 1.
Samsung has its own multiroom wireless system to go against Sonos: the Shape M7, at $360, with wedge-shaped speakers comparable in size to Sonos’s Play:5 and its own central wireless station to connect to your router, called a Hub, which costs about $50.
Ben Ratliff is a jazz and pop music critic for The New York Times.

It’s not the same. The app is downloadable only to Android or iOS equipment. (If one of your main links to your music is a PC, you’re out of luck.) There’s a small but grating delay between selecting a song and hearing it come out of the speakers, something I have not experienced with the Sonos system. The sound? It’s fine. But not great. Someone who hasn’t had much experience with listening to music over proper speakers at home might love it, especially if that person already has a Samsung phone. Older ears may be unimpressed.
Then there are the speakers offered by Korus, which work on a simpler but in some ways more problematic system. You plug a wireless device called a Baton into a computer or cellphone, and that becomes a kind of antenna for the speakers. The manual says that the Baton’s range is 65 feet; I put a speaker on the other end of our apartment, perhaps 40 feet away down a winding hallway, and heard the sound at the same quality as when the speaker sat five feet from the Baton.
The speakers are particularly portable: wedge-shaped, with rounded handles on the back, so you can walk around with one like a lunchbox. And you don’t need to bother with any router. They can be plugged in, or powered with six D batteries. So: car trips, hotels, beaches. Just a smartphone and one of these.
There is no communal library here. (There is nothing to download except a simple volume control app for up to four different speakers.) You’re not getting a direct feed from any application in particular. What is coming out of your computer as a whole — Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, whatever — will be heard on the speakers. At one point, over the Korus V400(around $350, the speaker area about 11 inches by 6), I was listening to a Paul Bley record from Spotify, noticing the presence of Charlie Haden’s bass sound but the lack of depth in the music as a whole, and I suddenly heard on top of it an inane video pop-up ad from a page I had open, with about the same audio fidelity.
I ascended a level to the Korus V600 ($450), its size bigger by half again, and tried comparing the bigger Korus with the Sonos Play:1 using different kinds of audio-test music: Miles Davis and Gil Evans’s “Sketches of Spain,” Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” the Camerata Kilkenny playing from Bach’s “The Art of Fugue.”
With the larger Korus, I got a representation only of largeness; from the small Sonos I got a sense of the actual physical space the musicians were playing in. The experience of music’s depth and particulars from the Sonos Play:1, and the lack of fuss in delivering it, is what I’d wish for the rest of my family. What I wish for my family is what I wish for myself. Now I know what I want.
Ben Ratliff is a jazz and pop music critic for The New York Times.
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ubiquity of Google Maps

Users who choose to sign in will be able to see their flight, hotel and restaurant reservations in Google Maps, which appear following a user-initiated search. After authenticating with Google (Gmail), you can search for your departing airport, hotel, or dining reservation to see your plans plotted on the map. The update had first arrived on the desktop this past October. Google has also offered these sort of “private” results within Google Search previously, again for signed-in users. In the case of Google Search, users can also track packages, see Calendar appointments, google their own photos from Google Search, and query up information about the contacts they have saved on their Google Contacts lists. The company has been slowly iterating on making Google’s apps feel less like standalone destinations, and more like tools that allow you to access the vast data that Google has about the world, and about you personally. It’s been blurring the lines between its services, as well as between what’s public and private. The added functionality, now available for iOS devices, makes Google into a more personalized, smart assistant, even for those who don’t have an Android phone running Google Now.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Free Music Streaming for Android and Apple Devices

With competition heating up in the streaming music space, your choices have never been better. With a recent update, Spotify for Android and iOS now comes with free streaming, supported by ads, on mobile devices. Desktop users of the Spotify application have had this feature for a while. Now, it's available on mobiles and tablets with various limitations compared to the premium service. As soon as I heard of the new free options for mobiles, I installed the app on my Android tablet. A few days later, I installed it on my mobile phone and another tablet, I got something different from what I'd seen earlier. There was a dialog box about a 48 hour free trial. My research found that you're registered for Spotify premium for 48 hours. After this period your account becomes a free account.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Text Settings

If you have not explored the settings for your texting app, you are missing some great stuff. Click on the Message icon and then Settings and a whole new world will open up, allowing for scheduled messaging, changes to the input mode and notification ringtone and message alert repitition, group messaging, using the volume key to change the text size, inclusion of a customized signature, blocking options, and perhaps coolest of all, designation of stock templates (e.g., "Sorry, I missed your call," "I'm late, but I'll be there in minutes," "Where are you?," "Please call me when you get this," and many more, and best of all, you can add your own customized templates.

Remote Mouse

How many times has your mouse or keyboard gone kaput and you've depleted your mouse/keyboard inventory and you're snowed in so you can't dash to the store to get new ones? No longer is there any need to panic or worry. With Remote Mouse, you can turn your Android phone or tablet in mouse, touchpad and keyboard. It actually has more features than standard mouse/keyboards and it is also very handy for watching a movie online or controlling presentations.

Download Link:

Christmas Tree App

How many times have you been away from home and slammed your forehead because you want to turn on or off your Xmas tree lights. That need never have to happen again. The explanatory link below guides you through controlling your Xmas tree lights (and other electrical things) remotely with your smartphone.

Explanatory Link:

Custom Vacation Reminder for Gmail

Google on Wednesday announced Gmail version 4.7 for Android users. The new version, which is currently rolling out, adds the ability to edit your out of office response, send any file type (including ZIP files!), and the ability to print e-mails on devices running Android 4.4 KitKat. The process is now superconvenient and extremely easy to complete.

Friday, December 13, 2013

It Can Pay BIG to Revisit Your Wireless Rate Plan

Whether or not you are still under a 2-year contract, if you haven't checked with your carrier in the past few weeks concerning your rate plan, you could be missing out on a MUCH less expensive plan that will give you ALL the features you currently have and likely even MORE and BETTER features. While the names are different across carriers, if you are on a family plan (i.e., there are two or more people on the same plan), ask about a mobile share plan. If you have an individual plan, just ask what new plans are available. And if you are not under contract, it might behoove you to look at other carrier plans both in terms of their own offerings and to use when negotiating with your carrier. Finally, if the first agent you talk to doesn't come up with anything, try calling back to another agent ... some of the new plans not only are very new (e.g., AT&T just started advertising one today), but some of the agents do not even  know about them (and will be very grateful when you tell them about the one you saw advertised).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Some Nexus 7 Tips and Tweaks

One good thing about the tablet wars is that there can be more than one winner. Even for a longtime iPad user such as myself, there's a lot to like about the Nexus 7.
You'll like the device even more after you've tweaked a few of its default settings. Here are a handful of customizations guaranteed to make your use of the Nexus 7 more enjoyable.
Set or change your default apps
When you choose a file on your Android tablet, you're prompted to select an app to open it in. To set your selected app as the default for that type of file, press Always after you make your app selection, or press "Just once" to have the app-selection pop-up appear each time you open that type of file.
Android file-open dialog
Press the Always button after you choose the app in which you want to open a file to set that app as the default for that file type.
(Credit: Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET)
To clear the default app for a specific file type, open Settings, press Apps under Device, select the app you don't want to open by default, and press "Clear defaults" under Launch by Default.
To uninstall an app, open the Apps window on the Home screen and choose the Apps tab. Press and hold the app's icon, drag the icon to the Uninstall icon that appears at the top of the window, and press OK. Note that the Uninstall icon is visible only for apps that you can uninstall from the device.
You can also uninstall an app via Settings: press Apps under Device, choose the app you want to uninstall, and press the Uninstall button.
Force-close a running app
Some apps just don't know when to quit. Applying updates or moving to the next level in a game may require that you restart the app, which could entail forcing it to close.
To shut down an app manually, open Settings, press Apps under Device, select the app you want to close, press the "Force stop" button, and choose OK.
Android app settings
To shut down an Android app manually, open its entry in Settings and choose the "Force stop" button.
(Credit: Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET)
Disable auto-correction
As you type, the Nexus 7 checks your spelling and presents word suggestions. Either choose one of the entries or allow the highlighted word to replace the word you're typing by entering a space, punctuation mark, or return.
If you'd rather do without the typing suggestions, open Settings, choose "Language & input" under Personal, press the Quick Settings icon to the right of the entry for your keyboard in the Keyboard & Input Methods list, choose "Auto-correction" under Text Correction, and set the Auto-correction option to Off.
Android auto-correction options
Disable Android's spelling auto-correction or change the default setting from Modest to Aggressive or Very Aggressive.
(Credit: Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET)
The default setting is Modest; in addition to disabling auto-correction, you can change the auto-correction setting to Aggressive or Very Aggressive.
To train your device to exclude suggestions, press the Delete key to banish the suggestion and revert to the word you typed.
Manage notifications
The notifications that appear at the top of the Nexus 7 screen include calendar entries, alarms, received e-mails, and other events. Swipe down from the top of screen to view your notifications, and swipe up to close the notification window.
To dismiss a notification, swipe sideways to remove it from the list, or press the icon in the top-right corner of the window to dismiss all listed notifications. To open a notification, press it to start the app it's associated with. The notification will be removed from the list automatically.
Bonus tip: Sliding down from the top-right corner of the screen displays the Quick Settings window, which has shortcuts to your Settings, wireless and airplane-mode options, brightness controls, and other settings.
Android Quick Settings window
Swipe down from the top-right corner of the Nexus 7 screen to open the Quick Settings window with shortcuts to frequently used settings.
(Credit: Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET)
Save Google Maps for offline viewing
If you open Google Maps to the same area repeatedly, you can save the map locally so you can view it without having to open a network connection. This comes in handy when no network is available and also saves you data-transfer charges when you're not connecting over a Wi-Fi link.
Unfortunately, Google removed the offline-viewing option for its maps in the most recent version 4.4 of Android. In the new release, the only way to save a map for offline viewing is to add it to your cache. Alternatively, you can revert to an earlier version of Google Maps for Android.
In older versions of Android, you can save maps for offline viewing by opening the map you want to save in Google Maps, pressing the menu key, choosing Make Available Offline, and selecting the map area you want to save. Offline maps can be as large as 100MB.
The workaround for Android 4.4 is to select the map area, enter OK Maps in the search box, and pressing Search. The map will be stored in your cache.
Add a contact shortcut to the home screen
If you find yourself accessing the same one or two contacts repeatedly, you can save time by adding a shortcut to the contacts on the home screen. To do so, find an open space on your home screen, then open the Widgets window, press and hold the Contact entry, scroll through your contact list, and choose the entry for the person you want to reach with a single press.
Prevent apps from adding their icon to the home screen
If you find your home screen getting cluttered with app icons, you can either combine the icons into folders or tell the device not to place app icons there as part of the programs' installation.
To install apps without having their icons added by default to the home screen, open the Google Play store, select Settings, and uncheck "Auto-add widgets."

What Bitcoin Actually Is

There has been much press and discussion about Bitcoin, but very little understanding and much misunderstanding about what it actually is. Here is the best article I've seen explaining Bitcoin:

Article Link:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Automatically Sync Photos and Files Across Your Phone, Tablet and Computer

How often have you wanted an easy way to just copy your photos or other files from your phone to your desktop PC or Mac? Don't want to mess around with cables or Cloud storage services because it's too hard?
BitTorrent Sync makes it easy. It's available for various devices including PC Windows, Mac and Linux. Apps are available for mobiles including Android and iOS, and these, including the desktop clients are free with no ads. 
To get started, go to the BitTorrent Sync website. Here you can download and install the desktop application. After installation, run the program and you can select a folder to sync at this time but you can add folders later. Then, install the BitTorrent Sync app on your phone. 
You can set the app to auto-start when your phone or tablet turns on. On your PC, BitTorrent Sync can be set to auto-start as well. You can set it to automatically sync whenever a new file is added to the folder on your phone. You do this by tapping the gear button next to the folder name. In this case, whenever you take a new photo, it will be synced to your PC.
The app can sync across your cellular data network, but keep in mind this will add to your data costs. If this setting is disabled, sync will only happen when your phone is in range of your home wireless network. As soon as you walk in your front door, any new photos you have taken will copy across to your PC in minutes with no effort at all. The syncing works both ways. If you move or delete the photo from your PC folder, it will be removed from the phone and photos deleted on your phone will be removed from the PC.
This photos example is just one possible use of BitTorrent Sync, as you could sync your music collection or any other content across devices. It provides a simple way to copy files between mobile devices with the app installed on each one. BitTorrent Sync can back up your devices files. An explanation of how it's done is on this web page.
The app is light on resources and runs in the background if you have chosen the auto-start option. In the app settings you can set it to go to sleep if there is no activity. There's a power saver setting but I didn't notice any extra battery drain after using the app for several weeks on my phone and tablet.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Easily Check Whether an Account of Yours Has Been Compromised

There's been a number of high-profile system hacks over the past couple of years, against companies such as Yahoo, Adobe and Sony. In hacker terminology, these accounts are now owned, or "pwned", by the attackers, which means that the usernames, passwords and email addresses behind them can be used for illicit purposes. Hackers often like to publicize their discoveries, and the databases of hacked, stolen passwords were uploaded for all to see. This allowed the people behind a rather useful website to create a searchable copy of the list, so that you can check whether your details appear on a list of some 154 million stolen online accounts and email addresses.To find out whether your details do indeed appear on any of those stolen lists, just head to this site and check online.

Site Link:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Opening Bookmarks in New Tab With One-Click in Chrome

The default way to open a bookmark in a new tab in Chrome is to right-click on the link and choose Open in New Tab. There are two faster ways. First, if your mouse has a middle button, click on it and the link will open in a New Tab. Second, just left-click and hold the link and drag it to where the New Tab would be and it will open in a New Tab.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Sound of One Hand Dragging and Dropping

If you use the touchpad on your laptop instead of a mouse, drag and drop takes two hands, one to hold down the left touchpad button and one to move the selected object.  You might consider enabling a feature of Windows 7/8 that makes the operation of dragging and dropping easier. Windows 7 and 8 come with a Control Panel setting called ClickLock that provides a way to let you use just one hand. Here’s how it works.
  1. Open Control Panel. In Windows 7 click the entry in the Start menu. In Windows 8, enter the keyboard shortcut Winkey+Xand choose Control Panel from the menu that opens.
  2. Use Control Panel in Icon View and click  “Mouse”
  3. The Mouse Properties dialog box will open.
  4. Find the section named "ClickLock" and put a check by the entry "Turn on ClickLock".
  5. Click the button "Settings" and a small window opens where you can set the delay time. This is the time you have to hold down the left trackpad button before the cursor is locked to the clicked item. (Graphic below) Be aware that this setting will affect the mouse also.
  6. Click "OK" and "OK" 
Windows Control Panel Clicklock setting
Now when you put the cursor on an object, click and hold down the trackpad (or mouse) left button, it will lock the cursor on the object after the specified delay time. The object can then be moved. To release the cursor, click again. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Trying Chrome Apps Before Installing

Chrome 32, which is the latest version and is now on your computer if you're using Chrome, has a useful feature that lets you launch apps from the Chrome App Launcher without first installing them. You simply need to enable the experimental ephemeral apps flag to use this feature. To do so, head to this page:
The "Enable experimental ephemeral apps" line might be highlighted at the top of the page but, if not, type "ephemeral" into the Find box (click on the Customize button at the top right of Chrome to bring up the Find). Click the Enable link and restart Chrome.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Not Just for the Hypochondriac

Although staying home is the wisest choice, if you must go out, ALWAYS check Sickweather before you do. Sickweather is an Apple app that will alert you as to places where any germs or sicknesses or diseases or coughing or croup or ear infections or flu (and much much more) have been reported so you can avoid them. There is no Android app that does this (apparently the app writers believe that iPhone owners are a better target for this kind of app), but will provide the same information, and you can sign up for alerts.

Website Link:

Some Tips on Chrome's New Tab Page and Search

The New Tab Page is VERY convenient.  Once you set it up, you will find yourself using it all the time and will find it will save you time and effort. It lets you put 24 or more site logos on it for easy and fast navigation to places you visit frequently. The new New Tab page is a step backward because it takes up inordinate space with the Google logo and search bar. You do not need the Google search bar ever because the Address Bar in Chrome is Google search. Below are the easy steps to revert to the old New Tab Page. Now, the trick of getting the sites you want onto the New Tab page: Just go to the site, then open the New Tab page, click on the left arrow, and drag the site back to the New Tab page. You can then arrange the sites any way you want simply by dragging. If the site you have designated is not on the page when you click the left arrow, go to Settings and clear the cache and browsing history (which you should do frequently anyhow) and visit the site again and it will be there. Here then is how to revert to the old New Tab page:

1. Type chrome://flags into your browser's address bar.
2. Search for the option labeled "Enable Instant Extended API."
3. Change its setting from "Default" to "Disabled."
4. Restart your browser.

Dealin With Idiots (2013)

It's not a great movie. It's not even a good one. But, if you like the characters from Best N Show and Curb Your Enthusiasm, and you are going a little stir crazy waiting for the next CYE season to be released, many of those characters appear in similar fashion to produce more laughs than one might have expected. Jeff Garlin stars and directed and is pure Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard is classic Fred Willard, and J.B. Smoove is a total riot.

IMDb Link:

To Copy the Uncopyable

Annoyingly, some parts of certain Windows screens won't let you copy the text.  However hard you press the mouse button, the cursor stubbornly refuses to change into the shape that tells you it's allowing you to copy the text. The solution is a small program called GetWindowText.  It's a tiny 0.05 MB download that works on all versions of Windows from XP onwards (I personally tested it on 8.0).  It's free, portable, and malware-free according to VirusTotal and Web of Trust.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Risks of and Alternatives to Using Adobe Reader

A recent report by the AV-Test Institute, found that 66 percent of affected Windows systems are victims of malware that took advantage of exploits found in Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, and Java.
In a ten plus year study AV-Test uncovered that one exploit for Adobe Reader alone had nearly 37,000 recorded variants that exploited user machines with high levels of precision; users with outdated or known versions of susceptibility stood no virtual chance without some form of protection software.
(Credit: AV-Test Institute)
The biggest offender? Java -- with a whopping 82,000 attacks spread across different versions, making it one of the most vulnerable magnets for exploit.
Though the race to secure Java remains ongoing, users can at least take better precautions to protect themselves from PDF exploits by using the following alternatives to Adobe Reader:

1. PDF-XChange Viewer

PDF-XChange Viewer is a free, lightweight alternative to Adobe Reader that lets you modify and annotate PDF files. It also comes with a built-in PDF Converter.

2. Sumatra PDF

Sumatra PDF is another free alternative PDF reader, known for its minimal take on viewing PDFs without the bloat. Ease of use takes priority in this open-source viewer for Windows.

3. Mozilla Firefox

Firefox is not only a spectacular browser, but also if you want to do away entirely with having a separate viewing client, then Firefox might be an attractive option. Mozilla's flagship browser comes with native support for PDF files.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Non-Contract Wireless Plans (Other Than Pre-Pay)

AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile are aggressively pushing plans where, instead of a 2-year contract where you buy the phone up-front at a subsidized price, you pay for the phone in monthly installments at its full-unsubsidized price. The plans vary in their details but they are all RIP-OFFs. The only way to "save" under these plans, if you want to call this "saving," is if you want to trade-in your phone (and it better be in perfect condition or there is a penalty) for a new phone every 6-12 months and keep paying full-price for the phone on a monthly basis. For example, with AT&T, your cost for a 32GB iPhone 5S is $300 up-front under a 2-year contract or $32/month under its Next plan, which will cost you $640 over 20  months. The link below gives a cogent overview of each of these plans under the title, "Which Is the Biggest Rip-Off?" Note, though, that pre-pay plans, which are free of any time-contract, are entirely different, and, if you own your phone, can be cost-saving depending on your particular usage.