Friday, February 28, 2014

Correcting a Website That Does Not Display Right

Sometimes a website, even one you go to routinely, stops displaying right (e.g.., instead of pictures and stuff all that comes up are phrases and such). Here is what to do:

1. Reload your browser and try again.

2. Clear your cache and reload your browser and try again.

3. Delete any cookies associated with the site and reload your browser and try again.

4. Look for a different solution at: http://sitedown.co/

[Example: I went to Walmart's website today and it did not display right. I went had tried 1 and 2 and both my browsers but that did not work. I went to sitedown.co and it was immediately obvious Walmart had a problem but someone there suggested 3, which I tried and it worked perfectly.]

TinyTask

TinyTask is a free screen recorder program for Windows.  It's simple to use, and lets you create a video recording of your actions when using the PC so that you can refresh your memory, or perhaps show someone else, at a later date.   It's great for technical support issues, and lots more besides.Perhaps the most impressive thing about TinyTask is its size.  The download is just 0.033 MB.  There's no installer, so just run it and then press the button to start recording.  When you're done, press the Stop button.  You can then compile your recording to a standalone .EXE file that you can play back with just a click.

PS: Maybe David Hand's Improbability Principle Is Wrong

This morning's Wall Street Journal had the following article by Ben Cohen, which summarizes a study showing that there is such a thing as "the hot hand" which is likely to cause a lively debate between the study's authors and Professor Hand who explains in The Improbability Principle that there is no such thing:

It was a shooting performance so incredible, even veteran basketball experts had never seen anything like it.

In a game last month at then-No. 4-ranked Villanova, Creighton senior Ethan Wragge swished a three-pointer on his team's opening possession. The next time down the court, he hit a deeper shot. At that point, Wragge wanted a third "because I feel like it's going in no matter what." He was right. Wragge's next four shots didn't miss, either. He scored 21 of his team's first 27 points in the Bluejays' 96-68 rout.

He also became the latest example of a phenomenon that many people say doesn't exist: the hot hand.

This sensation is familiar to anyone who has ever played or watched basketball. A player with the hot shooting hand seems to enter an ethereal zone, an inexplicably heightened state of ability in which he is unstoppable.

For years, though, academics have dismissed the hot-hand theory as basketball's version of Bigfoot. Almost everyone in the last three decades who had hunted for hard evidence of streakiness had come up empty. Instead, they say, belief in the hot hand is a case of people mistakenly seeing patterns in randomness.

But new research using previously unavailable data is heating up the debate. It turns out that popular intuition about the hot hand may have been right all along.

In a paper to be presented this week at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, an annual convention of sports eggheads hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, three recent Harvard students say they have discovered a "small yet significant hot-hand effect," overturning years of previous studies on the topic. The paper, which is pending peer review, was written by Andrew Bocskocsky, John Ezekowitz and Carolyn Stein, who all graduated from Harvard in the spring of 2013.

They devised a formula that, for the first time, controls for variables such as a shot's location and a defender's position to better understand its difficulty. The hot-hand effect was masked in the past by the players themselves, the authors contend, since many attempted lower-percentage shots when they were "feeling it," as the announcer Marv Albert would say.

After analyzing shots in better detail—they surveyed more than 70,000 from the last NBA season and cross-referenced them against play-by-play summaries—the authors say a player can be more likely, not less likely, to make his next shot if he has made several in row. Their hot-hand estimate ranges from a 1.2 to a 2.4 percentage-point increase in likelihood.

The findings may have persuaded skeptics to reconsider their position. Cornell psychology professor Thomas Gilovich, the lead author on a 1985 paper that found no evidence of streak shooting, said this paper has intrigued him in a way that similar efforts haven't.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Deleting Your Facebook Search History

Each time you look for a friend, business, or personality on Facebook, it gets saved to your search history. Supposedly, this makes it easier for you to find what you were looking for later without much work. Unfortunately, the search history might be cluttered with queries that don't require quick access -- like someone you've already become friends with, a brand you're already following.
If you want to limit some of the information Facebook is keeping about you, or just tidy up the list, it's just a few clicks away. Here's how to get started:
Step 1: Click on the Settings cog in the top-right corner. Choose the Activity Log option from the menu.
Step 2: You will see all of your recent Facebook activity. Under Photos, Likes, and Comments in the left side menu bar, click More, then choose Search.
Step 3: All of your search history, provided you haven't deleted it before, will appear. Individual searches can be removed by clicking the block icon and then Remove. If you want to clear all of it, click on the Clear Searches link at the top.
What do you think about the Search history feature? Do you think Facebook should save all of your search queries? Have you ever found the search history helpful to revisit something you were looking for in the past? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Serious Security Issue for iPhones and iPads

There is a serious security issue with iOS that needs your prompt attention. It's all explained clearly and simply here, and it's easy to address:

Explanatory Link: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/24/apples-serious-security-issue-update-your-iphone-or-ipad-immediately/?nl=technology&emc=edit_ct_20140227

Discounted Garage Parking at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

Phoenix Sky Harbor has announced a new pilot program for Airport parking - Prepaid Discount Parking.  This program will allow you to save over 40% the cost of parking in the terminal garage by paying for your parking in advance.   It's easy, convenient, and will save you money. Here is the FAQs from their webiste:

FAQ Link: http://skyharbor.com/transportationparking/faq.html

The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracle, and Rare Events Happen Every Day, by David J. Hand

This past Sunday's NYT Magazine had a short interview in which David J. Hand discussed his newest book, The Improbability Principle. You can read that interview, which includes a nice summary introduction to the book, here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/magazine/david-j-hands-lottery-tips.html?_r=0

As it turns out, the book is a fabulous read. Professor Hand will challenge, and explain in clear terms, every preconception you've held about coincidences, luck, unforeseen events, and impossibilities. Along the way, it explains what is and what is not statistical analysis in a way that one need not be mathematically inclined to understand. It is a must read for anyone other than those who wish to live only in a cave. Among other things, it will give you a fresh and sobering look of everything from the vagaries of the stock market (making it a must read for all investors and speculators) to hot streaks in sports (making it a must read for sports fans, coaches, analysts, broadcasters, commentators, and sports participants) to the misconceptions of many clinical trials (making it a must read for doctors and patients) to the improper methods of proof in court trials (making it a must read for lawyers, judges, law professors, and clients). And anyone of a spiritual nature or with an interest in monotheism or anyone having curiosity about theories of the universe should find it, let's say, provocative.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Light Flashes When Phone Rings

A recent Android update causes some Android phones to flash when the phone rings. To turn off that feature, go to Settings/Accessibility and there you will see the option to uncheck the box for Flash Notification.

Edit Photos Like a Pro

If you're looking for a high quality and comprehensive photo editing app for Android and iOS, look no further than Pixlr Express - photo editing. The app is from graphics giant, Autodesk Inc. Top quality can be expected and the app certainly delivers. It's great that such a highly regarded company is providing a useful tool for free with no ads. Judging by its popularity in the app stores, this is the only photo editor you'll ever need.

Buying vs. Renting: One Myth Re-Examined

It used to be a golden rule that owning a home was better than renting. The collapse of the housing market several years back and looking at housing prices (via the Case-Schiller Index) over the past 100 years has made for lively debate about the economic benefits and risks of owning vs. renting. The debate also involves notions about supposed security of ownership especially once the mortgage is paid off. Putting those debates aside, it often is said that ownership is preferable because no one wants to do remodeling or other improvements to a rental. As Tom Friedman puts it, "No one takes a rental car to a car wash." Actually, just as he was in the run-up to the Iraq war, Mr. Friedman is wrong and apparently has never had a rental car in Kauai. Thus, when one looks at recouping remodeling and other improvement costs, many of them cannot be recouped at all whether one owns or rents and those that might be recouped will only be so for a percentage of the actual cost. Put another way, the ability to recoup the cost of an improvement turns on what the improvement is, how much it cost, how long one stays in the home, and what happened in the market between date of purchase and date of sale. In short, as a matter of economics, owning a home does not insure recoupment of improvement costs and renting a home need not foreclose doing improvements.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Android Home Button

Push and hold your home button on your Android device and you'll see an easily accessible list of recently opened apps. Click on any you want to open and it will open. Swipe any you want to disappear and it will disappear.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Nine Free Very Useful Android Apps

X-plore File ManagerThe Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean versions of the Android system have not come with a file manager yet. It's probably most Android users have been craving for and yet it's not built in.
Unless you're having a file manager added on by your device manufacturer, you would tend to need one to browse the files inside your device. Or if you're not happy with the file manager that the supplier added for you, then why not install one that's most suited for you? X-plore File Manager is one of the best in this review Best Free File Manager for Android at time of preparing this list. Get this app if you like a dual-pane file manager with a tree view. It allows you to transfer files easily between folders on the same device as you can have your device folder on one side of the split screen and your external storage folder on the other.
It shows the total memory size and amount of free space. When you drill further into a folder, it shows you file sizes. Besides using the menu buttons, you can long press a folder or file to rename, copy, move, delete, create zip, show details and more.
A number of other features are also useful such as setting favorite folders, built-in viewers for images, video, audio and text, sharing files and cloud storage access to Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive, etc.
This app works pretty well in particular if your device screen isn't too small.
X-plore File Manager
2.  AirDroid
AirDroidA phone screen is small and a tablet screen may not be as big enough as a desktop screen. With this app installed, you can use your PC to access and interact with your mobile device wirelessly over a local Wi-Fi.
After installation, it's pretty easy to use—just run the app on your mobile, then enterweb.airdroid.com into a web browser on your PC, and log in with the password given by the app for a session.
Right on your PC, you can then read, send or delete SMSes, install and uninstall apps, transfer files or share text between the PC and mobile, browse the photos, play back music and videos saved in your mobile, edit contacts and more.
Enjoy your Android experience over-the-air using your PC with a large screen monitor, a full-size keyboard, a mouse and maybe a perfect surround sound system.
AirDroid
Barcode ScannerOne of the easiest ways to install an Android app is to use Barcode Scanner, a handy and efficient tool developed by ZXing Team.
Barcode Scanner lets you use your device's built-in camera to scan a Quick Response (QR) Code containing an app identifier, like the ones you see in this article.
In a few seconds after scanning, it decodes the QR code. You just need to press the "Open browser" button, and the app is ready for you to install—much quicker than typing out the app's name to search with the Play Store app.
The Google Play website allows you to press the 'Install' button in your PC's browser to install an app to your mobile device, but to do so you must be signed in to your Gmail account associated with the device. The Barcode Scanner saves you this hassle.
Barcode Scanner also allows you to scan and share other information such as contacts, bookmarks or text messages via a QR Code. A must-have tool, and it's small in size.
Barcode Scanner
4.  Pocket
PocketWhen you’re viewing an interesting article in a browser but you can't finish it at a given time, the best way is to save it using Pocket to read it later at your convenience.
Besides the Web version, Pocket is available as an app for your Android device. After installing this app, you can 'share' a page in a mobile browser via 'Add to Pocket'. This page will then save to your Pocket list.
Run this Pocket app and it presents the articles from the list in a clean and readable view, removing unnecessary clutters from the page. And to ease your burden, this app remembers where you left off in every article for you to continue reading from the same place.
On your mobile device, you can download your saved items for offline reading, except for videos, when you’re away from an Internet connection. To save space, clearing downloaded items is just a few taps away from the app.
What's more, you can mark favorite items, adjust the font size for ease of reading, or select items by articles, videos or images, and go through any other settings to tweak the app the way you like.
It's free and very helpful, another must.
Pocket
Kingsoft OfficeWhen you grab a mobile device either a smart phone or a tablet, your device might come with an office suite preinstalled by the manufacturer. In most cases, this suite only allows for viewing office documents but not editing.
If you need to do some editing on an office document that you've received via email, or just want to create a new document on the move, then this remarkable app Kingsoft Office is a must for you to do more than just viewing.
Besides the desktop version Kingsoft Office Suite Free, you can install the mobile app Kingsoft Office on your Android device for free too.
This office app contains a Writer with a full-screen reader, a Spreadsheets with multi-tabs support, and a Presentation with play features. Popular office file types such as doc, docx, xls, xlsx, ppt and pptx are supported, with an option for encryption.
The interface is pretty user friendly as it has taken into consideration the real estate of a small screen on a mobile device. Most common and useful editing tools are available and ideally grouped on a scrollable toolbar, which you can easily hide or unhide by pressing the app button on the top-left corner.
Other goodies include a built-in file manager to organize your office documents, tight integration with the mail apps, and cloud support for services like Google Drive, Dropbox and Box.net.
Kingsoft Office
KeePassDroidOne of the popular password managers LastPass is free for use as an addon or extension to a web browser but unfortunately its app for Android is trialware and isn't free.
But there're plenty of choices for Android. One of the best I found is KeePassDroid. Even better, it keeps your passwords in your mobile device, off-line.
Type in a master password, and you can gain access to your database of usernames, passwords or other credentials. The database is saved as a kdb file and encrypted using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).
While you're viewing a record from the database, you can tap the Menu icon, select 'Copy Username' or 'Copy Password', then paste it to a place where you like from the clipboard, saving the trouble of manual typing.
Worried about the credentials saved in the clipboard? This app automatically clears that content from the clipboard within 5 minutes after copying the username or password, or you can even set it to one minute or 30 seconds via Application Settings.
KeePassDroid is a port of free and open source desktop software KeePass, and the database file can be accessed from the desktop version as well when tested.
Avoid writing your passwords on a piece of paper, use this app instead for enhanced privacy.
KeePassDroid
avastThere's no anti-malware program pre-installed in your Android device using the ICS or Jelly Bean version. But you can get one free to protect your mobile device.
Avast! Mobile Security is selected as a top pick in this review Best Free Antivirus App for Android. This app is an excellent option to secure your Android device as it has established itself as one of the most complete security apps to cover every possible security concern that you may have.
After installation, Avast! automatically updates the database of virus definitions and scans every app you've installed in your device.
This app comes with various tools distinctively laid out for you. With the Virus Scanner, you can schedule automatic scans on apps and the SD card by day and time. The Privacy Advisor scans the apps and informs you about which apps can track your location, read your identity info, access contacts and other privacy issues. The Shield Control has a full set of protection shields for apps, web and messages.
As a bonus, this app includes other utilities such as Application Management, SMS and Call Filter, Network Meter and Anti-Theft. It also has a Firewall built-in but this feature works only on a rooted device.
avast
Llama - Location ProfilesLlama is a capable automation tool or a profile changer. With this app, you can set your device to turn off Wi-Fi or even switch over to the airplane mode so that it can suspend all signal transmissions during a time duration you choose.
You just need to set it once and it does it everyday for you automatically, saving battery life substantially, and if switching to the airplane mode, you avoid any interruptions during midnights that you need to sleep well.
This app is pretty easy to use. Open it and go to Events, tap the "+" button to add an event, then tap Add Action to enable, for example, the "Airplane Mode", and enter a time period by tapping Add Condition and Time Between. This will turn your device into the airplane mode during the time frame you ask for.
To turn off the airplane mode automatically, you will also need to add another event to disable the airplane mode during a different time period basically following the same steps. You can copy, edit or disable an event, or delete it when you don't need, by touching and holding an item on the list of events.
Being a profile changer, this must-have app does more than this. You can actually automate your device to do just everything available on any conditions you set, such as start the music player when a headset is connected. In fact, the combinations of actions and conditions are endless.
Llama - Location Profiles

1Tap CleanerThis handy tool contains four cleaners in one app: Cache Cleaner, History Cleaner, Call/text Cleaner and Default Cleaner.
A tap at the Cache Cleaner shows you the total number of apps installed and the total cache size used by the applications. You can easily clear all cached files with just one tap for getting more space on your device. To view which apps take the most cache file size, sort them using this app and clean up the cache file used by an app.
To clean up privacy traces in your mobile device, the History Cleaner and Call/text Cleaner are a great helper. The former helps clean visited history of a browser, clipboard content and history records of any other apps, while the latter allows you to clear logs for incoming, outgoing and missed calls, the frequently contacted as well as SMS or MMS threads.
If you have selected some apps to take certain actions by default, the Default Cleaner summarizes them in one list and you can clear all selected defaults in one go.
While it's possible to perform such tasks individually with the Android system, this app is a must-have utility for getting things done more speedily and efficiently all in one place with just one tap of your finger.
1Tap Cleaner

Saturday, February 22, 2014

New Tab in Chrome 33

Chrome's latest update (V33) appeared yesterday (if you run Chrome, it downloaded and installed automatically). Once again, Google has over-ridden the old New Tab page to re-impose its new version, which everyone agrees stinks. In addition, Google disabled the old way of restoring the old New Tab page by tweaking a flag. But we outsmarted Google again: Just go to Play and add/install New Tab Redirect and choose "apps" on the Option page which will have opened immediately, and you're old New Tab page will be back.

Slim and Light Carrying Chargers for Phones and Tablets

If you have an Android phone, you can carry a charged battery with you to replace a depleted battery. But Android tablets and Apple phones and tablets do not allow for easy battery removal and replacement. Here are four neat small battery chargers:

PowerStick II: Doubles as a thumb-drive and requires no cables. Link: www.powerstick.com

Tylt Energi 5K+: Works for both but costs less just for Androids. Link: www.tylt.com

Cobra JumPack: Will also charge your car battery (not kidding). Link: www.cobra.com

Hyper Juice Expand: Has separate units for phone (smaller) and tablets (larger). Link: www.hyperjuice.com

De-Clutter YouTube

If you like watching Youtube videos, but you'd rather see them without all the additional screen clutter such as suggestions, comments, lists of other videos by the same contributor and so on, then you'll be interested in ViewPure. ViewPure is a web site that lets you watch your chosen Youtube video on a blank screen (you can choose black or white), with no other distractions. This saves your internet bandwidth, and thus makes everything cleaner and faster. To use it, just head to ViewPure  and paste the URL of the Youtube video you want to watch into the box. Then hit the button and watch in peace, on your de-cluttered screen.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Keyboard Starts Typing Wrong Characters

Keyboards can go nuts and start typing entirely different letters than you strike. Here are ways to bring the keyboard back to sanity:

1. Unplug and re-plug the keyboard if it's wired or unplug and re-plug the USB thing if it's wireless.

2. Hit the NumLock key for fn and NumLock key at same time

3. Hit Ctrl and Shift at the same time or Ctrl and Shift and NumLock keys.

4. Pull out and put back in the keyboard's battery.

5. Restart your computer.

6. Run Microsoft Fix It 50558.

7. Clean your keyboard.  As a start, hold it on its edge and tap it gently but firmly on the table.  You might want to put a piece of blank paper underneath to highlight what may fall out:. Then use the bristles  of an eraser brush between the keys.  Follow that up with blasts of compressed air between and among the keys. 


Letter the Arizona Republic Would Not Run

This blog focuses on tech and consumer issues and has stayed away from political issues. But HB2153 is so outrageous than an exception would seem appropriate. Here then is a letter submitted to the Arizona Republic which looks like will not be published:

"The website at legiscan.com/AZ/sponsors/HB2153/2014 lists the sponsors of HB2153 (the right-to-discriminate bill). Next to several of the sponsors is a “Follow the Money” link that will show a list of the financial backers of that sponsor. It would not seem too much to ask those financial backers to redeem themselves by telling the sponsors that the bill is unacceptable and pressing the Governor to veto the bill. Those backers include: SRP, Arizona Medical Association, Cox Communications, Farmers Insurance, Motorola, Blue Cross, Southwest Gas, Walgreens, Sprint, Fennemore Craig, Gallagher & Kennedy,  Lewis & Roca, AT&T, Wells Fargo, Century Link, Pinnacle West, Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association, American Family Insurance, Honeywell, Cigna, Pfizer, US Airways, Freeport-McMoran, Bank of America, and Southwest Ambulance."


How to Zoom the Entire Screen on Your Phone or Tablet

Smartphones and tablets are great but sometimes the contents of the screen are just too small. The display of browsers and some apps can be enlarged with a two-finger spread but this gesture doesn’t work on everything. However, many devices have a setting that will allow you to zoom the whole screen, no matter what the contents. Here is how it works.

How to zoom the entire screen in iPads and iPhones

In iOS7 devices, you enable zooming this way:
  1. Go to Settings
  2. Tap General→Accessibility→Zoom
  3. Switch Zoom to “On”
  4. Now you can turn Zoom on and off by double-tapping the screen with three fingers
To pan the screen while Zoom is on, swipe using three fingers.
To adjust the magnification level, double-tap with three fingers but continue to hold down your fingers after the second tap. Drag your fingers up to enlarge things or drag your fingers down to decrease the magnification.

How to zoom the entire screen in some Android devices

On Android devices, some things like browser pages can be enlarged with a double-tap or a two-finger spread gesture. Most recent devices with Android 4.2 and up also have a general zoom feature. The exact details of accessing it may vary, depending on the device. Here is one common procedure,
  • Go to Settings
  • Tap Accessibility→Magnification gestures
  • Turn the switch at the top of the screen to “On”
  • Now you can zoom the entire display by triple-tapping the screen with one finger
  • Another triple-tap will turn zoom off
  • You can pan with two fingers held down
  • You can change the magnification with a two-finger spread or pinch 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

More Reasons to Live in San Francisco

These apps, for now at least, are available only in San Francisco:

SF Bay Bike Share. This app lets me know where the nearest bike station in the city is so you can find a rental bike.
SF Next Bus. It does exactly what the name suggests and lets you know when the next bus is arriving. 
Luna — Moonlit Deliveries. This enables you to have packages delivered to your house when you're actually home. You have something delivered to the company’s headquarters and then they will bring it to your house when you get home from work.
Fobo. Fobo is a super-fast auction site for gadgets. This start-up guarantees that it can sell a gadget in San Francisco in 97 minutes.
Washio. This app enables you to have my laundry and dry cleaning picked up and dropped off at your house or office. You schedule the place and time and someone shows up to get your dirty clothes. A day later they return with clean underwear and shirts.
Sprig. If you're working late or don’t feel like cooking, Sprig enables you to order healthy meals for dinner. The ingredients all come from local farms.
eBay Now. This allows you to order anything from big retailers, including Home Depot, Target and Best Buy. An eBay Now delivery person will pick up your order and drop it off at your house for a $5 fee.

Some Apps You Might Not Have Heard About But Are Indescribably Useful

TalkTo. If you hate having to call a local business to ask a mundane question, use this app, which makes calls and finds answers on my behalf. Want to know if Duane Reade has something in stock, or if Best Buy sells memory cards for your specific camera? TalkTo will find the answer. (Here’s a pro tip I’m going to regret sharing: When OpenTable, the reservations app, doesn’t have a reservation available, use this app to text the restaurant and ask for your desired time.)
Squarespace Note allows you to quickly send notes to your inbox via email, Dropbox folder, or to synchronize with Evernote, Google Drive and several other storage sites. 
Hype Machine. This music app showcases the most recent popular songs that are being posted on the web. It’s a great place to find new music, and if a new song comes out it will almost always be on Hype Machine before any of the other music apps, including iTunes, have it.
Wut. Speaking of allowing push notifications, Wut is a semi-anonymous chat app that syncs up with my Facebook friends and sends me their updates within Wut but only via silent push notifications — so your phone doesn’t vibrate or ding loudly. It’s still fairly new, and somewhat esoteric, but I think the founders are on to something.
Postmates. For food and goods from smaller local stores, I use an app called Postmates, which can pick up and deliver food or other items from any local restaurant or store. It’s very fast and also available in New York City and other cities.

Apps Made for Walking

Apple’s iPhone 5S is the smartphone pedometer king because it has a special M7 chip that can continuously track movement without draining the battery. There are many apps that hook up to this chip. The Moves app, $3 on iOS, is my favorite because of its minimal design. Moves also works on iPhones other than the 5S and on many Android units. (It is free on Android.) The app may consume more battery when used on phones other than the 5S.

A similar free app for iOS and Android that measures walks in more detail is Map My Walk. The app is elegantly designed, making it simple to use even though it contains many options and presents a lot of data. . I don’t use it because I prefer a simpler count of my walking habits, and I’m not overly fond of Map My Walk’s interface. But you may like its extra data because it may help you keep on top of your walking regimen.

The popular fitness app brand Runtastic also offers the free Runtastic Pedometer app on Android and iOS. It’s similar in terms of function and interface to Map My Walk, without the location-tracking system. The interface is plain, and this sort of no-nonsense look may appeal. I love the fact that you can tag each day’s data with a little icon to say how you felt or what the weather was like, but the spartan look of the app doesn’t appeal to me.

Simplest of all is the free Pedometer++ app. It is only for iPhone 5S phones, and is pretty to look at and functional. Its interface is even more basic than Moves app. The Pedometer app just keeps a tally of your daily step count versus a target you set. The results are then shown as a number and simple graph. I love the fact that it sticks a badge on the app’s icon on the home screen that shows you your step count. This means you don’t have to even open the app!

For Android users, a rough equivalent to Pedometer++ is the well-regarded free app Accupedo Pedometer. The app has a relatively clear interface, and tracks steps and distance walked and calories burned. It also has a great Android widget so you can pin your walking data to the home screen for quick review without having to open the app. It’s also available for iOS, but the iPhone version lacks the widget capability.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cox Mobile Connect

If you are a Cox customer, Cox Mobile Connect is a new app thatwill "find" free Cox wi-fi hotspots (there are over 200,000 around the country). And while it has the remote record function of Cox TV Connect, for some reason, Cox did not build in the function of watching TV programs. So, you will still need Cox TV Connect to watch TV shows on your smartphone or tablet. If you are subscriber to some other cable company, it likely has the same functional apps under its name.

Pizzeria Bianco Town & Country

Pizzeria Bianco first opened at Town & Country and then moved downtown. People wait for an hour or more to get into the downtown location. The food is very good for certain, but not that special. Then Chris Bianco (the owner, and brother of the owner of Matt's Big Breakfast, who once worked as a paralegal and is a very nice guy) opened The Italian Restaurant in the Town & Country location where the original Pizzeria Bianco was. Despite two makeovers, The Italian Restaurant never made it nor deserved to make it. Now, Chris has replaced The Italian Restaurant with another Pizzeria Bianco, and greatly expanded the facility, with both inside and outside seating, so at least for lunch on President's Day, there is no waiting. The menu is simple (a few pizzas, some pastas, a couple of salads, some sandwiches) and the food again is very good. The service is excellent and the prices are reasonable. The bread is delicious and served with oil. Do not ask for margarine or butter because, if the policy that existed when first opened is still in place, it will not be served and you will be subjected to scorn, and do not bring in your own pat of butter because, if caught, you will be ejected and banned.

Hidden Functions in VLC Media Player

VLC Media Player is smaller, way better, and far more versatile than the Microsoft/Windows Media Center bundled in your computer, discussed in an earlier post.  Type VLC into the Search this Blog box and you'll see the two postings. Beyond that, there are quite a few hidden features in VLC, including: the ability to convert media files for use in a mobile device, stream media over the network or internet, record your desktop (screen), remotely control playback from your browser, play a YouTube video outside your browser, subscribe to podcasts, play internet radio, and create a video wallpaper.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

New York Times Policy and Pricing

Policy: If you there is a missed delivery of your New York Times, do not bother calling or reporting it through the website until 9 a.m. Eastern Time. No matter where you live, that's the operative time before which they will do nothing about a missed delivery even if your other paper(s) came and so there is no doubt the delivery was missed. Why the NYT ignores the reality of time zone differences remains a complete mystery.

Pricing: If you have the Sunday NYT delivered, it costs approximately $8.60 per issue plus tax. If you missed your delivery, and requested a credit instead of a re-delivery, and went someplace to buy a copy, you will find it will cost you only $6 plus tax. Why the NYT makes it 25% more expensive to subscribe than to buy individual copies remains a complete mystery. Also, why the NYT charges more if you buy just a digital subscription than if you buy a Sunday delivery subscription which will then include a digital subscription at no additional cost remains a complete mystery. What is not a mystery is that Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto would be appalled to his concept of Pareto Optimal Pricing twisted beyond fair recognition.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Screen Timeout Does Not Work Right

All Android devices let you set the display timeout interval. Unfortunately, many of them will often revert from the interval you set to a very short interval. On Samsung devices, just turn on the SmartStay feature which should solve the problem. For other Android devices, you will need to download an app, widget or toggle to override the phone's setting, all of which are available in the Play store under the search heading "screen timeout."

Amazon Remediation Alternatives

Assume you buy two books (same title) as presents for two people who live in the same city. For some reason, even though shipped from the same facility, one goes by FedEx and the other by USPS. They are both promised under your Prime Account for delivery on Day X. You see no updates in the USPS tracking system but the FedEx tracking system shows a delivery date of Day X + 4. You send two separate but essentially identical emails to Amazon expressing your disappointment as to the delay of each order (neither of which appears to be weather-related) and frustration in not getting what you've paid for with Amazon Prime. One of the emails results in Amazon's giving you a $5 credit toward your next purchase. The other email results in Amazon's extending your Prime membership by one month. Unless you were going to not re-new your Prime membership, the extension has very little if any value to you, and if you were going to not re-new, the extension actually makes Amazon money as you likely accelerate future purchases into your last month of membership. Therefore, in crafting your complaint email or talking to a customer support rep, you might tailor your characterizations to "steer" Amazon in going the dollar-credit route for any remedial compensatory action rather than the Prime-membership-extension route.

Neat Car Retrofits

Most new cars come with many features to enhance your driving pleasure, convenience, and safety. But you don't need a new car to get them, because many are available as retrofits. Here are some:

Hands-Free Calling and Texting: Supertooth (available from Amazon, eBay and elsewhere for under $40) is a sleek device/speaker that attaches magnetically to your visor and connects by bluetooth to your phone allowing you to talk hands-free for free and for a monthly fee to send texts or emails that you dictate. See http://supertooth.net/EN/CRYSTAL/#page=page-1

Rear-View Camera: The Garmin-Nuvi 2798LMT ($400), which also double-duties as a GPS, can be set-up easily let you see what's behind you whenever your car is put in reverse. See http://tinyurl.com/pzoq528

Remote Ignition: The Viper SmartStart VSS5000 ($500) allows you to lock, unlock or start your car or pop it's trunk from your smartphone, i.e., over the internet, so you do all this even if you are in Kauai and your car is back in Phoenix.Viper also offers more basic remote-start devices at much lower cost (under $80) available on Amazon and eBay, which will let you have the car warm-up in winter or cool-off in summer before you have to get in it. See http://www.viper.com/SmartStart/

Get Detailed Diagnostics: The Automatic ($100) plugs into the OBD-II port located just below the steering wheel and with the companion app your phone will pull all the digital codes from your car that a mechanic would and tell you what to do about them. See http://www.automatic.com/


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Texting Issues

If you have problems sending or receiving texts, or getting weird error messages, you are not alone. Extensive research on The Google and in-depth interviews with users and tech support personnel confirm the following conclusions: (i) such problems plague all the carriers; (ii) such problems plague both Android and iPhones but the problems tend to be a little more pervasive with iPhones; (iii) rebooting the phone which all phones can do or pulling and re-installing the battery which all phones except iPhones can do sometimes helps but sometimes won't; (iv) a factory reset sometimes will help but sometimes won't; (v) playing around with your phone's connection and security settings sometimes will help but sometimes won't; (vi) none of the carriers' tech support have a clue how to fix the problem (but if you find you are unable to send or receive any texts, do call tech support to be sure the carrier has not inadvertently put a block on your texting, which they are known to do); (vii) if your texts are over 160 characters, either shorten them to under 160 characters or be sure your data port is open because MM messages require a data link and your IM texts might be mis-coded by the network as MM messages; and (viii) take a deep breath and a time-out on the sofa which is a far better use of your time and far less stressful than wasting 2.5 hours with tech support only to conclude you know more than they do, and remember you are no worse off than you were before texting existed and email does not seem to suffer any kind of similar issues.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Easy Restore and Setup of Android Devices

Let's say you just bought a new Nexus 7 or you have to reset your existing Nexus 7 to its factory settings to resolve some issue. Unlike resetting a computer which has no "memory" for what programs you had installed on it, once you log into your new or rest Nexus 7, it will automatically start downloading and installing your apps. Unfortunately, it will download and install every app listed in your MyApps of the Play store, including apps you have uninstalled and have no use for. So, before doing a factory reset or setting up your new device, you will want to remove unwanted apps from your Play store listing. Unfortunately, you cannot do it on the Play store website. Fortunately, you can do it right from your device. Here is how: (i) On your device, go to Play; (ii) swipe across the top to All; (iii) press and hold any app you want deleted from your listing; (iv) go down the list of all apps and touch any you want to get off your listing; and (v) hit X. You cannot delete any running or installed apps, so fear not.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Two Books (both available in the Kindle store)

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit is a fabulous read. The way each segment is told, by a journalist relating first-hand accounts, is absolutely mesmerizing. This not to say it’s a happy book given Shavit’s view of the present and future of Israel. But it sure is insightful and provocative. For anyone not familiar with history of the founding of Israel, beginning around the turn of the 20th Century, this is stellar introduction. And for those who are familiar, you will be amazed what you did not know. [Note: Some talk about Ari Shavit in the same breath as they talk about Thomas Friedman, but be not fooled: Shavit is way better on every score]

The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly  is another tale in the trials of the Lincoln Lawyer. It's a very fast and gripping read that might not be provocative or important in the history of literature or fictionalized law practice, but it sure is a fun read. 



Google Alerts



Google Alerts has been around for ages, forgotten by many and overlooked by many more. That's a shame, because it's still one of the Web's best ways to keep tabs on any person, place, or thing.
Specifically, Google Alerts sends you an e-mail digest of new Web content related to any Google search. So, for example, if you're following the Sochi Olympics and want all the luge-related news you can get, you could set up an alert for that. Want to know when your favorite band starts touring or releases a new album? Set up an alert for that. Looking for anything and everything from your favorite blogger? Create an alert for his byline.
Alerts are pretty easy to set up, but in case you need a little help understanding the various options, take a look at this step-by-step guide.
Step one: Enter your search query. This would be exactly what you'd type into a Google Search box. And you can use the same search operators, too. So, for example, if you want to get an alert every time CNET writes about a new robot vacuum, you'd use this query:
site:cnet.com "robot vacuum"
As you type, you'll immediately see a preview of the results, which can help you custom-tailor the query to get exactly the kind of info you want.
(Credit: Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET)
Step two: Choose the kind of results you want. By default, Google Alerts will give you "Everything," but you can also narrow the search to blogs, books, discussions (within Google Groups), news, and video.
Step three: Decide how often you want to receive this particular alert. Google can send you notifications once per day or once per week, but if you're tracking a particularly important topic, you can choose "As-it-happens." Be warned that this can result in a flood of e-mails. Fortunately, you can easily edit an Alert to reduce the frequency.
Step four: Choose between "all results" and "only the best results," the latter giving you what Google thinks are the best matches to your query (kind of an expanded "I Feel Lucky"). Again, if one setting isn't providing the kind of results you want, you can easily toggle to the other.
A Google Alert for iPhone app new delivered via e-mail.
Google Alert for 'iPhone app new' via e-mail.
(Credit: Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET)
Step five: By default, Alerts will arrive via e-mail, but if you use an RSS reader, you can also choose Feed, then copy that feed to your reader.
With all your choices made, click Create Alert. You'll immediately land at your Alert-management page, where you can edit or delete alerts as needed.
By the way, Google recently overhauled the look of e-mail alerts, with bolder headlines and one-click sharing buttons for Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. And if a particular result seems out of place, you can click "flag as irrelevant."

Yellow Stickie Notes for the Desktop

What is Stickies?

Stickies is a PC utility I wrote to try to cut down on the number of yellow notes I was leaving stuck to my monitor. It is a computerized version of those notes. The design goal behind Stickies is that the program is small and simple. Stickies will not mess with your system files, or write to the registry. Stickies stores information in a single text-based ini file. Stickies will never support animated dancing figures, or play "Greensleeves". They are instead yellow rectangular windows onto which you can put some text notes. Once created, they will stay on screen until you take them away. Just like a real sticky piece of paper.

Main features:
  • Once on screen, stickies will remain where placed until closed, even through reboots
  • Stickies appearance can be customized; fonts, colors and buttons may be changed, and styles saved. Stickies can be re-sized.
  • Stickies can store text or images
  • Stickies can snap to each other and to the sides of the screen to keep them neatly lined up
  • Stickies can be attached to an application, web site, document or folder so they only show when it's on screen
  • Stickies can be transferred from one machine to another either over a TCP/IP network connection, or by using an SMTP mail server or MAPI client:
    • Hierarchical friends list, which may be automatically transferred from other friends
    • Play a sound file on receive
    • Signature for transmitted or emailed stickies
    • Favourite friends, and custom lists can be made
  • Stickies can be hidden for a certain period, until a specified date and time, or to wake every day, week or month, to act as reminders.
  • Stickies can have alarms set to ensure you notice them at a point you choose
  • Stickies works with Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8
  • Stickies is small and simple, it writes to a single text file, and does not alter the registry
  • ...and Stickies is completely free!

Download Link: http://www.zhornsoftware.co.uk/stickies/

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013)

It is a flawed movie for sure. The casting of the presidents and their acting are terrible. Many of the scenes defy reality. And the Forest-Gump-Being-There at every key moment in history is annoying. Also, it's too long and attempts to tackle way too much. But, even with all its flaws, it's a movie worth seeing. Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey and others turn in fabulous performances, and there are real moments of human beings acting like human beings.

IMDb Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1327773/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Friday, February 7, 2014

Scanning Multiple Pages Into One Document/File

Many multi-page scanners will default to a setting where, if you scan multiple pages, each page will come out as a single, separate file or document. It is very easy to change the setting so that your scan of multiple pages will put them altogether to produce one file or document. All that need be done is change the File Type in the Configuration settings to be a File Type that will do this.  Choosing PDF or TIFF will produce a single file/document. Choosing JPEG or BMP will leave each scanned page as its own separate file/document.

Shopping at BestBuy: Two Tips

There are many annoying things about BestBuy (e.g., the people on the floor know nothing about their products), but there are some advantages to buying at it as well, particularly the ease of return on items that would have significant cost or wrapping issues to ship back to an online retailer. That said, here are two things to keep in mind when buying from BestBuy (in person or online [most items, including huge items like televisions, have free shipping]): (i) BestBuy will price-match the price quoted for the same item at various places, including most notably, Amazon--if you are ordering online, you will need to call customer service for the price match, but it will take just a couple of minutes; and (ii) BestBuy will give a price guarantee for 15 days by refunding any price drop by BestBuy--you have to monitor this yourself, but when there is a price drop, a phone call to customer service will again quickly get you the refunded amount posted back on your credit card.