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Internet Security

Internet Security

by Bear Cahil, BrainwashInc.com

Security is large on everyone’s mind these days. Identity theft, viruses, packet snooping, phishing, online scams – there’s plenty to fear. And while I’m no expert on security, there are certain, basic things you can do to try to avoid the predators out there.

The biggest threat may be email. Treat your email like your regular mail (or your front door). If it seems fishy, avoid it. If you don’t know who sent it, beware. If there’s an attachment do not open it. Even if it’s from someone you know: if you didn’t ask for it, don’t open it. At least write them back and ask if they meant to send it. Also, if possible, use an online mail service like Yahoo! or Gmail – they’ll usually scan attachments for viruses (and you don’t have to worry about keeping yours up to date).

If there are links in an email, one trick is to rollover the link with your mouse, and in the bottom left corner of your browser, it will probably show you where that link is going to take you. So the link might say “http://www.google.com” but when you rollover it, it may tell you that it’s really going somewhere else. If so, don’t click it.

Another big threat is websites. The best route is just don’t visit a site you’re not familiar with. If someone sends you a link and you aren’t familiar with that website, think twice. Maybe write and ask them about it or just delete it. It’s probably not worth it. There are settings in all browsers for security and privacy. Look in the menu for Preferences, Options or Settings and then look for Security and Privacy settings. Read through them, google what they mean and feel free to set items as strict as possible. Finally, if you have Windows operating system, run Malwarebytes (malwarebytes.org) every day. Use Task Scheduler to set it to run daily. The program will search your computer for suspicious cookies in your browser and such. It’s free (for the basic functionality) and regularly checks for updates.

If you find yourself in a problem, you may be able to fix it this way: Restart Windows and hold F8. When the start up menu displays, select Safe Mode with Networking. This will start Windows with very little running but you’ll be able to download, install and run Malwarebytes to do clean up. That’s my two cents worth as a security non-expert but virus free user.

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The New iPhone 5

The New iPhone 5

by Bear Cahill

As you know doubt have heard, the iPhone 5 is out. While it’s not a completely revolutionary product, it’s a great new model of the iPhone line. The first few things you’d notice is that it’s thinner, lighter and has a larger screen: 4” compared to 3.5” on previous models.

The next thing is the speed. If you’ve ever upgraded your computer, it’s the same thing. A new computer has tons of small, new improvements that all add up.

The larger screen is nice, but these days we’re surrounded by screens of various sizes so it’ s not mind blowing. Don’t get me wrong – it’s great, but just another great improvement.

iOS 6 is also out and has some great new improvements. The Maps app is no longer Google and I haven’t had any negative experiences that some people are complaining about. So far it’s been good and a great first version of some really cool things I think we can expect.

Passbook is another app that shows promise of things to come. I have a feeling that before long we’ll be buying gift cards, movie tickets and more this way and viewing our airline ticket updates, boarding passes and similar this way.

The Find My Friends has some cool new features including notifications. You can set to be notified when a friend leaves or arrives somewhere. Helps me to know when my wife is leaving somewhere… and I need to be doing the same!

The App Store is different too. Nothing extreme that you have to relearn, but some nice changes. One that I love is that it doesn’t kick you out when you start a download. When you buy an app, it starts downloading while you’re still in the App Store. Same for updates to existing apps and they don’t even require your password anymore. Nice!

The Settings app has some new features to like Do Not Disturb to block contact while you’re busy. Accessibility features in iOS 6 include Guided Access (which I hinted at in my previous article). This allows you to disable the iPhone’s home button and/or areas of the screen – this is great for kids and anytime you want to control access to your phone.

Another great reason to upgrade to the new iPhone 5 is that your old phone may be worth more than you think. I sold both of our old iPhone 4 devices for $200. I sold one through instantbuy.ebay.com (buybackworld.com is similar) and the other through a regular ebay.com auction. The price may have come down now that the market is flooded with older phones, but you should still be able to get around $150.

If you like the previous models and versions, I think you’d really like iPhone 5 and iOS 6.

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iOS Tips and Tricks from a Pro

iOS Tips and Tricks from a Pro

by Bear Cahill

Smartphones are everywhere. And living in a town with two colleges, many people never had a phone that didn’t surf the web, give directions, play games, music and video. If you have an iPhone, one thing you’ll remember is the user manual that came with it. Wait…there was no manual. The iPhone (and iPod Touch and iPad) are great at being intuitive devices. But there are still some things a lot of people don’t know. As an iOS developer and user, here are some of my favorite tips and tricks.

•    If you’re viewing a list of items in pretty much any appplication (e.g., email), if you tap the clock at the top, it will scroll all the way back to the top.

•    In the Accessibility settings (Settings>General), at the bottom, you can assign your Home button’s triple click to do a few things. Set it to ‘Toggle White on Black’ and you’ll have a great low-light option at your finger tips… finger tip. Also in Accessibility, you can turn on Custom Vibrations. Then when you edit a person in the Contacts app, you can set a special (or custom) vibration for their ring-tone. Know who’s calling even when it’s on vibrate in your pocket! The Accessibility area has many more features you’d probably love like using the camera flash for incoming alerts, zoom and speak selection. Explore and enjoy!

•    For iPad, turn on Multitasking Gestures which let you swipe with four fingers between apps. Check it out – you’ll love that one.

•    With iOS 6 being released soon, there will be even more features including one I get asked for a lot which is a way to turn off the Home button so kids can’t delete things. It’s coming!

Moving away from the Settings app, here’s a couple camera tricks…

•    You can make your camera focus and adjust the light settings just be tapping on something on the screen. Try tapping on a light spot versus a dark area and see what it does.

•    Also, you can use the volume up (+) button as the shutter button. This really helps when taking self portraits but you want to use the higher resolution rear-facing camera.

And finally, turn on the Emoji keyboard in the International Keyboard settings (Settings>General>Keyboard). Tap ‘Add New Keyboard…’ and select Emoji. Now you can send me a smiley email. Now you’re the pro. ;)

Bear is lead developer and owner of BrainwashInc.com and has developed over 80 apps for clients around the world.

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How I Learned to Unlove iTunes

How I Learned to Unlove iTunes

by Caleb Wills

If you counted the hours I’ve spent painstakingly organizing my iTunes library, you’d probably think I had a touch of OCD. And I have to admit, you wouldn’t be wrong. iTunes changed my life – we were a team, me and iTunes, and I wasn’t afraid to invest some time to keep us together.

Then I discovered Spotify, and everything changed.

Spotify is a brand new way to discover, listen and share music. Imagine the ability iTunes gives you to create playlists and navigate albums with the benefit of Pandora’s huge music library. It’s millions of songs available at any time and it’s perfectly legal. If an artist is available on Spotify, you don’t have to worry about the feds breaking down your door.

Spotify is available for your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android. And they all sync to each other. If you create a play list on your desktop, the next time you launch it on your iPhone you can continue listening to that same playlist.

There are three types of accounts on Spotify. The first type is free. Free is free, as long as you don’t mind sitting through some commercials. The next type of account is called Unlimited at $4.99 a month. And finally Premium, which costs $9.99 a month.

I recommend and use the premium account. If you think $10 is too much, think of it like this – one album on iTunes is around $10. I’ve added about fifteen albums to my Spotify account this month, which would have easily cost me $150 had I purchased them through the iTunes store. With Spotify’s premium account I have unlimited streaming, no ads, mobile usage and offline mode. That means I can make particular playlists available to listen to when I am not on WiFi or have no wireless signal.

Another cool feature is its social sharing capabilities. You can send songs and albums to your friends who use Spotify, as well as post them to Facebook and Twitter. You can check out more information at spotify.com.

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Christmas Gadgets

Christmas Gadgets

Logitech Harmony 650 Universal Remote
The Logitech Harmony 650 is one of the best universal remotes you can buy for less than $100.  A powerful universal remote with great ergonomics; color LCD screen surrounded by five contextual buttons; web programmable via Windows or Mac; excellent button layout and overall design; supports custom sequences/macros. On the downside it only controls five devices, requires Internet-connected PC to program the remote, and adding favorite channel icons is a bit more difficult than it should be.

The Harmony 650 improves on the 600’s monochrome screen with a color version (it can display colorful favorite channel icons instead of just text, like the 600). The 700’s price tag is slightly more expensive–it retails for between $120 and $150–but it controls six devices to the 600/650’s five, and it has the ability to recharge its Sanyo Eneloop batteries by attaching the USB AC charger (both included). As is standard for Logitech remotes, all three models are programmable via a Mac or Windows PC, and use activity-based commands such “Watch TV” or “Listen to Music” to control a home AV system.

Roku LT
The Roku LT is an extremely small Wi-Fi streaming-media box that costs only $50. It offers dozens of streaming video and audio services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, Pandora, MOG, Rdio, and MLB.TV. It also supports older TVs using an included breakout cable. However, the Roku LT isn’t a good choice for playing your personal digital media collection. There’s no Ethernet port, so you’ll need a solid Wi-Fi signal in your home.

Roku has managed to shave the price all the way down to $50, jettisoning unnecessary features, while keeping all of the streaming content that we love. There’s still an argument to be made for Apple fans to favor the Apple TV, since it works so well with other Apple products. But for the money, the Roku LT deserves a very strong recommendation and is sure to be a hit this holiday season.

Kodak PlaySport Zx5
An exemplary shoot and share minicamcorder, the PlaySport is a very good choice for capturing those spur-of-the-moment clips. Plus, its rugged construction means you can take it where other devices can’t go.

The waterproof/shockproof Kodak PlaySport Zx5 produces very good video quality for its price and size, is easy to use, and has good editing/sharing software. However, the PlaySport doesn’t have a built-in USB connector, there’s no flash or video light, and the battery can’t be removed. The bottom line is the rugged Kodak PlaySport Zx5 is a very good minicamcorder.

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Pedometers for the Next Generation

by Jennifer Mills

Pedometers have helped people measure walking distance for many years. Skip forward to present day and the original pedometer has evolved; offering more bells and whistles for the “step-counting” population. One of the more intriguing offerings in the current generation of pedometers allows the user to view their walking, running and other motion activity on their computer and online. These computer-linked pedometers come in many designs, but their basic functionality is the same. Essentially, the recorded data from the pedometer is uploaded and then tracked to monitor the user’s fitness progress. These are great motivating tools for the growing population of people looking for ways to improve their fitness and if used correctly, lose weight. Here is just a small sampling of the various computer-linked pedometers offered on the market.

The Fitbit Tracker is a small pedometer clip that measures steps, distance, calories burned and also has a unique flower icon that displays daily activity levels. The Fitbit connects wirelessly to a base station that uploads the user’s daily fitness data to the Fitbit website. In turn, the user is able to view and track their fitness progress on a computer or mobile device, as well as log food intake and sleep times. It is PC/Mac compatible and also has no additional fees to use the Fitbit website.

The Omron HJ-720ITC pedometer measures daily steps, calories, distance and fat grams burned. It comes with a separate holder that clips to the user’s waistband and a USB cable that uploads the fitness data to a computer. With its own Omron Health Management Software, the user is able to view and track fitness progress without having to go online.

The Nike+ iPod Sport Kit requires a pair of Nike+ running shoes and a Nike+ iPod sensor that slips into a built-in pocket on the bottom of the shoes. The sensor transmits workout-based stats such as calories burned, distance, speed and time-elapsed during and after a workout to an iPod Nano (which requires a separate receiver), an iPod Touch or iPhone 3GS. Some cool bonus features include, customized workout programs and music playlists, as well as real-time voice feedback during the workout. After the workout, the data is uploaded to nikeplus.com where the user can monitor their fitness progress and goals.

These are just a few of the next-generation pedometers on the market. With so many to choose from, anyone considering buying one of these should do their own research for which one best suits their needs. Bottom line is that any of these pedometers would be a great addition to a workout routine.

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