Google+ August 2013 ~ High Tech House Calls

Unexpected Chemistry of Cookies

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The worst deals in tech: Are you being fleeced by these 7 overpriced products? by Christopher Null

The coolest running shoes at the Nike store this year are the Nike Air Max+ 2013. They retail for $180, but when you break down the costs for the materials and the manufacturing and labor at the Chinese factory where the shoes are made, you’re looking at a product that costs less than $10 a pop. The remaining $170 covers marketing (to make you believe the shoes are worth the premium price) and a handsome profit for Nike. The company reports revenues of about $25 billion a year.

It works the same way for many products in the tech world. As gadget enthusiasts, we accept the idea that products are worth what we’re willing to pay for them, and not what they cost in terms of product development, manufacturing, and materials. Nonetheless, it’s time to name names. Here are some of most egregiously high profit margins in the world of consumer tech.

Text Messages
Average cost: $0.20 per text
Average cost to provide: virtually nothing

The cost of text messages often gets a bad rap, and for good reason. Our tiny missives—160 bytes in size, at most—typically cost us 20 cents each to send and receive (assuming you don’t have a text messaging plan or haven’t gone over your limit). They cost essentially nothing to deliver, however, making the markup for an SMS message essentially infinite.

Here’s the deal: Wireless carriers must send packets of signaling data within the wireless network to set up calls and to signal the locations of devices in relation to cell towers. Back in the mid-1980s, a very clever engineer figured out that we could use the same signaling channel to send short messages during times when real signaling information wasn’t being sent. Thus text messaging was born. Because the carrier has to maintain the signaling channel anyway, the text messages cost the carrier essentially nothing to convey. So the money the carrier charges for them is pure profit. Ka-ching.

Nonetheless, the price the customer pays for each text message has been rising, from 10 cents in 2005 to the standard 20 cents today. And despite price-fixing allegations and lawsuits aplenty, there doesn’t seem to be any chance that prices will drop in the near future. (TechCrunch calculated the cost for the user of texting on a per-megabyte basis at a whopping $1310 per megabyte.) Alternatives, thankfully, are widely available through services like iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook, and many other systems that use your data service, not the signaling packets, to send messages.

Asked to justify the cost of text messaging, the CTIA, the wireless carriers’ trade group, told TechHive, “Due to antitrust reasons, we cannot comment on prices. However, U.S. consumers have a variety of options to choose from, including unlimited text message plans.”

Computer and audio-video cables
Average cost: $45 (for a name-brand 8-foot HDMI cable)
Average cost to produce: about $3 (TechHive estimate based on market analysis and review of financial statements)

There’s no love lost between consumers and the cabling industry. Just look at Monster Cable, which has long been criticized for charging extreme prices—often over $100—for what amounts to some twisted wire with some rubber wrapped around it.

Monster Cable’s cables are preternaturally pricey.
Sure, generic cables from Monster’s competitors may not bear the THX logo, or boast “hyper speed” certification, or come with gold connectors crafted on the thighs of virgins, but it turns out that the vast majority of people won’t need all that stuff. Repeated studies and tests have found no differences between brand-name and generic digital cables. Other studies have found that the performance increase you get with high-end cables is hardly worth the extra cost.

In the digital realm, a cable either works or it doesn’t. There’s no faster or slower, and consumers have long been advised to buy the cheapest cable that works for their particular need. This means buying based on type (for example, HDMI version compatibility), connector size, and length, rather than brand name. It’s important to point out that there are different HDMI standards, and while cable “quality” may be a debatable point, not all HDMI cables work with every application.

As for the whipping boy Monster, its strategy seems to be having its share of difficulties: Consumers may have caught on to its more-than-50-percent gross profit margins on premium cables, and are buying fewer of them, according to the company’s financial statements. Those statements also show that the company spends almost as much on marketing and administration costs as it does on, you know, making cables.

Average cost: $549 (for a 16GB iPhone 5, unlocked)
Average cost to produce: $200

Deep carrier discounts often blind consumers to the true prices of smartphones. Really, what’s a couple hundred dollars for what amounts to a powerhouse computer that you keep in your pocket and use all the time? Subsidies that the carriers pay directly to all phone manufacturers muddy the picture, but you can get a clearer view of the real cost of a phone if you buy an unlocked model that isn’t tied to a contract.

5 tricks every email user needs to know by Kim Komando

Q. I'm spending more time than I'd like to admit reading and responding to email. It's seriously

A. You're not alone! Research firms estimate that more than a quarter of a person's work week is spent dealing with email. Who knows what that translates to in terms of the time it takes to refocus on the task at hand?
cutting into my work and stopping me from doing the things I need and want to do. Do you have any tips to help me handle my email a little better?

As someone who receives more email than I can count, I've had to cook up special strategies. I've boiled down all of my favorite tips into five ideas that just about anyone can use. Each one can shave serious time off of your inbox management.

Even better, put all five into place and I bet you'll feel like an email pro. You'll have more fun putting up with your inbox every day. You'll definitely notice how much time you're saving, too!

1. Send less (and better) email:
Email follows one law you've probably heard before: You get what you give. If you're sending out dozens of messages, you're going to receive that many more. If the email you send isn't clear, you'll end up sending more messages to clarify.

First, look for other ways to communicate. If a quick text, call or IM can get your message across faster, use that instead. If you're dealing with a co-worker, taking a trip to their office might be easier and more productive.

With the email you can't avoid sending out, make it clear and concise. Anticipate questions and answer them before they're asked. Try to keep it as short as possible, as well. If a list or short sentence will do, don't stretch things out into paragraphs.

If you're frequently sending the same message to multiple people, you can save time with a template. These can be customized as you go so they don't look as much like form letters.

2. Filter & Automate: 
Nearly every email program or service lets you set up some form of automated message filtering. This can be as simple as setting up folders to separate important mail from the clutter. Advanced systems can color code email, label it and more.

Start by routing messages from important contacts to a folder labeled "Urgent" or something similar. Create a "Read later" folder for routine or subscription messages. You can create as many subfolders and folders as you need, so set up a system that works best for you.

Act on the email you receive, and then either archive or delete the messages. The quicker it is out of your inbox, the better. Remember, your inbox is a delivery system, not a storage system!
If you want even more advanced filtering options, use programs like Outlook or the free Thunderbird. These are a must for anyone with multiple email accounts. They add all sorts of features that simple Web mail can't touch.

3. Use temporary email:
One way to pick up a lot of email you don't need is to give out your real address online. In most cases, you just need to give it to a site so you can receive a confirmation email proving you are who you say you are. After that, it lets in a flood of email you don't really care about.

In those situations, it's better to use a temporary email account. Mailinator is a good site for this. Email addresses only last for an hour or so and then all the email is erased.

Some people create a second email address. That's the one they give out to new sites. Their main email is reserved for friends, family and reputable sites.

4. When to use BCC:
There are many ways to send email to multiple people. Usually, people simply use "To:" or "CC:" to hit multiple inboxes at once. However, "BCC:" can be a much better option. It makes sure the recipient can't see any extra addresses but their own.

This is polite and better for privacy. It stops the conversation from trailing off in different directions, too. That means you won't see a surge of conversations that don't involve you if someone accidentally hits "reply all."

BCC can backfire, though. In an office setting, using BCC on an email makes you the only target for replies. If the email is about a project with multiple people, include someone else's name to help you carry the weight of replies.

Whenever you include multiple people in an email - office or personal - make sure each knows why they're included. Don't be afraid to explain that in the body of the email.

5. Turn off notifications:
One of the biggest email annoyances is notifications. These come from Facebook, Twitter and other social sites. You get an annoying email every time someone interacts with your profile.

Usually, these notifications can wait until you're actually ready to log into the site. When you're getting dozens a day, it saps time away from things you actually need or want to do. You can turn off notifications in the settings on each site to make your inbox less stressful.

Go into your settings on each site to turn off notifications. I've got tips to do it for Facebook here. Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and the rest aren't much different. You can even keep a few types of notifications active if you think they're important.

Your perilous future on Windows XP By Larry Seltzer for Zero Day

Summary: You've been getting warned for ages about the impending end of support for XP. Things are even worse than you've heard (especially if you run Internet Explorer). Expect a flood of new vulnerabilities and no help for them.

An older relative (a really frugal but sharp guy in his 80's) once bemoaned to me about the scam in the computer industry pushing people to upgrade all the time. "Why" (I'm paraphrasing here) "should I upgrade a computer which does what I want it to do?"
We're coming up on one really good answer to his question. As Mary Jo Foley reported the other day, Microsoft is stepping up their warning campaign about users still running Windows XP, which will reach end of life on Patch Tuesday, April 8, 2014.

Microsoft warns Windows XP users risk 'zero day forever'

Security is the reason my relative doesn't appreciate for why running old software is often an inherently bad idea. Security technology in Windows XP was never really that great, even if it got a lot better with SP2, but the product was a runaway smash hit to such an extent that we may never be rid of it. Next April will be 12 years since Windows XP was made generally available; this is an astonishingly long time to keep supporting a software product. Nobody else keeps support life spans like Microsoft; with Windows XP they actually extended the normal 10 year life by 2 years, a move I consider a grave error. In fact, they should seriously think about cutting the 10 year standard down.

Partly as a result of their policies and partly because of people like my relative, Windows XP is still a massive presence in the market, and it's a massive target of attack. So are later versions of Windows, but those versions are far better able to defend themselves against attack. See the stats in this blog entry by Microsoft's Tim Rains which explains just how much more vulnerable to breach XP is than Vista, Windows 7 and especially Windows 8. Imagine how vulnerable it will be when you can't even get patches for critical vulnerabilities anymore. Only a fool would rely on it.

One point Rains didn't make that I think is worth emphasizing: If you're using Internet Explorer on it, and I bet many XP users are, you are stuck with a version that will soon be 3 generations old and without critical updates anymore. Don't keep using XP but, if you do, use Chrome or Firefox. (This reminds me of the old line "Don't stick your hand in the garbage disposal but, if you do, use your left hand.")

Windows XP: The end is near
Some other points: If you're on XP and you care about updates you're probably using Windows Update, and therefore automatically running the Malicious Software Removal Tool every month. Not any more after April 2014.

And it's not exactly a wave yet, but more and more software is not supporting XP, or at least not well. You can make a good case that this is irrelevant, since the users sticking with XP are likely sticking with the software they already have, but it's another thing to consider.

One thing you don't have to worry about is antivirus support. I asked Kaspersky about their plans for XP. Elliot Zatsky, Senior Director of Consumer Partner Services at Kaspersky Lab said that about 20% of their user base is still on Windows XP (!). It's slowly trending down and they expect, as a result of the end of XP support and the release of Windows 8.1, their XP decline will "increase slightly and continue on this steady downward trend for a few years." Zatsky says the company plans to include support for Windows XP in their 2015 product line and, therefore, for at least 2 more years.
I also asked whether the inevitable increase in unpatched vulnerabilities on systems makes it harder for antivirus to do its job. Obviously this increases the chance that a system will be infected in some way, but Zatsky says that their multiple layers of protection should catch any malware in real time even if it is trying to exploit a vulnerability.

I think they may be a bit optimistic with that last point. Things will certainly get worse for Windows XP. Once there are no more patches, demand for vulnerabilities may increase considerably. It wouldn't surprise me if some are being stockpiled for next year; it's a risk since someone else may discover it, but if you release an exploit for which there will be no patch, users will be helpless.
You out there, the one running XP! That's you I'm talking about when I say "helpless." When the new models show up for the holidays it's time to go computer shopping.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Do you still need these 5 tech relics? by Kim Komando

Q: Do I really need a mouse pad? I've had the same one for years and it's pretty scratched up and
gross. I'm going to chuck it soon, but do I even need to replace it?

A. Mouse pads used to be an essential tool. However, unless you still have a very old mouse with a ball, you don't need one.

Most computer mice use laser or optical sensors these days. They don't need a rubber surface to provide grip for the ball. So they'll work on most surfaces without trouble. Newer laser mice can even work on glass.

That doesn't mean you have to ditch yours if it's still good, though. In fact, mouse pads can be a great way to express your individuality. They can show how big of a fan you are of something - like a certain blonde tech expert.

Mouse pads aren't the only thing that the tech world has rendered obsolete. But don't take it to the digital dump just yet!

You might still need some of those things that many think are past their prime. Here are four other tech "relics" that I still see people using to this day. Let's see if you still need them.

A screensaver

Here's another great expression of your hobbies and interests. Screensavers protected your monitor from burning one image into your screen. They've probably saved millions in replacements and repairs over the years.

The once-mandatory screensaver isn't necessary now. You don't have to worry about screen burnout with modern monitors. You can leave them on for hours, if not days, without having to worry about anything but your power bill!

That doesn't mean you have to ditch your screensaver altogether. In fact, I still use a screensaver on my HDTV today! They're a great way to show off pictures, your favorite team and more.

Your Home Phone

Did you ever think landlines would be irrelevant in your lifetime? If someone told you that 20 years ago, would you have laughed?

With most people owning smartphones and even more having some kind of cellphone, it's totally possible!

However, there are still plenty of reasons to keep your landline. In fact, many home-security systems and some medical implants require it. Until those services update to wireless, your home phone isn't going anywhere.

That's not a bad thing, either. Landlines don't rely on power or cellular towers like cellphones, so they won't go down in an emergency.

CD/DVD Drive
People originally thumbed their noses at the MacBook Air's lack of a DVD drive. Fast forward a few years and this is becoming the rule, not the exception, with laptops. Many premium laptops have ditched the drive in favor of portability.

It makes sense. Cord cutters are streaming most of their movies online and digital downloads are cheap. Heck, even some software is moving to the cloud and spurning discs. Still, most people still need at least one computer with a physical drive.

If you've got a big CD library, you want a way to rip it so you can listen on the go. You might have software you need to install that's only on CDs.

Fortunately, as with floppy drives, companies make external versions. You can plug them into any computer using USB.


Though Blu-ray and DVD dominate the sales, I still see VCRs in just about everyone's closet. People cling to these for their old VHS home movies. But there's no need to do that.

There are plenty of affordable gadgets that can digitize your home movies. In fact, I sell a very popular converter in my store.  You just plug it in and it does the work for you.

This does a lot more than let you ditch your VCR, too. It makes your movies live forever and can even let you upgrade the quality. It'll be like watching them for the first time all over again!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ala. Student Sues Best Buy's Geek Squad After Circulation of Nude Photos By ALANA ABRAMSON

Aug. 14, 2013

An art student at the University of Alabama is suing Best Buy, claiming staff members on their Geek Squad Technical Support circulated nude photos of her from her computer after she took it in for repairs, court documents show.

Nicole March filed a lawsuit on Aug. 9 in the U.S. District Court in Alabama, claiming an invasion of privacy, outrageous conduct, breach of contract, and negligent supervision, training and entrustment, according to court documents.

Since the photos were circulated by staffers at the Alabama franchise, March "has been caused to suffer severe mental anguish, embarrassment, and humiliation," the complaint alleges.

According to the complaint, March was having difficulty with her computer's hard drive in August of 2011, and brought it to Best Buy's Geek Squad Technical Support in the Tuscaloosa, Ala., store to retrieve its data. The complaint says Geek Squad Technical Support is a subsidiary owned and operated by Best Buy.

March had been employed at that Best Buy, according to the complaint, identified as store 1540.

The complaint alleges that almost two years later, in May of 2013, an employee of the Geek Squad, Nathaniel Smith, called March and told her another Best Buy employee, Edwin Kinloch, had sent him a link with nude photographs of her and that they were "circulating" on sites including, which enable large file transfers. The file name explicitly identified March, according to the complaint.

The complaint says that, as an art student "with an interest in the human body" March has "from time to time, had professional and privately made nude photographs of herself which she stored on her personal computer for private, personal and professional reference and use."

March notified the manager of the Best Buy in Tuscaloosa as soon as she found out about the photos, according to the complaint, and four days later an agent from the Geek Squad told her he had found the culprit and that the photographs would be deleted. However, the agent "requested that she do him the 'favor of not asking who the culprit was,'" according to the complaint, and she subsequently filed a police report.

March referred all questions to her attorneys.

One of March's attorneys, Gayle Douglas, said March is suing for monetary compensation, but the amount is being left up to the attorney.

The actions of the Geek Squad employees "cannot be tolerated in a civil society where a customer entrusts her computer to a service for repair and rescue only to have sensitive and private data, images and information uploaded to public links for use by strangers and the public at large," the complaint states.

Best Buy declined to comment on pending litigation. A spokesperson wrote in an e-mail that "Best Buy is committed to responsible customer information management practices, and our employees are trained to follow very specific procedures that govern how they manage this important information."

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Click on "corner" icon to make Blog Post larger

Best Android smartphones (August 2013 edition)

Summary: Time to take a tour of a handful of the best Android smartphones currently available on the market (August 2013). There are a few new handsets, including one for all you pure Android fans.

By Adrian Kingsley-Hughes for Hardware 2.0 | August 6, 2013 -- 10:56 GMT (03:56 PDT)


Looking to replace your aging Android companion with something newer and with a little more "oomph"? Here are five excellent Android-powered smartphones from Google, Motorola, and Samsung.

No matter whether you are looking for a consumer handset or something that will be suited to a BYOD role, you're bound to find something of interest here.

The handsets are arranged in no particular order. My current favorite continues to be the Nexus 4. It's a powerful package that delivers what I believe to be the best, purest Android experience possible. However, I have to admit that some of the features present on the Samsung Galaxy S4 make it a great choice for the BYOD crowd.

Google Nexus 4

The Nexus 4 is the smartphone that Google thinks Android should be loaded on.

One of the downsides to the Nexus 4 is that it doesn't come with LTE support, despite having a supporting integrated modem. According to LG, the manufacturer of the Nexus 4, the LTE modem requires a signal amplifier and filter to work, and these components have been omitted to keep the cost of the handset down.

Despite this, the Nexus 4 is a solid, well-made Android handset.
  •     Jelly Bean (Android 4.2)
  •     1.5GHz quad-core Krait processor
  •     4.7-inch WXGA IPS display
  •     8MP rear camera
  •     1.3MP front camera
  •     8/16GB internal storage

Samsung Galaxy S4 "Google Play Edition"

Like the idea of a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone, but prefer a device that gives you a more pure Google Android experience? Or maybe you just want an unlocked handset. Either way, take a look at the Samsung Galaxy S4 "Google Play Edition."

This is the same hardware as the Galaxy S4, but with all the Samsung bells and whistles removed. Some people love this, others hate it. But if you want it, it is yours, unlocked, for $649.
  •     Skinless Jelly Bean (Android 4.2.2), which means the same experience as the Nexus
  •     1.9GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600
  •     5-inch Super AMOLED high-pixel-density (441ppi) display
  •     13MP rear camera
  •     2MP front camera
  •     16GB internal storage
  •     MicroSD slot

Samsung Galaxy Note II

The Samsung Galaxy Note II is the Android smartphone for those people with large hands to hold it with, and large pockets to keep it in.

The Samsung Galaxy Note II really is a solid handset packed with an array of high-end features. It even comes with the S Pen that can be used to copy text, crop images, and to share content.
  •     Jelly Bean (Android 4.1)
  •     1.6 GHz quad-core Samsung Exynos processor
  •     5.5-inch Super AMOLED HD display
  •     8MP rear camera
  •     1.9MP front camera
  •     16/32/64GB internal storage
  •     MicroSD slot
Samsung Galaxy S4

The second new kid on the block — Samsung's new and long-awaited Galaxy S4.

There's an awful lot to like about the Galaxy S4 — the powerful CPU, plenty of storage space, a user-replaceable battery, the microSD slot, the fact that it can be used as a remote control for a DVR. It is very much like HTC's new One handset, except marginally better in almost every way (except, perhaps, for the plastic shell).

Another quality handset from the company that is now the king of the Android smartphones.
  •     Jelly Bean (Android 4.2.2)
  •     1.9GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 (1.6GHz octa-core processor offered in some markets)
  •     5-inch Super AMOLED high-pixel-density (441ppi) display
  •     13MP rear camera
  •     2MP front camera
  •     16/32/64GB internal storage
  •     MicroSD slot

One to watch - Motorola Moto X
Here's a handset to watch over the coming weeks – Motorola's new Moto X.

I used to be pretty partial to Motorola handsets back before the iPhone. They were well built, and while they relied heavily on gimmicks, delivered decent performance and long-term reliability.

The Moto X is interesting, not because it is manufactured by Motorola – now owned by Google – but because it takes a new approach to computation power. Rather than one chip with multiple cores doing the work, the Moto X has a total of eight cores spread over four different chips, each doing a different thing.
  •     Jelly Bean (Android 4.2.2)
  •     Motorola X8 computing system, consisting of a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro dual-core clocked at 1.7GHz, a quad-core Adreno 320 GPU, and two low-power processors, one that is used for natural language and the other for contextual computing
  •     4.7-inch AMOLED HD 720p display
  •     10MP rear camera
  •     2MP front camera
  •     16/32GB internal storage
  •     NFC
  •     Wireless charging
Sony Xperia Z
A newcomer to the list. Sony's Xperia Z packs a lot of cool features under the hood, sporting the sharpest LCD panel on the market, and a 13-megapixel camera capable of capturing HDR video.

This handset is also thin, coming in at a svelte 7.9-milimeters. But don't the thinness fool you, the Xperia Z is tough, featuring tempered glass, and a dustproof and waterproof build.
  •     Jelly Bean (Android 4.1)
  •     1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor
  •     5-inch TFT 1080p (1920 x 1080) display, powered by the Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2
  •     13MP rear-facing camera
  •     2MP front-facing 1080p HD video capture
  •     16GB internal storage
  •     MicroSD card slot


The all-new HTC One is the first of two new kids on the block in terms of Android-powered smartphones.

Under the hood, the HTC One isn't all that different to Samsung's new Galaxy S4 — it features the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 CPU (although it runs a little slower), 2GB of RAM, and a 1080p screen — but it is also a very different beast thanks to Sense, the bold new user interface HTC has loaded into the smartphone. It also features an aluminum shell, unlike the Samsung Galaxy S4, which has a plastic shell.

This handset is confirmed as coming to Verizon later this summer.
  •     Jelly Bean (Android 4.2) with HTC's Sense user interface
  •     1.7GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600
  •     4.7-inch Super LCD, Full HD, high-pixel-density (468ppi) display
  •     4MP rear camera
  •     2.1MP front camera
  •     32/64GB internal storage
Motorola Razr i

Perhaps not the best — or best made — handset around, but the Razr i is nonetheless a decent, solid smartphone that won't break the bank.

The DuPont Kevlar fibre and Corning Gorilla Glass construction gives it a good feel in the hand, and it comes with an SD-card slot for storage expansion, something that the Nexus 4 doesn't have.
  •     Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), but Jelly Bean inbound
  •     2GHz Intel Atom Z2460
  •     4.3-inch Super AMOLED 540x960 display
  •     8MP rear camera
  •     VGA front camera
  •     8GB internal storage
LG Optimus G Pro

Smartphones are getting bigger, and the Optimus G Pro from LG is a real handful. The huge 5.5-inch display, combined with a quad-core Snapdragon processor makes this a serious piece of kit, but the overall size of this phatlet might put some people off.
  •     Jelly Bean (Android 4.1)
  •     1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 CPU
  •     5.5-inch 1920x1080 full HD IPS display
  •     13MP rear camera
  •     2.1MP front camera
  •     32GB internal storage
  •     MicroSD slot
Karbonn S5 Titanium
Some people love the flexibility that a dual-SIM handset can offer, and not only does the Karbonn S5 Titanium some kitted out with dual-SIM support, but it is also a solid, decent-spec handset that's functional enough to please most users.
  •     Jelly Bean (Android 4.1)
  •     1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 CPU
  •     5-inch qHD IPS capacitive touch display
  •     8MP rear camera
  •     2MP front camera
  •     4GB internal storage
  •     MicroSD slot

Best Android tablets (August 2013 edition)

Summary: Don't want to get locked into Apple's ecosystem by buying an iPad or iPad mini? No problem! Here are my top Android tablets for August 2013. And if you're looking for budget Android tablets, there are two here you might be interested in.

By Adrian Kingsley-Hughes for Hardware 2.0 | August 8, 2013 -- 10:48 GMT (03:48 PDT)

Tablets are everywhere, and while Apple's iPad – along with its little brother, the iPad mini – commands the most media attention, there's no shortage of excellent Android alternatives to choose from.

Here are my top seven Android tablets for August 2013.
All of the tablets features here are very capable, powerful workhorses, and are ideal not only for home users, but also for enterprise users or those looking for a BYOD tablet. Any one of these will give you an excellent Android experience, and, when combined with the right apps, will allow you to get a lot of work done when you're away from your desk.

The new Google Nexus 7
My favorite Android tablet just got better!

The new Google Nexus 7 is the much-anticipated follow-on to the highly-successful original Nexus 7.

The hardware, once again manufactured by Asus, consists of a 7-inch display with a resolution bumped up to 1920x1200 HD display and a pixel density of 323 pixels per inch, a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor, an Adreno 320 GPU, a choice of 16GB or 32GB of storage, a 5 megapixel rear camera, and a – somewhat limited – 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera.

The main downside of the Nexus 7 continues to be that it does not feature a card slot to allow you to expand the storage.

The hardware runs the very latest – and highly capable – Android 4.3 "Jelly Bean" operating system, and features an improved, very efficient software keyboard.

Also, being a Google-branded tablet, you're also guaranteed software updates, rather than having to rely on the goodwill of the hardware maker to make them available.

The tablet also features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, and optional cellular, and all this is powered by a battery that can give 10 hours of usage under normal conditions.

A powerful tablet in a small, easy-to-carry form factor.

About the only thing I don't like about the Nexus 7 is the 16:9 screen aspect ratio, which makes the device feel awfully top-heavy in portrait mode.

At a glance:
  •     7-inch, 1920x1200 HD display and a pixel density of 323 pixels per inch
  •     1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor
  •     Adreno 320 GPU
  •     Android 4.3 "Jelly Bean"
  •     5.0 megapixel rear camera
  •     1.2 megapixel front-facing camera
  •     Stereo, surround speakers
  •     Choice of 16GB or 32GB
  •     Battery life of 9 hours
Price: from $199.

Google Nexus 10

The #2 spot goes to the Nexus 7's bigger brother — the Nexus 10.

The Nexus 10 sports a 10-inch screen with a 2560x1600 resolution display, a dual core ARM Cortex A15 processor, and a quad core Mali T604 graphics processor.

The Samsung-made tablet also comes with a choice of 16GB or 32GB of storage, a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera, a 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera – which is far superior to the 1.2 megapixel camera that the Nexus 7 has – and a power pack capable of delivering 11 hours of usage.

The Nexus is designed by Google, and so it offers the best, purest Android experience possible – and it also means that you will get operating system updates direct from Google, rather than have to wait for the hardware makers to the update.

Overall, a powerful, very well made tablet, and if you have space in your life for a 10-inch tablet, you should take a look at this one. The main downside of the Nexus is that it does not feature a card slot to allow you to expand the storage.

At a glance:
  •     10-inch, 2560x1600 display
  •     Dual core ARM Cortex A15 processor
  •     Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean"
  •     5 megapixel rear-facing camera, a 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera
  •     Choice of 16GB and 32GB.
  •     Battery life of 11 hours
Price: from $399.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8-inch

The Android market is dominated by Samsung, and it's no surprise that it has come out with a new 8-inc tablet – the Galaxy Tab 3 8-inch.

At $299, the Tab 3 8-inch is a bit pricey, but it's a good competitor to the iPad Mini for those who don't want to get caught up in the iOS/App Store lock-in web.

The best thing about the Galaxy Tab 3 8-inch is that it is essentially a Galaxy Note 2 (minus the stylus, which I don't care much for anyhow) for $100 less.

At a glance:
  •     8-inch, 1280x800 display
  •     1.5GHz Exynos 4212 dual-core processor
  •     Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean"
  •     5 megapixel rear camera, and a 1.2 megapixel front camera
  •     16GB storage
  •     Battery life of about 11 hours

Price: from $299.

Ainol Novo 7 Venus

The second cheap and cheerful tablet from Ainol. This one is the 7-inch Novo 7 Venus, and is certainly worth a look.

Again, not a big-name brand, but a look at the spec will tell you that this is quite a well put together tablet, especially when you take a look at the price.

At a glance:
  •     7-inch 1280x800 IPS display
  •     ATM7029 quad-core CPU with GC1000+ GPU
  •     Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" compatible with 4.2
  •     2 megapixel rear camera, and a 0.3 megapixel front camera
  •     16GB storage
  •     Battery life of 5 to 9 hours
Price: from $129.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
The Galaxy Note 10.1 is Samsung's is a flagship tablet that commands a flagship price.

The hardware is all top-notch, with a 10.1-inch screen with a 1280x800 resolution display, a 1.4GHz Exynos quad core processor, a choice of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of storage, a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera, a 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera, and a 10-hour battery pack.

The software is Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" but there's an upgrade path to Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean".

For times when a finger just isn't precise enough, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with a nifty stylus called the S Pen specifically designed to work with a number of applications. This really comes to its own when doing fiddly things like working in a spreadsheet, or knocking out a doodle.

The stylus makes the Galaxy Note 10.1 a great machine for taking notes, planning, and sketching out ideas.

At a glance:
  •     10.1-inch, 1280x800 display
  •     1.4GHz Exynos quad core processor
  •     Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich"
  •     5 megapixel rear-facing camera, a 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera
  •     Choice of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB
  •     Battery life of 10 hours
Price: from $499.

Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T

The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T is not only the slimmest and lightest 1920x1200 resolution Full HD Android tablet on the market, but it is also stylish and very well put together.

The 10.1-inch 1920x1200 resolution display is backed by a powerful Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor that is packed with a very capable 12-core GPU. This hardware runs the Android 4.0.3 "Ice Cream Sandwich" operating system, which is now showing its age, but is nonetheless a very capable and robust platform.

The tablet features an 8 megapixel rear camera, and a 2 megapixel front camera, and the battery can go for 9.5 hours between recharges.

At a glance:
  •     10.1-inch 1920x1200 display
  •     Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor
  •     Android 4.0.3 "Ice Cream Sandwich"
  •     8 megapixel rear camera, and a 2 megapixel front camera
  •     Choice of 32GB or 64GB
  •     Battery life of 9.5 hours
Price: from $499.

Ainol Novo 9 Spark

Looking for a cheap and cheerful tablet that has plenty of power to handle even the more demanding apps? The Ainol Novo 9 Spark is worth a look.

You might not have heard of the manufacturer before, but the tablets are well worth taking a look at.

At a glance:
  •     9.7-inch 2048x1536 retina IPS display
  •     Allwinner A31 quad-core CPU with SGX544MP2 GPU
  •     Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" compatible with 4.2
  •     5 megapixel rear camera, and a 2 megapixel front camera
  •     16GB storage
Price: from $229.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Apple announces take-back program for iPhone power-adapters

by Dan Miller

Following recent reports of third-party iPhone power-adapters that were malfunctioning—”malfunctioning” in this case meaning “electrocuting their users”—Apple has introduced a take-back program for the things.

As reported on 9to5Mac, starting August 16, you’ll be able to bring any USB power adapter to an Apple Retail Store or authorized service provider, and the company will take that adapter and make sure it’s disposed of in an environmentally responsible fashion. If you want a new adapter, the company will—for a limited time—sell you a new, official Apple one for just $10. (They regularly cost $19.)

The offer is good through October 18, 2013, and is limited to one adapter per iPhone, iPad, or iPod you own. (You must bring the device with you for serial-number validation.)

This isn’t just altruism on Apple’s part. Headlines linking ‘iPhone’ and ‘electrocution’ are generally bad for business. More importantly, the program provides some justification for the company’s strict—and some would say draconian—hardware-certification programs.

Google Chrome security flaw offers unrestricted password access

by Charles Arthur, Wednesday 7 August 2013 05.57 EDT   

Plain text logon details for email, social networks and company systems stored in browser's Settings panel

A serious flaw in the security of Google's Chrome browser lets anyone with access to a user's computer see all the passwords stored for email, social media and other sites, directly from the settings panel. No password is needed to view them.

Besides personal accounts, sensitive company login details would be compromised if someone who used Chrome left their computer unattended with the screen active.

Seeing the passwords is achieved simply by clicking on the Settings icon, choosing "Show advanced settings…" and then "Manage saved passwords" in the "Passwords and forms" section. A list of obscured passwords is then revealed for sites - but clicking beside them reveals the plain text of the password, which could be copied, or sent via a screenshot to an outside site.

But the head of Google's Chrome developer team, Justin Schuh, said he was aware of the weakness and that there were no plans to change the system.

That response was described by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British inventor of the web, as "disappointing". He characterised the flaw as "how to get all your big sister's passwords".

Chrome is one of the three most widely-used browsers on desktops worldwide, along with Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox. It has millions of users and is seen by some as crucial to Google's future efforts to monetise web use, by tying users to Google accounts and synchronising between their desktop and mobile systems.

Elliott Kember, a UK-based software developer from New Zealand who discovered the flaw, commented: "In a world where Google promotes its browser on YouTube, in cinema pre-rolls, and on billboards, the clear audience is not developers. It's the mass market - the users. The overwhelming majority. They don't know it works like this. They don't expect it to be this easy to see their passwords. Every day, millions of normal, every-day users are saving their passwords in Chrome. This is not okay."

Other browsers have previously had similar flaws with password visibility - and closed them. In 2010, Firefox was revealed to use the same "plain text" storage that Chrome is being criticised for - and added a master password option requirement. Some versions of Microsoft's Internet Explorer have also had the same failings. Apple's Safari requires the user to enter a master password before it will show stored passwords.

Schuh wrote on Hacker News that "We've also been repeatedly asked why we don't just support a master password or something similar, even if we don't believe it works. We've debated it over and over again, but the conclusion we always come to is that we don't want to provide users with a false sense of security, and encourage risky behavior. We want to be very clear that when you grant someone access to your OS user account, that they can get at everything."

However the position was criticised by other developers. "A good safe is judged by the time required to break it," wrote "marcgg". "There is no safe that is unbreakable, you just need to put enough time, effort and noise to open it. Same thing could be applied here. Installing software, dump the cookies and so on requires time. Right now with this security a person could get my password in a couple of clicks with almost no technical knowledge."

One security manager at a publishing company said: "The fact you can view the passwords means they are stored in reversible form which means that the dark coders out there will be writing a Trojan to steal that password store as we speak."

Friday, August 2, 2013

Browsing the Right Place to Browse for Gadgets by Sam Grobart

Browsing the Right Place to Browse for Gadgets

Click on "corner" icon to make Blog Post larger 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Traveling Overseas by Serenity Caldwell

Click on "corner" icon to make Blog Post larger

5 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With a SmartPhone by Kim Komando