Google+ November 2014 ~ High Tech House Calls

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Friday, November 21, 2014

How to simplify overlapping cloud storage services by Joe Kissell

clouds
There’s no shortage of choices for cloud storage, but that leads to another problem: how do you decide which services you truly need, and which files to put where? If you’ve signed up for as many cloud providers as you have files, it’s time for an intervention (or at least a moment of clear-headed contemplation).

I’ll admit it: I’m an online storage junkie. At one time or another I’ve synced files to the cloud using Amazon Cloud Drive, Amazon S3, Bitcasa, Box, DollyDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, SpiderOak, SugarSync, Wuala, and probably a few others I’m forgetting—not to mention using online backups from Backblaze, CrashPlan, and Mozy, and storing photos with services such as Flickr and SmugMug. Some of these services are free (at least for a limited amount of data) while others are inexpensive, but inexpensive times a dozen or more starts to hurt.

Meanwhile, I had the same folders syncing to three or four services simultaneously, which slowed down my Mac, wasted bandwidth, and tested the limits of my ISP’s monthly data transfer allowance.
The challenge was what to do about it. “Just pick one!” you may say. Fine, but if I pick Dropbox, then Google Docs can’t see my online files. If I pick Google Drive instead, then my iOS apps that support only iCloud won’t have access. And so on. Companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft benefit when you stay within their respective ecosystems, so they tend to make it easier to use their own cloud storage services than those of their competitors. (Microsoft’s recent decision to integrate Dropbox support in its Office apps for iOS—supplementing OneDrive—is a welcome exception.)

onedropbox
What is this madness? Microsoft letting me access Dropbox in Word for iOS? Wow. Now if only Google Docs would give me access to iCloud Drive.
Even if interoperability weren’t a problem, it’s not as though these various cloud storage services are otherwise interchangeable. Each one is different when it comes to matters such as privacy and security, saving older versions of files you’ve since modified or deleted, APIs for integration with third-party products, storage limits, and pricing.

Each person’s needs and preferences will vary, but I’d like to offer some tips based on my own experiences in simplifying cloud storage.

Look for broad compatibility

Whatever else you might say about Dropbox, far more apps support it than any other cloud service, particularly on iOS. (It’s also quite inexpensive, which doesn’t hurt.) Perhaps the scale will tilt toward iCloud Drive at some point, but even if that happens for iOS, Dropbox works on more platforms, including Android and Linux.
cloud services readdle
Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box are widely supported among iOS apps. This is a screenshot from Readdle's Documents. 
So I use Dropbox as my all-purpose cloud storage provider, and probably will for the foreseeable future. If you prefer to use, say, SugarSync for general-purpose cloud storage and all the apps you care about happen to support SugarSync natively, that’s terrific—but the odds are against it.

Eliminate redundancy

Offers of free (or cheap) storage are tempting, but don’t add an account just because you can. Each cloud storage account you use should serve a unique and useful purpose. I cancelled my accounts with several providers because they all duplicated capabilities I already got elsewhere. On the other hand, I keep Google Drive and iCloud Drive, despite their similarities, because each one offers features the other doesn’t: namely, integration with the provider’s proprietary software.

Don’t confuse cloud storage and cloud backups

Cloud backup services such as CrashPlan copy files to distant servers, and let you retrieve those files from another computer or an iOS app. That sounds a lot like cloud storage. On the other hand, Dropbox stores deleted files and old versions for 30 days, or up to a year if you pay extra for Extended Version History. That sounds a lot like cloud backup.
screenshot 2014 11 09 17.09.02
Dropbox keeps deleted files for 30 days, but don't confuse it with a backup service.
But services that specialize in storage are generally better at keeping your files in sync across devices, while services that specialize in backup are generally better at long-term retention and data restoration (and often have superior encryption, too). Each service meets a different need, so I don’t consider cloud storage and cloud backup of a given folder to be redundant. I use both.

Let each service stand alone

Suppose you use iCloud Drive because that’s what Keynote works best with, and Google Drive because that’s what Google Docs works best with. Fair enough—let each service hold its own documents. If the two sets of files sync independently with your Mac (and in most cases they will), that’s even better. But trying to sync all your documents between cloud services is usually a waste of effort (and perhaps, depending on how you do it, a waste of money). That brings me to the next point.

Use aggregators only as needed

Providers such as cloudHQ, Otixo, and ZeroPC let you aggregate cloud storage services—that is, after you connect all your accounts, you can see your documents from every provider in a single view in the Web or an iOS app, drag files from one service to another to copy or move them, and in some cases even sync files between cloud services.
otixo
Otixo is an aggregator that lets you see and search the files stored in many cloud services in one place, and move files between providers easily.
It’s a neat trick, and can be a big help if you have files scattered across many services. But although basic plans are free, you may have to pay as much as your cloud storage itself costs for full-featured aggregation. Besides, if you’re following the previous tip, you should seldom need to move files from one service to another—and even when you do, you can use your Mac as a conduit and avoid paying for a cloud-to-cloud transfer service.

Go off-cloud for privacy

A handful of cloud storage providers, including SpiderOak and Wuala, offer “zero-knowledge” encryption, which means your data is encrypted in such a way that the provider can’t decrypt it without your personal key, even if the government were to demand it. That’s great—I’m a huge fan of encryption—but because my favorite iOS apps don’t support these services, that severely limits their utility for me.

So, when privacy is important, I either encrypt a file myself before uploading it to Dropbox, or use a “personal cloud” product such as BitTorrent Sync, ownCloud, or Transporter, each of which has unique virtues.

As long as my favorite apps insist on keeping me locked into specific cloud storage services, I won’t be able to pick a single provider and stick with it. But I’ve already reduced my tally significantly, and if more developers make customer-friendly moves like the Microsoft-Dropbox partnership, choosing cloud storage services may be less of a hassle in the future.

Conquer your inbox with the best email apps for iOS by Derek Walter


ios email apps

Apple’s stock mail app got some nice upgrades with iOS 8, but it still lacks many of the more powerful features found in other third-party email apps.

With so many different choices out there, you may be wondering what the best alternative is for your needs, so we tried out a handful of the most innovative email apps that want to be your inbox managing assistant.

Each of these apps take vastly different approaches to email. Some help you categorize the jumble of messages to mine the gems, while others ruthlessly cut through the clutter to achieve a pristine and empty inbox.

I tried out all of these apps on an iPad mini, as it’s compact enough to bring everywhere and use as a primary email device. However, all of these options are universal apps with iPhone 6 and 6 Plus support either in place or pledged to come.

For apps that supported it, I connected a Gmail, iCloud, Microsoft Exchange, and Outlook account to see how they handled each of the dominant email platforms. I also wanted to discover what they brought to the table in terms of unique features, interface design, and their overall philosophy to managing email.

Best overall: CloudMagic

cloudmagic card evernote
CloudMagic files away your emails into a favorite cloud account.
CloudMagic (free) stands on top of the pyramid for its minimalist design, integration with other cloud storage services, and how well it pushes email from almost any type of account. It supports Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook, iCloud, Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, AOL, and IMAP.
CloudMagic’s strength is its smart cards, which can save a message into a preferred productivity tool: Evernote, Todoist, Pocket, Trello, OneNote, Zendesk, Salesforce, Asiana, and MailChimp are all supported.

CloudMagic also has a pretty clever edit mode that queues up several messages for editing with one action. You can swipe on messages to archive, delete, or attach a follow-up reminder for CloudMagic to bug you about it later.

In addition, you can link CloudMagic to a cloud storage account for attaching files to outgoing messages—it works with Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, and OneDrive. And of course the app has been optimized for iOS 8 and the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Best for reaching inbox zero: Mailbox

mailbox
Snooze emails for later in the day, the next morning, or the third of never.
If you love the satisfaction of an empty inbox, then Mailbox (free) could be your cup of tea. Its whole premise is to help you reach the elusive Inbox Zero by swiping away your messages, with each of its gestures attached to a specific action.

Not only do the swipes archive and delete messages, but they’ll “snooze” an email, which then schedules it to re-appear in your mailbox after a specified amount of time. It’s good for those messages that you aren’t ready to archive but don’t need to keep in you inbox, mocking you with their unfinished status.

Unfortunately, Mailbox only works with Gmail and iCloud. Support for other platforms is coming, though no specifics have been offered by parent company Dropbox.
If you really dig the Mailbox philosophy, then get the Mac desktop app (it’s still in beta) for the most fluid email experience. Mailbox is also optimized for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Most social: Tipbit

tipbit
Tipbit pulls in social data to make your contacts more relevant.
The term “contacts” or “address book” harks back to the days when office workers kept all this information on a circular card-holder called a Rolodex.

Now keeping tabs on your contacts’ social networks is a vital part of staying connected. Tipbit (free) does a great job at this by pulling in your contacts’ Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn info—once you grant permission, of course. That way, if you get an email from someone and want to see what they’ve been tweeting, or need a reminder of their job title, you can just tap on their name and view his or her contact card.

Tipbit also tries to connect a contact with what it thinks is their Twitter account if they don’t have one listed in their signiture, but that doesn’t always work out—the app showed tweets from Anderson Cooper’s Twitter account for one of my contacts named David Cooper.

Tipbit supports email from Gmail, Microsoft Exchange, IMAP, iCloud, Outlook, and IMAP. It is optimized for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Best customization: Boxer

boxer
Boxer has plenty of productivity tools - for a price.
Boxer (free) has also jumped on the swipe-on-messages bandwagon, though with many different customization opportunities for these actions. It takes a bit of work to set this up, but if you want to work a very particular way and use muscle memory for certain tasks, then you’ll like what Boxer has to offer.

It integrates well with features found in other desktop email apps, such as Gmail’s labels and sharing files through your Dropbox or Box account. Boxer supports Gmail (it also syncs your labels—a plus for Gmail power users), Yahoo, iCloud, AOL, and Outlook. Microsoft Exchange support only works with the premium version of Boxer, which is $10. It’s optimized for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Best for power users: Acompli

accompli
Want your calendar and contacts all in one app? Then check out Accompli.
Acompli (free) is the best app of the bunch for power users who get a ton of email and despise constantly moving back and forth to different apps to reference calendar appointments or files.
Acompli’s design isn’t as polished compared to some of the others, but it compensates with excellent functionality—it includes your Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, or OneDrive contents and calendar events right inside the app.

If you’re the business type with multiple meetings and events going on, or if you generally need to plow through a lot of mail during the day, then Acompli should possibly be on the top of your list. It supports Microsoft Exchange, Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud, and any IMAP account; it is optimized for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus as well.

Best for Exchange users: Mail+ for Outlook

mail plus for outlook
Mail+ for Outlook is a good choice for anyone with a Microsoft Exchange account.
Mail+ for Outlook ($6) follows the Exchange philosophy of putting all of your core needs right into one application: Email, contacts, calendar, and—unique among this app list—Outlook’s tasks. It connects to any Microsft Exchange and Outlook account.

It also does a better job than others at handling the formatting found in Outlook messages—like when you get a message from your coworker who uses five different colors in their email to highlight different information. Now you can see it on your iPhone or iPad.

While other apps on this list handle Exchange, I’d put this as the top choice if your core productivity takes place with Microsoft’s platform. It’s also optimized for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

All in with Google? Go with Gmail

gmail ios
Gmail is still a solid option for its integration with Google’s cloud services.
As someone who has also used Android, I can say with certainty the Gmail app for iOS isn’t as fast or robust as its Android counterpart. However, if you are a power Gmail user and rely on labels, Google’s search prowess, and the Googly design, then go with the Gmail app (free). It works with consumer Gmail and Google Apps for Work.

It supports up to five accounts, so you can check up on your personal and work email. It’s updated for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus so you don’t have to contend with an ugly and stretched out interface.
It’s still a little slower than what I would like, but it works and functions like Gmail, making it easier to transition from the desktop to mobile when powering through subscription offers, coupons, or (in my case) an excessive amount of PR emails.

If you’re a Gmail user who loves the Inbox Zero philosophy, than you should give Gmail’s Inbox (free) a shot, too, if you can score an invite.

Best for categorizing clutter: Inky Mail

inky mail
Pick what kind of messages you want to dive into with Inky Mail.
An email account can quickly fill with a mashup of coupons, travel deals, and shipping notices, so Inky Mail (free) works to filter these out—that way, you’re not rummaging through this deluge while looking for that hotel reservation. The app’s home screen has 15 different categories for actions and messages, including a unified inbox, personal messages, social, packages, maps, contacts, and subscriptions.

The Filtered Inbox is the most powerful tool for focusing on essential correspondence, as it strips out all the excessive newsletters and weekend sale notices. Once there you can swipe to the right to get back to the app’s home screen
The different inboxes have other helpful tools for cleaning things out and offer quick access to your email list’s “unsubscribe” links. It also offers a very helpful Today widget, which you can customize to show messages from one of your specific filters or the unified inbox.

Inky Mail is targeted more at consumer accounts, especially if you’d rather keep messages hanging around to avoid missing a great deal. it works with Gmail, iCloud, Outlook, AOL, Yahoo, IMAP, and POP accounts; Microsoft Exchange support is forthcoming.

Bottom line

Email is a hot app category that has new apps popping up all the time, each of which is designed to fit different needs and workflows. Though we think one of these apps will suit your style, most of them have free versions, so we encourage you to try a couple of them out to see what's best for you. If there’s an app you love and we didn’t cover it here, let us know about it in the comments. 

What do you get from a $199 PC? More than you might expect by Ed Bott

Summary: HP's new dirt-cheap Windows laptop looks like a Chromebook and is practically the same dimensions as a MacBook Air. Just don't call it a netbook.
hp-stream-11-multi
When I heard that I was going to receive an HP Stream 11 to review, I was skeptical.

You would be too, if you knew that the Stream 11 sells for $199.99 and comes in your choice of blue or pink plastic cases.

But after spending a couple days with this budget PC I came away impressed at what you get for two C-notes. No, it will not replace my Surface Pro 3, nor are you likely to exchange your MacBook Air for a Stream 11. But I would certainly recommend it over a Chromebook for anyone who does most day-to-day activity in the cloud but still needs the ability to run Windows desktop programs, especially Microsoft Office.

And that’s the whole idea. This is not an enterprise-class machine. It’s aimed squarely at cost-conscious consumers who might be tempted by a Chromebook but would probably end up disappointed by its limitations. There’s no reason this machine can’t connect to your corporate network or let you work with Office files. That’s just not its primary role.

That price tag is an even bigger bargain than it appears at first glance. Among the bundled extras are a $25 gift card, good for apps from the Windows Store or digital media from Xbox Music or Movies. There’s also a one-year Office 365 Personal subscription (a $70 value), which allows you to install the full Office desktop suite and includes unlimited storage on Microsoft’s OneDrive service.

Those extras wouldn’t be worth it if they were dragged down by sluggish performance. But this little machine is zippy enough as long as you stay within your lane. Office apps snap open quickly, and casual games perform perfectly well. But don’t even think of installing Photoshop or Visual Studio, and steer clear of any game that puts even modest demands on the GPU.

Specs

The Stream 11 gets to its bargain-basement price tag thanks to a mix of decidedly modest components. Here’s what’s inside:
  • Celeron N2840 CPU clocked at 2.16 GHz
  • 2 GB of RAM (1.89 GB usable)
  • 32 GB of eMMC flash storage (Hynix HBG4e) with a full-size SD card slot for expansion
  • An 11.6-inch (diag.) WLED backlit display, running at 1366x768 resolution
  • HP TrueVision HD webcam
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • 2 USB ports (1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0)
  • A full-sized HDMI port
  • Windows 8.1 with Bing (64-bit)
The Stream 11 is nearly identical in size to an 11-inch MacBook Air (only a tenth of an inch thicker). At 2.74 pounds, it’s about a quarter-pound heavier than a 2.38-pound MacBook Air, at a quarter of the price. (A larger variant, the Stream 13, starts at $230 and includes 4G options.)

The biggest weakness on the Stream 11’s spec list is storage. That 32 GB disappears quickly. Out of the box, roughly one-quarter of the storage is devoted to a Recovery Partition. Windows and its built-in apps gobble up some more space, as do the Office program files if you choose to activate the free subscription on that device.

The account I signed in with has a massive amount of OneDrive storage in use—more than 350 GB in the cloud, which results in nearly 2 GB worth of placeholder files being stored locally (and shows why Microsoft is getting rid of those placeholders in Windows 10).

All in all, I ended up with just under 10 GB of free storage on the system itself. Thankfully, it was easy to expand that storage dramatically with an inexpensive SD card.

Hardware build quality

Given the price tag, I was expecting flimsy construction but was pleasantly surprised. The plastic housing has a solid, not flimsy feel, with a nice matte finish that makes the case easy to grip.
The keyboard was extremely responsive, with no unnecessary travel in the keys. A touch typist should be able to fly through most tasks at full speed.
stream11_close_up
Alas, I can’t say the same for the Synaptics touchpad, which frequently misinterpreted my gestures and was every bit as exasperating as you have probably come to expect from touchpads even on premium Windows devices.

The display, while definitely not Retina quality, is sharp enough for casual use and was dim but viewable at even extreme angles. Because the design is fanless, this device is also impressively quiet. (I didn't try to push it to the point where heat became an issue.)

I had no trouble connecting the Stream 11 to a Miracast adapter and playing HD videos with surround sound. Because Windows 8.1 includes Miracast support by default, that took no configuration at all.

Conclusion

Six years ago, HP delivered one of the first netbooks, the HP Mini 1000, which cost $549, took 2-1/2 minutes to boot, and ran out of battery after less than three hours on duty.

Thankfully, this successor offers a much better experience at a fraction of the price.

Featured Review

The Stream 11 boots from a cold start in 20 seconds or so, and resumes from sleep in about 2 seconds. I haven’t been able to do a full battery-life test, but my initial impressions are that it will last through at least 6 hours of moderate use.

It wouldn’t be an HP machine if it didn’t have a collection of mostly unnecessary software, including a 30-day trial of the latest McAfee security software with a $20 upsell offer for a one-year subscription. Other preinstalled programs include 7-Zip, Netflix, Skype, TripAdvisor, and some Microsoft games.

As is too often the case with this sort of shovelware, there are some glaring conflicts in the offers. You get unlimited OneDrive storage with the included Office 365 subscription, plus there’s an offer on the desktop for 25GB of free online storage with Dropbox (six months only) as well as three HP Connected apps (Drive, Music, Photo), which include the option to connect to a Box cloud storage account.

Thankfully, the extra apps are easy enough to remove. And when you’ve done that, you end up with a cheap laptop that doesn’t feel the least bit cheap.

iOS 8.1.1 Now Available — Improves Performance on Older Devices by Jim Karpen

Apple has released the iOS 8.1.1 update, which is now available for download. It fixes some minor bugs, but more important, it improves the performance of iOS 8 on older devices, such as the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4s. Many users of older devices regretted upgrading to iOS 8, especially those with an iPhone 4S. Hopefully iOS 8.1.1 will take care of the performance problems people had been experiencing.
iOS 8.1.1 can be installed on the iPhone 4S and later, the iPad 2 and later, all models of the iPad mini, and the fifth-generation iPod touch.

As always, you can install the update via Wi-Fi by going to Settings > General > Software Update. And you can also update your device by connecting it to your desktop computer, booting up iTunes, clicking on the icon for your device in the row of icons at top left, selecting Summary in the left menu, and then clicking on Check for Update.

If you have very little free space on your device, you may not have the option of updating via Wi-Fi, and will have to either free up some space or update via iTunes.

Be sure to back up your device before installing the update.

The ultimate guide on how and where to use Apple Pay by Leah Yamshon

Roughly one month after we first saw a demo of Tim Cook scanning an iPhone at a cash register to buy stuff, Apple Pay arrived for the rest of us to check out. But before you go blowing your entire paycheck on everything from big handbags to Big Macs, there are a few things to keep in mind about the platform. Read on to learn more about how Apple Pay works, how to get your iPhone ready for it, and most importantly, where you can go test it out yourself.

What's the latest?

Bi-Lo Holdings, a parent company of three major U.S. grocery store chains—Bi-Lo, Harveys, and Winn-Dixie—announced on November 18 that its stores will now be compatible with Apple Pay. This is perfect timing, considering Thanksgiving is just around the corner—now the only thing you'll have to fumble for while juggling a turkey in one hand a giant can of cranberry sauce in the other is your iPhone.

These grocery stores are widely spread throughout the Southeast, in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Bi-Lo is the first major grocery chain to join Whole Foods as an Apple Pay partner, which comes as a major relief to everyone's (digital) wallets.

Additionally, Apple confirmed that Mashable's report on an Apple Pay rollout at other regional grocery chains is correct. Associated Foods Stores nationwide, Jewel-Osco stores in the Chicagoland area, Shaws and Star Markets stores in New England, and United Food Stores in Texas are now Apple Pay ready. (Albertson's is the parent company of Jewel-Osco, Shaws and Star Markets, and United Food Stores, yet it owns a chain of stores by the name of Albertson's as well—which are not equipped with Apple Pay yet after all.)

Want to use Apple Pay? Get your iPhone ready

In order to use Apple Pay, you need to have a compatible device and the right version of iOS. Apple Pay is compatible with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which are the only iPhones equipped with the requisite NFC radio antennae. Besides NFC compatibility, the other piece of the hardware puzzle is a Touch ID sensor, but iPhone 5S owners are out of luck.


You’ll also need to update your iPhone to iOS 8.1 or newer, which will turn on your phone’s Apple Pay feature.

Once your iPhone is in order, you’ll need to link up a credit or debit card to use for payments. As of November 18, Apple’s confirmed credit and debit partners are:
  • American Express
  • Bank of America
  • Barclaycard
  • CapitalOne
  • Chase
  • Citi
  • J.P. Morgan
  • M&T Bank
  • MasterCard
  • Merrill Lynch
  • Navy Federal Credit Union
  • PNC
  • Regions
  • U.S. Bank
  • U.S. Trust
  • USAA
  • Visa
  • Wells Fargo
If you already have one of these partner cards linked to your Apple ID for making iTunes and App Store purchases, you can opt to keep using that card with Apple Pay. You can also add a different card by taking a picture of it with your iPhone. With either option, you’ll select and verify your card, and then store it in Passbook. Be sure to have your card handy so you can verify the card with its security code.

How it works

When buying something at a brick-and-mortar store, you’ll hold your iPhone up to a wireless payment terminal near the cash register, and then use Touch ID to complete your purchase. These sensors are the same ones you’ve already seen in stores, often equipped with both card swipers and a tap-to-pay contactless terminal. The beauty of Apple Pay is that you don't even need to wake up your iPhone or launch Passbook—your phone wakes up automatically when it gets in range of the terminal and initiates the payment process.
mcdonalds apple pay McDonald's
Scan your phone, and press Touch ID. That's it.
If you’re buying something through a partnered online store on your iPhone, iPad Air 2, or iPad mini 3, you’ll just use Touch ID to complete the purchase. Depending on the app, you may have to toggle on a setting to allow the app to access Apple Pay, or to set Apple Pay as your default method of payment.

Get shopping 

What makes Apple Pay such a game-changer is how many retail partners the platform has, with new stores being added constantly. Besides the Apple Store, you can use Apple Pay at these brick-and-mortar stores:
  • Aeropostale
  • American Eagle Outfitters
  • Babies ‘R’ Us
  • Bi-Lo
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club
  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Champs Sports
  • Chevron and Texaco, including retail stores like ExtraMile
  • The Disney Store
  • Duane Reade
  • Foot Locker, including Kids Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, House of Hoops, and Run by Foot Locker
  • Footaction
  • Harveys
  • Macy’s
  • McDonald’s
  • Meijer
  • Nike
  • Office Depot
  • Panera Bread
  • Petco and Unleashed by Petco
  • RadioShack
  • Six:02
  • Sports Authority
  • Staples
  • Subway
  • Toys ‘R’ Us
  • Walgreens
  • Wegmans
  • Winn-Dixie
  • Whole Foods Market
Later this year, a few more stores will rollout Apple Pay compatibility:
  • Anthropologie
  • Free People
  • Sephora
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Walt Disney World Resort
For in-app checkouts, Apple Pay will work with a handful of apps at launch:
  • Apple Store app
  • Chairish
  • Drync
  • Fancy
  • Gametime
  • Groupon
  • HotelTonight
  • Houzz
  • Indiegogo
  • Instacart
  • JackThreads
  • Keep Shopping
  • LIFX
  • Lyft
  • OpenTable
  • Panera Bread
  • Pose
  • Print Studio
  • Sosh
  • SpotHero - Parking Deals
  • Spring
  • Staples
  • Target
  • Threadflip
  • TouchOfModern
  • Uber
By the end of the year, more apps will support Apple Pay, including:
  • AirBnB
  • Disney Store
  • Eventbrite
  • Levi’s Stadium by VenueNext
  • Sephora
  • Starbucks
  • StubHub
  • Ticketmaster

7 essential steps to secure your smartphone or tablet by Kim Komando

Your smartphone - or tablet - knows a lot about you. It's packed with your contacts, emails, photos, texts and browsing history.
You probably have it set to log in to your Facebook or Twitter app automatically. If you shop or bank on your phone, it's probably holding your account logins and credit card numbers.
In other words, you want to keep other people as far away from it as possible. Just thinking about someone else on my phone and what they could do with the information in it gives me the chills.
Unfortunately, and I'm sure you know this, friends and family like to snoop, thieves have no trouble walking away with gadgets in public and hackers are getting better at making malicious data-stealing apps.

You don't have to put up with any of it, though. Keep reading and I'll tell you how to lock down your iPhone, iPad, Android gadgets or Windows phone so that snoops and criminals don't get their hands on your valuable information.

1. Set a PIN or password

Did you know that one-third of smartphone users don't set up the lock screen on their phones? I don't mean the default "Swipe to unlock" screen - that won't stop a bad guy.

You need to use the lock screen and come up with a good number code. This code should be something that isn't easy to guess. Something like 1-2-3-4 or 0-0-0-0 isn't going to cut it.

iOS 7 has you set up a passcode for the lock screen the first time you use it. It might be time to beef it up. Click here to make a more secure passcode for iOS.

For Android, go to Settings>>Lock screen to set a pattern or passcode. Click here for tricks to creating strong passwords you won't forget.

For Windows phones, go to the Start screen and tap Settings>>Lock screen to set up your passcode.
Important: Be sure you set your gadget to lock automatically after a few minutes. An hour gives a criminal plenty of time to poke through your information.

2. Only install trusted apps

Bad apps are loaded with malware that can infect your gadget with viruses and steal your information. Newer ones even hijack your contact list to spam your friends and infect their gadgets.

You can lower the risk by only installing apps from the major app stores - Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. This isn't a big problem for Apple, but Android allows you to visit third-party app stores.

You can disable installing apps from untrusted sources by going to Settings>>Security and unchecking the "Unknown Sources" option. You should also check the "Verify Apps" option if you have it.

Unfortunately, just because an app is in the Google Play, Apple or Windows store doesn't guarantee it's completely safe. You still want to check reviews and visit the app's official website to confirm it's trustworthy and not a fake copy. Or grab the link from a trustworthy site.

Still, even legitimate apps can grab information from your phone that you might not want to share. That's why you need to check the app's permissions before you install it.

Does it make sense for it to grab your GPS location or get access to your gadget's camera? Think twice about installing an app that wants free rein over your gadget, especially if it really doesn't need it.

Also, read each app's privacy policy. Find out what information it collects and what it does with that information.

3. Keep your smartphone to yourself

Would you let just anyone hold your wallet unattended? Probably not.

So don't lend out your phone or tablet to people you don't know. If you do let someone borrow your gadget, make sure you're in a public place and be sure that your phone stays close by.

It only takes a couple of minutes for criminals - and sometime even a family member or friend - to install a spy app on your phone. Click here to learn more about spy apps.

And please: Don't leave it sitting out in plain sight in a restaurant or coffee shop - or anywhere else. One day I caught myself at a department store repeatedly setting my phone down on a shelf while I browsed through various clothes racks. How dumb would I have felt if a quick-witted thief snatched it up while I wasn't looking?

4. Protect your phone with free security apps

Your smartphone isn't immune to viruses. If it gets infected, it leaves you open to hackers and anyone else trying to steal your information.

Your first line of defense should be a powerful antivirus and spyware program. Grab an app like avast! or Lookout Mobile Security to thwart dangerous attacks.

5. Enable remote location and wiping

Always plan as if the worst will happen. You'll want to be ready if -- or when -- it does.
I should mention that 1.6 million smartphones were stolen in the U.S. last year - and smartphone theft is growing, even with a universal smartphone kill switch in the works.

If your gadget is lost or stolen, tracking apps can tell you exactly where your phone is. These apps also let you wipe sensitive information remotely. If your phone does end up landing in the wrong hands, you can at least make sure they don't get your information.

iOS users have Find My iPhone. To enable it, go to Settings>>iCloud. Look for Find My iPhone and turn it on.

For Android, use Android Device Manager. To enable tracking, launch the app, link it to a Google account and follow the directions.

Lost your phone in your house? This app lets you whistle for it.

For Windows phones, there's the Find My Phone feature. To set it up, go to Settings>>Find My Phone. Make sure the slider is set to on.

6. Stay safe on public Wi-Fi networks

Free public Wi-Fi is a smart way to surf on your smartphone without eating into your data plan. But there's a dangerous side to public hotspots.

Hackers love to infiltrate these networks to snoop for valuable information, like secure account logins and credit card numbers.

Stay safe by doing banking or shopping at home or over cellular using your financial institution's app. You can also use an encryption service like Hotspot Shield VPN.

Click here to find out more ways to stay safe on public Wi-Fi. Also, make sure your home Wi-Fi is secure against intruders.

7. Wipe your old phone before donating, selling or recycling

Upgrading to a new phone and ditching your old one? Make sure to wipe your old phone before you sell or recycle it. You definitely don't want the information on your phone getting into the wrong hands.

Don't worry - wiping your gadget only takes a few minutes. Click here for step-by-step instructions to wiping your iPhone, Android or Windows phone.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Alert: Has your identity already been stolen? 3 warning signs to check now by Kim Komando

Identity theft is real and serious. Millions of Americans have their identity stolen annually, and it's the fastest-growing crime in the U.S. according to the FBI.
Estimates for identity theft victims in 2012 range as high as 16.6 million, and with the large number of data breaches happening this year we might see 2014's figure pass 20 million.

Given those numbers, it's fair to say that everyone should assume their identity will be stolen at some point. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to protect it, but just know it probably won't be enough.

Most ID theft victims don't even realize their identity is stolen until weeks or months after the fact. That's especially true if the thieves go after your investments or equity in your house. By the time you notice, it can take months with lots of paperwork and phone calls to recover, and you'll lose an average of $1,400.

That means you need to get into the habit of regularly checking your life for signs of identity theft. The faster you can catch identity theft, the easier it is to resolve.

With that in mind, here are some things you can look for that are dead giveaways.

1. Unknown charges

Seeing an unexpected or unknown charge on your bank account or credit card statement is a big red flag. It means a crook might have your number and is making purchases.

Even small charges should be taken seriously, since thieves tend to buy and sell information for multiple people in packages called "fullz." A thief getting your information in a "fullz" is going to test it out to see how much attention you're paying.

If you ignore the small charges, that just lets them know they can start making bigger charges and opening new cards in your name. You definitely want to put a stop to it early.

You should also be looking at any medical insurance or other insurance statements that come through. Insurance fraud is a big deal because most people don't bother to check it.

2. Credit report

Your credit report is one of the best ways to spot potential problems. It can tell you if someone is taking out a loan in your name, starting a second mortgage, or even just running your information.

Look for credit checks from businesses you don't remember visiting and accounts you never started. Also, look for inaccuracies in your personal information, such as the wrong address, birth date or marital status.

Getting your credit report is simple. You're entitled to a free credit report once a year from each of the three reporting agencies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. I recommend requesting a report from one company every four months. That should be enough monitoring for anybody.

To get your credit report, head over to AnnualCreditReport. Remember, the service is free. If you're asked to pay, you aren't in the right place.

3. Unusual mail

Your mail can give you some unexpected clues about identity theft - and no I'm not talking about email. For example, if you start getting catalogs in your mail box with a different name, that means someone is using your address at stores.

Medical solicitations for procedures you don't need and medicines you don't take could mean someone is using your medical insurance.

Sudden increases in your car insurance rate could be a clue that your credit score has dropped.

You also want to keep an eye out for what you aren't getting. If credit card and bank statements suddenly stop arriving, then thieves might have redirected your mail. It's simple with a change of request form at the Post Office.

When thieves start receiving your mail, they have access to your bank and credit card statements. They can also get their hands on pre-approved credit card offers and open accounts in your name. By the time you notice anything is wrong, the criminals have already done serious damage.

Preventing a mail redirect scam is difficult. But you can lower your odds of becoming a victim by stopping junk mail like pre-approved credit card solicitations. This app makes it simple.

If you notice a drop in mail, contact the Post Office, your bank, your credit card company and other similar companies immediately. Verify your address and find out where it was changed. It also might turn out that someone is stealing your mail after it's delivered.

In that case, you might want to set up a camera to watch your mailbox and nab them in the act - I sell some great models here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Conquer your inbox with the best email apps for iOS by Derek Walter


Apple’s stock mail app got some nice upgrades with iOS 8, but it still lacks many of the more powerful features found in other third-party email apps.

With so many different choices out there, you may be wondering what the best alternative is for your needs, so we tried out a handful of the most innovative email apps that want to be your inbox managing assistant.

Each of these apps take vastly different approaches to email. Some help you categorize the jumble of messages to mine the gems, while others ruthlessly cut through the clutter to achieve a pristine and empty inbox.

I tried out all of these apps on an iPad mini, as it’s compact enough to bring everywhere and use as a primary email device. However, all of these options are universal apps with iPhone 6 and 6 Plus support either in place or pledged to come.

For apps that supported it, I connected a Gmail, iCloud, Microsoft Exchange, and Outlook account to see how they handled each of the dominant email platforms. I also wanted to discover what they brought to the table in terms of unique features, interface design, and their overall philosophy to managing email.

Best overall: CloudMagic

cloudmagic card evernote
CloudMagic files away your emails into a favorite cloud account.
CloudMagic (free) stands on top of the pyramid for its minimalist design, integration with other cloud storage services, and how well it pushes email from almost any type of account. It supports Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook, iCloud, Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, AOL, and IMAP.
CloudMagic’s strength is its smart cards, which can save a message into a preferred productivity tool: Evernote, Todoist, Pocket, Trello, OneNote, Zendesk, Salesforce, Asiana, and MailChimp are all supported.

CloudMagic also has a pretty clever edit mode that queues up several messages for editing with one action. You can swipe on messages to archive, delete, or attach a follow-up reminder for CloudMagic to bug you about it later.

In addition, you can link CloudMagic to a cloud storage account for attaching files to outgoing messages—it works with Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, and OneDrive. And of course the app has been optimized for iOS 8 and the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Best for reaching inbox zero: Mailbox

mailbox
Snooze emails for later in the day, the next morning, or the third of never.
If you love the satisfaction of an empty inbox, then Mailbox (free) could be your cup of tea. Its whole premise is to help you reach the elusive Inbox Zero by swiping away your messages, with each of its gestures attached to a specific action.

Not only do the swipes archive and delete messages, but they’ll “snooze” an email, which then schedules it to re-appear in your mailbox after a specified amount of time. It’s good for those messages that you aren’t ready to archive but don’t need to keep in you inbox, mocking you with their unfinished status.

Unfortunately, Mailbox only works with Gmail and iCloud. Support for other platforms is coming, though no specifics have been offered by parent company Dropbox.

If you really dig the Mailbox philosophy, then get the Mac desktop app (it’s still in beta) for the most fluid email experience. Mailbox is also optimized for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Most social: Tipbit

tipbit
Tipbit pulls in social data to make your contacts more relevant.
The term “contacts” or “address book” harks back to the days when office workers kept all this information on a circular card-holder called a Rolodex.

Now keeping tabs on your contacts’ social networks is a vital part of staying connected. Tipbit (free) does a great job at this by pulling in your contacts’ Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn info—once you grant permission, of course. That way, if you get an email from someone and want to see what they’ve been tweeting, or need a reminder of their job title, you can just tap on their name and view his or her contact card.

Tipbit also tries to connect a contact with what it thinks is their Twitter account if they don’t have one listed in their signiture, but that doesn’t always work out—the app showed tweets from Anderson Cooper’s Twitter account for one of my contacts named David Cooper.

Tipbit supports email from Gmail, Microsoft Exchange, IMAP, iCloud, Outlook, and IMAP. It is optimized for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Best customization: Boxer

boxer
Boxer has plenty of productivity tools - for a price.
Boxer (free) has also jumped on the swipe-on-messages bandwagon, though with many different customization opportunities for these actions. It takes a bit of work to set this up, but if you want to work a very particular way and use muscle memory for certain tasks, then you’ll like what Boxer has to offer.

It integrates well with features found in other desktop email apps, such as Gmail’s labels and sharing files through your Dropbox or Box account. Boxer supports Gmail (it also syncs your labels—a plus for Gmail power users), Yahoo, iCloud, AOL, and Outlook. Microsoft Exchange support only works with the premium version of Boxer, which is $10. It’s optimized for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Best for power users: Acompli

accompli
Want your calendar and contacts all in one app? Then check out Accompli.
Acompli (free) is the best app of the bunch for power users who get a ton of email and despise constantly moving back and forth to different apps to reference calendar appointments or files.
Acompli’s design isn’t as polished compared to some of the others, but it compensates with excellent functionality—it includes your Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, or OneDrive contents and calendar events right inside the app.

If you’re the business type with multiple meetings and events going on, or if you generally need to plow through a lot of mail during the day, then Acompli should possibly be on the top of your list. It supports Microsoft Exchange, Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud, and any IMAP account; it is optimized for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus as well.

Best for Exchange users: Mail+ for Outlook

mail plus for outlook
Mail+ for Outlook is a good choice for anyone with a Microsoft Exchange account.
Mail+ for Outlook ($6) follows the Exchange philosophy of putting all of your core needs right into one application: Email, contacts, calendar, and—unique among this app list—Outlook’s tasks. It connects to any Microsft Exchange and Outlook account.

It also does a better job than others at handling the formatting found in Outlook messages—like when you get a message from your coworker who uses five different colors in their email to highlight different information. Now you can see it on your iPhone or iPad.

While other apps on this list handle Exchange, I’d put this as the top choice if your core productivity takes place with Microsoft’s platform. It’s also optimized for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

All in with Google? Go with Gmail

gmail ios
Gmail is still a solid option for its integration with Google’s cloud services.
As someone who has also used Android, I can say with certainty the Gmail app for iOS isn’t as fast or robust as its Android counterpart. However, if you are a power Gmail user and rely on labels, Google’s search prowess, and the Googly design, then go with the Gmail app (free). It works with consumer Gmail and Google Apps for Work.

It supports up to five accounts, so you can check up on your personal and work email. It’s updated for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus so you don’t have to contend with an ugly and stretched out interface.
It’s still a little slower than what I would like, but it works and functions like Gmail, making it easier to transition from the desktop to mobile when powering through subscription offers, coupons, or (in my case) an excessive amount of PR emails.

If you’re a Gmail user who loves the Inbox Zero philosophy, than you should give Gmail’s Inbox (free) a shot, too, if you can score an invite.

Best for categorizing clutter: Inky Mail

inky mail
Pick what kind of messages you want to dive into with Inky Mail.
An email account can quickly fill with a mashup of coupons, travel deals, and shipping notices, so Inky Mail (free) works to filter these out—that way, you’re not rummaging through this deluge while looking for that hotel reservation. The app’s home screen has 15 different categories for actions and messages, including a unified inbox, personal messages, social, packages, maps, contacts, and subscriptions.

The Filtered Inbox is the most powerful tool for focusing on essential correspondence, as it strips out all the excessive newsletters and weekend sale notices. Once there you can swipe to the right to get back to the app’s home screen

The different inboxes have other helpful tools for cleaning things out and offer quick access to your email list’s “unsubscribe” links. It also offers a very helpful Today widget, which you can customize to show messages from one of your specific filters or the unified inbox.

Inky Mail is targeted more at consumer accounts, especially if you’d rather keep messages hanging around to avoid missing a great deal. it works with Gmail, iCloud, Outlook, AOL, Yahoo, IMAP, and POP accounts; Microsoft Exchange support is forthcoming.

Bottom line

Email is a hot app category that has new apps popping up all the time, each of which is designed to fit different needs and workflows. Though we think one of these apps will suit your style, most of them have free versions, so we encourage you to try a couple of them out to see what's best for you. If there’s an app you love and we didn’t cover it here, let us know about it in the comments.

How to update Windows the right way by Kim Komando

The second Tuesday of every month is an important day in the tech world. That's the day Microsoft releases its regular updates for Windows, Internet Explorer, Office and other products. Other tech companies, like Adobe, often release updates that day as well.

Microsoft used to call the day Patch Tuesday but it switched the name to Update Tuesday when it started including program updates along with security updates.

The security updates usually include fixes for serious security problems that hackers will take advantage of if you leave them unpatched. Program updates can be any new features that Microsoft wants to add to Windows.

Either way, if you want to keep your computer safe and get the latest features - which you do - it's important to install the updates as soon as they come out. Fortunately, you don't have to mark your calendar; you can set the updates to install automatically.

Even if you know the updates are automatic, there's still one very important step you need to do each month to make sure you're safe. I'll cover what that is further down.

On most Windows computers, updates are set to "automatic" by default, but it never hurts to double-check that you have the right settings in place.

In Windows 8, using a mouse, right-click in the lower right corner of the screen and choose Control Panel. If you're using a touch screen, swipe from the right of the screen and tap Settings>>Control Panel.

In Windows 7 and Vista, go to Start>>Control Panel.

In Control Panel, click System and Security and then under Windows Update click "Turn automatic updating on or off." Choose "Install updates automatically" in the drop down menu.

You can choose when the updates will install. Updating usually restarts the computer, so try to pick a time you won't be using the computer, like during the middle of the day for your home computer or late at night for an office computer.

You will need to have your computer on at that time for the updates to happen. Click here to learn why shutting down your computer when you're not using it isn't a bad thing.

Note: If you have automatic updates turned on, but the updates aren't installed yet, you might see a yellow security icon on the Shut Down button in your Start menu. You can click the button to shut down and install the security updates right away.

When you're in the update settings, you'll also see the option "Include recommended updates when downloading, installing, or notifying me about updates." This will also install updates that aren't critical, but that Microsoft recommends.

Of course, even with automatic updates turned on, you might not be as safe as you think.

Security firm OPSWAT ran a survey and found that 89% of Windows users have automatic updates turned on, but only 33% of those users have an up-to-date operating system in the days following an Update Tuesday.

What's going on? Well, most people are busy using their computer and tell Windows to wait to install the update. Windows will let you do that for three days before forcing you to update.

Unfortunately, by the time a security update comes out, hackers are usually taking advantage of the problems it fixes. Waiting three days to update is like getting a new security camera for your house because of a serious of burglaries in your area and then waiting three days to actually turn it on.
So, while it can be annoying to restart your computer in the middle of working on something, it pays to update as soon as you come to a reasonable stopping point. Or just leave your computer on and let it install the updates overnight.

Want to make sure the latest updates are installed? Go to Control Panel using the above directions, click Settings and Security and under Windows Update click "Check for updates." It will tell you if any updates need to be installed on your computer.

An updated computer is a good first step to staying safe from viruses and hackers. However, don't forget to install powerful security software as well.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Verizon 'supercookies' could be a boon to advertisers, hackers by Seth Rosenblatt

Supercookies could take a bigger bite out of your privacy than you think, say researchers. Here's what they're worried about.

It's bad enough that Verizon and AT&T have unleashed a new breed of "supercookie" that can track your every online move, even as you switch between your smartphone, tablet and TV. Far worse is the possibility of abuse by advertisers, governments and hackers, privacy experts warn.

"Any website you're going to end up on is going to get this supercookie," said Marc Maiffret, chief technology officer of cybersecurity company BeyondTrust. That opens the potential for these supercookies to be exploited by many more people than Verizon anticipated with its tracking program, he said.

Verizon, the largest mobile carrier in the US, uses information gleaned from its supercookies to understand your interests and concerns by tracking the websites you visit and links you click on. It then supplies that information to its advertisers so they can craft finely targeted advertising campaigns.

About 106 million of Verizon's consumer customers have been tracked this way for over two years by the company's Precision Market Insights program, according to a report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation published last week. AT&T tracks fewer customers, but only because the company says its program is still being tested.

Verizon and AT&T are the largest wireless carriers in the US.

"You're making it very difficult for people who want privacy to find it on the Internet," Paul Ohm, a senior policy adviser to the Federal Trade Commission and associate professor at the Colorado Law School, told The Washington Post, which reported the tracking programs last week.

Supercookies aren't called "super" for nothing. It's hard if not outright impossible to delete them. Verizon does allows customers to opt out of the tracking program: To opt out, consumers must unsubscribe from Precision Market Insights via Verizon's Wireless Web portal, its mobile app or over the phone.

"Customer privacy is a top priority. We never, ever share customer information with third-parties," said Verizon Wireless representative Adria Tomaszewski.

Verizon also changes its supercookie once a week, at the least. That's frequently enough to prevent third parties from exploiting Verizon's supercookie to their advantage, Tomaszewski said.

AT&T's supercookie is similar, although the company changes its supercookie every 24 hours and doesn't attach it after a customer deactivates it, the company told CNET News.

Cryptography researcher Kenneth White said his research indicates those supercookies never really go away.

And that's the problem, added Jacob Hoffman-Andrews, a senior technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Your identity can be [rebuilt] from the cookies," he said.
T-Mobile said it has no plans to use supercookies. Sprint didn't return a request for comment.

Home streaming 101: Tablet-smartphone-laptop-streaming gadget to your big screen by Komando

The days of just watching whatever happens to be on TV are coming to an end. On-demand streaming and download services let you watch what you want when you want.

While lots of my listeners would love to jump into the world of online streaming, the big question they often have is how to watch online videos on your TV screen. After all, not everyone wants to squint at a smartphone screen to watch their favorite show, or gather the family round a laptop for movie night.

Fortunately, getting your TV in on the streaming action isn't that hard. I've rounded up the most popular streaming options and I'll tell you what it takes to hook them into your TV. So, let's get started.

Before that, however, if you do want to watch broadcast TV - it's still the best way to get local news and sports after all - don't keep paying a monthly fee. Click here to learn how you can watch high-definition broadcasts for free.

OK, now back to streaming.

Streaming gadget

This is the obvious place to start. Streaming gadgets like the Roku, AppleTV, Fire TV, Nexus Player and others are built exactly for this purpose. Click here for the full details of the popular streaming gadgets.

Any of them will plug into your TV via a standard HDMI cable - HDMI is the main type of connector for home entertainment gear - and you're done. If you have an older TV without HDMI, you can get the Roku 1 or 2, which have component video connections for hooking up to older TVs.
Of course, a streaming gadget will set you back anywhere from $50 to $100. Plus, not every gadget supports every streaming service. AppleTV is the only one that supports iTunes, for example, and it doesn't support Amazon Instant Video. Click here to learn the pluses and minuses of the major streaming services.

Pros: Easy to setup and control
Cons: Pricey for some; One gadget won't support every service

Tablet/Smartphone

Most major streaming services have free smartphone and tablet apps to pick and watch videos. That means a tablet or smartphone makes a good streaming gadget, and you probably already own one.
You might even have an old one lying around you can re-purpose. Click here for more things you can do with an old smartphone or tablet.

The only downside - when you're not on the go - is the small screen. Fortunately, quite a few tablets - including my affordable new KomandoTab™ - and even some smartphones have an HDMI or micro-HDMI port.

You can plug a cable right from your tablet or smartphone into your TV, and start watching. That's easy, but it does mean getting up to start and stop the video, unless you have a long HDMI cable or sit close to the TV.

As an alternative, you can stream from your mobile gadget to the TV wirelessly with the $35 Chromecast. This USB-drive sized dongle plugs into a free HDMI port on your TV.
Your smartphone or tablet connects to the Chromecast wirelessly and streams video from a compatible streaming app - most popular streaming apps are compatible now. That way you can keep your tablet or smartphone close to control it.

Pros: You probably already own a tablet or smartphone, so it won't cost much
Cons: Not every phone or tablet supports every streaming service; Your phone or tablet might not have HDMI

Laptop/Desktop

The most powerful streaming gadget around is one you already have in your home - your computer. Unlike other streaming gadgets, it can stream from any online service or website through the Web browser.

Plus, you can load up home movies, photo slideshows or anything else you want to display. You can do this manually or grab an all-in-one media front-end program like Kobi (formerly XBMC).
Even better, connecting a computer to a TV isn't as hard as it might seem. Some computers already have an HDMI connector you can use to connect to a TV.

If you have an older computer, it might only have the older DVI or VGA connectors, but some TVs have those as well. You can also get DVI to HDMI adapters.

Note: VGA is so old it won't give you very good quality video, so don't bother using it. Click here for a full rundown of the difference between HDMI, DVI and VGA. If that's all your computer has, and you feel up to it, you can add a $70 third-party internal or external video card that has HDMI.

You can also use a Google Chromecast like I mentioned earlier to stream video from the Chrome browser on your computer to the TV. This won't be as flexible as connecting the computer directly, but at $35 it is less expensive and easier to set up.

The only other thing to think about is how to control the computer from a distance. Your best option is a wireless mouse and keyboard.

Pros: You probably have a computer that will work, so it won't cost much; Streams anything you can watch on your computer; Watch home videos or photo slideshows
Cons: Might need to add HDMI with a new video card or buy a Chromecast; Need a way to control the computer from a distance; May be out of place if you put it in your living room

Smart TV

Of course, you might be able to skip the extra hardware and just get a TV that can stream video on its own. Most TVs you'll find on sale now are "smart" TVs. They include apps that support most major streaming services, aside from iTunes, of course.

That does mean buying a whole new TV, which is going to be a bit expensive. So, you should only take this option if you're already planning to buy one. Click here for my essential HDTV buying guide.

Note also that smart TV software isn't quite as flexible or powerful as third-party options, unless you get one running Google's Android TV. And either way, until Apple makes a TV, no smart TV is going to connect to iTunes.

Pros: No extra hardware cluttering up your living room; Easy control
Cons: Expensive if you don't already own one; Limited future flexibility with streaming options and apps

How to simplify overlapping cloud storage services by Joe Kissell


There’s no shortage of choices for cloud storage, but that leads to another problem: how do you decide which services you truly need, and which files to put where? If you’ve signed up for as many cloud providers as you have files, it’s time for an intervention (or at least a moment of clear-headed contemplation).

I’ll admit it: I’m an online storage junkie. At one time or another I’ve synced files to the cloud using Amazon Cloud Drive, Amazon S3, Bitcasa, Box, DollyDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, SpiderOak, SugarSync, Wuala, and probably a few others I’m forgetting—not to mention using online backups from Backblaze, CrashPlan, and Mozy, and storing photos with services such as Flickr and SmugMug. Some of these services are free (at least for a limited amount of data) while others are inexpensive, but inexpensive times a dozen or more starts to hurt.

Meanwhile, I had the same folders syncing to three or four services simultaneously, which slowed down my Mac, wasted bandwidth, and tested the limits of my ISP’s monthly data transfer allowance.
The challenge was what to do about it. “Just pick one!” you may say. Fine, but if I pick Dropbox, then Google Docs can’t see my online files. If I pick Google Drive instead, then my iOS apps that support only iCloud won’t have access. And so on. Companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft benefit when you stay within their respective ecosystems, so they tend to make it easier to use their own cloud storage services than those of their competitors. (Microsoft’s recent decision to integrate Dropbox support in its Office apps for iOS—supplementing OneDrive—is a welcome exception.)
onedropbox
What is this madness? Microsoft letting me access Dropbox in Word for iOS? Wow. Now if only Google Docs would give me access to iCloud Drive.
Even if interoperability weren’t a problem, it’s not as though these various cloud storage services are otherwise interchangeable. Each one is different when it comes to matters such as privacy and security, saving older versions of files you’ve since modified or deleted, APIs for integration with third-party products, storage limits, and pricing.

Each person’s needs and preferences will vary, but I’d like to offer some tips based on my own experiences in simplifying cloud storage.

Look for broad compatibility

Whatever else you might say about Dropbox, far more apps support it than any other cloud service, particularly on iOS. (It’s also quite inexpensive, which doesn’t hurt.) Perhaps the scale will tilt toward iCloud Drive at some point, but even if that happens for iOS, Dropbox works on more platforms, including Android and Linux.
cloud services readdle
Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box are widely supported among iOS apps. This is a screenshot from Readdle's Documents. 
So I use Dropbox as my all-purpose cloud storage provider, and probably will for the foreseeable future. If you prefer to use, say, SugarSync for general-purpose cloud storage and all the apps you care about happen to support SugarSync natively, that’s terrific—but the odds are against it.

Eliminate redundancy

Offers of free (or cheap) storage are tempting, but don’t add an account just because you can. Each cloud storage account you use should serve a unique and useful purpose. I cancelled my accounts with several providers because they all duplicated capabilities I already got elsewhere. On the other hand, I keep Google Drive and iCloud Drive, despite their similarities, because each one offers features the other doesn’t: namely, integration with the provider’s proprietary software.

Don’t confuse cloud storage and cloud backups

Cloud backup services such as CrashPlan copy files to distant servers, and let you retrieve those files from another computer or an iOS app. That sounds a lot like cloud storage. On the other hand, Dropbox stores deleted files and old versions for 30 days, or up to a year if you pay extra for Extended Version History. That sounds a lot like cloud backup.
screenshot 2014 11 09 17.09.02
Dropbox keeps deleted files for 30 days, but don't confuse it with a backup service.
But services that specialize in storage are generally better at keeping your files in sync across devices, while services that specialize in backup are generally better at long-term retention and data restoration (and often have superior encryption, too). Each service meets a different need, so I don’t consider cloud storage and cloud backup of a given folder to be redundant. I use both.

Let each service stand alone

Suppose you use iCloud Drive because that’s what Keynote works best with, and Google Drive because that’s what Google Docs works best with. Fair enough—let each service hold its own documents. If the two sets of files sync independently with your Mac (and in most cases they will), that’s even better. But trying to sync all your documents between cloud services is usually a waste of effort (and perhaps, depending on how you do it, a waste of money). That brings me to the next point.

Use aggregators only as needed

Providers such as cloudHQ, Otixo, and ZeroPC let you aggregate cloud storage services—that is, after you connect all your accounts, you can see your documents from every provider in a single view in the Web or an iOS app, drag files from one service to another to copy or move them, and in some cases even sync files between cloud services.
otixo
Otixo is an aggregator that lets you see and search the files stored in many cloud services in one place, and move files between providers easily.
It’s a neat trick, and can be a big help if you have files scattered across many services. But although basic plans are free, you may have to pay as much as your cloud storage itself costs for full-featured aggregation. Besides, if you’re following the previous tip, you should seldom need to move files from one service to another—and even when you do, you can use your Mac as a conduit and avoid paying for a cloud-to-cloud transfer service.

Go off-cloud for privacy

A handful of cloud storage providers, including SpiderOak and Wuala, offer “zero-knowledge” encryption, which means your data is encrypted in such a way that the provider can’t decrypt it without your personal key, even if the government were to demand it. That’s great—I’m a huge fan of encryption—but because my favorite iOS apps don’t support these services, that severely limits their utility for me.

So, when privacy is important, I either encrypt a file myself before uploading it to Dropbox, or use a “personal cloud” product such as BitTorrent Sync, ownCloud, or Transporter, each of which has unique virtues.

As long as my favorite apps insist on keeping me locked into specific cloud storage services, I won’t be able to pick a single provider and stick with it. But I’ve already reduced my tally significantly, and if more developers make customer-friendly moves like the Microsoft-Dropbox partnership, choosing cloud storage services may be less of a hassle in the future.

Apple just fixed the issue that made it a nightmare to switch to Android by Kim Kon

There are plenty of reasons why even diehard iPhone users might want to switch to Android. Maybe you're fed up with Apple's iCloud privacy leaks. Maybe you don't want to pay so much money for the Apple logo and brand. Or you could just be attracted to Android's unique features and wide variety of phone choices.

Whatever your reasons, one big reason to stick with iPhone was a bug that could stop you from receiving text messages on your new phone from other iPhone users. Apple's known about this problem for years, but it's only fixed it now.

Whether it's because of legal pressure, consumer outcry or a new-found conscience, Apple's finally (and very quietly) released a new tool that can de-register your phone number from iMessage. I'll explain: When you use an iPhone, all your text messages are automatically routed through iMessage, which is Apple's proprietary text message program.

Apple has never played nice with other platforms. Whether you have a Mac, an iPad, and iPhone or any other Apple gadget, it's designed not to communicate well with PCs, Androids, Linux systems and the rest of them. It's all thanks to proprietary software; that's software that only Apple uses. Apple wants to lock you into its ecosystem, and that means only using Apple devices. So as long as you use Apple gadgets, the system works great. But step out from under Apple's umbrella and take your chances.

If you've switched to Android and kept the same SIM card or the same number, you can now de-register from iMessage even if you don't still have your old iPhone. In the past, you'd have to swap your SIM card back to the iPhone, disable iMessage and then swap it back.

Now you can just enter your phone number into this website, then enter the confirmation code you receive in a text message. It's so simple that it's ridiculous Apple has taken this long to implement it. We know why: Obviously Apple doesn't want you to switch. But that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do to make it so inconvenient to switch.

Switching from Android to iPhone or from iPhone to Android can be rough either way. Click here to read some really handy guides to making it painless.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Thanksgiving Day Foods that can kill your dog by ASPCA

Click on Read More to make this important chart larger

Friday, November 7, 2014

Microsoft announces the new Windows: 3 things you need to know by Kim Komando

Right this minute, more than 1 billion people around the world are using a computer or tablet running Microsoft Windows or a smartphone with Windows Phone. I know plenty of you are reading this on a Windows-powered gadget.

So when Microsoft takes the wraps off a new Windows version that could be in millions of households within a year or two, it's kind of a big deal.

Not only that, Microsoft has a lot riding on the next version of Windows. Its last offering, Windows 8, was a big miss with consumers and businesses - as I predicted even before it came out - thanks to its radical interface and confusing app system.

So, can Microsoft turn it around? It has before - the fantastic Windows 7 followed the poorly received Windows Vista as a recent example.

It only remains to be seen if the new Windows can make up for Windows 8's missteps. So, without further ado let me now introduce you to the next Windows.

1. The name

Microsoft has an uneven history with names. It can never make up its mind on how to label Windows, from version numbers (Windows 1 to 3.11) to years (95, 98, 2000) to acronyms and imagery (NT, ME, XP, Vista) and back to version numbers again (7, 8, 8.1).

So, what was it going to be this time? Going in to the event, the tech world was making bets between Windows 9, Windows Threshold ("Threshold" being the development name) or just plain Windows.

What we got instead was - wait for it - Windows 10.

It seems Microsoft decided to stick with version numbers, but completely skipped 9. Maybe it just finally wanted to catch up to Apple's OS X.

Or, as the speaker suggested in the Q&A after the presentation, Windows 10 is such a big step Microsoft wanted an appropriately big milestone name.

2. The plan

And Microsoft does have big plans for Windows 10. It hopes to make Windows 10 work on every gadget from desktops and laptops to smartphones and tablets.
Windows_Product_Family_9-30-Event-741x416
In fact, the speaker at the presentation joked that Microsoft would have called it "Windows One" if it hadn't already used that back in 1985.

There are a few advantages to this. There will be one store, so apps you buy on your smartphone will work on your desktop and vice versa.

Microsoft is also taking a "mobile first, cloud first" approach. So, presumably, your information will sync with Microsoft's OneDrive so it's the same across every Windows gadget you own.

Of course, Microsoft already tried the "one size fits all" approach with Windows 8 and you saw how that turned out. The mobile features messed up the computer experience and the computer features messed up the mobile experience.

So, why is Windows 10 going to be any different?

3. The fix

Unlike Windows 8, Windows 10 will configure itself for the gadget you're using. So, on desktops and laptops you'll get a Windows 7/XP experience with a Start Menu, taskbar and everything you'd expect.

The Start Menu will have Windows 8-style live tiles that you can customize and resize to look and work however you want. It also features an upgraded universal search.
Tech-Preview_Start-menu-500x281
Apps will load in windows so you can use them on the desktop like any other program.
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In other words, everything is more or less back to the way it was in Windows 7. What's old is new again.

On the new-features front, Windows 10 will also have support for virtual desktops and a new "task view" that makes it easier to see every program that's running.
Tech-Preview_Task-view-500x281
You can see the new/old way it works in action here:

If you have a touch screen computer, of course, some of Windows 8's touch-based features like the Start Screen, Charm bar and edge swiping will stick around. Plus, buttons and other interface elements will automatically customize to be easier to tap.

On tablets and smartphones, Windows 10 will continue to show the Start Screen and live tiles from Windows 8 and Windows Phone, and it's dropping the clumsy-on-a-small-screen "desktop" view. That's actually a good thing, because that's what the Start Screen was originally made to do, and does well.

The verdict

It's actually hard to say at this point how things will turn out. Microsoft didn't go into too much detail at the presentation.

It was mostly to give developers an overview before they download the technical preview.
I will say that Microsoft is saying the right things and the early indications are this could be the next Windows 7. As for its dream of having the same operating system across every gadget, that's a bit more ambitious.

Also, plenty of people are going to be using Android and Apple gadgets with Windows, and there's no word on any plans to integrate those any better than they are now.

Microsoft is going to do a more detailed unveiling in April when Windows 10 is closer to completion. It expects to ship Windows 10 mid-2015. No word yet on pricing or if the rumors of a free upgrade from Windows 8.1 is true.

Stay tuned, though, and I'll let you know the latest as it happens.