Google+ March 2015 ~ High Tech House Calls

Do Dogs Really Miss Us?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Last chance: Watch these Netflix movies while they last, plus what's new in April by Kim Komando

It's that time again! Licenses for individual movies and TV shows are set to expire on Netflix at the end of the month, so that means it's time to watch certain titles before they disappear forever. But don't worry, the streaming video service also regularly adds news films as well.

So what's going to be new in April? And what should you watch before it goes away at the end of March? We've got lots to look forward to. There are new episodes of "All Hail King Julien," you can catch Simon Pegg's "Hot Fuzz" and a new Netflix original special, "Derek."

But first, don't miss these favorite titles before they disappear. Comedy classics like "Coneheads" and "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" will be hitting the old dusty trail, along with the entire "Friday the 13th" series and "The Karate Kid" parts 1 through 3.

Get your sweatpants on, fire up the popcorn, grab a blanket and enjoy! It's binge-watching time! 

What's going - Last chance to watch!

  • 28 Hotel Rooms
  • Annie
  • Astonishing X­-Men: Dangerous
  • Astonishing X­-Men: Torn
  • Astonishing X­-Men: Unstoppable
  • Baby Genius: A Trip to the San Diego Zoo
  • Baby Genius: Animal Adventures
  • Chalet Girl
  • Clue
  • Color Splash Collection: Collection 1
  • Coneheads
  • Friday the 13​th
  • Friday the 13th: Part 2
  • Friday the 13th: Part 3
  • Friday the 13th: Part 4: The Final Chapter
  • Friday the 13th: Part 6: Jason Lives
  • Friday the 13th: Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
  • Get Shorty
  • Good Morning, Vietnam
  • Guess Who
  • Inventing the Abbotts
  • Jane Eyre
  • Jeepers Creepers
  • Jeepers Creepers 2
  • Les Miserables
  • Madeline
  • Miral
  • Murder by Numbers
  • Mystic Pizza
  • Mystic River
  • Pee­-Wee’s Big Adventure
  • Philadelphia
  • Reindeer Games
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Shadow of the Vampire
  • Taking Lives
  • The Amityville Horror
  • The Cable Guy
  • The Karate Kid
  • The Karate Kid Part II
  • The Karate Kid Part III
  • The Quick and the Dead
  • The Whole Nine Yards
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Paranormal Activity 4: Unrated Edition
  • The Woman Who Wasn’t There

What's new

Note: Not all titles will be available April 1st. They will gradually be rolled out over the course of the month.

Document Shredding Event by Keep Smyrna Beautiful

Securely shred documents and donate shoes at KSB event
Date: 9/13/2014 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Cost: Free
Location: Wolfe Adult Recreation Center
884 Church Street
Smyrna, Georgia 30080

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The 5 Best Ways to Backup Digital Photos by J.R. Bookwalter

Digital photography — particularly on your iPhone, iPod, or iPad —  has many advantages over traditional film, but unfortunately, security isn’t really one of them. Unlike prints or negatives, digital images can be lost forever in a catastrophic hard drive failure, or even accidentally deleted with a few clicks of the mouse. Here are a few ways for Apple users to make sure those digital memories don’t vanish before their eyes.

Store Photos Across Multiple Libraries

The best offense for any potential disaster is a good defense: The latest versions of Apple’s Aperture ($79.99, Mac App Store) or iPhoto (free, Mac App Store) not only share the same library format now, they also allow users to access multiple libraries — even those spread across different storage media. This process is easier with Aperture since the feature is baked into the software, but with a keyboard shortcut or third-party application like iPhoto Library Manager ($29.95,, the same trick works in iPhoto as well.

The concept is simple: Move older, unused, and duplicate images to a separate library stored on an external drive, preferably one that doesn’t see daily use. By launching Aperture or iPhoto with the Option key held down, you can easily switch between libraries at will; with the application open, File > Switch to Library does the same. This tip works best when libraries are stored on some kind of redundant storage like a Drobo or network-attached storage (NAS), or in conjunction with the advice offered in our next method, which also has the benefit of freeing up precious internal space on modern flash storage drives.

Aperture (and iPhoto) can take advantage of multiple libraries, which can be stored anywhere you’d like.

Archive Photos in the Cloud

If you happen to be a person who isn’t very proactive about keeping a good backup of digital photos, syncing them to the cloud is a great way to “set it and forget it.” There are an endless variety of services with Mac desktop clients, and many of them offer generous amounts of free or cheap storage as well. Some of the more popular options include Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, MediaFire, and Bitcasa, and many offer mobile apps that can be configured to automatically back up the Camera Roll of iOS devices.

The same services also work with libraries from desktop applications like iPhoto, Aperture, or Adobe Lightroom, although you’ll want to make sure to save these files in a folder on internal or external storage that’s set up to sync from desktop to cloud for faster local access, rather than a network-based drive dependent upon internet access; Bitcasa offers such an option, and other cloud services can do the same using software like ExpanDrive ($49.95,

Use free or cheap cloud storage to back up digital photos from, no matter where they might reside.

Use Cloud Photo Services as a Backup

Speaking of the cloud, mobile shutterbugs are increasingly embracing the convenience of carrying entire photo collections in their pocket. Services like Picturelife, Adobe Revel, and ThisLife make it easy to back up photos from iOS or Android devices as well as Mac or PC, providing an additional layer of security plus the tools necessary to organize and edit photos from anywhere, no matter which device or web browser you happen to be on at the time.

However, consumers should be wary of putting all their eggs in one basket. As the demise of startup Everpix in late 2013 taught us, nothing is forever. Remember Kodak Gallery? (They wound up being bailed out by Shutterfly, the online print service that now owns ThisLife.) While Revel is backed by longtime software giant Adobe, companies launch, promote, and eventually fold products all the time. It’s a good idea to find one you like and stick with it, but also use apps like Amazon Photos (which offers free photo storage for Prime members) or otherwise import backup copies on the desktop for redundancy.

Services like Shutterfly offer a great way to get redundant storage for digital photos, but we wouldn’t rely on just one of them.

Print Them Out (Just in Case)

Unless your hobby is scrapbooking or you grew up in the Fotomat generation (kids, ask your parents), printing out thousands of digital photos might seem like a waste of money, time, and trees. Just because we’re so enamored with paperless photos now, the time may come where having a closet full of prints might be preferred or even come in handy. At the very least, they’re a decent hard copy that can be used to scan back into the computer, should the worst-case scenario transpire and your digital memories get wiped out.

Thankfully, prints are reasonably inexpensive these days. Services like Shutterfly offer unlimited photo storage from desktop or mobile devices (and that counts as another backup, score!), and are quite aggressive with weekly deals to make prints, custom books, and other photo-based products on the cheap. And don’t forget your local drugstore — Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, and others offer similar services with the convenience of being able to pick them up in store and save a bundle on shipping.

Photo prints offer a hardcopy backup of your treasured memories if the digital files ever disappear.

Backup, Rinse, Repeat

Last but not least, we can’t stress enough the importance of backing up your digital photos (and while we’re at it, videos, too). Many consumers don’t even bother printing their photos anymore since they can easily carry entire collections on a smartphone or tablet. These files are effectively your “negatives,” and should be treated as such — even if that means offloading a copy onto some form of storage media and shoving it in a shoebox, similar to what generations past did with the real thing.
Of course, keeping two copies of your digital photos in the same location isn’t necessarily a good idea, either. A fire, flood, or other natural disaster could wipe out everything you own in a heartbeat, which is where offline storage comes into play. Services like CrashPlan ($5.99 per month,, Carbonite ($59.99 per year,, or LiveDrive ($6 per month, can securely back up entire desktop systems (including the digital photos stored there) for pennies per day without user interaction.

Now would also be a great time to invest in a new high-capacity USB 3.0 external hard drive (they’re quite cheap these days), and flip on Time Machine, the built-in backup software that comes standard with OS X. Many inexpensive NAS devices also support Time Machine, and products from Synology, ASUSTOR, and others can even access files remotely via mobile apps. Just be sure to make a backup of your backup every few years in case the original drive decides to meet its maker!

No matter how you decide to archive your digital photos, software like Time Machine offers a one-click way to keep them backed up, just in case.

4 tricks for Messages in iOS 8 by Ben Patterson

The standard iOS Messages app—you know, the app you use daily for trading all those text messages, photos, and videos—can do much more than you might think. Not only can you forward any text messages you receive, you can also find out when a given message was sent or received, shush an annoying group thread, and sync Messages between your iOS device and your Mac.

Forward a message

messages fwd button
To forward a message, tap and hold it, then select More, and tap the forward arrow in the bottom-right.
Sounds simple, but forwarding a text or picture message to someone else on an iOS device isn't easy if you've never done it before.

In the name of creating the flattest, most Spartan interface possible, the forward controls are hidden behind a few touch gestures.

Tap and hold the message you'd like to forward; when you do, a pop-up with a few different buttons (such as "Copy" and "Speak") will appear. Tap the More button, then tap the little forward-arrow in the bottom-right corner of the screen.

Find out when a text message was sent or received

texting tips 2 Image: Ben Patterson
Got iOS? Tap and hold a message, then drag it from right to left to reveal its time stamp.
If you're switching over from an Android device, you might notice something missing from your messages on iOS: time stamps on each text message within a particular thread. Sure, you'll see a date and time stamp marking each individual burst of text messages in a thread, but nothing for each individual message—that is, unless you know this particular little trick.

Tap and hold a text message, then pull it gently from right to left; when you do, you'll reveal a column of time stamps on the right.

Silence an annoying group thread 

texting tips 3 Image: Ben Patterson
Want to shush an annoying group thread? Open the message thread, tap Details, then flip the Do Not Disturb switch.
Ever get stuck on a group text-messaging thread that just won't stop? If you've got an iPhone or iPad running iOS 8, there's an easy way to shush the chatter.

Open the group thread that's bugging you, tap the Details button in the top corner, scroll down and flip the Do Not Disturb switch.

Ah, the sound of silence.

Delete old text and picture messages automatically

An individual text message takes up a miniscule amount of data on your phone, but eventually, all little messages will start to add up—particularly if there are pictures or video clips attached.
Luckily, Messages has a handy setting that'll trash older text and picture messages automatically, perfect for keeping your phone's storage from getting junked up with ancient threads:

Tap Settings > Messages, then scroll down and tap Keep Messages (under the Message History heading). Then just decide how long you'd like to keep old text messages before they're deleted: for 30 days, a whole year, or forever and ever. In case you're wondering, no—there aren't any custom settings.

See all the photos and videos in a message thread 

texting tips 6 Image: Ben Patterson
The latest version of Messages for iOS lets you view all the photos and video clips in a given message thread at once.
A huge message thread with a loved one is likely riddled with pictures and video clips from days, weeks, or even months ago, making it quite a challenge to scroll all the way back in search of a specific snapshot.

The good news, though, is that the latest version of Messages for iOS 8 lets you view all the photos and video clips in a given message thread all at once.

Open a thread, then tap the Details button in the top corner of the screen. Scroll down to the Attachments section, and there you go: Every picture, video clip, sound file, or any other attachment you've traded with a fellow texter will be right there, ready to be saved, forwarded, printed, or simply opened.

The only thing you can't do with the files in the Attachments section is select them all at once—or batch-delete them (or delete them at all, actually). An annoying omission, no question.

True or false: Do these 7 tech tips really work? by Kim Komando

Some tech advice is so common that no one really stops to think about where it came from. It's just repeated from tech to tech, tech to user and user to user as gospel.

But technology keeps evolving at a fast pace. So, is advice that's years or even decades old really still good today? Could it even hurt modern technology?

That's what we're going to look at. From "reboot" to "more is better" to "just hit it," I've got the real scoop on seven common tech tips. Some are still true, but there are a few false ones you might believe.

Let's start with one you've heard if you've ever dealt with tech support of any kind. It's so simple.

"Did you try rebooting it?"

If you've ever gone to tech support with a problem, this is probably the question they immediately asked. Rebooting seems like their solution to every problem.

And in many cases, rebooting is the best solution. It gives your gadget a chance to refresh itself and shake loose any errors that might have piled up. Click here for a more in-depth look at why rebooting works.

Verdict: True

"Leave it unplugged for 30 seconds"

This is another tech support favorite. They'll tell you to turn off a computer or unplug a modem and leave it off for 15 to 30 seconds. Is that delay really necessary?

Your modem - and most of your tech gear - contains capacitors. These hold a charge for at least 10 seconds after the power is off. Most people wait 30 seconds or more to make sure the capacitors discharge completely.

While there's a charge, your gadget's RAM is still active. That means whatever problem you're trying to fix isn't wiped out. If you plug the gadget in right away, the problem just comes back.

So, while it may seem weird or unnecessary, you should always wait after you unplug.

Verdict: True

"Don't shut down your computer at night"

Some people will tell you to never shut down your computer. They believe that the more you turn it on and off, the more likely you are to damage it.

While this was true in the early PC days, it's not a problem now. Your computer won't get wear and tear from frequent shutdowns. In fact, you can actually save power and money on your electric bill.
However, that doesn't mean you have to shut down every night. So, how do you know whether or not you should shut down once you're done surfing? I'll give you my guidelines in this must-read tip.

If you want the benefits of shutting down without the hassle of rebooting, learn about your computer's Sleep and Hibernate modes.

It isn't just computers that you can turn off. Find out if you should shut down your smartphone and tablet regularly.

Verdict: False

"Just press the power button to turn off your computer"

Turning off modern computers is quite a process. You have to go to Start>>Shutdown. Then you have to wait for it to do who knows what before finally turning off.

Some people prefer to just hit the power button (on modern computers you have to hold it for 5 to 10 seconds for a hard shutdown), or flip the Off switch on their power strip. It's much faster.

In the old days, hard shutdowns weren't really a problem. In fact, in the days of DOS and Windows 3.1, that's how computers were shut down normally.

You don't want to do that with modern operating systems, however. They do a lot of work in RAM, which requires constant power. When a computer shuts down, it takes time to make sure everything important is safely on the hard drive.

If you just kill the power, you might lose important data. You could even cause operating system errors down the road. I recommend shutting down the right way. Only kill the power if your computer is already frozen.

Verdict: False

"You must have a screensaver"

Who doesn't love screensavers? They can be a great expression of your hobbies and interests. They're even moving off of computers and onto other gadgets. In fact, I use a great photo screensaver on my HDTV.

Originally, however, screensavers were meant to literally save your screen. Old-fashioned CRT monitors would burn in if left on the same image too long.

Today's LCD and LED monitors don't have that problem. Unless you have a dinosaur of a monitor, you don't actually need a screensaver. Now, they're just for fun.

Tired of the default screensavers? I know a site that will give you a cool screensaver you'll really love watching.

Verdict: False

"More is better"

The history of technology is a race for "more." Cars need more horsepower, more legroom and more trunk space. Planes need more speed, more carrying capacity and more altitude.

Digital technology isn't any different. Back in the '90s and '00s, computers needed more processor speed, more RAM and more hard drive space.

For digital cameras, we needed more megapixels. Even now, we want smartphones with bigger screens and faster cellular.

"More" makes it easy to decide what to buy. And manufacturers and marketers love "more" because people will always buy the next bigger and better product.

But more has kind of had its day. In many areas, technology has outgrown the needs of the average person. Any inexpensive point-and-shoot camera takes fine pictures. Any budget computer is usable for most tasks. The list goes on.

The key these days isn't "more," it's balance. If a gadget has one great spec but skimps on everything else, it's not a good deal.

Decide your budget and what you need the gadget to do. Then buy based on that. You might be surprised how much money you can save.

Need some advice? I'll help you shop for the right specs for your budget with buying guides.

Verdict: False

"When it doesn't work, just hit it."

In the olden days, when computers and other electronics had lots of potentially loose connections, this absolutely worked.

Today, it probably won't do much to fix a problem. But it certainly feels good to show that gadget who's the boss!

Verdict: If you feel like it

Microsoft is giving away free Office 365 subscriptions by Kim Komando

College students might have to survive on ramen noodles and dig through the couch cushions to find extra spending money, but at least they won't have to pay for the software they use to finish their homework. That's because Microsoft is giving away Office 365 packages to students at participating colleges and universities.

At first, the free Office 365 offer was only good for students in the U.S. But, Microsoft has expanded it to apply to students around the globe in countries where the product is available.

With the free subscription, students will have access to a bunch of great programs and features like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access, Publisher and 1 TB of cloud storage space on Microsoft OneDrive. They'll also have access to Microsoft's Office Online tools, too.

To take advantage of the offer, you just need to sign up through Microsoft's website using your school email address. Enter your email address into the website and it will tell you if you're eligible

Schools will have to buy subscriptions for staff and faculty, but once they do, students (and even teachers) can self-install for no charge by using a school-issued email address at the Office in education website.

With the free Microsoft Office 365 package, students can install the suite of programs on up to five computers and five gadgets. Not a student? Click here to learn how to get Microsoft Office on your gadgets for free.

Throw away your fax machine and use these apps instead by Jason Cipriani

When I was growing up, that screeching sound now most commonly associated with a dial-up modem wasn’t emitted from a computer. The sound came from a heap of plastic and buttons called a fax machine. As digital communications took over, faxing declined, but some agencies and large corporations still rely on faxing documents instead of emailing them. Looking at you, government offices.

But honestly, how many of us actually own a fax machine? If you said yes, is it actually hooked up to a dedicated phone line? If you answered no to either one of those questions, or are looking for a way to cut back on expenses for your small business, an iOS app might work just as well.

I slogged through a metric ton of apps that claim to let you send a fax from your iPad or iPhone. The final contenders are a bit of a mixed bag: Some look right at home on iOS, but lack a few features or cost a lot. Others are in need of a redesign yet offer a solid feature set at a fraction of the price.

A few scanning apps incorporate the ability to share a document via fax, but for the purposes of this week’s column I focused solely on apps built to send and receive faxes. Scanning apps will be covered later, I promise.

JotNot Fax

It isn’t new, but JotNot Fax has seen an uptick in updates and changes for both iOS 7 and iOS 8. The free app doesn’t allow you to receive faxes, but it does streamline the process of sending a fax.
jotnot fax
Launch the app, tap New Fax and select the source of your faxed document. You can import a PDF (and only a PDF) from Dropbox, Google Drive, or Box, or use the iOS 8 share extension to send a document from the another app to JotNot Fax. From there, you enter the number to send the fax to and indicate if you want to include a cover page.

You need to have credits in your account to send the fax; one credit translates to one page. Credits start at $1 each, and a pack of 20 is $15.

Genius Fax

Genius Fax offers the ability to both send and receive a fax. As with JotNot, you can send a fax by importing a PDF or image. You can even use the camera on your iOS device to “scan” a document.
genius fax
Sending a single-page fax will set you back $1. Or you could buy credit for 10 pages for $7 or 50 pages for $20. Additionally, you can even get your own fax number, for $4 per month, with discounts for buying three or six months. That lets you receive faxes as well as send them, but you still need to buy credits to send or receive—the charge for the number is separate.


When you first signup for eFax, you’re assigned a fax number. You’re immediately able to receive a fax (without restriction), but the ability to send is hidden behind a monthly subscription. In order to do that, you’ll need to sign up for a monthly plan of $17. That plan includes 150 inbound and 150 outbound pages per month, with an overage fee of $0.10 per page.
Unlike the other apps I tested, eFax not only emails you a copy of an incoming fax, but also sends a push notification—which is good, because the email attachment of your is an .EFX extension, something both iOS and OS X is unable to open. (Which is bad.)

Fax Burner

Fax Burner is my favorite app out of the bunch, based strictly on the fact I was able to both send and receive a fax using a custom phone number for free within seconds of signing up. (On looks alone, JotNot Fax wins, but looks aren’t everything.)
fax burner
With this app you can send and receive messages using a fax number that expires after 24 hours. Once the number has expired, you’re then reassigned a new number. You can hold onto a number for a year with an in-app purchase of $99.

The free account provides for a quick way to exchange important documents with a few limitations. A free account is limited to five total documents sent over the lifetime of the account, but you can receive 25 documents each month.

For someone who only sporadically has the need to send or receive a fax, Fax Burner’s constantly changing number and limitations is a nonissue. For someone who requires the same number, or higher allotments for sharing documents the yearly plan is ideal.

Boost your Android gadget's battery life by Kim Komando

Boost your Android gadget's battery life
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Your Android smartphone or tablet is truly an amazing piece of technology. But like so many of our high-tech gadgets these days, it has a weakness that can make it all come screaming to a halt: the battery. The truth is, battery technology has hardly kept up with the leaps and bounds made in processors, memory and super-sharp, crystal-clear screens. But battery life is not just about how long a single charge lasts, it's also about how long the battery lasts before it finally has to be replaced. 

That's what makes protecting your Android's battery so important. Phone store employees and tech reporters have been known to offer up some wildly differing advice about what you should be doing with your battery. And hey, as a tech guru myself, I've been asked a ton of questions about batteries, too. Recently, I've noticed that some sources are giving some not-so-perfect advice. Some of the things that I've heard recommended can actually end up hurting your phone or tablet in the long run.

Worst of all, you might keep doing what they told you to do even after you've cut your battery life. Most of these iffy suggestions aren't all that noticeable and can be tough for even the pros to diagnose.

Today's Android tip debunks a few of these battery-life myths. Fixing some of these misconceptions could save you from having to buy your phone or tablet a new battery before you'd normally have to.

Myth #1: You don't need to turn your phone off

The biggest Android mistake that I see on a day-to-day basis is also the easiest one to fix. Let's get one thing straight: Just because your Android gadget is sleeping, doesn't mean that it's actually "resting."

When you and I sleep, we shut everything down for 8 hours. When a computer sleeps, it temporarily suspends all of its running programs to conserve power.

Turning your phone off shuts down all of the excess apps and services that it's powering. I usually tell people to try shutting down their phone whenever it's running slowly or draining battery quicker than it should.

To turn off your phone, press and hold the power button. Then select the "shut down" or "turn off" option that should pop up. You can turn your gadget back on again by holding down the power button.

Bust these energy myths to boost battery life on your Apple gadget by Kim Komando

Bust these energy myths to boost battery life on your Apple gadget

Your iPhone or iPad is truly an amazing piece of technology. But like so many of our high-tech gadgets these days, it has a weakness that can make it all come screaming to a halt: the battery. The truth is, battery technology has hardly kept up with the leaps and bounds made in processors, memory and super-sharp, crystal-clear screens. But battery life is not just about how long a single charge lasts, it's also about how long the battery lasts before it finally has to be replaced. That's what makes protecting your Apple's battery so important. Phone store employees and tech reporters have been known to offer up some wildly differing advice about what you should be doing with your battery. And hey, as a tech guru myself, I've been asked a ton of questions about batteries, too. Recently, I've noticed that some sources are giving some not-so-perfect advice. Some of the things that I've heard recommended can actually end up hurting your phone or tablet in the long run.
Worst of all, you might keep doing what they told you to do even after you've cut your battery life. Most of these iffy suggestions aren't all that noticeable and can be tough for even the pros to diagnose.

Today's Apple tip debunks a few of these battery-life myths. Fixing some of these misconceptions could save you from having to buy your phone or tablet a new battery sooner than you should have to.

Myth #1: Off-brand charge cables are bad for your device

One of the most expensive mistakes that so-called tech gurus will tell you to make is to only buy charging cables through Apple. Sure, the company does make some quality products, but those branded versions come at a pretty hefty cost.

Having to pay a premium for a cord that keeps your gadget powered up, then, can start to get really expensive if you're always on the go. Off-brand cables aren't dangerous, but they can sometimes require a little extra research.

One of the best things about Apple gadgets is that you always know what you're buying. When it comes to cables, though, all that you really want is for the cable to successfully charge your devices.
Most phones that connect your iPod/iPhone/iPad to a power source are pretty much interchangeable. You can find a wide variety of all-purpose chargers in my shop. Be sure to check out:
If you're buying a laptop charger, however, you're going to want to be a little more careful. Different MacBooks require different power outputs. Failure rate is also something to consider, which is when you should look to Amazon reviews and a few well-placed Google searches to make sure that the $20-$60 you're saving on power cables isn't too good to be true.

Myth #2: Turning off your phone is a waste of time

The biggest battery-related mistake that I see on a day-to-day basis is also the easiest one to fix. Let's get one thing straight: Just because your iPhone or iPad is sleeping, doesn't mean that it's actually "resting."

When you and I sleep, we shut everything down for 8 hours. When a computer sleeps, it temporarily suspends all of its running programs to conserve power.

Turning your phone off shuts down all of the apps and services that it's powering. I usually tell people to try shutting down their phone whenever it's running slowly or draining battery quicker than it should.

To turn off your phone, press and hold the power button. Then select the "shut down" or "turn off" option that should pop up. You can turn your gadget back on again by holding down the power button.

Myth #3: Your gadget should be on a charge cable if you're near one

Charging your phone is a basic everyday task, but too much of a good thing really can hurt your gadget's battery life. Charging your gadget from empty to full is great, but leaving your battery on charge after it's full can cut a swath through your phone's long-term battery life.

Luckily, most modern cellphone batteries "trickle charge" themselves, which means that once your gadget hits 100% charge, it'll stop charging until it drops to 99%, then bounces back to 100%.

If you leave your phone on your car charger or outside, then that's where things get hairy. As an Arizonan, I can tell you that leaving your phone in your car (even off-charger) can heat up your device.

If you leave your gadget in a hot car with a full charge, then you put yourself at much higher risk for losing your overall battery life.

If you want to know just how risky it is, look no further than Battery University's chart comparing what happens when you store a lithium-ion battery for three months at 40% charge and 100% charge at various temperatures.
Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 4.14.56 PM
The hotter it is, the quicker your gadget's overall battery life starts draining. So, don't worry too much about overcharging your gadget. What you should worry about, though, is turning off your gadget with a full battery and the temperature of the place where you store it.

Bottom line: Heat is the mortal enemy of batteries. Keep your gadget cool and properly powered to conserve its overall battery life.

Myth #4: Wi-Fi and 3G are the biggest drains on your battery

While it's true that Wi-Fi and 3G can drain your battery, I think that it's more important to understand why Internet connectivity can be an energy vampire. Whenever you receive an email update without actually opening your email app and refreshing, something called background app refreshing is happening.

Many apps check in with the Internet frequently to alert you of new messages, emails or new Candy Crush levels. These frequent check-ins can tax your phone's processing power, which boosts its energy usage.

Unlike what some would tell you, though, you can still get notifications from the apps you want while disabling the ones that you don't.

All that you have to do is open up Settings>>General>>Background App Refresh. You should see a list of every app on your phone that uses the Internet while your phone is sleeping.

Smartphone Comparison Charts by kim Kommando

There are so many great smartphones out there, I couldn't fit them all on one chart anymore. Click one of the links below for the chart of your choice.

High-end smartphone comparison chart: The best of the best with a screen size of less than 5.5 inches. From the iPhone 6 to the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the super-affordable Moto X, this is where you want to shop for the latest and greatest.

Mid-level smartphone comparison chart: If you don't need the best, but still want a solid performer at a reasonable price, look here. This is where the iPhone 5s, Samsung Galaxy S4 and other titans of yesteryear hang out.

Phablet comparison chart: Looking for plenty of screen real estate to watch the latest movie or get work done on the go? These smartphone/tablet hybrids all have screen sizes of 5.5 inches or higher. You'll find the iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Nexus 6, along with others.

Free smartphone comparison chart: You can find plenty of great smartphones for free with a two-year contract. If you're looking to save money without losing quality, check out this chart. It includes the iPhone 5c.

Stop this Windows update now by Kim Kommando

Stop this Windows update now
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Update 3/12: Some Windows 7 users are reporting that the update left their computers stuck in a reboot loop. The culprit was found out to be a file called MS Update 3033929, which helps the computer figure out whether a file is authentic or not.

If you have this update installed on your Windows 7 PC, then you'll want to avoid restarting your computer until Microsoft can release a fix. If you don't, then be sure to install all of the Patch Tuesday updates except for MS Update 3033929.

The third Patch Tuesday of 2015 has come and gone. It brought fixes for more than three dozen security vulnerabilities across all Microsoft products. Three of these updates have been marked "critical," which is the highest rating that a vulnerability can receive.

Most important is a fix for the FREAK bug, which Apple patched on Monday. The FREAK bug, if you didn't catch my coverage so far, lets hackers remotely execute code on vulnerable computers. Find out more about the bug here.

Also patched was the vulnerability that security experts suspect was exploited by cyberespionage agents to delay Iran's nuclear ambitions. The HP Tipping Point blog explains:
Stuxnet was extremely notorious given the fact that it was highly complex and specifically targeted certain Siemens SCADA systems. Significant research organizations concluded that the level of investment required to develop Stuxnet must only have been possible with the backing of one or more nation-states.

Given the implications for large-scale cyber warfare and the length it remained undetected in the systems it targeted only made the worm more deadly.

This bug has gone unpatched since 2010, but it's fixed as of today. Your computer probably updated automatically, but it may not have. To find out how to figure out if automatic updates are enabled on your computer, then click here.

Information regarding an issue with the signature file in Panda Cloud Office Protection and Retail 2015 by Marta Lopez

The signature file has already been replaced, so this situation should not recur. Nonetheless, we advise our customers not to restart your computer. At Panda Security we are working to restore the situation at the endpoint as soon as possible.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We will keep you informed at all times.

*** SOLUTION  – Thursday, 3:36 (CET)

The signature file was repaired immediately. Additionally, a solution for all affected products has been automatically deployed. However, in certain environments it is possible for the incident to persist. To verify if this is the case of your computer, please follow the steps below:
Scenario 1: The computer boots up normally
Please, follow the steps below:
    1. Run cmd (command line) as administrator.
    2. From the cmd window, type in the following and press Enter after each stop psinprot
      sc stop psinaflt
      sc stop nanoservicemain
    3. Run the ps-recovery.exe file as administrator. To do so, right-click the file and select Run as administrator.
  1. Restart the computer and check the issue is solved.
Scenario 2: The computer cannot login in Windows
Please follow the steps below:
    1. Start your computer in Safe Mode.
    2. Run cmd (command line) as administrator.
    3. From the cmd window, type in the following and press Enter after each stop psinprot
      sc stop psinaflt
      sc stop nanoservicemain
    4. Run the ps-recovery.exe file as administrator. To do so, right-click the file and select Run as administrator.
  1. Restart the computer and check the issue is solved.

*** UPDATE – Wednesday, 21:20 (CET)
The solution which restores the quarantined files has been automatically deployed in all the affected products. We are working on a tool to be installed on those computers which require a manual installation of the solution. We will update the information as soon as it is ready.
You have all the updated info in the following link:

This free anti-virus software actually wrecks computers by Kim Kommando

This free anti-virus software actually wrecks computers
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Not all security software is created equal. In fact, the tools that would normally protect your computer can turn against you if one line of code is out of place.

If you have Panda Security anti-virus software installed on your computer, look out, because your last virus scan may have bricked your PC. A mistake may have flagged files on your computer as malicious.
The files that it flagged were so not malicious; in fact, your computer needs them to power on. Panda Security only learned that its anti-virus software was bricking computers after users reported that their computers were getting stuck in a restart loop.

If you've run a security scan with Panda Security recently but haven't restarted your computer, don't restart it!

Panda Security has updated the affected programs, but a fix for systems that require manual installation of the misflagged files hasn't been deployed quite yet. The company's answer for people who lost their boot files is not to restart their computers.

Customers come first, right? If you have Panda Security software installed on your computer and want to get more information, then you'll want to check out the company's support page for this bug.
This isn't the only time that anti-virus programs have caused issues in home computers either. A few weeks ago, Norton would crash computers or browsers using a popular encryption service.

If you don't have an anti-virus program installed or want a quick refresher on how to do just that, then you'll want to check out my three simple steps on detecting and removing a virus.

How to Maximize Your Free Storage Space on Every Cloud Service by Eric Ravenscraft

How to Maximize Your Free Storage Space on Every Cloud Service
Between Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive and a half dozen other services, the sky's the limit on how much cloud storage you can get for free. Here are some of the best tricks for getting it with each service.

Every cloud storage provider has a variety of changing promos that can give you extra storage space, so it's always worthwhile to keep an ear to the ground. Some of the promotions we mention here may change over time, but they'll also likely be replaced by something else. Cloud storage providers seem to like giving away space like candy if it means new customers.


How to Maximize Your Free Storage Space on Every Cloud Service
Dropbox probably offers more freebies than just about any other providers, which makes it excellent if you need to get some bonus storage. Here are some of the methods you can use to get extra space:
  • Invite a Friend (Up to 16GB): The most common way to get extra storage is to refer a friend. Every person you get to sign up adds 500MB of space to your account. You can get up to 16GB of space with this method, though Dropbox is ubiquitous enough that you probably won't have much like finding 32 friends that haven't signed up for Dropbox. If you want to get ambitious, you can use Google AdWords to promote your referral link.
  • Complete the "Get Started" Guide (250MB): Dropbox has a "Getting Started" guide that will show you the ropes. Most of it is routine stuff you'll probably do anyway, but if you do all the steps, you'll add a bit of extra space for nothing.
  • Install Carousel (3GB): Dropbox used to have a bonus for enabling auto upload for your photos. While that promo has been deprecated, you can still get 3GB by installing the Carousel app for Android or iOS.
  • Install Mailbox for iOS (1GB): Dropbox has a similar promotion for its Mailbox app. Unfortunately, this one is only available for iOS, however logging in once gives you the space permanently. So it may be worth a quick trip to the Apple store. Just be sure to deauthenticate the device if you use this trick.
  • Link your Facebook or Twitter accounts (125MB each): Pandering on social networks for extra space is a little taboo, but you can still eek out a little extra space by connecting your accounts. Though you may be asked to invite other users on the social sites. 
  • Watch for device bonuses (Lots of GB): If you're in the market for a new device, you may keep an eye out for promotional offers. While they're not always available, Dropbox has offered up to 48GB of space for two years when you log in on a new Samsung or HTC phone. These offers pop up now and then on phones and tablets, so ask about them the next time you're out shopping.
You can also check Dropbox's Get More Space page here to find any other tasks you can complete to earn more space. There is also a link here to check your personal account settings to see which space you've already earned and which ones you can still complete.

Google Drive

How to Maximize Your Free Storage Space on Every Cloud Service
Google's competing cloud storage has a bit of home field advantage. Google was already home to a lot of your data before it ever started syncing folders on your desktop. While the company offers some promos that can give you extra space beyond the default 15GB, there are a lot more tricks that you can use to upload data that doesn't count against your storage limit.
  • Use Play Music to store audio: Play Music is Google's storage locker for your music. The company recently bumped its storage limit up to 50,000 tracks, all of which do not count towards your storage limit.
    How to Maximize Your Free Storage Space on Every Cloud Service
  • Convert your documents to Google Drive format: If you're using Drive to store your documents, converting them to Google's formats will prevent them from counting towards your storage limit. As the How-To Geek points out, you can automatically convert documents you upload to Google Docs while uploading to make the process easier. 
  • Crop photos below 2048x2048: Google allows you to upload an unlimited number of photos, provided the resolution of those pictures is below 2048x2048. A similar rule applies to video below 15 minutes.
You can check your storage settings here to see how much space you have free, how much comes from promotions, and which types of data are taking up space. If you fill up too much, you can delete or convert some of your files to make room. Google also offers similar promotions to Dropbox when you purchase certain devices, or complete tasks like the Security Checkup promo they ran last month. Be sure to keep an ear out for these.


Box offers 10GB of free storage with its basic plan. Like all of the others, you can pad that out with certain promotions—usually by installing the Box app on a specific phone or tablet. Unlike the others, Box has a handy page here that will tell you all the devices that will currently net you extra space. Unfortunately, Box doesn't offer any bonuses for referrals, but keep an eye out for install-our-app promotions.


How to Maximize Your Free Storage Space on Every Cloud Service
Like Dropbox, Microsoft's OneDrive offers several bonuses you can earn for your account. You can see which bonuses have already been applied to your account from your settings here. A couple of them will be shown even if you haven't done them (like the Camera Roll bonus in the screenshot above) but others aren't listed. Here are the ones we found:
  • Link your Office 365 Subscription (1TB): While this technically isn't a free option, if you have to use an Office 365 subscription for work, school, or personal use, you're eligible for 1TB of extra space in your OneDrive account. Notably, Office 365 Home includes 1TB for up to five users, so if a friend or family member has the group plan, it may be worth asking if you can join up to get the space.1
  • Refer a friend (Up to 5GB): Like Dropbox, you can refer other users to OneDrive to get 500MB for each person you sign up. This bonus is limited to 5GB, but it might be easier to find people who haven't yet activated a OneDrive account than it is to find someone who's new to Dropbox. 
  • Backup Photos with Camera Roll (3GB): The OneDrive app for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone can automatically backup your pictures to the service. If you enable this, you get 3GB of space for free. You can disable it after that, if you don't want to actually backup your photos, and the space will stay.
  • Bing Rewards (100GB): By far one of the biggest storage space boosts is this one from Bing Rewards. Microsoft rewards points for using Bing as your search engine. It may take a while to get the 500 credits necessary—and it only lasts for a year—but free is free.
OneDrive has become a formidable competitor to Dropbox, not the least of which because it's integrated directly into the most-used desktop operating system in the world. You can't get a ton of space without paying for it, but every little bit helps.

Sync Unlimited Space with BitTorrent Sync

If you've tried everything else on the list and still need more space, you can pad out your storage with BitTorrent Sync. The service just launched its 2.0 software, which allows you to sync up to 10 folders between devices with no storage limit at all. While the folder workaround is a little obnoxious, you can easily use this to sync your largest files, while leaving services like Dropbox to handle the rest.
Of course, BitTorrent Sync doesn't keep copies of your files on any servers, so you can't use it as a backup like you can with Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive. If your devices get destroyed, your files are gone. But it's still better than nothing.

Sign Up for Other Cloud Services

The above services may be the biggest ones around, but the internet has no shortage of companies willing to loan out some space on a server. If you still don't have enough after maxing out everything so far, here's a list of other companies that will offer you some free space:2
  • Amazon Cloud Storage: The company offers 5GB of free space to all customers. If you have Prime, you can get unlimited photo backup
MEGA: Formerly MegaUpload, Mega offers 50GB of free space. The company emphasizes security and promises end-to-end encryption, though as we've discussed, their encryption may not be bulletproof.Wuala: Another security-focused cloud storage provider, Wuala offers 5GB of space for free. Not only does it offer end-to-end encryption, but it also breaks your files into segments and stores them on different servers, so even the company itself can't know which data belongs to what.
Even if you don't do anything to earn bonus space, the most basic plans from the services we've listed in this article combined would give you over 100GB of storage without lifting a finger. However, you can raise that number by quite a bit with minimal amounts of effort

Which Watch? How to pick the Apple Watch that’s right for you by Leah Yamshon

Picking an Apple Watch isn’t like picking out your next iPhone—forget about focusing on specs and storage size. Instead, you’ll be looking at alloys (aluminum, stainless steel, or solid gold?), style (sporty, classic, or bling-bling?), and price ($349, $549, or the cost of iPad Air 2’s for you and 19 friends?) The Apple Watch is unchartered territory, but we’re here to help you navigate. Here are some things to consider before you pre-order your Apple Watch on April 10. 

The Watch itself

...OK, this isn’t true to size, but if you launch the Apple Store app on your iPhone, you can toggle back and forth between 38mm and 42mm case sizes to get a real-life feel.
Under the hood, the Apple Watch hardware is exactly the same. The only differences between the three models are cosmetic ones, so if you opt for a $10,000 Edition, it will function just the same as a $349 Sport (more on price in a little bit). The storage and battery life is the same across the board: You’ll get 8GB of storage (Apple says you’ll be limited to 2GB of music storage and 75MB for photos within the Photos app) and up to 18 hours of battery life on a single charge.

A big criticism of smartwatches so far has been on size: The ginormous faces of some of these watches look ridiculous on a smaller wrist (namely, women’s wrists). That’s why Apple made two size options for the Apple Watch: 38mm and 42mm. You can see what each of these look like on your own wrist within the Apple Store app on your iPhone—the app shows their actual sizes. Once you’re on the Apple Watch landing page within the app, go to Learn more > View pricing > Compare case sizes

Bands on the run

Most of the watch bands come with different size options, but don’t pick your favorite band until you’ve measured your wrist: Some bands are limited to one case size, and others only cover a limited range. (I like the Leather Loop, but my wrist is 146mm around—and the Leather Loop isn’t available for the 38mm case, which is my preferred size—so I’ll have to pick a different band. Bummer.) Apple has a comprehensive sizing guide, so keep that in mind when picking your band and case.

apple watch size guide
Apple’s size guide gives you the measurements for each band size.
Here’s a breakdown:
Modern Buckle: Sorry, dudes—the Modern Buckle is only available for the 38mm version, in three sizes:
  • Small: Fits wrists 135mm to 150mm
  • Medium: Fits wrists 145mm to 165mm
  • Large: Fits wrists 160mm to 180mm 
Leather Loop: …and sorry, ladies, the Leather Loop is only available for the 42mm version, in two sizes:
  • Medium: Fits wrists 150mm to 185mm
  • Large: Fits wrists 180mm to 210mm
Milanese Loop: The Milanese Loop is a one-size-fits-all situation, with a wide range for each of the case models.
  • 38mm: Fits wrists 130mm to 180mm
  • 42mm: Fits wrists 150mm to 200mm
Link Bracelet: The Link Bracelet also only comes in one size per case:
  • 38mm: Fits wrists 135mm to 195mm
  • 42mm Fits wrists 140mm to 205mm 
Classic Buckle: Again, the Classic Buckle only has one size for each case: 
  • 38mm: Fits wrists 125mm to 200mm
  • 42mm: Fits wrists 145mm to 215mm
Sport Band: The Sport Band comes in two sizes— small/medium, and medium/large—and you’ll get both sizes if you order this band. 
  • 38mm: Small/medium fits wrists 130mm to 180mm; Medium/large fits wrists 150mm to 200mm
  • 42mm: Small/medium fits wrists 140mm to 185mm; Medium/large fits wrists 160mm to 210mm

apple watch bands
Look at all of these bands!
All of the bands are interchangeable with each of the Watch models, as long as they’re for the right Watch case size. So, if you get the 42mm Watch case, you could pick any band designed for the 42mm version. 

Be a good Sport

Yes, yes, yes: Cases and bands are all about size. But the models themselves are all about materials, style, and price. Which one should you pick?

apple watch sport green Apple
Check out that fluoroelastomer band and aluminum finish.
For fitness buffs—or for those of you who have to have an Apple Watch, but are on a tighter budget—your pick is a no-brainer: Go with the Apple Watch Sport. Priced at $349 for the 38mm version and $399 for the 42mm version, the Sport has an aluminum case, features Apple’s Ion-X glass display, and ships with the fluoroelastomer (say that three times fast…) Sport Band. There’s actually a lot to like about the Sport Band, too: It’s comfortable, durable, and sweatproof, and it’s available in black or white if neon colors aren’t your thing. 

The Sport is also a good pick if you’re still not entirely sure about this whole Apple Watch business. Because it’s more affordable, it makes a great starter device—for those of you who have first-generation device jitters. And if you end up loving your Apple Watch Sport, you can upgrade its band later, though the metals won’t precisely match. 

The (classic?) Apple Watch

Apple’s mid-range offering is simply called the Apple Watch, which is a little confusing, considering that Apple refers to its entire product line as the Apple Watch Collection. (Thanks, Apple!) Name aside, the (classic? basic?) Watch offers a bit of both sides of the coin—it packs extra style that the base Apple Watch Sport lacks without breaking the bank like the Apple Watch Edition. Prices range between $549 and $1,099 depending on case size and band style.

apple watch battery
Although the bands are interchangeable, most bands have stainless steel features to match the stainless steel Watch.
The Watch costs $200 more than the Sport because of its stainless steel case (instead of aluminum), sapphire crystal covering the display, and black accent on the digital crown. Apple boasts that its signature stainless steel is 80 percent harder than normal stainless steel, and it certainly is sleek-looking.
The lowest-price Watch ships with a Sport Band, but the stainless steel case really shines when paired with a leather (Classic Buckle, Modern Buckle, or Leather Loop, all with stainless steel finishes) or a stainless steel (Milanese Loop or Link Bracelet) band. Yes, you can pair the Apple Watch Sport case with a Milanese Loop band, but the aluminum will clash with the stainless steel, while the classic Watch was made for these bands. Plus, the Apple Watch also has a space gray stainless steel case option that’s super svelte, with bands to match.

So if you have a somewhat flexible budget, and want a more polished look, go with the Apple Watch. 

Limited Edition

We all want to be worthy of the Apple Watch Edition, but really, this one flat out comes down to price: Apple’s crème-de-la-crème offering ranges from $10,000 to $17,000. (Seventeen. Thousand. Dollars. There goes my Apple Watch pipe dream of the rose gold Edition with the rose gray Modern Buckle band.) It’s gorgeous, and one of the priciest products the company has ever made. That kind of dough gets you either a yellow gold or (drool-worthy) rose gold case, and ships with a Sport Band, Modern Buckle, or Classic Buckle. 

Though you could pre-order the Edition online, this seems like something you’d want to try on first, if you can find a store that carries it: The Edition will be available in limited numbers, in select Apple and high-end retail stores. Even though it’s available in both the 38mm and 42mm case sizes, it looks like a piece of high-end jewelry—meaning it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, style-wise.

aplwatch clocksimple pr print
Hello, gorgeous. 
So, if you have a sky-high budget, if your name is Beyonce, or if you simply must have a gold watch to match your daily Oscar de la Renta, then the Edition is for you.

Just remember: Even though the battery will be replaceable, the Apple Watch is still a first-generation mobile gadget with a limited shelf life—it will likely be technologically outdated after a couple of years at most. Are you willing to take the plunge, or are you going to wait for the second round?

6 things to know about the USB-C port in the new MacBook by Agam Shah

Apple is challenging laptop users to adapt to fewer ports with the bold design of its new 12-inch MacBook, which has just one USB-C port using the USB 3.1 standard, as well as a regular headphone jack. Apple laid out a similar challenge with its first MacBook Air in early 2008, which had just one USB 2.0 port to connect peripherals and a micro-DVI port to connect monitors.

But the faster USB 3.1 port is significant because it will also be used to recharge the MacBook, as well as to connect to a wider variety of peripherals such as monitors, external storage drives, printers, and cameras. The MacBook is one of just a few devices to carry the new USB port.

USB 3.1 can technically transfer data between the host computers and peripherals at maximum speeds of up to 10Gbps (gigabits per second), which is two times faster than the current USB 3.0. The USB 3.1 port in the new MacBook will initially transfer data at 5Gbps, but expect that number to go up in future iterations, as the technology develops. There’s also excitement around the MacBook’s USB-C cable, which is the same on both ends so users can flip cables and not worry about plug orientation.

Apple incorporated one USB 3.1 port, ostensibly for lack of space. The MacBook is just 13.1 millimeters thick and its base is dominated by batteries. Apple is clearly looking ahead with USB 3.1, which supports DisplayPort, VGA, HDMI and ethernet protocols. Here are some things to know about the USB 3.1 port in the 12-inch MacBook, and where it may be headed in the future.

macbook usb c cable big
USB 3.1 (via a Type C connector) is the one and only IO port on the new MacBook.

USB 3.1 is backward compatible

This means all devices running on USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 will be able to talk with the MacBook port. There are other cables besides Type-C for the MacBook to connect to older USB and micro-USB ports. The MacBook comes with a USB Type-C charging cable, and the others will need to be bought separately.

usb c to usb adapter
You can plug older USB devices in, but you'll need this $19 adapter.

No USB 3.1 peripherals

USB 3.1 chipsets are still being developed and tested, and it could be months before peripherals start appearing. In tests, USB 3.1 connections aren’t reaching the full throughput of 10Gbps, but speeds will get faster as the controllers and chipsets are refined. For one, don’t expect USB 3.1 flash drives to go on sale in the next couple of years. The lack of peripherals is a problem also faced by Thunderbolt, a faster but more expensive connector technology used in other Macs. LaCie just announced a USB 3.0 drive with a USB-C connector to fit the new MacBooks, but it won't have USB 3.1 throughput speeds.

Don’t say good-bye to Thunderbolt yet

A few years ago, Apple turned to Thunderbolt as its main high-speed connector in Macs, but the arrival of the USB 3.1 port doesn’t mean that protocol will disappear. At the recent Mobile World Congress, USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) officials said that it is possible to carry the Thunderbolt protocol on USB 3.1 copper and optical wires, and Intel hasn’t dismissed that idea either. But there would be a speed compromise, as Thunderbolt 2 delivers speeds up to 20Gbps.

You'll need a hub

macbook av digital adapter
The AV Digital Adapter has a passthrough USB-C port for charging, plus USB type A and HDMI.
If the USB 3.1 port is going to be used for charging, users will have to invest in extension cables, hubs or converters to open up the MacBook to external peripherals. Apple is selling a USB Type C to USB converter for $19, an extension cable for $29, and if needed, a USB-C power adapter for $49. Apple is also selling a $79 USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter so the new MacBook can simultaneously connect to a 1080p HDMI display, USB 3.0 device and a USB-C charging cable.

USB connections could get faster

USB-IF believes the current speed of USB 3.1 is enough, but has also simulated speeds of 20Gbps over copper wire, putting it in the same league as Thunderbolt 2. There’s little doubt that USB-IF wants to ratchet up the data transfer speeds, especially with 4K video on the horizon. But the organization for now has more important priorities, like making USB 3.1 a port that can be used to charge laptops, mobile devices and appliances. The port will start appearing in more mobile devices starting in the first half of this year, and is not in appliances yet.

Next target, iPhones and iPads?

Does the USB 3.1 port spell trouble for the Lightning connector in iPhones and iPads? Only time will tell, but USB 3.1 has its own benefits in mobile devices. For one, USB 3.1 will support the upcoming MHL (Mobile High-definition Link) 3 specification, which can stream 4K video from mobile devices to TV sets. TV sets will ship with specific HDMI ports that support MHL, and users would need a cable that is USB Type-C on one end and HDMI Type-A on the other end to stream mobile 4K video to TV sets. Besides putting USB 3.1 ports in its mobile devices, Apple will need to support MHL on the devices.