Google+ January 2016 ~ High Tech House Calls

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

What's the best web browser for the Mac? The benchmarks are in By Adrian Kingsley-Hughes for Hardware 2.0

Following on from the excellent work carried out by my colleague, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, where he benchmarked browsers running on Windows 7 and Windows 10, I've taken a look at how well browsers run on OS X 10.11 "El Capitan."
So, which is the best browser for your Mac?

The system

  • Mac mini (Late 2012)
  • 2.3GHz Intel Core i7 CPU
  • 16GB of 1600MHz DDR3 RAM
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • 1TB SATA hard drive
  • OS X 10.11.2

The browsers

  • Safari 9.0.2
  • Chrome 47
  • Firefox 43
  • Opera 34

The tests

  • JetStream 1.1: A JavaScript benchmark that includes benchmarks from the SunSpider 1.0.2 and Octane 2 JavaScript benchmark suites. Larger scores are better.
  • Kraken-1.1: An updated version of the SunSpider benchmark. Lower scores are better.
  • Octane 2.0: A JavaScript test that includes tests that focus on interactive scripting. Higher scores are better.
  • RoboHornet: This benchmark claims it "encompasses all aspects of browser performance and everything that matters to web developers, like performance of layout and localStorage." Higher scores are better.
  • HTML5 Test: A web standards compliance test. The maximum score is 550, and a higher score is better.
These tests were run multiple times to ensure consistency.

The results

I've added a checkmark next to the benchmarks won by each browser:
  • JetStream 1.1: 152.10 ✔
  • Kraken-1.1: 2,583.82
  • Octane 2.0: 22,158
  • RoboHornet: 148.22 ✔
  • HTML 5 test: 400
  • JetStream 1.1: 142.50
  • Kraken-1.1: 2,442.44 ✔
  • Octane 2.0: 23,928
  • RoboHornet: 126.12
  • HTML 5 test: 521 ✔
  • JetStream 1.1: 135.66
  • Kraken-1.1: 2,882.82
  • Octane 2.0: 23,402
  • RoboHornet: 118.23
  • HTML 5 test: 468
  • JetStream 1.1: 147,68
  • Kraken-1.1: 2,931.11
  • Octane 2.0: 24,662 ✔
  • RoboHornet: 125.75
  • HTML 5 test: 520

The bottom line

If you want the fastest browser then the browser you should be using on your Mac is Safari. It won two of the benchmark speed tests, while Chrome only won the one. Pretty clear win for Safari.

If you want the browser displaying the best standards compliance, then go with Chrome since it was the winner in the HTML5 test.

Moving from the artificial world of benchmarks into the real world, I have to be honest and say I can't feel much of a speed difference no matter which browser I use. Even running something like Internet Explorer or Edge through on a virtual machine on the Mac doesn't feel all that bad to be honest.

No matter which browser you use, they're all pretty darn fast. But if you want to be running the fastest browser on your Mac, run Safari.

Secure your mobile Wi-Fi devices By Komando Staff

I know that we've said this a lot, but it's so important I'm going to say it again: You have to secure your Wi-Fi! There's no excuse for an unsecured Internet connection.

An open Wi-Fi network is an invitation for anyone to hop on. From neighbors to hackers, you could be hosting a party that slows down your connection, puts your information at risk or even gets you in legal trouble.

But it's not just your home computer that hackers are after. They want the data on your smartphones and tablets, too, and they can easily take it with an insecure Wi-Fi connection.

How can you make sure you stay safe on any Wi-Fi connection? Try Hotspot Shield VPN.
It's one of the top security apps in the iTunes store, with more than 350 million downloads. It works relentlessly to protect your data.

It aims to let you browse any site on the Web privately and anonymously, while protecting you from phishing scams and other malware. And because Hotspot Shield is its own virtual private network, all your data is accessed through Hotspot Shield's secure servers so hackers and even advertisers will have a hard time tracking you. It encrypts all your Internet traffic, stops unwanted ad tracking and prevents your IP address from being seen.

Even better, if you're at a public place that blocks websites, you will be able to visit those sites using Hotspot Shield. It can also help you save money on your phone bill by compressing data. This can be a huge money saver for someone on the go.

Note: Hotspot Shield VPN has both a "forever free" version and an Elite version. The Elite version requires a monthly or annual paid subscription. However, the free version has many of the security features you'll need.

A simple fix for Windows 10's blurry fonts By Kevin Downey

 If you downloaded Microsoft's newest version of its Windows operating system, Windows 10, you probably like its improvements over Windows 8, which, among other things, didn't have the Start button you've been using for years. Windows 10 brought that back, and made several other improvements.

However, one tiny change you may have noticed isn't so great. If you increase the size of the fonts on Windows 10, so that it's easier to read content on your computer screen, you may notice the fonts get blurry.
In older versions of Windows, if you increased the DPI (dots per inch) scaling to 125% or more, your fonts would get larger and easier to read. Note: This is most noticeable if you have a widescreen computer screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, or higher.

Some users of Windows 10 are finding that fonts get blurry when you do that. There are a couple of easy fixes, though.
Windows 10 DPI Fix
You can change the display settings in any program where you seeing blurry fonts. Right-click on the program icon, like Word or Excel. Choose Properties >> Compatibility >> put a check mark next to "Disable display scaling on high DPI settings" >> Apply.

Microsoft may make you reset those DPI settings every few times you login, though. To avoid that, here's another simple fix. Download XPExplorer's Windows 10 DPI Fix (see download instructions below); and set your DPI Scaling to the Windows 8.1 version.

Download instructions

Click on the blue link below. Scroll down to Download, and click on the link. After it downloads, open the executable file. Follow the step-by-step installation instructions.

Put a check mark next to the box where it says, "Use Windows 8.1 DPI scaling (our fix)." To use the Windows 10 default DPI scaling, put a check mark next to that. Hit Apply, then restart your computer.

New cool Apple feature gives you a better night’s rest By Justin Ferris

It's becoming well understood that using computers, smartphones and tablets before bedtime isn't the best way to fall asleep. During normal operation, gadget screens put out blue light that fools your body into thinking its daytime. You can actually use this fact to help beat jet lag.

If you find yourself tossing and turning in bed, though, it might be because you were checking the latest Facebook posts or watching a movie just a little while earlier. Typically, you want to stop using your gadgets one to two hours before hitting the sack. However, if you just can't put your gadgets down, there's now another option.
On computers, you can find programs like F.lux (PC and Mac) that shift the tint of the screen from blue to red. Your body is used to seeing red light at night, both with the sunset and then with most indoor lighting, so staring at a reddish screen isn't going to throw your body's internal clock off quite so much.

Unfortunately for iPhone and iPad users, there wasn't an app to do this. While the aforementioned F.lux does have an app, Apple wouldn't approve it for the app store because it required too much low-level hardware access.

However, in the upcoming iOS 9.3 update, Apple has gone ahead and added a feature called Night Shift that does exactly what we explained above. Using your gadget's GPS and clock, iOS figures out when it's nighttime and changes the screen tint to warmer colors.

This will be automatic so you don't have to remember to active a "night" mode. There will also likely be a setting to turn it off in case you're doing something that requires seeing accurate colors.

Night Shift could be even more interesting if Apple brings it to the Apple TV. Right now, so far as we know, no smart TV or streaming media gadget has an automatic night mode. You have to go adjust the picture settings yourself. It could turn out to be a handy addition for late night binge watchers.

Night Shift isn't the only new feature Apple is bringing with the iOS 9 updates. Learn about five great features you can use on your iOS 9 gadget right now.

Still having trouble sleeping? Learn about five ways to sleep better and relax using apps and gadgets. If you want to go even more in-depth, read our article on three ways to use tech to sleep better.

Secret to a better night's rest for all Android users By Justin Ferris

 Have you noticed that you don't go to sleep as easily as you used to? There could be any number of reasons, but a big one is likely the gadgets in your life.

Computer, smartphone and tablet screens are bright and they put out a lot of blue light. That blue light can trick your body into thinking it's daytime. If you're staring hard at a screen just before you hit the hay, your body is going to take a while to get back into nighttime mode. Fortunately, there's a solution.
That solution is not using gadgets at least an hour before bed, and two hours would be better. OK, not a fan of that one? There's another solution you can try.

If blue light is the problem, then it stands to reason that getting rid of the blue light would let you use your gadgets without confusing your body. And there are programs that do just that, such as the excellent F.lux for computers.

However, Android has similar apps, such as Lux and Twilight. These automatically shift your screen to a reddish tint, which mimics more closely the sunset and typical indoor lighting. That helps your body stay on a normal sleep cycle.

Lux is a general brightness and screen tool, while Twilight is programmed specifically for this task. Both have free options, so give them a try and see which on you like better.

Still having trouble sleeping? Learn about five ways to sleep better and relax using apps and gadgets. If you want to go even more in-depth, read our article on three ways to use tech to sleep better.

Report: Microsoft Recalling Overheating Surface Pro Chargers Lance Ulanoff, Mashable

The Microsoft Surface success story has taken a bit of a twist.

Microsoft will, according to Channelnomics Europe voluntarily recall chargers for the Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2 and Surface Pro 3. The power supply adapters, which connect to the tablet/laptop hybrid via magnets, can apparently get damaged if they are “sharply or repeatedly bent… [or] tightly wrapped,” according to a statement given to Channelnomics Europe by Microsoft.

 As Microsoft gets its mojo back, the Surface Pro line has been a particularly bright spot. Last year, the company reported big growth in Surface Pro sales (117%) on the strength of its Surface Pro 3 launch and last fall it rolled out both the Surface Pro 4 and innovative Surface Book. There is the potential that there are millions of Surface Pro chargers in customers’ hands right now.

The products combine the generally well-received Windows 10 with a high-resolution touch-screen and, in the case of Surface Pros, a lightweight and detachable keyboard.

There are no reported issues with the computer itself, but damaged cords have apparently cased “some issues,” according to Microsoft.

The voluntary recall, which has yet to be officially announced, is being done out of what appears to be an abundance of caution. That said, some Surface Pro owners have reported sparking issues on Microsoft’s own support forums.

The company clearly already understands the adapter vulnerability: Microsoft’s safety instructions for the Surface Pro line already recommend that customers “protect cords from being pinched or sharply bent, particularly where they connect to the power outlet, the power supply unit, and the device.”

According to the report, Microsoft will be setting up a special site where customers can request a new charger. They’ll also be instructed on how to properly dispose of their existing one.

Mashable has contacted Microsoft for comment and will update this report with their reply.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New iOS 9.3 Feature Will Make Reading at Night Easier on Your Eyes Karissa Bell, Mashable

Attention, night owls: Apple will soon be making it easier for you to use your devices at night.

The upcoming iOS 9.3 update will include a new feature called “Night Shift” that will change the colors of the light emitted by your iPhone or iPad’s display, based on the time of day.

The feature uses your current location and the clock on your iPhone or iPad to figure out what time the sun sets, and will automatically “shift the colors in your display to the warmer end of the spectrum,” according to Apple.

The idea is very similar to f.lux, a popular Mac and Windows app that changes your display’s lighting based on the time of day. When it starts to get dark outside, the app gradually makes the colors warmer to reduce eye strain. That app has been downloaded more than 15 million times, according to the company.

Despite its popularity, the company hasn’t been able to release an official iOS app because Apple doesn’t allow developers to access those features on the iPhone (though there is an app for phones that have been jailbroken). The company did briefly find a way around this restriction last year, when it released a version that users of non-jailbroken iPhone could download outside of the App Store.

Soon after it was released, Apple removed the download, saying it violated its Developer Program Agreement.

Studies have shown that using smartphones, tablets and other devices with lit screens before bed can interfere with sleep, but changing the color tone of your display from a harsh, blue-tinged light to a warmer color can, at least, make nighttime browsing significantly easier on the eyes.

The update has only just been seeded to developers, so it will likely be at least a few weeks before it officially makes it way into iOS. If you really can’t wait to try it out, though, you can get an early when the public beta for iOS 9.3 rolls out — with the usual caveats that beta software can be unstable and shouldn’t be used on a primary device.

Windows users face a dangerous world with end of support for older Internet Explorer versions by Ed Bott

Stuck on an older version of Microsoft's IE? There's a mode for that.Microsoft officially drops support for most older versions of Internet Explorer today. That means no more security updates for tens or hundreds of millions of Windows users, many of whom will be blissfully unaware that they're in danger.

For Microsoft, backward compatibility is a tremendous competitive advantage. It's also a support nightmare, not just for the engineers who have to deliver patches but for third-party developers and web designers who have to support outdated code.

At one point in early 2014, thanks to Microsoft's 10-year support lifecycle for Windows, the company was actively supporting no fewer than five versions of Windows: XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1.

That assortment of operating systems also represented no fewer than six versions of Internet Explorer.

With the end of support for Windows XP in April 2014, Internet Explorer versions 6 and 7 finally fell off the official support lifecycle. But that still leaves four versions of Internet Explorer in widespread use.

Effective today, Microsoft officially ends support for all but the latest version of Internet Explorer. This certainly shouldn't come as a surprise; the company gave nearly 18 months of warning, starting in August 2014.

Today's news isn't as cut and dry as it sounds. I've already seen plenty of oversimplified headlines like these, all offering variations on the theme that Microsoft is "killing off" Internet Explorer 8, 9, and 10, leaving only IE 11 supported
The reality is slightly more complex. Internet Explorer 9, for example, remains actively supported on Windows Vista, which still has tens of millions of users worldwide, and on Windows Server 2008. And Internet Explorer 10 is still supported on Windows Server 2012. None of those operating systems are capable of upgrading to newer IE versions.

The underreported part of today's news is that Microsoft is also ending support for the original, 2012 release of Windows 8, which shipped with Internet Explorer 10. Anyone running Windows 8 can upgrade to Windows 8.1 (which includes the supported Internet Explorer 11) for free. For whatever reason, though, tens of millions of people are sticking with the unpopular and now unsupported Windows 8.
HTHC Comments
We stopped using IE a long time ago. What did we replace it with? 
Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Firefox seems to have less of a performance impact than Chrome. Chrome makes a separate process for each tab that you have opened. It can bring marginally performing computers to their knees.

We have had trouble occasionally with eCommerce sites not working with Firefox (You click submit to place your order and nothing happened.)  Accessing the same site on Chrome has problem.

Chrome takes more resources from your computer, but we run Chrome for support printing to Chrome Cloud enabled printers. (Chrome Cloud enabled printers in many cases are the only solution for printing in a mixed operating system environment. 

Are you trying to print from your tablet, SmartPhone or Mac computer to a printer attached to a Windows computer? We have the knowledge and the experience to create a solution that does not require buying a  new printer.

Top Story: No more security updates for Windows 8 By Justin Ferris

 If you read our news last week, you know that today is the day that Microsoft puts Internet Explorers 8, 9 and 10 to rest. Microsoft will no longer release security updates for these browsers (unless you're using IE 9 on Vista), which means they'll have increasingly fewer defenses against hackers.

However, today is also the day that Microsoft stops providing security updates for the 3-year-old Windows 8. Before you panic, however, we should be clear that it isn't ending support for Windows 8.1, which is supported through January 10, 2023. So, how do you know if this affects you?

If you aren't sure whether you have Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, go to the Start screen and in the upper-right corner next to your name and picture see if there's a search icon that looks like a magnifying glass. If there is, then it's 8.1, and if not then you have 8.

From the Start screen you can also type the word "Computer" to bring up an automatic search. In the right search result column, find "Computer" or "This PC" and right-click on it (or press and hold on a touch screen) and select "Properties." In the System properties window, look under Windows edition to see if it's Windows 8 or 8.1.

If you're still using Windows 8, you'll need to upgrade immediately to 8.1 or 10. Both options are free.

Before you do upgrade, you'll want to make sure your important files are backed up. While it's usually a painless process, you shouldn't want to take chances.

To upgrade to 8.1, go to the Windows 8 Start screen and click on the "Store" app. On the store home page you should see a notice for the 8.1 upgrade. Click "Download" to start and Windows should do the rest and then ask you to restart. Simply sign in and follow the directions to complete the setup.

If you want to upgrade to Windows 10, you'll have to upgrade to 8.1 first, so follow the instructions above. Once 8.1 is installed, you can find the Windows 10 upgrade in the Windows Update area.
However, it might be easier to go to this page and click the "Upgrade Now" button. Once the download competes, run it to start the upgrade process.

HTHC Comments 
Windows 8.1 runs so much better than Windows 8. I see very little risk in this upgrade. Seat of the pants upgrades from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 resulted in a slower performing machine. Older computers may have a problem with BlueTooth working. Some computer vendors aren't bothering with Windows 10 drivers for older computers.

We are here to help. Call/email/text us if we can be of any assistance.

Carl Thorne
Expert Computer Consulting 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Got a New Smartphone for Christmas? Here’s What to Do With Your Old One Daniel Howley

So you got a new smartphone for the holidays and you are pumped. It’s got an awesome new camera and a beautiful, crisp screen that makes all its apps look amazing — heck, you can even use it to pay for groceries at the checkout counter.

Now the question is: What do you do with your old phone? Dump it in the dark abyss that is your junk drawer, never to see or hear from it again? No!

There are plenty of other, cooler things you can do with your newly retired smartphone besides letting it rot away behind a box of thumbtacks and some old yarn. Here’s how you can give your old handset a second life (or at least trade it in for some cold, hard cash).

Repurpose it

There are all kinds of useful reasons to keep an old phone:

Smart-home remote: You can use your smartphone to remotely control a ton of different gadgets around the house, from your Roku to your coffeemakereven your oven. Using your old phone as a remote not only extends its usefulness; it also helps save your new phone’s battery life because you won’t have to use it to change the channel or cook a ham.
Dedicated MP3 player: How many times have you been running on the treadmill at the gym only to catch your headphones’ cable on something and send your phone clattering to the floor? Or what about those times you were out for a walk, listening to music, when you inadvertently dropped it on the cold, unforgiving sidewalk?

What I’m saying is you can easily save some wear and tear on your new phone by using your old one as your dedicated MP3 player. As long as it isn’t too antique, it should still be able to run apps like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, or any other music-streaming service. And doing so will also free up some memory on that new handset for other app data.

Connected security camera: If you’re worried about who’s coming to and going from your house when you’re not home, or just want to see what your pets are up to in the middle of the day, you can turn your old smartphone into a makeshift security camera.
All it takes is an app you install on your old phone, such as Salient Eye, which uses the handset’s camera as a security device. Once the app is installed, you simply place your old phone in a room you’d like to monitor. You can then remotely connect to that old phone from your new handset and see what’s happening at home while you’re away.

Give it away

A two-year old phone might feel like a relic from ancient times to people who always need the latest and greatest gadgets as soon as they come out. But to everyone else, it’s still pretty cutting edge. So if you’re ditching your old handset for a newer model, you might want to consider passing it along. I can think of a couple of good recipients.

Your kids: It’ll save you the money (and trouble) of buying them brand-new ones of their own. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that you set up parental controls on your old phone before you pass it down. And — if this is their first handset — you should have The Talk about being a responsible phone user.

Charity: If your kids already have their own smartphones and you don’t know anyone else who can use it, you can always donate your handset to any number of worthy causes.
Verizon, for instance, accepts smartphone donations, which it then sells or recycles to generate funding for its nonprofit, HopeLine (a charity that provides funding to a variety of domestic-violence organizations that help survivors and to raise awareness of the issue.)

Similarly, Cell Phones for Soldiers sells or recycles donated devices to raise money that it then uses to purchase international calling cards for military personnel stationed around the world. The group also uses funds to make emergency grants to returning soldiers who may find themselves in dire financial straits following their deployment.

Recycle it

If you’re ditching your old smartphone and can’t donate it, you can always recycle it. Stores like Best Buy, various carriers, and even Amazon provide you with ways to recycle your old handset.
Why recycle? Because smartphones contain electronics that can be hazardous when left to sit in landfills, causing serious environmental issues over time. 

By recycling your phone, however, you’re doing your part to help the environment while also ensuring that companies get access to the precious metals used in your phone that they would otherwise have to mine from the Earth. Basically, it’s a win-win for the planet.

Sell it

If you could use some extra cash in your pocket, you can always consider selling your old smartphone online for a decent sum.
If, for example, you’ve got an unlocked 32GB iPhone 5s on your hands, you can sell it through Gazelle for as much as $140. A 64GB iPhone 6 Plus for Verizon can fetch you $305.

Comcast's home security system has a serious flaw By Justin Ferris

 A home security system is a good way to keep burglars from stealing your valuables while you're away or threatening your family when you're home. In days past, there weren't that many security system vendors, but cheap technology has brought a lot more companies on board.

On the most unusual new entries to the market is Comcast. Yes, the same Comcast that provides cable Internet with questionable tactics and historically lousy customer service. If you've dealt with Comcast before, it might not surprise you to learn that its security system isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Comcast's security, which falls under the Xfinity brand, uses wireless signals to connect its sensors with a central base station. There's nothing wrong with that; plenty of security systems do it to make installing sensors easier.

However, security researchers at Rapid7 decided to see what would happen if they jammed the Wi-Fi signal so the sensors couldn't talk to the base station. It turns out the answer is: nothing.

If the base station can't communicate with the sensors, it assumes that everything is OK. So, a thief can jam the Wi-Fi, open a window, move around the house, and then leave and the system never triggers. In fact, there isn't even a note that it lost the signal at all.

To make matters worse, once the jamming stops, it can take anywhere from minutes to hours for the sensors to reconnect. That's not exactly how you want your security system to work, especially when jamming equipment is freely available online or easy to make for around $130 in parts.

When Rapid7 tried to contact Comcast about this flaw it got no response. Neither did CERT, the security research division of Carnegie-Mellon University. Only when Wired published a story about the flaw did Comcast respond.

Even then, Comcast only said that its system works the same as any other security system, and if there is a "fix" it will be a long while in coming. When you're paying $40 to $50 a month on a two-year contract for a security system, that's not exactly what you want to hear.

Fortunately, there are other security systems out there that work better. One of those is our sponsor SimpliSafe. Like Comcast's system is uses wireless signals to connect the sensors to the base station.

However, SimpliSafe use a proprietary algorithm to monitor interference. It can tell if the interference is unintentional, say from a nearby microwave or Wi-Fi router, or a jamming attack.

If SimpliSafe thinks it's experiencing a jamming attack, it sends you an alert so you can decide if you want to trigger the alarm. It also notes any interference in the system log so you can go back later and see if there's a pattern.

In addition to its well thought-out security features, SimpliSafe doesn't cost you an arm and a leg, or lock you into an expensive multiyear monitoring contract. You can cancel service whenever you want and still use the hardware as a local alarm system. Click here to start protecting your house or apartment with SimpliSafe today and save 10%.

Samsung Goes After Microsoft and Apple With Its New Win 10 Tablet and Laptops Daniel Howley Technology Reporter

Microsoft might want to keep an eye on Samsung: The Korean tech giant today announced a new Windows 10 productivity tablet that will compete directly with the Windows maker’s Surface Pro slate.

On top of that, Samsung also showed off a pair of 13- and 15-inch laptops that are so light you’d swear they’re just empty shells rather than fully functional notebooks.

A Surface fighter in the making

The Samsung TabPro S is a 12-inch tablet that runs full versions of Microsoft’s Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro. To say this thing is slim is an understatement: Measuring 11.5 x 7.8 x 0.24 inches and weighing just 1.5 pounds, the TabPro S is thinner and lighter than the Surface Pro 4.
Heck, it’s even thinner than Apple’s 13-inch iPad Pro.

Related: More coverage of CES 2016.
Notably, the TabPro S doesn’t use a micro-USB connector; instead it has a new USB Type-C port, which it uses for both power and video. Samsung says it will offer a separate dongle for connecting the tablet to an external monitor, so you can use the TabPro S as a makeshift workstation.

Beyond its svelte frame, the TabPro S’s showstopping feature is its gorgeous 12-inch screen. With its Super AMOLED display (it’s the first Windows 10 machine to have one), colors really pop.
I didn’t get to see any movies playing on the TabPro S. But based on how the Windows desktop screen looked, I’m fairly confident they’ll look equally impressive.

The TabPro S comes wrapped in a magnesium body, with a magnetic rear that connects with the included keyboard case. That’s right: Unlike Microsoft and Apple, which both make you buy their keyboards separately, Samsung is actually including a keyboard with its productivity slate.
Unfortunately, that keyboard’s keys felt a bit stiff during my brief typing test, and some keys didn’t register my inputs. The keyboard case’s two-stage hinge also felt a bit flimsy when I was using it. Ideally, Samsung will address these issues before the tablet hits the market.

Inside, the TabPro S packs an Intel Core M processor, 4 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. For basic word processing and Web browsing, the Core M processor should be fine, but if you need to do anything more demanding, the Core M might not be enough machine for you.

Unfortunately, Samsung doesn’t offer the option to upgrade the TabPro S to a faster processor. That’s because the tablet is built around a fanless design; a more powerful processor would require a fan to keep the tablet cool.

On that count, the Surface Pro wins. While the base version of the Surface also comes equipped with a Core M processor, you have the option of upgrading to a faster Core i5 or even a Core i7 processor. So if you want serious performance from your Windows 10 tablet, you’ll be better off with the Surface Pro.

A ridiculously lightweight laptop

In addition to the TabPro S, Samsung also introduced its ultralightweight Book 9 13-inch and 15-inch laptops.

The 13-inch is the star of the show, thanks to its ridiculously lightweight 1.85-pound design. That makes the Book 9 the lightest 13-inch notebook in the world, beating out Lenovo’s LaVie Z. It’s even lighter than Apple’s super-small 12-inch MacBook. I really can’t stress how light the Book 9 feels: I’ve held empty dinner plates that feel heavier than this laptop.
The Book 9 isn’t just lightweight — it’s also incredibly thin. At 0.53 inches thick, it’s a hair thicker than the MacBook (0.52 inches) but thinner than the LaVie Z (0.70 inches).

To make the Book 9 so thin and light, Samsung built it with a magnesium body. It feels completely solid, particularly compared to Lenovo’s flimsy-feeling LaVie Z. The Book 9 is stable and doesn’t flex when you push down on it.

The Book 9 comes with a 13.3-inch 1920 x 1080 resolution display. While I didn’t have time to thoroughly view movies or photos on the screen, on first glance it was certainly colorful and bright.

In terms of performance, the 13-inch Book 9 can be outfitted with up to an Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of storage. For inputs, it gets two USB 3.0 ports, a micro-HDMI slot, mini Ethernet, mini VGA, and a three-in-one media card reader.
While heavier, the 15-inch Book 9 isn’t too shabby either. Its 2.84-pound body feels just as impressively solid as its 13-inch sibling’s, and it packs the same high-powered components. The biggest difference between the two laptops, beyond their screen sizes, is that the 15-inch Book 9 comes with a USB Type-C port, which is faster and more versatile than standard USB ports.
Samsung hasn’t provided any information on pricing or availability for the 13-inch or 15-inch Book 9, but we’ll keep you updated when we find out more. Stay tuned.

7 clever tricks that make your iPhone or iPad easier to use By Komando Staff

Using an iPhone or an iPad isn't rocket science. One of the things that die-hard Apple users love most about them is their combination of powerful computing with simple, easy-to-use functionality.
That's even more pronounced with Apple's new iOS 9 operating system.

In fact, hundreds of thousands of people have decided to ditch their laptops and desktop computers in favor of tablets. Click here to find out if that's a good choice for you.

However, when you pull your Apple gadget out of its shiny package, it's not your personalized gadget yet. For that, you need to tweak some settings to make it your own.

That's why we've created this list of tips and tricks to help you make using your iPad or iPhone easier than it already is. Whether it's making text larger, so it's easier to read, or having your iPhone or iPad speak to you, and points in between, we've got you covered.

Note: If you're not using iOS 9, you should update your Apple iPhone or iPad to it (Settings >> General >> Software Update.) The newest version of iOS has a more helpful Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant; improved battery efficiency; and much more.

1. Make text bigger and bolder

Despite the iPhone's large screen size, and the iPad's larger displays, you know it's not always easy to read the tiny print on those screens. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to make your Apple display easier to read.

If you'd like to make your text bigger, and bolder, here's how to do that: Go to Settings >> General >> Accessibility >> Larger Text >> Larger Accessibility Sizes.
Then, move the slider to adjust the size of the font. To bold the text, tap on the Bold Text button. (See image below.)

Note: To turn on the bold text, you will need to restart your iPhone or iPad.
photo 3

2. Zoom in for bigger text

There's one more trick I know for making text bigger. Go to Settings >> General >> Accessibility, then turn on Zoom.

Then, use three fingers to double tap; then, you can zoom in and out on any application like Mail, Safari, and your Home and Lock screens. This will also work if you want to zoom in on an Instagram photo.

Note: With iOS 9, you can zoom in and out when you're watching videos. To use zoom, just pinch in and out with two fingers, like you do with photos.

3. Keyboard alternatives

If you'd prefer to use a standard keyboard, rather than type directly onto your iPhone's or iPad's touch screen, Apple lets you use keyboards made by other companies, or third-party providers, as long as you're using iOS 8 or iOS 9. Go to Settings >> General >> Keyboard >> Keyboards >> Add a New Keyboard.

Note: You can find keyboards in the Komando Shop.
Once you add your keyboard, you'll notice that Apple alerts you, saying that some third-party keyboards only work if you give them full access to your Apple device. Apple doesn't share that information, unless you give your permission.

To do that: Settings >> General >> Keyboard >> Keyboards >> tap on your keyboard.
Apple 3rd party keyboards
Note: In September, Apple launched its largest iPad yet, the iPad Pro. It has a 12.9-inch Retina display, an optional Apple Pencil to write or draw by hand; it also has an optional keyboard, so it's even easier to type on it.
If you're thinking about buying an iPad, be sure to check out the exclusive Komando Tablet Comparison Charts before you start shopping. You'll find specs on full-size tablets, mini tablets, extra-large tablets and Amazon's Fire tablets.

4. Add button shapes

Another handy feature to make it easier to read is turning on Button Shapes. (Settings >> General >> Accessibility, then turn on Button Shapes.) It adds outlines and shapes to the buttons so you have a better idea of where to press. For example, see the outline around the "General" in the image below.
photo 1

5. Enable captioning

Do you watch TV with Closed Captioning? Those are the written words on the TV screen that match what people on TV shows and on commercials are saying. Closed Captioning is extremely useful if you're hard of hearing, or if you want to enjoy a TV show or movie while everyone else is trying to sleep.

Captioning, or Subtitles, is available on most Apple devices using the iOS 9 operating system. It's easy to set up: Go to Settings >> General >> Accessibility. Then, turn on Captioning & Subtitles. You can customize the caption's font, size, type and color.

6. Have your gadget read to you

VoiceOver is a feature we've mentioned in the past, but it bears talking about again. Simply put, VoiceOver reads out loud the words on your Apple device. That includes written content. But it also provides descriptions of what you may not be able to see on the screen.

It will read each letter as you're typing a text or email. It will tell you which app button you're touching, who's calling you, how much battery life you've got left, and more.

VoiceOver will read directions to you in maps, have your camera tell you how many people are in your shot, and get spoken photo descriptions. You can write notes and letters on the screen and have VoiceOver translate your messages into text for email and other apps.

To turn it on: Go to Settings >> General >> Accessibility, then turn VoiceOver on. You have the option to practice with VoiceOver, including setting its speaking rate. To use VoiceOver from your iOS device, press three times on the home button.
Apple VoiceOver

7. Get better alerts

No matter how much your iPhone buzzes and vibrates, you still miss calls, or don't realize you have unread messages. There are better ways to get your attention, especially if you have trouble hearing.
One way is by using your iPhone's LED light to flash, to alert you. To set up LED flashing lights: Go to Settings >> General >> Accessibility. Then, turn on LED Flash for Alerts.

There's another way to get better alerts: custom vibrations. You can set custom vibrations for incoming messages and FaceTime calls.

Go to Settings >> Sounds >> Ringtone >> Vibration. Or, you can go into your contacts list; hit Edit and select the Vibration option for each of your contacts.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The best 7 education and reading iPhone apps of all time by Karissa Bell

Whether it's learning a new language, catching up on our reading lists or exploring the night sky, iPhone apps have been helping us learn about the world around us from the earliest days of the App Store.

This list is a look at the best educational apps ever made for the iPhone, based on our list of the 100 best iPhone apps of all time. As with the rest of the apps on the list, we evaluated education and reading apps based on their design, cultural impact and how they resonated with users. The apps below are ranked in the order in which they appeared on the best 100 list.

For a closer look at how we chose and ranked the apps on our list, you can read more about our methodology here.
  • 7. Feedly

    Long before Google killed its RSS reader, Feedly was one of the few apps making unwieldy RSS feeds look good on a smartphone. The app not only proved RSS feeds don’t have to be ugly, it offered more features — like better sharing tools — than many of its counterparts.

    Later, when Google killed Reader in 2013, the service became more essential than ever, adding more than half a million new users in the span of 48 hours as panicked Reader devotees flocked to the app. Feedly not only helped us save our precious RSS feeds, it has continued to add new features that help news junkies stay on top of their reading lists.
    Image: Feedly
  • 6. Instapaper

    Instapaper is, in Internet years, a fairly old-school app. The app originated as a simple bookmarklet for web browsers in 2007 before making the jump to the App Store the following year. The app quickly became a favorite for many thanks to its simple interface and ability to enable offline reading. The $10 premium version of the app, which added extra features like hands-free scrolling, was also among the first truly successful paid apps. (The app is now free to use with extra features available via a subscription.) Instapaper has faced fierce competition in recent years from the likes of Pocket and even Safari itself, but the app remains one of the best tools to tackle your reading list.
    Image: Instapaper
  • 5. Duolingo

    While no app can make learning a new language completely effortless, Duolingo’s gamified approach manages to keep it engaging. The app guides you through vocabulary, reading, writing and speaking lessons that don't feel like homework. Best of all, the app is completely free. There are no ads, in-app purchases or spammy gimmicks that many of its competitors employ. Though it began with only a few languages, the app has now expanded to more than a dozen languages. Admittedly, its offerings could be more diverse — it mostly offers European languages — but, fresh off new funding that values the startup at almost half a billion dollars, there are likely a lot more lessons in the works.
    Image: Duolingo
  • 4. Pocket

    Pocket, like Instapaper, has become one of the most popular apps for saving news articles, videos and photos for later reading and viewing. It's especially useful for revisiting content when a Wi-Fi or cellular connection isn't available, like in a subway tunnel or in the bush. Originally called Read It Later, the app (and service) accrued a legion user base of 4.5 million users. However, the app really shot into the stratosphere when it was rebranded as Pocket in 2012, and the $3 price dropped to free. Today, Pocket is integrated with over 1,500 apps and has more than 17 million registered users. Though the app is free, there's a premium upgrade ($5/mo. or $45/yr.) that offers more powerful features such as a permanent library (in case content disappears from the web), deep search and suggested tagging.
    Image: Read it Later
  • 3. Kindle

    One of the smartest moves Amazon ever made was to create an app that let your read your digital books on any device or platform you wanted. Of course, the company took its time getting there, first introducing apps for Windows and Android. Finally, in 2009, Kindle for iPhone arrived. E Ink readers like the original Kindle (and current Paperwhite) may be the perfect device for hours and hours of reading, but we’re not always carrying them, so the Kindle app, with its instant access to all your digital books was the perfect anecdote. The app offers all the features of a Kindle reader and some more, like the ability to display color images and graphics. Not everything you have in your Kindle Account is accessible, though; many magazine subscriptions don't appear. Still, it’s a minor quibble for an app that is well-designed and probably ranks as one of the most important and ubiquitous in the app ecosystem.
    Image: Amazon
  • 2. Star Walk

    Star Walk ($2.99) arrived in 2010 and gave astronomy neophytes a crash course next-level stargazing. The app uses the iPhone’s GPS, compass and gyroscope, so when you hold it up to the night sky, you see on screen a perfectly positioned overlay with information on the brightly shining bodies in view. The image will change in real time as you move around, and you can tap on any celestial body to get more details. It's quite simply the stargazer’s dream app and has spawned many imitators, some of which are also quite good. But Star Walk will always be the first and, perhaps, the best.
    Image: Vito Technology Inc
  • 1. Google Translate

    Google Translate on the web is a familiar and vital tool for many. But if you aren’t using the iPhone app, you’re missing out. The app is hands-down the best tool to look up a word or get a real-time translation on the go (we’ll never get tired of speaking into the app in one language and having words repeated in another.) But the app’s neatest trick is one it learned from Word Lens: point the camera at text — whether it’s on a piece of paper or on a street sign — and the app magically transforms words written in Japanese kanji into English. Of course, your mileage will vary depending on the level of support for the language in question, but, for now, no other translation app compares.