Thursday, April 30, 2015

How To Care For Those Lithium-Ion Batteries Powering Your Portable Devices

Our modern portable devices are inherently dependent on batteries. Smartphones, Tablets, Laptops and Watches all rely on fully charged cells to provide optimum performance. Battery technology today, is vastly different than it was - even five years ago. Modern Lithium-Ion technology, coupled with more energy efficient processing power has provided all day productivity - on a single charge. Unfortunately, many users continue to follow the "battery care" instructions that were appropriate for the previous generation.


The days of the Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd) batteries, that developed a "memory effect", if they were not routinely discharged, are long gone. Most of our current devices lack customer removable batteries, making care and maintenance more important than ever before. So, how can you prolong the life of those Lithium-Ion batteries lurking in your favorite device.

  1. Don't routinely, completely discharge your battery. Let it discharge 20% and then recharge, if possible. If you must discharge the battery daily, consider adding more charging stations.
  2. Many modern devices include firmware that tracks the current charge of the battery. When you use frequent shallow charges the tracking mechanism can become confused. You should completely discharge the battery (down to 2-3%) every month, or so, to refresh this cycle and keep the reporting accurate.
  3. Don't keep your device permanently connected to the charger. Instead, discharge the battery to around 40% for long term storage.
  4. Don't subject your battery to extreme temperatures. Heat, in particular, can substantially reduce the life of you Lithium-Ion battery.
  5. Avoid power hungry apps and games that discharge the battery rapidly. Connect the charger in these situations.
  6. Wireless (inductive) charging is convenient, but it produces excessive heat. Use a direct cable connection to prolong the life of your battery.

In general, connect your device to the charger as often as possible, but don't leave it connected for long term storage.


Monday, April 27, 2015

How To Clear Out All Of Those Pesky Apple Watch Notifications With One Click

Apple's new Smartwatch has been arriving for early adopters. Fans were eagerly waiting this past Friday (April 24, 2015) for their latest "toy". While the watch has many capabilities, it's main use will undoubtly be for "quick glances and notifications". You may have discovered that glancing at your watch when a notification arrives, is convenient, but it can also be annoying. A careful examination of your IPhone notification settings will help ameliorate this issue. But, how do you quickly remove all of those Popups on your Apple Watch? Dismiss them one by one? Fortunately, there is a better way.

Clear all of your Notifications with Force Touch

First, swipe down from the normal time display to access the Notifications Screen, then Force Touch (push with a long press) the display to bring up the Clear All option. Remove all of those pesky notices with one tap.



Saturday, April 25, 2015

How To Control Your Kid's Internet Access Using OpenDNS - Free

Most homes today are filled with Internet connected devices - Computers, Smartphones, Game consoles, tablets, etc. Behind many of these devices there are young users who may be unprepared for the myraid of negative influences, often found on the open Internet. Parents may find it very difficult to monitor all of their child's Internet activity. Fortunately, there is an excellent free service that makes it relatively easy to setup Parental Controls across your home network. All you need is a WIFI router and a free Open DNS account.

OpenDNS enables web filtering at your router, so one change will provide filtering for every device on your network. Or, you can assign it to individual devices. This allows adults to have an unfiltered Internet experience.

Simply, go to and create an account. Choose OpenDNS Home Parental Controls, which is quick, easy and completely free. When you finish creating an account, you will need to confirm via the email address you provided. Follow the instructions relative to changing the DNS settings on various devices, as well as, your gateway WIFI router. Changing your home router's DNS addresses is a matter of logging into the web administration portal and changing two numbers. This change will filter all traffic on the network, so you may want to change the DNS settings on particular clients and device for unfettered access. Follow the instructions to proceed to the OpenDNS Dashboard.

When you first access the OpenDNS Dashboard, you’ll need to add your home network. If you’re connecting from a computer within your network, your IP address (The address provided by your Internet Access Provider) will be shown at the top. Go to the Settings tab to add this address. At this point you can setup your web content filtering level. You may choose levels or categories and customize specific sites.

While OpenDNS will not provide absolute security and protection (a precocious and enterprising child may circumvent the filter), it will assist parents in coping with this ongoing challenge.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Facebook Quick Tip - How to Save That Interesting Newsfeed Post For Later Reading

Sometimes interesting posts and links appear in my Facebook Newsfeed, at moments when I don't have time to check them out. A few days later, if I remember, I try to find the post - to no avail. I suspect many have had a similar experience. Fortunately, Facebook provides an excellent solution, but it is often undiscovered. So, let's use Facebook's "Save For Later".


To save a link in your Newsfeed, click the little arrow in the top-right of any post that includes a link. Then click the Save "Link" button from the pull down. Your story (Article, Video, Audio, etc.) will be saved to your Saved Folder. You probably didn't know that you have a Saved Folder. That's because you won't see the folder until you save something for the first time. After you save you will see a "saved" ribbon in your left hand favorites bar. Click on the ribbon and you will find all of your saved items - for your eyes only.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How To Add Your Favorite Website To The Home Screen Of Your Smartphone Or Tablet

I believe I read somewhere, that the average mobile device user has around 100 Apps on their Smartphone or Tablet. In spite of the large number, most of us probably only use 20, or so, on a regular basis. Quite often we just want to get to a particular website, quickly. Fortunately, all of the major mobile Operating Systems provide a simple method of pinning a specific site (icon) or web app to your Home Screen. Here's how you do it.

IOS - IPhone, IPad, IPod Touch

Open Safari on iOS and go to the website that you would like to add to your Home Screen. Tap the Share button on the browser’s toolbar (the rectangle with an arrow pointing up). Tap the Add to Home Screen icon in the Share menu. You’ll be prompted to name the shortcut. Once added, the new icon can be placed anywhere you want. Tap the icon and Safari will open and take you to that site. Apple only allows this feature within Safari. It will not work on Chrome or other browsers.

Android - Smartphones & Tablets

Open Chrome on your Android Device and go to the website that you would like to add to your Home Screen. Tap the menu button and tap Add to Homescreen. You will be prompted to name the shortcut. Once added, the new icon can be placed anywhere you want. When you click on the icon, Chrome loads the website as a Web App, so it will show as a running application in the app switcher. Unlike IOS, many other Android browsers have this capability.

Windows Phone

Open the website you want to add in Internet Explorer. Tap the More (…) button and tap Pin to Start in the menu. The resulting pinned Icon will be static, unlike some of the other live tiles.

Windows 8.1 Tablets

Open the website you want to add in Internet Explorer (desktop version). Tap on Tools at the top. Tap on Add Site To Apps, in the drop down menu. Go to your Apps List and right click on the newly added App. Tap on Pin To Start.



Monday, April 20, 2015

Podcasts Are Fast Becoming The New TV - Learn How To Watch & Listen On Your Mobile Device

Have you taken advantage of the recent rebirth the Podcast phenomenon? The days of limited topics and and amateurish production and talent are long gone. Podcasts have become the new TV. The content is vast and most now are professionally produced. "Audio only" still exists for the radio lovers, but most are shot in HD Video. There is a Podcast for every interest - news, politics, entertainment, technology, arts, business, comedy, hobbies, health, kids, music, science, sports, religion, health and education. Best of all, viewing and subscribing is free.


In the early years most users were forced to watch or listen from their Desktop or Laptop computer (generally using ITunes). It worked fine, but it was not particularly convenient. The widespread use of mobile devices has changed everything. You can now enjoy your favorite Podcast via your smartphone or table, while relaxing in your easy chair. It is as simple as installing one of the excellent Podcast Apps on your IPhone, IPad, Android or Windows device and subscribing to a show(s). There are many great Apps for serving up Podcasts, but here are a few recommendations.

For IPhone/IPad/IPod - IOS - Both of these are excellent and well supported.

  1. Downcast - $2.99 in the App Store - I use Downcast almost every day.
  2. Pocket Casts - $3.99 in the App Store.

For Android

  1. Pocket Casts - $3.99 in the Google Play Store.
  2. DoggCatcher - $2.99 in the Google Play Store.

For Windows Phone and Tablet

  1. Podcast Lounge (Windows Phone) - $2.99 in the Windows Phone Store.
  2. Podcasts! (Windows 8.1 - Modern UI) - Free in the Windows App Store.
  3. Pocket Casts - $3.99 is now available for Windows Phone, as well.




Saturday, April 18, 2015

How To Make Night Reading On Your IPad/IPhone "Easy On Your Eyes"

Apple has built a myriad of Accessibility Tools into IOS 8. Users with impaired hearing or sight can customize these options to optimize their experience when using an IPhone or IPad. There is one option, though, that seems to be helpful for all users - the ability to Invert Colors.

Let's face it, reading on a LCD screen, is generally, not pleasant. At night, when the room is dark, looking at that white screen with black text can be uncomfortable - even when the screen is has been dimmed. Many of the Ebook reader Apps like Kindle, Nook and IBook attempt to ameliorate this issue with a Invert Color (night reading) mode, that enables a Black Screen with White Text. Most users find this much more comfortable when reading in a room with very low ambient light. But, what happens when you are simply reading news from a website?



You can go into the Accessibility Options and turn on Invert Color, but getting there and bac is a little cumbersome. So, let's setup a simple Shortcut that will let you toggle this option On and Off. Keep in mind that it will invert all colors, so some screens may look a little strange. The main goal is to provide you with a Black Background with White Text for reading in a darkened room.

  1. Go to Settings>General>Accessibility and click on Accessibility Shortcut at the bottom.
  2. Select Invert Colors - it will be "checked".
  3. Notice at the top it says Triple-Click The Home Button For:
  4. When you Triple-Click the Home Button it will Invert Colors. Triple-Click again and it will return to the original - White Background with Black Text. Refresher - Remember Double-Click of the Home Button brings up the Apps running in the Background.

Happy night reading!


Friday, April 17, 2015

Google Has Now Made It Simple To Find A Lost Or Stolen Smartphone - Here's How

Several years ago, Apple gave IPhone users the ability to locate their missing phone or tablet using the Find IPhone App. Google followed by releasing the Android Device Manager App that provides Android users the same capability. In both cases, you can locate a device, set off the ringer, lock and completely erase all data, if needed. Google has now made the process much easier - just Google "Find My Phone". Simply start a Google search and type Find My Phone.


There are a few caveats.

  1. First, you have to make sure you're logged in to the same Google account on your PC's browser (Google Chrome), that you use on your phone. Fire up Google Chrome and login to your Google Account.
  2. You must also have the latest version of the Google app installed on your Android device.
  3. Finally, wait a few minutes and you will see the device location on a map, that's accurate to within 50'-70'. You also have the option of making the lost phone, ring. If you click on the phone icon it will start the Android Device Manager and offer you two additional options - lock or erase.
While this new method does not add any additional features to the original Android Device Manager, it is certainly quick and easy to use.



Thursday, April 16, 2015

How To Stay Safe And Secure When Using Public WIFI Hotspots

Smartphones and tablets with cellular data connections are very convenient, but those data charges can add up quickly. Most users seek out those Public WIFI Hotspots when out and about. We see them everywhere - Coffee Shops, Airline terminals, Bookstores, Hotels, Restaurants, etc. Most are free and provide above average service for normal Internet connectivity. Unfortunately, these free Hotspots are not always safe. Some are replete with lurkers, eavesdropping on your online activity - recording every site you visit and every word you type. This may include your login credentials to websites, email, etc.

Open WIFI Hotspots are very handy, but inherently insecure. So, what can you do? There are many different types of VPN connections and protocols.

1. Avoid using any private credentials, if possible. If you have to login to a particular site make sure it is secure. The address bar in your browser will show HTTPS instead of HTTP indicating that you are using a secure connection (SSL). This will encrypt the data between your computer and the server you are logging into. If the "lurker" is watching he will only Be able to see "random noise". For example, if you are logging into Bank of America, make sure you see In the address bar. The good news is many websites are now moving to SSL and perhaps soon, we will see it everywhere.

2. Make sure the Firewall is turned on your Computer and turn off File Sharing.

3. Make sure you are on a legitimate network. "Bad Guys" sometimes set up rogue networks with common names like Free Wi-Fi or Public Wi-Fi to get you to connect to their illegitimate networks. Ask the hotspot owner for the name, and login information - if needed, for the hotspot you are planning to use, before you connect.

4. Set your computer or device to NOT auto connect to Public Wifi Hotspots. Otherwise, it may connect to a malicious network without your knowledge.

5. Finally, if you travel frequently and use Hotspots regularly you should consider using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN is a method of encrypting the data from your computer to another computer in a known safe environment. It provides a secure path or tunnel from one point to another. The path could be from your "traveling computer" to your Home Network, Business Network or a Private Network somewhere else in the world. The VPN actually attaches your traveling computer to the secondary network - as if you were there. Let's assume you are in a hotel far from home and you want to login to a particular website. You would turn on your VPN client and point your browser to the website. A VPN tunnel would be established to the VPN Server in the secondary location (Home, Business, VPN host provider) and then travel on to the website that you requested. The processed request would then travel back to you via the same encrypted tunnel. So, how do you setup a VPN?

  • You can purchase a home WIFI router with a built in VPN server and use you home internet connection.
  • You can install OpenVPN software on a home server. Most Windows Servers and NAS (Network Attached Storage) have VPN capability.
  • The easiest approach is to use a VPN provider. There are a few free ones, but I don't recommend them. They may be fine, but remember you will be sending private data through their service. Private Tunnel and Private Internet Access are good choices. Both provide state of the art encryption and software clients for most any Operating system - including mobile devices. You simply start the App, connect the VPN and you are good to go. Private Tunnel let's you test out the service with 100 MB of data - free. You can then just purchase a "bucket of data" (50GB for $12) that can be used on multiple devices, with no expiration. The prices are very reasonable, if you need this type of secure access.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How To Easily Increase The Battery Life Of Your Android Smartphone

Sometimes our Smartphones simply "die" before the end of a busy day. Let's face it, these devices are power hungry, and as the battery ages, the device loses charge much more rapidly. You probably already know many of the normal battery saving techniques - reducing screen brightness, switching vibrate off, turn off nighttime notifications, turn off auto synch for Apps that you don't need, etc. But, there is one huge "battery eater" that is often overlooked - the GPS. Do you really need the GPS on constantly. You phone does have other methods of determining your location. They may not be as precise - but how important is pinpoint accuracy during a normal, routine day? Your Smartphone also uses WIFI and Cell Towers to determine your location, and these are much more "power friendly." Give it try.



Here are the Instructions (which should be applicable to 90% of the present devices) for Android 4.4 (KitKat) - Android 5.1 (Lollipop).

  1. Go into your Settings and scroll down to Location.
  2. You can choose to toggle location on and off via the slider at the top, and you can chose how you want to share location (Mode) in the settings. The Default is "High Accuracy" which uses Wifi, GPS and cell data to set your location. Change this to "Battery saving" to only use cellular and Wifi. This should improve your battery life - considerably, and you can always reset the next time you need full GPS accuracy.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Prepare For The Inevitable: How To Recover Previously Deleted Files On Your Windows PC

Everyone has made that inadvertent click that resulted in deleting an important file(s). This was a frequent event prior to Microsoft's addition of the Recycle Bin. Unfortunately, it still happens when we mistakenly empty the Recycle Bin or run one of the Cleanup Utilities. The good news is - prior preparation can save the day.


There are many Utilities that are capable of retrieving previously deleted files. Recovery is seldom 100%, but you can achieve excellent results if you act quickly and appropriately. So, how is it possible to recover deleted files? When files are deleted, Windows does not actually delete them from your hard drive or SSD. Instead, it marks the storage space as empty, so that new data can be written, and deletes the index entry that tells the location of those files. Unless, new files are written on that same space, the deleted files are still recoverable. The recovery software utilities can then locate these un-indexed files. Generally, they are capable of recovering files from most any type of storage - Hard Drives, SSD, Thumb Drives, SD cards, etc.

So, if you inadvertently delete a file, you do not want to do anything that may cause the "empty space" to be overwritten. Stop all actions and immediately run the recovery utility. You should have previously installed the utility or, if not, you should now run it from a Portable Flash Drive.

The free utility I would recommend is Recuva by Piriform. You can download and install the full version or get a Portable version that will run from a flash drive. The Portable version is very handy, since it can be used on multiple computers, when needed. Recuva's wizard interface is simple to use. You can scan for deleted files based on their type (music, pictures, videos, docs, etc.). It also includes a deep scanning mode in case a particular file is not recovered during the normal scan process.

If Recuva is unsuccessful, and you are willing to pay for a chance to recover that important file, you may want to give Active@ Undelete a try.


Monday, April 13, 2015

How To Setup Emergency Health Information On Your IPhone

There is a little known and often overlooked feature built into IOS 8, that may just save your life. During a health emergency a first responder or bystander may take a look at that IPhone for identification. In most cases this will fail because of the PIN lock. Fortunately, Apple has provided a Medical ID section within the new Health App that gives you the opportunity to add important health information. In addition, this information can be accessed from the lock screen - without a PIN. The Medical ID section of the Health app is a generic medical information and history form. The data includes birthdate, existing medical conditions, notes about those conditions or your medical history, allergies, medications, emergency contact (including relationship to you), blood type, whether you're an organ donor and your height and weight. You can add or delete as you wish.



To add your health information: Tap the Health app. Tap Medical ID - the icon at the lower right corner. Then, tap Create Medical ID to enter your information, including birthday medical condition, medication, emergency contact, blood type, height, weight and more. If you are concerned about privacy you may want to leave off your birthdate.

At the top of the pane labeled Emergency Access, there is a toggle to allow access to the Medical ID panel from the lock screen of your iPhone. This means that in an emergency an EMT, first responder, bystander or co-worker will be able to access the information. Simply Swipe To Unlock and tap the emergency button. By default this only allows someone to dial 911. However, if you allow lock screen access to the Medical ID panel, there will be a Medical ID button at the lower left of the keypad. Tapping that button provides access to the Medical ID information and enables direct calls to the listed emergency contact(s).

What about Privacy? Anyone who has physical access to your iPhone can potentially access this information. If your phone is lost or stolen and a "bad guy" reads your Medical Information - how important is it? Only you can answer that question. Remember you always have Find My iPhone (if you have turned it on) to locate and erase all of your data.



Sunday, April 12, 2015

Are You a Time Warner or Xfinity Customer? Use WIFI When Traveling And Save Your Mobile Data

Let's face it, mobile data on a Smartphone is not cheap. You probably purchase a fixed amount per month - 1, 2, 3, 5GB or more. Assuming you don't download apps, watch videos or listen to music, 1GB may be enough. Watch a movie or two and you are well over your limit. So, it makes sense to try and use free WIFI whenever possible. Finding these Hotspots can be a challenge - they are far from becoming ubiquitous. Even if you do happen to find one there is always the question of security. Open WIFI Hotspots are notorious for lurking hackers and "bad guys" trying to grab your personal information and credentials. When using these you may want to refrain from accessing sites that ask for personal information, unless the site itself is using secure protocol. You can identify this security by looking your HTTPS in the address bar.



Fortunately, Open WiFI is progressing and the some of the large Cable Companies are taking the lead. Last year Time Warner Cable began building out WIFI Hotspot access points across their market, including locations that allow you to connect to Secure hotspots - using Hotspot 2.0. These 2.0 hotspots encrypt your communications and ameliorate the security issues we previously discussed. TWC calls these TWCWIFI- Passpoint. When you see one of these popup in the Wifi choices on you mobile device, you can connect securely. Of course, you will need your TWC account credentials to login. You will only need to login one time - your device will retain your credentials. The connection itself uses a handoff technology, and it is seamless. You can ride around a TWC market area and your device will "grab" the WIFI signal, as you move from one point to the next. You may also see other TWC wifi access points that are not secure. These are generally identified by TWCcable - no Passpoint notation. TWC has been expanding this technology very rapidly and others are beginning to take notice.

Comcast via Xfinity is also rolling out Hotspots across their market areas. At present, most of these are open hotspots that lack the security that we mentioned above, however, Comcast has indicated that they will be adding Hotspot 2.0 infrastructure in the future.

To take advantage of either of these technologies you need a Comcast (Xfinity) or TWC Internet account. But, if you are already paying for cable, this is a nice perk that will help you save some of that valuable mobile data. Grab a TWCWIFI-Passpoint connection, on the go, and stream a video - without Cellular data remorse.


Friday, April 10, 2015

How To Backup All Of Your Digital Music & Play It Everywhere - Free

Most music lovers have a large collection of digital music. Mp3s that were "ripped" from CDs or encoded from old vinyl records, songs that were purchased from Amazon, ITunes, etc. Usually they are stored on a computer or a mobile device like an IPod or IPhone. The "music geeks" may also have them on a home Media Server. A large collection can consume a substantial amount of precious storage space - particularly on a mobile device, like a Smartphone. On the other hand, it is very convenient to have your entire music collection in your pocket - play any song anywhere.

Do you have a backup of your music collection? You should. Sooner or later a hard drive or SSD will fail, and without a backup, you'll lose everything. Fortunately, there is a simple solution that will provide you with a Backup and allow you to play your Music everywhere - from virtually any device. Best of all, it's free.


Google Play Music is a free service that provides storage and playback of up to 50,000 of your songs. To get started you will need a free Google Account - if you already have one, you are good to go. Go to the Google Play Music website from your desktop and log in to your existing Google account to get started. From there the site will walk you through the process of installing the the Music Manager software to add your music files. You will need to upload all of your songs to the Google Cloud. This process may take a long time, depending on the size of your collection and the speed of your Internet connection. But, you only have to do it one time. The Music Manager will search your computer for music files or you can pick individual tracks and albums to add. During the process your songs will be scanned, and where possible, matched to songs stored in the Google Cloud. So the only songs actually uploaded are the ones that are not matched in the process. This provides an additional benefit - the audio quality of the songs stored by Google is likely superior to your older Mp3 files. This process is similar to Apple's ITunes Match, but you can store twice as many songs and it's free. ITunes Match costs around $24.00 per year.

When you're finished uploading your files, you'll be able to stream or download your music using the Google Play Music App which is available for Android and IOS (IPhone, IPad, IPod Touch). You can also play music from your desktop or laptop by going to the Google Play Music website. This gives you access to your entire music collection, anytime - anywhere, without using up valuable storage space. Of course, streaming music over the Internet does use quite a bit of data. So, you may want to limit your use over the Cellular Networks. When traveling you can always download a playlist to your device over WIFI, in advance. Remember that backup we mentioned? You now have it, stored on Google's Servers - offsite and safe.

Finally, if you really want to expand your musical horizons, you can add Google's Music Subscription Service. For $10 per month Google Play Music All Access will put a 30 million song library at your disposal. Stream all the music you want, wherever you want, coupled with you own library. A great solution for the music lover who likes to explore new genres. Google's music subscription service is very similar to the other popular services like Spotify, Rdio and Beats Music.



Thursday, April 9, 2015

Is Your Windows Phone 8.1 Out Of Space? Learn How To Move Apps & Media To Your SD Card

New smartphone users are happy to have a device that makes and receives calls, sends and receives text messages and provides instant information via the Internet. Within a few months, those new users discover that the device is much more versatile than they ever thought possible. After installing many Apps, Games, Music, Videos, etc. the user is faced with a dilemma. The smartphone that once had plenty of storage space, is now almost full.


This is particularly true for those using one of the "budget" Windows Phones. I have often said that the Windows Phone 8.1 OS interface is excellent. The only deficit is the lack of high quality Apps. The lower priced Lumia - Windows Phones represent a true bargain, and they are selling like "hot cakes" and many parts of the world. In order to market a budget device, the manufacture has to find somewhere to cut costs, and storage space is often one of the first choices. Many of the Windows Phones ship with a mere 4 - 8GB of space and much of that is used by the Operating System. Fortunately, most also ship with the ability to add a SD card (Size varies from 16GB - 128GB depending on the particular Phone) - something you will not find on an IPhone. This is a great feature and it provides a fantastic solution to the storage crisis. Not every App can be moved, but in most cases you will be able to transfer enough to solve your immediate problem. In addition, you can move all of your Media (music, videos, photos, etc.), and with a fast SD card everything should render and play, just fine. So, let's move some Apps and Media to an SD card on Windows Phone 8.1.

  1. Go to your list of Applications by navigating to Settings>System>Storage Sense.
  2. Tap phone and select a category (apps + games, music, videos, podcasts, photos).
  3. Select the app that you want to move.
  4. Tap "Move To SD".
  5. You can also move multiple items by tapping the select button in the app+games page. This will allow you to select more than one app or game before moving.

If you would like to have new Apps and/or Media installed directly to the SD card, you can easily set that up in the Main Storage Sense Screen.

  1. Look for the 4 categories on the bottom of the page (media, photos, apps, and downloads).
  2. Tap phone for the category you want to change and then select SD card.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Why Pay A Monthly Bill - Setup Free Home Phone Service Using OBihai And Google Voice.

Would you like free home phone service? Do you have a good broadband internet connection? Are you reasonably tech savvy? If you answered yes to all three, then check out the OBihai OBi100 device.

The OBihai is a Voice over IP (VOIP) phone bridge telephone adapter - similar to other options like Vontage and Magic Jack. It sells for $49.00 with free shipping on Amazon. You can setup this device with your broadband router and wireless phone handsets to create a phone connection in your home. Couple this unit with a free Google Voice phone number and you now have a full featured phone system for your home - and it's free.



Sure you have to buy the OBihai, but after that there is no monthly fee. You can call anywhere in the US with unlimited minutes and anyone can call you. Google Voice gives you all the phone features that you need (voice mail, caller id, etc.). The call and voice quality is excellent. No different than a normal landline phone - assuming you have a solid "always on" DSL or cable broadband connection.

Setting up the device involves plugging the unit into your router, your phone handset or wireless base, and AC power. You will need to have a free Google Account and a google voice phone number. You can sign up for a free account at Google Voice. The instructions on the Obihai website are clear and relatively easy to follow. There are only two caveats. First, like many VOIP phone services, 911 service is not included. If you have a cell phone with enhanced 911 this may not be an issue. You can also, remedy this situation by purchasing a 911 service as an add-on. Anveo offers 911 service for OBihai users for a reasonable $15.00 per year. Second, Google Voice has been free since its inception in 2009, however, there is no guarantee that it will always be free. I have used the OBihai, successfully, for over three years with a set of Panasonic wireless handsets. This is definitely a winning combination, if you want to cut the cord and save some cash.



Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How To Make Phone Calls & Send Text Messages From Your Mac

Apple's latest rendition of OS X (10.10 - Yosemite) ushered in a plethora of new features for your Mac. One of these is particularly useful if you find yourself spending too many hours in front of your desktop/laptop screen. Assuming you have an IPhone 5 or greater - what Apple Fan doesn't?, you can use your Mac as a Smartphone. It is very easy to make and receive calls, as well as, text messages without retrieving your handset. In addition, you can also make calls from your Ipad Air or Ipad Mini. Here are the steps.

  1. Your Mac and IPhone need to be on the same WIFI network.
  2. You must be logged in to the same Apple ICloud Account on both devices.
  3. Open the Messages App on your Mac. Go to Preferences>Accounts and make sure that your Iphone phone number is "checked".
  4. When a phone call comes in, you'll get a notification at the top right of your computer screen where you can choose to accept or decline it.
  5. To make a call, open the Facetime App, click the Audio tab and type in the number that you want to call.
  6. The new SMS relay will also allow you to send text (sms) messages to anyone from your Mac. Previously, you could only send iMessages, limiting your communications to those within the Apple "Eco System". You will need an IPhone 5s or greater and IOS 8.1 to enable this particular feature. Make sure your iCloud credentials are setup on your Mac in System Preferences>ICloud. Open the Messages app open on your Mac and, open it on your iOS device, as well. On your IOS device, Go to Settings -> Messages -> Text Message Forwarding. Once you see your device listed, toggle it on. You may also be required to input a verification code, so make sure to leave Messages open on your Mac to receive it. That should do it. You can now send SMS messages from your Mac using SMS Relay.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Save Some Cash & Set Parental Controls - Learn How To Use Family Sharing On Your IPhone/IPad.

The latest version of IOS - version 8, introduced a myriad of new features. One that is often ignored, but quite beneficial, is called Family Sharing. This new feature gives a maximum of six people, the ability to share purchased content (ITunes, Apps, IBooks, etc.), photos, locations and calendars from their individual Apple accounts. The "family" does not have to share their individual Apple ID and Password.


This will allow one member to make family purchases with the same credit card and approve kids’ spending right from a parent’s device. Buy an App, one time, and share it. You can also share photos, a family calendar, and more to help keep everyone connected. You can use Family Sharing on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with iOS 8, your Mac with OS X Yosemite and iTunes 12, or your PC with iCloud for Windows 4.0. So, which specific devices can run IOS 8? IPhones 4s or newer, Ipad 2 or newer, iPad Mini or newer and Ipod Touch 5g can all run IOS 8 and Use Family Sharing. Once you’ve set up Family Sharing, all the eligible songs, albums, movies, TV shows, books, and apps ever purchased by any family member is immediately available to everyone else in the family. And, of course, so are new purchases. The content appears automatically in the Purchased tab in iTunes, iBooks, or the App Store for each family member. Just select the family member whose collection you’d like to browse, then download and play the content you choose. Other family members can access your collection in the same way. If you want to keep some purchases private, you can choose to hide individual items. Now that you have upgraded to IOS 8.x, let's look at how to set it up.

  1. To use Family Sharing, there needs to be one organizer who heads up the account. Once you enable Family Sharing, any purchase made from the connected devices will be charged to the family organizer's iTunes account. To set up a Family Sharing account, the family organizer should go to Settings > iCloud > Set up Family Sharing... > Get Started > Continue on his Apple device. If asked, enter your Apple ID, agree to the terms and conditions, and tap "Continue" to confirm that you agree to pay for all iTunes, iBooks and App Store purchases made by family members, and that your payment method is correct.
  2. Next, add family members to your group. Tap "Add Family Member" and type in their names or email addresses. When you add family members, they'll each receive an email that will ask them to accept the Family Sharing invite. You can add up to five other family members.
  3. When the other members have accepted, everyone can access each others' apps, movies, TV shows, music, and books etc. Go to the "Purchased" pages in the iTunes store, iBook store or App Store. Choose the family member whose content you want, and download.
  4. To hide purchases, go to "Purchased" on the right side of iTunes, select content type (Music, Movies, TV Shows, Apps or Books) and you'll see your purchases. Choose the icon of the content you want to hide by placing your mouse over it, and click the "X" on the top left corner. When you hide your purchases, members of the Family Sharing group won't be able to download them.
  5. You can also share Photos and a Family Calendar & Reminders. Go to the Photos App on your device and you'll see a new photo stream called "Family." This is where family members can share photos and videos. Go to the Calendar App and you will find a new Family Calendar that everyone can edit. You can also set up notifications to let you know when other members add content.
  6. When a member joins Family Sharing, their device will automatically share their location with the group. If you would like to turn off location sharing on an individual device, go to Settings > iCloud > Share My Location and disable it. With Family Sharing, each family member's device will automatically show up in the Find My iPhone app. When someone in your family is searching for a missing device, Find My iPhone can help you find it. To hide your location from family members on Find My iPhone, go to your Family Sharing settings and disable "Show My Devices."
  7. Parental Controls - Children under the age of 13 can be a part of Family Sharing. However, the family organizer must create the child's Apple ID. To create a child's account, the family organizer can go to Settings > iCloud > Family. Tap the request at the bottom. Once a parent creates an account for the child, the "Ask to Buy" feature is automatically activated. When your child tries to download anything from iTunes, iBooks or App Store, he will receive a notification saying, "A request to buy this app will be sent to your parents." The family organizer will receive a notification with the name of the child, what he is trying to download and its price. The parent will have to approve the purchase before the child can download it. The family organizer can also control what content his child has access to by going to the "Restrictions" setting (on the family organizer's device) or "Parental Controls" in iTunes.
At some point you may want to remove an individual from Family Sharing. Fortunately, it is easy to do. Just go back to Settings>ICloud>Family, choose a member and select Remove. Keep in mind that you will no longer have access to your family members' Apps, music, movies, TV shows, books, shared photos, calendar, reminders and location information.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

How To Make Windows 8.1 Look And Feel More Like Windows 7.

Many PC users who transitioned from Microsoft Windows XP > Windows Vista > Windows 7 were shocked when they purchased a new PC with Windows 8. The familar Desktop and Start Menu had been abandoned in favor of a new Start Screen with touch friendly tiles - initially called Metro and now called Modern. Microsoft was attempting to merge their OS interface to accommodate Tablets and Desktops. The Enterprise customers, predictably, decided to stick with Windows 7 avoiding a major retraining initiative. The blowback from users prompted an update - Windows 8.1. This was an attempt to ameliorate and bring back some of the missing features that would appease the long time Desktop users.

You have to admire Microsoft for their efforts. No doubt, the merging of Mobile and Desktop Operating Systems is the wave of the future. Perhaps their timing was a little off target. In spite of the fact that Android and IOS dominate the Smartphone Market, the Windows Phone OS interface is excellent. It is unique, easy to use, inexpensive and runs well on minimal hardware. So, why has it not been successful? The lack of quality, well supported Apps has been a major obstacle to it's widespread adoption.


Nevertheless, if you have purchased a new computer with Windows 8.1 and you would prefer the look and feel of Windows 7 try these simple tips.

  1. Boot to the Desktop - When you start your computer it goes to the Start Screen - Tile Interface, but you want it to go to the Desktop - like Windows 7. To change this behavior, right click on the toolbar at the bottom of your desktop, then click properties, navigation, and check the box that says "When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start." Reboot and you are good to go. You can always get back to the Start Screen by clicking on the Windows Flag Key on your keyboard.
  2. Show Applications when You click the Start Menu Button - In previous versions of Windows, clicking on the Start Button would open a Start Menu from which you could view and run any of your installed programs. By default, the Start Button now takes you to the Windows 8 Modern Start Screen. Go to the desktop and right click on the taskbar – click "Properties". Go to the "Navigation" tab. Within the navigation area, find the "Start Screen" section below and check the box: "Show the Apps view automatically when I go to Start". If you wish to see your desktop applications listed before your Windows 8 apps, also check the box entitled: "List Desktop apps first in the Apps view when it’s sorted by category". Your Start Button will now display a list of apps instead of the default Windows 8 Tile Start Screen.
  3. Bring back the Start Menu - The Windows 7 style Start Menu has been one of the most requested Windows 8.1 ommisions. Tapping the Start Button would reveal your installed software and a set of cascading menus. There are many third party applications that will do the trick. A nice free option that you may want to try is Classic Shell. A second option - Stardock's - Start8 is not free, but at at $4.99 it will not "break the bank". Of the two, I prefer Start8. I have used it successfully on disparate hardware and the product is very well supported.


Finally, if you continue to be unhappy with Windows 8.1, stay tuned - Windows 10 (Microsoft skipped 9) is coming in the summer of 2015. The good news is, if you are upgrading from Windows 7 or 8.1, it will be free to consumers.

Friday, April 3, 2015

How To Read Your Favorite E-Books - Free, Without Becoming a Pirate.

Have you forsaken paper books and transitioned to electronic media. I actually prefer E-Books. I know there are many people that love the feel and look of the hardback variety. For me, E-Books are much more convenient. I can keep hundreds of titles in my pocket and read any of them on multiple devices (Smartphone, Tablet or Computer). The reader knows where I left off, let's me enlarge the fonts and highlight to my "heart's content". I don't need to make a time consuming, gas burning trip to pick up my book - it's only a finger click away. Some of the e-book formats are proprietary, so I can't easily read a Kindle Book on a Nook or IBook reader. This, however, is just a minor inconvenience. Generally, e-books are less expensive, but not always. Lately, I have been accuring my e-books - free, and you can too.



In most localities, a Public Library Card is free for residents. You already know that you can go to your local library and "check out" paper books, but not everyone knows that e-books are often available, as well. Many Public Libraries now allow you to "check out" digital books. You establish an account, login to an App on your device, pick your book, and download it - free. You may have to wait for that Best Seller, the same way you do with the hardback edition, but you can do it all from your easy chair. You will be allotted a "Borrowing Time" - maybe 2 weeks, and then you will have to "Return It". How do you return a digital book? Just click a button.

The size of the E-Book Collection will depend on your locality. Some are just beginning the process and others have extensive choices, including audiobooks. You will need to find out which specific Reader App (3M Cloud, Overdrive, etc.) your library uses and install the App on your device(s). Generally, you will be able to read your book on your Smartphone, Tablet or PC. Mac, Windows, Android, IOS (Ipad, Iphone) are all supported. In most cases, these Apps are simple to use and their feature set is similar to the IBook, Kindle or Nook apps that you have been using. The only disadvantage that I have found is the inability to load a book on one of the e-ink type (ex Kindle Paperwhite) devices. These are excellent for reading in direct sunlight.

When you buy a Kindle, Nook or Apple Book it is delivered immediately. The process is exactly the same for the Library E-Books, with the welcome exception, that they are free. I know what you are thinking - Suppose I am late with my e-book return? You may be able to renew it, otherwise you will, likely, receive a fine - perhaps a line item on your Local Tax Bill. Some things never change.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Five Facebook Tips That You May Find Helpful.

Do you use Facebook? If the answer is yes, you have plenty of company - 1.4 billion worldwide. Facebook updates their platform regularly and the sheer number of changes is often overwhelming. New features arrive and old ones disappear. Here are five features that you may have missed.

  1. You have probably been sharing posts and pictures for several years. In fact, you may have forgotten most of them. Would you like a copy of all of your posts? Facebook actually allows you to download all of your data and posts. From the Desktop version of FB, Click on Settings> General Tab> Select " Download a copy of your Facebook Data". Your info will be delivered in a compressed zip file.
  2. Have you seen a video on FB that you want to download and keep? Give this a try. When viewing a video on Facebook, simply add the word "down" just before "" in the link in the address field of your browser. For example if you're watching this video: Just remove "s" from "https" and add the word "down" to look like this: Now just load that link into your browser (enter or click Go) and follow the instructions to download the video from Facebook.
  3. Do those Auto Playing Videos bug you? Do they make you waste cellular data on your Smartphone? It's easy turn off Autoplay. On a Desktop Computer: Go to your options drop-down menu in the top right. Click "Settings". Select the "Videos" link on the left. Turn the "Auto-Play Videos" from "ON" to "OFF". For Mobile Android Devices: Open the Facebook app and tap your phone's menu button. Tap Settings and Scroll down - tap Video Auto-play. Choose an option. For Iphone and IPad: Go to your phone or tablet's settings. Scroll down and tap Facebook. Tap Settings. Below Video - tap Auto-play and choose an option.
  4. You know by now that you don't see everything your Friends post on FB. Perhaps you like it that way. On the other hand, you may want to see everything from specific individuals. Fortunately, you can do this and it will make your Feed much better. Go to your Profile page and Click on Friends. Any friend that is not part of Close Friends or Acquaintances, will show without a star. Click on a user with a check mark and add them to one of the two groups. Add as many friends as you want. On your main Facebook page you can now see Close Friends and Acquaintances listed on the left side. Click on one of these to see every post that these friends share on Facebook. This may include posts that don't interest you. Comment on and like the updates that you care about and very soon your Facebook news feed will improve to show you the updates you want to see. This takes time, but it is the best Facebook tip for building a better news feed.
  5. Does your Iphone, IPad or Android device constantly ring or buzz telling you that a FB Friend has invited you to play a game. You can stop these Facebook game notifications and requests with this tip: On your IPhone or IPad go to Facebook -> More -> Settings -> Notifications -> Mobile Push -> Uncheck Application Requests and Application Invites. On Android go to Facebook -> Tap on the Three Lines in the upper right -> App Settings -> Uncheck Application Requests.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Do You Use An Android SmartPhone? Here Are Three Easy Tips You May Not Know.

There are thousands of apps in the Google Play Store that will let you expand the capability of your Android based smartphone. There are also quite a few "built in" hidden features that you may not know. If you are an "Android Guru" who has mastered all of the tricks - pass them on and help a friend. Here are three that may prove useful.


  1. Do you often type unusual names, technical jargon or other words that aren't in your Smartphone's Dictionary? This can become tedious on that small keyboard. Teach your phone new words by long pressing on a word to add it to your personal dictionary. The next time you have to type it, your phone will suggest the word after a few letters, saving time and finger fatigue.
  2. Do you use more cellular data in a month than your plan allots? You probably already know that you can monitor the usage. Go into Settings and then Data Usage to view a breakdown of how much data you've used. You may not know that you can also set an alert to tell you when you're getting close to your limit. In addition, you may want to set your phone to stop using cellular data, altogether, when you've hit your monthly cap.
  3. Have you ever lost your smartphone? Was it misplaced or stolen? In either case, I hope you are using Android Device Manager. Suppose a "good guy" finds your device and wants to return it to you. How will they know how to get in touch with you? Fortunately, Android will let you put your name, email address, and an alternate phone number on your lock screen. The "good guy" will be able to contact you, but won't have access to any other info on your phone. To add your info, go into the Settings menu and select Security>Screen Security>Owner Info.