Monday, August 31, 2015

The Best Android Smartphone For Those On A Budget - Moto G (2015)

There are subtle changes taking place in the Smartphone markets. Carriers in the U.S. are moving away from the "subsidy model" that has been with us for many years. Under this plan you walked into a store, dropped $200 for a "Flagship" Phone (IPhone, Android or Windows), signed a two year lock-in contract and paid a monthly service fee for your phone and data. Of course, that top of the line IPhone or Samsung device retails for $600 - $750 and the carrier is subsidizing the rest.

We are now seeing more prepaid, no contract plans, and the major carriers are moving away from "locked" smartphones. You can now purchase an "unlocked (one that can be moved between carriers)" device and pay a monthly fee. You are free in many cases to stop paying and switch providers whenever you want - assuming your device's hardware supports the appropriate frequencies and technology.

This is great for the consumer, but there is one glaring consequence. Buying a "Flagship" smartphone, upfront and unlocked, may induce "sticker shock". The IPhone 6 Plus starts at $749.00. Fortunately, those that are unwilling to invest that much cash have a couple of options. First, the carriers will, generally, let you spread out the payments by adding a monthly fee to the cost of your service. Second, consider buying a "non-flagship" phone.

 

Unless you are a person who has to have the "latest and greatest", there are some excellent bargain smartphones. Some will provide 90% of the capability of the Flagship products, for a fraction of the cost. A recent entry from Motorola is, in my opinion, one of the best - at a bargain price.

The 3rd generation Moto G (2015) "one ups" the 2014 model, which was highly rated. This new customizable Andoid smartphone can be purchased for a mere $179.00 (8GB), although I would definitely recommend the 16GB version for $219.00. Keep in mind that this price is for an unlocked device that you can use with most any GSM carrier and a few CDMA options - this excludes Verizon & Sprint, at the present time. Grab this phone and a $40 - $50 prepaid plan and you are good to go. Want to switch carriers for a better deal? No problem, no contract - just make sure they support GSM (AT&T, T-Mobile and many MVNOs like Cricket, etc.).

So, what's so special about the new Moto G? It's just about the closest thing to a "Flagship" smartphone you can buy - for a fraction of the price. I will not attempt to run through all of the specs, since they are readily available online. Here are a few highlights:

1. An excellent 5" 720p HD Gorilla Glass display.

2. A slot for a removable micro SD card - store your photos and music.

3. 4G LTE on GSM.

4. Rear Camera Auto HDR - 13 MP, Front Camera - 5 MP.

5. Splendid, all day battery life.

6. Build your own custom color options.

7. Water resistant.

In addition, the Moto G is almost pure Google Android. There are very few manufacture addons, which often cripple the standard Android experience. "Vanilla" Android also I enables more timely Android OS updates, which are very slow to arrive on many devices. The Moto G 3rd Gen ships with the latest Android 5.1.1 - Lollipop. Presently, the 16 GB models are very popular and often in short supply. This will change as manufacturing ramps up.

So, if you are tired of the paying top dollar for the latest and greatest, and you are interested in Android, you can't go wrong with the new Moto G (2015).

 

Friday, August 14, 2015

So, You Installed Windows 10, But It's Not What You Thought. Let's Roll It Back.

Windows 10 has now been around almost a month and the reviews have been, generally, positive. For me it has been a good upgrade. Microsoft has successfully created a blend of the traditional Windows 7 features and the "Metro/Modern" tile interface. It works reasonably well on all form factors - Desktops, Notebooks, Tablets and Smarphones. As expected, there are many bugs that Microsoft will have to kill in the coming months. If you aren't the adventurous type, and you have not upgraded, you may want to wait.

Some folks jumped in and now have "cold feet". Perhaps you upgraded from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 because it was free, and now you want to roll back. Well, the good news is you can - if you do it soon and meet a few conditions. Here's how.

 

1. You only have 30 days from the time you upgraded to rollback.

2. When you upgraded, the process created a folder that includes needed to roll back. Generally, this folder can be found here: C:\Windows.old. Make sure you have it.

3. As always, before you make any major changes to your system, make sure you have a good backup of your data files. You should not need it, but anything can happen.

4. Open the Start menu or Notification Panel, select the Settings app, and go to Update & Security > Recovery.

5. You should see an option that says Go back to Windows 8.1 or Go back to Windows 7. Click on Get started and follow the instructions. The rollback, just like the upgrade, will take time to complete. In addition, you may have to do a little "tweaking" to get all of your settings exactly like they were prior to the upgrade.

Don't forget, if you change your mind, you have until July 29, 2016 to snag your free copy of Windows 10.

 

 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

So You Like Windows 10, But Dislike The New Edge Browser - Let's Get Your Old One Back.

During the first few days of it's release, Windows 10 was reportedly installed on some 70 million computers. Since, you are reading this "how to" you may be included in this count. But, if you have not upgraded, there is no need to rush - you have almost a year to obtain the free "bits". If you just have to have it, you can get it today - check out our article on upgrading to Windows 10 now.

Microsoft has included a new Internet Browser with Windows 10 called Edge. It shows promise, but it is not entirely complete. Presently, there is no support for addons or extensions. Unfortunately, when you upgrade to Windows 10, Edge becomes your default web browser. If you are like many other users, you probably have a personal preference - Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, etc. So, how do you get your old browser back - and make it default.

 

1. Go to Settings. You can get there from the Start menu or the Notification icon in the lower right tray.

2. Select System followed by Default Apps.

3. Click Microsoft Edge under the "Web browser" heading.

4. Select your favorite browser from the pop up list.

5. Your new choice is now set as your default for Internet Browsing.

Microsoft will be adding extension support and other new features to Edge soon. It may be worth checking it out, once again, in a few months.

 

 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tired Of Waiting For Windows 10? Here's How To Install It Today.

Did you "reserve" your free copy of Windows 10 - weeks ago, and now find that you are continuing to wait for the final installation files. Where are they? Microsoft has millions of copies to deliver and it may take awhile. Keep in mind, you have almost a year to grab your free copy, so there's no real hurry. But, if you want it now, there is a simple way to make it happen. Here's how.

 

1. First you need to download a copy of the Microsoft Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. Select the correct version for your computer - 32 bit (x86) or 64 bit (x64). If you are not sure which you have - read on.

2. To find out which version of Windows 10 you need, open File Explorer on your computer, right click on My Computer or This PC, and select Properties. You can determine whether you're running a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows. If you are currently running Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 with Bing, choose Windows 10 Home as Edition. If you are currently running Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8 Pro, Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 8 Professional, Windows 8.1 Professional with Media Centre, choose Windows 10 Pro as Edition.

3. When you run the Tool, it will give you the option of automatically upgrading your specific computer to Windows 10, or you can make a bootable DVD or USB to install Windows 10 on one or more computers. Making a bootable USB Flash drive is a great option. It will come in handy if you have problems or need to reinstall later. For this choice, you will need a blank USB Flash Drive (at least 3GB) to make a 32 bit or 64 bit Installation Drive. If you want both versions on the same USB Drive you will need a 8GB version. There is an option for a DVD, as well, but few modern computers include DVDs.

4. Creating the tool takes a little time, but when it's done you will be ready to upgrade to Microsoft's latest and greatest.

 

 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

How To Speed Up Your Browser And Improve Your Security - Let's Tame Adobe Flash!

During the last few months we have heard a myriad of IT professionals and Tech journalists call for the end of Adobe Flash. Some may remember that the late Steve Jobs, raised the same alarm back in 2010 when he refused to put Flash on the IPad. So, what is Adobe Flash? Why do we use it? Should you abandon it?

Adobe Flash is a widely used technology for displaying video and interactive content across the Internet. In spite of being obsolete, many advertisers continue to use Flash, and their ads consume a lot of computer resources. In general, this slows down your computer and browser, degrades your experience and drains your laptop battery. Many developers have already switched to a more modern and less obtrusive technology for rendering web content, called html 5.

 

In addition to poor performance, there is a more deleterious consequence of using Flash. It is a constant source of Malware Injection. Running Flash in your Internet Browser makes you much more vulnerable to Zero Day malware exploits - even from websites that you may assume to be safe.

As always, tightening up security comes with added inconvenience. Some websites you visit will still be using Flash and it may cause a few stumbles. In general, things will be faster, more secure and you will see fewer ads. So how can you tame Flash within your Internet Browser? Let's take a look at each of the popular browsers. Ipad and IPhone users don't need to be concerned - Thanks to Steve, you don't have Flash!

1. Internet Explorer - Internet Explorer can be setup to ask you before it loads generic plugin content (including Flash), but this option is well-hidden on the add-ons screen. Click the gear icon on Internet Explorer’s toolbar and select Manage Add-ons. Select Toolbars and Extensions. Click the Show box, and select All add-ons. Locate the Shockwave Flash Object plug-in under Adobe Systems Incorporated, right-click it, and select More information. Click the Remove all sites button and Flash won’t load automatically on any website you visit. When you do go to a site with Flash content, you’ll be asked whether you want to allow it.

2. Google Chrome - Google Chrome has a built-in click-to-play feature for all plug-ins, including Flash. To enable it, click Chrome’s menu button and select Settings. Click Show advanced settings, click Content settings under Privacy, scroll down to Plug-ins, and select "Click to play" or "Let me choose when to run plugin content". When you visit a website with Flash, you will asked whether you would like to allow it. There is also a nice Chrome Extension called Flashcontrol that will do the same thing.

3. Safari - For Safari on Apple Mac OS X you can enable click-to-play for plug-ins. This setting Is granular and can be adjusted individually for each plug-in you have installed In your browser. Click the Safari menu, and select Preferences. Click the Security icon and select Manage Website Settings to the right of Internet plug-ins. Select a plug-in (Flash), click the When visiting other websites box, and select Ask.

4. Mozilla Firefox - Enable click to play by going to the Menu Button -> Addons -> Plugins, Find Shockwave Flash and change the drop-down to Ask to Activate. You can also use the Firefox Extension - FlashBlock - which works very well.

Some websites load Flash content in the background and may need Flash content to work properly, but this is becoming increasingly less likely as sites move to html 5.