Get access to all of your files on all of your computing devices with Dropbox

The Cloud.  If you don’t have a piece of it, you’re behind the times and you may be in a serious predicament.  Getting your own private piece of the cloud is so important that I co-wrote and edited an important piece on it for Information Week last summer. The gist of the article was alternatives for what I consider to be one of the absolute BEST online backup and file access tool on the internet today, and really the application and service to copy or beat – Dropbox. It’s a multiplatform tool; and again, it’s a must have.

Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring all your photos, documents, and videos anywhere. This means that any file you save to your Dropbox will automatically save to all of your connected computers, phones as well as the Dropbox website. You’ll never be without the data you need, as long as you have an internet connection.

Dropbox makes sharing files easy.  You can invite your friends, family and teammates to any folder in your Dropbox, and it’ll be as if the data was saved right to their computers. You can send people links to specific files in your Dropbox if sharing an entire folder isn’t appropriate. This makes Dropbox perfect for team projects, sharing party photos with friends, or any number of file sharing needs.

If your computer has any kind of meltdown, and you lose EVERYTHING, don’t worry. Dropbox has you covered.  You can use Dropbox to restore all the data from your backup folders in a snap. It’s perfect for hard drive upgrades and computer rebuilds.

read full review | download Dropbox

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Remember things big and small from your everyday life with Evernote

One of the most important things that you can do with your mobile device, your computer or laptop is take notes. If you’re a student, educator, or business professional, then you know what I’m talking about. Keeping track of action items, assignments, lesson plans, etc., is something that everyone has an interest in. That’s one of the reasons why I like Evernote. This multifunction tool has specialized functionality in order to keep you organized.

Evernote makes it easy to remember big and small things from your everyday life, using your computer, phone, tablet and the web. With Evernote, all of your notes, web clips, files and images are made available on every device and computer you use, anytime, anywhere. All you need is a connected device and available bandwidth. Evernote does the rest.

With Evernote, you can remember the things that YOU like. You can instantly save everything cool and exciting you see online. You can snap a photo, record some audio and save it to a note and have that note, with that cool content sync to every one of your connected endpoints. As such, you can take notes anywhere. If you’re always on the move, your notes and important information should be too. With Evernote, those important items are on every computer, phone and device you use.

Since notebooks sync instantly, Evernote makes it easy to work with remote friends and colleagues. You can share your notes and collaborate on projects with friends, colleagues and classmates regardless of their location, time zone, etc.  Evernote can be used to bring project information and teams together regardless of who is working on which parts, and can centralize all your information.

Read full Review | Download Evernote for WindowsDownload Evernote for Mac

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Mozilla Thunderbird – a modern email client that is flexible and powerful

Mozilla Thunderbird is an open source, multiplatform and extensible email client. It has been around under free license and stable since 2004 and now at versions 10 and 11 is a fully featured and mature product.

All the features that you would expect from a modern email client are present: HTML support, multiple account support, whereby you can keep accounts separate or merge them together, Web mail, POP, IMAP and Microsoft Exchange server support, calendar, address book.

Thunderbird was designed to stop junk mail and prevent viruses, and includes intelligent spam filtering, suggesting when it thinks a message might be spam, S/MIME, data signing and message encryption and a phishing detector.

We found the trickiest part was setting up an email account, and especially if you hail from a webmail environment. There is a wizard to help you through this part.

Download and installation is swift. The client product and the user interface are clean, easy to use. The product can easily be customised through Add-Ons, available via the Tools Menu. Mail is presented in a tabbed format, so it looks a little like Outlook.

It is a good idea to save customisation until well into the process, that way you can get an idea of Thunderbird’s speed, before burdening it with additional software.

Thunderbird has been praised for the search facility. In Version 10 this includes the ability search the web. Email searches can be saved as virtual folders. There is an activity manager which records email activity. This can be used if you need to check whether a mail was sent or received. Emails can be archived in a stroke.

We have high expectations of our email clients to provide extensive functionality and Thunderbird will not disappoint. Since email is such a fundamental part of our lives, we think the security features of this product are excellent. It should not be overlooked for those considering a new email client.

Read full review | Download Mozilla Thunderbird

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NetBalancer gives your the proper priority to your internet activities

Even in today’s world of high speed internet and wide pipes, prioritizing and monitoring what takes up the bulk of that personal bandwidth can be important.  If you have large files that you need to transfer quickly then pulling back incidental network traffic can be important. If you have small things that you’d rather move in front of that large file transfer, throttling the large transfer in favor of the low hanging fruit may provide the win.  That’s why I like NetBalancer. It’s a network utility for Windows.

NetBalancer allows you to browse and complete any internet activity easily, even when transferring huge files from one end point to another.  All you need to do is lower their network priority with NetBalancer. You can use NetBalancer to set network transfer rate priorities for any application, and monitor that traffic.

Applications with a higher network priority will gain more traffic bandwidth than those with a lower one. You can set download and upload speed limits for a process. You can manage priorities and limits for each network adaptor (wired vs. wireLESS, for example).  In short, you can define detailed network traffic rules.  You can group local network computers together, and synchronize and balance their network traffic.

The app provides a volume of information, including a system tray monitor and graphical representation of both traffic coming in and out of your adapters. While the free version is limited, the paid version is reasonably priced and depending on the amount of bandwidth you consume every month, may be well worth the purchase price.

read full review | download NetBalancer

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Get in touch over email, IM, or a call with Google Talk

You know…Skype is the thing. It really is. The Jetson’s video-style chat is something that many people have been dreaming of as the standard M.O. for voice communications for the last 50 years. Now, thanks to the Internet and to those tools like Google Talk, it’s now possible; and it really doesn’t matter what platform you’re using. Google has a communications solution for you.

Unified communications is one of THE buzz words of the coming year. Google is doing its best to provide most everyone with the single best way to communication with family and friends and they are hoping that their Gmail and Google Talk combination are the key to that success.

With Google Talk, you can IM and voice chat with friends, family and just about anyone with a Gmail address or Google account.

With Talk’s text chat, you can send instant messages, make status updates, and transfer files. With voice chat, you get free PC to PC GLOBAL, long distance calling, and can hold an video conference with multiple parties all at once. All you need is Google Talk, a Gmail address and a web cam at each end point. Even if someone is missing a web cam, they can still participate either via audio only or one-way video

 

 

 

Read full review | Download Google Talk

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Mozilla Firefox 9 – one of the best alternative web browser for Mac and Windows

I remember the big Microsoft Antitrust Trial and shake up back in the 1990′s. Everyone got their undies in a bunch because it was thought Microsoft making and integrating their own internet browser into Windows created problems for other browser vendors, some of whom tried to sell their browser rather than give it away. Thankfully, we’re well beyond all that, and end user choices – good ones – remain available. This is one of the reasons why I really like Mozilla Firefox, and it’s available for both Mac and Windows.

Mozilla Firefox is an advanced web browser, based on the Mozilla Open Source project. It’s got multiplatform support and a great many features that make it a great choice for the default browser on a computer near you. Chief among those is its advanced, efficient interface.

With Firefox, you can get to your sites quickly, even if you can’t remember the URL’s. Its Awesome Bar allows you to type a search term within it, and the autocomplete function will include possible matches from your browsing history, bookmarked sites and open tabs. Its adaptive technology learns your browsing habits over time, and will continue to offer better fitting matches the more that you use it.

Above the Awesome Bar, Firefox supports tabbed browsing; making it easier to focus on the content of the sites you visit. You can browse multiple sites at once, simply and easily. Each site appears as a new tab within the current browser window and can be accessed in one click. If you use browser based apps, like Gmail or MS Office 365, you can take these sites off the tab bar and give them a permanent home in your browser.

There is a great deal of information on the internet and Firefox makes it easy for you to find what you’re looking for. Its Integrated Web Search makes searching for information easy. The search box, located just to the right of your location bar allows you to select the service of your choice and enter your search terms into the box. The box width is even adjustable if you need more space. As soon as you start typing in the search bar, it will prompt you with a drop down of filled-in suggestions. You can also use the search bar as a calculator, converter and more.

Read full review | Download Firefox 9 for WindowsDownload Firefox 9 for Mac

 

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Today is the day when the Internet goes on strike against SOPA

January 18th – A day we’ll remember. Thousands of sites went dark to protest against SOPA and PIPA, two US bills racing through Congress that threaten prosperity, online security, and freedom of expression. Sites are striking in all different ways, for example, Google censored its own logo and Wikipedia decided to bring out drastic measures in the fight, as they make the website unavailable for 24 hours in protest against the bill.

One thing is clear, if the bill will pass, the Internet will never be the same and it will affect everyone around the world, not only the people of US, by blocking site’s web traffic, ad traffic and search traffic using the same website censorship methods used by China, Iran and Syria. All websites both inside and outside the US could be blocked based on an infringement claim and website based on user-generated content like YouTube and Reddit could be really effected.

By clicking Google’s logo or the link just under the logo takes you to a SOPA / PIPA landing page that displays these words:

Millions of Americans oppose SOPA and PIPA because these bills would censor the Internet and slow economic growth in the U.S.

Two bills before Congress, known as the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business. Millions of Internet users and entrepreneurs already oppose SOPA and PIPA.

The Senate will begin voting on January 24th. Please let them know how you feel. Sign this petition urging Congress to vote NO on PIPA and SOPA before it is too late.

The page gives you the option to sign a petition against the legislation, and I hope you will!

https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/

You can also declare your opposition to it via a PIPA petition website

To find out more information about SOPA, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act

 

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Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus Part 3

Last time (read article Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus, Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus Part 2), I spelled out what Google was doing with Android. Today, I’m going to wrap it up and bring it home, providing a recommendation that I hope Google will listen to.  Unfortunately, given their track record, I’m not getting my hopes up. Unfortunately, neither should you.

Android is attacking the market en masse. It’s the only way the fragmented OS is capturing share. Its lack of focus provides for a quick product introduction cycle by its 3rd party supporters. For example,

T-Mobile USA currently offers 16 Android smartphones from 6 different manufacturers.
AT&T offers 22 Android smartphones from 7 different manufacturers.
Verizon offers 34 smartphones from 6 different manufacturers.

Most of these phones are either running FroYo (Android 2.2.x), or Gingerbread (Android 2.3.x). Very few of them will run or officially support Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.x). Each manufacturer has added their own launcher and customizations on top of the OS. Nearly all have provided customized versions of some system level apps or components, originally developed by Google.  This has unfortunately created a bigger divide between stock Android and what end users actually use on their devices.

What does this mean, exactly?  In many cases, Google provides the shell and relies on the 3rd party developer to complete the structure. Until recently, and by recently I mean the last 12-18 months, Google resisted the development of an ecosystem. It provided an operating system that would allow users to organize their lives, communicate with the outside world, run apps, listen to music, watch video and read books.  However, it failed to provide a way for users to purchase, organize and manage that content on those devices. Their philosophy – we provide the means, YOU (meaning the hardware OEM or 3rd party developer) provide the way. In the process they’ve lost out on potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in sales and royalties.

It finally recognized this when it introduced Google Music.  From there, you could buy and then stream music directly to your Android phone.  It also modified its Android Market allowing for the sale of not only music, but books, movies as well the standard and familiar device apps.  Music purchased there could be copied to your device and your PC and then synchronized with Google Music’s online music locker.

While this signifies a move in the proper direction, not only for Google and its partners, but for users as well, it doesn’t completely solve the problem. Google needs to further lock down the platform – hardware manufacturers and OEM’s shouldn’t be allowed to have devices with up to three different revisions of the OS in active support at the same time, and shouldn’t be allowed to introduce new products with outdated OS revisions, as they have in the past.

Google is developing focus, but it’s taken approximately 4 years to get here. Frankly, I think Google’s gotten very lucky. Hopefully, they’ve seen the error of their ways, have seen the success their major competitors have in their own ecosystems, and continue to stay focused.

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