Smartphone 101 – I’m supposed to talk into WHICH end??

I was recently approached by a good friend who needs help as a first time smartphone owner. Here are the basics of what you need to know.

I’ve been in mobile devices before they were mobile.  If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the past over the past 18 years it’s what makes a smartphone smart; and it can be summed up in one word, really: Integration.

smartphone-helpSmartphones are only smart because they take information from one part of your life – your address book for example, and allow you to make not only phone (voice) calls with it, but make video calls, send emails, get directions and have your mobile device navigate you to a friend’s house from some place you’ve never been before. It’s smart because it connects the dots between places you never thought even had dots, let alone places.

If you’ve never owned a smartphone before, they can be a bit daunting.  Heck… they can be down-right scary.  Over the next five days, I’m going to put my iOS vs. Android vs. Windows Phone comparisons aside and instead run through a few how-to’s on how to get into a smartphone if you’ve never had one before.  I’m going to cover the following:

Making and Receiving Phone Calls – How to make sure you push the right button or slide the right thingy in the right direction so you can take the call.  If you miss it, you’ll also want to know how to get to your voice mail, how to listen to, respond to and manage voice messages.

Messaging (Texting, Multimedia and email) – How to make sure you send the right notes and the right pictures to the right people, because …well, with great power comes great responsibility.  In the wrong hands, that information can be used for great evil. Believe me, not everyone can handle, “all this…” and I don’t think I want them to, either.

Pictures and Home Video – Let’s face it… You have a smartphone because it’s easier to take and send pictures of the kids with one device. You’re not going to carry your digital point-n-shoot camera or DSLR with you everywhere you go. Your kids, however, will be adorable and cute despite your current state of preparedness. Most smartphones have cameras that are just as good as, or better than, many high-priced point-n-shoot digital cameras; and they take decent video, too. Let’s figure out how to use it and share it with the world.  This section may overlap slightly with Messaging, above.

Music and Movies – You’ve spent years refining your music library. You’ve got movies to occupy the kids during that long car ride to grandma’s house. Let’s figure out how to get your multimedia on your smartphone.  This is going to differ from platform to platform (desktop/laptop PC or Mac) and between Mobile OS to Mobile OS.

Apps – While we’re walking through the ecosystem (I’ll cover that term very briefly in this section), let’s realize that your smartphone is probably more powerful than the PC that took you (or your parents, depending on how old you are) through high school and college. It’s a mini PC that you can take everywhere, and it can do more than you think. Here, I’m going to show you how to get apps on your smartphone.  You figure out how to use them; though I will cover Facebook slightly. It’s integrated into all three Mobile Operating Systems pretty deeply.

Local Search and Navigation – You don’t need a dedicated GPS unit or a phone book any more.  Your smartphone CAN get you there from here, even if you’ve never been there or here before. I’m going to cover Google Maps and Apple Maps in this section.  They’re close enough that the one set of instructions should get you where you wanna go, but I will likely have two sets of screen shots…

If you can get through these basic how-to’s without a bloody nose, you should be good to go.  At that point, you’ll have mastered the basics and should be savvy enough to branch out into other areas on your own.  In fact, if you can get through all of the above, you won’t be a beginner any longer and should consider yourself pretty proficient.

However, if there’s something you want me to cover, hit me up in the comments and let me know what it is.  The only thing I ask is that you let me know what kind of smartphone you have (iPhone, Android or Windows Phone) so I can give you the right kind of instructions. It may also help to know what mobile carrier you have here in the States, and if you’re using pre or post paid service. Depending on which one you use, things may be a bit different…

Hold on to your hats kids. Your world… its about to get a bit bigger.

 

Smartphone 101 – Prerequisite #1: Setting up Your Address Book

Related Posts:

I Feel like I’m Sitting on a Time Bomb

Apple’s 15″ Early 2011 MacBook Pros have some serious problems…

macbook pro 15 inch (2011)

I’ve been writing since 1997, but for the longest time I wrote on whatever laptop the office gave me.  After things started to get serious, I bought my own laptop – a Dell Latitude C610 – and was very happy for a very long time.  I purchased my first 15″ MacBook Pro in early 2006 (one of the first Intel-based MacBooks) and as Windows was my platform of choice at the time, used it as a Windows machine via Boot Camp. I finally made the full switch over to OS X in mid-2010, just before I bought a new, Early 2011 15″ MacBook Pro to replace the 13″ Late early 2009 Aluminum Unibody MacBook I had purchased.  The only way I run Windows on a Mac now is with Parallels Desktop for Mac.

I really like my Early 2011 MacBook Pro.  It’s sturdy.  It’s solid. It’s (generally) well built. It’s also end user upgradable… one of the last models of Apple’s professional laptop line to really be end user upgradable, too.

When I ordered it, I got it with the high-end processor, but minimal RAM and the smallest, slowest hard drive they had. The idea was that I could upgrade those components over the course of a few years, and bring extended value and life to what was then – and now – a very large purchase.  I also did NOT purchase Apple Care.  While it does provide you with a few key service upgrades – as well as the extended warranty period – the equipment is so well built, that I didn’t use it on either of the previous TWO MacBooks I had purchased; and thought, after buying the high end model, that I’d save myself $350 bucks.

Unfortunately, I feel like I’m sitting on a time bomb.

The notebook should last at LEAST another 5 or so years without breaking, provided I continue to baby it as I do. It’s in near mint condition, with only very minor wear, despite being upgraded from 4GB to 8GB, then 12GB and then finally 16GB of RAM.  I’ve also left the very slow, 5400RPM 500GB HDD behind for a couple different, faster (though smaller) SSD’s.

The big problem with the Early 2011 MacBook Pro, however is its built-in discrete AMD video card.  They’re failing.  In fact, there are stories all over the place about how the cards are taking notebooks out, out of nowhere.  The graphics boards are failing, making the computers unbootable. Those WITH Apple Care have been able to get the effected logic boards replaced and in most cases that’s fixed the issue; but with Apple’s 3yr Apple Care extended warranty deadline fast approaching, that may be an issue going forward, as it doesn’t always provide a permanent fix.

Some people have been able to “fix” the issue with
·    Restarting in Safe Mode
·    Resetting NVRAM/PRAM
·    Rebooting to single user mode and performing an fsck to check and repair corrupted files
·    Forcing the computer to use the Intel integrated graphics
·    Complete clean installs of OS X

Unfortunately, none of these have had any lasting success, either. Some work for a while.  Other methods initially resolve the problem, but it very quickly returns. Once you “wear out” your options, most systems become inoperable and unusable. I haven’t bumped into this yet; but it’s just a matter of time from what I’ve read in the HUGELY documented forums.

The fix is hit or miss; and there’s no standing order with Apple to replace the part.  Apple has yet to officially respond. As such, a petition has been started at Change.org. The document calls the graphics issue a “manufacturing defect;” and is addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Software Engineering SVP Craig Federighi. It requires 5000 signatures; and as of this writing, it still needed over 1500 signatures before it can be presented to Apple for some kind of response.

Again, while I don’t have the problem at this point, I feel like it’s just a matter of time before I will.  There’s too much documentation out there about this issue; and your MacBook can begin exhibiting symptoms regardless of how well you treat the device. It’s obvious that there is ample evidence that the issue is legitimate and needs to be addressed by Apple either via logic board replacement or complete device replacement. I spent almost $3000 on the PC not three years ago, and at that price point, with the computer’s high build quality reputation, it should last at least another 3-5 years without exhibiting any issues. It’s not unusual for Macs to last 8-10 years before NEEDING to be replaced.

When the average Windows PC costs about 1/6th of what this PC cost placing that level of expectation on the device isn’t unreasonable. I’m not rich or affluent. This was a business expense for me; and is the key to keeping my business going. I can’t drop $3 grand on a new computer on a whim, especially when the one I have should have at least 3-5 more years of value left in it.

I’d like to respectfully ask Mr. Cook and Mr. Federighi to do the right thing here and issue a recall on these, regardless of whether or not the original purchaser bought Apple Care with their Early 2011 MacBook Pro. This is a high-end piece of equipment; and I really do feel like I’m sitting on a time bomb that could go off at any moment, without warning.  At 6x the price of the average competing device, it’s not unreasonable to expect the product to last 6 to 8 years or more.

Are you a Mac?  Did you buy an Early 2011 MacBook Pro like I did?  Is yours giving you problems? Did you have the logic board in it replaced?  Did the problems return after you had it fixed? I’d love to hear from you. Please join me in the comment section below, and tell me about your experience.

Regardless of whether you participate in the discussion, below, please also remember to visit Change.org and sign the petition.

Related Posts:

An Experiment in Windows Phone 8.1

I’ve heard that Windows Phone 8.1 is pretty good. I’m gonna take a look…

Windows Phone 8.1

I’ve heard a lot over the past few weeks about Windows Phone 8.1. With the keynote at Microsoft Build over and done with, Windows Phone 8.1 was released into the Wild, Wild West of Microsoft’s Developer community. The cool thing about it is that ANYONE can get their hands on the newly minted beta bits.

All you have to do is sign up for a free Microsoft Developer account, jump through a few hoops, open up the Microsoft Developer’s App on your Windows Phone and poof! You can download Windows Phone 8.1 before the final bits are made available to the general public. My good friend Paul Thurrott has the full, detailed instructions on how to download the update and install it on your phone.

If you can browse the web, you can install the update. It’s really that simple. However, be advised that despite what Paul says in his article, your phone may want to download and install a few pre-req updates before it actually pulls down Windows Phone 8.1. It’s not a huge deal or anything to be concerned about, just something you might need to know, if you run through the process. It may take a little longer than you might think.

The thing that’s really cool about all of this is that you can get Windows Phone 8.1 on ANY – and I do mean ANY – phone that runs Windows Phone 8. I went and purchased a Nokia Lumia 520, an entry level Windows Phone 8 device, and paid under $80 with tax for the device as an AT&T Go Phone. An unlocked version can be found at just about any electronics vendor on the web for under $150, so if you looking for something cheap that will give you access to the OS so you can at least try it out without spending a lot of money, the Lumia 520 is a good choice.

Information on the Nokia Lumia 520 can be found here. The device is a basic, no frills, entry-level device. It’s got most of the features you might want, but done at a budget. It’s got 512MB of RAM, a 1.0gHz processor, and a 5MP rear camera. It does NOT support AT&T’s LTE network, and while you’re going to get 4G service from the device, carrier locked or unlocked, you’re going to get HSPA/ HSPA+ connection speeds at best. However, there is a plus side to all of this…

You don’t HAVE to pay for any service. If you – uh-hem – go the Go Phone route, while you will need to register the device with AT&T, and will need to pick a service plan when setting up the device, you don’t have to pay for it to use the device, Wi-Fi only. As AT&T Go Phone is a pre-pay service, you won’t be charged anything until you purposefully activate the SIM and pay for a month’s service. However, if you opt NOT to activate the SIM card that comes with the device, it will be deactivated 30 days after you register. This is what I did.

Anyway, with the iPhone 6 and iOS 8 set to be released in the next three or so months, and with the Samsung Galaxy S5 starting to make its way to a carrier near you (as well as my recent review of the HTC One (M8)), I thought it might be a good idea to take a quick look at Windows Phone. I plan on upgrading from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 6 this fall, and I honestly wanted to be able to say in the blogs and review that I will no doubt be exclusively publishing via Soft32 what is comparatively good, bad and ugly about all three major mobile operating systems available today. (Un/Fortunately – depending on your point of view – Blackberry’s QNX-based mobile OS isn’t a contender any longer…)

Over the next week or so, I will be briefly looking at the following Windows Phone 8.1 components as they present on the Lumia 520:

→ Camera/Gallery – more of a concentration on the Gallery app, as the camera is only 5MP
→ Ecosystem and Multimedia – some interesting surprises await!
→ GPS and Maps
→ Cortana – Microsoft’s Siri and Google Now competitor

I will also follow this all up with a brief, but thorough device and hardware review. I’ll compare it to both the iPhone 5 and the HTC One (M8) (no… I haven’t returned it just yet.. Shhh!) and we’ll see if Windows Phone 8.1 has a chance of making an impression on the market with the right MS Marketing push, or if it’s really just a huge pipe dream.

If there are any specific items you’d like me to cover in this iOS/ Android/ Windows Phone comparison, please let me know in the comments section below. This is going to be an interesting undertaking. I haven’t played with Windows Phone AT ALL. When Microsoft abandoned Windows Mobile for Windows Phone, I left the WM community and dallied with Android for a couple years before heading back over to iOS and the iPhone 5. I’m pretty much a Windows Phone rookie, and will be looking at the mobile OS for the first time.

Windows Phone 8.1 is said to be a worthy competitor to iOS 7 and Android 4.4.x. We’ll have to wait and see, but I’m certain, as with everything, it will be an interesting journey. Again, I’d love your thoughts. Please feel free to chime in and give me your thoughts in the comments section below, especially if there’s something you’d like to see compared and/ or reviewed.

Related Posts:

iOS 8 – What it Needs to Be

The iPhone 6 will more than likely accompany iOS 8. Here’s my annual list of requirements for the latest version of Apple’s mobile OS and its associated hardware.

ios8

As you all know, I’ve been involved in consumer computing since the dawn of the PC. As far as mobile computing is concerned, I feel I’ve been involved with it since the dawn of time as well. Heck, I owned every Compaq iPAQ from the 3100 to the 5000 series, including the 6300-6400 series Pocket PC phones.  Yes.  It’s true…

Hello, my name is Christopher and I’m a mobile device-aholic.

Truth be told, I’m simply a gadget and button junkie who likes to take it with him.  All the time. Everyday. Out loud.  Most of you also know that the iPhone holds a special place in my mobile kit. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that lately, especially in light of the HTC One (M8) review that I wrote for Soft32.  There’s more that’s out there than just the same sized iPhone with relatively the same hardware specs and capabilities that have been in use since the iPhone 4/4S (with a few minor hardware upgrade bumps).

Now, truth be told – I’m very invested in the Apple’s iDevice ecosystem.  From a hardware perspective, I have an iPad, an iPhone and a MacBook Pro. I’ve purchased apps for all of them. More importantly, I have content that I’ve purchased from the iTunes Store in the form of movies and TV shows, music and apps that work with all of them.  I have some stuff in the Google Play and Amazon content stores, but in truth, they are eclipsed by the amount of content I’ve purchased in iTunes. As such, I’ve realized that I’m likely never leaving the Apple ecosystem. It doesn’t make sense to. I have too much content to move or convert; and then I have no idea how to remove DRM from iTunes-based video… I don’t think I even want to try… I’ve simply spent too much time and money on acquiring and organizing the content to worry about trying to get it into another ecosystem.  In the end, I realize that I’ve gotten tangled in the vines of Apple’s walled garden…

If you find yourself in the same boat, don’t despair.  It doesn’t mean that we must simply settle for anything and everything that Apple gives us. We don’t. As a member of Apple’s desktop AND mobile development programs, I file bugs on issues that I see in both iOS and OS X all the time.  Apple regularly looks at that information and at the topics in their support forums before they start planning any release or update to either operating system. In fact, there are several examples of Apple putting out both mobile and desktop releases to specifically address bugs or issues that have been identified in both types of forums.  Apple also (occasionally) looks to the tech press for suggestions and/or escalation of issues that they may have overlooked.

With the iPhone 6 and iOS 8 anticipated to be introduced in about a month at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, nearly everyone is all abuzz about what the changes or improvements are or should be.  As I’ve had this on my mind lately, I thought I’d chime in and give everyone MY two cents worth…

1. iCloud – More at a Lower Price
A few weeks ago, Google made drastic changes to its Google Drive pricing and storage plans.  Previously, I was paying $20/month for 400GB of space. It was more than I needed.  Google grandfathered that storage and pricing plan and upgraded me. Now, for literally half the price ($10/month), Google is providing 1.0TB of space. The only reason why I haven’t put most of my digital photos into Drive is because my internet provider has a monthly bandwidth watchdog; and even though I have the highest tiered data plan they offer (I have Internet only, as you may remember) Cox still sends hate mail when that cap is exceeded every month, suggesting I purchase a larger plan. I would if I could, but I can’t.

Anyway, iCloud… Apple’s free plan only provides 5GB of space.  If you have a full, 8GB iDevice, you won’t be able to back it up to iCloud without purchasing additional space.  Apple still only provides 50GB max space in iCloud, and for that, they want $100 a year (roughly $8.33/ month).  However, for about that much, Google provides 20 times more space.  The time has come for Apple to provide more space at a comparable price, and WWDC would be a decent time to announce that. While they could do it at any time – because you shouldn’t need an OS update to take advantage of the additional space – if they do make a comparable change, they will likely wait until June to announce it.

2. At the end of the day, though, Apple could jump ahead of the curve.  While Google’s storage and plan offerings are insanely large for insanely little, both Amazon and Microsoft are way more expensive.  Microsoft currently doesn’t offer 1TB of space, though they are planning on providing it to their business customers only at $2.50 per user, per month.  Amazon provides 1TB of space for $500/ year, or about $42/ month.  Dropbox Pro provides 100GB for $10/ month (or 1/10th of what Google provides, at the same price).

3. Better Data Management – iCloud/iDevice File Management
Currently, the only way to get non-media related content (documents and such) into iCloud is to save them in an iCloud enabled app.  You can’t copy content directly into iCloud. There’s no synchronized folder like there is with Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.  Apple needs to get it together and provide this kind of file synchronization.

It would also be nice if Apple gave us some control over the data in the file store on an iOS device. I don’t think we need access to the entire file system, but for those files that you have synchronized to accessible on a device, it would be nice if you could organize them within that folder structure with the device. That’s just me…but I’m pretty certain many users would also appreciate having some level of file management capabilities for iCloud on the device.

4. Change Default Apps
Some people prefer Google Maps to Apple Maps (even though the latter is getting much better with each iOS iteration and release). Some people use 3rd party calendar or contact apps.  Some people use Chrome instead of Safari on their iDevice. It would be nice if Apple gave us a way to change which apps handled which data types so we could use the apps we prefer instead of Apple’s default apps. While Apple’s apps aren’t bad, there are better apps available in the App Store, and it would be nice to be able to use those instead of Apple’s standard apps.

Next Page

Related Posts:

Take command of your hard drives with GParted

gpartedI’ve been working with computers since 1982-1983.  I’ve been through floppy discs (8″, 5.25″ and 3.5″) and the early, EARLY hard discs that were absolutely immense at 5MB (yes, MEGAbytes) and totally ginormous at 10MB.  We never thought we’d ever, EVER use all that space. Today, any internal hard drive under 1TB (terabyte) is considered small. I was looking at 3TB and 4TB drives the other day while shopping. We’ve come a long way…

If you aren’t looking at SSD’s (solid state drives) on your computer, then you’re likely looking at your current hard drive and either wondering how you can squeeze more performance out of it, or you’re looking at upgrading a hard drive and wondering how to get the most performance out it. This is where utilities like GParted come in. This Windows-based, hard drive utility can help you figure out the best way to construct your drive’s partitions so you get the best performance from it.

GP-01

Hard drives today contain more sectors (places to store data) at the outer edge of their physical platters than at the inner edge. All disc based hard drives spin at a constant rate of either 5400 RPM, 7200 RPM, or 10,000 RPM (rotations per minute). Obviously, the higher the rating, the faster the drive can access data. This physical configuration means that more data can be accessed at the outer edge where the drive “starts” in a single spin than at the inner edge where the drive “ends.”

To take advantage of these physical hard disk drive characteristics, you should place frequently accessed files near the beginning of the disc. For example to shorten your PC’s boot time, you should place the OS in a partition at the physical “start” of the drive. Less frequently accessed information, such as your data files, should be placed in a partition after the OS.

GParted is a hard drive partitioning tool that helps you do just that on your Windows-based PC.  With GParted, you can resize, copy, and move partitions without data loss, enabling you to change the size of your C: drive, create multiple, logical drives on a single, physical disc drive, enable and disable partition flags, (for example, mark a partition as either your boot partition or to mark it hidden).  You can also use it to try to recover data from lost partitions.

The app works with the SATA, IDE, and SCSI hard disk drives , flash memory drives, such as USB memory sticks and SSD’s, RAID Devices (hardware RAID, motherboard BIOS RAID, and Linux software RAID), and supports all sector sizes including drives with 512, 1024, 2048, 4096 byte sectors.

GParted and apps like it are very powerful programs.  Working with drive partitions used to be very difficult and time consuming. Now, with GParted, you get the data that you need, placed on the drive where it will be the most useful, and that configuration can be changed on the fly.  Everything is displayed graphically, so you know exactly where and what you are doing, taking the guess work out of a lot of the process.

However, please note that GParted is a serious system tool.  You need to understand what it does and how it does what it does before you start changing the configuration of your physical hard drive into a lot of smaller, logical drives.  You could lose data if you’re not careful.  Make certain you have a backup of your data before you make physical changes to the configuration of your drive.

download GParted

Related Posts:

…Now with less suckage…

I have it on good authority that Windows 8.1 Update doesn’t suck…

Windows8.1

About 18 months ago, I wrote a column for InformationWeek’s BYTE on the state of Windows 8 and its UI at the time. Unfortunately, BYTE is no more. You can’t even find any REAL reference to the project on InformationWeek at this point, though if you know the right search criteria, you can still find many of the articles from most, if not all of its contributors (see the example above…); and in many cases, they may still be relevant today.

Recently, my good friend and former BYTE Editorial Director, Larry Seltzer wrote a piece on how Windows 8.1 doesn’t suck, and it was recently published on ZDNet. He made a couple big points in the article. You can read it if you want to, (it’s a good read and well worth the time) but I’ve summarized them here and added some of my own commentary.

1. Windows 8.1 with Update, is now usable
I’ve got a lot of experience with Windows 8. I’ve been using it since it’s very early days in 2011 when the Developer Preview came out. I had it installed on a touch netbook at the time; and it was a damned mess with both interfaces conflicting with one another, making use of your Windows 8.x device very difficult. It got better with 8.1. It’s gotten better still with Windows 8.1 Update. In fact, you can now use Windows 8.1 on a desktop machine without wanting to rip your hair out. The experience is nearly tolerable. By the time Threshold gets here (Windows 8.2, Windows 9, or whatever they brand it as), it should be just as desktop friendly as Windows 7, in my opinion. (Which I think is the best version of Windows ever, but that’s a discussion for another day).

2. Start Menu Replacements have a limited shelf life with Threshold on the way
This is where Larry and I [may] disagree. I say may, because there’s still one huge wild card left to be played – Windows Threshold. No one knows what it’s going to look like. No one knows exactly when it’s supposed to be released. Microsoft is playing with its release schedule, and while we know there’s supposed to be a release in Q1/Early Q2 of calendar 2015, we don’t know if that’s going to be Threshold or just another “incremental” update. The full Start Menu is supposed to appear in Windows Threshold; and until it’s revealed, it’s impossible to say if it will be positively or negatively reviewed.

Start button/menu apps like Start8 offer as true a Windows 7-like experience as you can get on Windows 8. It’s more about the Start Menu than the button with Start8; and while Windows 8.x may now allow for a more desktop friendly (or Windows 7-like) experience, depending on how the new/revived Start Menu in the NEXT version of Windows is implemented, some users may still want apps like Start8. So I don’t agree with him when he says that Start Menu/button apps are living on borrowed time.

While I think they may not be as popular as they were before Threshold, some users may still prefer them (or at least the one they’ve been using). It all depends on the great unknown – the next version of Windows. Currently, no one knows what that looks like…

3. Windows 8.x is a branding Nightmare
Larry is dead on here. I think just about everyone in the Windows community, outside of Microsoft, that is, will agree. Windows 8.x branding is a worse leper than Windows Vista was. Microsoft needs to get themselves off of Windows 8.x as soon as they can and get to the next version of Windows.

If Microsoft wants to keep the MetroUI/ModernUI look and feel, they will need to draw the line in the sand and make Mobile Windows only for Windows Phone and for their tablets (don’t’ you really want to say Windows Tablet..? I know I do). That will leave MetroUI/ModernUI for the Windows RT/ Windows Surface/2, non-legacy-desktop capable tablets, and leave Windows #.x for their compatible tablets/ultrabooks, laptops and desktops (which, quite honestly, is what they should have done in the first place…)

Anyway you cut it, Microsoft needs to leave the Windows 8.x brand in the past and move on to something – nearly anything – else. If they don’t, they’re going to continue to have sales and revenue issues, going forward.

So, all things being equal at this point, it’s true – Windows 8.1 Update really doesn’t suck. I got it the first day that it was made available to everyone and I’ve been very pleased with what it’s been able to provide.

It seems that Microsoft is listening to the feedback of its customers. It seems as though, under its new leadership from Satya Nadella, Microsoft is getting its act together and is beginning to find its way back to the beaten path. Though many will say that “taking the road less travelled” provides you with a more robust journey, I think that journey has proved to be nothing more than a “bust” for Microsoft up to this point. Getting themselves back to a more traditional version of Windows for their legacy desktop users now insures that their enterprise business is no longer in as risky a position as it used to be.

What do you think? Do you use Windows 8? Have you upgraded to Windows 8.1? Have you upgraded to Microsoft Windows 8.1 Update? Do you use a Start Menu replacement app on top of Windows 8? Is Microsoft getting back on track with its recent releases? Are you more satisfied with Windows 8.1 Update than with previous versions of Windows?

The comments section is just below, and I really would appreciate your thoughts. I know that others would appreciate them as well, as there’s a great deal of opinion on this; and I’d really like to know what you have to say on the whole subject. Please join me in the discussion below and tell me what you think.

Related Posts:

Take control of your PC’s networking needs with HostsMan

Computing today is getting complicated. Having a secure, unhackable machine is something that everyone wants and needs; but isn’t likely realistic. However, you can take control of your computer and its networking needs with the right utilities and a little bit of knowledge. Since most PC’s are connected to some kind of LAN or WAN, it’s important to have some idea of where your PC goes for policy and naming directions. Utilities like HostsMan for Windows can be a help in areas like this.

HM-01

Most laptop or desktop computers using a “modern” operating system have a hosts file.  In most cases, end users won’t know what this is, or why it’s important to control.  The hosts file is one of several system objects that assist the user in addressing network nodes on a computer network. When things are working the way they should, most users won’t even think about their computer’s hosts file, though it is a common part of your PC’s operating system Internet Protocol (IP) implementation.  A hosts file translates human-friendly hostnames into IP addresses that identify and locate a host in an IP network. Simply put, it tells your computer where to go and what to do when it comes to networking.

In many cases, users that are aware of this type of need are often used to Domain Name System (DNS) protocols handling this need.  However, many systems customize this provision and implement name service switches. What’s important here is that unlike remote DNS servers that resolve names into IP numbers, the hosts file is located on the PC you’re using, and under your direct control, provided you have administrator rights to it.  This is where HostsMan comes in.

HostsMan is a freeware application that lets you manage your PC’s hosts file with ease. With it, you can update your hosts file.  You can enable/disable usage of the hosts file, or open it for editing with one click.  In many cases, it’s possible to have more than one hosts file on a single computer.  HostsMan allows you to merge two hosts files with its built-in hosts editor.

You can prevent other programs of writing to the file, scan it for errors, duplicates and possible hijacks; determine what host names you’re using and how many there are.  Before making modifications, you can easily create encrypted backups of your hosts file, resolve host names before they’re implemented, keep a log of the latest blocked sites, create an exclusions list and more.

Working with your computer’s hosts file isn’t always easy, and it’s not recommended unless you REALLY know what you’re doing and what your changes will do to your computer’s ability to connect to another computer, server or even to the internet.  The best rule here is that if you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it. PERIOD.

HOWEVER, provided you have some basic networking knowledge and have a real need to find, and update the hosts file that your computer is actually using (and not just the one you found in a directory you were running through, looking for your hosts file…), HostsMan is probably one of the best utilities you can use to make proper and appropriate edits to the file. Its error checking functions are probably something that you’ll make a lot of use of if you run the app.  Having an encrypted backup that you can fall back on just in case you make a mistake and cut your PC off the internet is also something that you’ll find valuable.

download HostsMan

Related Posts:

Kingsoft Office Suite Free

Reverse your dependence on Microsoft Office with this free alternative suite for Windows

Untitled_final 2

I’ve been a huge productivity software fan most of my computing career. PFS Write for the IBM PC and Apple II got me into computers, so it’s no surprise to me that productivity suites – word processors, spreadsheets, presentation tools, etc. are a long time favorite. With Microsoft Office cheaper, but still (somewhat) expensive, having free, compatible alternatives is a huge win for everyone on a budget. It’s for this reason that apps like Kingsoft Office Suite Free are among my favorite Windows apps. I’m certain that after a short introduction, the two of you will get along famously as well.

Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2013 goes a long way to simplifying its interface, making it easier than even easier to navigate through all of its applications. Most everything is where you would expect it to be, and the suite includes not only your favorite features, but some new ones as well. The redesigned UI makes working with your more complex documents easier than you thought it would be.

The suite includes three powerful applications – Writer, Spreadsheets and Presentation. The suite has the basic functionality that you’ve come to expect from an MS compatible office suite and has many outstanding features other suites doesn’t include. For example, Writer, includes a professional PDF converter, an advanced paragraph adjustment tool and intuitive table operation by default. MS Word either doesn’t have these, or requires a 3rd party add-in.

What’s new in the latest update?

Having an alternative to Microsoft Office is important in today’s much weaker economy. Microsoft Office may be the bomb, and you may not WANT to accept any substitutes, sometimes you just have to. If you’re a college student, out on your own, and you don’t have access to Microsoft Office, yet need something to write reports or create class presentations with, then apps like Kingsoft Office Suite not only save your bacon (and your money), but they do it while giving you access to everything you need, plus nearly everything you want.

The free version of the suite is a total winner. Hands down… The only thing it’s really missing is a database app or Access clone, an Outlook clone (or something to manage your schedule, contacts and email with) and a Publisher clone (or something to make fliers, stationary and other printed goods with). Aside from that and the lack of any VBA or macro editing support, the free version has all that you’ll likely need. If you do need the ability to write active content into your spreadsheets or other documents, you’ll have to spend about $70 bucks USD in order to get it from Kingsoft.

Download Kingsoft Office Suite Free

Related Posts:

Stay in touch with Soft32

Soft32.com is a software free download website that provides:

121.218 programs and games that were downloaded 237.780.356 times by 402.775 members in our Soft32.com Community!

Get the latest software updates directly to your inbox

Find us on Facebook