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    February 24, 2016
    Battery Life Tips And Myths

    battery-life-new-york-times

    One of the most difficult adjustments in the switch from a dumbphone to a smartphone is awareness.  I now have to think about my phone when I leave the house, and make sure I’ve either got a full battery or I have my car charger plugged in and ready to go for when I need to juice my phone up.  Before my phone would be good for literally a whole 24-hour period or more, and now, I’m lucky if I can get 8 hours out of my phone.  Part of that is the way I use my phone, and part of that is just the increased demand on battery capacity that comes with modern technology.

    Everyone’s looking for a way to get more out of the phone, and the New York Times has a great set of tips and myths about smartphone battery life.  Color me amazed to discover that closing down all of my apps and turning off WiFi to preserve phone battery life might not always be the best idea, or even helpful at all!  I have long assumed, wrongly, that turning off all my running apps would make the phone last longer, but I never thought to adjust my screen brightness down to its lowest setting when not in heavy use.

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    February 22, 2016
    Tips For Best Buy Deals

    BestBuy

    Of all the retailers out there, Best Buy is the one that is having the most success at adapting to a new world in which pretty much all of your consumer electronics are bought online.  Sure, they still have crates of movies and CDs and the like, but Best Buy knows that Amazon and Apple are beating them in that department, and the company is actively working hard to figure out how to leverage its physical space and survive in an increasingly online world.  One of the ways the company is doing this is by being the best deal around.  Here are some tips and tricks for getting the most out of Best Buy.

    One of my favorite things about this article is the idea of price matching.  If you could combine the ease of access of a physical store with the prices you can get online, well… that’s just sheer brilliance.  As for display models and open boxes, my late father was a big fan of those types of sales, and most of his big furniture purchases were products that used to be store displays that he bought on the cheap.  My unwillingness to actually look for those types of deals might be why I don’t have a whole lot of furniture at the moment.

    That’s the whole problem with display model deals, you have to actually go out and look for them to buy them.

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    February 1, 2016
    Run Windows 95 In Your Browser

    There’s always a market for old technology.  People still play and purchase the original Nintendo Entertainment System.  I still own an Atari somewhere.  I have multiple video game consoles, all of which are old, but there are reasons to have this love of retro technology.  Sometimes, games don’t function well on new technology, so you need emulators to make it work.  You can run Windows 95 in your browser!

    I have a newer laptop and I can’t play some games on it, because it runs incompatible operating systems.  Sometimes you can buy old games and make them work, and sometimes you have to work at it with software stuff.  The more people play with the old systems, the more people can get them to play nicely with modern systems.  I have some patches to various games, I’ve bought some older games that have been refreshed for new operating systems, and there are always less than legal ways to get video game software to play in the absence of older technology.

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    December 11, 2015
    Touch-Screen Gloves: A Great Holiday Gift

    This is my first winter with a smartphone.  On cold days, I might try to pull up my phone to stream some music or podcasts on the drive to work, or maybe just answer a phone call, and I discover, yet again, that my gloves won’t allow me to successfully use my phone.  Fortunately, this doesn’t happen very often, because usually I just go without gloves.  That’s no real way to make it through winter in comfort, though.  PC Mag has a great slideshow of touch-screen friendly gloves.

    My wife has a pair of gloves and she really likes them.  They’re not the warmest gloves, but if you wear them under a pair of thicker winter gloves, then just slip that outer glove off to type, they’re really useful.  They’re also good if you’re going to mostly keep your hands in your pockets but need to occasionally make use of touch screens, like at the grocery store or, well, the phone.  Some of the gloves look like real leather, some of them look like standard fitness gloves for runners, and some, like the ones above, just look cute.

    Not all of them have conductive metal in all the fingers; most just have the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger.  Then again, that’s all you need.

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    November 18, 2015
    Gift Guides: 12 Under $50

    There’s nothing quite as terrifying as figuring out just what kind of gift to buy for all the people you need to buy gifts for.  More importantly, buying people fun or useful gifts on a budget is even more difficult.  Thankfully, for the holiday season, everyone lines up to throw out their best ideas for gifts for cheap.  PC World has put together a great guide of under-$50 gifts for the holidays.

    Of the many gifts mentioned, one of them that I like the best is the idea of Tile.  Basically, it’s a little square thing that you connect to whatever you seem to lose most often, and when it’s missing, you just use an app to trigger the tile to beep or show up on GPS.  And if you happen to lose your phone, just reverse it… use the tile to make your phone emit a signal to help find it.  There are other fun things on there, like selfie sticks, USB sticks, and the Amazon Fire Tablet.

    Of these, the one I like the best would probably be the Fire Tablet.  I have one, and while it’s not the best tablet on the market, for that price and if you’re an Amazon Prime customer, you really can’t beat it.  Plus it comes with a free month of Prime, so maybe it’s a good pre-holiday gift to get for a friend who is going to be doing some holiday shopping online and could really use the two-day shipping.

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    September 10, 2015
    Battery Charging And Car Batteries

    I’ve been a car charger person since I first got my phone, and it seems like a strange thing to me that I never once considered the effect of charging my phone on my car battery.  Sitting listening to the radio with the engine off?  Driving down the interstate?  Pretty much anywhere or any time, I am more than willing to plug my phone in if I feel like I’m going to need a little extra juice from the battery.  It’s not often that I really do this, mind you, but from time to time I’ll plug in without the car running, just because.  Turns out, that actually does run your car battery down.

    Score one for my father, who hates when you leave anything plugged in or otherwise drawing power with the engine off.  However, while it does work down the battery, modern phones only charge when they need to or when they’re in use, which means that if you walk away and leave your phone plugged in, it’ll draw some off your battery, but not so much that you’ll run down your car’s battery.  Unless of course your alternator is bad and your car battery is already close to dead, in which case your charged phone might be doing you a favor because better to have a dead car and a life phone than a dead car and a deader phone, right?

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    August 7, 2015
    Five Windows 10 Secrets

    If you’re one of the people who took advantage of Microsoft’s offer to upgrade to Windows 10 without any cost, you’re braver than I am.  I considered it strongly, then backed out.  After all, I only have the one laptop, and without it I can’t do… well, anything, so I decided to err on the side of caution and to keep things in good working order until such time as I am able to experiment at my leisure or until my work upgrades to Windows 10.  However, some people didn’t wait, and perhaps they’re looking for some helpful tips on how to get the most out of Win10.  Here are 5 secrets to help you fall for Windows 10.

    Of the listed features, my favorite is the idea of the multiple desktops.  I use a virtual desktop at my work, in addition to my desktop computer.  Neither performs great, but one tends to degrade the other.  If I had a better computer, or when my computer worked better, I loved having a desktop for one set of job duties and one for the other set.  I would love to have a work desktop, a play desktop, and a gaming desktop on my current computer, if only to help me be more productive when I’m typing away at blog posts like this one.

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    July 28, 2015
    Rare, Collector’s Edition… VHS Tapes?

    You’d think that, these days, everything you’d want to see exists in some form in which you can reach it.  If it’s not on DVD, then surely it’s online or uploaded digitally somewhere.  However, that’s not the case.  Before there was the digital revolution, there was the tape revolution, as VHS tapes and home video devices made it possible for movies to get made and get to the masses like never before.  Staggering, right?  Lots of little companies and independent folks were able to make a surprising amount of money filling video store shelves.

    Sadly, video stores are gone.  Even the hold-outs, like my beloved Wild and Woolly Video, have closed down.  The shelves are bare, and where there are still shelves, you won’t find very many VHS tapes.  Still, there are a lot of things out there where VHS is the only way you can see it, including the original versions of the Star Wars films.  There’s a collector’s market out there, and the weird and obscure are rewarded with some serious financial compensation.  Here are 9 rare and valuable types of collectible VHS tapes.

    It’s kind of amazing, really.  I’m a physical media collector, and I admit that I have boxes of VHS tapes that are (I assume) difficult to find on digital media.  I might actually see if some of my tapes are valuable, or I might just hold onto them and enjoy them until my VCR finally kicks the bucket.  We shall see just how deep the goldmine goes.

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    June 23, 2015
    Google Adds “Undo Send” Feature

    One of the things I hate about sending email is the fact that once I send something, it’s gone.  All the time, particularly at work, I leave things out and have to send multiple emails on one subject, because I click enter too quickly, accidentally do the command to send, or just forget.  It’s tiring.  Fortunately, it’s also something Google is actively working on changing.  Google has added an ‘undo send’ feature to Gmail, for those that want an extra few seconds to think about what they’re sending before it goes out.

    It doesn’t actually recall a sent email, but it gives a delay.  Users who activate the feature can choose how long to wait, up to 30 seconds, before the email actually goes through and disappears from your control.  Of course, it doesn’t work for mobile users yet, but for folks using the browser version of Gmail, the feature is pretty easy to turn on.  Just look under the General tab in Gmail setting and configure to your inbox’s content.

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    May 4, 2015
    Microsoft’s New IE-Killing Browser

    Has there ever been a bigger announcement than the idea that Microsoft–who worked very hard and spent much harder–to win the original browser war versus Netscape decades ago,  Since then, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and dozens of other browsers have popped up and nipped away at Microsoft’s browser supremacy over the years, and they’re everything IE isn’t:  fast, light, clean, secure, etc.  Well, rather than giving up, Microsoft is giving in and rolling out a fast, light, modern browser of their own.  The rumored Project Spartan is now Microsoft Edge, and it’s shaping up to be an in-house IE killer.  Here are five ways Microsoft Edge will be a huge improvement over Internet Explorer.

    Honestly, anything is an improvement over IE at this stage.  Firefox might be sluggish, but it’s faster than IE.  Chrome might be very light, but it also doesn’t have all the security issues that routinely crop up on IE.  I can only hope that it lives up to the hype and that there’s pretty prompt corporate adoption, because I’m tired of being handcuffed by regular IE and not being able to use Google Chrome due to work requirements.  Then again, if Microsoft’s new browser won’t support a bunch of the necessary stuff in the background to run corporate software, this might be a big mistake.

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