Wednesday, April 30, 2014

May ePub Issue

The May issue of our monthly ePub was emailed out yesterday. It has some excellent articles and reviews, including a major piece on Zorin Linux OS 8.1.

If you are not a subscriber just let us know and we'll add you to our list so you'll get the issue every month.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

iolo Spring Cleaning Advice

Wave goodbye to snow and polar vortexes—spring is here (sort of). This means saying hello to April showers and May flowers, as well as some cleaning up around the house you've been putting off all winter. Don't just concentrate on mopping your floors and making those bathroom sinks look shiny, though: Your computer could use some cleaning too.

In the spirit of the season, iolo put together some spring cleaning tips for PC users. Feel free to use any of our tips in any spring cleaning features that you might like to put together.

How NOT to Clean Your Hardware
Be sure to unplug your computer before you start. Second, never spray liquid cleaners directly into your system. If you use any liquid to get rid of dust, pour it lightly onto a cloth first.

Fans and Vents
When it comes to the hardware portion of a routine PC cleanup, your best friend is a can of compressed air, which will allow you to blast every fan and vent on the outside of the tower.

Tackling the Interior
First, touch something metal for several seconds to ground yourself and prevent static electricity from damaging the sensitive inside components of your system. Next, remove any added video or audio cards and place them aside. Other components, like audio connectors and port extensions, can be taken out too. Be careful when using a vacuum—it's effective for much of the built-up dust, but don't get it near any PC components. Get out the brush and compressed air you used for the exterior and very gently get to work on the motherboard and slots.

Piecing It Back Together
Before you seal the machine back up, carefully clean all of the components you set aside with your brush. Then put them back where they belong, ensuring that you replaced everything to its rightful position and you didn't leave any cleaning materials inside the case. Close it all up, but wait at least half an hour before plugging in your now-clean PC and booting it up again.

2. Apps

Clearing Out the CRUDD
Go through your applications folders. Chances are, there will be some programs listed you've barely even noticed before—some of them may have come pre-installed and others may have installed themselves without your knowledge. Regardless, if you don’t need them, you can delete them.

Update Everything
Set aside some time to tackle updating all the software you've been putting off. Installing software updates will speed up your system and make sure your computer is protected against many of the latest security threats, which get patched regularly within programs but remain unpatched in older versions.

3. Hard Drive
Benefits of Backup
Back up your files onto an external hard drive or cloud storage service. Then go through your library and delete some of the stuff you don't use very often anymore.

Get Rid of Fragmented Data
Run a defragmenter to remove clutter from your hard drive. Like many of the processes on this list, you should do it more regularly than once a year.

Monday, April 28, 2014

What a Business Model

Economies of scale continued to elude Microsoft's Surface line as the tablet lost more money in the March quarter than in the preceding three-month period, regulatory filings showed.

In a 10-Q filed Thursday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Microsoft reported $494 million in revenue from the Surface, the tablet line-up that debuted in 2012 and was refreshed last year. Revenue was down 45% from the December quarter but up more than 50% from the same quarter in 2013.

Microsoft pegged cost of revenue for the Surface at $539 million in the quarter that ended March 31.

The difference between what it brought in and what it laid out, and thus the amount Microsoft went into the hole on the Surface, was a tidy $45 million in the March quarter, $6 million more and 15% larger than in the period that ended Dec. 31.

Over the past nine months, Surface generated about $1.8 billion in revenue, while the cost of revenue ran $2.1 billion, a loss of approximately $300 million. The largest portion -- $216 million -- was in the September 2013 quarter.

As it did in January, Microsoft credited the larger loss to "a higher number of units sold," illustrating that the company continues to lose more money the more Surfaces it sells.

If MSFT sells enough Surface units they may just go broke!!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

X-Mini WE Portable Speaker Review

By George Harding

Talk about a small speaker! This is certainly the smallest I’ve seen. This one is special, though. It’s not only a speaker, but it is Bluetooth and NFC enabled. That means that you can connect using Bluetooth technology, as do many devices, but also using NFC (Near Field Connection) methodology (ability to communicate with other NFC devices by touching or bringing near).

First of all, the X-Mini WE s really small – a slightly bulging cylinder about 1 ½ inches in diameter and 1 ½ inches tall. It has three connectors: a USB plug used for charging the internal lithium-ion battery, a3 1/2 mm plug for headphone jacks, and a micro-USB plug to attach to the speaker, usually for charging.

The product came to me from Singapore and the documentation is characteristic of products from Southeast Asia, meaning somewhat cryptic. The main leaflet has pictorial instructions only, most of which were not very helpful.

There is a small lateral switch on the side of the speaker with indications: I, O and *. I found out that I is used for charging, O is off and * is operation status. When charging, a red LED is lit. When in operating status, the LED flashes blue.

To use Bluetooth communication, you switch to * and use your smartphone or other Bluetooth device to connect. You can also use the earphone plug directly to play music.

To use NFC, you have to hold the speaker close to another NFC-enabled device in order to transfer data.

There is a lid on top of the cylinder, which protects the speaker from damage.

I found that the speaker’s response is surprisingly good at most frequencies. Its one failing is at low frequencies and higher volume. There is considerable distortion under these conditions. The packaging specifics are output 1.5 watts, frequency 20 Hz – 20k Hz.

This is a handy, compact device with reasonable sound reproduction. It is certainly small enough to be stored in a pocket or purse handily.

X-Mini WE Portable Speaker         
Price $40

Saturday, April 26, 2014


SANYO, a leader in providing high quality TVs in America for over 35 years, introduces its 2014 Full HD lineup of LED TVs with 1080p resolution.¹ The all-new models with Full HD deliver an unprecedented environment for watching high-definition movies, TV shows, playing video games, and for photo viewing. With stunning clarity, outstanding energy efficiency and easy connectivity, the key features include SANYO's LED Full HD technology for clear images. Some models feature 120 Hz Motion Sync for the user to enjoy high-speed action with almost no motion blur. These all-new affordable models are available at Walmart and some at Sam's Club nationwide.  

"This new series of LED TVs can make a dramatic impact in the home with their slim design and easy set-up, excellent clarity of images and high-quality sound," said Yoshikuni Tamura, Product Planning Team Manager, SANYO TV division. "All models are designed with a beautiful high-gloss frame and a brilliant LED screen, making them ideal to enhance your viewing experience and take it to the next level."

Friday, April 25, 2014

Facility Fire at Samsung

A fire at a Samsung facility in South Korea on Sunday resulted in a temporary outage that shut down its website and caused the company’s Smart TV products to report error messages.

The fire broke out at a facility of Samsung SDS, a subsidiary of Samsung Group and a provider of software services, outsourcing and consulting.

In a statement, Samsung Electronics said it detected a “brief service disruption” that lasted for four and a half hours, before the service was restored at about 7:30 p.m. local time.

Samsung did not provide more information. During the outage, the website was down, along with the company’s Smart Hub service, a media content portal used by its Smart TVs. Users took to Twitter to complain.

A post on a Samsung SDS blog said the fire was the result of a power supply issue, and the blaze resulted in injury to a person hit by debris. Certain company services such as online payment and Internet services have been affected, the post added.

Samsung SDS said the company is cooperating with authorities to investigate the incident, and transferring affected data services to its other facilities.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

iFruit News

Apple CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday again promised that exciting new products are ahead for Apple and that investors should be patient as the company perfects all the details.

He noted that it takes longer for Apple to make products because it cares about getting every detail right.

"The key thing that for us ... is to stay focused on things that we can do best and that we can perform at a really high level of quality that our customers have come to expect," Cook said. "And so we currently feel comfortable in expanding the number of things we're working on. So we've been doing that in the background and we're not ready yet to pull the string on the curtain. But we've got some great things there that we're working on that I'm very, very proud of and very, very excited about."

Cook also took a veiled dig at Samsung, saying"it means much more to us to get it right than to be first." Samsung has made a big push to be viewed as an innovator, rather than a "fast follower." The Korean company hopes its Gear line of wearables will help with that effort, but the products have faced some criticism in the market for their design and functionality.

"I think you can see so many examples out in the marketplace where it's clear that the objective has been to be first," Cook said. "But customers at the end of the day don't care about that or that's not what they look for from Apple. They want great, insanely great, and that's what we want to deliver and so that's the way we look at it."

Samsung declined to comment.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Apple Stock Price

The iFruit company is testing Wall Street’s patience with its slowing iPhone and iPad sales.

Shares of the world’s most valuable company have sunk more than 5 percent this year and investors will take cues on the stock’s future direction from a quarterly report today. Yet even with Apple set to get a boost from a new partnership to sell iPhones through China’s largest wireless carrier, revenue is projected to be flat for the first time in at least a decade, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Profit is also estimated to decline 5 percent, making it the sixth consecutive period with little to no gains.

The slowdown -- driven by stalling iPhone and iPad sales amid a more competitive and saturated mobile-device market -- is spurring ever-louder criticism from analysts and investors that Apple lacks the breakthrough ideas it once had when co-founder Steve Jobs was in charge. The company’s shares are off 24 percent from their September 2012 all-time high.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Ubuntu One Service is Dead

We  found this notice on-line today.

The service has been discontinued

We are sorry to notify you that we will be shutting down the Ubuntu One file services, effective 1 June 2014.

It is no longer possible to purchase storage or music from the Ubuntu One store.

The Ubuntu One file services apps in the Ubuntu, Google, and Apple stores have been removed.

As always, your content belongs to you. If you have already uploaded any content you can simply download your files onto your PC or an external hard drive. While the service will stop as of 1 June, you will have an additional two months (until 31 July 2014) to collect all of your content. After that date, all remaining content will be deleted.

We've always been inspired by the support, feedback and enthusiasm of our users and want to thank you for the support you've shown for Ubuntu One. We hope that you'll continue to support us as together we bring a revolutionary experience to new devices.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Rapid Phone Charging

There’s nothing worse than seeing your phone’s battery percentage meter drop below 20 percent, and it usually only happens when you need it most. Batteries haven’t seen much love in the last couple decades, especially compared to the tech they power, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing new on the horizon. We’ve been talking about cool ways the battery and charging methods are gradually improving for a while. Here’s a rundown of all the most exciting new developments, which may make that low battery warning less of an annoyance in the future.

StoreDot gained plenty of attention when it released details about its clever, and very fast, charging system recently. How fast? A Galaxy S4 can go from zero percent to capacity in just 30 seconds, when powered by this impressive tech. Like you’d expect, it uses lots of complicated science (and probably some magic) to make this possible, and thus isn’t ready for mainstream release just yet.

While the 30-second charge time grabbed the headlines, there’s an additional benefit. The charger and battery combination will take more charge/discharge cycles than current battery packs, prolonging its life and lessing the impact on the environment, our wallet, and our sanity. It’s possible StoreDot’s tech will be on sale sometime in 2016.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

We will not have a normal tech post today, we are celebrating the joyous Easter Holiday with family and friends.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Facebook Nearby Friends App

Today Facebook begins rolling out a new opt-in feature called Nearby Friends. It lets friends see approximately how far away you are from them, and you can share your exact, on-going location with them for a limited time. While it’s sure to stir privacy concerns, Nearby Friends could get people spending more time with friends in the real-world instead of online as it hits iOS and Android in the US in the coming weeks.

Nearby Friends was built by the Glancee location sharing app team led by Andrea Vaccari that Facebook acquired in 2012. It adds a list of nearby friends to Facebook’s iOS and Android apps. It will also send notifications if you come within a short distance of a friend, and if someone shares their precise location with you you’ll see it on a map.

Vaccari said “the idea is to make it really easy to discover when someone is around you, and meet up and spend time together.” It wants to facilitate those serendipitous meetups where you run into a friend and end up having a meal or hanging out together. It’s a meatspace manifestation of Facebook’s mission to connect people, and a rebuttal to criticism that Facebook isolates us.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Kindle for Samsung App

Users of the new Kindle for Samsung app will get up to 12 e-books for free a year, as Samsung Electronics joins forces with to boost the content on its mobile devices.

The app will arrive this month for the Galaxy S5, and then become available on other Samsung smartphones and tablets, the company said on Thursday.

The free book offering is called Samsung Book Deals, and will be available to all users of the application. Users won't be able to choose just any title, but instead pick from a selection of four different titles every month.

The Kindle for Samsung app isn't just about free books: The two companies are also hoping users will buy books, newspapers and magazines from the app's store.

That Samsung is joining forces with a company like Amazon shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has been following the smartphone market. The pace of hardware improvements has slowed down and high-end devices have similar specs. Vendors have to look elsewhere to differentiate their products and offering books, music and video is one way to do it.

The Galaxy S5 went on sale on April 11, and the same week Samsung also announced a deal with streaming music service Deezer. People buying the Galaxy S5 in countries such as the U.K. and Germany will get a six-month subscription for free.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Smartphone Kill Switches

Major U.S. wireless carriers and smartphone makers have agreed to introduce tools to enable users to lock their devices and wipe them clean of data if stolen, responding to pressure on the telecommunications industry to do more to stem theft.

Starting in July 2015, all smartphones manufactured by the companies will come with free anti-theft tools preloaded on the devices or ready to be downloaded, according to wireless association CTIA, which announced the agreement on Tuesday.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney, George Gascon welcomed the voluntary agreement but said it fell short of what they have advocated to prevent theft.

The prosecutors have urged manufacturers and carriers to carry the tools as a default in their devices, rather than having users download them.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Compressed Windows

Microsoft last week revealed how it will squeeze Windows 8.1 onto devices with storage space as small as 16GB to fulfill a promise earlier this year that OEMs could produce low-cost tablets and laptops.

The technology Microsoft will use, dubbed "WIM" for "Windows Imaging," is a file-based disk image format introduced in Windows Vista, the OS flop that debuted in 2007. Work on WIM, however, took place during the long -- and oft delayed -- development of "Longhorn," the code name for the project that was originally to produce an operating system in 2004.

To put Windows 8.1 Update on devices with tight storage constraints -- 16GB in particular, but also 32GB -- Microsoft has applied the decade-old technology to free up more space for applications and user content.

"This new deployment option, called Windows Image Boot (or WIMBoot), takes a different approach than traditional Windows installations," Michael Niehaus, senior product marketing manager in the Windows Commercial group, wrote on a Thursday blog. "Instead of extracting all the individual Windows files from an image (WIM) file, they remain compressed in the WIM. But from the user's perspective, nothing looks any different: You still see a C: volume containing Windows, your apps, and all of your data."

As Niehaus explained it, the WIM file -- an aggressively-compressed file that contains all the files necessary to run Windows 8.1 -- will sit in its own partition on a device's SSD (solid-state drive).
By moving Windows to its own partition and then compressing it into a WIM file, Microsoft frees up space in the C: drive partition, which is traditionally where Windows is stored in an uncompressed state. That means there is more space left for user content and applications.

To boot and run Windows, a set of pointer files are stored on the C: drive which, in turn, aim at a file index within the WIM file. Windows, then, runs from the compressed, read-only WIM file.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15th

April 15th is a momentous day. Here are a few of the things that have occurred on this date:

1452- Leonardo de Vinci was born
1865- Abraham Lincoln died
1912- The Titanic sank
1945- FDR was buried
1947- Jackie Robinson played his 1st MLB game
1952- The 1st B-52 flight (they are still flying!)
1955- Ray Kroc started McDonalds
1990- Greta Garbo died
Every year- Federal income taxes are due

And most importantly, in 1978 Prince Charles (Hajdu) married Lady Diana (Meade)

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Glut of Smartphone Apps

Smartphone and tablet apps are great. But now we're facing a kind of app glut. Our smartphones are quickly becoming bloated with far more apps than anyone can manage.

Remember when Facebook had an app? You could post messages, upload and share pictures, message people, read stuff and poke your friends.

Now Facebook has many apps for doing similar things. In addition to the main Facebook app, Facebook offers Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, Paper, Camera and others.

None of these are necessary. All those features could be easily accommodated in the main Facebook app. But Facebook is embarking on a strategy of creating a maximum number of mobile apps to take up more space on a smartphone screen and, presumably, capture more user mindshare.

In what's proving to be an unpopular move, Facebook is removing the chat feature from the main Facebook iOS and Android apps to force people to install a second app called Messenger. (The rollout of this policy across the globe will be gradual and take weeks.) I expect more forced adoption of apps that contain what used to be features inside the Facebook app.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lepow Moonstone Review

By George Harding

Moonstone is a portable charger for phones and tablets. It is ergonomically shaped to be easy to hold, and is very attractive, as well. It comes in black, white, yellow, red and green.

It is relatively small, being only 3.2 inches horizontally and vertically, and only 0.3 inches thick.

In spite of its small size, Moonstone offers two capacities, 3000 mAh or 6000 mAh. Both are the same size and both use a Lithium-polymer battery.

There are two output ports, which allows you to charge two devices at the same time.

You can judge the power availability from the four LED lights on the device.

A nice feature is that Moonstone shuts itself off when you unplug your device being charged, saving the power for future use.

This is a really handy portable charger which you can easily slip into your pocket or purse to use to bring your cell phone, MP3 player, tablet or whatever up to full charge.

Price $50 at

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Worldwide PC Sales

Worldwide personal-computer shipments dropped in the first quarter as consumers in emerging markets opted for smartphones and tablets, while corporate demand helped slow the pace of the decline, researchers said.

Unit sales fell 1.7 percent from a year earlier to 76.6 million, market researcher Gartner Inc. said yesterday in a statement. IDC, another technology-research firm, said quarterly shipments worldwide fell 4.4 percent to 73.4 million.

The PC market is on course for a third annual contraction, threatening earnings at companies that rely on sales of the devices, such as Intel Corp. (INTC) and Hewlett-Packard Co. One bright spot in the first quarter was an increase in business orders for desktop machines ahead of Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s end to support for its Windows XP operating system, Gartner said.
“While the PC market remains weak, it is showing signs of improvement compared to last year,” Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner, said in the statement. In January, the Stamford, Connecticut-based researcher said PC shipments fell 6.9 percent in the fourth quarter, and 10 percent in 2013.

Shipments in the U.S. reached 14.1 million units, a gain of 2.1 percent from a year ago, Gartner said. In the Asia-Pacific region, units shipped were 24.9 million, down 11 percent. IDC said U.S. unit sales slipped 0.6 percent to 14.3 million.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Samsung S5 Freebies

Samsung Electronics Co., facing more competition from Apple Inc. and Xiaomi Corp., is cranking up incentives for its Galaxy S5 to as much as $600 in freebies to defend its place as the world’s largest smartphone maker.

With the marquee device from the Suwon, South Korea-based company making its debut in 125 countries today, customers will be offered PayPal vouchers, a LinkedIn Corp. premium account and at least four fitness-related apps. It’s the first time Samsung has offered incentives for its top-selling S series of devices.

Samsung is fighting to make its phones stand out in the market against new iPhones and up-and-comers such as China’s Xiaomi and Coolpad Group Ltd. The strategy may force rivals to lift incentives or lower prices, meaning a potential profit squeeze throughout an industry that has seen the fall of once-dominant producers Motorola Mobility and Nokia Oyj. Already, Samsung’s operating profit has fallen for two straight quarters.

“Samsung must do whatever it takes to maintain its global consumer electronics leadership,” said Neil Mawston, director of global wireless practice for researcher Strategy Analytics. “Previous failures like Motorola have shown in the past that once you lose your grip on top spot, it is a very long and painful process to get it back.”

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Zorin Linux OS version 8.1

Windows XP is defunct. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of PCs are seemingly worthless. And so the Linux cry of “Carpe Penguin” is heard around the world. Although I’ve gone on the record to say that the death of Windows XP shouldn't be the sole rallying call for Linux, it's certainly a moment to be seized. This is the perfect time for Linux distributions, such as Zorin OS.

The Zorin OS is unique in the world of Linux in that it wants to embrace the Windows crowd and show them they can feel at home anywhere. To that end, Zorin OS goes out of its way to emulate Windows XP and even Windows 7. It does this by employing a user-friendly, Windows-like desktop that anyone can use. Oddly enough, in this Unity-, GNOME-, XFCE-, KDE-dominated world of Linux, Zorin OS opts to roll out their own desktop environment (Zorin Desktop Environment), along with the Zorin Menu, to create an interface that's both amazingly familiar and unique.

I installed Zorin OS on one of my crustier laptops (to see how it would fare on machines about to be hogtied with an unusable Windows XP). I have to say that this Linux distribution, geared toward new users, might well appease just about any experience level.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Last MSFT Update for WinXp

Yesterday MSFT released four security updates for Windows and Microsoft Office. These will be the last publicly-released updates for Windows XP and Office 2003.

A total of 11 vulnerabilities were addressed by these updates, including seven for Windows XP and four for Office 2003.

Separately, Microsoft released fixes for Internet Explorer 10 and 11 to address vulnerabilities fixed by Adobe in the Flash Player bundled in the Metro versions of IE.

Among the vulnerabilities patched is a critical error in the handling of RTF files by all versions of Microsoft Word. Microsoft says that "limited, targeted" attacks using this vulnerability have been observed in the wild.