Q: What can I do to get better battery life from my smartphone? It doesn’t even get me through the afternoon on most days. — Ed
A: Smartphones are an amazing bit of technology, but all those features come at a high cost: battery life.
Understanding which features eat up your battery and only using them when or if you need them is the best way to extend the life.
One of the biggest drains on the battery is powering those big beautiful screens, so always turn the brightness down to the lowest tolerable setting and turn off the auto-brightness so you can manually control when the screen gets brighter.
Turn off the ‘push’ setting for your e-mail so that mail is not constantly being sent to your phone whether you are reading your e-mail or not. The ‘fetch’ setting determines how often your phone checks for new mail, so set it to the longest possible interval or better yet, set it to manual so that the only time you will get new messages is when you manually tell it to fetch them.
Location services can be used by many apps, so having the GPS circuit constantly updating your location as you move around will also drain the battery. Turn it off unless you need it (if an app needs it, you’ll be alerted) and start saying no to apps that ask to use location services when you first install them.
Having your phone constantly scanning for a wifi signal or a Bluetooth device can also add to the drain, so turn them off until they’re needed.
If you are constantly getting notifications from lots of apps, you probably aren’t paying attention when you are installing apps. You should turn off notifications for all but the important ones (you’ll probably be more productive as well!) and start saying no to apps asking to send you notifications when you install them.
Using your phone as a hotspot for other devices is a super handy feature but you can kill your battery very quickly by using it. Try to avoid turning on the hotspot feature unless you are plugged into a power outlet.
If you do turn on the hotspot while on battery power, remember to turn it off as soon as you are finished or your phone will be on fumes in a relatively short period of time.
Start getting into the habit of routinely checking for any apps that are running in the background and shutting them down, especially those free games that are constantly loading in the ads that support the app.
Newer Android phones have a power-saving mode that does a really great job of managing your phones resources based on the way you use your phone, so try turning it on.
You can also see which apps are eating up the most power on Android devices, which can help you decide if its time to get rid of some unwieldy apps.
One last major thing to remember: heat is a major killer of batteries and will reduce the batteries ability to hold a charge. Avoid direct sunlight especially in the hot summer months and avoid using the phone until it cools down if it’s hot to the touch.
Posted in Data doctors, Local, Money, Money on Saturday, May 18, 2013 8:49 am. Updated: 2:12 pm. | Tags: Android , Smartphones , Computing , Technology_internet , Iphone , Battery , Bluetooth , Smartphone , Software , Technology , Global Positioning System , Ac Power Plugs And Sockets , Gps , Location Services Comments (0)
Q: I received a call today from a male who identified himself as Andrew Allison with Microsoft Security. He told me that “my NT wires” were installed incorrectly and were causing errors across the internet and that he could talk me through the steps needed to correct the problem. Trying to find a way to report this to Microsoft... — Dennis
A: These scam calls started several years ago and they will continue because too many folks are still falling for it.
The sophistication level of this scam continues to fool people, but the bottom line is that Microsoft (or any other legitimate company) will never call you out of the blue to help you with a problem you didn’t know you had.
The closest exception is that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) could send you a warning e-mail if an infected computer is spewing garbage from your home or business via your Internet connection, but even they wouldn’t call you on the phone.
Microsoft is well aware of these scams, but there really isn’t much that they can do to stop it since these scammers pop-up out of thin air on a regular basis and have clever ways to mask who they really are.
In most cases, this is a ‘cold-calling’ technique used by unscrupulous computer service organizations, generally from foreign countries, that are simply trying to con folks out of their money.
They randomly call phone numbers in the US, because they know that virtually everyone they call will have a computer and the odds are pretty good that they have a Windows-based computer.
We are starting to see more variations of this scam that don’t always use Microsoft’s name but the intentions are the same: try to scare you into letting them access your computer to fix it for a fee.
Another of our Facebook friends posted that they got a call from someone claiming to be with ‘PC Trackers’ that gave his name and even a phone number where he could be reached.
They use clever tricks for convincing you that you do have a problem, if they can keep you on the phone long enough (so hang up as quickly as you can!)
They’ll try to convince you by having you run some ‘diagnostics’ yourself as proof.
One tactic is to get the victim to open the Windows Event Viewer, which has a log of any errors that Windows has detected. Unless you just recently installed Windows, your Event Log is bound to show some errors (very normal), which can be made to seem scary to non-technical users.
Another trick is to get you to drop to a command prompt (black background with white text) to check your system ID and run a verify command, which will return the message that ‘verify is off’.
They will then tell you that your computer ID can’t be verified which means your computer hasn’t been able to get Windows updates (which is completely false; the verify command is to verify that data has been written to a drive correctly).
They may even guide you to pull up something that they claim is a system certificate that has a 2011 date, which they will try to convince you means your computer hasn’t been updated since last year.
As you can see, if you follow their instructions, they can easily trick a non-technical victim into believing that their computer really is infected and allow ‘Microsoft’ into their computer remotely to fix it.
Remote service is perfectly fine and safe, but only when you instigate the call for help.
Posted in Money, Data doctors, Money on Wednesday, May 1, 2013 2:27 pm. Updated: 7:40 am. | Tags: Microsoft , Microsoft Windows , Technology_internet , Andrew Allison , Windows , Facebook , Event Viewer , Windows Nt , Internet Connection , Internet Service , Isp , Confidence Trick , United States , Windows Phone Comments (1)
Q: I would like to print from my Gmail account on my iPhone or iPad to my printer, but it doesn’t come up in Apple’s print option on either (device). Any suggestions? — Daryl
A: This question was answered on March 22, 2013. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
As we all spend more time on our mobile devices, the desire to print something we are reading or have downloaded becomes more likely.
Apple has made provisions for this likelihood with a feature called AirPrint built-into its operating system (iOS 5 or later).
In order to use AirPrint, you must have a wireless printer that is setup on the same Wi-Fi network as your iOS device that is supported by AirPrint. You can check to see if you printer is supported by reviewing the resources posted on Apple’s website: http://goo.gl/ulHCL .
Unlike a computer, not every app you use on your phone or tablet can use AirPrint; in general Mail, Photos and anything you are looking at in Safari can print (including Gmail). Many third party apps may also try to make use of AirPrint which you can check by clicking on the ‘action’ icon (the sweeping arrow at the bottom of a printable item).
There are a number of apps you can purchase that will allow you to turn the computer that’s connected to your printer into a print server for your mobile devices, but I prefer a free option that Google offers.
If you have Google’s Chrome browser on your computer (Mac or Windows), you can setup Google’s Cloud Print which will allow you to print from virtually any mobile device (via the browser) from anywhere.
Unlike Apple’s AirPrint which required that you are on the same wireless network, Cloud Print allows you to print to your home or office printer from anywhere in the world because it connects via the Internet not a local Wi-Fi network.
To setup Cloud Print, open your Chrome browser and type ‘chrome://settings’ in the address bar (without the http://) then click on the ‘Show Advanced’ settings link at the bottom.
Scroll down to the ‘Google Cloud Print’ section and click on the ‘Add printers’ button. If you aren’t currently logged into your Google account, it will ask you to do so (make sure you use the same username and password you use for your Gmail account).
Once you are signed in, you will see a blue button that says ‘Add printer(s)’ which will register the currently available printers attached to your computer to the list.
Clicking on ‘Manage your printers’ will let you see various printing options that should include your local printer as well as a really useful option called ‘Save to Google Docs’.
Instead of printing to physical paper on a specific printer, you can create a Google document that is an electronic version of what would have been printed. This can be very handy if you travel and want access to these ‘printed’ documents from anywhere (just click on the ‘Drive’ option at the top when you are logged into Gmail or your Google account to access them).
Once this is setup, go to your Gmail account or any Google Doc via the browser on your phone or tablet and tap the down arrow in the upper right corner whenever you are viewing a message that you want to print.
You can now print to that specific printer from your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Kindle, Android, laptop or any Internet connected device that has a browser as long as you log into the same Google account that you used to setup the printer.
If you need to print from more apps and want other power features, checkout the various offerings from PrintCentral: http://goo.gl/5536T
Posted in Data doctors, Money, Columns, Money on Thursday, April 11, 2013 8:12 am. Updated: 7:37 pm. | Tags: Iphone , Software , Computing , Cloud Clients , Technology_internet , Google , Airprint , Apple , Google Cloud Print , Gmail , Google Chrome , Ipad , Kindle , Android , Computer Printing , Web 2.0 , Ios , Itunes , Safari , Mobile Devices , Wi-fi , Operating System , Wireless Printer , Ios Device , Ipod Touch , Print Server , Microsoft Windows , Mobile Device , Wireless Network , Http , Printing Options , Apple Ipod Touch Portable Audio Device Comments (0)
Q: Is a VPN the safest way to use an unsecured (public) Wi-Fi connection? Are there other ways to stay safe? Are there any free VPNs out there for personal use? — Kevin
A: By now, most everyone has heard about the dangers of using public Wi-Fi connections for accessing sensitive information or websites.
I’ll start by explaining the actual dangers and then the various methods of reducing your chances of being victimized.
Open Wi-Fi connections are called ‘open’ because they allow anyone to connect to them without a username or password.
The ‘anyone’ can include those with malicious intent that can setup on these open networks to ‘sniff’ unsecured bits of data (called packets) while it looks like they are sipping their coffee and posting to Facebook.
Unsecured transmissions when you are looking at the latest sports scores on ESPN.com or watching a YouTube video isn’t a big deal, because there isn’t anything sensitive in those transactions.
If, however, you are accessing your bank account, logging into your e-mail account or other sensitive transactions, you want to make sure your browser is using ‘https:’ which adds the secure socket layer (SSL) and encrypts the data between your computer and the website.
This doesn’t prevent another person connected to the open network from capturing your data packets, it just means that they have to take the additional steps to decode all the encrypted packets in order to even see what you were doing, which is generally too time consuming for an unknown outcome.
These days, websites that require a username and password will automatically serve your browser a secured page https), so using a personal VPN isn’t as necessary as it once was.
VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are really designed for connecting securely to a trusted remote network via an unsecured public network (the Internet) so that all transactions not just browsing are secured (e-mail, file transfers, etc.)
They can also allow you to be anonymous or look like you’re connecting from another country, so you can access sites that are generally off limits to foreign users (like the BBC’s live Olympic video feed that we couldn’t access from the US).
My suggestions for being safe on public Wi-Fi is to avoid doing anything sensitive whenever you connect to them altogether.
For sensitive transmissions, use the e-mail client on your smartphone or use a smartphone app for your bank and always via your cellular provider’s network, not a public Wi-Fi connection.
If you have the ability to tether your computer or tablet to your smartphone’s cellular connection, that’s another way to avoid the ongoing security risks imposed by using a public Wi-Fi connection. If you aren’t using the same connection as others, you can’t be exploited by them.
If you really feel the need to use a personal VPN service, you can try using the free version of AnchorFree’s HotSpot Shield (anchorfree.com) if you don’t mind an ad banner being added to the top of your browser window.
As with any program, it will add overhead to your computer so don’t install it if you are already experiencing performance issues and browser crashes or things could just get worse.
It’s also not uncommon to notice a speed difference when connecting via a VPN, so that might be another reason to stick to my previous suggestions instead.
Posted in Data doctors, Money, Money on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 9:37 am. | Tags: Virtual Private Network , Computer Network Security , Computing , Technology_internet , Wi-fi , Hotspot , Password , Html Element , Nintendo Wi-fi Connection , Electronic Engineering , Electronics , Youtube , Bbc , Facebook , United States , Ssl , Bank Account , Security , Virtual Private Networks , Trusted Remote Network , Unsecured Public Network , Smartphone , Bank , Anchorfree , Iran Comments (0)