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When it comes to predicting the future, science-fiction isn’t bad

We’re still waiting for our personal jet packs, and as far as we know, there aren’t any condos for sale on the moon. Surprisingly, though, the world of science-fiction has done a solid job of predicting the gadgets of the future.

Here’s a quick look at the tech we use today that was first dreamed up in science-fiction novels and movies.

1. Smart robots: Sure, we have plenty of robots. They help us build our cars and vacuum our rugs, but what about smart robots — metal beings that actually learn and show signs of a personality? So far, those are only present in science fiction, but according to a report by the Daily Mail, computer scientist and medical doctor Henry Markram is busy leading the efforts to create a robot that actually learns. The doctor’s prediction? His robot will be complete in 2018.

2. Automatic doors: Today, we take automatic doors for granted. It’s awfully nice to walk out the grocery store and have those glass doors swing open at our approach. However, as the editors at Business Insider point out, author H.G. Wells predicted this technology in his novel When the Sleeper Wakes. Turns out, Wells was prescient when it came to this bit of technology. (Digging to the center of the earth? Well, that one hasn’t come true just yet.)

3. Leaving our atmosphere: It’s difficult to imagine a more amazing achievement than blasting into space. Yet, we’ve become bored with NASA and its exploits. Back in 1961, though, when Yuri Gagarin became the first human in outer space, it was a pretty big deal. Author Jules Vern surely would have appreciated it. He fantasized about outer space travel way back in his novel From the Earth to the Moon, which was published in 1865.

4. Body scanners: Paste Magazine reminds us of that scene in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall in which our hero must undergo a full body scan when going through a security checkpoint. These body scans became commonplace at airports across the country starting in 2010.

5. iPads: As Britain’s The Guardian newspaper points out, the seminal science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey, correctly predicted much of today’s technology. This includes the film’s astronauts staring into flat video devices, even while eating. Sounds a lot like the iPad.

Of course, science-fiction is far from perfect in its crystal ball capabilities. Here are two notable misses from the world of science-fiction:

1. Individual jet packs: This is probably the biggest disappointment. People still aren’t flying around with the help of their own personal jetpacks. We’re still stuck walking. Boo.

2. Meals in pill form: Anyone who’s running late for a big meeting can appreciate the meal in a pill. Just pop the pill and you’re full. No mess and no cooking. This, alas, has not yet come to pass. It’s fast-food chains for us when we need a quick bite.

Post Script
March in sci-fi history:

March 22, 1931—Born: William Shatner, aka Captain Kirk
March 26, 1931—Born: Leonard Nimoy, aka Spock
March 22, 1995—Premiered: sci-fi TV series “Sliders,” on Fox

Posted in: Business, Tech Tips for Business Owners, Technology

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5 Simple Ways To Avoid Getting An Avalanche of Spam

As you probably already know from firsthand experience, once you’re on a spammer’s list, it’s next to impossible to get off. Changing your e-mail address can be a major inconvenience especially if you rely on it to stay in touch with important business and personal contacts.

To reduce the chances of your e-mail address getting spammed, here are 5 simple preventative measures you can take that will go a long way in keeping not-so-delicious spam out of your in-box.

1. Use a disposable e-mail address.
If you buy products online or occasionally subscribe to websites that interest you, chances are you’re going to get spammed.

To avoid your main e-mail address from ending up on their broadcast list, set up a free Internet e-mail address with Hotmail or Gmail and use it when buying or opting in to online newsletters. You can also use a throwaway e-mail address when making purchases or subscribing to newsletters (see #4).

2. Pay attention to check boxes that automatically opt you in.
Whenever you subscribe to a website or make a purchase online, be very watchful of small, pre-checked boxes that say, “Yes! I want to receive offers from third party companies.”

If you do not un-check the box to opt-out, your e-mail address will probably be sold to every online advertiser. To avoid this from happening, simply take a closer look at every online form you fill out.

3. Don’t use your main e-mail address on your website, web forums, or newsgroups.
Spammers have special programs that can glean e-mail addresses from websites without your permission. If you are posting to a web forum or newsgroup, use your disposable e-mail address instead of your main e-mail address.

If you want to post an e-mail address on your home page, use “info@” and have all replies forwarded to a folder in your in-box that won’t interfere with your main address or better yet include it as a graphic.

4. Create throwaway e-mail accounts.
If you own a web domain, all mail going to an address at your domain is probably set up to come directly to you by default. For example, an e-mail addressed to anything@yourdomain.com will be delivered to your in-box.

This is a great way to fight spam without missing out on important e-mails you want to get. The next time you sign up for a newsletter, use the title of the website in your e-mail address. For example, if the website is titled “successsecrets.com”, enter “successsecrets@yourdomain.com” as your e-mail address. If you get spammed, look at what address the spam was sent to.

If successsecrets@yourdomain.com shows up as the original recipient, you know the source since that e-mail address was unique to that web site. Now you can easily stop the spam by making any e-mail sent to that address bounce back to the sender.

5. Don’t open, reply to or try to opt-out of obvious spam e-mails.
Opening, replying to, or even clicking a bogus opt-out link in an obvious spam e-mail signals that your e-mail address is active, and more spam will follow.

The only time it is safe to click on the opt-out link or reply to the e-mail is when the message was sent from a company you know or do business with (for example, a company that you purchase from or a newsletter you subscribed to).

If you are still absolutely fed up with the number of spam e-mails you get every day, the annoying pop-ups when you surf the net, and advertisers installing spyware on your computer to monitor your every move and serve up unwanted ads, Trinity Worldwide Technologies can help recommend the proper solution for your organization. Please call us at 732-780-8615 for more information.

Posted in: Business, E-mail, Security, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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New to Windows 7? These Tips Will Make You More Productive

Windows 7 represents a significant improvement over previous Windows operating systems. However, if you don’t know how to use this latest version of Windows properly, you’ll miss out on a host of goodies that’ll help you work more efficiently.

By mastering a few simple tricks, you’ll be able to get the most out of Windows 7.

Find and repair problems without outside help

Is your operating system acting strange? From the Control Panel, click “troubleshooting” to access a series of wizards that will resolve common operating problems. This includes cleaning up systems that are slowed by too much adware and other clutter.

Use AppLocker to block malware

What if you have younger members of the household who insist on installing cumbersome software to your computer? Install too much of this software, and your computer will turn into a sluggish mess.

AppLocker allows you to run and install only programs with your pre-approval. For instance, you can tell AppLocker to only run programs created by reputable companies such as Microsoft. If, say, your kids try to install a program from an unknown publisher, AppLocker will block it.

Preserve battery power

Windows 7 comes with its own power efficiency service. This allows you to access reams of information about how much power your laptop is consuming. This can be important if you’re working from a remote location and you’re not near a charging source.

Share the love

Finally, you can use a Windows 7-enabled computer as a software-based wireless router with the operating system’s Virtual Wi-Fi feature. If you enable Virtual Wi-Fi, any other Wi-Fi devices within range, including tablets and laptops, will view your computer as a new network. These devices will then be able to share your connection.

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Customize Your Android Phone with These Three Tips

Android phones allow for an impressive amount of customization. Simply follow the tips below to create a smartphone that’s as unique as you are.

One-touch dialing

Are there certain numbers that you dial more frequently than others? With Android smartphones, you can set up one-touch dialing for those people whom you call the most. Simply press an open space on your screen and select the “Shortcuts” option. Then press Direct Dial and pick the right person from your list of contacts. Now you’ll be able to call that person simply by pressing a single button.

Home-screen shortcuts

You can customize your Android phone so that you spend less time searching for your favorite web pages, too, by moving your top websites directly to your phone’s home screen.

Do this by pressing and holding onto any site listed in your browser’s bookmarks. Soon, a list of options will pop up. Press the “Add Shortcut to Home” option, and the selected web page will now appear on your phone’s home page.

Organizing with folders

By creating folders on your Android phone, you can better organize everything from your contacts to your most important work documents by grouping these items into their own folders.

For instance, you can create a folder reserved specifically for your most frequently called contacts. If you’re working on an important project for work, you can create a new folder that’s reserved for documents, Web addresses, and contact numbers related to this particular project.

To create folders, press on a blank space on your phone’s screen. When your list of options pops up, press “Folders.” This will allow you to create your own folder and name it. You can then drag and drop important documents, images, and files into these folders.

Posted in: Business, Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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How the Hybrid Cloud Differs from the Public Cloud

Cloud computing has certainly caught on among business owners. No surprise there: the cloud offers more computing power, cheaper storage, seamless scalability and the simplicity that comes with someone else taking care of your servers.

But there’s a catch. To take advantage of cloud software and infrastructure, you’ve got to give up some control over your data … Or do you?

Have your cloud and your privacy too

Here’s the thing: not all clouds are the same. There’s the public cloud, the one with which we’re most familiar. But then there’s the hybrid cloud too. As its name suggests, the hybrid cloud is a combination of two different types of clouds, public and private. The hybrid cloud can give your business all of the benefits listed in the first paragraph (power, affordability, scalability and simplicity) without the tradeoffs that come with entrusting your data to an unknown (or unresponsive) quantity.

How might that work in practice? Here’s an example: A business provides some resources in-house. For instance, it might store current consumer data on its private in-house cloud. It might also store employee records, new marketing campaigns, and current proposals to new clients on its in-house storage.

That same business, though, might store older, archived data on a public cloud service. This frees up space on the business’ servers, and allows its in-house computers to operate more efficiently.

At the same time, taking a hybrid cloud approach to data storage allows businesses to take advantage of the space-saving benefits of the public cloud without also exposing their sensitive current data to third-party providers. In other words, the hybrid cloud provides businesses with security, cost-savings, and efficiency.

Why the hybrid cloud approach makes sense

It’s little wonder, then, that so many businesses today are moving toward a hybrid cloud approach. There is simply too much data floating around today for smaller businesses to adequately store. At the same time, businesses in today’s competitive environment don’t want to expose company secrets and sensitive consumer data to either their rivals or hackers.

The hybrid cloud allows businesses to have the best of both worlds.

Posted in: Business, Cloud Computing, Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners, Technology

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7 Deadly Sins of Web Surfing

These days, using the Internet is one of the most dangerous daily activities that you can undertake.  Admittedly, the odds of bodily harm, other than carpal tunnel, are slim.  The real danger lies in the potential impact web browsing can have on your personal identity and financial standing.  Every computer connected to the Internet is a target of malware, viruses, and spyware, all of which are secretly installed onto your PC.  The individuals behind these have one purpose in mind – to collect personal information about you and make money from what they learn about you.

Here are seven things you can do that can help you avoid the dangers:

  1. Don’t have a good hardware firewall router.  Not having a good, separate active hardware firewall between your PC and your modem will let hackers have access to your network.  A firewall is designed to permit or deny network traffic based upon a set of rules and it protects your networks from unauthorized access while permitting legitimate communications to pass.  You want the firewall to have Denial of Service (DoS) protection and use Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) to protect your network.  (Just look for these on the box.)
  2. Don’t keep your Antivirus updated.  With new viruses coming out every day, one sure way to get a virus is to not update your antivirus product.  It’s bad enough that new viruses can get through prior to the software companies devising a way to stop them, but once a solution is devised, you want to get it.  Update this daily.
  3. Don’t have antispyware.  Spyware infections are just as dangerous as viruses.  They secretly collect pieces of information about you.  With spyware present on your system, you may open yourself up to identity theft and credit card fraud.  You don’t want your PC “phoning home” with your personal information.  Run an antispyware program at least weekly.
  4. Don’t keep your web browser updated.  It’s important to keep your web browser up-to-date with the latest patches.  Patches are coming out much more frequently now than ever before.  Familiarize yourself with the built-in safe surfing features, and tweak the settings to ensure a high degree of protection.  The browser providers realize that they have competition and that customers are expecting them to help provide a safe browsing experience.  Check for updates weekly.
  5. Don’t keep Windows updated.  Again, patch management is a key to keeping your systems secure.  Microsoft sends out security updates once a month on “Patch Tuesday”.  This is usually the second Tuesday of each month.  Run the Windows Update as soon as they come out.  This protects you from exploits to your from your OS, other Windows components, and the Microsoft Office Suite.  Updates for other Windows products such as Microsoft Security Essentials (highly recommended) and Windows Defender are sent out much more frequently.
  6. Click on Pop ups.  Never click on a pop up – whether it is from an antivirus program, Adobe, some other software, or any other so-called updates.  Always go to the website directly to update any programs on your PC.  Follow this golden rule -> If you are not sure, or even if you are sure, never ever click.
  7. Click on a link in an Email – especially if they are from a bank, credit card company, or services like Paypal.  Only click on these if you want to let the world have your personal information.  Never believe an email.  Always go directly to the website by opening up a new browser session and do whatever you need to do.  The same goes for Emails from social media sites.

Identifying where a link goes.  One trick – If you hover over a link with your mouse, is should display the destination website in the bottom left or right of your web browser.  Be sure to look at the last “www” address if there is more than one, as the last is the destination website.

Example:  www.website.com/…./www.badwebsite.com

Here is a link where you can find some great information and explanations about malware – http://www.kaspersky.com/threats_faq.  If you have any questions about the security of your IT network, Trinity Worldwide Technologies can help you by assessing your specific IT environment and recommending the proper security measures for your organization.  Please call us at 732-780-8615 for more information.

Posted in: Business, Security, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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5 Features in Windows 7 to Improve Productivity

Microsoft has recently released their new operating system Windows 7.  Many people, including me, have been running Windows XP for a long time.  Things have been working well, so there has been no reason to upgrade.  Now that XP is two generations behind, and many of us are looking to replace our old computers with newer ones we are left with a decision.  Do we continue using an older operating system that has been working or do we upgrade to the new operating system?  Well, with all the productivity enhancing features in Windows 7, plus the speed of Windows 7, there is no reason to not upgrade.  I have recently switched to Windows 7 and will outline some of the key features I have found by using it.

 

  1. Improved Taskbar – If you have been using Windows XP for any amount of time you may be familiar with a plain taskbar that does not have many uses.  When you first boot Windows 7 you will notice a huge difference in the taskbar.  Sure it may look like the one in Vista, but believe me, it is much better.  First, you will notice that there are no longer any differences between the Quick Launch area and the running programs area.  They have combined the two giving you more room on the taskbar.  You can tell which programs are running by the glass outline over the icon.  You can place any program on the taskbar just by dragging the icon to it, or if you have the program running you can right-click on it and select “pin this program to taskbar”.  This is not the only change though.  In the notification area, the part of the taskbar near the clock, you will see that Windows 7 also hides the running programs.  The difference is the ease in which you can manage what is hidden and what is not for each program.  The last major difference is the taskbar previews.  Just hover the mouse over the open program and move it over the preview to bring that window to the front of the screen.
  2.  Jump Lists – If you are like most people, you want to make access to files and folders easier.  To do this, you probably have lots of items on your desktop.  Whether it is files, folders, or shortcuts, your desktop has probably become very cluttered.  This has worked for so long because there was not an option that was better than this.  Well, now there is.  In Windows 7, Microsoft introduced a feature that will not only clean up your desktop, but make accessing both folders and files quicker.  On the taskbar there is an icon of a folder, for Windows Explorer.  To access the Jump List, all you have to do is right-click on the icon.  Not only will you see folders you have visited frequently, but you can pin folders to the Jump List for easy access all the time.  All of those shortcuts on your desktop for folders you frequently access can now be pinned to the Jump List simply by dragging the folder to the Windows Explorer icon on the taskbar.  The Jump List’s don’t stop there though.  If you have a Word or Excel file you frequently use, you can pin that to a Jump List as well.  Just pin the Word or Excel program to the taskbar, and then pin the document or spreadsheet to that program’s icon just like you did with the folders.  Now anytime you need to access that document there is no need to dig for it or have hundreds of icons on the desktop.  Just right-click the program on the taskbar and choose that file and it will open right away.
  3. Improved Search – In previous versions of Windows, searching for files was always a hassle.  You had to open the Search Companion and then refine your search on what you were looking for.  Microsoft tried to make this better with the Search Indexer, but it was slow and took up a lot of CPU horsepower.  In Windows 7 Microsoft refined the search indexer by building it into the operating system.  Now everything is included in the index, even emails.  Better yet, no more clicking around to get to the search feature, just click the Start button and start typing.
  4. Automatic Recognition of many devices – Throughout the previous versions of Windows installing printers, camera, and other devices was not fun.  Often you would need to load the manufacturer’s software to get it to work, and then with all the extra software running on the computer, it would run more slowly.  Now with Windows 7, many drivers are built in, and the ones that aren’t are automatically downloaded from the internet.  Just by plugging in a printer or another device, Windows will recognize the device and install it for you.  This makes installing devices much faster and keeps your computer running like new.
  5. Aero Interface – Probably one of the most exciting features of Windows 7 is the Aero Interface.  While it might not be the most productive it is very useful, and really fun to play with.  So what is the Aero Interface?  Microsoft introduced the Aero Interface in Windows Vista, but has greatly improved it in Windows 7.  Aero looks like glass, and even allows you to see through parts of the taskbar onto the desktop.  Why is this interface in this list?  Well there are times when this comes in handy.  On the far right of the taskbar there is an area that is the Show Desktop icon.  It is just to the right of the clock.  Previously there was an icon in the Quick Launch for Show Desktop.  When clicked, all the open windows would fall down into the taskbar showing the desktop.  With Windows 7, hover the mouse over the Show Desktop and all the open windows will clear out, giving a glass look allowing you to see through to the desktop.  Move your mouse off of the Show Desktop and all your open windows return where they were.  A new feature in Windows 7, and possibly one of the most productive, is called Aero Snap.  Just drag an open window to the top of the screen and let go and the window will go full screen.  Drag the window to the right or left and get a half screen snap.  This is great when comparing documents.

Switching to a new operating system is often a scary thing to do, but with all the productivity enhancements the upgrade is worth the effort.  I think you will see that Windows 7 will help improve your work and is also fun to use.

Posted in: Business, MS Office Tips and Tricks, Tech Tips for Business Owners, Technology

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Keeping Your Computing Environment Secure

I am sure you have heard about all the hacking activities going on in the Internet, some even targeting organizations that you would think would have their systems so tightly secured that no one would even think of trying to compromise.

None of us are immune to these hacking attacks.  As small business owners, you might think that no one would be interested in breaking in to your computing system.

You may ask…”Why me?”

Let me tell you that it is not that the hackers are actually targeting you.  To them, your computing system is just one of the myriads of devices out on the Internet. They use computer software that programmatically checks out different Internet addresses to see if there is any vulnerability.  If they see one that responds, the software will try to log in, systematically using a list of commonly used passwords and words or word-combinations from the dictionary.

Many of you have very functional server systems that include remote access capabilities, giving you the ability to remotely work from home or when you are travelling.  Guess what, the hackers use these remote access portals to try to hack in.

Are you alarmed yet?  If not, you should be.  These remote access portals are used by many companies around the world, and are designed to allow secure access for an increasingly offsite workforce.  However, they are only as secure as the weakest link – most often, an insecure or simple password.

So my question is – is your organization still using the default password that was assigned for your users during the initial implementation of your server system?

That password was not meant to be kept around beyond the initial implementation period.  If you are still using that password, or a simple variation of it, I strongly urge you to take immediate steps to change the password to something complicated.

Creating a “strong” password

For example, you could use the first letters of a favorite phrase like “Trust in the LORD with all your heart”.  The password would then be TitLwayh. Now because it would be easy to remember your favorite phrase, you would have no problem remembering the complicated password, but a hacker would have a hard time figuring it out.  To make the password even stronger, substitute the letter “i” with a number “1”, the letter “o” with the number “0”,  and the letter “a” for the character @, which will make the resultant password T1tLw@yh.

How to change your password now

To change your password, while you are already logged on, press Ctrl-Alt-Del and click [Change Password].  Don’t forget to ask all the others in the company to do the same.

If you so desire, you can expire the password of all your users, forcing them to change it at the next login.

Do not wait until your computing system has been compromised before “closing the barn door”. Do it NOW!

By the way, “closing the barn door” once a server and network has been compromised could get pretty expensive, and could be very disruptive to your business.

We value your business. We trust you value our advice.

Posted in: Business, IT Support, Security, Tech Tips for Business Owners, Technology

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6 Yearly PC Maintenance Tips

A little simple maintenance now can help prevent many headaches throughout the year. Regular maintenance is the key to creating a safe, secure, productive environment, protecting your technology, and getting your greatest return on your investment.  This is a customized list of tasks for monthly, quarterly, and yearly maintenance that everyone should minimally perform.

1.      Remove the Junk
At a minimum, run Disk Cleanup: You’ll find this utility on the Start Menu submenu: Start > (All) Programs > Accessories > System Tools.  With less junk files on your computer you will gain back valuable disk space and your computer will run quicker as well.

2.      Patch And Update
Start with Windows Update, and ensure that your operating system is fully up to date with all necessary patches, fixes, and updates.  Do likewise for all your software, especially your antivirus, antispyware, and other security tools, visiting the vendor sites to download any and all updates and patches for your applications and utilities.  Finally, check your hardware vendors’ Web sites for driver and other updates for your video card, audio system, motherboard components, etc.

3.      Reorganize
The end of the year is a great time to reorganize the files and folders on your hard drive.  Some users like to organize first by topics, then by chronology; others do it the other way, first by year, then by topic.

The organizing principle doesn’t matter as long as you end up with an organized “tree” of data files that you can traverse with ease to locate whatever files you may later need.  You want to avoid the too-common syndrome where every data file on the PC ends up in an undifferentiated mass in “My Documents” or in similar, uselessly cluttered, generic folders.

4.      Simplify
While you’re reorganizing your hard drive, keep an eye out for files and software that you no longer use or need.  These can be moved to long-term storage (via backup; or perhaps by moving to an unused disk or partition) or you can simply delete/uninstall them from your system.

Removing unused files and software saves space, avoids clutter, and can actually improve system speed and responsiveness.  For example, keeping large numbers of unneeded files on the system can bog down searches and slow the indexing of the rest of the drive’s contents.  Carrying unneeded software clutters the Registry and may delay system startup and shut down as unnecessary components are loaded or unloaded.

5.      Reorder
Once your hard drive is as organized, cleaned, and simplified as you can make it, reorder the files for fastest access, and to make most-efficient use of the disk space.  This “defragmentation” of the system’s files is best done on a regular basis, but at the very least should be done after a major cleanup.  You’ll find this utility on the Start Menu submenu: Start > (All) Programs > Accessories > System Tools.

6.      Backup
Having come this far, you should backup your files in your newly organized file structure with an external USB hard drive such as the Seagate FreeAgent.  You can also use the built-in backup program that comes with your operating system.  This can be invoked through the menus, or by typing “backup” on the Run line.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could somehow preserve your PC’s current lean, clean, fully-updated and defragged setup so that, should you ever need to in the future, you can restore your PC to its current perfected state in just minutes?  Try a disk cloning product such as Acronis Backup & Recovery.

Posted in: Business, Computer Maintenance, IT Support, Security, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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5 Great Apps for Your Android Phone

I don’t know about you, but I love my new Android 2.1 based smartphone (HTC Incredible if any of you are wondering). I recently made the jump to Android from an old Windows Mobile 6.1 device and have not once looked back…talk about night and day. Today I will be going through a few of the interesting apps I have found so far while perusing the Android Marketplace. Also, note that the programs that I have chosen today are all free or have free trials, but they usually have a pay for version that removes advertisements or adds some extra bells and whistles to the basic package. Just a quick disclaimer, these apps are all “use at your own risk”; I have them on my phone and haven’t had any issues, but again, your mileage may vary.

1. I know that multitasking is the rage these days, but it can eat up your battery like you wouldn’t believe. It also uses up your phone’s RAM and could lead to the interface slowing down. I found numerous apps that help manage your running tasks, but the one that I have settled on is called “Advanced Task Killer” by ReChild. It has both a free version and a pay for version that removes the advertisement bar from the app’s main screen. I love this app because it has a ton of features to automate the management of the running tasks.

The two features I use the most are the Ignore List and the home screen widget. The Ignore List is exactly what it sounds like; it allows you to choose tasks that don’t get terminated when the program is run. The Home Screen Widget automatically kills all tasks not in the Ignore List with a quick press of the icon. This is quite useful because it allows you to kill all the unnecessary running processes right before you put the phone back down, allowing you to conserve battery time while the phone is in your pocket. It also has an Auto Kill feature that will try to keep the running tasks down to a minimum, but I prefer having manual control over what’s running on my phone.

2. Speaking of battery time, I looked through and tried tons of battery indicators and widgets until I found a widget called “Battery Left” by Preinvent. First, some background, after the first few days of using the phone without an aftermarket battery meter, I found that the built in battery indicator just didn’t cut it for me. It didn’t give me any sort of feedback on what percent of battery power was left or even a general approximation of how much time remained on the battery. “Battery Left” runs on your home screen and provides you two different widget sizes. After a few charge/discharge cycles, it figures out your approximate usage profile and gives you a reasonable approximation on how long your battery will last based on your usage. It took the program a few days to get acclimated to my usage, but so far it has been fairly accurate.

3. I recently ran across an Android App review site where I saw a whole bunch of funny looking things like these at the end of the articles:

Now at first I wondered who got hold of their website code and inserted all the funny looking abstract art. Then, after some research, I found that these were called QR Codes. This is a type of barcode that has the capability for holding a myriad of information. It can contain a hyperlink to a website, personal contact information, a bunch of text, or any other sort of information (in case you are wondering, the three I put there are, in order top to bottom; a link to a barcode reader app’s website, a link to www.msn.com, and my basic contact info).

To read these you are going to need a program that can scan and decode them. The one that I found works very well, has a very simple interface, and is simply called “Barcode Scanner” by ZXing Team. If you download the app through the app store and scan the first code above, it will take you to their website which has a page where you can create your own! It also allows you to scan any barcode, search for the item online, and receive competitive prices and store locations. It makes shopping for products that much easier. There are also apps from online resellers that will scan barcodes while you are in a store and give you the internet prices. However, these often will not scan the QR codes, so it is useful to have them as a secondary app.

4. In our company we use instant messaging to communicate all the time. It is simple to leave it open while at our desks and fire off quick questions to each other. When I’m out at a customer’s site or away from my desk, I still like to keep in touch. I found that “Meebo IM” by meebo works very well across all the popular networks (AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Facebook chat, MySpace, Google Talk, Jabber, and ICQ) and can use both your Wi-Fi and cell carrier’s data network. It certainly beats opening up your laptop just to send a quick IM.

I can only speak for the AIM, MSN, and Yahoo services as those are the three I use, but I will say that the program works as advertised, and I do use it extensively. It keeps each conversation in its own container so that you don’t end up with a multitude of things all going on simultaneously. It also uses the notification bar to show you incoming chat messages which is useful if you are using another application when a message comes in; you can see the message without switching apps.

5. Finally, I’m going to highlight a small app I just ran across recently called “Document Scanner” by Pwn with Your Phone. I am using the trial version which is a full featured fifteen day trial, but the full version is $3.98. This little app allows you to take pictures of pretty much anything and quickly create a .pdf of it. It then allows you to quickly email it, save it to a memory card, or upload it directly to Google Docs.

This is quite handy for all sorts of interesting uses. If you need to quickly email something that you have in hard copy and are out of the office, this little app allows you to do that. Another possible application is using it to keep track of expenses while away or to electronically file your receipts when you don’t have access to a flatbed scanner. You can easily take snapshots of the receipts and email them to yourself, then file the .pdf’s in your computer.

These are just a few of the apps I’ve come across in my time with Android. I’m sure there are many more useful and fun apps out there in the store that I haven’t found yet. Just a quick reality check though, there have been some malicious programs making the rounds in the app store. Make sure you investigate the apps you plan on using before installing them. Go to the developer’s website, read the app reviews, and go through the requested permissions before installing. If anything doesn’t look right, reevaluate use of the program or find an alternate that can do the same things that meets your standard. These three steps can help prevent installing a malicious program that could steal your data or take advantage of your phone. So be safe, have fun, and happy app store surfing!

For more information or to discuss how a smart phone can save your business time and money, please contact John Kalli at 732-780-8615.

Posted in: Business, Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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