Smartphone switching and why to do it

Are you like technology writer Andy Ihnatko? The writer never imagined he would ditch his iPhone. As he writes in a recent column for the Tech Hive Website, he obtained his first iPhone when Apple was launching its first-generation versions. And he has raved about the gadgets in his tech writing. Nevertheless that didn’t stop Ihnatko from switching just recently to a Samsung Galaxy S III. The reason? The Android operating system that powers the phone. In Ihnatko’s opinion, this operating system has grown to be more efficient, powerful and intuitive compared to the system powering iPhones, iOS.

Making the move toward Android

Ihnatko writes that he’s long been considered an Apple fanboy. He purchased the first-generation iPhone long ago. And stayed with the iPhone brand until switching, very recently, to a Galaxy S III smartphone from Samsung, a phone powered, of course, by the Android operating system. And just why did Ihnatko decide to switch? Put simply, he considers the Android operating system of today to be the superior choice.

A great operating system?

Ihnatko writes that the Android operating system has simply grown into what he calls a great operating system. Simultaneously, the hardware that runs this system – the smartphones themselves – have become more powerful, too, he writes. That combo has steered him away from iPhone and toward Android-powered smartphones. Ihnatko is so enamored of his Galaxy smartphone, he has even given up on the unlimited data plan he held with his iPhone, a plan he had since he had joined iPhone nation so early.

Two crucial factors

So, what makes Android better, as stated by Ihnatko? First, Android phones come with better keyboards, he writes. This is very important for someone who answers several e-mail messages and sends out several Tweets every day. Then there’s screen size. Ihnatko states that the screen on his iPhone now seems tiny in comparison to the screen on the Samsung Galaxy S III. In today’s mobile world — when we spend a lot of time watching video and accessing the Web with our smartphones, that larger screen means a lot.

Manners matter when you’re sending e-mail

How many e-mails did you send out today? You probably lost count at some point shortly after lunch. The odds are that you sent over a dozen messages to family members, friends, clients and co-workers. Here’s the big question: Were any of these e-mail messages rude? Were any overly brief? Would any one of the messages you sent today make their recipients wonder if they had done something to offend you? Yes, there is such a thing as e-mail etiquette. Here’s a short primer regarding how to mind your manners when sending e-mail.

Brevity can be off-putting

How many times have you gotten an extremely brief e-mail message? It’s not hard to think that the sender is angry with you for some reason. However, let’s suppose the sender was sending the message via an iPhone or iPad? It isn’t a simple task to type on small mobile devices. And for that reason, a lot of us keep our messages short when typing on those irritatingly constraining pop-up keyboards. To let readers know that this is the cause for the brevity, create a specific signature for any e-mail accounts you use on smartphones and tablets. As per the Web site Mashable, this signature should tell folks that you’re e-mailing from a mobile device, which is the reason your message is very short. For example “Excuse my brevity; I’m typing this on my iPhone” should do the job.

Always answer

When your inbox is back logged, it’s very easy to let some messages languish without response. You’re simply short on time. But not responding to an e-mail message from a co-worker, friend or family member is fairly rude. Even if you can’t yet address the actual question in an e-mail message, make sure you send back a quick reply explaining that you’re flooded with other tasks but will get to the question as quickly as possible.

Take your time

CBS News also advises that you take time to actually proofread your e-mail messages before sending them. It’s tempting to quickly dash off a message and hit “send.” Doing this, can leave you with a message that’s loaded with typos. Worse yet, you might forget to include a key attachment. Don’t rush. It’s respectful to make sure that you are sending out a competent e-mail message.

Keep your voice down

You wouldn’t shout in a normal conversation. Don’t do it in an e-mail message, either. If you don’t know, shouting in e-mail means typing your reply in all capital letters. This is glaring to the eye, and a big e-mail no-no. So stick to the normal rules of capitalization when penning your e-mail messages.

Internet research made easy

You need to research Einstein’s life for a school paper. You must look into the history of your company’s biggest competitor. The Internet is there for you. After all, the online world is full of just about any stat, study and research paper that you’ll will need to find out about any subject imaginable. But exactly how do you know if the information you’re finding online is actually true? Online research is convenient, but the Internet is also full of half-truths and outright lies. Fortunately, the Lifehacker Web site has come up with a few useful tips for doing accurate research online.

Is that a bias?

No one is free from bias. Everybody has their own strong opinions. These beliefs, though, can alter our online research. For this reason, Lifehacker recommends that researchers first recognize their own biases before performing online research. For instance, if you believe that life starts at conception, you may not be willing to acknowledge studies or opinion pieces taking the opposite side. This can ruin your online research even before you start. Make sure, then, to take what Lifehacker calls your confirmation bias into consideration before you commence scanning the Internet for your research.

Bad information

Once you’re searching online, be skeptical of articles that aren’t backed up with references or scientific facts. Lifehacker says that poorly researched articles, which regularly end up online, are the only things that can spoil your online research faster than can confirmation bias. So make sure you only incorporate articles that come from legitimate sources, such as government agencies, accredited universities and well-respected researchers, in your online research.

Scholarly searches

To discover the current and most comprehensive studies on your subject, you’ll want to expand your search past the usual suspects of Google, Bing and Yahoo! Instead, use customized scholarly searches that can yield more detailed information. Google Scholar and Scirus are powerful tools for academic research. So is PLOS, run by the Public Library of Science, and the United States Library of Congress.

Making the choice: Desktop or Web-based e-mail

Are you a user of Web-based e-mail such as Gmail or Yahoo!? Or do you use a desktop e-mail client such as Postbox, Outlook or Sparrow? Each e-mail option features its own pluses and minuses. As a recent story by the Lifehacker Web site says, some users will do better using a desktop e-mail client and others will thrive with a Web-based e-mail system. Are you currently debating over whether to install that latest desktop e-mail client? Or are you contemplating signing up for Gmail? Deciding if Web-based or desktop e-mail is best for you necessitates a close look at your computing habits.

When desktop makes sense

Here’s who ought to be employing a desktop e-mail client, according to Lifehacker: Users who have multiple e-mail addresses with different domains, those who have to access their e-mail messages even when they’re offline and people who filter and block e-mail messages based on subject headers, senders and specific words. Lifehacker also recommends the use of desktop e-mail clients if you like making use of security features like encryption and digital signing.

When Web-based e-mail makes sense

Lifehacker supplies a list, too, that will help you decide if a Web-based e-mail system is the better option for you. First, if you prefer a single inbox for all your e-mail, Web-based e-mail might make more sense in your case. Secondly, if you only maintain a few e-mail addresses, you can choose Web-based e-mail. This kind of e-mail is practical, too, if you do much of your work at the office or at school. Often, your employer or school won’t let you download and install a desktop e-mail client on their computers.

Plenty of choices

No matter if you go with desktop or Web-based e-mail services, the good news is there are more alternatives than ever before when it comes to e-mail. There was a time e-mail was just about ignored by technology companies. Today, though, companies have launched a wide variety of e-mail services, both Web-based and desktop, that can make organizing and managing your e-mail messages a simpler task than ever before.

Why do we need washing machines that talk to us?

Would you purchase a rice cooker with the Android operating system built into it? How about a dryer or refrigerator? Could you ever consider installing a microwave oven which was partially operated by Android? You might soon have the chance, based on a recent story by BusinessWeek. According to that story, Google is installing its Android operating system in many of the odder places you can think of. But here’s what’s especially interesting: This move actually makes financial sense for Google and can improve the lives of consumers.

Android’s rise

The Android operating system has already dominated the smartphone world, beating out its rivals handily. The BusinessWeek story quotes numbers from research firm Gartner showing that smartphones running the Android operating system accounted for 72 percent of the market share in the third quarter of last year. How impressive is that? The nearest competitor, Apple, could only claim 14 percent of the smartphone market.

Why appliances?

But Google, understandably, wants to see Android’s reach extend further. That’s why the company’s researchers have developed a host of uses for Android in everything from your home refrigerator, to your dishwasher, to your dryer. And this move could pay off for Google in other ways, as well. For instance, it might help them collect details on consumer choices. Google can then use this to tailor its money-making search feature. After all, Google makes tons of money through search, a business that it still dominates. Anything that can help Google cement its grip in the realm of online search, then, must be considered a smart move.

That’s one smart rice cooker

But just how could having Android in your household appliances make your life easier? BusinessWeek covers that, too, in its story. Suppose you cook lots of rice. And suppose you cook a lot of different kinds of rice, everything from jasmine to white to healthy brown. It can be a pain to remember how long to cook all these kinds of rice. A smart rice cooker programmed with Android, though, could make this easier. Simply put in your rice for the evening, inform your rice cooker what type of rice you’ve poured in and relax. The rice cooker, thanks to Android, will automatically cook your rice for the appropriate amount of time. That may look like a rather minor benefit. But once all of your household appliances were as smart, just think of the time you’d shave off your daily chores.

Enhance your Windows 8 experience with right peripherals

Windows 8 represents a dramatic change for Microsoft’s venerable operating system: It’s created to work not just with mouse and keyboard but also with a touchscreen. But many users who upgrade to the new os aren’t going to be running Windows 8 on a touch screen. They will be relying on older computers that still operate the old-fashioned way, with mouse and keyboard controls. Then there are tablet users, users running Windows 8 only on tablets are not receiving the full Windows 8 experience. There are some functions that run better with mouse and keyboard control. That doesn’t mean, though, that owners who rely either on tablets or traditional computers won’t be able to use the many features built into the new operating system. They can. They only have to buy the right peripherals. PC Magazine recently ran an article outlining exactly what these peripherals are.

Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard

PC Magazine points out that the Microsoft Wedge is not merely a portable keyboard. It’s also an indispensable tool to allow tablet users to get the most of the Windows 8 experience. For one thing, the keyboard provides a better typing experience than your tablet’s onscreen keyboard. Secondly, Windows 8 features are included in the keypad. The cover becomes a tablet stand, allowing you to approximate the desktop experience.

Logitech T650 Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad

Want to access all those touch-screen features incorporated into Windows 8 without having to get a tablet or other touch-screen device? Try the Logitech T650 Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad. The product works so well the editors at PC Mag have made it their top choice for Windows 8 computer mice.

Kingston DataTraveler Workspace

The Kingston DataTraveler Workspace is a truly impressive device. It looks like a typical USB drive. However actually holds Windows To Go, a portable Windows 8 operating system. You heard that right, using this device you can now boot up Windows 8 on any PC. It’s a easy way to enjoy the Windows 8 experience while you’re on the road.

Hackers now targeting smart phones

Cyber criminals have long centered on running their swindles on PC users. And they have been tremendously successful in stealing personal data and stealing funds from countless people. Now these cyber criminals are unleashing their malware attacks on smartphones, tapping into another huge potential market of gullible users. This should come as being a surprise to nobody. Smart phones are booming in popularity. And many users treat their mobile devices as miniature computers. They surf the Web, send e-mail messages and bank online using their smart phones. Fortunately, you can take measures to ward off mobile malware. It mostly requires that you employ good judgment when navigating the internet using your smart phone.

Scary Numbers

The security firm F-Secure offers rather frightening numbers: According to the firm, the volume of malware attacks directed at mobile Android devices quadrupled from the first quarter of 2011 to the same quarter in 2012. That’s one among the numerous unsettling statistics regarding mobile malware. CNN Money writer David Goldman, for instance, recently cited an article from security firm Lookout Security that four in 10 smart phone users will click or swipe a suspicious Web Link this year. Goldman also writes that mobile phone cyber attacks have spiked by a factor of six, according to numbers revealed from anti-virus company McAfee.

The Good News

There is some very good news, though. In spite of the surge in smartphone malware attacks, such cyber crimes continue to be relatively rare, particularly if when compared to the frequent attacks on PCs. Goldman writes that McAfee by the middle of 2012 had found about 13,000 mobile malware types. That sounds like a lot. But the same company found more than 90 million forms of malware attacks leveled against PCs. The reason for the discrepancy? First, smart phone code is relatively new. Programmers have learned from the many cyber attacks unleashed against PCs. Secondly, cyber criminals have done so well in attacking PCs, they haven’t had as much incentive to target smartphones and other mobile devices.

Protect Yourself

You can safeguard your phone from mobile malware attacks. Start by getting anti-virus software from reputable companies. Be cautious, though–cyber criminals could create bogus anti-virus software that doesn’t protect your phone but instead sends these criminals your information. Also, make sure to research any app before you download it. You want to be sure that it is offered by a reputable company. Finally, be equally as wary of phishing schemes as you would be while sitting in front of your computer. Never provide your Social Security Number, bank account numbers or other important information in an e-mail. Your bank will not ask for such numbers in e-mail.

These iPad apps are must-haves if you’re a professional writer

If you are a experienced writer who also happens to own an iPad, you’re fortunate: Software developers have created several apps to help you do your work better, whether you cover real estate news for a trade magazine, blog about technology or write romance fiction. Here is a closer look at some of the better iPad apps for truly serious writers. When you earn your living with the written word, these apps are must-haves.

Paper by FiftyThree

This nifty app helps writers at the start of the creative process. Paper permits you capture your thoughts as anything from sketches and diagrams to notes, illustrations or drawings. You can even share your thoughts online to get feedback.

iA Writer

Information Architects’ iA Writer forces writers to concentrate on one thing, writing. This is because iA Writer intentionally doesn’t allow users to mess with fonts, colors or other distractions. With this tool, you’re able to do one thing: create and edit plain text files on your iPad.

Google Drive

Need to store your video, music, photo and text files in one location? Try Google Drive. This app, created by Google, offers you 5GB worth of storage for free.

Evernote

Evernote is already a favored note-taking app. But it is especially helpful for professional writers. Using this app, it is possible to take notes, create to-do lists and record voice reminders. This is an efficient way to keep even the most flighty writer focused.

iThoughtsHD

Few organization programs are as useful to writers as is iThoughtsHD. Use this program to organize your thoughts as task list, project-planning document or brainstorming session. You may also make use of the program to make meeting notes.

Penultimate

Another useful app produced by Evernote, Penultimate allows you to handwrite notes straight to your iPad. You can use the application to take notes, draw sketches and record those incredible ideas you don’t want to forget when you leave your desk.

GoodReader

You’ll never struggle to read PDF files again after obtaining the GoodReader app. This app, developed by Good.iWare, enables you to read just about any document with your iPad.

Index Card

Know that corkboard hanging from your office wall? DenVog’s Index Card is that very same corkboard only on your iPad. It is possible to stick virtual notes to this app filled with story ideas, outlines and plot summaries.

Notably

There are plenty of solid note-taking apps for your iPad. Notably, though, earns praise for the way it syncs with the Dropbox cloud storage system. Whenever you write down a note, save an assignment due date or sketch a character’s story arc with Notably, your changes will sync with Dropbox.

Hate your e-mail app? Try Mailbox

Here’s a simple truth: Most everyone with a smartphone uses it to view and send e-mail messages. But no one appears to like their mobile e-mail programs. Tech company Orchestra, though, hopes to change this. The company recently published Mailbox, its new e-mail client for your iPhone. The iphone app is receiving great reviews.

Features

Tech writers happen to be enthused about Mailbox for iPhone for one primary reason: It is easy to tell it’s designed specifically for a smart phone. This represents a big difference from most mobile e-mail programs. Too many of them operate as though they were designed for desktop and laptop computers and then imported, with few changes, to mobile platforms. Mailbox for iPhone doesn’t feel as if it’s designed this way. That’s because to delete messages, archive them, save them for a later date or respond to them, you apply the swiping motion so common to today’s smart phones and other mobile computing devices. This straightforward change gives Mailbox for iPhone an advantage over its rivals.

Viewing

Supporters of the new Mailbox app point out that sending e-mail messages feels a lot more like Tweeting or texting. This is a pretty heady compliment; after all, most smart phone users prefer texting or submitting quick Tweets to depending on traditional e-mail programs to send messages. Mailbox also configures e-mail messages so they are easy to read on a typical smart phone screen. When messages are first displayed, for example, Mailbox does not show unneeded information like signatures. It’s only when users tap on messages that more info — such as the “To” and “From” features — are displayed.

To Do

Mailbox for iPhone also acts as a handy to-do list for replying to e-mail messages. For example, when you read an email, it is easy to assign it a priority. You could choose to have the message reappear in your e-mail inbox, for action, two days later. Should the message carries a lower priority, you can ask for it to appear again in a month. This supplies users with a simple way to gain some control over their incoming e-mail messages. For anyone who is frustrated by your present mobile e-mail program, it might be the perfect time to explore the iPhone version of Mailbox. You just might discover that it’s the perfect e-mail application on your smart phone.

Apple’s iPad Mini might be the best tablet value

Looking for that perfect tablet? You’ve got plenty of options today, from the classic iPad to the upstart Galaxy tablets. But which tablet is truly the best to buy? Which gives you top performance at a reasonable cost? And, this being tablets we’re writing about, which best fits inside your purse or book bag? At least one Web site has a unexpected answer: the iPad Mini.

The Benefits of the Mini

Staffers with the WireCutter blog site recommend the iPad Mini for one reason: It’s equally as powerful as its larger cousin, but it weighs much less. For the staffers at WireCutter, the standard iPad’s heft, as they refer to it, has turned into a significant issue. As the staffers wrote in a recent article, you can’t support the traditional iPad like a magazine, the ultimate goal of a tablet. That’s because how heavy it is is more much like a hefty coffee table or even a thinner phone book. The iPad Mini, however? It really is light.

Function

Best of all, the iPad Mini, although small compared to the iPad, performs equally as well as its larger cousin. The author of the WireCutter blog wrote about totting both types of the iPad inside a bag, watching movies on both devices and carrying them around the house. The final consensus was clear: The Mini was easier to support. And watching movies, reading books, listening to music, surfing the net and playing games wasn’t any less impressive on the more compact device.

The right recommendation?

Of course, this is simply one Web site’s viewpoint. Your opinion may differ. The right way to determine which tablet is right for you: Shop around. Check out the various tablets at the nearest bookstore or technology retailer. See which of them feel over weight, which of them boast the best graphics and which have the most intuitive Web browser or greatest number of apps. It might look like there are too many tablets available today. But wouldn’t you prefer too many of these remarkable devices than too few?