Make Tech Easier » Bertel King, Jr. http://www.maketecheasier.com Uncomplicating the complicated, making life easier Thu, 07 Nov 2013 06:45:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.7.1 Tracking Your Movement? 4 Free Android Pedometer Apps You Should Check Outhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/free-android-pedometer-apps/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/free-android-pedometer-apps/#comments Sat, 19 Oct 2013 21:25:36 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=81469 For those who want to keep track of every step you take, here are four Android pedometer apps you can install to turn your phone into a pedometer.

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You could go out and buy a dedicated pedometer to monitor your steps, but you have to remember to take it with you for it to be of any use. Yet chances are you already have a device that goes with you every time you leave the house – your smartphone. There is enough technology packed inside that device to perform the same task, so by just installing an app, you can turn it into a pedometer that you will actually remember to keep nearby. Here are four Android pedometer apps you can install that help you keep track of every step you take.

Pedometers-Moves

ProtoGeo recently ported Moves from iOS to Android, an app that distinguishes itself by being easy to use, distraction-free, and useful. It has a clean interface that uses circles of different sizes to represent how many steps you’ve taken, how many minutes you’ve biked, or how many miles you’ve run. It tracks your activity each day and has a map where you can view where you’ve been. There isn’t much in the way of settings here, but sometimes that’s a good thing.

Pedometers-Runtastic

Runtastic Pedometer goes more in-depth. This app not only tell you how many steps you’ve taken, but also how frequently you take a step, how fast you’re going, and how far you’ve traveled. Unlike Moves, the free version is ad-supported, but there’s a paid version with more features and no-ads for 99 cents. If you find that you enjoy this app, Runtastic also has a suite of other additional apps available to whip you into shape.

Pedometers-Accupedo

Like the other apps on this list, Accupedo Pedometer is just that, a pedometer, so you already know what it does. This particular offering is known for its widget that sits on your home screen, giving you a constant look at the steps you’ve taken. It’s configurable, so you can see steps, distance, minutes, calories, and more in a manner that suits you best.

Pedometers-Noom-Walk

Noom Walk has an interface that’s sparse and clean. The app claims to use less than 2% of your battery, consuming as much juice over 22 hours as 20 minutes of screen time or just three minutes of GPS usage. The app lets friends encourage each other by giving virtual high fives. It’s entirely free to use, which is also a plus.

There you have it, four Android Pedometer apps that are just raring for you to get out of that office chair and go jogging around the neighborhood, grocery shopping, or just in circles around the house. A pedometer doesn’t require you to change your life or make a habit to visit the gym, it encourages you to be more active by just pushing you to take a few more steps than you did yesterday. There’s just something about counting your steps that feels like beating a high score.

Image credit: A Woman Checks Her Pedometer While Walking Outdoors by BigStockPhoto

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What’s The Difference Between Google Drive And Quickoffice, And Which Should You Use?http://www.maketecheasier.com/google-drive-vs-quickoffice/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/google-drive-vs-quickoffice/#comments Thu, 10 Oct 2013 14:50:41 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=81471 The newly released Quickoffice comes with features similar to Google Drive. So what are the differences between them and which one shoud you use?

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Quickoffice Vs Google DriveQuickoffice was a very popular cross-platform office suite for mobile platforms that supported importing, editing, and exporting files in Microsoft’s ubiquitous .doc and .docx formats. The company, and therefore the app, was eventually bought by Google last year and went MIA for many months. But just last month, Google released an updated version of Quickoffice into the Play Store and made the app free to download. Great, but here’s the thing – Google already has an office suite called Google Drive, and by releasing a separate app into the Play Store, the two office suites now compete with each other. What sets these apps apart, and which should you choose?

Quickoffice Vs Google Drive - Quickoffice Store

Quickoffice’s largest advantage is its ability to edit Microsoft Office documents that aren’t stored on Google Drive. It can pull files directly off your phone’s internal memory. Before being bought by Google, the app supported many providers such as Dropbox, SugarSync, and others. While that’s no longer the case, the ability to load local files still means Quickoffice can load from more sources than the Google Drive app can. So if you don’t want to store your documents on Google’s servers, the issue’s resolved already. Quickoffice is the option for you.

And as far as being a competent document editor goes, Quickoffice is still the superior app. Google Drive is no slouch, but Quickoffice simply offers more features. If you have to create a document on the go that contains tables, images, colors, and charts, you will have better luck using Quickoffice to crank it out. Not only is the interface easier to handle, but since the editing takes place offline, it’s going to provide a smoother experience.

Quickoffice Vs Google Drive - Quickoffice

But Quickoffice has a serious drawback. It can load Microsoft Office files saved to Google Drive, but it displays Google Documents as PDFs – unless you have the Google Drive app installed, in which case it will load that instead.

Quickoffice Vs Google Drive - Drive Store

If you’re content with working with Google Documents, then the Google Drive app is a solid mobile companion. It’s nothing intensive, and it’s not as feature-rich as the desktop version, but it’s capable of getting by in a pinch. If all you need is something to type out a few paragraphs on or even a lengthy, text-heavy paper, you should be fine.

Quickoffice Vs Google Drive - Drive

Google Drive in a desktop web browser can import and export Microsoft Office files just fine, but if you try to load such a file using the mobile app, you’re provided with read-only access. But with the Google Drive app, creating and editing documents is only half of the point. Perhaps the app’s strongest advantage is the ability to collaborate with others. It can show how many other people are looking at the open document at the same time, where they’ve placed their cursor, and the changes they make as they make them. Users can leave comments for others to read, and there’s a certain pleasure pulling out your phone to edit a document a colleague has open on their desktop.

Neither Quickoffice or Drive are limited just to word processing. Both can handle spreadsheets and presentations as well, but the commentary dished out above is the same across the board. Quickoffice is a more capable option for people who need to do more intense work using their Android devices or want to work with documents saved to internal storage. Drive is good for people with solid internet connections who aren’t put off by saving data to Google’s servers. The latter app also has nice collaboration features that could make it worth using on its own. But at the end of the day, these two apps work better together than they do alone. If you have the space available to run both (and with most modern phones, you more than likely do), then that’s your best bet.

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Check What is Hogging Your Android Storage Space With DiskUsagehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/check-android-storage-space/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/check-android-storage-space/#respond Fri, 27 Sep 2013 14:25:20 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=81014 Do you often receive the low space notification on your Android phone, what do you do then? Thankfully, the DiskUsage app makes it easy to see precisely what is taking up your Android storage space.

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disk-usage-logoHigh-end smartphones and tablets now typically come with 16, 32, or even 64GB of internal memory to work with. While this is smaller than the hard drives on most PCs, it’s large enough to store a sizable amount of apps and a great deal of files. But having more space can also make us more inclined to fill it up. Just because you used to get by using an 8GB phone, that doesn’t mean you won’t potentially run out of space after making the jump to 32GB. So once you get a low space notification, what do you do then? While I could point you towards a number of apps that offer to clean up your phone for you, it’s safer to take this type of task into your own hands. Thankfully, the DiskUsage app by Ivan Volosyuk makes it easy to see precisely what is taking up your Android storage space.

First up, head over to the Play Store and download DiskUsage. It’s completely free, so you don’t have to worry about making room in your budget for this one.

When you first open DiskUsage, it will ask which storage destination you would like to view. The default option will most likely be a “storage card,” even if your device doesn’t have a MicroSD card slot. Android is designed in a way that leads many apps to view internal memory as an SD card. It’s not a problem. Just select the option and let DiskUsage do its work.

DiskUsage-Scanning

Afterwards, you will be presented with a visual report of all of the data on your device.

DiskUsage-Storage

From here, you can select any specific app on your device. Clicking on Google Play Music shows how much space it’s consuming and how much of that is going towards app data. In this case, basically all of it. This is usually the case for most apps.

DiskUsage-Specific-App

If an app is taking up too much space, you can try clearing the app’s data, emptying out its cache, or uninstalling the app entirely. You can do this by clicking on the “Show” button in the top right corner. This button it will take you to the app’s settings. From here you can clear up much of the space, if not all of it. Unfortunately, some apps cannot be uninstalled entirely unless you’ve rooted your device.

DiskUsage-App-Settings

This approach can be somewhat extreme, and it may not be necessary for certain apps. If you have a podcast manager installed, read a lot of ebooks, or subscribe to digital magazines, it would be better to personally manage what content remains downloaded to your device. You can do this quickly by looking at the media section in DiskUsage’s grid. Clicking on it shows which apps and folders contain content that’s consuming the most space. You can then go to these apps and manually delete the files you no longer wish to keep on your device.

DiskUsage-Media

DiskUsage isn’t a comprehensive tool that will take care of cleaning your Android device for you. Instead, it gives you a birds-eye-view of what’s stored where and points you in the right direction. In the end, though, it’s up to you to know what to do with the visual data it presents you with. If you make a habit of firing up DiskUsage to keep a check on things, you may just find that your Android phone will be more organized and that the annoying low space warning won’t pop up nearly as much.

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10 Best New Chrome Packaged Apps Available In The Chrome Web Storehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/10-best-chrome-packaged-apps/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/10-best-chrome-packaged-apps/#respond Sat, 14 Sep 2013 14:50:26 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=80598 Google released the new Chrome packaged apps that can run as a native desktop app. Here are ten useful Chrome apps that are worth checking out.

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NewChromeApps-thumbLast week, Google rolled out a section in the Chrome Web Store dedicated to a new kind of app, the Chrome packaged apps that we’ve known were coming for quite a while now. This isn’t the first time a packaged app has landed in the Chrome Web Store, but it’s the first time Google has attracted users to them as a new breed of app. This software still relies on web technologies, but they run off your computer natively and do not need an internet connection to function.

Below I have handpicked ten Chrome apps that are worth checking out, especially if you’re using a Chromebook. Some of these apps are useful replacements for traditional tools, sync with online services, are simply fun to use, or otherwise just make your life more convenient.

Chrome packaged apps - Keep

At this point, Keep needs little introduction. It’s a simple note-taking app that replicates the experience of using sticky notes. This app doesn’t offer the functionality of more established offerings, like Evernote and Springpad, but it doesn’t come with the complexity either. Keep is nice both windowed or full-screened, making it a handy note-taking companion and potential replacement for a text editor. If Keep’s online synching is overkill, though, there’s always…

Chrome packaged apps - Text

Text is a text editor for Chrome that’s simple enough to take notes in but capable enough to write code with. It’s the barebones app for writing text that people expect operating systems to ship with, but with a few extra features built in, such as the ability to have multiple files open at once and switch between them using the sidebar.

Chrome packaged apps - Workflowy

If you’ve used Workflowy online before, then you know what to expect here. It’s a simplistic and immensely useful service for taking notes and writing plans in a way that tries to replicate how our brains actually work. The Workflowy Chrome app makes it painless to take notes using outlines that can go as deep and as long as you wish.

Chrome packaged apps - Wunderlist

Wunderlist is the first item on this list that isn’t much of a text editor, though it does have support for taking notes, and it offers an attractive interface for keeping it all organized. But first and foremost, this is a to-do list tracker, and it’s a great way to stay organized.

Chrome packaged apps - PocketIf your web browser is constantly filled with tabs that have been left open for days, Pocket might just be the tool you need. Rather than leaving those articles you want to read later open in your browser, save them to Pocket. You can then open up the new Chrome app whenever you’re ready to get around to them.

Chrome packaged apps - Pixlr

Pixlr Touch-Up isn’t exactly an alternative to Microsoft Paint, as it’s geared more towards photo editing than image manipulation. Still, it gets the job done, offering the basic cropping and blurring tools that are useful in a pinch.

Chrome packaged apps - Sketchpad

Unlike Pixlr Touch-Up, Sketchpad 3.1 is an tool aimed at editing both basic images and SVG files. If you want to create art from scratch, Sketchpad gives you the tools to do so.

Chrome packaged apps - Google-Plus-Photos

The Google+ Photos Chrome app pulls down your photos backed up to Google’s servers and displays them in a grid that provides a more pleasant viewing experience than that of using the site directly. It’s limited in its functionality, as it doesn’t support exporting or sharing to anything other than Google+, but it’s still one of the best ways to view any photos you’ve saved to the site.

Chrome packaged apps - 500

500px is one of the first apps Google used to show off the gorgeous display on the Chromebook Pixel, and while the app took a while to enter the Play Store, it doesn’t disappoint. The interface is clean and intuitive, and the photos are as beautiful as you would expect.

Chrome packaged apps - Time

This last app isn’t going to blow your mind with fancy features or an alluring interface, but that makes it no less useful. Timer can function as both a stopwatch and an alarm clock. It’s easy to use, and it does its job well.

Most of the Chrome Web Store is still filled with the “old” type of Chrome app, glorified bookmarks that essentially just point to web addresses, but there are more “packaged” Chrome apps available than just those I’ve listed above. If I didn’t list your favorite new Chrome app, feel free to share it with us in the comments below.

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5 Great Online Image Editors For Use In Any Web Browserhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/5-great-online-image-editors/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/5-great-online-image-editors/#respond Sat, 07 Sep 2013 14:50:59 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=80312 With people now owning more devices and getting access to faster internet connections, relying on free, online alternatives to tradition software just makes sense. Here are five great online image editors that should work on any modern computer with a web browser.

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Online Image Editors - thumbWe previously published a piece sharing five useful online photo editors, but frankly, options have exploded in the three years since then. With people now owning more devices and getting access to faster internet connections, relying on free, online alternatives to tradition software just makes sense. Here are five great online image editors that should work on any modern computer with a web browser.

Online Image Editors - Pixlr-Editor

Pixlr is a fantastic online image-editing suite brought to us by Autodesk, the company behind the well-known AutoCAD program. There are actually three separate programs included here – Pixlr Editor (pictured above), Pixlr Express, And Pixlr-O-Matic. Pixlr Editor is considered an advanced option that is the most similar option on this list to PhotoShop and Gimp. Pixlr Express is a more streamlined app that’s easier to fire up for quick edits, and it happens to also be very touch-friendly. Pixlr-O-Matic is good for applying filters and other quick photo edits. Much of this functionally can also be found in Pixlr Express, but as the webpage puts it, Pixlr-O-Matic is just more playful.

Online Image Editors - deviant-art-muro

DeviantArt is a popular community for artists. While I’ve never uploaded any content to the site, I’ve known about it for a long time now due to the great work that can be found buried among its pages. After a while, the team decided to put out an online app empowering users to create art from start to finish. DeviantART Muro begins with a blank slate and provides users with various brushes, layers, and effects to make their art come alive.

Online Image Editor - BeFunky

BeFunky is a less versatile option than the previous tool. This isn’t an app for putting together a quick sketch or creating sprites. It’s a photo editor that’s aimed explicitly at doing precisely that – editing photos. It comes with filters, resizing options, the ability to insert text, change colors, and the usual features we’ve come to expect when tweaking our photos. It has an easy-to-use interface and allows users to import images directly from Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket, and Picasa.

Online Image Editors - iPiccy

By default, iPiccy loads up a photo editing layout that should be immediately intuitive to anyone who has used such an app before. However, this offering comes with a list of tabs at the top that completely tweak the interface. Clicking on the “Painter” tab pulls up a UI that looks very similar to Pixlr Editor. It also has tabs for photo effects, touch-ups, frames, blending, and textures.

Online Image Editors - iPiccy-Painter

Online Image Editors - Psykopaint

Psykopaint is the most visual, animated app on this list. It supports uploading images off your hard drive or starting from scratch. There are options for changing your brush size, paint color, layers, and other things. With each selection, the corresponding element of the UI slides in and out. Once you start painting, the UI moves out of the way, leaving just the white paper on a wooden background. It’s great to watch and fun to use.

With network speeds improving and web browsers becoming more powerful, more and more tasks that used to require offline software are moving to the web. When it comes to image editing, the options are plentiful. If you ever find that you need to edit an image on someone else’s computer, you don’t want to spend money on software, or you happen to use a Chromebook as your primary machine, save the URLs to these online apps and whip them out whenever you need them. If you already have a favorite online image editor, share it with us below.

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Turn An Old Android Device Into A Chromecast By Using CheapCasthttp://www.maketecheasier.com/turn-android-into-chromecast/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/turn-android-into-chromecast/#respond Wed, 28 Aug 2013 23:25:50 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=80013 If you are interested in the Chromecast capability, but not the hardware, here is how you can turn your Android device into a Chromecast.

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CheapCast-logoYou’ve probably heard of the Chromecast by now. It’s an inexpensive USB dongle the size of a flash drive that plugs into a TV. We’ve already covered six unconventional ways of using the device that aren’t immediately obvious. We followed that up with a piece onstreaming local media to the Chromecast, functionality that is enabled out of the box but not exactly advertised. Both of these posts assume that you either have or want a Chromecast.

First, head over to the Play Store and download CheapCast. It’s a free app, so it already lives up to its name out of the box. The app should install just fine, even on devices that aren’t capable of utilizing it. Once it’s up and running, you will be greeted by a screen that looks like this.

CheapCast-Options

CheapCast may be performing a relatively complex task, but this is hidden from the user. The options displayed above are all there is to see, and none of them have to be toggled to start using the device. Just press the “Start Service” button to turn your device into a Chromecast.

CheapCast-Enable

Now, when you return to whichever device you want to stream media from – whether that be a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone – it should be able to detect your device running CheapCast in the list of Chromecasts on your network. Select it as you would any other, and the video or audio should start streaming to whichever TV or monitor your device is plugged into.

The top option, which reads “Friendly Name,” gives you the ability to rename your device to something that may be more recognizable. If your device is going to be stationary, you can name it after the room it’s in, making it easy to keep track with where you’re projecting your media. On the other hand, if your device is going to be mobile, it may help to name it accordingly.

CheapCast-Rename

First things first, you will need an Android device that can output to HDMI. If you don’t have one, then the cost of getting your hands on such a tablet or handset could cost more than the price of the Chromecast itself. On the other hand, there are Android media sticks available out there that, while more expensive than a Chromecast, aren’t much larger and cost significantly less than a tablet or phone. Either way, using CheapCast is going to require more effort than just buying a Chromecast, even if only marginally so. And without a decent amount of work, this solution probably won’t look as elegant. A Chromecast generally disappears behind the TV it’s plugged into in a way that a tablet won’t.

Still, if you can get CheapCast up and running (and your mileage may vary depending on what device you’re trying to set up), it’s a great tool. It’s obviously aimed at tinkerers and more hands-on users who are already aware of the limitations of a solution like this and aren’t deterred.

A Chromecast is a cheap and user-friendly media streaming experience. CheapCast replicates its behavior, but at the same time, it empowers you to create a media streaming solution of your own by relying on whatever hardware you see fit. Have fun, and feel free to share you experience with us in the comments below.

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How To Stream Local Media to Chromecasthttp://www.maketecheasier.com/stream-local-media-to-chromecast/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/stream-local-media-to-chromecast/#respond Wed, 21 Aug 2013 23:25:19 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=79722 Google did not advertise the Chromecast to be able to stream local files from your PC, but that doesn't mean it can't do it. Here is a guide to stream local media to Chromecast.

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ChromecastLocal-thumbThe Chromecast is a wonderful device, a $35 dongle that supports streaming YouTube, Netflix, Play Movies, and Play Music. We’ve covered it before, listing six ways to use the device that may not be immediately apparent. This article fleshes out one of those use cases. Here is a guide to stream local media to Chromecast. It’s not a polished experience, and audio works much better than video, but it’s a surprisingly easy process.

Streaming local files may not be an advertised feature of the Chromecast, but it doesn’t require the installation of any third-party software to get up and running. To get started, just head over the Chrome Web Store and install the Google Chrome Chromecast extension.

ChromecastLocal-Extension

This extension will place the Chromecast icon near the full-screen button found in YouTube and Netflix videos. It also enables you to mirror tabs to your television. This is currently a beta feature, and it’s kind of laggy, but it’s still nice functionality to have in addition to the Chromecast’s core features.

ChromecastLocal-Beta

This tab casting feature, however, also supports local media playback. For Windows users, this process is as easy as selecting a file in your file manager and dragging it into the location bar. Alternatively, if you know the path already, you can type it in yourself. Either way, the file will start playing immediately.

ChromecastLocal-Location

Ironically, doing this is more different on Google’s own desktop operating system. Dragging and dropping is not supported on Chrome OS, but it’s still possible to navigate to the file directly. The path to your downloads folder is file:///home/chronos/user/Downloads/. Append the name of your file to the end of that path and paste it into the location bar. It should then start immediately, just as it does on other platforms.

ChromecastLocal-ChromeOS

What about music? Not a problem. Streaming audio files is just as easy, and since the files are typically smaller, the results are more satisfactory. Audio playback should be much more stable than trying to stream video.

ChromecastLocal-Audio

Video playback may be awful and is likely to look very pixelated. One way to “improve” this situation is the lower the tab projection quality. You can do this by clicking on the Chromecast icon and finding the setting under options. Chrome defaults to 720p, but you can drop it down to 480p standard definition.

ChromecastLocal-Options

Unfortunately, this may not completely take care of your problem. There’s a reason Google lists tab casting as a beta product for the time being.

If you’re using Windows, you can also choose to cast your entire screen. It’s sort of the buckshot approach. If you’re streaming your entire screen, then you’re also streaming the local files that are on it. Just bear in mind that this feature isn’t even beta – it’s experimental.

ChromecastLocal-Entire-Screen

The options for streaming local video files are limited now, but this is likely to change in the days and weeks ahead. One developer is already experimenting with an Android app that can stream content from your device’s gallery, Dropbox, or Google Drive. We’ll keep an eye out to see what innovations pop up. If you discover anything in the meantime, feel free share it with us and others in the comments below.

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Five Cool Things You Didn’t Know Chrome OS Could Dohttp://www.maketecheasier.com/five-cool-things-about-chrome-os/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/five-cool-things-about-chrome-os/#comments Wed, 14 Aug 2013 14:50:27 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=79418 There are quite a few features that can be enabled in the experimental section of Chrome OS. Want to change which side of the screen your launcher is on? Wish your touchpad supported more gestures? Read on to find out about five great features Chrome OS already supports that are buried away under its settings.

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ChromeFlags-thumbThere are quite a few features that can be enabled in the experimental section of Google Chrome that are specific to Chrome OS. Some things may make it into the official version some day, but they’re available to tinker with now, and they really change how much you can do with your Chromebook. Want to change which side of the screen your launcher is on? Wish your touchpad supported more gestures? Read on to find out about five great features Chrome OS already supports that are buried away under its settings.

To get started, you need to open a new tab page and type “chrome:flags” in the omnibar.

ChromeFlags-Launcher

Some users simply hate having their launcher on the bottom side of the screen. Ubuntu ships with its dock pinned to the left. Many Mac OS X users move their dock to the side to take better advantage of their high-resolution widescreen displays. Windows may be known for getting much of the world used to having a taskbar at the bottom, but it has long supported the ability to move it around to any of the four available sides. To enable this feature in Chrome OS, search for the “Show launcher alignment menu” option. Once enabled, right click anywhere on the launcher and select “Launcher position” to pick where you want the launcher to be.

ChromeFlags-Immersive

Chrome’s built-in full-screen mode is already pretty immersive, except when it’s time to switch to another tab. Then you must exit full-screen mode, click on another tab, and re-activate it. This can be somewhat jarring. An alternative is to search for and enable “Immersive fullscreen.” After restarting, a thin white strip will appear along the top of your screen, indicating how many tabs are open and where to position your mouse to switch between them. This is akin to the launcher’s behavior when it’s set to auto-hide. When combined with 3-finger tab scrolling, users rarely need to view anything other than the content they hold dear.

ChromeFlags-Maximize

While Chrome OS now has a dedicated window manager capable of supporting many windows at a time, the platform began as a browser that couldn’t be windowed. While it’s understandable why the switch was made, some users were just fine with Chrome OS functioning exactly as it was. It may not be possible to replicate the old version of the OS, but users can still partake in a permanently maximized browsing experience. Just search for “automatic window maximization.” While some apps will still open in windows, such as the calculator and the camera, most will only open maximized from now on. The maximize button will also disappear from the titlebar, so it will be impossible to window these windows without resetting the flag back to normal.

ChromeFlags-Apps-Only-Search

Chromebooks have a dedicated search key that pulls up an app menu with a search bar on top. By default, typing in this box will bring up installed apps along with general search results. To remove those results, enable “apps only search for app list.” This makes it easier to fire up apps, and given that the location bar within the browser also searches google when a full URL isn’t typed in, performing web queries is already quick and easy to do.

ChromeFlags-Workspace-Scrubbing

Chrome OS supports switching between tabs using a 3-finger swipe gesture on devices with appropriate hardware. This feature comes out of the box, but there’s another similar gesture that’s still buried away. Search for “workspace scrubbing” to enable the ability to switch between windows using a 3-finger swipe.

If you are not aware, Chrome OS is rich with features, even if some of them aren’t quite ready for prime time. It’s generally safe to toggle these without breaking your device. Tinker away, and feel free to share with us other cool features that you find.

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15 Clocks For Telling Time Within Google Chromehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/15-clocks-for-telling-time-within-google-chrome/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/15-clocks-for-telling-time-within-google-chrome/#respond Thu, 08 Aug 2013 23:25:59 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=78666 Your computer came with a clock that is functional enough, but there are so many more ways you could have your computer tell you the time. The Chrome Web Store is filled with various clock apps and extensions. Here are 15 options that might just add an extra bit of excitement to how you check what time it is.

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ChromeClocks-thumbYour computer came with a clock most likely in the bottom-right or top-right corner of the screen. This clock is functional enough, but there are so many more ways you could have your computer tell you the time. The Chrome Web Store is filled to the brim with various clock apps, extensions, and websites. Here are fifteen options that might just add an extra bit of excitement to how you check what time it is.

ChromeClocks-Clock

Clock does more than tell time. The app comes with both a stopwatch and a countdown timer, and it’s all packed into a small window that can rest comfortably at the corner of any computer screen.

Clock

ChromeClocks-AwesomeClock

This clock displays the time in major cities around the world, and it tucks them away in a clickable icon in the Chrome toolbar.

Awesome Clock

ChromeClocks-BrowserClock

Browser Clock is a basic choice for sticking a clock in your Chrome toolbar. It’s pretty straghtforward – just click to see the time and date.

Browser Clock

ChromeClocks-ClockExtension

Just like the last option, this extension pops an analog clock in the Chrome toolbar, and the only catch is that some users will have to train their eyes to glance up instead of down.

Clock

ChromeClocks-ClockForGoogleChrome

This is another clock that fits comfortably in the toolbar. It comes with a nice set of options, allowing users to change the format of the time and the color of the clock itself.

Clock for Google Chrome

ChromeClocks-CoolClock

This option defaults to a digital clock. It is tucked away in the toolbar, but clicking it can reveal a calendar, stopwatch, timer, and all manner of goodies.

Cool Clock

ChromeClocks-NewTabClock

This extension turns your new tab page into a giant clock that also displays the date. Changing colors and the font is as simple as right-clicking either on the background or the clock itself.

New Tab Clock

ChromeClocks-OrbitalClock

This clock not only tells the time and date, it alerts users to planetary events. Want to know how much time there is before sunrise, when to expect lunar noon, or the current speed of solar wind? You have rather niche interests, but this is the clock for you.

Orbital Clock

ChromeClocks-BirthdayClock

This clock is highly visual. It lists upcoming birthdays along the bottom of the screen and highlights whoever’s birthday falls on the current day. There is also integration with the FlikGift API, so users can send gifts to friends in just a few flicks.

The Birthday Clock

ChromeClocks-AnalogClock

Analog Clock is a full-screen clock for the people who prefer analog clocks and like for them to be big.

Analog Clock

ChromeClocks-BinaryClock

This is definitely not a clock for everyone. Still, if you want to tell the time using binary, here’s an option for you.

Binary Clock

ChromeClocks-DigitalClock

Digital Clock is a full-screen clock with customizable fonts and colors. Have your time as large as you want, as obnoxiously as you want it.

Digital Clock

ChromeClocks-EasyClock

All of these apps can display your current time, but Easy Clock puts multiple time zones within easy view.

Easy Clock

ChromeClocks-HTML5Clock

This is one of the simplest options on this list. It’s a giant analog clock created using HTML5. It’s basic and zippy. Enough said.

HTML5 Analog Clock

ChromeClocks-PolarClock

This is quite the unique and attractive option. Aside from being different, it also can display the time on tabs, work as an alarm clock, and display the weather.

Polar Clock

Clocks are easy to make, so there are a ton of options in the Chrome Web Store. If nothing here excites you, there’s still a chance there is something in the store that suits your fancy. If you would like to bring attention to your favorite Chrome clock, give it a shout out below.

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6 Unconventional Uses For Google Chromecasthttp://www.maketecheasier.com/6-unconventional-uses-for-google-chromecast/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/6-unconventional-uses-for-google-chromecast/#respond Tue, 30 Jul 2013 14:50:31 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=78844 Google Chromecast is a $35 affordable media streamer that you plug into your TV or monitor and stream YouTube, Netflix, and Google Play content from your computer. What sets Chromecast apart is that these uses are just the beginning. Here are six areas where a Chromecast could excel where others offerings have not.

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chromecast-thumbGoogle’s Chromecast is a $35 affordable media streamer that you plug into your TV or monitor, and it’s no surprise that the device has garnered so much attention so soon after its release. It’s a highly versatile device. Yes, it can stream YouTube, Netflix, and Google Play content, but between consoles, Blu-Ray players, and smart TVs, you probably already have a means of doing most of this already. What sets Chromecast apart is that these uses are just the beginning. Here are six areas where a Chromecast could excel where others offerings have not.

Chromecast-Travel

Chromecast is great for the traveling business person who finds themselves shuffling from one hotel to another. Who cares what cable package is available when you can pop in a Chromecast and stream the same media you would have at home? As long as you have easy access to a WiFi network and a TV with an unhindered HDMI port, you have what you need to get up and running.

Chromecast-Business

Workers have needed to present information on a larger screen for colleagues since the dawn of business meetings. Projectors get the job done, but they’re expensive and unwieldy. A Chromecast is substantially cheaper. Place a large TV or monitor in a conference room and plug one in the back. They’re cheap enough to place in every room in an office, and it’s easy for one device to take over the screen for another, perhaps speeding up team presentations.

Chromecast-Parental-Controls

Chromecasts don’t have parental controls built in, but a person needs access to a smartphone, tablet, or computer to make use of them. Parents with small children can turn a movie on using their smartphone and walk away knowing their children can’t accidentally change what’s on to something more adult.

Chromecast-Party

Since Chromecasts are so portable, you can take one to anyone’s house and know exactly which movies and music you will be able to stream. Though it could get chaotic, it’s an easy way for everyone to share YouTube videos with one another, each person able to search and play from their own devices. If the party attendants aren’t particularly tech savvy, or they’ve had a little too much to drink, you may even be able to convince them that you’re a wizard. And since Chromecasts are so cheap, it won’t be the end of the world if things get out of hand and it somehow ends up broken.

Chromecast-Media

Google hasn’t advertised this feature, but it’s possible to stream media saved locally from a computer to a Chromecast device. As long as your files are converted into the right format, you can take those files buried on your hard drive and watch them on a display that will make them pop. It may not be as smooth, but it sure is less expensive or time consuming they setting up your own home media server. And when you’re done, you’ll be able to take that remote in the picture above and put it away for good.

Chromecast-Declutter

No, the Chromecast won’t clean your apartment for you, but it could be your ticket out of a messy entertainment cabinet. If you don’t really watch cable or purchase DVDs anymore, you can clear out all of the boxes from under your television, stick a Chromecast in the back, and let the power cable be the only remaining cord. Manage all of your media on your computer or in the cloud and only fire up the TV when you want a bigger display.

You probably already have a way to stream cloud media to your TV – maybe even two or three – but don’t let that stop you from giving the Chromecast a serious look. This device is flexible in a way previous media streamers are not. This can turn you into a media streaming warrior on the go, and it can save you a bunch of money in the process. If you already have a Chromecast, or you have ideas about how to make use of the device, share your experience and ideas with us in the comments below.

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5 Alternative Android Photo Gallery Appshttp://www.maketecheasier.com/5-alternative-android-photo-gallery-apps/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/5-alternative-android-photo-gallery-apps/#comments Sat, 27 Jul 2013 14:50:21 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=78664 If the default Android photo gallery app on your phone just doesn't organize pictures the way you wish it would, here are five alternatives that may arrange those priceless images precisely how you want them.

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android-photo-gallery-app-thumbNew phones are typically more powerful than the ones they’re replacing. They have zippier processors and higher-resolution displays. Yet rarely are we ever 100% satisfied with our phones. For everything a manufacturer gets right, there’s often another thing we feel they get wrong. It’s hard to please everyone, especially when it comes to matters of personal preference. If the default Android photo gallery app on your phone just doesn’t organize pictures the way you wish it would, here are five alternatives that may arrange those priceless images precisely how you want them.

Android Photo Gallery App Alternatives - Gallery ICS

Gallery ICS brings the gallery app introduced with Android 4.0 to phones that are still running older versions of the operating system. For those who are still using Gingerbread, this is one way to get access to some of the improvements featured in the more recent version of the gallery. Yet even if you already have a device running 4.x, that doesn’t mean you have access to the gallery app as Google envisioned it. If you don’t like all the changes introduced by your device’s manufacturer, swap out your default gallery for this one.

Android Photo Gallery App Alternatives - Customizable Gallery 3D

In contrast to the previous app, Customizable Gallery 3D is based on the stock version of the gallery found on Android devices running 2.x. If you’ve made the jump to Android 4.x but miss the old photo gallery, this is one way to get it back. It’s a modified version, though, and it comes complete with many additional features. Users can modify the number of rows shown on screen and the quality of the images. There’s also the option to hide photos, a feature not present in the original version.

Android Photo Gallery App Alternatives - Quick Pic

QuickPic has been around a while, and it’s good at what it does. It presents photos in an easy to navigate grid interface that scales very nicely across both phone and tablet displays. Alternatively, users can explore their photos using a list view. There are more extensive options, such as the ability to hide photos from view and password protect them to keep out snoopers. Users can also play both animated GIFs and videos. Not only is this app free of cost, it’s free of ads as well.

Android Photo Gallery App Alternatives - Fish Bowl

Fish Bowl comes with what is perhaps the most adorable icon. On top of that, it has a distinctive theme. That’s not to suggest that it’s short on features – it has its own file browser, a locker for hiding images, and the ability to compare images side by side. If you want an experience that doesn’t look like it was produced by Google, this is worth a download.

Android Photo Gallery App Alternatives - F-Stop

At this point, all of the apps are starting to sound the same. F-Stop Media Gallery is another alternative complete with a grid-based interface and a private media vault for storing content you don’t want others to see. Perhaps a more defining feature is its support for tags, a method of organization that some photographers swear by. F-Stop pitches itself as both a fast and powerful photo organizer, and it’s optimized for both phones and tablets.

Photo galleries can be a difficult thing to get right. Sometimes they feel too cluttered, or they just does not have the features we desire. As long as alternatives are out there, and they’re easy to install, this isn’t that big of a problem. Setting a new Android photo gallery app as default can make the old headaches a thing of the past. If you have an app that you personally prefer, share it with us below.

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5 Reasons Why You Should Get Android Phone With Micro SD Card Supporthttp://www.maketecheasier.com/android-phone-with-micro-sd-card/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/android-phone-with-micro-sd-card/#comments Sun, 21 Jul 2013 14:50:28 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=78099 Many of the latest Android phones have done away with Micro SD card slots. These phones are great, but when they're low on space, users have to either start deleting files or move data into the cloud. Here are five reasons why you should still be using an Android phone with Micro SD card support, rather than giving it up altogether.

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microsd-card-thumbMany of the latest Android phones have done away with MicroSD card slots, such as Google’s Nexus line of products as well as the HTC One. These phones are great, but when they’re low on space, users have to either start deleting apps and files or move data into cloud backup services. They cannot be expanded, and they’re missing out on the full range of options available for people whose smartphones have MicroSD card slots. Here are five reasons why you should be using an Android phone with Micro SD card support, rather than giving it up altogether.

Cloud services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft SkyDrive all need internet access to get files onto your device. For some of people, this isn’t that much of an issue. They likely have access to reliable WiFi for most of the day or have unlimited data connections from their wireless carriers. Under those circumstances, cloud services are ideal as they offer vast amounts of storage all accessible from multiple devices.

Lack of internet connection make android phone with micro sd card support even more important

That said, most of the world’s population doesn’t have access to such ideal conditions. Home users with unreliable broadband, high-latency satellite internet, or dial-up connections are more likely to be frustrated waiting for files to download. People who like to access their data on the go might become infuriated when they lose access to data every time they lose signal or are greeted at the end of the month by high bills. Micro SD cards are accessible whenever, wherever.

Cloud services offer a small amount of space for free, but users who need more storage have to pay either a monthly or yearly fee. This storage space is leased, rather than owned. This means, by definition, people who rely on cloud services are steadily losing money.

MicroSDReasons-Cost

On the other hand, a Micro SD card goes down in price every year at the same time that the storage capacity of new cards is increasing. People can save the money they would spent on cloud services and invest a fraction of it into Micro SD cards that they know will be around for a long time.

Reasons for having Android phone with Micro SD card - Ownership of data

People who store their files on a Micro SD card legitimately own their data. While those who rely on cloud services may have the legal rights to their files, they don’t know where their files are stored or how they’re being handled. It’s comparable to storing excess furniture in a self storage facility rather than your own garage. Even under optimal circumstances, where your files are never seen or touched by anyone but you, your files are still in someone else’s control. As long as you keep your phone out of the wrong hands and free of malicious software, you don’t have to worry about prying eyes seeing the files saved on your card, either.

One of the strengths of Android devices is how much freedom people have to customize them. While there are applications that can change seemingly every aspect of the operating system, flashing a new ROM takes things to a whole new level. Users can change all of their preloaded apps, the default theme, and other software that cannot be changed normally on a device. Some ROMs even improve the quality of cell signal and bluetooth connections over a phone’s default state.

Reasons for having Android phone with Micro SD card - flash new ROM

The most popular Android ROM is CyanogenMod, which adds a plethora of features on top of the stock launcher. While users can still flash ROMs to phones without Micro SD card support, they require that the software is pushed from a computer. How big a deal this is depends on how often you intend to flash your device.

Reasons for having Android phone with Micro SD card - Global accessibility

Cloud services are provided by companies, and they are sometimes limited by their company’s reach. While Google Drive is available all over the world, Play Music All Access is only available in the US. It may not be possible to replicate all of Pandora’s library on a Micro SD card, but making the effort to only play media files stored on a Micro SD card guarantees that the content you like is always accessible.

If your current Android phone has a Micro SD card slot, it might be time to give that card of yours a workout. When it comes to mobile devices, these cards are like internal hard drives that you can easily swap between devices. They give you control over your data, offer easy expansion, and come at a great price. You can take your files with you all over the world, and you don’t need an internet connection to get to them. If you’re considering upgrading to a phone that lacks an Micro SD card slot, be sure to think about all that you’re giving up.

Image credit: This Generation’s Floppy Disks

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6 Best Ways To Read News On An Android Devicehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/6-ways-to-read-news-on-android/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/6-ways-to-read-news-on-android/#respond Wed, 10 Jul 2013 23:25:05 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=77681 As technology evolves, people now expect to read news on their smartphones rather than on plain newspaper. Here are 6 ways to read news on Android devices.

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AndroidNews-thumbThe journalism industry is in a unique position right now. People are reading and consuming news more often than ever before, but they’re paying less to do so. People expect to consume news on their computers, tablets, and mobile devices. Most people expect this news to come for free. While content producers have to wrestle with how they want to distribute news, consumers also have to determine how they prefer to consume it. Here are six ways to consume news on Android devices.

Android Mobile Dedicated News Apps

Downloading a dedicated app is perhaps the easiet method of news consumption to grasp. Just fire up Google Play and search for your news provider of choice. You should easily be able to find the Associated Press and Reuters . There’s also cable news such as CNN and broadcast content available from ABC. Don’t live in America? There’s the BBC, the Times of India, and the Japan Daily Press. Not all news organizations have produced an app, especially local providers, but it’s worth a look. This is a great option for casual users who may be fine with getting their news from only a handful of sources.

Android Mobile Curated News App

Some people don’t want all of their news to come from the same place. It’s a smart habit to get into, as each organization brings its biases and way of reporting that can potentially distort a person’s view of the world. Curated apps provide a highly visual means of pulling content from a wide variety of places. There are many options to choose from these days. Flipboard is perhaps the most well-known option out there. It presents stories in magazine-style pages that flip whenever you change from one page to another. Google Currents isn’t quite as animated as Flipboard, but the concept is largely the same. Pulse is another highly-visual and popular option. Curated apps are good for people who like getting their news from diverse sources without having to sift through vast amounts of headlines.

Android Mobile RSS News Feeds

Curated apps are nice, but they aren’t cut out for dealing with large volumes of content. That is a job for RSS feed readers. Google Reader may have gone the way of the dodo, but there continue to be alternatives out there. Feedly has gained a large following in the wake of Reader’s decline, and it’s arguably as attractive as the curated apps. There’s also Feed+RssDemon and gReader. Feed readers have been around for a long time now, and people who rely on them have pretty specific needs. Look around, and hopefully an option will strike your fancy.

Android Mobile Social Networks News Apps

Okay, I know we’ve all already signed up for one social network or another and have used them to keep up with friends, family, and acquaintances. That said, their usefulness has grown extensively over the years. Now most major news organizations have fan pages on Facebook, Twitter accounts, and perhaps a page on Google+. They typically post either all of their stories or narrow things down to just those they consider important. If you combine Twitter with an app like Slices Pro, you can filter tweets into specific categories and only see tweets about the topics you’re interested in or from the people you’re curious about. There’s also Reddit, a different type of social network that exists to get interesting stories out in front of people and let users determine what is or isn’t important. Reddit News and reddit is fun are some of the options available for accessing the site on a mobile device.

Android Mobile Home Screen Launcher News

One of Android’s greatest strengths is its ability to trade out the default launcher for alternatives, effectively changing the entire look and feel of a phone or tablet. Many of the dedicated news apps come with widgets that can be installed on most of these launchers. The same is true of curated apps, RSS feed readers, and social networks as well. Some alternative launchers, such as Chameleon Launcher, can insert news feeds directly onto your home screen. HTC Sense 5 also comes with BlinkFeed, which is essentially a curated news app that consumes one of your home screens at all times.

Android Mobile Digital Magazines News

This last option isn’t the cheapest, but it offers a traditional experience that the others cannot match. If you love the look of a magazine and hate having to sacrifice the images and diagrams when reading the same stories online, you may want to sign up for a digital subscription. Zinio is a cross-platform option available with a large selection of magazines. Google Play offers a growing selection that may not be comprehensive, but they sync nicely across numerous Android devices and web browsers.

Our smartphones/tablets now connect us with the rest of the world, and we can find out what’s going on nearly anywhere with just a few taps. This can be overwhelming, but with the right apps, we can all consume the news in the manner that we like best. This is important, because how we choose to acquire information will determine how it is distributed in the future. What method do you like best?

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Automagic: A Much Easier Way to Automate Your Android Phonehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/easier-way-to-automate-android-phone/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/easier-way-to-automate-android-phone/#respond Wed, 03 Jul 2013 23:25:38 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?post_type=post-ideas&p=77172 Have you ever wished your smartphone would start playing music whenever you get home? How about turning off social networks when you're in the car? Automagic presents users with a very simple way to automate their Android phone with the use of easy-to-understand flowcharts.

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automagic-iconHave you ever wished your smartphone would start playing music whenever you get home? How about turning off social networks when you’re in the car? Tasker is a phenomenal app capable of greatly expanding the functionality of an Android phone by automating these types of tasks, but it can be quite confusing for new users. Automagic is an alternative that presents users with an easier way to automate their Android phone by performing many of the same tasks using easy-to-understand flowcharts.

Automagic uses flowcharts to make automating tasks easier to visualize. These flowcharts are referred to as Flows. Each flow consists of two or three things: triggers, conditions, and actions. The bare minimum necessary to complete a flow are triggers and actions. Think of this as “If A is true, then do B.” Conditions are intervening variables, such as the “C” in “If A and C are true, then B.” For the sake of this guide, I will create a task that will send a text whenever my battery level drops below 5% and WiFi is not connected. In this case, the trigger is my battery state, the condition is WiFi state, and the action is sending a text.

The first step in creating a flow is to create a trigger. Starting a new flow will place an empty shape onto a blank canvas, and touching this icon presents a menu of possible triggers. The list is long and unwieldy, but it includes options ranging from being near a specific location to screen brightness dropping below a certain level.

Automagic Trigger Automation

You can proceed to the next step by clicking on the plus icon and dragging it out to a new position. If you choose to set a condition, it is done precisely the same way as creating a trigger. Choose another function to measure and specify the desired parameters.

Automagic Settings Automation

You can designate two different responses depending on whether the condition’s state is true or false. If you only select true, then nothing will happen as long as the condition is false. The visual nature of flowcharts make it easier to follow all of the different possible branches.

Automagic Condition Automation

Editing a task is as simple as selecting any step and pressing one of the buttons that surrounds the icon. Tasks are easily altered, moved, or deleted. In the screen below, I have not entered the phone number I wish to send an SMS message to, but I can easily do so by selecting the pencil icon.

Automagic Action Automation

All you have to do to enable a flow is flip the toggle in the toolbar. Automagic runs in the background while you use other apps, so you can choose to forget all about the app after you’ve enabled a flow or two. They will perform automatically just like the countless other background tasks that keep your Android device running.

Automagic is not more powerful than Tasker, and if you can already do everything you need to using the latter, there’s no reason to download the former. That said, Automagic may be easier to grasp, and it is capable of performing many of the same tasks. Automagic’s intuitive interface may be just what you need to make your smartphone ever smarter.

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5 Practices That Can Enhance Your Mobile Privacyhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/5-practices-enhance-mobile-privacy/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/5-practices-enhance-mobile-privacy/#respond Sun, 30 Jun 2013 14:50:52 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=77020 Mobile privacy is almost non-existent. Telecommunications providers know when we place a call, the number we dial, and how long the conversation lasts. If this makes you uncomfortable, here are 5 changes you can make to reduce how much your phone carrier knows about you.

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PhonePrivacy-thumbDon’t believe the hype. Your government, more than likely, isn’t tracking you. That said, your phone carrier is. Mobile privacy is almost non-existent. Telecommunications providers, naturally, know when we place a call, the number we dial, and how long the conversation lasts. It’s how they bill us, and it’s not impossible for this information to be misused or abused. Since most of us now use mobile phones to place those calls, phone companies also know our locations. Text messages, to some degree, can be logged as well. If this reality makes you uncomfortable, here are five changes you can make to reduce how much your phone carrier knows about you.

Mobile privacy with Tango VoIP

If you don’t like that your mobile provider sees who you’re calling and when, you can get around this by using VoIP clients instead. The number of options have exploded over the years. Skype may be owned by Microsoft, but the peer-to-peer nature of its infrastructure means it is still a relatively secure means of communicating. There are also popular alternatives like Tango and Fring, which both allow users to communicate between mobile phones and computers using custom screen names. Most of these apps allow users to place free calls between two people using the same app, and some also allow you to place calls to phone numbers directly. Speaking of which…

Google Voice Online Phone Number

Google Voice, Skype, and Vonage give you the ability to create a phone number online. If you’re going to distribute a number over the Internet or communicate with people you don’t wish to know where you live, creating a phone number with Google Voice, for example, is a good way to keep your identity safe. The number provided will have a different area code from your home number. Even if you don’t trust Google or another VoIP provider with your data, authorities still have to jump through more hoops to get data from them than from mobile phone companies.

WhatsApp Instant Messaging

Instant messaging began as something you did from your computer while texting took place on phones. For many people, that situation has long passed. Until Google recently released Hangouts, the apps used to send instant messages and text messages on an Android device were largely identical. Now the biggest difference between the two is that one requires people to use the same service, and the other merely requires that both have phone numbers. But if your friends and family members predominantly use Android, you can all now communicate freely using Hangouts. iOS users have iMessage, and there are many services out there that support both platforms, such as WhatsApp. Pick a service by a company you trust the most, and cut off your mobile company from knowing who you send messages to using your phone.

TextSecure Encrypted Text

Regardless of which service you rely on, it’s possible for messages to get intercepted. If you want your communication to remain private even under those circumstances, you’ll have to encrypt the messages you opt to send. There are a handful of options available, such as Text Fortress for iOS and TextSecure for Android.

Couple Private Social Network

Maybe you don’t care about your general correspondence, but you want your conversations with your significant other to remain between the two of you. There are no shortage of apps out there that serve as private social networks between two people, permitting both to send messages, pictures, and events that only the other can see. Many options are multi-platform, such as Avocado, Between, and Couple.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to stop companies from tracking your location on a mobile phone. Even if you disable the built-in GPS, your phone still communicates with nearby cell towers in order to achieve the best signal. If a mobile phone is on, then it can be tracked.

Adopting various Internet services doesn’t make you invisible, It just prevents one company from tracking all of your communications. The internet is a rapidly changing frontier, and there’s no silver bullet that will make your activities completely anonymous. Giving away information to a third-party is inherent in using any online service. The solution is to carefully choose which companies to trust and be responsible about what you say and where. You can make your communications more secure by choosing not to keep all of your eggs in one basket, and you may even reduce your bill in the process.

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Use “Best Android Apps” to Locate The Best Android Appshttp://www.maketecheasier.com/locate-the-best-android-apps/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/locate-the-best-android-apps/#respond Wed, 26 Jun 2013 23:25:05 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?post_type=post-ideas&p=76095 There are thousands upon thousands of apps available for Android devices on Google Play. Many of them are awesome, but the vast majority really aren't worth the time of day. This is what makes an app like Best Android App sound appealing. It's an app that helps you find which Android software is actually worth your time.

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BestAndroidApps-thumbThere are thousands upon thousands of apps available for Android devices on Google Play. Many of them are awesome, and some are truly amazing, but the vast majority really aren’t worth the time of day. This is what makes an app like Best Android Apps sound appealing. It’s an app that helps you find which Android software is actually worth your time.

Best Android Apps Website

Best Android Apps is provided by AndroidTapp, a blog dedicated to Android updates and reviews. Best Android Apps pitches itself as a beautiful and curated app guide that conveniently sifts through the hordes of available software so that you don’t have to. When the app first opens, it presents information in a manner most of us are already accustomed to seeing on blogs. Upon closer inspection, though, you may start to feel that a blog is all this app really is. It takes the information available from AndroidTapp and repackages it into a mobile-friendly format. That said, it does add some functionality that the website does not offer.

Best Android Apps Home Screen

Best Android Apps does make it easier to discover new content. The content is divided into categories such as “Trending,” “Best of Best,” “Editor’s Choice,” etc. These categories can all be accessed by tapping on the title bar, which will smoothly present a menu on the left side of the screen in a way similar to how Google’s own apps function. By default, all content is visible. These individual categories help to filter the results down into those that most interest you.

Best Android Apps Sections

Much of the information lumps apps into groups, such as “5 Best To Do Lists Android Apps” and “8 Best Microsoft Office Android Apps.” Content can also displayed in the form of reviews and general advice. Some posts simply present news, alerting you to the fact that a new app has just released that may be worth your time or a popular app has just received a substantial update. Each page can be favorited so that you can return to it easily later. Pages can also be shared with other apps by hitting the share button in the top right corner of a page.

Best Android Apps Favorite

Best Android Apps also supports notifications. Users can set notifications to arrive daily, saving them the effort of manually checking to see what new content is available.

Best Android Apps Notifications

Best Android Apps does not try to replace Google Play. The app still sends you straight to the Play Store, where you can install and rate apps the way you typically would. That said, there are still reasons to pass on this app and peruse the Play Store on your own. Best Android Apps is essentially a blog in app form, so it offers little that can’t be acquired elsewhere. It is also ad-supported, which admittedly isn’t a problem for most people, but that’s a battery drain that I don’t accept on my devices.

Best Android Apps Free

I wouldn’t install Best Android Apps to run for my personal use, but I can still see others who would benefit from the service it delivers. It provides an accessible place where people who don’t keep up with tech blogs can still discover what the best software available is. Google Play’s highlighted content showcases select new apps, and its various categories point out the top selling and most downloaded software, but it can overlook some real gems. Best Android Apps isn’t guaranteed to keep you aware of what the best software really is, but it’s a handy resource for those who don’t want to follow Android trends manually.

Download in Google Play

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5 Chrome Web Apps For Practicing Musicianshttp://www.maketecheasier.com/chrome-web-apps-for-practicing-musicians/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/chrome-web-apps-for-practicing-musicians/#respond Sun, 23 Jun 2013 14:50:29 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=75623 Computers have revolutionized seemingly everything. Telling someone you created music used to mean that you knew how to play an instrument or two, but now people can create tunes just by pushing keys on their keyboard. If you want to learn or perform music the old-fashioned way, here are a number of ways you can use Google Chrome to help.

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MusicianApps-thumbComputers have revolutionized seemingly everything. Telling someone you created music used to mean that you knew how to play an instrument or two, but now people can create tunes just by pushing keys on their keyboard (no, not that keyboard). Sure, there’s still talent in digitally creating tunes, but if you want to learn or perform music the old-fashioned way, here are a number of ways you can use Google Chrome to help.

Color Piano Chrome App

Color Piano! is a visually attractive means of learning how to play the piano. Despite its name and simplistic appearance, it’s a surprisingly complete tool for approaching a piano for the first time. It can help you learn individual keys, but more impressively, it can also teach you entire songs. It uses colors to help you tell one note from another and know which note to play next. Even if you don’t particularly care to learn the piano, it’s still a treat to tinker around with.

Multiplayer Piano Chrome Google

Multiplayer Piano takes a different approach to teaching people the piano, as it actually doesn’t purport to teach people at all. It’s simply a site where users can play a virtual piano. The draw is that other users are popping in and playing the same piano. There’s a built-in chat so that people can communicate with one another. In this way, people can ask questions from others who may already know how to play a particular song or hit a specific note. On the other hand, if everyone is just mindlessly mashing keys the way they seemed to be when I popped in, then prepare to cover your ears.

Guitar Tuner Musician App

Guitar Tuner helps people tune their guitar by ear. Six buttons are lined up along the bottom of the screen while the complimenting notes are lined across the top. Press one of the six buttons to pluck that string over and over, giving you all the time you need to match your guitar with the sound coming from your computer. You can select multiple strings at the same time to help you get an ear for how strings should sound when strummed together.

Chord Finder Chrome App

Chord Finder teaches you how to play various guitar chords. Just select the chord you wish to learn and the website will show you which strings you need to hold down and where your fingers need to be. It also plays how each chord should sound, so you will be able to tell when you’re finally getting it right. Despite the name, the site covers more than chords. You can also learn triads, scales, and practice individual notes. While it’s not quite as intuitive as Guitar Tuner, but you can use this site to tune your guitar as well.

Google Chrome E-Violino

E-Violino is, as the name suggests, for the violin players out there. It opens with a list of songs along the right side. Clicking a song will start the music. The notes will slide across the screen, and the appropriate strings to play will be highlighted. Oddly enough, the app also guides you through the act of playing a piano, making this a surprisingly useful tool for pianists as well.

The proliferation of computers has made it easier than ever to put aside musical instruments and create music through other means. Yet at the same time, computers have made learning musical instruments a less difficult endeavor than it used to be. There is a wide range of tools and resources out there for aspiring musicians willing to look. If you know of other tools, feel free to share them with us below.

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Easily Customize the Addon Bar In Firefox With Puzzle Piecehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/customize-addon-bar-firefox/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/customize-addon-bar-firefox/#respond Fri, 21 Jun 2013 23:25:09 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=75663 Add-ons make customizing Firefox a near limitless endeavor, but what if you want to customize your add-ons? Wait for it - there's an add-on for that. Puzzle Piece allows you to customize the addon bar in Firefox. It takes the default Firefox addon bar and shrinks it into a small little panel that can display the same content without the waste.

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PuzzlePiece-thumbAdd-ons make customizing Firefox a near limitless endeavor, but what if you want to customize your add-ons? Wait for it – there’s an add-on for that. This may seem like add-on Inception, but don’t fret, it’s much less confusing than that particular film. Puzzle Piece allows you to customize the addon bar in Firefox. It takes the Firefox add-on bar that usually appears at the bottom of your window and shrinks it into a small little panel that can display the same content without the waste. It saves space, is more accessible, and it’s remarkably easy to set up.

When you install add-ons in Firefox, some place icons in a toolbar that extends across the bottom of your web browser. Here’s how it looks by default on an Ubuntu desktop.

Firefox The Puzzle Piece Default Bar

This, frankly, just is not modern UI design. Not only is it dated, it wastes many valuable pixels that could be better spent showing more web content. To alleviate this, let’s hop over to the Firefox add-ons site and download Puzzle Piece. After it is installed, this is what your new add-ons bar will look.

Customize Addon Bar Firefox with Puzzle Piece

This new bar is substantially smaller, but since it overlays the website you’re browsing, it can be a tad intrusive. This is not a problem. Simply click on the green puzzle piece to set the bar to auto-hide. The addons bar will then disappear and re-appear using a smooth, yet subtle, fade animation. It’s seamless and – dare I say – a little fun to click on.

The Puzzle Piece Autohide Add-ons Bar

Your new add-ons bar can be repositioned to appear in the left-hand corner instead. To do this, just right-click on the puzzle piece icon and select The Puzzle Piece Options. The following window will appear.

Puzzle Piece Firefox Preferences Menu

Unchecking the top option will move the add-ons bar to the left side of the browser. Rechecking the box will return it to its original position. It happens instantaneously, so feel free to move the bar back and forth to get a feel for which side suits you best.

Firefox Add-On Left Move

If neither side pleases you, the Puzzle Piece also empowers you to be rid of Firefox’s add-on bar entirely. Return to the preference menu and check the “Move the add-on bar into the location bar” option.

Puzzle Piece Location Firefox

Your add-on bar will then disappear. The icons previously docked on this bar will appear inside of Firefox’s location bar instead. They should line up to the right of the current URL, adjacent to the bookmarking star.

Puzzle Piece Location Bar

The green puzzle piece is still visible inside the location bar. Clicking on this icon auto-hides the icons just as it did before. Right-clicking continues to present Puzzle Piece’s options.

We’ve long accepted that web browsers are necessary to peruse the internet, but that doesn’t mean we enjoy looking at them. That is why many extensions are available for Firefox that reduce the amount of clutter we have to tolerate around a webpage. The Puzzle Piece makes it possible to install as many add-ons as you want and easily access them without adding an unwanted bar at the bottom of your window. It’s just one more tool to help you reclaim your web browsing experience. If you know of other tools that help in this endeavor, share them with us below.

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Share URL From One Browser to Another On Androidhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/share-url-to-another-browser-on-android/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/share-url-to-another-browser-on-android/#respond Thu, 20 Jun 2013 21:25:13 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=75619 Flashify is an Android app that allows you to take a URL that won't load flash inside one browser and share it with another. The benefit of this app is that even if you don't have a browser installed that can run flash, it's still the fastest way to get links from one browser to another.

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flashify-thumbnailIf you remember back when Android phones first hit store shelves, one of their big marketing draws was that they supported flash, whereas the iPhone did not. Adobe dropped support for flash on Android last year, killing this draw. While it’s still possible to view flash on an Android device, doing so can be a bit of a hassle. Flashify is an Android app that intends to help by allowing you to take a URL that won’t load flash inside one browser and share it with another. The benefit of this app is that even if you don’t have a browser installed that can run flash, it’s still the fastest way to get links from one browser to another.

You know the drill. The first step is to hop over to the Play Store and download the Flashify app. Got it? Good. Now, it gets trickier after this. Flashify does not open like most apps do. Instead, it hides out entirely under your share menu. To access it, you first need to load a URL inside any browser. Here I will try to load up a flash game inside of Google Chrome. As expected, I’m hit with an error message complaining about the absence of flash on my device.

Flashify Error

Here is where Flashify comes in. All I need to do is jump over to the menu in the top right corner and select the share button.

Flashify Share Webpage

This brings up a menu listing all of the apps that I am able to share this website with. I’m looking for Flashify.

Flashify Apps

After I’ve selected Flashify, I am prompted to select another browser to send the URL to.

Flashify Browsers

Flashify will then open up the website in that browser, saving me the effort of having to copy the URL, open another browser, and paste it manually. As you can see below, the flash game I was attempting to play loads after I send it over to the default browser.

Flashify Flash Loads

The list of browsers that support flash really have shrunken over the years. A trip over to the list of Adobe’s Certified Devices shows that the company stopped certifying devices after Android 4.0. Nevertheless, you do have a few options.

  • If your phone ships with the flash plugin, chances are your default browser can play flash content. You may need to go into the settings menu for the browser and enable the flash plugin beforehand, as I had to do.
  • If you’re using Firefox, Mozilla has provided instructions on their website that may get you up and running.
  • You can download Photon Flash Player & Browser for free or purchase the Puffin Web Browser for $2.99. Both continue to support flash.

Flashify is the fastest way to get a website from one browser to another. The app is useful for far more than just trying to open websites that use flash. Say you have a website that is otherwise not compatible with one browser but is compatible with another. What if you have a website bookmarked in one browser that you wish to save elsewhere? Flashify makes all of this far less tedious. Give it a go, and if you know of any other browsers that play flash for Android, let us know in the comments.

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A Brief History And Guide To Linux’s Touch Experiencehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/guide-to-linux-touch-experience/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/guide-to-linux-touch-experience/#comments Tue, 18 Jun 2013 14:50:12 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=75511 The Linux community has been divided in recent years over how desktop environments should be used and designed. The open source community released several new user interfaces that were geared towards touch screens years before the recent touch-oriented release of Windows 8, but there is no hardware to support it.

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LinuxTouch-screen-thumbThe Linux community has been divided in recent years over how desktop environments should be used and designed. The open source community, sometimes accused of merely imitating proprietary operating systems rather than innovating, released several new user interfaces that were geared towards touch screens years before the recent touch-oriented release of Windows 8. These interfaces have met with mixed reactions as they were geared towards hardware that, frankly, most users simply did not have access to. There are many Linux touch-oriented desktop environments, but where is the hardware?

Ubuntu currently ships with the Unity shell by default, a relatively touch-friendly interface first introduced for netbooks in 2010. It became Ubuntu’s default environment starting with version 11.04. Its most distinctive characteristics are the large icons situated along a launcher docked to the left side of the screen and a dash that serves to as the primary means of launching undocked apps and files.

Ubuntu Unity Linux Touch Desktop Environment

By the time Unity appeared on computers, the GNOME Project had already detailed plans for the upcoming GNOME 3, which eventually debuted in 2011. It removed its traditional taskbar along with “minimize” and “maximize” buttons. In their place came a new way of managing windows oriented around creating and switching between virtual workspaces. When the Linux Action Show reviewed GNOME 3, its hosts argued that it would offer a better experience on a tablet than either Android or iOS, but it was a flawed desktop environment.

Linux Touch Desktop Environment GNOME

Since most users did not have access to compatible hardware with touchscreens, they reviewed both desktop environments purely on their usability with keyboards and mice. The result was a large swath of users who felt that they were being left behind.

At the time GNOME 3 and Unity first debuted, the most common devices with touchscreens were smartphones and tablets. Smartphones, given the degree of control carriers exercise over them, are generally notoriously locked down affairs. While neither GNOME 3 nor Unity targeted smartphones, there were and are open source projects such as Plasma Active, Meego, and Ubuntu Touch that users would be able to install were smartphones as open and standardized as PCs. Instead, smartphones ship with locked down bootloaders that have to be cracked, jailbroken, or rooted before users can boot anything other than a phone’s default set of software.

Tablets are essentially large smartphones with their cell radios stripped out. They run the same operating system on the same hardware as their smaller, more agile siblings. Even though most are not distributed by carriers, their bootloaders are just as locked down. Our guide to installing Ubuntu on an Asus Transformer shows just how much work goes into installing Ubuntu onto one of these tablets. And since each tablet ships with different bootloaders and hardware, there aren’t enough skilled hackers available and interested to get Linux onto all of the hardware currently available.

LinuxTouch-screen

Aaron Siego of the KDE community has served as the primary spokesperson for the Vivaldi tablet, a 7-inch device expected to ship with KDE Plasma Active available by default but with open hardware allowing users to swap it out for their software of choice. The device was announced in January of 2012, but it has yet to see release. It turns out that manufacturers have built their model of production and distribution around the practices of their largest customers, and it’s hard for smaller players to jump in. When the majority of OEMs want mobile CPUs running off of proprietary code, manufacturers see little incentive to create and provide open kernel code and drivers for the small community that cares. Even when open source advocates try to band together to ship open hardware, they simply don’t have control over the internal components that ship inside it.

Long before the iPad took the world by storm, Windows tablets had made their way into the homes of a niche selection of users. These tablets were generally laptops with screens that could spin around and lie flat on top of the bottom half of the device. This hardware was typically pricey, but installing Linux on it was roughly the same experience as installing Linux on any other PC.

The Lenovo S10-3t is by no means a powerful device by today’s standards, but it can run Linux handedly and gives users the opportunity to live in Unity or GNOME 3 using a touch display. In addition to the Lenovo Ideapad series, Asus has also produced convertible EeePCs capable of running Linux. Both ship with Windows 7 by default.

The onslaught of Windows 8 hardware over the past year has altered the hardware landscape as manufacturers seek to produce devices that take advantage of the new interface. In a way, this is great for Linux. Ubuntu can be installed on the Surface Pro. Linux has also appeared on traditional clamshell laptops with touch displays like the Asus Vivobook:

While Windows 8′s secure boot makes it harder to install Linux on some new laptops than before, it’s not impossible. There’s also the Chromebook Pixel running Google’s Chrome OS that, despite its small SSD drive, supports running Linux just fine.

As for tablets shipping with Linux already installed, they’re starting to trinkle in. The PengPod ships with Android installed but comes with a microSD card that can boot up Linux. Ekoore, an Italian company, sells a selection of touch screen tablets and convertibles that ship with Ubuntu. And while the Vivaldi tablet may be down, it’s not out and is still expected to start shipping in the yet-to-be-announced future. Also keep your eyes peeled for the eventual smartphones and tablets shipping Ubuntu Touch in the years ahead.

There are many Linux desktop environments that would be killer on a smartphone or tablet, but for years there have been very few pieces of hardware that could run them. That has changed, and touch displays are steadily becoming more available than ever. If you are running a Linux distribution on a computer, tablet, or smartphone, share with us your hardware and experience below.

Image credit: Tablet use 2

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