All posts by Emma Enoh

The Best Free Software of 2017

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Windows and macOS don’t get the attention they used to in today’s mobile world. But we have not fully abandoned the desktop. The real work (and a lot of the play) of computing requires a full personal computer system. To get the most out of that, you need software.

 

Software can be expensive if you’re not smart about it. Free programs have been a mainstay of the desktop experience for decades, and the offerings only get more powerful and fascinating each year. As PCs compete with smartphones, it gets even better. Software developers can adopt an ad-based model, donation-ware to keep things afloat, or a shareware/freemium model that charges for extra features.

 

Something to always watch for: crapware installers. To make ends meet, many creators of otherwise great free software, or the services that offer the programs for download, bundle in things you don’t want. Worse, the installation routine obfuscates the steps, so you provide the unwanted program tacit permission to be installed. For more about how to spot and avoid this problem, see How to Clean Crapware From a New PC, and check out the Uninstaller section of this very free software collection.

 

One tip that helps prevent the extra crapware onslaught: only download desktop software from the maker of the software directly. It’s not foolproof—after all, developers want to eat, too—but it helps. That’s why one of the criteria for inclusion here is that the program has to be available directly from the maker.

 

Other criteria:

 

The software has to typically have a Windows-based download; we mark it if it has a version for other platforms, even mobile or cloud-based (see the Legend below). In some cases, we’ve included Web-app versions that are as good, or better, than some downloadable programs.

If it’s on a tiered sales model, the free version cannot be trial-ware that doesn’t work after a time.

The program should have little or no advertising to support it. Some freemium software depends on showing ads to exist, however.

Software for productivity is what this list is about; there’s plenty of other places to find free games.

So take a look at the list of 178 programs. Tell us in the comments if we missed your absolute favorite piece of free software.

 

LEGEND for compatibility:

—Windows

—macOS

—Linux

—iOS

—Android

—Amazon FireOS

—ChromeOS

—Portable (runs on USB flash drives you can take with you)

—Web app (runs in a web browser)

Lesser used smartphones and devices are listed individually

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11 Tips and Tricks to Fix Android Phone that won’t Charge Properly

    1. Restarting the Phone via Soft Reset

      A restart could be the best option if your phone doesn’t appear to charge when it is turned on.
      The system may have crashed, leaving the phone unresponsive when charging. This is a simple solution, but it could resolve any issues with little to no stress. A soft reset usually consists of holding the Power and Volume keys for up to ten seconds to power down the handset.
      Once powered down, plug in the phone to see if it charges.

    2. Charge with a Mains Adaptor

      If you often use a laptop, console or something similar to charge your phone, switching to a mains adaptor can give a noticeable boost to your devices charging speed.

      This is because different chargers have different power outputs, and that influences how quickly your phone can get its juice.

      Power Bars can be useful for a quick charge, despite the worrying news that an EE branded bar was recently recalled because it caught on fire, injuring the owner in the process.

      power-bar_recall_EE

      (source: http://ee.co.uk/power-bar-recall)

      Note: Official adaptors are the safest option, and they should charge your phone quickly when compared to other methods.

    3. Close Background Apps

      Closing any unnecessary applications running on your phone should help to boost your charging speed, as well as general battery life.
      Some applications (like dating apps and social media) can use a significant amount of battery power while running in the background. If you can bear to be without Facebook and Instagram, you can close background apps by opening the Recent Applications button located at the bottom right of your screen, and swiping right to close the app.

      Recent_Apps_Button

      Alternatively, go to:

      • Settings
      • tap Apps or Applications
      • and check the Running tab

      This will let you see which apps are in use. Tap a specific app and tap Stop to end the process.

      Application_Running_Tab

      This should stop the app entirely until you choose to run it again.

    4. Replace the Battery

      If all else fails, replacing the battery might be the best option if you want to keep using your phone.
      Of course, many phones (such as the Samsung Galaxy A5) don’t allow you to remove the battery because of the way the phone is built, but it can still be sent off to be replaced if it’s insured or under warranty.

      If the battery can be removed, a replacement can usually be ordered online. However, 3rd-party batteries can also be faulty, like the one that caused this Samsung Galaxy S4 to set its owner’s pillow on fire while she slept.

      Galaxy_S4_Battery-Exploded(Source: KDFW Dallas)

      Make sure to purchase your battery from a reputable source to minimise any risk.

    5. Gently Clean the Ports

      Lint or fluff can get stuck in the charging ports. This blockage causes connection errors as it gets caught between the connectors in the phone and the charger. You can gently blow into the charging port (inside the phone) to clean them of any blockage.

      If that doesn’t work, a can of compressed air can be used to clear the port at no risk to the handset itself. Resist the urge to jam anything solid in there. There is always a chance you could do serious damage to the device if you go poking around.
      Sometimes the blockage won’t be visible, and the tiniest piece of dirt can cause trouble in the right spot.

    6. Try a Different Charging Cable

      A new charging cable is cheaper than a new phone, so it’s worth checking to see if a replacement charging cable will do the job. Official cables tend to be of a higher quality compared to their knockoff counterparts, and it’s not advisable to buy an unofficial charging cable for a variety of reasons.

      Cheaper cables tend to break a lot faster, and there are additional safety issues. 3rd-party chargers have been known to damage the handset and have even caused house fires in some extreme cases. Make sure to cross-check the amp or watt rating with your device specifications to avoid these issues.

      If possible, try to borrow a charging cable from someone first to save yourself the expense, but if you do buy third-party make sure the source is reputable. Samsung and other handset makers certify many 3rd-party charging cable manufacturers. These cables should be considered as a safe bet.

    7. Update or Rollback

      When Android rolled out 5.0 Lollipop for the Galaxy S5, Nexus 5 and other flagship devices in 2014, many owners noticed issues with poor battery life that seemed to stem from the update itself.

      Updating or rolling back the phone may be useful if there’s a noticeable difference in power consumption and battery charge.

      Check to see if there’s an update available for your device. Here’s an example of how to update the Samsung Galaxy S4.

      If it’s possible to rollback your device, you can also downgrade to see if it improves battery life. Here are some examples of how to downgrade various Android devices along with a few different methods.

    8. Avoid Intensive Tasks While Charging

      Streaming videos, graphically intensive games, and other heavy tasks can use more power than some forms of charging can provide. When streaming video on Twitch, my device will eventually tell me that my games console can’t charge it fast enough to keep the battery from draining.
      Switching to a plug socket provides my device with enough energy to stream at length.

    9. Calibrate the Battery

      Calibrating the battery capacity could be a useful solution if you want a better gauge of how long your device will last uncharged. To do so:

      • Wait for your device to run out of charge.
      • Switch the device on again and wait for it to turn off to completely drain the battery.
      • Plug the device into a charger and without switching it on, wait for it to get to 100% charge.
      • Unplug the charger and turn your device on. If the battery is lower than 100%, continue to charge until it’s full.
      • Unplug the charger once more and restart the device.
      • If it isn’t 100% charged, plug in the charger again and repeat this process until your device gets close to maximum charge without being plugged in.
      • Once completed, let the battery drain until the device switches off.
      • Charge the device to 100% one final time.
      • You should now have a calibrated battery for your Android device.

      A fully calibrated phone battery will give you a more accurate reading of your remaining battery life in the future. It could even keep it going a little longer if the Android OS was incorrectly identifying the battery life of your device, causing it to shut off with a small amount of power remaining.

    10. Toggle Airplane/Flight Mode

      If you can manage without your phone for an hour or so, turning on Flight Mode will charge your phone more quickly than usual. However, you won’t be able to receive calls or messages while Flight mode is active.

      You can turn on Flight mode by accessing the quick menu available on most Android devices. It is also known as Airplane Mode, and it has an airplane icon.

      Airplane_Mode_Android

      Alternatively, you can access Flight Mode by going to the Settings Menu and tapping on the More tab.

    11. Perform a Factory Reset

      WARNING: The following method will erase all data on the device.

      If all else fails, it could be time for a factory reset, but this should be done as a last resort. A factory reset will restore your device, but it will delete all of the data on your device.

      It’s advisable to backup all data, which can be done with apps such as Helium. You can also copy your data to PC if you prefer. This can be done by:

      • Connecting your device to your computer via USB.
      • Open your device in My Computer
      • Copy All Files (CTRL+C)
      • Paste in preferred destination (CTRL+V)

      To perform a factory reset on most devices:

      Go to Settings

      • tap Backup and Reset
      • tap Factory Data Reset
      • tap Reset Device
      • and finally tap Erase everything

      If problems persist after the reset, it’s likely to be an issue with the phone or charger itself.

Conclusion

No matter how well you take care of your device, all phones have a finite number of charge cycles and batteries will eventually need to be replaced if you want to keep using your favorite handset.

If we managed to solve your issue, you can share the article, and you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

If you’ve found another solution that we haven’t covered or you have any other questions please let us know in the comments section below.

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8 Tips on How to Protect Yourself Online

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Any time you connect to the Internet you are vulnerable to cyber attacks. Hackers can steal your credit card numbers, tax records and passwords, or even completely disable your PC. Follow these tips to help avoid problems:

  1. Create smart and strong passwords. Make it difficult for hackers to crack your password. You can create a smart password by incorporating capital letters, numbers, and special characters, and using more than six characters. An example of a strong password is: Go1dM!n3.
  2. Use email wisely. Email is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, and as a tool to conduct business. Even if you have good security software on your PC, however, your friends and family might not have the same protection. Be careful about what information you submit via email. Never send your credit-card information,  or other private information via email.
  3. Be smart when using instant messaging (IM) programs. If you use an IM program to communicate with friends and family, be careful about sending any personal information through online communications. Protect yourself by using a nickname for your IM screen name, so your name isn’t identified through IM. Never accept strangers into your IM groups. Be smart about how you use IM at work because your employer has the right to monitor and view your messages.
  4. Shop safely. If you plan to order from an online store, be sure that the Web site uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the Web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears at the bottom right of the checkout screen, or that there is a statement on the checkout screen stating that the pages are secure with a security technology vendor. Check that the security technology does exist by checking the security technology company’s web site.
  5. Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and fake web sites, masquerading as legitimate businesses, to lure unsuspecting users into revealing private account or login information. To be safe, if you receive an email from a business that includes a link to a web site, make certain that the web site you visit is legitimate. Instead of clicking through to the site from within the email, open a separate Web browser and visit the business’ web site directly to perform the necessary actions. You can also verify that an email is in fact from a legitimate business by calling the business or agency directly.
  6. Fun and carefree online gaming. Internet games are fun for the whole family. Make sure you are careful when playing online games, especially when communicating with other players. Be sure that your security software still functions when you are in gaming mode.
  7. Pay attention to your children’s online activities. Keep your home computer in a community area so that you can monitor their activity. Use child software that is age-appropriate. Limit your children’s time spent online. Install and use parental controls software that allows you to monitor your children’s activity online. This will keep your children from accessing undesirable Web sites and sharing personal information via online communications.
  8. Subscribe to McAfee computer security service. Keeping you and your family safe whenever you power on your computer, McAfee’s comprehensive security software is always active—updating and protecting wherever you go online. McAfee products offer the latest and best combination of software, providing consumers and their home computers with unparalleled, comprehensive protection from cyberspace threats like viruses, spyware, adware, spam and identity theft.
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50 Education Technology Tools Every Teacher Should Know About

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Technology and education are pretty intertwined these days and nearly every teacher has a few favorite tech tools that make doing his or her job and connecting with students a little bit easier and more fun for all involved.

Yet as with anything related to technology, new tools are hitting the market constantly and older ones rising to prominence, broadening their scope, or just adding new features that make them better matches for education, which can make it hard to keep up with the newest and most useful tools even for the most tech-savvy teachers.

Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of the tech tools, including some that are becoming increasingly popular and widely used, that should be part of any teacher’s tech tool arsenal this year, whether for their own personal use or as educational aids in the classroom.

Social Learning

These tools use the power of social media to help students learn and teachers connect.

  1. EdmodoTeachers and students can take advantage of this great tech tool, as it offers a Facebook-like environment where classes can connect online.
  2. GrockitGet your students connected with each other in study sessions that take place on this great social site.
  3. EduBlogsEduBlogs offers a safe and secure place to set up blogs for yourself or your classroom.
  4. SkypeSkype can be a great tool for keeping in touch with other educators or even attending meetings online. Even cooler, it can help teachers to connect with other classrooms, even those in other countries.
  5. WikispacesShare lessons, media, and other materials online with your students, or let them collaborate to build their own educational wiki on Wikispaces.
  6. PinterestYou can pin just about any image you find interesting on this site, but many teachers are using it as a place to collect great lesson plans, projects, and inspirational materials.
  7. SchoologyThrough this social site, teachers can manage lessons, engage students, share content, and connect with other educators.
  8. QuoraWhile Quora is used for a wide range of purposes, it can be a great tool for educators. It can be used to connect with other professionals or to engage students in discussion after class.
  9. NingNing allows anyone to create a personalized social network, which can be great for both teachers and students alike.
  10. OpenStudy:Encourage your students to work together to learn class material by using a social study site like OpenStudy.
  11. ePalsOne of the coolest benefits of the Web is being able to connect with anyone, anywhere. ePals does just that, but focuses on students, helping them to learn languages and understand cultures different from their own.

Learning

These educational tools can help you to make lessons fun, interesting, and more effective.

  1. Khan AcademyMany teachers use this excellent collection of math, science, and finance lectures and quizzes to supplement their classroom materials.
  2. MangaHighMangaHigh offers teachers a wealth of resources for game-based learning in mathematics.
  3. FunBrainIf you’re looking for a great collection of educational games, look no further than FunBrain. On it, teachers can take advantage of fun tools for math and reading.
  4. EducreationsEducreations is an amazing online tool for the iPad that lets teachers (or students) create videos that teach a given topic. Perfect for studying or getting students to show off their knowledge.
  5. AnimotoAnimoto makes it simple to create video-based lessons or presentations for the classroom and to share them with students or anyone else.
  6. SocrativeAvailable for computers, mobile devices, and tablets, this student response system engages students through games and exercises on any device they have on hand. Even better, teachers can easily assess student progress and track grades.
  7. KnewtonAdaptive learning has been a hot topic in recent months, and with Knewton it’s something that any teacher can access and use. The site personalizes online learning content for each student according to his or her needs.
  8. KerpoofOn Kerpoof, students can get creative with their learning with games, interactive activities, drawing tools, and more that are both fun and educational.
  9. StudySyncWith a digital library, weekly writing practice, online writing and peer reviews, Common Core assignments, and multimedia lessons available, this site is a fully-featured tool for teaching and learning that can be a big help in the classroom.
  10. CarrotSticksOn this site, teachers can take advantage of a wide range of math learning games, giving students practice while they have fun.

Lesson Planning and Tools

Use these tech tools to pull together great lessons and design amazing and memorable student projects.

  1. Teachers Pay TeachersHave great lessons to share? Looking for something to add to your classes? On this site you can do both, selling your own class materials and buying high-quality resources from other teachers.
  2. PlanboardMake sure your lessons are organized and that your day runs smoothly with the help of this amazing online tool designed just for teachers.
  3. TimetoastTimetoast is a pretty cool for student projects, allowing them to build sleek, interactive timelines in minutes.
  4. CapzlesThere are so many different ways that Capzles can be used in the classroom, there’s bound to be an application that fits your needs. What does it do? Capzles makes it simple to gather media like photos, videos, documents, and even blog posts into one place, making it perfect for teaching, learning, or online projects.
  5. PreziWant to build presentations that will wow your students? Make use of this online tool that makes it simple to do all kinds of cool things with your lessons, even allowing collaboration between teachers.
  6. WordleCreate stunning word clouds using Wordle, a great complement to language lessons of any kind.
  7. QR CodesQR codes (or quick response codes) are showing up with greater frequency in education. If you’d like to get in on the trend, you’ll need a tool to create and manage the codes like Delivr and one to read codes, like any of those listed on this site.
  8. QuizletQuizlet makes it easy for teachers to create study tools for students, especially flashcards that can make memorizing important information a snap.
  9. MasteryConnectHow are your students performing with regard to state and common core standards? MasterConnect makes it simple to track and analyze both, as well as other elements of student performance.
  10. Google DocsThrough Google Docs, teachers can create and share documents, presentations, or spreadsheets with students and colleagues as well as give feedback on student-created projects.
  11. YouTubeNot all schools allow YouTube, but they are missing out as the site contains a wealth of great learning materials for the classroom. There’s even a special education-focused channel just for teachers and students.
  12. TED-EdTED isn’t just a great place to find inspiration anymore, the site also contains numerous videos that are organized by subject and can help you to teach everything from how pain relievers work to Shakespearean insults.
  13. Glogster:Glogster is a social site that lets users mash up music, photos, videos, and pretty much anything else you’d like. It’s a great way to create learning materials and a handy tool for creative student projects.
  14. CreazaWant to bring your student projects into the 21st century? Creaza can make that possible, offering tools to brainstorm, create cartoons, and edit audio and video.
  15. Mentor MobOn Mentor Mob, you or your students can create a learning playlist, which is essentially a collection of high-quality materials that can be used to study a specific concept.

Useful Tools

These tools can help you to stay connected, organized, and increase the ease of building multimedia lessons and learning tools.

  1. EvernoteCapture great ideas, photos, recordings, or just about anything else on your Evernote account, access it anywhere, and keep it organized. A must-have tool for lesson planning.
  2. TwitterThere are so many ways Twitter can be used in education. Teachers can connect with other educators, take part in chats, share their ideas, or even use it in the classroom to reach out to students.
  3. Google EducationGoogle offers a number of great edtech resources for teachers, including email and collaborative apps, videos, lesson plan search, professional development, and even educational grants.
  4. DropboxEasily store, share, and access any kind of data from anywhere with the easy-to-use and free Dropbox service.
  5. DiigoDiigo lets you treat the web like paper-based reading material, making it simple to highlight, bookmark, take notes, or even add sticky notes.
  6. Apple iPadOne of the most widely used, though expensive, tech tools being used in today’s classroom is the Apple iPad. With a host of educational apps being developed for the device, it’s become a favorite of teachers and students alike across the nation.
  7. AviaryAviary is a suite of tools that make it easy to edit images, effects, swatches, music, and audio or to create and modify screen captures.
  8. JingIf you’re teaching kids about tech or just about anything else, a great screenshot program is essential. Jing is one great option that allows teachers to take screenshots as images, record up to five minutes or videos then edit and share the results.
  9. PoppletYou and your students can use Popplet to brainstorm ideas, create mindmaps, share, and collaborate.
  10. Google EarthFrom geography projects to learning about geological processes, Google Earth can be an amazing and fast way to show students anywhere in the world.
  11. DonorsChooseNeed funding for a classroom project? You can get it through this site that hooks up needy teachers with willing donors.
  12. SlideShareWith SlideShare, you can upload your presentations, documents, and videos and share them with students and colleagues. Even better, you can take advantage of materials that other have uploaded as well.
  13. LiveBindersLike a real-life three ring binder, this tech tool allows you to collect and organize resources. Much better than a binder, however, the site also comes with tools to connect and collaborate and a virtual whiteboard.
  14. AudioBooThrough this tool, you can record and share audio for your students or anyone else.
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Disaster Recovery Plan: Are You Avoiding Making A Plan?

083012Entrepreneurs and small businesses, especially ones that are fairly new, often don’t think about making a disaster recovery plan. However, it is the smallest business that most likely has the fewest resources to fall back on in case of disaster.

Why Do SMBs Not Make A Disaster Recovery Plan?
  • It isn’t on an entrepreneur’s radar – The challenge and hurdles of starting out are what drive small business owners. The excitement that comes with getting a new client or releasing a new product are what motivates them. To be honest, things like a disaster recovery plan are a little dull and aren’t part of the exciting day-to-day hustle of running a company. As a result, these issues get put on the back burner.
  • Planning tools can seem too complex – Ideas like “risk assessment” and “business impact analysis” can be intimidating. Many SMBs may just feel the whole area is overwhelming and leave it to another day.
  • It is perceived to not be affordable – Many owners may believe that putting a disaster recovery plan into place involves a lot of additional spending on consultants, backup hardware and more software. That isn’t true. With cloud technology and the use of a managed service provider, disaster recovery doesn’t need to be an intimidating or expensive proposition.
Do you see a pattern?

Most small business owners don’t take the initiative with a disaster recovery plan as they think they can do it at another time. But if you keep waiting, it may be too late. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. For more information on a disaster recovery plan, see our e-guide “Staying Alive: The Definitive Guide to Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery for Small Businesses“.

Is your small business avoiding the topic of creating a disaster recovery plan or are you ready to go in the case of an emergency? Share your thoughts below.

Have an idea for our next topic? Let us know!

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Why More SMBs are Turning to the Cloud to Reduce Costs

082911More small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) seem to be taking the initiative to learn more about the benefits of the cloud to reduce costs. Obviously, this has sparked increased interest.

If you shouted, “Cost Savings!” in a room full of SMBs, you’d undoubtedly be the center of attention. And it seems as if this is also the motivating factor as to why more SMBs are looking into cloud-based solutions to reduce expenditures.

Although it seems like an oxymoron to recommend investing in new technology to control costs, cloud-based solutions can be leveraged for a greater return on already inevitable operational expenses. By enhancing productivity and overall efficiency, the cloud could help spur business growth and profitability.

Reasons For Cloud-based Solutions
  • The Cloud to Reduce Costs – This is the big one. Every SMB wants their business to grow but that growth is accompanied by rising costs to maintain safe, reliable, and sustainable business technology.On-premise solutions are expensive.  If you’re paying someone $60K a year to manage and monitor your technology, and most of their day is spent performing routine maintenance tasks or running to the aid of the intern who complains that something is running slow, are you really getting a return on that investment? You can do better and your on-site IT support can do more for you.The cost for cloud-based solutions have been found to be anywhere from 35% to 50% lower than with on-premise solutions. This is because the cloud can completely eliminate most infrastructure costs such as servers, databases, backup, operating systems, upgrades, migration, physical space, power and cooling, and associated in-house or third party staffing costs.
  • Greater Flexibility – No doubt you’ve been privy to an office Happy Hour conversation or two about Infrastructure-as-a-Service (Iaas) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). Is that crickets we hear? Okay, well since you’re in the dark, the flexibility of the cloud makes it really attractive to SMBs. IaaS and PaaS are two increasingly popular cloud technologies because of their flexibility when it comes to big data analysis.IaaS technology is flexible as it allows an as needed rapid deployment of resources. Basically, fast expansion to accommodate growth. SMBs can pay accordingly for this on-demand usage, giving them the ability to access and analyze the kind of big data seen at larger enterprises without having to pay for necessary hardware capacity.PaaS technology gives SMBs the ability to affordably increase or decrease data storage capacity as needed.Of course, there must be a need for big data analysis that justifies the use of these technologies. Many SMBs may be just fine using Microsoft Excel for data analysis.
  • Greater Mobility – Many SMBs are turning to the cloud to provide remote employees with access to communications solutions. Through the cloud, remote workers can use smartphones, laptops, and notebooks to access documents and files for internal and external collaboration.

As you can see, it’s understandable why the cloud is being seen by SMBs as the “great equalizer” to take their business to the next level and stay competitive with even the big dogs despite budget and staffing limitations. It also helps that cloud-monitoring services have simplified the monitoring and management of SMB cloud deployments, alleviating a lot of the fear about migrating to the cloud.

Has your company taken any of the advantages of the cloud to reduce costs? If so, what features did you implement? Share your thoughts below.

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Seven features the iPhone 7 ‘borrows’ from Android

Apple clearly took some inspiration from many of the innovations that Android manufacturers have offered in the last couple of years.

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If you were watching the Apple live stream and shouting at your computer, “hey, Android already has that!” over and over, you weren’t alone.

Apple certainly took some “inspiration” from many of the hardware innovations brought about by Android phone makers. Here’s a recap of the features that Apple ballyhooed on stage, but aren’t exactly news to those of us who have been using Android phones for the past few years.

Dual rear cameras

No, you don’t have to stop us. We have heard this one before. Phones like the LG G5,Huawei P9, and the HTC One M8 (from 2014!) feature dual rear cameras, which was the major feature of the iPhone 7 Plus. It’ll bring 2X optical zoom and, according to the on-stage demo, produce some pretty impressive portraits and low-light shots.

Apple

The iPhone 7 Plus features a dual camera that should bring impressive images to Apple’s newest smartphone.

The smaller iPhone 7 will have optical image stabilization, which was previously only available on the 6S Plus from last year. It also features an f/1.8 aperture, something found in plenty of Android phones including the Moto Z Droid, Xiomia Mi4, UMi Zero, and more conventional models like the LG G4.

The Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, and Note 7 also go further with a 1.7 aperture.

Apple isn’t the first to touch down in the world of 2X optical zoom, as the Zenfone Zoomhas 3X optical zoom along with optical image stabilization (OIS). Same thing for RAW images—that’s new to iPhone 7, but has been available on lots of Android phones.

The takeaway is that in the next year we should see companies push ahead even further with the camera now that Apple has seemingly bundled together a lot of the other innovations into an attractive package. My Galaxy S7 Edge is the best phone camera I’ve ever used, so I’m excited to see how the new iPhone compares.

Farewell to the headphone jack

What sounds anathema to iPhone users is already old hat if you have a Moto Z. Lenovo ditched the traditional hole-in-the-phone with its modular smartphone line in order to make it ultra-slim and compact. Other phones that have gone without it include Chinese-madeOppo R5 and LeEcco Le Max 2.

The other upside to Lenovo’s approach is that the port you use is USB-C, which is quickly the growing standard in smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Lightning is of course ideal for those who live in an Apple world, but good luck using your Lighting headphones with non-iOS devices (including Macbooks!). Like most vestigial parts that disappear you probably won’t miss the headphone jack after long.

Water and dust resistance

Samsung’s Galaxy phones have been dunked in water for a couple of generations now. The current-generation Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, and Note 7 (when it’s not catching on fire) feature water and dust resistance to the tune of an IP68 rating. Apple’s IP67 rating means slightly less water resistance.

Florence Ion

If the iPhone wants to go for a swim, it’ll find the Galaxy S7 has already outpaced it by several laps.

That means it can survive being in up to one meter of water for up to 30 minutes. It’s great that Apple has joined in the pool party here, but it’s another area where the company is just catching up.

And if you really want to go rugged, there’s always the Galaxy S7 Active that can also take more spills and tumbles. Don’t plan on doing that with the new jet black iPhone model unless you bulk it up with a heavy-duty case.

Stereo speakers

Stereo speakers have been around on Android phones for ages. The HTC One M7 was one of the first phones I remember that truly blew me away with the audio experience.

Apple is featuring stereo speakers in the iPhone, which will be great for gaming, TV shows, movies, and those long YouTube sessions. It’s nice to see them catch up here, as the iPhone speakers are a part that had felt left behind in comparison to some of the other flagships out there.

Quad-core, big-and-little CPU cores

Apple’s Phil Schiller spent a lot of time talking about the A10 chip, which included a game demo with a spell-throwing scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. The key selling point was that the new quad-core CPU, with two high-performance and two power-efficient cores.

But keeping with the theme here, you’ll find that this came to us first with the big.LITTLE technology from ARM, used in phones as far back as 2013. Quad-core chipsets are also fairly common on Android phones, now the norm in many of this year’s flagships. Where Apple has an advantage is in controlling the software and hardware integration, but many other Android devices have certainly been no slouch.

Faster LTE

Everyone wants faster Internet speeds, right? Apple promised you’ll get that with the iPhone 7, as it jumps ahead to LTE Cat.9 from Cat.6. In numbers that matter, this means you’ll be able to get up to 450 Mbps (from 300) if you’re connected to a network that can serve this up.

Again, Apple is a couple of years behind the curve on this one as the Galaxy Note 4 was among the first to offer this level. Most high-end Android phones have support for this speed, and we’re even starting to see LTE Cat.12 (up to 600 Mbps).

Finally! 32GB of minimum storage

Frankly, this is a move Apple should have made a couple of years ago. The low-end storage option is now 32GB, up from the paltry 16GB they used to offer. And if you want as much as possible you can pack in 256GB in either the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus. Of course, storage options have long been the strengths of Android phones, as many similarly-priced phones have jumped to the 32GB minimum long ago. This year’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge offered 32GB only, but you can slap in an SD card to add much more. The Galaxy Note 7 starts at 64GB. Hell, you can get a OnePlus 3 with 64GB for only $400.

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Benefits of Using VoIP Technology

072312More and more businesses are implementing Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP technology because of its versatility, flexibility and cost effectiveness. With new developments in this technology, the scope of its applications is widening. It is becoming more than just voice communications technology. That is why businesses of all sizes are migrating at an increasing rate. Here is a short list of some of the benefits.

Versatility/Flexibility

There are many VoIP service companies that have been working feverishly to enhance the use of this technology. They are bundling up other communication applications into a single unified communication platform to increase the efficiency for businesses. This means all modes of communication such as voice, fax, video, web conferencing and emails can be utilized, using a single software application. The ability of this application to convert voice into an email or fax into an email can bring a tremendous amount of efficiency to business operations. You don’t need to sign up for a separate service for a telephone or videoconference. An incoming phone call can be received on a mobile phone and regular phone simultaneously. That means there are fewer missed important phone calls, and less wasted time on ‘phone-tag.’ An employee can receive an important fax on a laptop while sitting in an Internet café or within range of a Wi-Fi hot spot, and can redirect it to an associate within minutes with a few keystrokes. The list of benefits goes on.

VoIP Technology Reduces Cost

There are many ways VoIP can lower communications cost thus significantly enhancing the revenue. Here are some of the financial benefits of implementing VoIP.

  1. Cost per phone call: Making long distance or international phone calls using landlines or mobile phones can be very expensive. Charges incurred at per-minute rate can add up quickly. When you conduct business from multiple locations VoIP applications allow you to make calls from PC to PC that are free if they are within the same network. That could be significant to eliminate long distance charges if two locations are hundreds of miles apart. You can also pay a low monthly flat fee and make an unlimited number of calls, including international calls. This means much less usage of your mobile phone-minutes.
  2. Operational costs: You don’t need separate networks for data and voice communications. Everything can be done using the data network. Specially designed phones with VoIP technology can be managed right from your desktops. There are a few things at work here. First of all, you have the potential to be eliminating traditional “phone” lines, usually a significant monthly fixed cost, in addition to the per minute usage costs. Paying per minute remains a major issue if you do any international calling, or have offices located in other countries, where per minute rates may not have dropped like those in the US. Another operational cost that goes away are the labor costs involved in moving employees from office to office. Reconfiguring numbers and phones can still require physical changes. Even if they are only software changes, there is a cost to pay the technician who handles these reconfigurations.
  3. Infrastructure cost: With this technology your infrastructure cost is greatly reduced. For example, you have to pay more for the telephone extensions using traditional PBX and key systems. Using VoIP allows you to run those extensions right from your computers. Dual-mode phones can be used with this technology after making minor configuration changes. That allows the user to switch the use of a dual phone from cellular to a local Wi-Fi environment, reducing the need to carry a regular phone and a cell phone. That means fewer devices to manage.
Summary

After our discussion, the significance of implementation of VoIP can’t be overstated. Every business strives for better revenue. This new technology offers many ways to cut costs and bring efficiency by unifying all modes of communication onto a single platform. Efficiency and lower costs are always synonymous with greater revenue. Get in touch with a Managed Service Provider and ask them how they can bring you on board with this great technology called VoIP.

Do you use VoIP technology in your small business? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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Computer Tips That Can Save You A Trip To IT

010912Are you ever in the need of quick computer tips to get your workstation up and running again?

If your answer is “No, I have an IT department for that.” then imagine this scenario:

It is Friday night and you are in the office working on a project that will be presented to the CEO on Monday. The office is a ghost town; the cleaning staff has come and gone and the IT department left for a ski trip at 3 o’clock.

As you are finishing the project your computer slows down dramatically and message pops up on your screen with some undecipherable message about system memory. You have no idea what the problem is or how to fix it. Your productivity is suffering and there is no telling when IT will call you back. Now seems like a perfect time to panic.

Scenarios similar to the one I outlined above play out countless times a year for nearly every company across Nigeria. Your IT department may seem like a group of wizards that just have to waive their hands for your computer to start working again but they are just following a few basic computer tips that work nearly every time.

Four quick computer tips that can save you a trip to IT.

1.) Reboot!
If your computer has been powered on for the last three months and suddenly stops working normally it may be time to reboot.

The simple act of powering off your computer and powering it on again closes out any and all programs that have stopped functioning and are now just consuming system resources. A quick reboot at the first sign of trouble can save you hours of frustration and is our go to computer tip for whatever ails your system.

2.) Run your updates
Some people see software updates as a huge pain for no noticeable gain in productivity. Others are terrified that an update may break their computer.

If you habitually skip updates then listen up!

Software updates can enhance productivity and even fix things that you may have not known were broken. You are not doing yourself any favors by skipping updates.

Bonus Tip: reboot the computer once the software updates complete.

3.) Manage your junk
Your computer uses the free space on your hard drive for temporary storage.

A healthy computer should have about 15% free space at all times. Removing mp3s, photographs, and movies is a great way to increase the amount of free space available to your computer.

If you can handle not having ready access to every Beetles album ever recorded, then move what you are not using to an external storage device or the trash.

4.) Empty the trash
Just because you deleted that HR slideshow that accompanied their three hour presentation on a health plan that you will never use does not mean that the file has been removed from your computer’s hard drive.

Make sure that you occasionally empty your computer’s trash especially after deleting large files.

If you run into a problem which the above four computer tips do not resolve then it may be time to call in the wizards in IT.

Which of the above computer tips do you use when fixing your machine on the fly? Or do you have other computer tips you can share? Let us know in the comments below.

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WANT TO LEARN TO CODE? THESE 5 APPS MAKE IT EASY

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Some say coding is the new literacy, which makes it pretty important for kids to start learning young — and for adults to learn the basics of coding if they want to be a part of our increasingly digital world.

Luckily, there are plenty of great apps out there to help you and your kids learn how to code, whether it be to build an app or to learn how to command a robot. These apps are designed to make the task of learning to code easier, and there’s something out there for students of all ages and skill levels. Here are some of the best learn-to-code apps around.

Related: What happens when anyone can code? We’re about to find out

This one isn’t an app — it’s a series of apps, each one designed for a specific coding language. The apps are highly rated in the Google Play and App Store, namely because they’re dynamic, interactive, and offer a great way to learn the basics of coding. Perhaps the only problem with the apps is that you’ll have to have an objective in mind for what you want to learn. If you want to learn how to build web pages, for example, you’ll probably want to start with HTML and CSS apps. If you want to build an Android app, then you’ll want to learn Java.
The app follows a kind of lesson plan, complete with quizzes and checkpoints. You’ll get a score after completing each section, which is designed to motivate you to redo sections in which you didn’t get a perfect score. There’s even an online leaderboard where users from around the globe post their scores, thus adding a bit of competition to the mix. The best thing about SoloLearn? The apps are all completely free!

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If you’re really looking to kick things up a notch, you might want to take a nanodegree from Udacity. Udacity actually offers its nanodegrees in hundreds of different topics, so you won’t have to stick exclusively to coding if you don’t want to. Udacity claims its services are better than the rest because it develops the courses in partnership with corporations like Google. While some of the courses on Udacity are free, you’re really going to have to pay to get the most out of the service. The premium courses offer feedback from professionals and allow you to make connections with your fellow students, creating a sense of community.
Speaking of money, the service certainly isn’t cheap. To take the nanodegree, you’ll be paying $200 per month. However, while the nanodegrees start at a certain time, you can finish them as quickly or as slowly as you want. Devote enough time to it, and you may only have to pay for a few months. The cost could be worth it if you’re using this as a way to find a job in programming, as some of the nanodegrees offer the prospect of jobs at companies like AT&T upon completion.
So, what do you get for free? You can still peruse the content on the service, though you won’t get verified certification, professional feedback, or coaching.
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While you need to be pretty serious about learning to use Udacity, the same can’t be said of Tynker. The service does away with the courses in favor of a game, one aimed at helping kids learn how to code. The interface is based on a simple drag-and-drop concept, and if the player doesn’t complete a level, instructions on how they can improve will appear and they’ll be given the chance to replay the round. The interface makes the concept of programming a lot easier to understand, too, and while it won’t allow your kids to build complete apps, it does introduce the basics of coding and give them a foundation to build on.
The app isn’t for the super young, however. Kids need to be able to read, and unless they use a parent’s device, they’ll need to own a smartphone or tablet.
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Encode may look basic, but it provides an in-depth look at coding. One of the great things about Encode is that it starts from the beginning and offers different concepts in bite-sized chunks, so even if you only have a few minutes to spare, you can go over a section within the app. Only after going over basic concepts does it introduce more advanced concepts, such as coding using languages like JavaScript. The lessons are also interactive and the app offers feedback after each lesson, ensuring you’ll have a chance to rehash lessons if you don’t initially grasp the concepts. Unfortunately for iOS users, Encode is only available for Android.
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Ah, the classic Khan Academy. Khan Academy has become an extremely popular way to learn different things on your phone or tablet, however, unlike services like Udacity, Khan Academy is free. It also offers lessons on far more than just coding, so if you’re looking for an app to learn all sorts of interesting things, look no further.
Perhaps the only downside to this is that courses are user-created, so they might not adhere to the same level of quality as other apps. Still, the app has courses for most major coding languages, including an “Intro to HTML/CSS: Making webpages” course and an “Intro to JS: Drawing and Animation” course. In other words, if you have a specific goal in mind, like learning how to build web pages, Khan Academy could prove incredibly helpful.
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