Free Office Apps of the Day

These days, the smartphones in our hands are actually extremely powerful mini computers. Although it may take some time getting accustomed to the touchscreen keyboard, once you master that then you really have the world at your fingertips. Most smartphones already come with a set of useful office based applications such as Notepad, Reminders, Calculator, and similar. However there are loads more available if you just seek them out, and many of them are free. Here’s a few of our current favorite Free Office Apps.

  • ·         Dropbox allows you  to view and sync all your data stored up in the cloud through the service of the same name which you’re accustomed to viewing on your computer. Dropbox allows at least 5Gb of free storage in the cloud, and you upgrade to larger amounts for a small fee.
  • ·         Google Drive allows for access to all the Google suite of office type programs. It used to be called Google Documents but recently went through a makeover. It’s free and extremely useful.
  • ·         Pages is an excellent word processor app. Its made by Apple and is their version of Microsoft Word, optimized for the iPhone and iPad. It allows you to save documents as a Pages file, or .doc, or .PDF. This one costs $1.99 but is well worth the 2 bucks.
  • ·         PlainText and DraftPad are simple, user-friendly word processing app’s with none of the unnecessary bells and whistles. It’s just a blank white page and text – sometimes that’s all you need. They’re free as well.
  • ·         LogMeIn is a free app that compliments the web-based service typically used on computers to remotely log into another computer utilzing the same program. For example, this allows you to log onto your computer at the office from your computer at home. Now you get that same access from your smartphone!

As you can see, you now can have business computing services on the go from the machine in your pocket.  Go nuts!

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Recycle Your Electronic Waste (E-Waste)

With the advent of numerous mobile devices and the rapid development of technology, a lot of waste is produced. Be it from defunct devices, or broken ones, the peoples’ constant need for new stuff creates a lot of spare parts and, namely, junk. Environmental regulations make it illegal to dispose of electronic waste in the trash. Furthermore, one should refrain from this solely because it is so destructive to the environment. Silicon boards and other computer “chips” are manufactured with a lot of heavy metals, including valuable gold and platinum. In addition, there are numerous other materials that are rare, and also toxic. Besides PCB (power control boards) and other chips, batteries and used LCD monitors and panels make up a large portion of e-waste. Batteries, both lithium-ion and nickel metal hydride, contain toxic chemicals. LCD panels often contain mercury, as well as other products we don’t want in our environment. This is why there is an electronic waste recycling fee when you exchange your TV or computer LCD panel, or get one repaired with a new panel. The cost incurred helps manage these waste products. Because of these risks to the environment and the law, one must seek out an Electron Waste Recycling Center, or other verified location where this e-waste will be processed properly and recycled.

 

The first step in e-waste recycling is collection of the junk components. A company will take these parts in, and have another party arrive with a truck to collect the materials. These e-waste recycling specialists transport the materials to their recycling centers, where the real fun begins. Computers and other PCB based components are chipped up and the heavy metals are then “floated” in smelting chambers to burn off debris and other impurities. Once collected, these metals are packaged and then resold to manufacturers, often overseas, to start life again in other products. The silicon boards are recycled as well. All other pieces are salvaged and resold, or dismantled accordingly. This is important, not only because it supports a thriving industry and creates jobs, but also protects the environment and helps make sure the industry does not run out of raw materials. prices are kept lower and resources are not wasted into oblivion, or the bottom of the ocean/ landfill. If you have any batteries or excess/ junk electronic components, please do not simply throw them away. Make sure to utilize your local e-waste drop off center or other recycling center, and properly reuse these materials. Oftentimes, they may even pay you for your materials! A win-win on all fronts.

Motherboard e-waste in landfill

Recycle e-waste so it doesn’t end up in landfills

 

Computers and computer services

Since their initial concept, development, and implementation, computers and computer services have come a long way in only 70 years.  Aside from the technology advancing in simply its own accord, these developments have shaped the world into what it is today and has ushered in the “Information Age.” The computer went from research equipment in a massive warehouse to a device that can be held in one hand. Communications and infrastructure improved along with the hardware, putting the world in the position it is in today: one of instant data access, greater education, an endlessly developing encyclopedia on the internet, and new challenges in regards to privacy and the use of time in a workplace. According to Moore’s law, the power of computing machinery increases at an exponential rate. And at this (exponential) rate of development, the technology available in the near future will be astonishing.

Let’s start at the inception of the technology age and development of the computer. Initially, scientists and engineers produced what were in effect digital calculators. These machines used electricity to solve math problems. They also took up an entire warehouse of space! With rapid growth, including smaller and more efficient hardware, the computer would find its way into the more or less daily operation of certain tasks. In 1971, Intel produced and marketed what would be known as the first “microprocessor.” This shrunk the floor plan of a computer machine even further. In addition, IBM developed the first floppy disk, easing the task of removing and transferring information. In 1975, Altair released the Model 8800 Computer Kit. This allowed consumers to get a hold of these devices and start experimenting. In 1977, the Commodore PET and Apple II Computers were released. The time of consumer computers had come. 1980 brought us the “hard drive”, from Seagate. This allowed for 5x more storage than a floppy disk and smaller form factor still. In 1981, the Osbourne 1 Mobile Computer was released. This was the beginning of the “laptop” computer. In 1982, the Commodore 64 was released. As a fully functioning unit out of the box and a reasonable price, the Commodore 64 became the greatest selling single computer model in history. More people than ever are becoming accustomed to digital technologies. In 1983, Apple released the Lisa. This was the first computer with a graphical user interface, and a mouse. From here things have moved very quickly. The first mobile phones were being released, and computers now only needed to be lighter, faster and cheaper to keep a hold of the market. The foundation for how to work with personal computers had been laid. This would soon merge with other digital devices to create the vast network of people and electronics we have today. Within a roughly 70 year window, no technology aside from medicine has had a deeper impact on people and society. This shift in operation is what will propel the new information age; and surely with jaw dropping results. Stay tuned.fox_LA_1st

COMPUTER DINING: Liquid spills on your computer

Knut has the worst luck, and he just doesn’t understand it. He has a liquid spill to deal with on his notebook and now he is hating life. After all, you walk into almost any coffee shop anywhere and every single table is occupied by someone typing away on a laptop while they munch their scones and drink their coffee. You’d think it would happen to more people.

He spilled his coffee all over his laptop. It’s a disaster, of course.

And it is so easy to prevent. Just a few easy steps.

The easiest solution, of course, would be to never have anything consumable close to the computer ever. No water or coffee on the desk, no munching on sandwiches or cookies while reading websites or documents. But human nature being what it is, that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

Why does it matter, you ask? Well, let’s start with the keyboard. Crumbs can get in between the keys and affect the ability to depress them. If you can push the key down so it makes a connection with the circuitry, your typing will end up garbled and messed up. When it comes to laptops, the problems can increase, because the keyboard is usually place in very close proximity to the motherboard.

The problem is that when we are working at a desk or table, it is so convenient to have that coffee cup nearby. In fact, our bad habits with food and computers usually start with coffee and water.  A suggestion?  Buy a nice laptop table from a unique tech gadget store like Tech Studio

The important thing to understand is just how many problems dining at the computer can create. I’ve already mentioned the sticky keys on the keyboard (never mind the germs such crumb remnants can encourage). But underneath that is the circuitry that makes the keyboard communication possible. This circuitry can be damaged by fluids – liquids and electricity do not have a happy relationship. You can burn out the keyboard with a serious enough spill.

Beyond that, there is the possibility of short-circuiting the machine itself. This danger is greatest with laptops, of course, because everything is right there. People who use desktop computers tend to get more casual about it, because the machine might be under the desk, or off to one side, seemingly out of range of any food or beverage. But what about your discs and flash drives. You don’t want to go inserting damp objects into the recesses of your computer.

If you are going to eat and drink around your computer then, you need to take some practical steps.

Make sure all beverage containers are kept a good distance from the keyboard and computer. If they can be in bottles with secured tops, so that there’s no chance of them spilling anything when you are drinking, that would be better. But be certain to place them well away from your elbows, hands and anything else that might be moving about a lot. Don’t put your beverage in a direct line between your keyboard and the telephone, for instance.

Don’t eat holding the food immediately over the keyboard. Tempting though it might be, this can only create hidden problems for you later, as dust blends with crumbs, clogging up the keyboard. Instead, have a place set to one side where you set the food, and always turn toward that when you are eating. Push the keyboard out of the way, if necessary. And keep an eye out on accidental crumb-fall near the ports and disc trays of your computer.
Remember also, if your keyboard becomes haphazardly responsive, it may only require some cleaning rather than replacement. Mini-vacuums or cans of compressed air can be used to clean out debris accumulation. Even simply turning the keyboard upside down and tapping it lightly can dislodge particles that are obstructing use.

If your keyboard or laptop needs repairs because of such spills, contact PC Fixer. We can address your concerns. We can even recommend the best accessories for keeping your valuable computer clean of debris.

You don’t want to be like poor Knut, who has ruined more than one keyboard with his bad habits. Nobody wants to become known as a keyboard or laptop killer. Wanted posters might not be put up for the sloppy computer diner, but it isn’t a desirable reputation to build. Especially if you share a computer with someone else, either in the office or at home.

In the future, make sure all your beverage containers have stable bottoms, and never set them down on top of anything other than your desk or table surface. Place them well away from keyboards and laptops, by more than a foot if possible. Always have any food in a container or dish – don’t make little piles of candy or nuts on a piece of paper near at hand.

The smartest computer user would never eat or drink in proximity to the machine. That’s just the wisest choice of all. But if you really have a compulsion to eat while using the computer, think ahead of the dangers. And keep some napkins or paper towels at hand. (And let me know that you have this habit, because I don’t want to use your keyboard, thanks.)

Brit Who Hacked US Gov’t Fights His Extradition

December 15 2009, a picture was taken of Janis Sharp, Gary McKinnon’s mother, along with the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg outside the Home Office in Westminster. The two were there to protest against the extradition of McKinnon  to the US on charges of computer fraud. Eight years earlier, McKinnon had hacked into Pentagon and Nasa networks repeatedly using the name “Solo.”

McKinnon sufferes from Asperger’s Syndrome and was living with his girlfriend in 2001 in a flat in north London. He was suffering through a bout of depression being without a regular job, and he spent most of his time alone in a room on his computer. Upn his arrest in 2002, it came to light that he had hacked into 97 US government computers between 2001 and 2002. According to US officials, his actions caused networks to shut down, damaged computers and incurred costs of $800,000. McKinnon said he had been looking for evidence of UFOs. McKinnon shared how surprised he was during the hack at how easy it was to enter the US networks. There were no firewalls to break through,  and many government staff did not even have passwords for him to crack. He left notes as he went, pointing out security deficiencies. His mother admits that what McKinnon did was wrong, but denies that he caused damage.

Six months after his arrest, McKinnon was indicted by the US government on eight counts of computer fraud. He remained out of prison until June 2005, when he was finally subjected to bail conditions, which consisted of him reporting to a police station every day and being forbidden from using a computer. Ever since the US began extradition proceedings later that year, McKinnon and his supporters have been fighting them.

McKinnon’s case now rests with Theresa May. May is only considering the medical evidence in her decision – the only grounds on which his extradition can be overturned. Courtesy of www.newstatesman.com

Iranian Military Group Hacks US Espionage Sites

Fars News Agency, a semi-official Iranian news network reported Sunday that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps recently breached the security and hacked into 29 websites, all of which are affiliated with US espionage networks. They stated, “The hacked websites acted against Iran’s national security under the cover of human rights activities.” It did not disclose any details of the attacks. The 29 websites involved were identified in a statement released on a website operated by the Revolutionary Guards.

The Internet has been used by Iranian opposition groups before, specifically by those who contested the results of last year’s elections there in order to organize demonstrations and share information about protests and arrests. The Revolutionary Guards are a military group founded after Iran’s 1979 revolution. The group includes the conventional army, navy, air force, and intelligence units, as well as the Basij paramilitary force and various business units.

hra-iran.org displayed a short statement on its main page: “This website is temporarily unavailable, please try again later,” but some of the hacked domain names listed by Fars pointed to this single website. Other domain names led to sites that were also unavailable.

It is not clear if HRAI has ties to US intelligence organisations or whether the Fars report labeled them as such due to their apparent sympathy for opposition protesters. The Fars also declined to tie any of the websites to a specific US government entity.Courtesy of computerworlduk.com

‘Skinput’ Interface Debuts

Skinput is a system from Carnegie Mellon’s Chris Harrison that monitors acoustic signals on your arm to translate gestures and taps into input commands. Just by touching different points on your arm, hand, or fingers you can tell your portable device to change volume, answer a call, or turn itself off. Even better, Harrison can couple Skinput with a pico projector so that you can see a graphic interface on your arm and use the acoustic signals to control it.

Courtesy of slashdot.com

Newborn Blood Samples Held Without Authority

The Texas Department of State Health Services routinely collected blood samples from newborns to screen for a variety of health conditions, before throwing the samples out. But beginning in 2002, the DSHS contracted Texas A&M University to store blood samples for potential use in medical research. These accumulated at rate of 800,000 per year. The DSHS did not obtain permission from parents, who sued the DSHS, which settled in November 2009. Now the Tribune reveals that wasn’t the end of the matter. As it turns out, between 2003 and 2007, the DSHS also gave 800 anonymized blood samples to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory to help create a national mitochondrial DNA database. This came to light after repeated open records requests filed by the Tribune turned up documents detailing the mtDNA program. Apparently, these samples were part of a larger program to build a national, perhaps international, DNA database that could be used to track down missing persons and solve cold cases.

Courtesy of slashdot.com

Schools Ordered to Stop Spying on Students

A federal judge on Monday ordered the Pennsylvania school district accused of spying on its students to stop activating the cameras in school-issued MacBook laptops. According to the original complaint, Blake Robbins was accused by a Harriton High School assistant principal of ‘improper behavior in his home’ and shown a  photograph taken by his laptop as evidence. In an appearance on network television last Saturday, Robbins said he was accused by the assistant principal of selling drugs and taking pills — but he claimed the pictures taken by his computer’s camera showed him eating candy. Also on Monday, the company selling the software used by the school district to allegedly spy on its students blasted what it called laptop theft-recovery  ‘vigilantism.

Courtesy of slashdot.com

Wireless Carriers Unite on Software Development

The world’s largest mobile phone carriers say they’re joining forces to make it easier for software developers to write apps that will run on as many phones as possible.

The “Wholesale Applications Community” announced Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is an attempt to retake the initiative from phone makers like Apple and Nokia, which have applications stores of their own.

Google is also building a significant store for its Android software.

U.S. carriers Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA are part of the group, which includes twenty other major international carriers.

Courtesy of yahoo.com