Techerator is an excellent source of tips, guides, and reviews about software, web apps, technology, mobile phones, and computers.
Author: Kevin Ivanca
Kevin Ivanca is a 20-something who presently works and lives in the greater Minneapolis area. Although Kevin spends most of his time trying to keep up with the newest and greatest technological fads, he does find spare time to play guitar, draw comics, and socialize.
In the digital workplace, it is common for the worker to be given a personal computing machine for performing productive work. As a matter of fact, it is almost guaranteed that if one works in the corporate environment, they will be staring at a company owned monitor being operated by a company owned mouse and keyboard.
Now, I know what you are thinking: all this talk of corporate ownership may put your computing individuality on the rocks. But do not fret! For even a change in desktop wallpaper can tell the working world around you that this machine is all you, and no one else.
Fortunately, the internet has you covered. The website is called Simple Desktops, and it is a community driven site created and monitored by Tom Watson for the sole purpose of giving people the option of downloading simplistic, yet thoughtful images for personal use on their computer desktops. As one starts to browse the site, it becomes clear that excessive flare is not needed here. Simple colors, simple shapes, and simple themes do just as good to craft the right desktop image. Here are a few Simple Desktop examples to get the point across:
Not only are these desktop wallpapers beautiful, but they also are easy on the eyes and appropriate for any environment that the computer will sit in (personal or corporate). And if you feel that you are up to the task of creating one of these wallpaper wonders yourself, there is a Simple Desktop submission page to give your image a chance to go public. Otherwise, just stop on by from time to time and browse what other people have crafted for your consideration.
Sometimes the best work is done with a simple design based on careful planning. Why shouldn’t your desktop wallpaper reflect that as well?
The word “community” is a very strong word in this new, digitized world. From Wikipedia to YouTube, the beneficial effects of a community-driven environment are not only obvious, but essential to the betterment of the internet. A sense of community brings out awareness, efficiency, and self sustainability wherever it is applied. But you don’t have to tell these things to Google; they already have the community hard at work for them.
This is called Google Map Maker. Google Map Maker is a tool that allows the realm of Google Maps to evolve and adapt via the help of us, the community. Essentially, this is how it works: If you, a Google user, are surfing Google Maps and find an issue in the location of your favorite restaurant or bar or whatever, you can now add or edit a point to make Google Maps more accurate.
As one can see, most points of interest in Google Maps can be modified or created right inside your very own browser. Furthermore, one can add things like whole polygons (for mapping out large points of interest) and lines (for bike trails and such) for the betterment of the community as they search the world map. Once your editing is finished, the revisions you made are then sent to others for a pending review. Simple and efficient.
To advertise this new world of map revitalizing, Google has released this Map Making Pulse webpage (shown above), which jumps across the world showing you in real-time pending updates that local people are submitting to improve the map. If you are interested in finding more about the details of map making, you can check out the official Google Blog entry on this new feature.
Google Map Maker is the future of community driven cartography. Christopher Columbus, eat your heart out.
Being in a fast paced society, keeping things simple and efficient is key. So it is not surprising that advances in technology and research have quite lovingly followed this same trend for the betterment of society. If society requests a way to constantly stay connected into the world, developers improve smart phones and the applications that run on them. It’s the same story for countless other inventions, developments, and breakthroughs: all have the end goal of making life simpler and easier.
Consequently, these same principles can be applied on a smaller scale. Take a simple button, for the sake of argument. Buttons appear to be a simpler way to do everything. They automate things, program things, request things, and just plain FEEL easier. So what does this tell us as society? That some things (like for example our favorite internet websites and email accounts) need to be simpler by putting them into large, obvious, button form. Well, look no further.
This is called Internet Buttons, and it makes bookmarking things simpler for the standard web user. Okay, so it appears to be more tailored for the technologically inept and inexperienced, but rest assured this site is designed for the betterment of you and society as a whole.
This website allows for the creation of website linked buttons so that you or your un-technological family members can easily access favorite websites and email. The site works as follows: first, select a button to create and insert the website that needs to be linked, the title, and finally the color. Then, send it off to the main button page to be organized and placed.
Do this a bunch more times until you feel that you or your recipient has enough website linked buttons to maintain a connection to the outside world.
Alternatively, if you don’t know which buttons and or websites you think you need, then take a simple quiz (located under the “save” button) and Internet Buttons will recommend buttons and websites for you to add to your main layout.
Once you are done creating a nice button layout on your main page, hit the “save” link on the right side and proceed with first creating a personal password and then adding a photo and message for the main layout. Then create a password to allow your potential recipient to access the your button main page. Finally, create a personal web address to finish off the editing.
There you have it: a simple webpage with all the website buttons you’ll ever need. If you are sharing your main page, give the full website link to your beneficiary, have them set that as their homepage, and wait for them to convey their gratitude.
Internet Buttons, the internet, and society: Simplicity at its best.
Ah yes, April Fools Day. A cheerful (or nerve-wracking) time of false pretenses, tomfoolery, and a few good gags at the expense of others. And why not? This day is all about giving the laughs out and taking them in; a constant ebb and flow of pranking and being pranked.
The April Fools veteran knows that pranks are not as easy as they look. Pranks need to be planned efficiently and appropriately for April Fools Day to be considered a great success. So to help that process start off on the right foot, here are a few harmless computer related pranks to try out on your peers. Enjoy!
The Blue Screen PowerPoint Prank
Scotch Tape and the Optical Mouse
A New Keyboard Layout
Note: Windows 7 Users: Changing the keyboard layout is under Start -> Control Panel -> Region and Language -> Keyboards and Languages -> Change Keyboard.
Images on Computer Start-Up
Obviously this list is far from complete (getting the right camera shot, printscreening all the computer related steps, and setting up a photo series is not a trivial thing to do, mind you), but it is a list of pranks nonetheless. Before you run off with these, though, I just have one final reminder…
…revenge is an irritated friend with a large, orange bat.
[Many thanks to Brian Lemke and Kara Laframboise for their photogenic talents and abilities]
Staying organized can be tough. Between paper notes, calendars, and technology, it can get pretty complicated to keep daily tasks in the forefront of one’s priorities. Heck, sometimes a person even needs to organize their organization methods just to keep their wits in place.
Now how can Techerator aid you in this prioritizing predicament? First off, I recommend getting a SimpleNote account, a free cloud-based space where you can sync and update any note created on a device. From Windows to Mac to Android to iPhone/iPad/iPod, any note changed or created on these devices becomes automatically updated and stored.
NoteTask, available in the Apple App Store, is an interesting meld. Not only does it allow your SimpleNote notes be downloaded, uploaded, and updated, but it has a special feature that allows notes to be changed into task-like to do lists.
As you can see, every time a hyphen is used in a note, NoteTask automatically makes a nice box to check off. If a colon is used, an entirely different section is created in the note for more tasks to be added in. Pretty cool, eh? Futhermore, stickers can be used to tag and sort notes in the main application screen and an underscore before the first words can be used to hide notes.
NoteTask works on all Apple devices running iOS 4.0 or greater, and a free, lite version of the application is available for download. Otherwise, for $2.99, all these things and more can be yours.
Get those prioritizing shoes on, Apple users. NoteTask is here to help.
Let’s say that, hypothetically, someone read a Techerator article on the new features of Ubuntu 10.1 and decided that they wanted to try it out. After messing around with the Live CD, they opted to do the Ubuntu install inside Windows (Wubi) so that they could still play around with both operating systems without messing up their hard drive.
Now let us assume, hypothetically, that this person’s Windows OS decided to stop working altogether (not because of Wubi, but just because of the laws of computer nature), and now they want to throw caution into the wind and partition the heck out of their hard drive to run both Windows and Ubuntu at the same time.
What’s the best method? Programs like Partition Magic and EASEUS Partition Master do the job just fine and dandy, but is there an easier way? All hypothetical notions aside, let’s explore a few quick alternatives to hard drive partitioning for dual booting Windows and Ubuntu.
Important Note: Modifying your operating system partitions is inherently dangerous and can result in data loss if something goes wrong. Before following any steps in this guide, make sure you feel comfortable with the procedures detailed below, and above all – make a backup!
Modifying A Windows Volume for Free Space
If you’re using Windows 7 or Windows Vista (sorry XP users), Windows has an option for you under Disk Management that allows for the disk space of the hard drives to be shrunk. To do this, go to Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Computer Management -> Disk Management. Then just right click on the partition in question and select “Shrink Volume…” to free up disk space.
Windows will let you know how much space can be trimmed from the partition (so that no data is chopped during the shrink process). After shrinking the Windows volume, one can then boot up the Ubuntu Live CD and format the free space for an Ubuntu install.
The GParted Method
If your situation is exactly like the hypothetical one mentioned in the beginning of this article, it would be in your best interest to look into a program called GParted that is located on the Ubuntu Live CD. Once the CD is running on your machine (using the Trial Version option), look for Gparted under System -> Administration.
This is what the program looks like when loaded up. As one can see, this hard drive has a few partitions on it already, with the main one being Windows (sda5). GParted allows the user to create, delete, and re-format any partition on their hard drive with just a few simple clicks, at their own risk of course.
Dual Booting with GParted
Here’s how our hypothetical person would go about fixing his computer for a dual boot situation. First things first: clearing the 80 GB abomination containing the corrupt and villainous Windows partition.
Next, we take that cleared 80 GB and split it into two parts, one for Ubuntu and one for Windows, noting that we can make them any size we want out of the free space.
Note that one of the partitions is in NTFS format (for Windows), and the other is in ext4 format (for Ubuntu). After allowing GParted to finish its splitting task, the hard drive in question looks parted this:
And there you have it: two partitions fully spaced and formatted for a dual boot situation. As always with extensive computer tweaking, be mindful of what you are doing and be sure to be fully understand the risks involved.
This method of creating two different partitions for dual booting is just one way to do it. In actuality, there are numerous ways to format the drive to allow for dual booting with Ubuntu. This website does a great job of giving all the options for a partitioned Ubuntu hard drive. A nice alternative from this site is to try creating small partitions for the base operating system data, and then creating a “Swap” partition to share all your personal data and media between Windows and Ubuntu. Ultimately, whichever method you choose, be mindful of the risks involved with partitioning and formatting and be sure to back up your data.
Final Note: OS Installation
Now that the hard drive is in a condition to allow installing, let me give one more tip for a clean dual boot situation. The main bootloader for Ubuntu 10.1 is called Grub2, and presents itself every time you boot up your computer. If you want to continue having Grub2 manage your operating systems in a dual boot scenario install Windows first on the machine, then Ubuntu. Windows also has a bootloader, and it does not like to show you that there is another OS on the computer. It is a jealous type.
If you make the mistake of installing Ubuntu first then Windows, there are some sites you can go to (here and most importantly here) to see how you can restore the Grub2 using the Ubuntu Live CD and a terminal.
So from one hypothetical computer user to another, join the next generation of users. Become a dual booter today.
If you were born anytime after 1975, then you probably are familiar with console gaming. And as a kid growing up in the decades following, it seemed that each new year gave us bigger and better gaming options: NES became SNES, GameBoy turned into GameBoy Color and then GameBoy Advance, cartridges flattened into CDs, and Sega… well, Sega just kept adding Roman numerals to their newest systems (see: Master System I,II,III and Genesis I,II,III).
Pivotal games like Duck Hunt, Contra, Zelda, Mega Man, Mario Brothers, Pokémon, Paperboy, and Sonic captivated our minds and challenged our thumbs to new worlds and bigger boss battles. Those truly were the days.
But wait, why do these memories have to be mentioned in the past tense? Why can’t we relive these fond consoles (on a portable device) and their respective games that we cared to play? Well, we can, thanks to console emulators and video game ROMs (for Android-based phones).
Okay, so as you may have noticed, those last two sentences became a bit conditional in meaning. This is because Techerator already has a great article on vintage emulators and their operation, which I recommend reading. With that in mind, it is the intention of this article to then compliment the other by showing the world that the classic games we know and love have branched off to another platform: the Android OS.
The Android Emulator Low-Down
Just type the word “emulator” into the search bar in the Android Market and it is easy to notice that there are quite a few options to choose from. But before I delve any further into this realm, it is pertinent to talk about the meat of emulation: the ROM file.
On to Android emulator basics: No matter what emulator you choose, a few things come standard for all. Most allow multiple save states for every game you load and run, and they are normally stored right on your SD card. Another standard feature is the option to use a virtual keypad or a physical one, with the latter allowing the user to map out buttons to their desire. Sound is also an option, but the quality appears to be a hit or miss depending on the ROM used.
When it comes to battery life, extended use (close to an hour or more) of an Android emulator is comparable to using your GPS module. So be mindful that running one or both may reduce your phone’s lifespan by quite a bit. Otherwise, short periods of emulator game play do not seem to have too much of an effect on the phone’s battery life.
Now that the air has been cleared on these issues, let’s examine a few Android emulators.
Emulators For Your Consideration
There are several Android applications that emulate the widely popular GameBoy series. Yes, I said series. GameBoy, GameBoy Color, GameBoy Advance; all three are available for emulation on your very own Android phone. I recommend looking into Tiger GBC for all GameBoy and GameBoy Color ROMs, and GameBoid for all GameBoy Advance titles.
And no, it is not shameful to have all of the Pokémon games loaded on your GameBoy emulators… but I would recommend not trying to use that information to impress people.
NES and SNES
Ah, Nintendo Entertainment System. A solar system of its own, filled with many classic games and the consoles that ran them. A few notable emulators to investigate include NESoid and Tiger FC/NES for the classic Nintendo Entertainment System and SNESoid and Tiger SNES for the Super NES.
Regardless of which ones you choose, you’ll be saving a princess or two in no time at all. But I warn you, she may be in another castle.
Can anyone mention the Sega Genesis without engaging in a conversation about Sonic the Hedgehog? I dare say not. But don’t just assume that a spiny blue mammal with expedited motives is the only option for Genesis gaming. Games like Earthworm Jim and Road Rash are great options as well. GENSoid in the Android Market is a good place to start your ring collecting.
After perusing the Market for a while, it becomes apparent that two major contenders have come out on top as respected Android emulator developers. In one corner we have Tiger King, a developer who supplies a range of major emulator titles and offers them for free, but has them subsidized by ads to pay for development and improvement. In the other corner, we have Yongzh, a developer that releases both lite and full versions of console emulators (and enjoys adding “-oid” to the end of console names), and asks for two-to-five dollars to use the full version. The full versions from Yongzh give features like cheats, save slots, and the ability to play others via Bluetooth and Wi-fi, while Tiger’s emulators allow for free downloading with the ability to save inside the emulator at any time.
Ultimately, the choice is up to you as to which ones to go with. Heck, try them both and see what happens. What harm is in that?
Whether you be a first-gen or a sixth-gen gamer, these emulators for Android should provide hours of viable, portable entertainment. Angry Birds, eat your heart out.
Two hours – that is all it took for $150,000 to be given away on the internet. Now for most of us, it seems very foolish to let $150,000 just be burned off like the fuse on a stick of dynamite. But for the electronics prototyping distributor Sparkfun, it was a calculated, well-planned charity.
This massive event is known as Sparkfun Free Day, a day unto which the distributor from Boulder, CO decides to give away rewards to its customers in order to show appreciation and support. For each person that logged in or created an account, they got the opportunity to spend up to $100 of in-store credit on anything in Sparkfun’s store by answering technical trivia while they were shopping. Furthermore, they donated up to $30,000 to local charities while the event was happening.
In 2010, the number of participants completely disabled Sparkfun’s servers and had the goal of $100,000 in freebies get consumed in just 1 hour and 44 minutes. This year, the results were no less different.
From its opening at 10am CST on January 13th, some of my colleagues and I attempted to get in to get our share of free Bluetooth modules, calipers, and accelerometers. This is how far we made it: the option to take the quiz or take a loyalty benefit (based on how many years you have been a Sparkfun customer).
But unfortunately for us, any attempts to get further than this caused a boatload of problems. Like this:
And most often, this:
So what happened to our browser refreshed attempts to gain freebies? Well, you can thank the sheer number of participants for these images. What Sparkfun basically did to themselves for two hours is an unintentional DoS; a Denial of Service on their own servers. So not only did Free Day benefit their consumer base, it also tested their servers to the utter limits. Now that’s what I call a very expensive (but quite clever) test.
Here is a full recap of the stats from Free Day 2011, and it is pretty interesting to see the results. Regardless of how everyone fared during those tumultuous two hours, one has to give Sparkfun a ton of credit. And like all contests, there’s always the hope of next year.
Ah, the holidays. A time spent with family opening presents, reminiscing, sharing, and diagnosing any computer problems. Okay, so maybe that last one isn’t in the normal holiday routine for most people, but for all the tech gurus out there it is all too familiar.
If you are like me, the holiday season is spent diagnosing a cheap router, cleaning up hard drives that were set to automatically back-up files, and showing the older generation how to clear passwords in their web browsers. I mean, not every technological savant has family that keeps up with the trends, right? Sometimes it is your guidance (and patience) that keeps them connected to their personal computing machine and thus the world.
This year, the people at Google want to ease your pain.
This is for you, the tech gurus of the world. It’s a website called Teachparentstech.org, and it was created for the sole purpose of building a nice technological care package for that loved one who just can’t keep up with the cool features new computers hold.
The site is pretty straightforward. Basically, one chooses which tech problems they want solved for their specific loved one by going through the various categories and selecting specific topics. But here is where Google added their love: they created a video for every single topic you can pick. So not only will grandma gain the knowledge of setting her background wallpaper, but she also gets a nice, comforting Google employee showing her every step along the way. Peachy keen indeed!
People with dog passwords need not watch
Once the desired topics are selected (I’m surprised there isn’t a “Select All” button), you then get to preview the email before sending it off. All the videos are uploaded on YouTube, so as long as your family member’s computer has a modern internet browser they should be able to see the videos when they click them in the email.
Make sure everything looks good or else you might be spending the holidays like you always do… on someone else’s computer.
As Mick Jagger once said, “You can’t always get what you want.” And around Christmas time, this statement holds especially true. In a time of giving and sharing, Christmas is always about making a personal wish list, checking it twice, and waiting for the 25th to roll around to see what items can be crossed out and which ones can’t. For most of us, that list is still quite full on December 26th.
It’s just a cold hard fact of holiday gift giving: you don’t always get everything you asked for. But this is most certainly not a bad thing. Just look back on your childhood for example. For five years, you asked for the $200 Star Wars Millennium Falcon Lego building set, but did you get it? No. You always got the $30 X-Wing set or something similar. But of course, this did not hamper your dreams of flying Lego Han Solo around the galaxy/living room. It’s ultimately the feelings of excitement and hope that makes compiling that Christmas list a joyful task every year.
So for all of those people out there with high-priced gadget wishes this Christmas year, don’t get discouraged. Here are some Millennium Falcons to consider placing on that holiday wish list.
Something that hasn’t quite hit mainstream computing yet is the idea of the tablet laptop. But what a great idea they are! On one hand, they have the same components, features, and processing power as a normal laptop computer. At the same time they allow the user full access of the screen to draw, write, and select items with a unique stylus pen.
Considering that the classroom and workplace gets more and more digital every year, why shouldn’t your note-taking do the same? Tablet laptops can easily be found at your local electronics website, and range from $300 netbooks to $2000 laptop machines. If I had to pick any gift from this reasonable list, it would have to be this.
It’s official: thanks to technology, anyone can be a professional photographer. But let’s be honest here, if you want to be a true professional, you’ve got to spend the dollars on a good digital single-lens reflex camera, or DSLR. Made by Canon, Nikon, and others, DSLR is all about taking your photography skills to the next level.
Using advanced focus technology with high resolution imaging options (why have 4 mega-pixels when you can have 22?), and many other obvious and important features (like anti-dust technology), why wouldn’t you want to spend 500 dollars or more?
Cameras and photos are nice to have around for the family gatherings, but camcorders bring back the memories in an entirely different way. And to make things even better, Panasonic has upped the ante of video recording by developing a 3-D camcorder for personal use.
Yes, you heard me right, a 3-D video recorder. Called the Panasonic HDC-SDT750K, it is being labelled as the world’s first 3-D shooting camcorder. Full-HD 1080/60p resolution, progressive movie recording, 9.15 mega-pixels, auto-focus; this camera has it all. Just think of how excellent it would be to strap on those 3-D glasses and literally immerse oneself in the family Christmases of old. It’s almost like you were there! And now that YouTube allows for the uploading of 3-D videos now, it appears that this camcorder came right on time.
If you ask any retailer what their number one selling item was on Black Friday this 2010 season, it would unanimously be flat screen TV’s. LCD, LED, Plasma, 3D – they all have their positives and their negatives. Most good HDTV’s have 1080p resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, and a few HDMI connections. And of course, no new HDTV is complete without a brand new Blu-Ray player and an ethernet cable to connect it to the interwebs.
In all honesty, though, some of these TV’s have come a long way since their conception ten years ago. If you are lucky you might even snag a TV capable of connecting to every other major gadget in your house (thanks to the Digital Living Network Alliance – now wouldn’t that be nice to know how to do). Because of their widespread popularity, one can easily find a TV that matches their price range.
If you know anything about computer gaming (even Bejeweled counts) , then you know that Alienware is the Bugatti of computers. The best of the best, the cream of the crop, the most expensive computer you will ever buy. But they are worth every penny.
With options like the Intel I7 980 CPU operating at 4 GHz, dual Video cards operating with SLI technology, and a special gaming keyboard, it is not hard to see that this is as good as it gets. Not only are all your friends going to be jealous of it (when they actually get around to visiting you at your house), but your family will be happy that $6,000 was well spent.
Price: $65,000 to $85,000
As long as we are dreaming up holiday gifts to add to that wish list, why not shoot for the stars with something along these lines. It’s a boat… it’s a dolphin… it’s a dolphin boat? Yes indeed, it is a fiberglass boat built to look and act exactly like a dolphin. And it is plainly obvious that this is truly what you want for the holidays.
Sure, if you live in Northern regions it might have to be stored until May or June, but just look at this thing zoom around on that lake. The massive amount of enjoyment it outputs makes the wait completely worth it. This specific boat is called the Seabreacher X, and can be custom made for about $60,000 to $80,000.
That may sound a bit expensive, but is money going to get between you and a great Christmas? It wouldn’t be the first time the issue of a dolphin boat ruined the holidays. Don’t make the same mistake.
Solid Gold iPad
Last but not least is the most desired portable item this holiday season: the iPad. We all know that we can buy an iPad pretty much anywhere these days, but a solid gold iPad? Those things sell so fast they can’t stay on the shelves in most stores.
At a reasonable price of 129,995 British Pounds, your family would be foolish to not take up such a great deal when shopping for you this December. I would circle and underline this one a few times on that wish list to make the need for it especially evident.