What are the Long-Term Effects of Electronics?

controllerAs more and more generations learn to use computers, phones, and GPSs from a young age, the population is beginning to see an array of negative medical results. With electronics around every corner and the ability to access them at virtually any time of the day, more and more are seeing the onset of technology-educed pain and disorders. No more are older folks catching their first glimpse of carpal tunnel after retirement, and the same goes for hunched backs and vision issues. Now it’s happing as young as one’s teens and early 20s.

However, as trends continue to progress, those ages may actually decrease. Schools now regularly include computers and tablets into their lessons, and items are coming with kid-friendly apps and accessories. Because kids are introduced to more electronics younger and younger, the side effects will only continue to increase.

The Effects

From minor aches and pains to diagnoses that require serious treatment, new and existing issues are steep a strict increase. And of course, the treatment depends on the cause. For instance, those who spend multiple hours typing or fidgeting with controllers each day are wearing wrist braces, doing arm stretches, or seeing chiropractors or physical therapists to try and reverse these effects. However, depending on the sheer number of hours spent in a static location, the typers may experience carpal tunnel, arthritis, shoulder and back pain, or even numbness throughout the arms.

Another growing condition is that of “Gameboy back,” caused from excessive hunching. Often seen in teenage boys who play video games on a regular basis, this condition can affect one’s posture, cause pain, and even bring tension within the muscles. Items like specialized chairs or being aware of how one sits can greatly reduce the chance of “Gameboy back” taking root by creating an ergonomic environment.

Other electronic-related injuries include headaches, neck pains, and eyesight issues, which occur from reading too-small text on bright screens. Regular phone or tablet readers have reported cases of obstructed eyesight, to damaged retinas, caused from reading excessively in the dark.

From aches and pains to more serious conditions, electronic devices are causing medical issues in their most frequent users. To avoid falling victim, be sure to take the proper precautions before logging in for long periods at a time. Or, if you’re already experiencing technology-induced conditions, talk to your doctor to find an effective treatment regimen.

Free or paid online services: which should you choose?

flickr logoThere are a bunch of free services on the internet. There are services like Google Drive (formerly Docs) which is basically a free online word processor, spreadsheet app, and presentation app. There is Flickr which is a free photo sharing service. There’s Tumblr which is used for many types of sharing, but is most similar to a free blogging service.

All of these services (and many more) are great, and who doesn’t want free? Well, free isn’t always the best option.

Free support = no support

First, free usually means you are on your own if you need help. There is no 1-800 number to call for tech support. There might be an email address, but you may not get a response. If you are lucky there is a forum where other users go online to help other users who need it.

If you are paying for a service, you should be getting customer service also. There is usually an email address and/or a phone number to help when you need it. Now some place might have tiered service and give quicker responses based on your membership, but you should be getting some type of support if you are paying. For example, I use SmugMug for sharing photos and videos. This is a paid service. Not only do I love the site, but the customer service is fantastic. I usually get a response to my emails within an hour.

Lack of features

In addition to not having support free services usually come at a price of features. Many free services will offer the basics for free and when you want more you have to start paying. Some services might be thought of as a free demo or “lite” version and the full version comes with a fee. For example, you might be using a free online word processor that lets you type and save all of your documents. However, when you want to share or print a document or save in another format you have to pay. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this, but make sure you are aware of limitation before you start using a service and get hooked into it.

Free is still good

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use free services on the internet. There are a bunch of great ones out there, and I use several. For example, I use Dropbox and iCloud. Both are fantastic services and both are free. However, if I want more storage out of both services I have to start paying an annual fee (yes, there are ways to get more storage in Dropbox for free, but at some point that runs out too). If I needed to I would be happy to pay, but I know the limitations and make sure I don’t get to that point.

In the end, it is a good rule of thumb to do some research before jumping into a free service. Make sure it meets your needs. What are the limitations? Are you willing to pay a membership fee if you have to? Just remember, you get what you pay for and don’t start complaining when that free service isn’t enough.

Why Facebook Ads Need Quality Control Approval

facebookIt’s no secret that Facebook, the social media giant, hands out its users’ information to third parties. So long as an advertiser is willing to pay, the site will ensure only the most relevant viewers see their ads. Whether targeting specific audiences or opting for the sidebar approach, thousands of companies have gained business with their interest-based consumer outreach.

With Facebook’s newest newsfeed update, however, came the addition of centrally located ads. Now, users see posts directly within their newsfeed, right between their friends’ pictures and musings for the day. And while some are still less than thrilled about the post interruption, the website has done its best to insert only the most interesting of ads, depending on the user. Not only does this entice viewers to click, it allows for the highest success rates for future sales.

The problem? The ads have about a 50/50 shot at working correctly. Most of these errors are seen in mobile versions, in which multiple pages are offered, but don’t load. (Users are generally enticed with an article or slideshow of facts that falls within their specific age group and demographic.) Sometimes the user is stuck on an ad, sometimes arrows are ill placed and users click on banners rather than content itself, and sometimes the pages simply don’t load. Users are met with an ad – after being promised a slideshow of some kind – and left at a dead end.

Reflection of Brand

These errors were certainly acceptable at first, but now, months in, age is no longer an excuse. But who’s at fault? Facebook or the sponsors? Since it’s been seen across the board, it’s likely that the errors are on Facebook’s end – specifically their mobile site. So why aren’t the advertisers pushing for a working version? Or if they are, are they getting a discount in the process? Either way, constant errors reflect badly on both Facebook and the advertisers themselves. Not to mention users will soon quit clicking – if the article only has a 50% chance at working, why even take the risk?

But overall, it’s the consumer that’s really suffering. Not only are they using an inferior website (which may or may not allow them to read said articles), their newsfeed is still cluttered within the process.

Hopefully, Facebook engineers are working to find solutions to these ongoing errors. In the meantime, users can continue to take their chances, while advertisers will likely see a downfall in clicks.

10 Facts You Need to Know About Netflix

netflix logoIn its short lifespan, the entertainment mogul, Netflix, has been able to accomplish a great deal. They’ve twice drug themselves out from the doldrums, created their very own type of entertainment viewing platform, and now the company even accounts for a large portion of online traffic.

In the process of creating this well-loved monster, they’ve reunited (or introduced) customers with thousands of films and TV shows. Without it we wouldn’t have terms like “Netflix bomb,” we might never know what it’s like to finish an entire season in two days, and there may never have been a House of Cards.

So, what makes this rental company stand out from the competition?

10. Netflix has nearly 30 million customers.

As of mid-2013, stats sat at 29.2 million subscribers and/or renters. That’s more people who live in the entire state of Texas.

9. Half of users stream via a game console.

While the other half is used by smartphones (6%), tablets, computers (42%), computers hooked to TVs (14%), smart TVs, and Internet-capable DVD players.

8. As much as 30% of Internet traffic in the U.S. can be attributed to Netflix.

7. Netflix turned 16 last year.

Though it wasn’t on consumer radars until early 2000s, the company was founded back in 1997.

6. Customers can sign up for streaming internationally.

Including North and South America, the Caribbean, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Northern Europe, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. However, DVD rental is only available in the U.S. (likely due to storage center fees and compliance of pre-marked postage envelopes.)

5. There are 58 Netflix distribution centers for DVDs, the locations of which are top-secret.

Employees are even sworn to secrecy (and probably the U.S. Postal Service).

4. Netflix’s DVD rental side accounts for 35% of all disc-rental expenditures.

3. The Average customers spends two hours streaming each day.

2. Only 36% of users view both TV shows and movies via their streaming/rental account.

1. Netflix made $1 billion in the first quarter of 2013, $3 million of which was profit.

Not bad for a company that almost split services just two years ago.

From subscribers to titles on hand, it’s safe to say that Netflix has some impressive stats. Whether you’ve jumped on the bandwagon or are standing safely on the sidelines, they’re continuing to take on the way we watch TV single-handedly.

Holiday Gift Guide 2013: The Digital Artist Edition

Every year companies push the limits of digital art and in some cases it gets harder and harder to distinguish digital art from hand made. Here are some of this year’s best products that you might consider getting for the digital artist in your family.

Wacom Intuos

intuosEarlier this year Wacom rebranded its product line and made the consumer line the new Intuos line. With the new name comes a new design and one of the best drawing tablets I have ever used. It comes in two sizes and any digital artist would love one of these.

Corel Painter X3

logopainterFor years Corel Painter has been the best natural media paint program on the market and this year Corel has updated it to version X3. With X3 comes new features like perspective drawing, easier photo painting, and a ton of new brushes. It is also faster than previous versions. It isn’t cheap, but if you can afford it this is a great gift. In my opinion it is the best version of Painter yet.

Adonit Jot Touch

jotThere are several Bluetooth styluses for the iPad on the market today that claim pressure sensitivity. I have tried several and the Jot Touch by Adonit is the only way that does what it says. It has pressure sensitivity that works through several iPad apps that have built-in compatibility. For any artist working on the iPad this is a fantastic gift.

Sketchbook Pro for iOS

sketchbookIf you are going to get the aforementioned Jot Touch for a gift, the recipient is going to need an app to use it with. Sketchbook Pro is one of them. The Jot Touch works great with it and the app is great even without the stylus. It is one mod my favorite drawing apps on my iPad.

Griffin’s Crayola Line

crayola

For the young digital artist in your family there is a collection of fantastic digital tools/pens available by Crayola through the company Griffin Technology. There are many different Crayola tools from drawing to airbrush to painting. They come in the form of pens/styluses and work with Crayola apps that are available for the iPad. Many of these apps are free and work without the pens, but the pens are needed to unlock extra features. This is a great way to support the young digital artist.

With this guide, whether you are shopping for a pro artist, hobbyist, or a young artist in your family, there are plenty of options at different price points to choose from this holiday season.

Holiday Gift Guide 2013: iPad Mini for Kids Edition

This holiday season, a lot of children will be getting iPads or iPad minis for presents. I suspect iPad minis will be the more popular of the two. For those that do get an iPad mini here are a few accessories you might want to get with the mini.

Black Blue V2 Double Layer Kickstand Hard Hybrid Gel Case Cover for iPad Mini

mini case

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of cases. I think they bulk up a phone or tablet, so I don’t have one on my iPhone or iPad. However, in the case of a young child, I highly recommend a case. You want one that can handle a good drop or bump.

My recommendation is to purchase a “hybrid” case. It isn’t fancy or expensive, but it has a plastic shell on the inside and a rubber outer case. There is ample space between the screen and case from to protect of from a screen first fall. Plus all of the buttons are protected, but easily accessible.

Screen Protectors

Screen protectors are another protection gift you want on a child’s iPad. There are plenty of them out there. Like the case, this does not need anything fancy. If you want to spend $25 on a screen protector go ahead. However, there are plenty of protects for under ten dollars and you can usually get them in a three pack.

iTunes Gift Card

giftcard

Every child is going to want to dive right into the App Store. An iTunes gift card would be good for this. You can either apply it to your account or make an account for the child and let him or her know the password. Set the account to a minimum limit using parental controls and only allow the child to make purchases with money in the account. If they burn the card on Smurfberries it is their loss, but no charges are made to your credit card.

IPEVO Pad Pillow Stand for the iPad Mini

pillow

Another great accessory is the IPEVO Pad Pillow Stand for the iPad Mini. I recommended the larger model last year and this one is just as good. It is made for the iPad Mini, but it even holds a full iPad. It is basically a pillow that holds your iPad. It works great on a lap or the floor or almost any surface. It has multiple configurations and I love it.

Griffin CinemaSeat headrest mount for the iPad Mini

2013-12-20_14h37_14

Finally, and following in the footsteps of my previous suggestion, is the CinemaSeat for the iPad Mini, which is a case that straps to almost any headrest in a car. (Last year, I suggested the full sized version of the CinemaSeat). The child sitting behind that headrest now has a screen in front of them to watch shows on as if it was a built-in DVD player, for a lot less money (not counting the iPad). By using the CinemaSeat they aren’t falling asleep while watching the iPad Mini on a long trip and dropping it to the floor as the do so. This works great and couldn’t be easier to use.

Overall, an iPad mini is a great gift. It can be educational and fun at the same time. These gift can help that fun and help make the fun last a little longer by protecting your investment.

Holiday Gift Guide 2013: Apple iOS Edition

Every year there are more and more products for the iOS market, and this year is no different. Here are some of the best products I tried this year that would make great gifts for any iOS user in your family.

Sandisk Connect Wireless Media Drive

mediaFor the person that is constantly running out of storage space on their iOS device the Sandisk Connect Wireless Media Drive is great. It wirelessly adds 32 or 64GB to your device for storing anything from videos to photos to documents. You can play music and video right through the device through its free app available in iTunes. It even will store and play iTunes DRM protected content. The Sandisc Connect drive even creates a wireless network of its own to transfer data to your device.

My favorite feature is the SD card reader, which lets you download and transfer photos to your device through the Sandisk without storing all of them on your iOS device. It’s a great product.

Sandisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive

flashFor those needing a little less storage than the Sandisk Connect Wireless Media Drive mentioned above, check out the Wireless Flash Drive by Sandisk. This device comes in 16 and 32GB models and does the same thing as the Media Drive without the card reader feature. Either of these would be great gifts.

Adonit Jot Pro

jotproAdonit makes some of the best styluses on the market. I love the Jot Touch, but for those who just want a nice stylus without extra features, like pressure sensitivity, the Jot Pro is a great choice. It looks like great and magnetically attaches to your iPad or iPad mini for easy transport.

iPhone 5C

5c

The iPhone 5C seems to get a bad rap, but I think it is a great phone. It is slightly better than the iPhone 5 and it not only looks great, but it feels great in the hand too. If anyone in your family is looking for a new phone as an upgrade or is switching from a standard to smart phone this is a great choice at a great price. If you look hard enough you can even find these for about $40 in the 16gb version.

iTunes card

If you have an iOS device, you most likely use iTunes and the App Store in some fashion. An iTunes card is a great gift that comes n a variety of amounts for your budget. These days you can get them almost anywhere. You can even send one straight through iTunes.

There you have it: a variety of options for the iOS user in your family. From the iPhone to iPod to iPad, you can be covered with something on this list.

Holiday Gift Guide 2013: 5 Stocking Stuffers for the Tech Lover

folding keyboardsThis time of year, companies of all specialties and sizes are coming out with new products. From those that make gadgets run more smoothly, to those that keep them protected, shoppers are sure to find something for every tech lover on their list. Check out this list of top-rated products to not only make the electronically inclined happy, but to keep their stockings filled with something other than new socks this holiday season.

5. Portable Phone Chargers

Though battery lives are lasting longer and longer, it seems as though we always find ourselves low on juice – in the worst possible times. With a portable charger, however, phone users can re-boot on the go. From those that offer an entire second battery to those that use solar power to work, look to portable chargers to give the gift of extra phone power.

4. Gift Cards

It may not be the most personable of items, but gift cards are a great add-on to any present. Choose from music or app stores in virtual form, or opt for actual brick and mortar companies, like Best Buy or Radio Shack. No matter the location, a gift card allows for an extra bit of self shopping, even after the holidays have passed.

3. A Roll-Up or Projector Keyboard

When on the go, these small, yet fully functional, keyboards pack a big punch. Not only do they offer full-size capabilities, they roll, shrink, or turn off to easily fit into a backpack. Great for the avid typer or email-er on the go, these versions are a practical addition to any tablet or smartphone.

2. Pedometers

Exercise buff or not, pedometers allow users to keep track of more movements than ever. Whether in app or electronic form, techies can keep track of movement, average steps, weekly goals, and more. Fancier models, such as the FitBit, even come with software to analyze progress. Consider one of these electronic pedometers for daily movement motivation.

1. Extra Digital Storage

It may not sound like the most exciting of gifts, but external storage can open an entire string of possibilities. Techies are constantly gaining new programs and software, and external storage means an easier transfer between computers. They can also restore or check for bugs by removing a platform without deleting it. And if you’re still not convinced, look for a quirky or stylish model for an added layer of techie nerd-dom.

The Next Gmail Change: Pictures Shown Automatically Via Email

gmailFor anyone with a Gmail account, you know just how annoying it can be when, every time you log in, you’re asked which senders can and can’t show their pictures (whether attached or embedded). A feature since the mogul’s begging, this practice is still in effect years after ongoing overhauls. They’ve changed their look, opted for a new way to write emails (in the bottom of the page, so that one can still view previous messages), and created a labeling system to better point out spam and phishing schemes.

Not to mention the change from Google Talk to Hangouts, and Docs to Drive. And just as we get used to a new set of features, it’s as though they’re throwing over the next round of email accessories.

Next on their list? Automatically displaying pictures in every email – even without the user’s permission. With all the new security features put into place, Google is able to identify spam (for the most part) before it even hits the inbox. So to bank on these growing features, they thought they’d save us a few steps. No more picture approval, just email opening and a visual aspect that’s waiting to be seen.

Why the Change is Long Overdue

When was the last time you were given the option to display pictures from an email you didn’t want? (Or at least didn’t know the sender?) Half the time, it’s the display that lets us know whether or not the email is worthy in the first place. Yet, time and time again, we’re forced to click our link of approval, just to see whether or not the mail is legit.

Besides, even if there was spam sending us photos – how would it harm our computer? If anything, it’s acting as a “spam flag” alerting us all the quicker that questionable content is in the mix. With the added step taken out, we can more quickly identify crap emails and get them reported to the proper authorities.

Why there’s no telling why Google – the Internet king – waited so long to make this ancient change, it’s high time we take advantage of its new feature. Whether looking for spam, cleaning out an inbox, or searching for legitimate content, the upgrade offers a new realm of freedom.

Look to your inbox for this and more upcoming changes in your Gmail account.

Cell phone use may be allowed on airplanes, says FCC

phone on planeNow that flyers of all destinations can enjoy their virtual books through turbulence, landing, and even the seatbelt speech (though, for everyone’s sake, they shouldn’t), travelers are on the verge of one more flight-changing decision.

Just a few weeks after the announcement that eReaders are now safe for airplanes – from start to finish – comes the possibility of one more technology making the cut. The Federal Communications Commission now says cell phone usage just may be the next item allowed on flights, in every step of the process. Whether this comes after receiving a high amount of praise for the addition of eReaders, or has long been a process in the works, it’s obvious that flight regulations are steadily changing to keep up with growing technology.

But that doesn’t mean the public is happy about it. Just hours after the announcement, news sources such as CNN and the Huffington Post began running opinion articles about the proposed new law. The latter even went as far as to include a poll. The results show that nearly half (49%) of flyers aren’t on board with the switch, while 20% were undecided. That leaves just 31% wishing to make calls in-flight … if it’s deemed safe, that is. In addition, 63% said they would want texting to be allowed, with 22% opposing that as well.

What the Law Could Mean

It’s easy to see why many would oppose this law – planes are crowded enough. With the addition of cell phones, those we’re packed next to could be jabbering the entire time. Hopefully fellow travelers wouldn’t be that rude, but anyone who has ever sat next to a less than desirable seatmate knows that, unfortunately, that isn’t the case. And how would such cases be handled? There is nowhere for annoyed travelers to go; they must simply sit and wait it out. At least, as is, everyone is in the same boat – which is to say without the ability to chat mid-flight.

While there’s no decision as of yet, news sources and frequent flyers alike are making their opinions known on the possible addition of cell phone usage to flights. Whether undecided or strongly against, it seems as though the majority is voting for a veto, even before the law is put into place.

For more information on the upcoming FCC in-flight changes, head to their website at FCC.gov.