Is it time to stop numbering software releases?

numbersAdobe has recently has announced that it will stop selling boxed copies of its Creative Suite software. This comes as no surprise – they are trying to push customers into their subscription-based Creative Cloud service. With Creative Cloud, the subscriber can download any an all updates of the Creative Suite software as it becomes available. As I thought about that announcement, though, it got me wondering: how much longer will software companies number their products with years and or versions?

Apple stopped it with the iPad and has never numbered the iPods or computers. They also never numbered the iWork suite for iOS. iWork for the desktop has been stuck in iWork ’09 for years, but it is constantly getting updated. I would not be surprised if the next full iWork version drops the year altogether.

Microsoft Office is now available as Microsoft 365 and in subscription format. I would expect the 365 number to be around for a while and the software would just get periodic updates without a number change. I guess we could see Office 720 in the future, but is it really needed?

Are software version numbers even needed anymore?

If retailers are moving towards downloadable versions of the software, why can’t they just add new features to the current version without renaming it? Sure, a new version brings more money in the way of people who want the latest and greatest. However, with the subscription model, subscribers get the latest and greatest automatically. You might even say they get the updates for “free.”

I would even argue that Apple has a one time fee subscription model in the Mac App Store and the iOS App Store. Until a major new release of iWork comes this can’t be a definitive statement, but so far all you have to do to get the latest features of the iWork software is buy it once through the respective store. All updates have been free. This has been true with Apple’s iLife offerings too. Will this continue when a major update is called for? As I said, that remains to be seen.

One thing is for sure, if software products lost their versions there would be a lot of pressure off of developers to constantly be releasing new, huge versions. Instead, they can focus on adding features that can be added via updates as soon as they are ready. No more need for a big version release – just download the latest update. Both the Chrome and Firefox browsers have moved to this rapid release structure, and the result is users get new features and updates almost as soon as they are available.

The case for software versions

Of course, there are benefits to numbering. The biggest is compatibility issues when sharing files. When you are sending files to another person, they often need to have the correct software to open it. For example, if I send a Photoshop file to a person, I need to know what version of Photoshop they have. I can’t send them a Photoshop CS6 file if they only have CS3 on their computers. If Photoshop did not have a version, how would I know if the software would be compatible? I could ask the person if their version of Photoshop was released after a certain date, but that would just get too confusing.

Conclusion

For now, I suspect version numbers and years are here to stay. However, as more and more companies move to the subscription model or Apple’s model I believe there will be a day in the near future when you just send a Microsoft Office file to someone and it just works because everyone is running the newest updated version they got via automatic update.

iOS App Roundup: 3 apps that keep me glued to my phone

According to a recent study, the average smartphone user has 41 apps on their device.

It interests me to know how many of these are in regular use. While I have a small set of core apps that never move from my home screen, I tend to go through phases with others. Several things from last year, for example, have fallen out of favor and been deleted. Examples include Words with Friends (there’s only so much Scrabble one can play), iQuit (sadly my giving up smoking attempt failed), and Instapaper (I just didn’t use it enough).

Meanwhile though, other apps have stepped in to take their place and keep me glued to my device for many a waking hour. In this article I list three that have been enhancing my life in recent months.

Flipboard 

These days, if I get bored, I go on Flipboard. This simple app aggregates news reports in various subject areas, giving you a brief overview of a story, courtesy of its pleasing “flip” interface, with an easy way to drill down to the full story if it’s of interest.

Flipboard - for iOS and Android
Flipboard – for iOS and Android

It’s something akin to StumbleUpon crossed with Twitter crossed with a standard news app, and if you’re a news junkie, it will occupy hours of your time. It’s available for Android too.

TripAdvisor City Guides

I was recently fortunate enough to enjoy a holiday in the USA where I visited New York and Florida. I downloaded various guidebook-style apps before my vacation, but TripAdvisor’s free offering was the one the really enhanced our trip.

Its best feature is its ability to use the iPhone’s basic compass and GPS functionality to point you at anything in the guide. Want to find your way from Midtown New York to Downtown New York, walking via Chinatown – no problem – you can navigate the streets like a pro. It does all this offline from a downloaded guide, meaning it works well enough with data roaming switched off.

Guides are currently available for over 80 cities worldwide. Finding yourself somewhere new without getting lost gives you a lot more time to see the things you want to. I’ll be using this app in every new place I visit.

Subway Surfers

I had to include a game, and for someone with a short attention span, Subway Surfers has stayed on my home screen list for a surprisingly long time. It’s essentially an “endless running” game, but one that runs at a rather more sedate pace than the likes of the popular Temple Run. There’s also something decidedly retro about it that appeals to the 80s gamer in me.

Also, although it’s a freemium game where you can purchase power-ups and such, it never makes you feel like you need to spend anything to enjoy it properly – which just seems…kind and fair, which is a good thing.

My apps come and go, but the list above consists of three that I think are destined to be “keepers.” I strongly recommend you check them out.

Office pranking round 3: May the pranks be ever in your favor

Hello all, and welcome to the 3rd annual Office Pranking… games. We here at Techerator heard your pleas for more prank ideas, and after countless hours of research, development, and Google-ing (the internet is quite big, you know), we found four more ideas for your pranking entertainment.

For those of you who are joining us for the first time this April Fools season, welcome to the site! Be sure to visit our about page to see what we actually write about. Also, if you like this article be sure to check out “Office Pranking, A Photo Essay” and “A Guide to Office Pranking: Round Two”, two articles containing a proverbial plethora of ideas for the uneducated prankster. Of course, remember that Techerator is not responsible for any outcomes from these pranks and should not be contacted for damages, injuries, or deaths that may occur. These are intended as visual suggestions only.

Now without further ado, here are the pranks.

The Additional Additional Pranks

The Upside Down Cup Prank

10 Upsidedowncup

The Microsoft Word AutoCorrect Prank

11 Autocorrect

The Fake Package Prank

12 Thepackage

And for Dessert…

The Tinfoil Prank

13 tinfoil

Now go be shiny and devious, dear readers.

Thanks again to my fellow prankster Brian Lemke, photographer Kevin Kurtzman, and of course the internet for its countless prank ideas.

Xbox Live: Great for gamers, but unnecessary for everyone else

xbox liveFor the gamers out there, the thought of one of their most beloved gaming systems being unnecessary (gasp) is a virtual slap in the face. It’s easily accessible, relatively inexpensive, and opens our TVs up to the world of the internet.

But when not playing video games, how much does Xbox Live’s capabilities really have to offer us? Despite the constant access to play your friends at weapon-toting games or “party” watch movies – that’s when you and others watch the same movie at the same time, despite being in different locations – it’s a program that’s surprisingly limited.

Sure there’s ESPN channels, including live event streaming (not to mention watching the same game the next day without the need of a DVR), but that’s only if your internet provider also subscribes. So, despite the fact that you’re paid up, if say, Joe’s Internet Shop or Sally’s Cable Access isn’t, you don’t get any ESPN benefits … at all. It’s likely that larger companies will offer the program, but there are no guarantees, and nothing contractually obligating each provider to maintain Xbox Live access. For many, it’s luck of the draw.

Xbox Programs Plus

Next, look at other programs that are offered, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, or movie rental – all require a paid or per-use membership. Sure that $50/year fee may not have sounded bad at first, but that’s on top of any additional subscriptions; Xbox live only allows you to access these outside programs, not to use their services.

Now back to video games. For avid gamers, it’s likely a worthy service. But for the rest of the population, we may just be better off using an internet capable DVD player, or a one-time payment box that doesn’t require additional fees. While I can’t speak for the gaming community (there’s obviously something there; the program continues to thrive year after year, despite the same consul being in production for nearly eight years), I can speak for the non-gaming community, and we say we want more – or rather, less. No more double subscribing to ESPN to get the same service everyone is paying for. No more gouged fees. And no more constant updates during the middle of shows; it’s just another unnecessary interruption.

But until a better option exists, one where gamers and non-players alike can intermingle and benefit from the same programs, it’s likely the service will continue to stay in place.

The Facebook phone: Is it real this time?

HTC logoWe’re all still recovering from the recent Facebook changes – the pictures are larger, and now there’s a treat of video ads (sigh). But now having altered the site’s design, as well as the method from which it gathers News Feed info, Facebook is holding onto one more bombshell to throw at its users: there  still might a Facebook Phone in the works.

To be put into production by HTC, this hypothetical phone would be made almost exclusively to integrate best with Facebook’s site (new features and all), and to host a direct-to-Facebook button. Rumoredly named “the Myst,” this new phone is set to have many standard HTC features (large touchscreen, sleek, and user-friendly) with the Facebook additions being a happy bonus to smartphone users. It’s also a great excuse to roll out a new design, misspell a word, and sell altered versions of what millions already own.

The Phone Who Cried Wolf

But before Facebook fanatics get too excited about the forthcoming (and perhaps not real) phone, let’s look into HTC’s track record; their history with announcements isn’t exactly spot-free. After all, this isn’t the first time they’ve talked about releasing a Facebook phone. Who else remembers the ChaCha? Or the Status? Both floated around in 2011 and early 2012, but neither came to be anything more than blogs and tech lovers’ murmurs.

Further fueling the fire is the fact that neither Facebook nor HTC will comment on the speculation of such a phone. Both released almost verbatim comments stating that they “don’t comment on rumors.” This is the same tactic they pulled with the previous mentions.

Sure both parties could have nothing to do with the potential Facebook phone – this time or back in 2011. But they could also be trying to raise hype and/or get a feel for customer interest in such a phone. With this consistent of a trend, it’s hard to say either way. What the instances are pulling off flawlessly, though, is questioning our faith in HTC’s product announcements and ability to respond to growing trends.

However, with the extreme popularity of Facebook, smartphones, and the increased ability to access the internet, it’s safe to say any combination of the three will be well sold. Now all that’s needed is the actual phones – or at least the promise that they’ll exist – for users to update and “like” their way through any mobile situation.

How to use a wireless Bluetooth keyboard with an Apple TV

The Apple TV

With the latest Apple TV software update, Apple added the capability to use a Bluetooth keyboard with the Apple TV. Why would you want to use a keyboard with the Apple TV? Well, it makes it a lot faster and easier to type in search fields when using the YouTube app and the few others that require typing when compared to stumbling through with the Apple Remote. You can also use the arrow keys on the keyboard to navigate through the Apple TV.

How to add a Bluetooth keyboard to your Apple TV

Setting up the keyboard is really easy to do.

  1. Make sure the keyboard is turned on and in pairing mode
  2. Navigate to Settings on your Apple TV
  3. Choose “General”, then choose “Bluetooth”, then the Apple TV will automatically search for your keyboard
  4. Choose the keyboard and the Apple TV will give you a code to type into the keyboard
  5. Enter the code, then the keyboard will be paired with the Apple TV and you are ready to go

Any Bluetooth keyboard should work with your Apple TV. I discovered that a keyboard made for the iPad, like one that might come with an iPad keyboard case combination, is a great solution. These keyboards usually have extra keys for iPad functionality. One of these keys might be a Home button to exit apps on the iPad. Well, that same button will navigate you backwards through the Apple TV like the “Menu” button on the Apple TV remote. This is a very handy feature. These keyboards are also smaller and harder to type on, but it is not like you are typing a full thesis on the Apple TV (unless Apple decides to allow apps one day, but that is wishful thinking for now).

The only downside to using the keyboard with the Apple TV is that you have to make sure it is constantly charged. If your keyboard using regular batteries you’ll probably get more life out of it than a rechargeable model. You also need a place to keep the keyboard. On the plus side the keyboard is a lot easier to keep track of then that little “silver stick”, as we call the remote in my house.

Overall, a keyboard with the Apple TV is a great combination. It may not be something you want to run out and spend a bunch of money on, but if you have an extra Bluetooth keyboard or can find a cheap one someplace it might be worth your while to try it out.

Wi-Fi Etiquette: When is it appropriate to ask for access?

coffee mugWhen it comes to logging in online, there are a number of rules – usually unwritten ones – to follow. From where web access can be “stolen” to how long its ok to sit in a coffee shop, we’re all victims to this ever-changing trend. But because there are no set laws, it can be hard to know what’s kosher and what’s pushing your barista toward spitting in your next chai latte. To get the best of both worlds, consider the following the next time you log in.

A better option to stealing your neighbor’s Wi-Fi

Despite all the questions we may have, there are a few instances when it’s clear-cut, for instance, stealing your neighbor’s internet by hacking their password. Sure, if they leave it unprotected, that’s their loss, but when we have to resort to illegal activity, it’s best to pass.

However, secret option three can also be used; just ask your neighbors for their access code … and offer to split the bill. It may slow down the speed some, but for those with minimal net use, it’s a great budget-friendly solution.

When you’re visiting a friend, leave the password requests to a minimal. Generally hosts will offer up such info, especially long-term guests. But when checking game stats in a single evening, or wanting to Facebook after a dinner party, stick to your mobile network’s web access instead.

Public Wi-Fi

Other protocol to avoid comes into play in public. Places like the library usually offer free online access and expect nothing in return (though they may limit your time). But as for coffee shops, fast food restaurants, and cafes, that’s not the case. Customers are expected to make a purchase of some kind before hopping online.

However, if you plan on eating lunch, but want to check your email first, who says you can’t use then buy? (This isn’t a grocery store, after all.) So long as patronage of some kind takes place, it’s fair game. That means you shouldn’t re-use McDonald’s cups to look like you purchased a drink, and don’t bring in your own snacks, and especially don’t bring your own power strip and personal heater (I’ve seen it). If it’s free service you’re looking for, the library may be more your speed.

Conclusion

No matter how often we log in to Wi-Fi access points, there are a number of instances to come up each and every day. Be sure to follow these universal rules to stay online and in good terms with each router owner.

iOS app review: Tie Assistant its great way to learn how to knot a tie

tie assistant 3Knotting a tie can be as difficult. All those twists and turns, and knots and pulleys can get a man dizzy by just trying. How does Tim Cook do it every morning? Well, he probably has Siri do it, or his team of iPhone designers because we all know they haven’t been putting in any effort on that project since the 3G. I’m kidding, I’m kidding (no, I’m not).

If you are a tech geek that couldn’t knot a tie to save your hard drive from crashing, or just someone who loves to combine a great looking tie with any outfit, dressy or casual, then do we have the app for you: Tie Assistant. If you are new to the underground world of ties, or simply need a fresher on all the various types of knots to use, Tie Assistant is the perfect place to start.

The app, which is available for all Apple iOS devices, is a free download in the Lifestyle category, and will give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to knot virtually any type of tie that you please. It also may become the new favorite app for tie aficionados everywhere.

Tie Assistant is great for tie experts or beginners alike. The free version of the app has tutorials on six different types of knots, ranging from the simple ‘Kent’, all the way to the exotic, and, not for beginners, ‘Hannover’ knot. The charm of the app is its extensive list of knot types that tie beginners, or even experts, might not have known about if they were simply searching for instructional videos on the internet.

tie assistant 2

Tie Assistant also has a paid version of the app for $0.99 that will give you access to 22 different tutorials on how to knot your tie. Yes, 22 different ways. I am not kidding. The paid version of the app will teach you the Double Windsor, the Half Windsor, the Kelvin, and the Cavendish — and, no, I am not making up any of these names. And, that’s not even the half of it either, because there are over 80 ways to knot a tie, and the Tie Assistant app continues to add more and more tutorials into its system.

The tutorials themselves are simple and easy to follow. They are pictures of a shirt and tie that will walk you through each turn of the tie step-by-step. I tried tying a few different knots that I was not familiar with, and was able to get the process down quickly and without any major issues. The high-resolution pictures were a big help and easy to understand. But, of course, I only tried the simple knots. I don’t know that I am ready for the crazy eight-step knots like the ‘Hannover’—the force is weak with me.

tie assisant 4

Tie Assistant is an excellent app to have stored in one of your Apple device. It is available for both the iPad and iPhone, and could be a life saver during one of those James Bond 007 moments where you need to tie an exotic knot before you have a martini—shaken, not stirred. Or a Heineken… I’m not entirely sure what James Bond is drinking nowadays.

Overall, Tie Assistant is a stylish and easy to use app that could really come in handy when you need to knot a tie. With over 22 different ways to do so, it is definitely worth the price at only $0.99. I would recommend that you try out the free version of the app first, and if it turns out to be something that you like, then go ahead and splurge on the full version (you can upgrade at any time while using the app). Your ties may just thank you for it later.

I rate Tie Assistant an 8 out of 10 and it is definitely an above-average iOS app.

3 apps to make grocery shopping easier

grocery appFor most of us, heading to the grocery store can be a huge production. Even if it’s just to pick up that box of baking soda a new recipe just can’t do without. There are the canvas bags we always forget to bring in, carts that take up the best parking stalls, and hoards of people all trying to do the same: shop as quickly as possible. I usually come in with a list, but there’s no rhyme or reason to the layout. I’ll pick up frozen veggies, backtrack to the peanut butter, and become forever overwhelmed with the hundreds of cereal options that await.

That is, until I stumbled into the world of grocery apps. Free and easier than I would have ever imagined, now I can easily list, navigate, and save my way through the aisles with the help of a single app. Of course many options are available, but here’s an outline of some of the most popular (AKA best working) grocery shopping apps.

Grocery IQ

More than just a list, Grocery IQ allows users to put in their needed items, arrange them for maximum store efficiency, and even hear suggestions for sales in the area. A cohort of Coupons.com, print or email coupons straight from the site. As for the “IQ” bit, this app remembers most purchased items, allowing you to add them to future lists with ease.

OurGroceries

Perfect for families with multiple smartphones, OurGroceries lets users create and sync lists from multiple locations. Update, change quantities, or create different lists to suit each store; one for groceries, one for cleaning supplies, one for the hardware store, and so on. Homes with multiple smartphones often opt for this more versatile version.

Shopping List

Powered by recipe.com, this free app is great for regular site users; simply add ingredients straight from a recipe page and into Shopping List. Read items into your phone for voice recognition to pick up, scan, or type lists to receive area sales.

Conclusion

While it’s true that many of these grocery list-based apps hold similar traits, it’s also true that they help make life much easier. Find one that works best for you (free ones; many are paid but offer few upgrades from their no-fee counterparts), or choose the one that comes with a familiar face. All options will allow you to save time, cut back on funds, and save some stress along the way.

Thanks to these and other grocery-themed smartphone apps, shopping for food never looked easier.

How to build a custom desktop computer, Part 2: The Processor

This article is part of a series on building your own custom desktop PC.

Building your own desktop PC is viewed by many as a difficult task. There are many things you need to consider before you set out to build your own machine, so in order to help you and simplify the task, I will try to cover each major component. Today we start with choosing the best processor for a desktop PC.

The two big companies that are fighting in this market are AMD and Intel. Both companies have certain advantages to their respective products and this is where your first choice already starts out. In order to eliminate or reduce any arguments between Intel and AMD processor enthusiasts, I will simply talk about your decision to buy any of the above mentioned processor brands.

Now the first thing you should do is think about the budget you have available for your system. If you are running on a small budget, chances are than an AMD processor will go better with your system. The company’s Piledriver microarchitecture processors have come out just recently and we can see some rather impressive specifications for those models. Not only that, but the top of the line model is also quite cheap at around $195.

The AMD FX8350 processor is an 8-core monster
The AMD FX8350 processor is an 8-core monster

Image via AMD.com

This new series from AMD provides you with four new processors to choose from, the AMD FX-4300, FX-6300, FX-8320 and the FX-8350. The first number will let you know how many cores you are working with and you can get them for $122, $132, $169 or $195 respectively. Note that all of these processors do come with unlocked multipliers, which will allow you to overclock them, but we will cover that further on in another article covering the best cooling for desktop computers.

By choosing any of those processors or any processors from the previous series, the one’s based on the Bulldozer microarchitecture, you are going to already set yourself up for an AM3+ based motherboard. These have rather low price tags as well, so building a powerful PC can be quite cheap and you can get quite a lot of power out of it. The big downside is that Windows 7 still has problems with using the 8-core processors from AMD, which brings major downsides in terms of performance, making these somewhat lacking compared to similarly priced Intel models.

In case your budget allows you to go a bit higher, then Intel’s new Ivy Bridge lineup is the one to opt for. The differences in performance when compared to their Sandy Bridge series are small, the biggest one being the TDP of the processor. The TDP refers to the Thermal Design Power and measures the maximum amount of heat a cooling system needs to dissipate. The new Ivy Bridge has a TDP of 77 Watts, making it more energy-efficient and cooler than its AMD FX or Intel Sandy Bridge counterparts.

The company has a wide array of processors in this lineup released this year and you can safely mount any of these processors even on motherboards that used Sandy Bridge processors. The processor socket for these models is Intel’s LGA 1155. Prices are respectable here as well, but we will discuss choosing the best motherboard for your desktop PC later.

Choosing the right CPU

In order to choose the right CPU for you, you should first think about what you will be using it for.

In order to choose the right CPU for you, you should first think about what you will be using it for. If you plan to do a bit of work, some multimedia and maybe the occasional casual game, then a dual-core processor from Intel or an entry-level quad-core from AMD should easily handle the job. These can generally be purchased for around $100, sometimes more, sometimes less, but this depends on retailer just as much as it does on the product itself.

If you want to throw some more work at your machine or if you want to get some gaming on as well, going for a quad-core or six-core processor is preferred. Again, if you have the money, I do recommend Intel’s i5 processor series, which packs quite a lot of punch. Alternatively, with a lower budget, a six-core from AMD should do the trick just as well.

Now the top of the line should be reserved for those systems that will have to work for their owners. We are talking about users that might want to go for some video editing, graphical editing, hardcore gaming, overclocking, video streaming or recording. All these tasks require powerful CPUs, so investing into a high-end model is required if not mandatory. As an example, using Xsplit to record Starcraft 2 at 20 frames per second, quality set to 8 with *.mp4 file output, sound and a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, will chew about 35-45 percent of an Intel Core i5 2400 quad-core processor.

Of course these are very rough measurements and many things factor in, but if a simple recording in full HD at 20 fps requires that much power, then add running the game in the background, maybe an open website, an open IM application and things start piling up quickly.

Intel Core i7 Extreme Series
Intel’s Extreme Series processors is a force to be reckoned

Image via Intel.com

Choosing the best desktop processor for the job is simply knowing what its main functions will be. If you want a simple office/multimedia system, a good old dual-core or quad-core processor will easily tackle those. Those processors also use up less power, emit less heat and thus require smaller coolers. When the needs go up, so should the processor speed.

One thing that you should keep in mind is that core count is not everything. A good example is AMD’s eight-core processor lineup which has a hard time putting down all that power because of the way Windows 7 allocates tasks to it. Intel on the other hand uses Hyper Threading, which in a sense doubles the processor core count, by creating “virtual” cores. A processor with HT (the Intel i7 2600K or the Intel i7 3770K for example) will run on 4 physical cores and 8 threads. This will allow it to outperform quad-core processors without HT by quite a large margin.

Conclusion

As a quick round-up:

  • Think of what your budget is; based on how much money you will spend, limit your range and choose either processors from AMD or Intel
  • The FX-Series from AMD and the K-Series from Intel (i5-2500K, i7-2600K, i5-3570K, etc) have unlocked multipliers, allowing the user to overclock them; if you do not want to do that, do not pay the extra money
  • Sheer core number is not everything; find out if the applications you will use most of the time (games are included here as well) can take advantage of the added cores
  • Keep cooling in mind as well since more powerful processors need more powerful coolers!

I hope that this little article helped you in at least narrowing your search for the best desktop PC processor down. Always buy with your needs in mind and you will not be disappointed. You might even end up saving some money and if you need detailed specs for any processors or comparisons, go to CPU World and search for your processor there. Next up, choosing a motherboard for your desktop PC!

Techerator is an excellent source of tips, guides, and reviews about software, web apps, technology, mobile phones, and computers.