Thursday, May 19, 2016

Easiest Ways to Backup Your Android Phone

For years now our cellphones have been our life-lines. These days we store more data and information in them than almost any other device previously. Unfortunately, most of us still have one very bad habit when it comes to that life-sustaining data, we fail to back it up!

Imagine that sinking feeling that overwhelms you when you realize that you've lost all your precious data? You know, those important tidbits of your life — your kids' photos, your wacky selfies, the videos of the fun parties you went to, text messages from friends and loved ones, level 100 of your favorite game, your contacts — heck even your payment information and other various log-ins? Now imagine that all that could have been saved and with very little work on your end.

Every Android smartphone on the market today has the ability to automatically backup and store most of your phone's precious data directly to Google servers and make that data accessible through your Google account. With just a few steps you can quickly and easily backup things like photos, music, contacts, calendar events, emails, app data and your device preferences right to Google servers. Even better, should you require a new phone, you can have that data immediately transferred to your new device.

It All Starts With A Google Account!

We may all hate big brother, in fact I don't know of a geek that doesn't, but in this case big brother has your back - literally! By far the quickest and easiest way to backup your device is by setting up and using all the built in services that come along with a Google Account. Now this doesn't mean you have to rush out and change everything over to Gmail, rather it means you associate your current email with a Google account. Yes this means you will be tied to a few unrelated Google services, but as we'll explain you'll need those services to backup a few things.

Step 1: Using Android’s Built-in Backup and Reset Utility

Android's built in backup and reset utility is a standard feature on all Android device and is immediately available to all users once they have a Google account setup on their phone. In your Android device's Settings menu, look for a section called Backup and Reset. Here's where you'll find the option to back up your basics like app data, Wi-Fi passwords, bookmarks, preferences and other settings.

For this to work, you need to specify a backup account. Once you're set up, you can enable the Automatic Restore feature so that whenever you reinstall an app on any device logged into your account, the data and settings for that app will also be restored.

Step 2: Moving and Saving Contacts
Depending on how and where you currently have your contacts stored this can be one of the more difficult processes we'll discuss and these steps may vary depending on those factors.

The first thing you need to do is determine where your contacts are currently being saved.Some of you may be storing them on the device, others may have them on their SIM cards. You can look in the contacts app and see which contacts are being displayed and determine that from there. If you have them on your device or SIM card you can use the Import Contacts feature and import them directly to your Google account and you'll be all set. If for some reason they are on another account you'll want to move them to your device then transfer them.

Once you have all your contacts on your Google account and have verified they have all been moved you'll want to check your settings and verify that all new contacts will be saved to your Google account. The option to change these settings vary by device, but I've found adding a new contact and checking the save to option generally works to change the default.

Step 3: Save Photos Using the Google Photos App
Android will automatically backup photos and videos on your device to your Google account using the Google Photos app. To do this, open the Google Photos App, open the left panel and open the Settings menu. From there, tap Back up & Sync and enable it. This will upload all new or existing photos and videos on your Android device to your Google Account. Keep this option enabled if you'd like to keep syncing new photos and videos to your Google account.

Step 4: Backup Your Game Data
Many Android games utilize a Google Play Games login which includes the Saved Games feature, allowing you to automatically backup game data such as scores, XP and levels to the cloud and sync your game data to your other Android devices. This feature also lets you play the same game on any of your synced devices without having to start from the beginning. If you've backed up your game data, you can restore it after you've reinstalled a game or installed it on a new device. Unfortunately, many gamers have discovered there is no single reliable way to determine which games support this feature.

Several other games will utilize their own in game backup and sync settings or will use other logins such as Facebook. Most of these options will allow you to save, back up and restore your game progress and data. If you'd like to back yours up, this should be the first thing you check when installing a new game.

Step 5: Save Your Music!
While there is no one stop answer here and Google Music doesn't allow for direct backup options for music directly downloaded to your device, it does give you an option to upload all your music (via your PC and music manger) to the cloud and stream it to your device at a later time. Short of doing that you'll need to use a third party backup solution or manually backup your music.

Use Your Device Manufacturer’s Software

Almost every smartphone manufacturer out there offers some kind of backup solution for your device. Most of them offer both a computer-based backup as well as an easy to use device switching app that let you port across your contacts, photos, messages, and the rest. While these device switching apps aren't specifically meant to be backup options they can be useful for moving your data. Here’s a list of some of the options:
 ** If your manufacture has PC based software we suggest using that, Sony's software is built into most of their devices, while LG's Backup app offers backups to SD cards.

Third Party Backup Tools

The last option we'll discuss is using a third party app for your backup needs. There are several out there and most offer similar if not the same features. The Easy Backup and Restore app (free on Google Play) is one of the best we've seen. The app can back up your SMS messages, MMS messages, call logs, calendar events, bookmarks, dictionary, contact list and apps (including app data for rooted devices, but only APK files for non-rooted devices). If you've rooted your Android device, then you should have a look at Titanium Backup. It’s a powerful backup tool that’s packed with power-user features.

No matter which route you take to get there, just make sure you get there. No one wants to be stuck losing all of their contacts, photos or other phone data.

Google Finally Adds Multi-device App Sharing For Families

During this year's I/O Developer conference Google made several interesting announcements surrounding the upcoming release of Android N and several other projects. There was one, maybe slightly less significant, announcement that definitely caught our attention and should catch yours as well. Google will soon be offering a Family Library option via an upcoming change to Google Play that allows up to six family members to share purchased apps on multiple devices, without having to pay any extra.

Google has begun notifying developers of the changes and has been asking them to enable the new Family Sharing option for all current apps, meaning it will work retroactively on all your current paid apps. It’s important to note that developers can indeed decide if they want to enable the feature for past purchases. The new Family Library will be similar to perks we currently see on iPhones and iPads, allowing up to six family members to enjoy the same paid app. According to Google the feature will be enabled by default from July 2nd.

To date, family members have all had to buy their own Android apps for use on each individual account and device. Google's support documentation has already been changed to reflect the new policies and currently only  covers app downloads. However, it has been reported that Family Sharing will extend to other parts of the Play Store. It is expected that we will see multi-device support being offered for both Books and Movies, but there will be restrictions in place to stop the same title being streamed on more than one device at a time.

Although it's not yet known how Android users will opt-in to Family Sharing, Google Music may provide some clues. The streaming service provides a family plan that caters for up to six users, who are invited to link their account by a "family manager." It's likely that Google will follow a similar route with Family Sharing, but include additional checks so that younger users can seek purchase approval for their own apps.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

BitTorrent Hopes You'll Pay For P2P Streaming Video

BitTorrent may best be know as the leading company behind the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file sharing protocol. However, in one of the company's latest attempts at going to a fully legitimate service, they have announced the launch of a new live streaming TV service with both free and paid options.

As announced today, BitTorrent Live is "a multichannel, live, and linear video streaming platform" based on a peer-to-peer live video streaming protocol that BitTorrent has been developing for a few years. In other words, BitTorrent Live will in effect make every viewer a broadcaster, as you'll be simultaneously sharing the videos you are watching with others.

The company's announcement said that today's live streaming services usually use HTTP Live Streaming and are "notorious for latency issues, also known as lag." The BitTorrent Live protocol is an attempt to solve that problem.
Live television is a communal event that is shared by a society. The vast majority of the most watched television in the history of the medium have been live sports, news, and events, simultaneously consumed. Yet, there has been very little innovation around the distribution of live video on the internet. Currently, HTTP Live Streaming (or HLS) is most commonly used for live video streaming. But it is notorious for latency issues, also known as lag.....

Powered by our proprietary and patented peer-to-peer live streaming protocol, BitTorrent Live allows for large audiences to view live video with sub 10-second latency and without the need for an expensive CDN or pre-provisioning. With BitTorrent Live, every viewer is also a broadcaster. This allows the video stream to remain strong and for the broadcast to be as scalable as traditional Over-the-Air TV.
As for BitTorrent Live programming, the following channels will be available at launch time with more expected down the road:
  • AWE: Formerly known as WealthTV, AWE is a 24/7 network devoted to taking viewers on a journey of how wealth is achieved, used and enjoyed.
  • Clubbing TV:  The official media partner of some of the planet’s biggest electro festivals, Clubbing TV offers exclusive, quality electronic music content from artists and labels all around the globe embracing the entire the Dance Music lifestyle.
  • FAST&FUN is a new Television Channel offering an action-packed, adrenaline-including medley of extreme sports, from car racing and motocross to snowboarding and skateboarding; a large variety of disciplines, shows and competitions from all over the world.
  • Fightbox: From MMA and boxing to arm wrestling and sumo, Fightbox is a compilation of the finest combat sports from around the globe all on one channel.
  • Filmbox Arthouse: Every month FilmBox Arthouse also airs special presentations devoted to a particular creative movement (German Expressionism, New Romanian Cinema) or individual filmmakers (The Surreal Art of Salvador Dali, Rossellini’s War Trilogy, etc.)
  • Heroes TV: Delivers what action, adventure fanatics want.  Heroes TV targets audiences with Multiple programming categories to offer the most comprehensive action, adventure line up on TV.
  • Newsmax: Newsmax TV provides the latest news, expert views and live programming from your favorite TV hosts and A-list guests. (conservative programming)
  • NUsicTV:  Delivers the finest new independent artists at the forefront of music in a linear broadcast, allowing viewers to discover the vanguard in music without having to search the internet.
  • OANN: Features political analysis programming and political talk shows, along with network special documentary-style reports; its news coverage attempts to maintain objectivity while its political shows illustrate a stronger conservative lean.
  • One World Sports: It features exclusive, live, world-class sporting events and premier matchups from around the world, with over 3,000 hours of unduplicated sports programming annually. Content focus is on live and same-day action of league, championship and qualification competitions in soccer, basketball, baseball, golf, table tennis, badminton, darts, and more.
  • OpenNews TV: OpenNews TV brings you live video talk shows from the best progressive talk radio personalities.
  • Pursuit Channel: Pursuit Channel is a television network that airs programming geared to hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation.
  • TWiT: The Netcast Network with Leo Laporte features the #1 ranked technology podcast This Week in Tech, along with over 20 other top-ranked online shows.
BitTorrent Live will add a number of other channels over time, including an as yet details subscription service, ad-supported services, and Pay-Per-View offerings. BitTorrent has not yet announced a launch date for the app, though they have confirmed it will be available on Apple TV, iOS, Android, and Mac later this year. Sorry Windows fans, no word on a release for you as of yet!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Apple Owns Up to iTunes Music Deletion Issue Promises Fix "Soon"

Apple has confirmed earlier reports that users are seeing their music libraries disappearing from their Macs. At issue was a blog post by a designer named James Pinkstone which quickly made the rounds through the blogosphere and social media.

Pinkstone claimed that Apple Music and iTunes somehow managed to delete up to 122GBs of local music files and basically cause havoc with his library. Now, Apple has confirmed to several sites that it is working on a patch to iTunes to fix the issue. In its statement released earlier today Apple said it is investigating reports of a supposed Apple Music compatibility bug that deletes local music files without user permission, adding that an updated version of the media management software is expected for release next week.

"In an extremely small number of cases users have reported that music files saved on their computer were removed without their permission," Apple said. "We're taking these reports seriously as we know how important music is to our customers and our teams are focused on identifying the cause. We have not been able to reproduce this issue, however, we're releasing an update to iTunes early next week which includes additional safeguards. If a user experiences this issue they should contact AppleCare."

Because Apple has yet to reproduce the issue, we still don't know for sure what caused this mass deletion — whether it's a bug with iTunes, Apple Music or elsewhere. As of right we also do not know if this may have been deliberate behavior on the part of iTunes, Apple Music or the company, but we do not really expect that to be the case (we hope not anyways!).

For now, the best course of action (as always with technology) is to ensure you have complete, recent, data backups of your music library. That way, if something does happen in the interim, you can always rollback files (or your entire library) if stuff ends up missing. We’ll bring more updates on the matter as they are provided.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Microsoft Reminds Us Windows 10 Free Upgrade Offer Expires July 29th

For those of you who have not yet taken the plunge and upgraded your computers Microsoft has issued a friendly reminder that their free upgrade off expires July 29th!

If you’ve been waiting until the last possible moment to decide whether or not you want to upgrade to Windows 10, that last possible moment is suddenly right around the corner. Microsoft reminded Windows users in a blog post today that the free Windows 10 upgrade offer ends on July 29th. After that you’ll still be able to continue to get Windows 10 on a new device, or purchase a full version of Windows 10 Home. However, in order to do so you'll need to purchase a full version of Windows 10 Home for $119.

As part of today's reminder Microsoft took the opportunity to showcase a few numbers in regard to the popularity of their operating system as well as remind users that there is still more great features to come. Microsoft has stated that as the one year anniversary of the release of Windows 10 approaches there are now more than 300 million active devices around the world running Windows 10. Cortana has answered over 6 billion questions, gamers have put in over 9 billion hours of gameplay and the first major update, dubbed the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, is scheduled to roll out over the summer, free of charge.

Microsoft has also stated that Windows 10 has the highest customer satisfaction of any version of Windows to date! So you if you haven’t upgraded yet you might want to think about taking the plunge. To make upgrading a little easier I suggest checking out Microsoft's FAQ page. You might also want to read a few of our articles, especially those regarding the privacy concerns. You may also want to checkout the community at Microsoft Answers. There you'll find lots of help and answers to many of your Windows 10 questions.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Dish Gets Into The iPhone Repair Business

When you think of Dish Networks you probably think of the low cost alternative to cable TV. However, the company is looking to change that. This morning Dish Networks announced that have begun offering iPhone repairs along with their traditional services carried through their current technicians.

“Smart Phone Repair” from Dish delivers a technician directly to a customer’s door with appointments available seven days a week including same-day and next-day availability. Dish plans to utilize and complete these repairs for both none and current customers via their network of skilled technicians in all 50 states. Those technicians will be trained in repairing cracked screens and replacing batteries on Apple’s iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6 and 6 Plus. With the promise that in the coming months, Dish will expand its service to include additional devices and smartphone accessories.

Prices range from $135 to $185 for screen repair, and $75 for a battery replacement, plus the addition  of a one-time $35 “Drive to Me” travel fee. Their services are a bit pricey when compared to others that I've seen locally, but bear in mind that you're also paying to have a technician show up at your door, rather than driving to them and there should be little to no wait time for the repairs to be done.

“Fixing your phone shouldn’t mean losing your phone for days on end, so we come to you – whether you’re at the office, the gym or even the coffee shop,” said John Swieringa, executive vice president of Operations. “DISH is uniquely positioned with the technical know-how and ability to respond to a customer’s needs in every state across the country.”

Dish promises that their technicians will be using "high-quality replacement parts from respected third parties" and guarantees all repair work with a 60-day warranty. If you want to summon a Dish technician to repair your phone, you can do so by heading to their new Smart Phone Repair portal.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Chrome Takes Top Spot From Internet Explore For First Time Ever

After 21 years Microsoft's reign at the top of the browser market has officially come to an end! According to the most recent analytics Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) continued its downward spiral and has officially relinquished the No. 1 spot to Google's Chrome browser. Marking a major milestone not only in IE's 21-year lifespan, but a dramatic changing of the desktop browser guard.

Over the past several years Microsoft has seen Internet Explorer's market share repeatedly dip in favor of up and coming browsers from Google, Mozilla and Opera. However, not once have we seen any of those companies manage to topple Microsoft from the number one spot. According to U.S. analytics vendor Net Applications, during the month of April we saw Chrome do just that.

Net Applications reports that "IE" -- fell 2 percentage points in April, the fifth straight month of a loss greater than a point, and the 16th of any size -- to end at 41.4% of the total global browser user share. Meanwhile, Chrome climbed 2.6 percentage points to take a narrow lead with 41.7%.

Computerworld has attributed IE's decline to Microsoft's August 2014 announcement that users of older versions had to upgrade, in most cases, to IE11, by Jan. 12, 2016. Since the announcement, IE has lost more than 17.1 percentage points of user share, representing a 29% decline.

By forcing customers to upgrade to a newer version of IE -- or alternately, turn to Windows 10 and its default browser Edge -- Microsoft demanded that users change browsers. That had appears to have had a disastrous impact on IE's user share as people rethought their browser choice, and then abandoned Microsoft's browsers for rivals' -- notably Chrome.

Another very plausible cause for users making the change, and one I see as being slightly more likely, is that more users are becoming more familiar with Chrome from the uptake in usage of Google's other services and through Android on their mobile devices. As more companies incorporate Google's services like Drive and Docs, more users are finding it easier to migrate to Chrome and its built in cross functionality. The same with Android users that may in the past have not seen the benefit of using Chrome but now are as they typically have a Google account and use Google's services through Android.