iTOK Tech Tips: Give Your Computer a Break

iTOK Tech Tuesday

Though it’s hard to believe, but electronics—just like you and I—need rest to perform at their optimal level. Watch this iTOK Tech Tip video to find out more.

Most of the time, technology runs great, and we depend on it for a lot of things. Computers work tirelessly so you don’t have to.

But sometimes the best thing you can do for your computer is to turn it off for a while. Just like you and I need a good night’s sleep to be our best in the morning, sometimes even your computer needs to take a break.

So if your computer is being a little fussy, and you aren’t going to use it for a while—maybe you have a family dinner or are going to the movies—select “Shut Down” from the Start Menu and give your computer a break. Or you might shut it down as you are getting ready for bed at night, and then start it up fresh in the morning.

It’s a good idea to shut down your personal computing devices—your desktop computer, laptop, tablet, and/or smart phone—once a week, for at least a couple of hours.

Questions? Be sure to give us a call, or leave a comment below.

 

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Great Travel Apps

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Your smartphone can be a great travel tool. They can be your one-stop resource for information when you’re on the go. When it comes to travel, apps can help you with just about everything: booking your flight, finding a hotel, keeping track of your itinerary, maps, weather, tips for sightseeing, and recommendation for local food. This is a lot of knowledge right at your fingertips. Whether you’re on business or vacation, these apps can save you time, money, or just point you in the right direction. Today we look at some top apps that will help you book a flight, hotel, and/or car rental. Have an awesome trip!

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Expedia – Free – Available on Android, iOS, Windows, and Web .

If you’re booking online, Expedia is probably one of your first stops. It’s been around for 15 years, and is a trusted one stop shop for everything travel-related. Expedia is one of the most well rounded travel booking apps. You can book a flight by the typical price, travel time, and number of stops. The app provides previews seat maps, flight information, and airfare without leaving search results. You can also book your hotel by location, price, and quality. You can search and book rental cars, and buy trip insurance. This app gives you the feature of package deals allowing you to book your flight, hotel, and rental car all in one cheap package. You can purchase cruises as well as things to do while on your trip. The mobile app gives you some exclusive discounts on last minute bookings. One of the best parts of the Expedia experience is the reviews. Since they’ve been around so long, their millions of users provide honest and reliable reviews.

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Kayak – Free – Available on Android, iOS, Windows and Web.

Kayak is another one of your fist stops when booking a trip. Kayak is more of a search engine then a booking site. One of the things that makes Kayak a great app is it has the best search interface for complex travel needs and it cross-checks other sites to make sure you get the lowest price for the trip you want. One of Kayak’s best features is its ability to compare prices with different travel sites. It can find you the best price on flight, hotel stay, car rental, and where to nab those deals. It might not be on Kayak, but the site will deliver you to the right place. It has the ability to search for package deals on flight, car and hotel. The down side is very limited ability to book on site typically sends you to another site for purchase like Orbitz or Expedia.

CheapOAir logo

CheapOair – Free – Available on Android, iOS and Web.

This app you can rely on to find great prices on airplane tickets. You can sort thorough flights by price, travel time, and number of stops. It allows you to buy flight insurance. You can search and book hotels by location, price, and quality. You can search and book rental cars. This app allows you to save searches so you can look elsewhere and come back without having to re-enter information. The best feature of this app is the prices. It has some of the cheapest flights that you can find. The down side is it does not offer package deals on flights, hotels and rental cars.

hipmunk logo

Hipmunk – Free – Available on Android, iOS and Web.

This app is more of search engine that helps you locate the best possible deals. This app does not allow you to purchase or pre-pay for accommodation, but will forward you to a site that can provide that service. It does have a good search engine for flights and hotels. Where this app works the best is when departure time, arrival time, and layover options are more important than price. The other cool thing this app does different from most other travel apps is it includes non-traditional lodging. You can connect with people who have rooms, apartments, and homes for rent rather that hotels and motels.

These are some of my favorite booking apps; I use them whenever I travel. Each has something different to offer, but when trying to find the best deal it never hurts to check more than one app. If you have a favorite booking app, leave a comment below and tell us why it’s your favorite.

Look forward to more great posts on travel apps later this summer!

 

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Friday Linkapalooza — July 25, 2014

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CONSUMER PRODUCTS & TECHNOLOGY

The 2015 Toyota Sienna will be equipped with a “Driver Easy Speak” microphone so that parents can talk to troublemaking kids without turning around in their seats.

While Kindle Unlimited seems like a good idea for consumers, is it a good idea for participating authors?

The Kickstarter project Table Air promises a “remote-controlled smart air purifier”. Seems really cool. I may just need to get one myself.

CURRENT EVENTS

It’s been discovered that a number of fake Twitter accounts have been used to spread Chinese propaganda about Tibet. 

In Toronto, police are experimenting with forensic advances to help with cold cases.

Japan might be hosting a “robot Olympics” within the next decade.

HEALTH & MEDICINE

Digital medicine is a trend that is gaining ground.

This fascinating video shows the passage of several months as a young man who endured a terrible facial injury photographed himself every day during his convalescence:

A Chinese city is under quarantine because of a breakout of what looks like the bubonic plague—the same plague termed “Black Death” in Medieval Europe.

ARTS & CULTURE

Now that Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup has come to an end, what will happen with all of those huge stadiums built especially for the event? Some clever architects have some great ideas here.

These really fabulous packages only last as long as the foods they contain.

As wonderful as technology can be, is it making us lonelier people?

JUST FOR FUN… 

What’s cuter than a hedgehog getting tickled? …Nothing.

 

 

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Happy Birthday, George Eastman

Photo courtesy of Galyamin Sergej / Shutterstock.com

Photo courtesy of Galyamin Sergej / Shutterstock.com

When George Eastman was a teenager, he didn’t have much to recommend him. He was an ordinary student, and his family struggled financially. However, George would learn not only how to overcome adversity, but to embrace work and invention to become one of the world’s great entrepreneurs.

George Eastman was born July 12, 1854 in Waterville, New York. His father, George Washington Eastman, was a dedicated educator and moved his young family—little George was only 5—to Rochester to establish and run a college. Tragically, Eastman died and his college floundered, plunging Maria Eastman and her three children into financial ruin.

George left school at age 14 to help his family, earning $3 a week as a messenger boy. At the age of 15 he took another messenger job at an insurance firm. Learning and reading about insurance at every moment, he boldly took on other responsibilities including writing policies, and bumped his pay up to a weekly $5. Evenings he studied accounting and, after five years in insurance, got a job as a junior clerk in a bank, which tripled his weekly take-home salary.

In his twenties, George planned a trip to Santo Domingo. He purchased a camera and tripod to take with him. The camera was quite large, and required quite a bit of equipment—chemicals, glass plates, a tent, and a large tripod. He ended up skipping the vacation, but the instance began a lifelong fascination with photography. George determined to simplify photography, as the current process was such an involved and demanding undertaking. As he described it, he intended “to make the camera as convenient as the pencil”.

George experimented with emulsion on paper rather than heavy glass plates, and changed amateur photography forever. Further experimentation led to his introducing film in a roll form. He introduced the Kodak camera in 1888, the name completely devised by George himself, who was a self-declared fan of the letter “K”. George Eastman had suddenly made it possible for every ordinary person to be a photographer.

"One Kodak Camera" by Kodakcollector - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:One_Kodak_Camera.jpg#mediaviewer/File:One_Kodak_Camera.jpg

“One Kodak Camera” by Kodakcollector – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:One_Kodak_Camera.jpg#mediaviewer/File:One_Kodak_Camera.jpg

As his product grew in popularity—and it was incredibly popular immediately—George did not forget the monetary difficulties of his childhood. He was a great philanthropist, and treated his employees incredibly well, providing them with bonuses, retirement funds, and life insurance.

George Eastman was a quiet man who shunned the media. He recognized the importance of education and shared his wealth with a number of colleges, including the Tuskegee Institute.

Today, snapping digital shots with my iPhone, it’s easy to forget how much anyone who has so casually taken a camera from a pocket or a bag owes to George Eastman.

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What Is a Smart Home?

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You may have heard the terms smart home or home automation tossed around a lot lately. So what is a smart home?  Smart Home is the term commonly used to define a home that has appliances, lighting, heating, air conditioning, window and door operation, TVs, computers, entertainment audio and video systems, security, and camera systems that are capable of communicating with each other, as well as being able to be controlled remotely from any location in the world by phone or Internet. You might read this and think, “That would be really cool if we could do that in the future.” Guess what: The future is now! All this is possible today—if you’re willing to spend the money. No matter how technologically challenged you think you are, it’s more than likely that you already use some form of automation in your home every day. Some examples include thermostats, alarm clocks, coffee pot timers, DVRs, and remote controls, just to name a few. Smart home technology can help your home run more efficiently while also helping family members live in total comfort while at home or away.

There are a number reasons people might use smart technology in their home.

1) Convenience. Imagine sitting at your desk getting ready to leave work for the day. You pick up your tablet and, after a series of taps, turn the air conditioner on at home so it’s nice and cool when you arrive. You turn on the sprinkler system to water the yard. It’s getting dark, so you turn on the porch light. You’re trying to figure out what you want to cook for dinner, so you take a look at the inventory of foods in the fridge. It’s been a long day, so you draw a hot bath. All this can be done without ever leaving your desk chair.

2) Security. You can program lights to come on at a certain time, turn your security system on or off, unlock doors, and view your house through video cameras. Imagine you had to go out of state for a couple of days, and you’ve asked your neighbor to feed and walk your dog while you’re gone. Your neighbor comes at 5:00 p.m. every day. So at 5 you can, from the comfort of your hotel room on the other side of the country, turn off your alarm system and unlock the kitchen door. When he leaves, you can lock the door and reset your alarm system, just like that.

3) Efficiency. Motion sensors can control lights and thermostats. As you walk through your home, lights can turn on when you enter a room and turn off when you exit. Your thermostat can be set so if you not in a room the air turns off to that portion of the house, only cooling the area you’re actually in. Imagine your been gone on a trip for a day and you turned off the heat you’re on the way home from your smart phone you turn the heat on so it nice a warm by the time you get home. You leave for work the next day and leave the lights on, the coffee maker going and the TV running. With just the tap of a button on your smartphone, you can turn appliances on and off, conserving energy and keeping your power bills low.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how close to the future we really are. In an upcoming post, we will look at a few specific products presently available that can help make your home a smart one. Do you already have smart elements in your home? Leave us a comment and let us know.

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iTOK Tech Tips: Saving Website Shortcuts to Your Desktop

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Watch this iTOK Tech Tip video to learn how to create a shortcut on your desktop that takes you to your favorite website.

Sometimes when you’re using the Internet, there are websites you reference more often than others. Are you a big Facebook user? Or perhaps you love to clip photos and recipes on Pinterest?

A really quick way to get to your favorite site is to create a shortcut. A shortcut looks like an icon on your desktop; double-clicking it will launch your web browser and take you directing to your favorite site.

For example, if you really love looking at the new books listed on amazon.com, you can access that website directly from your desktop.

Type in the URL amazon.com into the address bar in your web browser and hit enter. When the website launches, look closely at the address. You’ll see a tiny little picture — in this case, Amazon’s trademark “A”. Move your mouse to the “A”, click and drag it to your desktop and let go. Just like that, you’ll see a new icon appear on your desktop.

Right click the new icon, select “Rename”, and enter a name like “Amazon”. Hit the enter key, and you’ve done it! You’ve created a new shortcut, simple as that. Now you don’t even have to launch your browser to visit Amazon.com; just double-click the Amazon shortcut on your desktop, and it will launch your browser for you.

Check back for more great Tech Tips from your friends at iTOK.

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Resistive Touchscreens

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We use touchscreens just about every day in our homes, cars, stores and banks. It’s a technology we have started to take for granted; we expect our devices to be responsive to touch. It wasn’t that long ago that inputting data with a stylus or a micro keyboard was the latest innovation, but now there is quite a bit you can do with just a tap or swipe of your finger. Continuing our series on touch technology (read this informative post from last month to catch yourself up), we’re going to take a closer look at a specific type today: resistive touchscreen.

The resistive touchscreen is the most common touchscreen outside of those used by smartphones and tablets. Resistive touch technology works by sensing direct pressure through electrical resistance. Resistive touchscreens are typically constructed of two layers: a top layer of plastic film, and a secondary layer made of glass. Both layers are covered in tiny, transparent, conductor materials that allow them to respond to the touch of a finger.

When you touch the plastic layer,  it contacts the glass layer and measures the number of electrical resistances. It’s able to do this because of those tiny conductors. When contact is made, the voltage is processed and calculated creating a digital signal the device uses to determine where contact or input is made. It then sends this information to drivers within the device, and that information is translated to be understood by the operating system. The actual response is much quicker than in takes for us to explain it.

resistive touchscreen

One of the big advantages to resistive touch is that the panels are inexpensive to make. The down side to this type of technology is that the image is not as clear as other touch screens because there is enough space between the two panels for it to be filled with air, which bends light and can distort the image. Another drawback is that this technology can only sense one touch at a time. Pinching and zooming—navigation techniques that work on high-end smartphones and tablets—won’t work on a resistive touchscreen. PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) and Nintendo’s handheld DS gaming system use this technology; so do newer ATM machines, GPS systems, and the touchscreen kiosks you see at information desks and in museums. Smart classrooms that are equipped with computers and projectors are often controlled by a resistive touchscreen panel at the front of the room.

Take a minute and think if you’ve used a resistive touchscreen recently, and where. What was it like? Was it fast or clunky? Let us know about your experience by leaving a comment below.

 

 

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Friday Linkapalooza — July 18, 2014

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CONSUMER PRODUCTS & TECHNOLOGY

If you love typewriters and your iPad, the Qwerkywriter keyboard may be perfect for you.

Amazon is test-driving Kindle Unlimited, which will allow users to rent ebooks.

I never thought we’d see the day, but—someone has developed a ready-made cake batter in an aerosol can. 

CURRENT EVENTS

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, has pledged $1 million to help build a museum immortalizing the work of Nikola Tesla.

The U.S. Transport Security Administration (TSA) has announced they will commence with more detailed inspections of electronic devices (phones, tablets, laptops) on international flights. Remember to charge your devices before you head to the airport!

Since 2009, scientists have been using NEPTUNE to learn all they can about Internet connectivity at the bottom of the ocean. Truly fascinating stuff.

HEALTH & MEDICINE

Have you ever wondered what caffeine might look like through a microscope? Check out this cool photo gallery.

These splints, created on a 3D printer, may offer arthritis relief.

Could “supercooling” organs help make donor organs more readily available?

ARTS & CULTURE

This clever infographic outlines the daily routines of a number of famous intellectuals and creative people from throughout history.

The New York Times recently ran a piece mentioning a phone booth… Which is what, exactly?

If you’re like me, you’re a fan of ramen noodles. This fun video gives you a virtual tour of a New Jersey ramen noodle company:

JUST FOR FUN

You might say these kitties are of the same mind:

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Life Since Amazon.com

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It’s hard to imagine a world without online retail giant Amazon.com, but it wasn’t all that long ago that such a world actually existed. Founder Jeff Bezos created Amazon on while driving across the continent from New York to Seattle, launching the company in July 1995.

Initially, Amazon was intended to be an online bookseller, offering a wide range of titles from popular fiction to textbooks—a range that has only widened over time. The appearance of Amazon online demonstrates one of the tremendous advantages of the Internet: access.

Most towns of about 60,000 residents—like my hometown, for example—may have a bookstore or two. But it’s likely that the selection of titles is limited by space and demand. Amazon is a virtual bookstore that makes a myriad of books available to its customers. Browsing comes down to searching by title or author, and you can even read the first few pages to make sure they’re what you’re looking for.

It can be more difficult to find specialty titles and items in even smaller towns—places where residents need to travel to the nearest town or city or shop. With the appearance of Amazon, however, even far-flung customers can find exactly what they need and have it delivered to their front door. And while it’s always great to be able to see and weigh a possible purchase, sometimes the convenience of mail order just can’t be beat.

In the 19 years since its founding, Amazon has expanded its catalogue to music, movies, clothing, and numerous other non-perishable items. Depending on where in the country you live, you can receive your order in a few days, or request one or two-day shipping. Today, Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer, and one of the first places many Americans look for a good deal on a new TV or laptop—or the latest Stephen King novel.

Today Amazon is the top seller of not only printed books, but ebooks as well. They are a major player in the tablet market, have recently introduced their own smartphone, and are producing original content for the growing online entertainment industry. I’m pretty sure Amazon isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Do you have favorite online shopping sites? Have you ordered from Amazon before? Let us know about your experiences; we’d love to hear them.

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#TwitterLingo

 

While Twitter is a great social media platform, some of its traits and vocabulary associated can be daunting to someone looking in from the outside. A big part of the Twitter culture is its lingo, so today we’re going to introduce you to some of the vocabulary specific to Twitter.

Tweet – A post on Twitter. A tweet can be about any topic or idea, but cannot be longer than 140 characters. Tweets can also include photos, videos, or links to longer posts. Millions of tweets are posted every hour, all over the world. Here’s an example of a tweet:

An example of a tweet.

An example of a tweet.

I follow Today in History (@Yesterday_Today) because they post interesting nuggets of history on a daily basis.

Feed – The stream of tweets that you see and read, including the ones you post yourself.

Handle – Your username on Twitter. Your handle is comprised of whatever name you choose, preceded by the @ symbol. When you tweet, your handle appears beside your tweet, so that people know which tweets you wrote and posted.

For example, my twitter handle is @mel_leilani; you can find iTOK on Twitter by searching for @iTOKdotNET.

Mention – If you have a link or a thought that you want to share with a friend on Twitter, start your tweet with their handle (the characters in their name will be subtracted from your 140 character count). This is called mentioning another user.

Profile – Every Twitter user has a brief profile comprised of their username, their real name, their location, and a short biography. When you click on a user’s photo or username, you are taken to their profile.

My Twitter profile.

My Twitter profile.

Looking at your own profile, you can see the number of people you follow, the number who are following you, and the number of tweets you have posted since joining Twitter (See the photo above; I joined in 2008).

Follow – What you do to read a user’s tweets regularly. A “follow” button appears when you click on a user’s profile; click the button if you want their tweets to appear in your feed. (You can also “unfollow” people whose tweets no longer interest you.) The people who read your tweets are referred to as “followers”.

Retweet – A tweet from one user that is shared by another user. If someone posts a tweet you really like—perhaps a quote, or a really clever joke—you can retweet it so that the people who follow you can see it.

There are two ways to retweet: You can do an instant retweet, which leaves the tweet exactly as it is; or you can add a comment of your own to the tweet and post it alongside the original post.

Hashtag – Hashtags are used in a number of ways. They tag your tweets so that they can easily be found in a Twitter or Internet search. For example, if I tweet a question about a movie and tag it #EdgeOfTomorrow, then someone searching for tweets about the film Edge of Tomorrow will see my tweet. Twitter marks hashtags in a different color, making them stand out from the rest of your tweet. From your Twitter feed, you can click on a hashtag to bring up other tweets that share that same hashtag.

Using the hashtag (#) symbol marks my tweet a tag. When typing a hashtag, it’s important to include whole words, but avoid spaces and punctuation. (Don’t worry; hashtagging is definitely something we’ll cover in detail in a future post).

Favorite – When you come across a tweet you especially enjoy, you can mark it as a favorite. From your homepage on Twitter’s website or from your profile in your Twitter app, you can easily look at all of your favorite tweets. Usually if I really enjoy a tweet, I mark it as a favorite (favorites are denoted by a star) and I also retweet it.

Direct Message – A way to communicate privately with other users on Twitter. Tweets are meant for public consumption, but occasionally you may have a question or comment intended for just one person to see. If you type the letters “DM” before you type the user’s handle, the message will be delivered to that person privately. You can only send direct messages to users that you follow on Twitter, and that follow you back; it’s a service that is reserved for friends and acquaintances.

Lists – If you follow a lot of people on Twitter, you can organize them into lists to help you digest relative information more easily. For example, you could make a list of people who tweet about college football, a list that focuses on new movies, or a list of friends so you don’t miss what they’re up to.

Whew! That was a lot of information, wasn’t it? Really the best way to learn Twitter is to use it, so get to it! If you have questions about Twitter or about any of the terms we’ve discussed today, let us know in the comments below (or by sending us a mention on Twitter!) :)

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