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The End of Blogging?

In a statement that has rocked the blogosphere to its core, Google has announced that as part of its annual "spring cleaning" it will be shuttering Google Reader:

We have just announced on the Official Google Blog that we will soon retire Google Reader (the actual date is July 1, 2013). We know Reader has a devoted following who will be very sad to see it go. We're sad too.

There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we're pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.

To ensure a smooth transition, we're providing a three-month sunset period so you have sufficient time to find an alternative feed-reading solution.

The problem is, there is no alternate feed reading solution. Google Reader has become the alpha and omega of RSS feed aggregation.

RSS readers allow you to pull content from multiple blogs and news sites (via 'feeds') and read them in one location. For an information omnivore like me, they are a must have: a way to parse through dozens or even hundreds of blogs daily for new content without having a bookmark for every single blog that might interest me.

As BusinessWeek put it:

But serious RSS users aren't into it for the luscious jpegged beauty. RSS feeds, taken straight, are a wall of text. That's useful when you want to let news wash over you, to scan screenfuls of headlines without waiting for extraneous pictures to load. When I want to absorb a lot of information fast-which is to say, always-I don't have time for Flipboard. I want exactly what Google will be taking away from me this summer.

Lest you think I exaggerate about the sheer volume of content I personally consume via Google Reader, here is a snapshot of the stats from my GR 'Trends' page:

For Google Reader users this is not at all the exception. Reader may have a smaller user-base than other Google tools, but there's no doubt that they are …   More


One Keyboard and Mouse with Two Computers?

Q: At work I have to use a Mac and PC, (it’s a long story, I have some programs that were bought on Mac that don’t have PC counterparts and we have some applications that were built for the company and only work on Windows) and it’s really annoying having two keyboards and two mice on my desk. Are there Y-cables that you can use to share one keyboard and mouse with two computers, or is there some software I could use to do that? Both computers are on the same network, if that matters. If there is, would it make either or both of them run slow? Also, is there some way I could use my iPhone and/or iPad to control either of them?

A: The cable you talked about is called a KVM switches or Keyboard, Video and Mouse switch. It does allow you to share a mouse, keyboard and monitor with two different computers. They run anywhere from $20-$100. There are also KM switch cables that allow you to share just a keyboard and mouse with two computers that have two separate monitors. If you are using the two different computers at the same time, that might be the best option for you. The good side of using a physical cable is that the connection is the fastest, and you’ll never have any lag. The down side is that you are limited by the length of the cable, and to go back and forth between the two computers you’ll have to press a button or turn a switch.

There are two great programs that do the same thing as a KM switch over your network instead of a cable. ShareMouse works on 32 or 64-Bit Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7 and Apple Mac OS X “Snow Leopard”, “Lion” or “Mountain Lion”. It is super easy to use, and doesn’t require a lot of tech savviness to set up. However, it normally costs $30 per computer! Another option, and my preference, is Synergy. Synergy works on Windows, Mac and Linux. It’s only a tiny bit harder to setup than ShareMouse, and it’s free and open-source, so there’s an …   More


How Can I Watch My DVDs on My iPad?

Before I jump into the question, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone that came out to see Deemable Tech at One Spark! It was wonderful getting to meet those of you that stopped to see us at Ignite Adecco, and thank you to everyone that voted for us. Now, on to the question!

Q: Our DVD player in the van broke. I would really love to download some of my DVDs to my iPad so my kids can watch them in the van, and I don’t want to buy the same movies again. I thought I could rip them in iTunes on my MacBook Pro, but I can’t figure out how to do it.

A: Ripping CDs to MP3 so that you can listen to them on your iPod is pretty easy. All you have to do is pop in the CD and iTunes does most of the work for you. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to rip DVDs to your computer, but it can be done. The movie industry has put protection on most DVDs to prevent you from copying them. If you decide to remove the copyright protection on DVDs that you do not own, or if you try to sell copies of DVDs that you own, or give them away, you are breaking the law. I am completely against piracy. If you use this information to commit piracy, you deserve whatever punishment is doled out to you. However, and I'm not a lawyer, but if you’re removing the copyright protection so that you can make a copy of a movie that you paid for only so that you can watch it on another device, that shouldn't be against the law. The MPAA might not agree, but the law isn't completely clear one way or the other. So, if you decide to do this, understand that you are doing this at your own risk. 

It’s not too hard, but it does take a few steps. First, you'll need a program to remove the copyright protection from the DVD. I'm not going to name any names so I don't give the MPAA lawyers a reason to salivate. Just suffice it to say that you'll find what you need just by searching for dvd copyright remover ripper on a popular search engine. Next you'll need to download a …   More


Can I Fix My Printer, or Should I Just Buy a New One?

Q: My HP Photosmart C5100 printer says that I need to insert a new ink cartridge (the pink) even though we already have. It won't let me choose black and white printing either, which it usually does when one color is out. I've tried two different pink ink cartridges so I know that isn't the problem.

A: Printers are probably the most-hated pieces of technology ever created, and at no time are they more hated than when they pop up the dreaded “Ink Cartridge(s) Are Empty” error message. Fortunately, with your model, you can override that error message without hacking into the printer. It does take a few steps though. Here's how to get rid of that pesky error message.

Before you start this, you should bookmark this page or open it on another device. You have to reboot your computer during this process, and since you can't use your printer you'll need a way to get back to this information. A fast easy way to bookmark this page is to press Ctrl-D on your keyboard. That will start the save this page as a bookmark dialogue in almost every web browser. Now that you have that saved, you can move on.

First, if the computer and the printer isn't turned on and plugged in, go ahead and do that now. This will sound ironic in a minute, but trust me, it's important.

Now, diconnect the Ethernet Cable or the USB cable from the back of the printer. (Disconnect both if you have them both plugged in for some reason.)

Restart your computer. (Make sure you've already bookmarked this page before you do that so you can easily get back here after the computer restarts.)

Once the computer is back on, and with the printer still turned on, unplug the power cord from the printer. 

Now, wait 30 seconds. Listen to Her Majesty by The Beatles to kill the time. (Technically, it's only 23 seconds long but by the time you fire up the CD or record player or YouTube, you'll have burnt those extra 7 seconds.)

Put all your CDs or records back in the …   More


Go Big or Go Home?

Q: I am thinking about getting a TV for our apartment for Christmas. How big should it be? I would like a bigger TV, but our apartment is small. What else do we need to know?

A: If you're like most guys, ourselves (Tom and Ray) included, it's hard to imagine there ever being such thing as a television set that is too big! However, HDTVs have managed to get so big that they can be uncomfortably large in smaller living rooms. If the screen is too large, you'll find yourself moving your head to keep up with the action on the screen. Also, the image on a TV that is too large for your room will not look as sharp because it will be easier to see the pixels. On the flip side, a TV set that is too small will be uncomfortable too, as you'll find yourself hunched over squinting to see the action.

There's a simple formula to calculate how big your TV 'should' be, based on how far away you will be sitting from it. The minimum TV size should be your distance from the screen in inches divided by 3. The maximum is the distance divided by 1.5. So if you are sitting 10 feet (120 inches) from your screen, take 120 and divide it by 3 to get the minimum TV size of 40 inches. At that distance your maximum TV size of 80 inches. However, if your sofa is only 6 feet (72 inches) away from where your television set will sit, you should get a television between 24 inches and 48 inches in size. You will find that you can have a pretty large TV unless you are going to be sitting extremely close. If you're having trouble with the math, we made a spreadsheet to make it easier.  Just change the distance from your couch to your TV to find out the best size TV for your living room.

The size of your TV can also determine what screen resolution you need. If you decide to go with a smaller TV, 720p is cheaper and probably sufficient. If the screen is small, the lower resolution won't be as noticeable. But if you're going big, 1080p is definitely the way to go.

The other …   More


What Do You Do When Your Screen Turns to Blue?

Q: This message came up on my Dad's computer after a power failure:

"STOP: C0000218 {Registry File Failure} The registry cannot load the hive (file) \SystemRoot\System32\Config\SYSTEM or its log or alternate. It is corrupt, absent, or not writeable"

What does it mean, and more importantly, how do I fix it?

A: You've probably heard of the dreaded Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). It’s one of the signs that your Windows computer is heading for the great beyond. Sometimes it’s just a warning, like a mild stroke or mild heart attack. You’ll be able to reboot, but it will never run the same. Other times, it’s gone. It will never boot again. This BSOD is the latter. This error message means that the registry has become corrupt. That basically means Windows will never start ever again. Well, that isn't entirely true. It is potentially repairable, but it’s definitely not easy. Most tech savvy people including myself would just reinstall Windows. The problem is that if you reinstall Windows you will most likely lose all of your files in the process. But, if you want your computer to really run well, you should probably do it anyway.

Here's a trick that you can do if you have a second computer that will save your Dad's precious files. Most of his files are probably still intact. Before you reinstall Windows, remove the hard drive from his computer, and plug it into an external USB hard drive adapter. You can pick one up on Amazon or TigerDirect for $10-$30. Plug the hard drive into the USB port on your computer, and copy over all of his important files. Then, unplug the hard drive from your computer, and install it back into his computer. Now, you can reinstall Windows and reformat the hard drive to your heart's content, and Dad's pictures of the grandkids are safe and sound.

If you decide you want to take a shot at repairing the operating system, check out these instructions from Microsoft. It requires a lot of command line work, …   More


Adobe Creative Suite on More Than One Computer?

Q: I just bought a new Macbook Pro laptop, and I am planning on selling my old laptop. I have Adobe Creative Suite for on my old Mac laptop and I want to move it to my new Mac. Is there anything I need to do to put it on my new laptop or can I just install it?

A: You can go ahead and install it on your new computer, but you ought to deactivate it on your old computer before you sell it. Adobe only lets you activate the software on as many computers as you have paid for; with a single license for Adobe software you may install it on two computers. So, if you do not deactivate it on the first computer and you only have paid for one license, you will not be able to install it on any other computers. Fortunately, if you have already sold your old laptop, there is still a way to deactivate the old computer, but you'll have to contact Adobe.

Here's how to deactivate the software from your old computer if you still have your old computer. First, make sure that your old computer is connected to the Internet. Next, click Help, then Deactivate, and select Deactivate Permanently. That will take care of it. Now you can activate the software on another computer.

If you still have the computer, but you've already uninstalled the software, all you have to do is reinstall it. Then, you'll be able to follow the directions above.

If you don't have your old computer, you'll have to talk to somebody at Adobe. Go to the Adobe website and click the Chat Now button at the bottom to chat with an agent. They'll be able to deactivate the old computer for you.



How Do I Sanitize My iPhone?

Q: I was letting my three-year-old play with my iPhone when she spit up all over it. Eww. I need to get it clean. Like, really clean, not just “dab-it-with-a-lint-free-cloth clean.” It’s a phone. You put it up to your face! And I just know it's crawling with germs now. How can I disinfect my iPhone?

A: Oh, that is gross! However, even if your kid hadn't aimed for your iPhone, a couple of recent studies have shown that even cellphones that haven't been victims of three-year-olds are “veritable reservoirs of pathogens.” A sample of smartphones showed abnormally high numbers of coliforms, a bacteria indicating fecal contamination. So, with that in mind you’ll definitely want to clean your phone. A lint-free cloth and some alcohol should kill 99% of bacteria.

However, certain touch-screen smart-phones, including the iPhone, have an oleophobic coating on them to protect them from smudges and fingerprints. Apple specifically warns not to use any product with alcohol in it to clean the iPhone or iPad screens. Using cleaners with alcohol will wear down the oleophobic coating on your iPhone and iPad.

Now, anecdotal evidence indicates that an occasional light cleaning with alcohol doesn’t seem to have much ill effect on an iPhone, but you use it against the manufacturer’s recommendations and at your own risk. Be sure to test any cleaner you try before use. Dab a small amount of it on the corner of your cellphone’s screen. Better to damage a small piece of your screen than the entire thing.

However, most phones can be cleansed with just a small amount of mild soap and a little bit of water. Make sure that the rag is just a little wet. That will get rid of most germs. It won't kill the germs, but it will get them off your phone, which is all that really matters, right? You'll have a phone with hardly any germs on it. Of course, you'll want to consult the manual for your device before trying this at …   More


My Facebook Photos Are Going to the Wrong Folder

Q: Every time I take a photo and try to upload it to Facebook from my iPhone 5 it keeps adding it to a folder of old photos. It looks like the comments from my friends are from all the old photos. How do I get this to stop and just upload one photo at a time in a post?

A: You can upload photos to Facebook from your iPhone in one of two ways: from inside the Facebook app or directly from the built-in iPhone Camera and Photos apps. For some reason, Facebook puts every photos that you upload to your profile into Albums now. If you upload them directly from the Camera and Photos apps, it will automatically place them into the "iOS Photos Album." You can change which folder the photo goes into, but you cannot place them into a new folder. 

However, if you upload them from inside the Facebook app or on the Facebook website, you can create a new folder for it to go into. 

Here's how to do it. Open the Facebook app and tap the Photo icon at the top of the screen. 

Choose the photo or photos that you want to upload from your Camera Roll by tapping them. If you want to take a new picture, tap the camera icon in the bottom-left corner. Once you have selected the picture, tap the blue button in the bottom-right. 

On the next screen you can write something to caption your picture with. Just above the keyboard, you'll see a row of icons. Tap the fourth one from the left which should be a photo album.

In the next screen you can choose which photo album you would like the photo to go into, or create a new album by tapping New in the top-right corner. 

Enter the name of the Photo Album, and optionally, you can write a short description of the album. You can choose who can see your new photo album by tapping the icon in the bottom-right corner.

Tap the audience you want to be able to see your new photo album. 

Tap Save, and your album is created. 

The photo album icon should turn blue. 

Finally, tap Upload, and …   More


How Safe Are Password Management Systems?

Q: I've been hesitant to use a password management service like LastPass or Dashlane because if it is hacked then all of my accounts would be compromised. How safe are they to use, and what safeguards do they have?

A: Before I answer your question, let me tell you what the least secure way to store your passwords is: any method that involves not using a secure password management system. It is humanly impossible to remember a separate password for every website that you use, and that is what you must be doing to protect your online accounts. If you use the same password on any two websites, you are already trusting your passwords to every website where you login. For instance, if you use the same password for your bank, Facebook, email account, and the blogs and forums you leave comments on, you are trusting all of them with access to all of your other sites! If any of them get hacked and your password is compromised, that password will be tested against all of your other accounts, and as soon as one account is broken into, hackers can and will use it to gain access into every other online account you have. Don't believe me? Ask Mat Honan. That is why it is so important that you must have a separate password on every online account you have. You should also have two-step authentication on any accounts that you can, but that is a separate conversation for another day.

LastPass and Dashlane both provide an incredible service: remembering the dozens upon dozens of passwords and logins that people have to use on a daily basis. Both have browser plugins for Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Safari that will fill in your passwords for you while you browse on the web. Both also have apps for iOS and Android, so you can always have your passwords at arms reach.

Both LastPass and Dashlane use AES-256 encryption, the same encryption your bank uses to keep your account information safe. On top of that, Dashlane and Lastpass encrypt your information one more …   More