Q: My son wants to make computer games for iPhones and Android phones. He’s only 15, so college is still a few years off. Should he wait until college to get started? What could he do to start learning now?
A: If he’s interested now, there's no need to wait. Kids are learning how to “code” or write computer programs or mobile phone apps as young as five and six, but really twelve is about the perfect age to start coding. He should probably start with basic web programming, for a good foundation, but he doesn’t have to. There are tons of free resources online that will teach him how to code.
Khan Academy teaches the basic concepts of computer programming, but you won't find much material that actually teaches actual coding. Code Racer is a free, fun, interactive game where you race against others to figure out the right code to build a website. It only teaches HTML and CSS, the absolute fundamentals, but its a lot of fun to play. Code Racer's parent site, Treehouse, also has great training videos and exercises to learn all of the same languages as Codecademy above plus iOS and Android. However, the …
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 …
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 …
Q: What’s the big deal about T-Mobile not having contracts any more? From what I’ve read, you still have to pay for the phones over the course of two years or you get hit with a steep penalty? What’s the difference?
A: At most major carriers in the US, you can buy a phone at full price, or you can buy the same phone at a steeply discounted price and sign a two year contract with the phone company. The only difference is that if you pay full price, you’ll probably be able to get the phone “unlocked.” Since you’ll pay the same for your phone service either way, there’s no financial incentive to do anything else, and most folks just sign a two year contract. What T-Mobile did gives people a choice. You can get a new phone for cheap upfront and pay a little every month, or you keep using your old phone and save money. So, should everyone run out, and switch to T-Mobile? No, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Depending on how much data you need, T-Mobile might not be the best choice for you. Unfortunately, you have to look at all of your options at all four carriers to see what your specific situation looks like. However, if you want unlimited data, T-Mobile is the cheapest by far. However, if you are a heavy data user, you might not find T-Mobile to be adequate for you. T-Mobile's data coverage area is much less built out than the other carriers. Also, something to keep in mind is that if you're not paying the full price for the phone, instead of signing a two year contract, you're signing a two year, interest free loan. If you don't pass the credit check, you're not getting that shiny new smart phone.
Did you know that Deemable Tech is a One Spark Creator? Visit the Deemable Tech space at Ignite Adecco at 4 E Bay Street, April 17-21, and meet hosts Ray Hollister and Tom Braun in person.
Q: Michelle writes, I was wondering about ways to lower my data usage on my iPhone. I always seem to go over my limit, and then I am slapped with another monthly charge. What things can I turn "off" or put away unless I need them, and how do I do it?
A: Thanks for your question, Michelle. iPhones and Android phones can eat up a data plan like a 5 year old with an unattended candy bowl. Unless you're on an unlimited data plan, you have to keep an eye on what your phone is downloading and sending, or it'll end up taking a bite out of your wallet.
Periodically check your cellular data usage on your iPhone by opening your Settings app, and tapping General, Usage and then Cellular Usage at the bottom. On that screen you can see how much data your phone has sent and received. Each month, at the end of your billing cycle, tap the Reset Statistics button to clear out the counters and start over.
Knowing how much data you're using in the first place will help to stay you on track. Now, here's a few tips to keep your cellular data usage low. First of all, don't download or stream any video or audio unless you are connected to a Wi-Fi network. Those NPR, Netflix, Hulu and PBS Kids apps will devour your cellular data. I'm not saying don't use them! They're great apps. Just make sure to use them when you are connected to a Wi-Fi network if you're trying to save your cellular data.
And, if you have streaming video or music that you just have to watch or listen to over 3G or 4G, go for the Non-HD version or the lower quality version. That will save you a bunch of data, too. If you use Spotify, make your playlists Available Offline so that the next time you're away from home they'll play from your phone instead of over the Internet. The same thing is true for Amazon Cloud Player and the Podcast app; make sure to download your songs and new podcast episodes to your device before you leave the house. Also, and it's probably obvious, but make sure to only download new …
Q: I have a small, 16GB model iPhone 4S. I’m at the end of my contract, and I want to get one that can hold more music and apps. Should I buy a bigger iPhone 4S or spend the extra hundred or so and get a new, larger iPhone 5?
A: You should get the iPhone 5. Why? You don’t really have a choice. If you want a new iPhone with a more capacity, you have to buy the latest and greatest iPhone. Apple only sells the current generation, the iPhone 5, in 16, 32 and 64 GB models. Apple sells last year’s model, the iPhone 4S, in only the 16 GB size, and the model from two years ago, the iPhone 4, in the 8 GB size. They’ve followed this pattern for the last few years. You could pick up a larger used 4S online, but you’ll probably get a lot more life out of a new iPhone 5. Each time that iOS gets updated, (the operating system that iPhones run on) it usually only supports phones that are three generations old or less. So, the newer phone will most likely get the latest features and be able to run the latest apps longer.
Also, something to keep in mind is that Apple typically releases a new iPhone in the summer or in the fall. If you can be patient until then, you can save that upgrade for the iPhone 6, or iPhone 5S, or whatever they call the 2013 model of the iPhone. Since they have stuck to the same pricing plan that I described above, you will probably be able to get the latest technology for the same price as last years tech, if you just wait a few months.
If none of that matters to you, I would still recommend the iPhone 5. Because it has an aluminum back instead of a glass one and a saphire crystal lens on the camera, the iPhone 5's construction is much more durable than the iPhone 4S.
Since Google announced that it was closing Reader, its news aggregator service, we’ve received several questions at Deemable Tech ranging from "How do I live without it?" to "What the heck is it, and why is everyone freaking out?"
For folks in the latter category, Google Reader is the equivalent of a friendly butler that finds all of the news that you are interested in reading from the news sources and blogs you trust. Instead of having to open ten (or one hundred) different websites every day, you could open just one page whenever you wanted. It automatically gathered all of the stories that have been published by the ten (or one hundred) websites you follow since the last time you opened the page.
Now that you are probably just as upset as we are that Google Reader is closing, let me tell you the good news. There is hope. Other companies are stepping up to fill in the gap that Google Reader is leaving behind. Some of them work exactly the same as Google Reader does; others take what Google Reader does and improves upon it. Tom and I have spent the last two weeks testing and playing with the alternatives that are available. Here's the full list and break down of each Google Reader alternative. We can make it through this. Stay strong.
The Old Reader
If you're looking for something that looks exactly like Google Reader did a few years ago, look no further. The Old Reader was created out of frustration with earlier changes to Google Reader. Unfortunately, it does not have a mobile web interface or mobile apps. Also, due to their indy nature, it has been being crushed under the weight of everyone rushing to its service. The long term success of the service will depend on the community supporting it.
If you're looking for a Google Reader replacement that is lightening fast and can handle lots of feeds, NewsBlur is a great option. The web interface is smart and sleek. Unfortunately, the free version only allows you to follow …
Q: I bought a bunch of ringtones from iTunes a while ago, and I had a fun ringtone set for each of my contacts. I recently synced my iPhone with my computer, and now they are all gone! I know how to redownload my songs from iTunes, but I can't find anywhere to redownload my ringtones. What do I do?
A: You might have to learn to enjoy the sweet, melodic sound of marimbas, or you might have to pay for the ringtones all over again. In the US and in most other countries, you can redownload most of the media that you purchase from iTunes, including apps, books, music, movies and TV shows. However, you are only allowed to download ringtones one time per purchase.
There might still be a chance you can get your ringtones back. If you have backed up your iPhone to your computer or to iCloud once before, you can restore your iPhone from the backup, and you should have your ringtones back.
First, you should back up your iPhone again before you attempt to restore the old backup. Follow the directions at the link above for backing up your iPhone and then restoring it from a previous backup. If you backed up your iPhone after you bought the ringtones, you should get them back once you restore that backup.
Once you have them back, make sure to sync them to iTunes on your computer. Then, if you lost anything else, restore the backup that you created at the start of this process. You should have everything back at that point.
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 …