Wednesday, July 31, 2013

For the wishlist: Duracell Powermat

Do you hate charging your phones? Tired of managing cords that inevitably tangle or get lost? The Duracell Powermat 24-Hour Power System may well be for you. It provides wireless charging, and includes its own powerful portable back-up battery.

The system

Duracell’s Powermat 24-Hour Power System is sold with its own Powermat, a portable backup battery and a case that will fit either iPhone or Samsung Galaxy smart phones. This system, which retails for about $100, will give you all the charging options you may need.


The Powermat included in the system allows you to wirelessly charge two smart phones at a time for up to 24 hours. You do this by attaching a case that fits securely around either your iPhone or Galaxy phone.

Backup battery

The system also features a portable backup battery. You can charge the battery by way of a wireless or wired Micro-USB connection. Using this feature, you can stay powered throughout the day.

Friday, July 26, 2013

New tech will protect your smartphone from falls

It's a sinking feeling: You're showing off your newly purchased smartphone as it slips out of your grip and falls to the concrete sidewalk below. This doesn't have to be the death of your favorite mobile device though, not if you've invested in one of the newest cases -- which have science backing them -- designed to protect smartphones from unexpected falls.

Science of protection

According to the Times, there’s a fresh science developing around cushioning the blows that smartphones suffer when people drop them or inadvertently hit them against a wall. This makes sense -- smartphones have become increasingly important in our lives. It’s little surprise that companies would spend big dollars to produce new solutions to protect them.


The Times concentrated on the London-based Tech21, a company that has created D30, a polymer that it injects in the edges of its smartphone cases. As stated by Tech21, this polymer absorbs any shocks - from falls or bangs - that smartphones receive. The polymer then redirects the impact of these falls and bangs so the smartphone it protects isn’t damaged.

An investment worth making?

Are the cases worth your investment? Probably. According to the Times story, the Impact Band case developed by Tech21 costs $30. The Impact Mesh case runs $35. Both can make smartphone drops less catastrophic occurrences.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Watch out! Your friend might not have sent that e-mail

How often have you gotten an e-mail message from your friend that, when you open it, consists of an advertisement and link to an herbal supplement, weight-loss Web site or impotence drug? The odds are your friend’s e-mail account could have been hacked or spoofed. Never click the links found in these suspicious messages.

Persistent threat

As the New York Times explained in its Gadgetwise column, this is a on going threat. Often, hackers infect people’s computers with malware that attempts to spread itself by sending messages to the e-mail accounts in their address books.


Other times, hackers will attempt to forge e-mail addresses to trick recipients into opening them. Then there are those advanced hackers who gain control over other people’s computers and then use them to send out waves of spam messages.


You can protect yourself by never following the links in e-mails that, despite who supposedly sent them, appear suspicious. It's also wise to contact your friend right away. Such victims might not know they’ve been hacked. The Times also recommends that you protect your computer with up-to-date anti-virus software.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The debate over monitoring employees

Is Windows 8 a failed experiment by Microsoft? The media seems to think so. The reviews of Microsoft’s newest operating system haven’t been kind, with a lot of critics pointing out that the company’s one-size-fits-all solution - offering a system that operates both as a touch-based operating system and a more traditional mouse-and-keyboard-based one - has produced a system that satisfies no one. InformationWeek writer Kevin Casey decided, though, to have another look at Windows 8. Here’s what he determined.

The problem with touchscreen and PCs

The biggest problem with Windows 8 remains its desire to offer everything to everyone, Casey said. In other words, there’s no real reason for touch technology on a PC, he writes. Casey considers touch on a PC to be a bonus, not really a requirement. That makes it hard for business owners to warrant spending big on Windows’ new operating system.

Business owners take note

Casey also wrote that he’d never install Windows 8 on a non-touch device. The operating system’s apps and navigation are designed to encourage touch, Casey wrote. In a non-touch device, then, the best features of Windows 8 won’t be accessible. Casey’s advice to business owners? Keep Windows 7 on your company’s PCs.

Steep learning curve

Many users have complained that learning to use Windows 8 is a challenge. Casey agrees. This version of Windows is far different than any that came before it. Business owners who do install Windows 8 on their workers’ computers have to be ready to offer the training needed to teach their workers how to navigate it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The debate over monitoring employees

Your company supplied you a laptop you can use at home. Say you use it to watch movies on Netflix. Should your company get to track which movies you saw? Perhaps you do much of your work on a company-provided iPad. Should your company be able to track the Facebook posts you're making on it in your off-hours?

Privacy in the tech age

Thomas Claburn, editor-at-large with InformationWeek, recently tackled the controversy over employee monitoring in a recent online feature. In it, he quoted a wide array of experts, all of whom could see why employers would want to use new tech to monitor their employees. But these experts also contended that too much monitoring is counterproductive.

High-tech snooping?

That’s because today’s technology allows employers to monitor everything from where their employees are during the day - thanks to smart phones and GPS - to what Web sites they’re visiting to what e-mail messages they’re sending. Employers do this for a variety of reasons; they don’t want their employees to embarrass them on social media sites. They would like to make sure that their employees aren’t visiting TMZ during working hours. The question is: Does this monitoring pay off for companies?

The end of privacy?

The opinions by the experts quoted by Claburn are a mixed lot. These experts say that some monitoring of employees is reasonable, but other tactics are not. Such as, employers shouldn’t monitor their workers’ locations when these workers are off duty. Perhaps the most sage advice in the story? Those companies who trust their employees tend to be rewarded with workers who are harder-working and more loyal.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How can you protect your e-mail account?

How secure is your e-mail account? Would it be a somewhat easy matter for crafty hackers to break into your account? And what would happen if they did? Think of all the spam messages and phishing schemes hackers can launch through your e-mail account. Thankfully, you can take steps to protect your e-mail account, and a recent blog by the New York Times explains how to do this. The best news? Protecting yourself doesn't take a lot of work.


The first tip provided by the Times? Maintain your computer's operating system, e-mail program, browsers and security software are all up to date. This means not ignoring it whenever your computer tells you that an update is offered. It may be a pain to constantly update your computer, but these updates often contain important protections against viruses. Ignore them at your own peril.


The Times also recommends that you not make passwords too easy to guess. A lot of computer users succumb to the trap of using simple passwords like their last names, street addresses or children’s names. Hackers can crack these quite easily. Preferably, create passwords that include strings of letters, numbers and symbols, something significantly more challenging for a hacker. Never re-use passwords. Create a new one for every one of your important online accounts.

Two-step authentication

As the Times writes, your biggest protection against hackers might be two-step authentication. Under such a system, you’ll need to provide two pieces of information to log onto your e-mail account. You may first have to provide a traditional password. Then you might have to enter a secret code sent to you smartphone any time you log onto your e-mail account on a different computer. Again, this extra step will keep the hackers out of your e-mail account.

Friday, July 5, 2013

No customers calling? Maybe your business website stinks

Is your business’ website turning away customers? Are customers logging on to your website simply to abandon your online home simply because can’t find what they want? If so, you might need a website upgrade. Don't forget, the only thing worse than not having a website for your small business is having a website that is actually turning off your customers.

Essential ingredients

Fortunately, Entrepreneur Magazine recently provided tips to small business owners struggling with their Websites. The magazine’s advice? Keep your business site simple, easy to find and easy to navigate. If you do this, your website can be a tool for generating business, not driving it away. The magazine’s first suggestion? Make sure your website immediately tells visitors what your business is and what it does. You don’t want visitors to have to research your site to figure out exactly what services you provide.

Don’t hide

A good business website ought to be easy to find, too. This simply means picking a domain name that's easy to remember and intuitive. For instance, if your company name is Steve's Landscaping, your website address ought to be something such as You may like the domain name Nevertheless the odds are that customers can't find your company website if they don't already know your online address. The magazine also suggests using the .com extension - which is the one that most people are acquainted with - and to avoid including dashes or numbers in your Web address.

A clear map

You should also ensure that your site is easy to navigate. Entrepreneur says that your site should include easy to find links and a site map. The site map should provide a quick path to your site’s most significant pages.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gadget freak? Love to cook? Check out this site

You love cooking. You adore gadgets. If only there was a Web site combining both of your passions. You know what? There is. It’s known as The Sweethome, and you can find it online at The website, as its name suggests, provides tips on how homeowners can buy those kitchen gadgets which make cooking an exceptionally sweet experience.

The Best-of

Why visit The Sweethome? Its best-of lists. These lists rank the best kitchen appliances and gadgets that you can buy for your home. Want to purchase the ultimate corkscrew? The Sweethome has you covered. How about the very best vegetable peeler? The site covers that, too. It can even show you which ice cube tray - really - is the best fit for your kitchen.

Bigger buys

The site’s reviews include large, bright photos and a sometimes exhaustive list of why a specific product is best. And the site doesn’t just review small items like ice cube trays. It provides advice on such major purchases as dishwashers, microwave ovens, stoves and refrigerators. The site, then, can save you from spending big dollars on a major appliance that is a lemon.

Outside the kitchen

And The Sweethome doesn’t focus its efforts solely on the kitchen. If you’re a gadget freak who likes to work in the yard or who’s passionate about finding the most efficient washing machine, The Sweethome can help. The site provides reviews of devices for the garage, laundry room, yard, bathroom and home office. What can we say? The Sweethome is a gadget lover’s dream site.