The State of Technology Address at the End of 2013

Happy 2014! Oh, 2013, what a high-tech year you were!

From the general recognition (finally) that the US government was spying on everyone, everyone’s dog, and everyone’s dog’s lawn presents, to the almighty Mobile Revolution, to the 64-bit iPhone with 2X the awesome, to the complete abortion that is Windows 8/8.1…

Yes, it was a year to remember in the tech world.

Pay no attention to all those fireballs everyone was talking about.

As 2014 rolls in, I thought I would take a brief, syrupy-sweet and fluffy look at The State of Technology.

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iPhone 5S: 64-bit smartphone processors are 2X the hype

iPhone 5SOkay, so I just can’t keep quiet about this one.

Apple has released their latest iPhones, the 5S and the 5C. While the release of the 5C is particularly hilarious given that it’s a “low-end” phone that Jobs said Apple would never release because they’re a “premium products” company.

That’s not what’s really bugging me, although it does help me laugh myself to sleep at night.

What’s bugging me is the fact that the #1 “attraction” in the new iPhone is the 64-bit processor.

Really?

Does a 64-bit processor actually matter at all? Is it really 2X faster?

No, it isn’t.

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Android Update Error: How to Fix Google Play Store Update Problems

Android Update ScreenSo you’re merrily rolling along with your Android phone, and all is well…

Then one day, perhaps after an Android upgrade, every time you try to update or install any app from the Google Play Store, you get an error message like: Error retrieving information from server. [RPC:S-5:AEC-0]

This is obviously very annoying. These update errors started happening to me recently after I updated to Android 4.2.2 on my Nexus phone.

Fortunately, there are a couple of easy tricks to try to stop the error messages and get updating working properly again. One of these solutions in particular seems to work for everyone who tries it…

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How to Choose LED Light Bulbs: Efficiency, Power Factor, Color Temperature, and Everything Else

These days, it’s all about energy efficiency.

In some countries, you can hardly even buy normal incandescent light bulbs any more. You are left with a choice of slightly more efficient “a bulb inside a bulb” halogen options, or compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.

Well, there are some problems with CFL bulbs, as we shall see.

Now, LED bulbs have made their big debut on the scene. They use even less power than CFLs, and supposedly they are better for the environment and all that jazz.

In some ways, this is true – but at a cost unless you are careful about which LED bulbs you pick.

And, since LED bulbs are so darn expensive, you need to choose wisely. Here’s how…

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HD Home Theater Setup: HDMI vs Optical, 5.1 vs 7.1, and everything else

So, you got yourself a nice set of speakers, a good home theater amplifier, a fancy blu-ray player, and a giant flatscreen. Now you just want to hook it all together and enjoy the lovely 7.1 channel sound. Piece of cake, right?

No.

In fact, it is relatively easy to connect everything together and make it “work”, but it is downright mind-numbing to figure out if you are getting the full experience. Or, one thing may work, but other things do not.

For example, maybe Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks play nicely in surround sound, but 7.1 channel sound like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio do not.

And sometimes, nothing works at all.

Don’t worry, though: you are not alone. Do a simple search on Google, and you will find tons of posts on multiple forums with people who are just as confused as you are.

Frankly, I’m not surprised. There are so many standards and little technical details involved, you darn near need a PhD in electrical engineering just to enjoy a movie with HD sound.

And so, I present my quasi-guide to Home Theater Setup!

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What is an ARM Processor, and What’s the Big Deal?

You’ve probably heard of ARM processors a lot lately. They are used in all kinds of devices like smartphones, tablets, routers, and so on. I’m sure you’ve also heard why they are so great: They’re powerful, and they’re extremely energy efficient!

Well, so is my Intel processor in my desktop computer, frankly. On average, it uses about 9W of power (I measured), and it’s a quad-core chip!

Well, 9W is a lot for smartphones, which have very small batteries. But still, what is the deal with these mystical ARM processors? What exactly are they, and what makes them so great?

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Cell Phones: How to Maximize Battery Life and Minimize Radiation Exposure

This article originally appeared in Issue #14 of The Dot Connector Magazine.

Cell phones: they’re everywhere. From the “Battlephones” of the olden days, technology has progressed inexorably to today’s Smartphone. Crikey, some people even sleep with their cell phones!

Much has been written about the health effects of the gigahertz electromagnetic radiation that emanates from your trusty phone. Whether it’s brain cancer, or interfering with sleep, or mental fog, everyone has heard of some study or another that cell phones are dangerous.

Well, let’s get real: When you hold a microwave-frequency transmitter up against your head, what do you think is going to happen?! Of course, your average cell phone emits signals at power levels that are thousands of times weaker than a microwave oven – and at a different frequency. But still, cell phone emissions are nonetheless microwave radiation, and that can’t be good for you.

To make matters worse, your super-intelligent, handheld-computer “smart phone” just loves to gobble up the juice from its battery. But what if you could minimize your exposure to cell phone radiation and increase your battery life?

If you must use the darn things, you may as well do it correctly, yes?

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The Truth About the Performance and Capabilities of Intel’s GMA 500

©2009 Intel
©2009 Intel

Alrighty, I just can’t stay quiet about this one. I’ve had enough.

I’m talking about Intel’s GMA 500 graphics chip. You know, the one that’s in all those Z-series (and soon Pine Trail-based) netbooks, the one that gets all the bad reviews, and the one that is generally regarded as less capable than even that ancient, stinking heap of a graphics core, the GMA 950.

Well folks, think again. In fact, the GMA 500 is capable of simultaneous decoding of two (yes, two) 1080p streams, 3D graphics, and DirectX 10.1 – and all that in a 2.3W power envelope (at least in the US15W “Poulsbo” chipset).

So why don’t you see this awesome performance on your netbook or MID?

It’s really quite simple…

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Cleaning a Laser Printer

PrinterIf you’re still using an inkjet printer, you have my sympathies. If you’ve taken the plunge and purchased a laser printer, you’ll probably want to keep it in tip-top shape for years to come. After all, they’re a lot cheaper than they used to be, but not that cheap!

Most printer problems are caused by gummed up inner workings. A lot of people simply chuck their malfunctioning printer in the trash can and buy a new one. With the economy the way it is, that isn’t the best move for most of us.

Lucky for you, it’s actually surprisingly simple to clean out a laser printer and make it work like new!

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Squeezing a Bit More Life out of that Clunky Old VCR

VHS CassetteLet’s face it: in this dawning age of high-definition video, a good old fashioned VHS tape seems rather, well, ancient. Nevertheless, a lot of people have movies on VHS that they can’t get on DVD. And sometimes, there’s even a bit of nostalgia attached to certain video cassettes.

It has become more and more difficult to find an inexpensive VCR that doesn’t include a DVD player as well. If you already have a DVD player and you want to save some money (who doesn’t these days!), you may find yourself out of luck.

VCR repair is also a dying occupation. So if you can’t buy a new VCR, and you can’t get your current one repaired, what do you do?

Why, you open up your current VCR and fix ‘er yourself!

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