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Melanie Pinola

Melanie's Mobile Office Tech Blog


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Laptop Monitors

Saturday May 31, 2014

Toshiba 15.6-inch Mobile MonitorMobile monitors--that is, external, portable monitors that connect to your laptop to increase the screen real estate--have always seemed good in theory but unwieldy in practice. I took a look recently at a 15.6-inch mobile monitor from Toshiba and perhaps (almost) changed my mind.

This is a huge monitor, at least compared to the 11.6-inch screen on my laptop, which makes me thankful for all that extra screen real estate. Unfortunately, the monitor's resolution is a fixed 1366 x 768 HD resolution. You can rotate the screen, but cant change the resolution, so you won't be able to fit as many windows on this screen as you would one with a higher resolution.

Still, if you've got a laptop with a small screen, you'd likely be thankful to have an external, mobile monitor like this to get more done even with a tiny laptop.

Skype Will Soon Translate Languages in Real-Time

Saturday May 31, 2014

Video conferencing is one of those critical tools for small businesses and remote workers. Tools like Skype also help families in distant cities stay connected. Microsoft recently unveiled a stunning new feature for Skype, one of the best video conferencing apps: Skype Translator, which will offer real-time translation of people speaking in different languages.

In the demo, which you can view in a video over at PCWorld, both verbal speaking and text-based communications were translated instantly in Skype.

The beta Skype app with Skype Translator is slated to be release by the end of 2014. The implications of this are far-reaching. After all the talk of a "global community" and the "work anywhere" movement, we might have an app that finally breaks down language and regional barriers. I'm looking forward to it.

Download the Last Functional Version of TrueCrypt

Saturday May 31, 2014

TrueCrypt file encryptionTrueCrypt is one of the best tools for encrypting and password-protecting your files and hard drives. Earlier this week, the software was suddenly pulled and TrueCrypt gave a strange warning that the program might not be safe. Turns out, that's not true, but you might want to download the last working version of TrueCrypt just in case.

Security firm Gibson Research Corporation details the drama in this blog post. Basically, after ten years of working on the program, the annonymous developers wanted to kill off the software. They posted a version (7.2) that no longer encrypts files, but rather only opens them.

GRC states that TrueCrypt is, in fact, safe to use--and offers links to download the last fully working versions of the program here. TrueCrypt 7.1a is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

The internet community is auditing TrueCrypt and plans on developing it further. For now, you can grab the last functional version. Learn how to use TrueCrypt to protect your files here.

Export Your Springpad Data to Evernote or Pocket

Tuesday May 27, 2014

It's sad that Springpad is shutting down. The developers of the unique note-taking app promised to create an export tool to save all your data before the June 25 deadline and here it is.

Head to https://springpad.com/savemystuff to export your notes to an Evernote-friendly file, viewable HTML format, or importable JSON file for other services to import (including Pocket).

At least we have options. Here's a look at Springpad compared to Evernote and OneNote.

It's Official: Springpad Is Shutting Down

Saturday May 24, 2014

Springpad notebooksSad news for Springpad users: The company has confirmed rumors it will be shutting the note-taking app down, effective June 25th.


Speed Up Chrome on Android with This Settings Tweak

Tuesday May 20, 2014

Change one setting on the Chrome browser in Android and you'll see a significant speed increase when surfing the mobile web.

Reddit user erythrocytes64 posted this tip, reposted on Wired. In Chrome, just type in chrome://flags/#max-tiles-for-interest-area in the address bar and change the value from 128 to 512 (or 256 if you're on an older device). This increases the memory assigned to Chrome. Tap "Relaunch now" to restart the browser.

After doing this, webpages loaded in an insanely fast. Other users, however, note that they get errors, so your mileage may vary.

Still, for faster browsing on your phone or tablet, it's definitely worth a try. You could also try the Internet Speed Master app to bump up the internet speed for your whole phone.

Leaked Screenshots Reveal Microsoft Office Will Become More Touch-Friendly

Tuesday May 20, 2014

Microsoft Office TouchLove it or hate it, touch-capable laptops and monitors are on the rise. Microsoft, which has a vested interest in these devices thanks to Windows 8, may be moving Microsoft Office even more in the stylus- and finger-friendly direction, according to some leaked screenshots.

Paul Thurrott posted screengrabs from Microsoft's Research site, but that page has since been taken down. Still, signs point to Office getting more controls for tapping, swiping, inking, and more--drawing over presentation slides, for example, or handwriting to insert type.

As a tablet PC owner and a fan of the stylus, I love it. Inking is already pretty good in Office; I used it the other  day to sign a legal document in Word when my printer broke down. (And, by the way, if you're in the market for a tablet PC with a stylus, this spreadsheet is still being maintained!)

Office Touch isn't confirmed yet and the screenshots being shared around the web aren't official, but it's not hard to imagine this is where Office is heading.

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Google's Free Chrome Remote Desktop Is One of the Easiest Ways to Remotely Control a PC

Wednesday May 14, 2014

Remote access tools are great. They connect you to a computer no matter where you are, so you can work on it just as if you were sitting in front of the machine. Many of them, though, are a clunky pain to set up and use. Not so Chrome Remote Desktop.

Installing and enabling the free Chrome app (which works with Windows, Mac, and Linux) takes only a few minutes on each computer. Then, you can leave your desktop PC behind while you go mobile and know that you can always connect to it from afar.

It's pretty simple to set up for remote assistance, too. Your friend or family member just needs to install the Chrome app, and click the Share button to get an access code. You enter that access code in your Chrome Remote Desktop app, and then can see the other person's screen and remotely control their PC to fix any problems. Handy!

Even better, Google recently rolled out an Android version of Chrome Remote Desktop, which means you don't even need another computer to remotely control your home or work computer. It's a little hard to manuever around if you have a small Android phone or tablet, but it does the job for quick access.

Here are the instructions for getting Chrome Remote Desktop set up. There are other similar tools with more features, but Google's solution is free and easy enough for everyone to use.

Get Free iPhone Voice, Text, and Data with FreedomPop

Tuesday April 29, 2014

FreedomPop free iPhone planIf you want to save money on your cell phone bill or mobile data plan, remember this name: FreedomPop. The company has been on a streak, offering completely free mobile plans for Android users as well as free mobile hotspot service and 4G mobile internet access for laptops and tablets. Today, FreedomPop introduced a free mobile plan--with no contracts--for iPhones.

Free as in beer? Yes.

The new plan includes 200 talk minutes, 500 text messages, and 500MB of mobile data every month. If you need more than that, FreedomPop happily offers unlimited plans starting around $5 a month.

The catch is you won't be able to use the latest iPhone with FreedomPop. You can buy an iPhone 5 from FreedomPop for $349 or bring your own Sprint-capable iPhone 4, 4s, or 5 to the service, which runs on Sprint's LTE network.

It sounds like a great deal, but before you hit the trigger, know that coverage and support can be spotty. In my area (suburbs of Long Island, NY), I've had a hard time getting a strong signal. To find out if the free iPhone plan is available in your area, you also have to enter both your zip code and your email address. They do have a 30-day equipment return policy but you'll have to read the fine print and be careful, lest you get taken advantage of. [h/t Lifehacker]

Quick Tip: Take a Photo on Android with the Volume Button

Monday April 28, 2014

I recently found out this trick by mistake, and so it happens to be one of my favorite new tricks. On an Android phone or tablet, if you have the camera app open and click one of the volume buttons, the app will instantly take a photo. In essence, the volume button becomes a hardware camera shutter.

This works in KitKat (Android 4.4) and may possibly also work for devices running Jelly Bean (Android 4.3). On other phones or tablets, the volume rocker might just zoom in and out, but that's still a handy, not-so-well-known feature.

Some specific smartphones also add their own camera hacks to Android when the camera app is open. Play around and let us know if you find any new ones.

(Bonus tip: You can also take quick screenshots of your Android phone or tablet with the volume and power buttons.)

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