Free App Friday for 12/12/14

Posted December 12, 2014 By Mom
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Today’s post is brought to you by the Microsoft Xbox LIVE 12 Month Gold Card, currently being offered by Amazon at $51, instead of the usual $59.99 you’d pay in brick and mortar stores. Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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Free App Friday!

Here are some of the top 100 most downloaded AND highest-rated apps (4/5 stars or better) from Amazon’s Android App Store as of this writing. Note that where a given app has already been included in a Free App Friday post, a different one (still with a minimum 4/5 star rating) will be subbed in. Remember that free apps may include in-app purchase (IAP) options or be ad-supported, but given that these apps have been given very high ratings by MANY consumers, where IAP links or ads are present they must be pretty unobtrusive. Descriptions below are from the apps’ product pages.

Pudding Pop – Pudding pop is a fun and simple puzzle game where you try to link three or more pudding blobs of the same color. Use your fingers to link as many pudding blobs as you can and go for the high score!

My Singing Monsters – A world inhabited by strange creatures for you to collect, breed, play and control! Marvel as your monstrous minions sing for you. They’ll hum, whistle, bounce and scream their hearts out! You have never seen an extraordinary game like this before!

Definitionado – Use your sharp intellect and knowledge of word meanings, idioms, riddles, and trivia to solve these fun puzzles!

RGB Express – Mini Truck Puzzle – You are running RGB Express, the one and only company specialized in delivering colors. This is how you do it: 1) Draw routes for your drivers. Make sure that every house receives the correct package. 2) Press play 3) Sit back and watch while RGB Express delivers! The game starts off with easy puzzles, which will teach you the many tricks, that help you solve the more difficult ones.

Bruce Lee: Enter the Game – Fight for justice as the greatest martial artist of all time – BRUCE LEE! Defeat thousands of enemies with powerful attacks in amazing, non-stop, 2-D action.

Drone: Shadow Strike – Drone Shadow strike is the most epic military warfare game that offers an addictive mixture of strategy, fast-paced combat and real action! Operate the world’s best UCAVs with an arsenal of weapons and bring the rain!

QuizUp – The world’s largest trivia game is now available for Android!

Cow Evolution – Find out what happens to an ordinary cattle when mutations start taking place. Combine cows to evolve them and discover the most curious, exotic and bizarre forms of cows. As evolution continues, zoom out from your farm and explore the continent, the world and BEYOND!

Master of Words – Master of Words is an amazing word-construction game. Have fun and train your brain – at the same time! Thousands of people from around the world play on the same board. By the end of every match, you can see the worldwide rankings and the progression of your skills.

Longhorn Slots Jackpot Bonanza – Hit the jackpot with our multiline slot machines (pokies for our friends down under) – multiple paylines, generous payouts, multiplier Wilds, scatter symbols, doubledown mega bets, and epic Free Spin modes – our slot games have a huge variety of features and play styles.

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

Is it coming up to the deadline to renew your household’s XBOX Live Gold membership, or is there an XBOX gamer on your holiday gift list? If so, take advantage of this offer and save a little cash. Right now, Amazon’s offering the Microsoft Xbox LIVE 12 Month Gold Card for $51, 15% off its usual pricetag of $59.99.

 

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WiFi vs. Cell Connectivity: WiFi Costs MUCH Less

Posted December 11, 2014 By Mom
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Using A WiFi Network Costs Less Than Using A Cell Network
A single person or business pays a flat monthly fee for WiFi connectivity, and the person or business doesn’t pay any additional fees for use of that network during the course of the month. There are limits on WiFi network “bandwidth”, or how much data can move through the network and how quickly, but the consumer or businessperson who sets up a WiFi network doesn’t have to pay by the minute or megabyte to use that network, and (other than bandwidth) there are no limitations on how much or how often that network can be used.

Cell networks charge a flat, monthly service fee too, but you only get a set allowance of usage for that fee. For example, if you have a definite limit on monthly data usage (e.g., 50GB, 200GB, etc.) then once you’ve used up your allowance you start to incur “overage” charges, where the service provider starts charging you by the megabyte for your continued use of its cell network. And those overage fees are HEFTY.

Even if you sign up for a so-called “unlimited” plan you’ll often hit a usability ceiling because cell service providers have adopted the maddening practice of “throttling” cell network traffic on the accounts of their “unlimited” customers: purposely slowing down the signals and narrowing the bandwidth such that high-demand activities like streaming video don’t work anymore.

Meanwhile, users of WiFi networks keep streaming and web surfing all day and night, all month long without paying extra, and the flat monthly fee the WiFi user pays is generally less than that of the cell service customer.

 

So Why Doesn’t Everyone Use WiFi All The Time?
This mostly has to do with network range. WiFi networks are very small, cell networks are very large.

WiFi networks are generally intended to provide internet and network (i.e., printer) connectivity to just one household or business. In contrast, cell networks are intended to provide cell service and internet connectivity to all of the network’s customers, no matter where they are in the world. When you look at various cell service providers’ coverage area maps, what you see are the areas where that provider has installed, or leases, a cell tower network. Where the provider has “coverage”, its cell customers have cell phone connectivity.

If you only need internet and network connectivity in a single home or business, WiFi will get the job done. But if you want or need to have connectivity more or less all the time, no matter where you are in the world, you have to go with the costlier cell connectivity option.

Also, while WiFi networks can transmit voice and videochat signals across the internet to more or less simulate the functionality of a cell phone, those connections aren’t usually as fast or reliable as a cell connection would be. So if you’re a heavy user of the voice call and videochat features of your device, there again you will be better served by a (more expensive) cell connection.

 

If WiFi Costs So Little, Why Do Hotels, Airports and Airplanes Charge So Much For Using Their Networks?
Because they can, so long as people are willing to keep paying for it, and it makes them a LOT of money. Paying by the hour or the day for WiFi connectivity is almost ALWAYS a ripoff.

 

What About Tablets With Cell Connectivity?
Some tablets only have WiFi connectivity, while others have both WiFi and cell connection capability. If you want to use the cell connection capability of such a tablet you have to sign up for, and pay for, cell service. If you never choose to sign up for a cell plan and/or don’t choose to add the tablet to your existing cell plan, your tablet will only have/use WiFi connectivity.

 

Beware! Tablets With Both WiFi & Cell Connectivity Use Their (Costlier) Cell Connectivity By Default
It should come as no surprise that cell service providers want their customers to use cell connectivity instead of WiFi as much as possible, so the provider can charge its higher cell service rates and collect those sweet, sweet overage fees.

So it should also shock no one to learn that if your tablet is tied to a cell service plan it’s most likely set up to use your cell connection at all times by default—even if you’re at home and doing something you could use your home’s WiFi network for instead. In most cases, the customer must purposely choose to turn off their device’s cell connectivity, turn on WiFi, search for the local WiFi network and log on, and then purposely switch everything back when he or she needs to use a cell connection again. More hassle means fewer people will bother with it, and that means more money for cell service providers.

Recently some cell service providers have begun offering plans for their customers who have both a WiFi and cell service account with the same provider, where the customer’s connected devices will automatically detect and switch to the WiFi service when it’s available. The benefits to the service provider are twofold: first, they can get customers to sign up for both their WiFi and cell services, and second, they can charge a higher monthly rate for the plans that come with the automatic switching to WiFi.

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

The NETGEAR N300 Wi-Fi Range Extender, Essentials Edition boosts your existing WiFi network signal so that it will be stronger and extend further. Right now, this very handy item can be had for just $36.99, which is 32% off its regular price of $54.29. Whether for yourself or to give as a gift, this is a great value!

 

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Fire Tech Tip of the Week: What’s New in the 2014 Fire?

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[tap, tap] Is This Thing On?
For months I’ve been trying to help keep my readers safe from the FBI / Moneypak virus (and it’s actually very simple to avoid this beast), yet hardly a day goes by that I don’t get an email or message, or see an online post, from someone who went ahead and did the very things I warned them against and of course, got the virus.

**UPDATE – 12/10/14** In response to some questions/confusion, let me point out that I’m talking exclusively about the Flash plugin here, also known as “mobile Flash”, which is not the same thing as the Flash Player software that runs on the desktop. Both programs/technologies are owned by Adobe, but the Flash plugin runs exclusively in the browser, and THAT’S the dangerous one.

The Moneypak / FBI virus essentially locks you out of your computer or mobile device until you pay whatever fee it’s asking in order to release the lock. It’s got “FBI” in the name because the extortion pop-up says the FBI has identified some kind of threat or illegal content on your machine and will remove it in exchange for a fee, usually $100-$500, to be paid by credit card. So these hackers get $100-$500 immediately, plus the duped consumer’s credit card number.

Making matters worse, making that payment won’t necessarily unlock your computer or device. Even if it does work, it’s only a matter of time before the hackers lock you out again and demand more money.

 

 

The Flash Connection
A great number of victims seem to be getting the virus when they try to download Flash, which is a totally unsafe and unsupported technology that NOBODY should be using any more. The only way you can get Flash to install and run on an Amazon Fire or an iPad is to install a non-supported browser (which you can only do by “sideloading”, which in this case means downloading it from a location other than Amazon or iTunes and installing it manually, direct to the device’s file system) and then download the Flash browser plugin from within the non-supported browser.

Given that Flash’s current owner, Adobe, hasn’t supported Flash since 2012 it should come as no surprise that such Flash plugin downloads DO NOT come from Adobe. Which means they could be from anyone. And nobody loves an unsafe, unsupported download as much as a hacker does.

From my post Stop Complaining That Your Mobile Thingie Doesn’t Support Flash – You Should Be GLAD That It Doesn’t!:

Dating back to its invention, Flash is a technology that’s been plagued by security problems…When the developer and all its software products were purchased by industry giant Adobe (of Photoshop fame) many expected the Flash security holes to be closed…But it didn’t happen, and in 2012 Adobe threw up its hands and abandoned Flash. Since then, Adobe has …been very clear that any user or developer still using Flash does so at his or her own risk.

 

 

This is why hardware and browser makers have also pulled their support for Flash. iPads and the Amazon Fire line of tablets have never supported it, and since 2012 most new-release tablets and smart phones from other makers are also opting out of Flash support. About the only place it’s still commonly in use is among developers of old Facebook game apps who can’t be bothered to migrate their games to a newer, safer platform.

Still not convinced? While researching this article I found a site that tracks software security vulnerabilities, and it lists over 350 vulnerabilities for Flash.

**CLARIFICATION – 12/10/14** Note that the linked article includes both Flash plugin and Flash Player vulnerabilities dated prior to 2/2011, which is when the Flash Player desktop version was first released. Vulnerabilities listed there for dates beyond 2011 reference the Flash Player desktop software. This is because the name “Flash Player” was typically used to refer to the plugin alone prior to the release of the separate, desktop program, at which point the plugin was supposed to be called simply “Flash” or “Flash mobile”. If you’re not seeing many listed vulnerabilities there for the Flash plugin beyond 2011, it’s because the plugin stopped being a supported technology in 2012 so there was no reason for security firms and sites to keep tracking it.

Yet I’m still hearing and seeing reports of users who are actually hacking or rooting their own devices to try and force Adobe Flash to run when the device manufacturer doesn’t support it. What they’re really doing is laying out the welcome mat for hackers, and all for the sake of some virtual crops, match-3 games or virtual casino chips.

 

 

There Are Other Ways To Get Moneypak
Since I’ve already written entire posts on this subject, I’ll just link to them here:

Malware Update: FBI Moneypak / Ransomware Virus On Kindle Fire and How To Avoid It

Do You Need To Worry About the FBI Ransomware / FBI MoneyPak Virus On Your Mobile Thingies?

Why You Should NEVER Get Your Apps From Google Play

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

ESET Smart Security is the antivirus/antimalware program that I and many other tech pros use. In all the many years I’ve had my ESET subscription, I’ve never once experienced any kind of virus, malware or related infection on my home network or any of the devices in that network. It may surprise you to learn that while ESET is the preferred choice of many tech pros, it’s intended to be easy for any consumer to use and is priced in line with (and often lower than) its better-known competitors. Right now (12/10/14) a three-user version is priced at just $46.30 for a whole year’s subscription, and annual renewals are just as reasonably-priced. Anytime anyone asks me which security program is the best, I don’t hesitate to point them toward ESET.

 

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Undo in Gmail and Other Keyboard Shortcuts

Posted December 9, 2014 By Mom
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Today’s post is brought to you by the Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400 with Built-In Multi-Touch Touchpad, Black: rated 4.5/5 across over 5,500 Amazon reviews, the current #1 bestseller in computer keyboards, and currently (12/9/14) offered at HALF OFF! Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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I originally shared these keyboard shortcuts over a year ago, but since many of you weren’t subscribers or site visitors at that time and this is such incredibly useful information, I’m bringing it back for an encore!

Keyboard shortcuts are handy little key press combos that allow you to quickly perform some action that would otherwise require a little more effort with the mouse. Most programs have them, but they can vary from program to program and power users are generally the only people who ever bother finding out what the shortcuts are for their preferred programs.

Still, there are a few that are worth knowing because they’re “universal”: they work in MOST programs.

 

 

“Universal” Keyboard Shortcuts

There are a few useful shortcuts that are usually the same in ALL programs which allow the user to create content that contains text and images (e.g., word processors, text editors, etc.). To use any keyboard shortcut, press and hold the first key, then press the second key while still holding the first one down.

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Windows / Mac

Ctrl + C / ⌘ + C Copy selected text or image to the computer “clipboard”***

Ctrl + V / ⌘ + V Paste text or image (from the computer clipboard)

Ctrl + X / ⌘ + X Cut selected text or image (note that this does not copy the cut item to the computer clipboard, it’s more like a delete function)

Ctrl + Z / ⌘ + Z Undo / Redo last action

Shift + Enter / Shift + Enter Carriage return: move the cursor down to the next line without activating the Submit function (or starting a new, formatted paragraph in a program like MS Word)

***The computer clipboard is a temporary storage area where anything you “Copy” from within a program is held and made available for “pasting”, or copying back into a program you’re using. Sometimes, depending on the operating system of your computer or the program you’re using, the clipboard can hold more than one item at a time. However, since not all programs or computers provide that function it’s generally best to just assume your clipboard will follow default clipboard behavior: anything you “Copy” will overwrite whatever was already on the clipboard.

 

 

Undo In Gmail, Other Gmail Shortcuts

It changed my life when I discovered the Ctrl + Z keyboard shortcut for Undo works in Gmail, too! I can’t count how many times I accidentally deleted an entire paragraph instead of just a word while composing an email because Gmail likes to highlight entire paragraphs instead of just words. Never again!

It turns out that all of the keyboard shortcuts listed in the previous section work in Gmail by default.

Gmail has a TON of other, Gmail-specific keyboard shortcuts available, but you have to ‘turn on’ the keyboard shortcuts function in Gmail to enable them. This page from Google lists them all and provides instructions for how to turn on the keyboard shortcuts option.

For the typical user, the special Gmail shortcuts are not super-helpful because they’re for doing things that either you rarely need to do, or that you can easily do with a mouse click or two already anyway. Stuff like:

Open a compose window in a new tab.
Move cursor to the mail search box.
Mark message as important.
Mark message as spam.

Unless you spend a LOT of time using Gmail, you’ll probably come to the same conclusion I have about these shortcuts: it takes more time and trouble to memorize them than you stand to save by using them.

 

 

Inserting Blank Lines In Status Updates On Facebook

The Shift + Enter keyboard shortcut is particularly useful on sites like Facebook, where just pressing “Enter” by itself is the same as clicking a Submit button.

Using the Shift + Enter keyboard shortcut, you can insert blank lines into your notes, status updates and so on to create paragraph breaks in text boxes on sites that don’t provide any other way to do that.

Some of those sites will automatically remove your inserted blank lines anyway when your text is saved (this is typically seen in comment forms in the discussion area beneath articles or blog posts), but it definitely works on Facebook and it’s worth trying elsewhere.

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

The Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400 with Built-In Multi-Touch Touchpad, Black is a great value at its regular price of $39.99, but right now (as of 12/9/14) Amazon’s got it marked down to just $19.99—that’s HALF OFF! It’s got an average review rating of 4.5/5 stars and is eligible for Prime shipping, too. Easy and comfortable typing on quiet keys with bold, easy-to-read characters – Large (3.5-inch) touch-pad with multi-touch navigation for easier web browsing – Control your TV-connected laptop from the couch with 33 feet/10 meter wireless range – Plug the tiny Logitech Unifying wireless receiver into your laptop and start surfing the web – Works with Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP

 

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Welcome To Free Music Monday!

Remember how great it was, listening to college radio stations or other independent broadcasters who were devoted to bringing new, intriguing music and artists to the fore? Nowadays, you can get that college station remix feeling from today’s Free Music Monday pick, Nettwerk Fall 2014 Music Sampler (5/5 stars, currently FREE).

But wait, there’s more!

Not only will this album introduce you to some promising new artists, it includes Sinead O’Connor’s new single Take Me To Church (which is already climbing the UK charts – from her new album I’m Not Bossy I’m The Boss) and a track from Peter Murphy’s new album Lion!

Yes, it’s THAT Sinead O’Connor (Mandinka, Nothing Compares 2 U) and THAT Peter Murphy (Cuts You Up, Bela Lugosi’s Dead [with Bauhaus])!

This album has 16 tracks in all, and the inclusion of O’Connor and Murphy here gives you some idea of the quality level you can expect from the album overall. It’s not for nothing that this one’s got an average 5/5 review rating (as of this writing, 12/8/14)!

Love Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Cocteau Twins? The Coves track is right up your alley. The Bravery, or Franz Ferdinand more your speed? Check out the track from Ghost Beach. John Lennon fans, be sure to give a listen to the track from Boy and Bear. Lily Kershaw’s track sounds quite reminiscent of Ellie Goulding. Stu Larsen’s track is not to be missed if you love Paulo Nutini.

You get the idea: there’s something here for everyone!

 

Grab your copy of the Nettwerk Fall 2014 Music Sampler today, before Nettwerk comes to its senses and starts charging for it again!

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

The the DKnight Magicbox Ultra-Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker is compatible with any Bluetooth device (Android, iOS, Microsoft, etc.), is rated 4.5/5 stars across over 2,800 Amazon reviews, is eligible for Prime Shipping, is available in 3 colors, and is currently sale priced at $31.99—68% off its regular price of $99.99! It makes a terrific holiday gift for yourself, or any digital music lover you know.

 

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Fire Tech Tip of the Week: What’s New in the 2014 Fire?

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