Five Ways Your Smartphone Can Damage Your Life and How to Stop It

Categories: Tech

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Good advice.
For all the advancements technology provides and all the convenience it affords us, there are risks associated with it that often catch us off guard. Who knew that the advent of the home computer would lead both to infinite discovery and obesity? It is the blessing and curse of any tool that it can be used for good and harm. That is why in this world of near constant tech connection we learn how to protect ourselves.

Frequently, the simple answer is to unplug.

All things in moderation as the saying goes. But there are times when we all must remain chained to our phones, for business or personal needs. In those times, you can end up creating some serious problems for yourself, but that isn't technology's fault. It's yours. Here are five ways to stop it.

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In Defense of the Amazon.com Prime Rate Hike

Categories: Tech

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Rate hikes suck, but this is justified.
No one wants to pay more for anything. That's been true since the dawn of commerce. I'm pretty sure some caveman grunted his begrudging dissatisfaction when the guy who sold sticks of fire raised his price from one dead rat to two, but if he wanted fire, he ponied up the critter.

The fact is, anyone who is signed up for Amazon.com's Prime service and ships even a handful of packages every year is getting a deal. If you use the streaming video service or the free e-books, you're probably saving a decent amount of cash.

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Places You Didn't Think You'd Miss Until They Were Gone: RadioShack Shuttering 1,100 Stores

Categories: Tech

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Youtube.com
Hopes and dreams of young engineers everywhere are slowly being crushed.

There are 35 RadioShack stores in the Houston. Would you miss them if they were gone?

RadioShack, despite a massive re-branding effort over the last year, announced on Tuesday it would be closing 1,100 of its 4,000 retail outlets due to poor earnings. The electronics store has been operating at a loss and announced it would make the closures of "underperforming" outlets this year. The company hasn't slacked on its promotional efforts, featuring a new tagline "Do It Together" and an '80s-themed Super Bowl commercial.

No word yet on which Houston stores will be closed.

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Facebook's Paper App Is Stylish and Interesting, but Has Critical Flaws

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A cool concept, but not a replacement for the standard Facebook app.
For years, Facebook's mobile development has been oddly haphazard. From the painfully inconsistent upgrades to its flagship app to the random release of various apps for an array of different needs (Pages, Photos, etc), it has felt more like the mobile team at FB was divided up into about 20 different divisions all operating with complete autonomy. Most recently, they came up with Paper, a stylish new app designed to leverage shared links and provide a more news-based interface for the social network. Even the name echoes the idea that this is like reading a newspaper, not a social media website.

The first and most obvious change with Paper over the traditional Facebook app is how it looks. Built to take advantage of upgrades in iOS 7 (this is only available for iPhone currently), it has a modern look and feel with a smooth workflow. The main screen serves as a cooler looking Timeline with updates split between a lower series of panels that look like flash cards and a larger space above that has more graphic content. Like most apps, you swipe through the spaces to see various updates and touch them to get more info.

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What the Hell Is Bitcoin and Why Should You Care?

Categories: Tech

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The new quarter?
One of the trending topics on Facebook this week -- a pretty good indicator of what people are talking about online -- was Mt. Gox. The vast majority of people have probably never heard of the the strange sounding company, but its bankruptcy could have a significant impact on other companies invested in the new money changing technology Bitcoin. Your next question is probably what is Bitcoin? And, more importantly, why is it such a big deal?

In simplest terms, Bitcoin is a form of currency, but instead of paper or credit cards, it is stored virtually and exchanged through a peer-to-peer network. Some believe Bitcoins are the future of banking transactions, perhaps even paper money, but it is still in its infancy with a long way to go to even become a viable source of money transfers.

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Apple Users: Time to Update Your Operating System Like Now Thanks to "GoTo Fail"

Categories: Tech

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Get your iOS update now.
One of the benefits of being a longtime Apple user is that there were rarely as many viruses and bugs affecting Mac and associated products as there were for Windows. This is no doubt thanks to the more widespread use and ease of exploitation of Windows machines. But one thing that can cause serious problems without the intervention of hackers and viral perpetrators is a big giant hole in the security of an operating system. That is exactly what Apple has in its newest OS.

Apple discovered the flaw in its iOS (mobile, tablet) and OS Mavericks (desktop) systems recently and released a patch for the iOS version, though it has yet to offer the same for the desktop version. The hole is related to a type of code commonly used by programmers to send information from one website to another referred to as a "goto" call. It isn't as widely used as more secure and sophisticated code, but it does exist.

The hole allows outside users to gain access to your apps and information. As Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle explains:

In other words, anything you send across the Internet could be intercepted or changed. Your communications are compromised without the patch.
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Netflix, Comcast End Feud: Why It Matters to You

Categories: Tech, Television

Pay to play in full force.
If you tried to watch a movie or a TV series recently on Netflix, particularly if you happen to have Comcast as your Internet provider, you might have had a few issues. Sure, they may have the entire final season of Breaking Bad, but it won't do you much good if you are constantly having to buffer. That was the case for many Comcast subscribers as the cable giant, according to Netflix, slowed streams from the service by as much as 27 percent.

Fortunately, this week the two media companies reached an agreement that will end the dispute. This comes on the heals of the massive merger between Comcast and Time Warner. But even if you don't use Comcast, this deal should be of interest to you because it has the potential to impact future deals between other streaming services. There is also word that cable companies, in an effort to protect eroding markets as people leave subscription television services for streaming, will begin increasing prices to Internet-only customers.

Here's the breakdown on how all this affects you.

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Facebook's Whatsapp Purchase Reminds Us Tech Is for the Kids

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If you barely even understand this, you are probably old.
In the span of three months, Facebook, the massive social media giant, offered more than $20 billion (billion with a 'b') for a pair of messaging apps. The first was SnapChat, the photo message sharing app your kids love and you probably know nothing about, which turned down $3 billion from Zuckerberg, Inc. back in November. The second was this week, when Whatsapp, an app that offers an alternative to traditional text messaging, was offered $19 billion by The Book. It wisely accepted.

I'm sure, if you have made it this far, you ware wondering, "Who or what the hell is a Whatsapp? Why is it worth so much? And what idiot turned down $3 billion for an app?" All fair questions, but the very questions themselves are probably a pretty good indicator of your age and, perhaps, your geography.

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App of the Week: WunderMap Makes Weather Simple

Categories: Tech, Weather

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Weather uncluttered.
App: WunderMap
Platforms: iPhone, Android, iPad, Kindle Fire
Web site: http://www.wunderground.com/download/index.asp
Cost: Free

We southerners don't often have to deal in degrees when it comes to the weather. A high temperature of 90 is just as uncomfortable as 92. But, when the weather is near freezing and there is moisture in the atmosphere, suddenly degrees matter a lot.

During Houston's recent cold snaps, it became evident to me why knowing if it is 33 or 31 outside is significant, particularly when there is precipitation falling or about to fall. And while there are plenty of apps that give you pretty accurate radar readings and fairly close monitoring of your hyper-local weather, nothing lays it out as simply as WunderMap.


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Subscription Spam: How Often Is Too Often?

Categories: Tech

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You asked for it. You got it.
Every morning when I wake up, one of the first things I do is check my e-mail, a consequence of working for myself. Depending on what time I get up, there are anywhere from six to a dozen e-mails in my personal inbox and, with limited exception, most of them are daily messages from subscription services to which I have added my e-mail. Some I want every day -- news feeds, daily deal e-mails -- but others show up simply because I have a username and password registered with the company's website.

I know that I can go and turn off these notifications or remove myself from these services altogether. But, like many, I'm lazy. It is easier to just delete them and move on. This morning, as I was sending another batch of newsletter spam to its digital grave I wondered, how often should these e-mails be sent by default?

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