[Masthead] Fair ~ 72°F  
High: 85°F ~ Low: 68°F
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Skim-scam artists mess with consumers (06/22/16)
In 2007, I went on a mission trip to Bolivia. It was not one of my more successful trips, for a variety of reasons, and then I had a travel nightmare trying to get home. An historic cold snap caused problems for commercial airlines, and my flight out of Bolivia was delayed -- in three- or four-hour increments -- for more than a day. Then, after flying from Bolivia to Miami, we had to kill eight hours in the Miami airport before the next available flight to Nashville...
Snarky Facebook political posts aren't helping country (06/15/16)
I was talking on Monday to one of my brothers, who's on the verge of quitting Facebook. I know exactly how he feels. The social media reaction to Sunday's mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, was, to me, a symbol of American political discourse at its worst, and I think Facebook is at the heart of it...
Algorithms sometimes just aren't into your life's rhythms (06/08/16)
When you browse your social media accounts, which of these would you most like to see? l The most recent and up-to-date postings from your friends or those whom you follow, period, or l The postings which a computer algorithm believe would be most interesting to you, even if some of them are hours or days old?...
Sharing a Facebook post doesn't determine decency (06/01/16)
Over the weekend, a Facebook friend of mine made the following post: "You know what won't get a share from me? Things that say 'I bet this won't get one share.'" I know exactly how she feels. I, too, get annoyed at the type of Facebook post that implies the reader is not pious, patriotic, or what have you unless the reader passes along that particular Facebook post...
New printers take a different approach to ink (05/25/16)
Last August, I discussed the fact that some computer printer manufacturers seem to use the pricing model ascribed (wrongly, according to one historian) to razor-maker King Gillette. They sell their printers relatively cheaply, knowing that once you own the printer you're locked into using that manufacturer's ink cartridges, and they make their real profit from the ongoing sale of those cartridges...
Join the culture club: Make yogurt (05/22/16)
Ivy, a Facebook friend of mine from Rutherford County, has been making her own homemade yogurt, and -- knowing this sort of thing was right up my alley -- she encouraged me to try it, too. Making yogurt is surprisingly easy, and the finished product is delicious. Homemade yogurt is also quite a bit cheaper than store-bought. After your first batch, the only ingredient you need is milk, plus a little bit of reserved yogurt from your last batch...
Twitter may be about to become more expressive (05/18/16)
According to a story this week at TechCrunch (techcrunch.com), Twitter may soon -- possibly in the next couple of weeks -- stop counting link URLs towards its 140-character limit. The social media site Twitter's identity is that 140-character limit. That's what defines Twitter; it's a place where you go for pithy, real-time comments and bursts of information...
Impossible Project gets picture, sells film camera (05/11/16)
A few weeks ago, this column was about Mistbox (mistbox.com), a Kickstarter-launched device which claims to lower home air conditioning bills by, under certain conditions, spraying a mist around the external unit of your central HVAC system. Ideally, the mist lowers the temperature of the air being pulled into the system and thereby decreases the work your system has to do...
New product promises hummus made easy (05/08/16)
Hummus is a dip, Middle Eastern in origin, made from garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas) pureed with other ingredients and flavorings. It's often served with pita chips, but it's fine with many other types of crackers and chips as well. Hummus can be bought pre-made; if your supermarket has a deli counter, the pre-made hummus is often somewhere in a refrigerated case nearby. ...
Precautions keep Facebook business pages safe (05/04/16)
When people think of identity theft, they think of an individual -- someone whose financial information, computer passwords, et cetera, are taken by another for criminal purposes. But identity theft can happen to businesses as well, and Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs, part of the Department of Commerce and Insurance, is warning businesses that their social media accounts can be hacked, a situation that can cause great peril to a business's reputation and good will, not to mention the possible theft of information or the potential for fraud.. ...
'Dew' your homework before buying HVAC misting device (04/27/16)
Mistbox (mistbox.com) is an add-on to your home's central heating and air conditioning system which claims to reduce your energy bill. The device, which was originally funded through a Kickstarter campaign, is a small, solar-powered electronic box that screws to the outside unit of your HVAC system, and it's got a tube with misters which wraps around all four sides of the unit. You must hook the device to an outdoor water spigot...
New app keeps records for sexual assault victims (04/13/16)
Sexual assault is a traumatic enough experience that some victims aren't immediately ready to approach the police and report it, even though they should. But the later someone waits to come forward, the less useful the account becomes, and the more likely it is to be called into question...
Symphony concerts end, but music lives on (04/10/16)
References to the Nashville Symphony's previous annual concerts in Shelbyville have been popping up in my Facebook memories for days now. This would normally be the time of year when I'd be busy trying to get the word out about the concert. I've had several people stop and ask me when the concert would be this year...
Thumbs down for texting and driving (04/06/16)
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the state of Tennessee is promoting a campaign it calls "Thumbs Down to Texting and Driving." The Tennessee Governor's Highway Safety Office and the Department of Safety and Homeland Security have joined in the effort. They're asking social media users to post a selfie giving the "thumbs down" symbol using the hashtag #ThumbsDownTN...
Check on who that online content actually belongs to (03/30/16)
We got a photo in the e-mail the other day to promote the upcoming return of an annual fund-raising event. I looked at the photo and my first thought was, "that's a nice, professional-looking photo." Then I looked at the file name and realized why: It had been taken by my colleague Jim Davis. Jim uses a particular system for naming his image files, and this was undoubtedly one of Jim's photos, taken, I assume, at some previous year's fundraiser...
Viewers determine net worth of streaming services (03/23/16)
"Doctor Who" is moving to Amazon Prime. That is to say, reruns of the popular BBC series, which had previously been available on Netflix and Hulu, are now moving exclusively to Amazon Prime and its video streaming service. Original episodes will still air on BBC America, as they have been doing...
Vouchers would greatly impact public schools (03/20/16)
There was a discussion of the proposed school voucher program on the Times-Gazette website the other day, in the comments under a blog post about the wheel tax. I don't want to definitively answer the question of whether a voucher system would be good or bad, but I do want to respond to one commenter saying that a voucher system would not have any financial impact on public school systems. It would have an impact -- and potentially a large one...
Galaxy S7 pairs well with new VR headset (03/16/16)
It's always a joy to try out a new top-of-the-line Samsung Galaxy, in this case the Galaxy S7. Yes, I'm supposed to be telling you about the good and the bad, but I have to admit I'm always pleasantly surprised by the latest features and improvements...
Tabasco jelly: A legacy recipe with a sweet kick (03/13/16)
A few years ago, I learned to can for the first time; the specific class was about canning salsa, but it also served as a basic tutorial on the procedures for water bath canning. The leader of the class, and our local extension personnel, were very careful to tell us to use only approved and tested recipes. When you can something, you're putting your trust in the canning process to keep you safe from food-borne illnesses...
A budget-friendly, entry-level smartphone (03/09/16)
It's been a while since I've done a product review in this space, but I have one for you this week. As best I can remember, the LG Optimus Zone 3, from Verizon, is the first specifically pre-paid phone I've been sent to review. It's an inexpensive choice for someone testing the waters when it comes to pre-paid phones, or for someone looking for their first smartphone after years of using feature phones. ...
Apple versus Uncle Sam in privacy/security debate (02/24/16)
It's a remarkable news story, pitting one of America's best-known and most-distinctive corporations against the federal government itself, arguing over how best to preserve our safety and security. Unless you've been living off the grid, you've heard about it. The U.S. Department of Justice is trying to force Apple Inc. to help it break into an iPhone which belonged to the gunman in a terrorist shooting in San Bernadino, Calif. A court ordered Apple to do just that...
Check first before believing Facebook claims on charities (02/18/16)
A dear friend of mine, last weekend, was circulating one of my least-favorite Internet pass-alongs -- a grid that purports to expose financial mismanagement at some charities and point you instead to others. The pass-along is wildly inaccurate, and the section of it dealing with Goodwill Industries is an out-and-out lie, falsely claiming that Goodwill is a privately-owned business rather than a not-for-profit, and listing a wrong name for its CEO. ...
Figuring out who your best Facebook friends are is tough (02/17/16)
I've got a question for those of you on social media. How do you decide which friend requests to accept? Do you accept every request? Only people with whom you're personally acquainted? Only close friends? Do you sometimes ignore a friend request because you think the person might be offended by, or misunderstand, some of what you post? Do you worry that people will be offended when you don't immediately accept their friend requests?...
140 characters, one big problem (01/27/16)
In the movie "Citizen Kane," banker Walter Thatcher (George Coulouris) complains to his wealthy former ward Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) that Kane's newspaper, the New York Inquirer, is losing money. "You're right, I did lose a million dollars last year," Kane responds, with a twinkle in his eye. ...
Safety should come first in school closings (01/21/16)
Whenever schools are closed -- or not closed -- during a winter weather scare, there's always a host of second-guessing on Facebook. "I drove to work just fine this morning -- I don't understand why they had to close the schools." "I used to live in [cold Northern state], and they'd laugh at the idea of closing school for this puny amount of snow."...
Scammers cause stress; app relieves it (01/20/16)
Stu Sjouwerman of the web security company KnowBe4 (knowbe4.com) has posted in the firm's e-mail newsletter about a potential security threat to owners of Dell PCs. Apparently, scammers have somehow gotten access to service information about Dell PCs and are calling computer owners and asking for remote access so that they can fix a problem with the PC. ...
Your post-holiday tech report (12/30/15)
As we wrap up a hectic holiday season, technology continues to be a factor in our lives -- as it almost always is. Did you get a new smartphone for Christmas? Well, you'll be visiting the app store for your device, downloading whatever apps weren't included with the phone to begin with (and maybe whatever other apps catch your eye). You'll probably also be loading your music onto the phone so that you can use it as an MP3 player -- or maybe you'll use a streaming service like Spotify...
Seeing through walls, and visits from online ghosts (12/23/15)
An Associated Press story by Scott Eisen reports that a new technology uses wireless radio signals to detect what's going on in another room -- and a consumer device is expected in 2017, costing only about $300. The device is expected to be useful for tracking the movements of, say, toddlers or dementia patients who wander. ...
Vote for Whitney and track Santa (12/16/15)
Today is your last chance to cast a vote for a team which is attempting to create an app to help promote farmer's market programs. Whitney Danhof of the UT/TSU Extension office in Shelbyville is involved with the project. To cast your vote -- it costs you nothing, and you don't have to register -- go to bit.ly/1J7fRB6...
E-readers do one thing but do it well (12/09/15)
Last summer, I took advantage of a sale to replace my several-years-old entry-level Kindle e-reader with the latest entry-level Kindle, and I've been delighted with it. But writer Kannon Yamada, at the website MakeUseOf.com, has advised against buying an e-reader this Christmas, saying that both the processor and the display used by several of the top manufacturers are due for upgrades, and so there should be substantially better models available for sale in 2016...
What's 'fair' is sometimes treated unfairly (12/02/15)
The legal doctrine of "fair use" is a tricky one. I, as an individual, can't simply retype a manuscript of John Grisham's latest book and sell it for money. That book is protected by copyright -- it belongs to Mr. Grisham and/or his publishers. We at the Times-Gazette are content creators, and while we love it when you link to our stories we don't like it when someone plagiarizes our copyrighted work for another website, broadcast or publication. ...
Book highlights epic patent battle, changing technology (11/25/15)
I was looking for a book to put on my Kindle for the weekend, and on Shelbyville-Bedford County Public Library's e-book lending site I happened to stumble across "A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War," by Ronald K. Fierstein. I didn't read the description too closely, and I certainly didn't notice that the book was published by the American Bar Association; I might have assumed it was aimed at lawyers and passed it over...
Facebook criticized for Paris response (11/18/15)
Facebook responded to last weekend's terrorist attacks in Paris in two ways that made news. The first was that Facebook activated a feature called Safety Check, which it had used in the past for natural disasters but never before in response to a terrorist incident. ...
Facebook's 'Secret Sister' is pyramid scheme (11/11/15)
While some social media memes are unique to the Internet age, some are just turbo-charged versions of things that were around for years before the Internet was a factor. In the past week or two, some users of Facebook have reported getting invitations to a "secret sister" gift program...
Court considers people-finder sites (11/04/15)
Have you ever used web sites like Spokeo.com, Pipl.com or 411.com to track down contact information for someone? They can be helpful sometimes -- but they can also be flawed, with bad information, perhaps the result of a computer algorithm confusing one person with another. You might want to try looking yourself up some time to see what's listed...
Concrete on square would be much safer (11/01/15)
Each day, or as often as I can, I take a midday walk from the newspaper offices down Depot Street to the square, then down to Riverbottom Park, then back up to the square and back to the newspaper. My normal route takes me around all four sides of the square...
Halloween treat hoax isn't the first trick (10/29/15)
I have a somewhat gruesome trivia question for you. How many children have been killed or seriously injured by tainted Halloween treats -- razor blades in apples, that sort of thing? The answer may surprise you. Joel Best of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware has been researching Halloween sabotage for many years (www.udel.edu/soc/faculty/best/site/halloween.html), and he's found no cases -- not a single one -- where a child has been killed or injured by Halloween candy or other treats received from neighbors, and only the tiniest handful where an adulterated Halloween treat has even been found. ...
Cracking the market but not the screen (10/28/15)
Verizon Wireless and Motorola introduced two new phones on Tuesday, including what they said was the first smartphone with shatterproof display, and what they said was the fastest-charging smartphone. I was all set to live stream the introduction, but the Internet failed me, and so I've had to rely on the news release and other reports...
Social media can bring out the worst in us (10/21/15)
Umair Haque, a consultant and author who contributes to the Harvard Business Review, has some harsh words for social media in a blog post titled "Why Twitter's Dying (And What You Can Learn From It)": "The problem of abuse is the greatest challenge the web faces today. ...
Connected consumers binge with on-demand content (10/14/15)
The Ericsson ConsumerLab TV and Media Report, released last month, states that 35 percent of all TV and video viewing hours are now spent on "on-demand" content. Consumers who have broadband Internet at home spend an average of six hours a week watching streamed on-demand TV shows and movies, more than twice the figure on 2011...
Chip cards lauded as more secure, but take getting used to (10/07/15)
Your credit and debit cards are getting a makeover. You either have received, or should be receiving in the next few months, new cards that have a gold symbol, roughly square-shaped, on the front left side of the card. These are called EMV cards, chip cards, or smart-chip cards, depending on who you talk to. There's a computer chip lurking beneath that gold symbol...
Don't believe everything you see on the Internet (09/30/15)
Every year or two, going back to the days of fax or even snail mail, I write a column imploring people to check things out before passing them along. It never, ever does any good. And yet, I'm going to do it again. I'm stupid that way. On Monday, out of the blue, I started seeing two different -- but equally bogus -- memes about Facebook circulating on Facebook. ...
We'll miss stories from an amazing man (09/24/15)
I would not swear to it in a court of law, but I think I remember first suggesting that the Times-Gazette have a ghost story contest. It's been an annual tradition for quite a while now, and we'll probably put out another call for entries in the next week or so...
Traditional businesses use Internet apps to their advantage (09/23/15)
My co-worker Jason has a birthday coming up, and he made a remark Tuesday morning about how the e-mail coupons were starting to roll in. Like me, Jason sometimes signs up for e-mail updates or what have you with various restaurant chains, and many of the chains that employ such programs will send you some sort of coupon to use around the time of your birthday. Some chains are more generous than others, but, hey, free is free, right?...
Irritating covers on Spotify -- and why they exist (09/16/15)
The Verge (theverge.com) has a great story by Lizzie Plaugic about the proliferation of cover bands and artists on the music streaming service Spotify. One of the most-annoying moments for Spotify users is looking for a favorite song, to add to a playlist or just listen to on its own, and being fooled into clicking on a cover version of that song, often because the original artist hasn't agreed to release their music to services like Spotify. ...
Printing photos is a zip with mini printer (09/09/15)
When I was a teenager, and Pat Sajak was a disk jockey on WSM in Nashville, I won a Polaroid camera from his program. I was excited. Back then, of course, most cameras used Kodak film, which you had to send away to get developed, unless you were lucky enough to have a camera shop or photo processing lab nearby. Remember the Fotomat kiosk near Kentucky Fried Chicken?...
Ideological views shouldn't determine friendships (09/03/15)
The other day, we got an opinion submission from someone upset at the actions of a particular elected official. The reader was questioning this particular official's stand on some issue, and he was trying to accuse this official of being in the pocket of a leader from the opposing political party. ...
Heed the call: Help others with your old cellphones (09/02/15)
A Facebook friend of mine posted a photo this week of her old cell phones. She's apparently kept every cell phone she ever owned, and has quite a collection. You can see the progress of the phones through the years, from big chunky ones to little flip phones...
Yeast of Eden: Sourdough bread is worth the wait (08/30/15)
I've never had much of a green thumb -- my last few attempts to start even a small herb garden have died unceremoniously within weeks. And I'm not really a pet person. But, guess what? I'm great at growing wild yeast. I'm talking, if you don't know, about a sourdough starter...
The (electronic) nose knows (08/26/15)
Microsoft has now released Cortana, its Siri-like digital assistant, as an Android app, albeit in a beta test version. You have to sign up for the beta test before downloading the software. Cortana began life as a feature of Windows Phone, but it's now moved to the desktop as a part of Windows 10 and is tightly integrated with Microsoft's new Edge browser. Users who discover Cortana on the desktop will be able to also use the assistant on their Android phones...
All the television you want -- and then some (08/19/15)
As we teeter between a past of scheduled, channel-based programming and a future of on-demand, streaming programming, the head of FX Networks said to a gathering of TV writers recently that there is "too much television." That's right; the head of a group of TV networks said this...
Actions of a few shouldn't taint entire horse industry (08/16/15)
From time to time, we get e-mails -- sometimes anonymous, sometimes not -- about the horse industry, criticizing the industry, the community and sometimes us here at the newspaper for supposedly turning a blind eye to cruelty. I've never been a horse owner, and I've only been on a horse once or twice in my life. So I'm certainly not connected to the competitive side of the sport. But I do enjoy the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration and attend the event each year...
Printer comes with 2 years' worth of ink (08/12/15)
If you have an inkjet printer at home, you know that you have to be careful when buying them -- it pays to do a little investigating. Sometimes, you can get a printer very cheaply, only to discover that the ink cartridges used by that printer are quite expensive...
Raise your hand, and learn (08/04/15)
I won't start back to school for a few more weeks yet, but I can't wait. For the past few years, I've been a volunteer in "Raise Your Hand Tennessee," a United Way-organized initiative which places adult volunteers in elementary schools to help kids read...
MTSU takes students on e-reader journey (07/29/15)
Well, just last week I was gushing about the benefits of e-readers, and this week I got a relevant news release from our friends up the road at Middle Tennessee State University. One of the major challenges to paying for a college education is the cost of textbooks, which have been rising rapidly over the past decade. ...
E-readers fill a niche (07/22/15)
Amazon took some criticism last week for its "Prime Day," with some people saying the values being offered weren't as exciting as they'd been led to believe. But I ended up buying something. First, let me backtrack. Amazon Prime is Amazon.com's preferred customer program. ...
Windows Phone: An endangered species that works well (07/15/15)
Sharp-eyed readers of this column may recall that I am a fan of the Windows Phone operating system. This is somewhat akin to saying that your favorite James Bond is George Lazenby. People look at you and ask, "who?" Windows Phone is an also-ran, a distant, distant third behind iOS (the operating system on iPhones and iPads) and Android...
Facebook plus politics often equals danger (07/08/15)
Between same-sex marriage and the Confederate flag, it's been a terrible few weeks to be on Facebook. Facebook status updates, from either end of the political spectrum, have been more defensive, more offensive, more simplistic and more divisive than I've ever seen them. Users of Facebook have taken some incredibly complex issues and boiled them down into pithy, easily-shared, us-against-them claptrap that cheapens us as a nation and that makes it harder for us to find common ground...
I'll miss walks along Lewisburg's greenway (07/02/15)
I'm back -- did you miss me? Don't answer that. For about two and a half months, from the second week in April until about the third week in June, I spent my days helping out in the newsroom at the Times-Gazette's sister newspaper, the Marshall County Tribune in Lewisburg. The Tribune was temporarily short-handed and so I went over there to work each day...
Siri, Cortana, Alexa want to hear from you (07/01/15)
Voice-controlled smartphone functions -- Apple's Siri, Google Now, and Microsoft's Cortana -- have become the rage in recent years. Voice recognition technology has come a long way and, while it's still not perfect, many people have good success giving Siri or Cortana instructions...
A quite sensible solution to intrusive phones (05/20/15)
There are times, we all recognize, when smartphones and other cell phones need to be put away. And yet, even if we cluck our tongues at someone else for using their phone inappropriately, we're tempted to do the same thing ourselves. Sometimes, the problem is common courtesy; sometimes, in the case of a movie or concert, the problem is copyright or similar issues...
Ready for Windows 10? It's coming this summer (05/13/15)
The next version of Windows, due out this summer, will be called Windows 10. The name is a little confusing, because it skips right over the number 9. The most recent version of Windows has been 8.1. According to Microsoft -- and subject, of course, to current or future executives changing their minds somewhere down the road -- we won't have to worry about what the next version of Windows is called...
Contract restrictions limit right to choose channels (04/29/15)
From time to time, people upset at their cable TV bills say they wish they could choose their own cable or satellite lineup, picking and choosing (and paying for) only the channels they and their family watch. The cable companies have always said that such a system would be unfeasible -- and to be fair, it would totally upend the economy of cable television...
'New Screen Savers' could be a fun tech show (04/22/15)
Regular readers of this column may notice that I occasionally cite things I heard from Leo Laporte or guests on his show "This Week In Tech." I've been a fan of Leo's for years, since he was the face of the TV network TechTV (originally ZDTV, but I don't go that far back). ...
Boy, was my face red (04/19/15)
As you may know, I'm a member of the county organizing committee for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life, a cause that has meant a great deal to me since I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer in 2010. Earlier this month, our Relay committee hosted Bedford County's first-ever Bark For Life, a dog-themed cancer society fundraiser. Unlike Relay For Life, which is held on an overnight schedule, this event took place during broad daylight...
New headphones limit volume for kids (04/08/15)
One of the dangers of children and technology is hearing loss. Kids sometimes like to turn their headphones up loud -- too loud. That can lead to long-term hearing loss. Kidz Gear is an El Dorado Hills, California-based manufacturer of tech products and accessories for, as the name implies, children. The company's latest product is its Kidz Gear Deluxe Stereo Headset Headphones with Boom Microphone. The company had already been making a version of the headphones without the mike...
Honoring Mom - with an appearance in 'Emic' (04/02/15)
A few years ago, my brother Michael was rooting through some old family photos. He was looking for photos of our long-departed Aunt Ila which he could show to his young daughter, also named Ila. But he found another photo, one he held onto for a bit...
When Shelbyville didn't even have dial-up (04/01/15)
Bedford County needs an Internet connection. The Internet is the nationwide network of business, academic and government computers you've been reading so much about in recent years. On the Internet, you can find everything from the funniest joke to the most boring government statistic. ...
New smartphone lives on the Edge (04/01/15)
Samsung's Galaxy Note Edge, like its Galaxy S6 Edge, gets its name from its distinctive screen. The screen curves part of the way around the right edge of the phone, and this curved area is used for notifications and toolbars without taking any space away from the phone's regular screen, even if you're watching a video or have the phone in a closed case (provided the case's design lets you look at the phone's edge)...
Microsoft Band, the cheaper smartwatch (03/25/15)
I wrote here last week about the prospects for the Apple Watch, and I mentioned the Samsung Galaxy Gear and the Pebble as competitors. Well, long-time PC Magazine columnist John C. Dvorak writes at the PC Magazine web site that he considers the Microsoft Band a great value in this category...
It keeps time -- but is this the right time? (03/18/15)
I have, you may remember, reviewed a couple of smartwatches in this column. They were fun, and there was some utility in them, but I'm not sure how much I'd actually pay to purchase one. Smartwatches have a variety of different functions. In addition to telling the time, they serve as sort of a branch office for your smartphone. ...
City doesn't determine where businesses locate (03/05/15)
I used to enjoy the computer game "Sim City," in which the player lays out a city and watches it develop (or not develop, if you've done a poor job of design and budgeting). It's fun to imagine planning your own city, but that's not necessarily the way things work in real life...
Net neutrality is move to keep Internet content equal (03/04/15)
I wrote in this space about the issue of "net neutrality" as long ago as 2010 -- and my co-worker David Melson did a column which mentioned the term back in 2006. I've been following the issue for years now. This is a serious policy matter, and there's plenty of room for legitimate disagreement over some very complex issues. But I was really frustrated last week when an FCC decision prompted an outcry on social media which I suspect has its roots in talk radio or cable television...
They're computers, no matter the format (02/25/15)
The dividing line between laptops, notebooks and tablets is getting fuzzier. Some companies are marketing "two-in-one" notebook computers with which the keyboard half can be swiveled and tucked away under the screen, so that the device can be held and used with a touchscreen, like a tablet. ...
Is the web killing 'Saturday Night Live'? (02/18/15)
The "Saturday Night Live" 40th anniversary special on Sunday night drew huge ratings for NBC, but there has been some hand-wringing lately about the long-term prospects for the show. I'm not talking about the eternal complaints that "the new cast isn't as good as the cast I grew up with." Those complaints have gone on throughout the show's history, and the cast that one generation blamed for ruining the show is looked back on fondly by a different generation as representing a golden era. ...
Birthday greetings to near-strangers (02/11/15)
I volunteer for an hour a week at one of our local elementary schools as part of United Way's "Raise Your Hand Tennessee" program. And when I arrive I put on one of those "VISITOR" stickers with room for you to write your name and the date. On Monday, as I was sitting at a table with a small group of first graders, one of them noticed the date on my sticker and asked if that meant it was my birthday. ...
Memory boost can speed up a computer amazingly (02/04/15)
By the time you read this, I'll have doubled the memory in my computer. I'm writing this on Tuesday, and my memory is supposed to arrive in the mail today. It was a very modest tax-refund splurge. New memory is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to improve a computer's performance, one which gives you bang for your buck...
I want more cowbell -- and you can help (01/29/15)
Like Christopher Walken in a famous "Saturday Night Live" sketch, I want more cowbell. Let me explain. I'm a member of the organizing committee for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life here in Bedford County. We're having a kickoff party 2-4 p.m. Saturday at Bedford County Agriculture and Education Center, and everyone is invited...
Windows 10 steps both forward and backward (01/28/15)
The things I do for you, the readers. When the Windows 10 Technical Preview was first announced last October, I signed up for the Windows Insider program, but when it came time to actually download the software, I hesitated. There were, of course, all sorts of warnings on the site: This is test software! Don't use it on your primary machine! There may be bugs! You could lose everything! Objects in mirror are closer than they appear!...
An original board member looks back (01/23/15)
In 1990, the late Bob Green was executive director of Shelbyville & Bedford County Chamber of Commerce. One of Shelbyville's biggest industries, Calsonic Manufacturing Corp., approached him with a problem. ...
MySpace, Throwback Thursday, and psychopaths (01/21/15)
MySpace, which was the cool social network for a while among a certain generation, was largely supplanted by Facebook. But MySpace still exists, with singer Justin Timberlake as one of its owners. MySpace was always somewhat music-focused but is even more so now; it's not trying to compete head-to-head with Facebook anymore but rather is more of a hangout for discovering, listening to and reacting to music and pop culture...
Don't expect a free ride for watching streaming TV (01/14/15)
There's a great blog post at the NPR web site from their pop-culture blogger Linda Holmes in which she responds to some of the gushier articles about the new age of television. You can read it at n.pr/1yawWbh. I'm going to make some of the same points here -- several of which had occurred to me as well -- but I probably won't make them as elegantly as she does...
Facebook 'privacy disclaimer' just the latest hoax (01/07/15)
The Facebook privacy hoax, which is several years old but which returned with a vengeance for some unknown reason this week, begins with the words "Better safe than sorry." In this case, no. The hoax, in case you missed it, insists that you have to post a specific legal disclaimer to your Facebook wall in order to keep Facebook from owning your content. ...
Droid Turbo charges quickly, has fast processor (12/31/14)
The Droid Turbo, made by Motorola and exclusive to Verizon Wireless, is a high-end Android 4.4 (KitKat) smartphone with a lot to recommend it. It has a beautiful 5.2-inch AMOLED screen coupled with a 21-megapixel rear camera. The camera can be activated, even when the phone is asleep, by holding the phone in your hand and flicking your wrist (like opening a doorknob) twice, a clever and handy feature to help you capture spur-of-the-moment snapshots before the moment passes. ...
A few handy tips for those new hi-tech gifts (12/24/14)
I ran across a great 2012 column by Owen Sutton at the website KyForward (kyforward.com) about some common mistakes you can make with tech items you receive for Christmas this year. I'll paraphrase some of his recommendations: l Don't hang your new big-screen TV over the fireplace, where Sutton says it can be damaged by too much hot air...
HTC Re is a unique and fun point-and-shoot (12/17/14)
In the last few years, much of the emphasis has shifted away from inexpensive standalone point-and-shoot cameras, whether for still prints are videos. Yes, digital SLRs and high-end video cameras are out there for the serious enthusiast, but for many people their camera of choice for everyday snapshots is the one they always carry with them -- a smartphone...
Chef Watson, a kitchen experiment in progress (12/10/14)
Would you eat a dish based on a recipe that had been created by a computer? It may happen sooner than you think. I signed up for, and got, an invitation to the beta test of "Chef Watson with Bon Appétit," a culinary tool being developed by IBM with the support of Bon Appétit magazine...
Welcome back, podcasts! Wait...they never left (12/03/14)
There have been a flurry of recent reports stating that podcasts are back. Those of us who listen to podcasts weren't aware they'd gone away. A few years ago, there was a flurry of articles to the effect that podcasting was dead or dying. But podcasts continued to grow, and now the people who presided over the funeral have proclaimed a miraculous resurrection...
A coincidental night to remember (11/30/14)
It's amazing, sometimes, the way in which we connect and reconnect with people. I graduated from Oral Roberts University in 1984. Anyone who attended Christian college can tell you that it has its good points and its bad points. Sometimes, there's a numbing kind of conformity; I had a dorm director once say in a devotion that Christian college was one of the hardest places to be a Christian, because it was so easy to just drift along with the crowd and do all the right things for all the wrong reasons, or for no reason at all.. ...
'Netflix-style' service offers music lessons (11/27/14)
Koala Music Publications / LearnToPlayMusic.com has announced its plans for what it's calling a "Netflix-style" subscription service which would give aspiring musicians access to 10,000 lessons, e-books and instructional videos from the company's library, as well as other features like instructional games...
Brigadier survives a plunge, takes a knife (11/19/14)
Believe me, I know how many people in Bedford County break the screens of their smartphones. Josh Carney, who now works for the county's information technology department, used to have a part-time business repairing phone screens. I don't believe he does that anymore...
Take your wi-fi with you using mobile hotspot (11/12/14)
When I cover elections for the Times-Gazette, I take a company-owned laptop without any sort of built-in cellular data. So I normally take along a portable wi-fi hotspot, a little device that one of our other departments here at the paper uses for data on the go...
Stylus writes more function into Galaxy Note (11/05/14)
Some years back, before I ever had a smartphone, I had a Palm Pilot. Well, it actually was a Palm Zire, but at that particular moment in time the company's first model had become shorthand for any sort of personal digital assistant (PDA). I used it to keep my calendar and contacts, both functions that are now well-integrated into any smartphone, rendering PDAs obsolete...
Website polls may not reflect reality (11/02/14)
Every week or two, a plaintive cry can be heard in the Times-Gazette newsroom. "Does anybody have a good idea for a poll?" I'm the person who is responsible for posting polls to the front page of the T-G web site. (Sports editor Chris Siers posts polls to our sports page.) I try to mix things up a bit -- some fun topics, some more serious topics...
National Novel Writing Month, made easier (10/29/14)
I devoted a tech column to this topic in 2012, so I probably don't need to belabor it here, but I'll at least give it a mention: National Novel Writing Month starts Saturday. I pointed out in 2012 that "NaNoWriMo," as participants call it, is the type of ad hoc community that probably wouldn't have been possible, at least not on the same scale, in the days before the Internet. ...
Email tips make reading messages a little easier (10/22/14)
I was looking for an idea for the column this week when I got a meeting notice from a local not-for-profit. The meeting notice was just a sentence or two long, just the date, time and place where the group's board of directors would be meeting. But it was contained in a Microsoft Word (.doc) file attached to an email. The email itself just said "Thank you," with the sender's name...
Vigor, Alpha are new smartphone entries (10/15/14)
For something that you use as much as a phone, ergonomics can be important. The placement of a button can make something dramatically more or less usable. Most smartphones have a power button located on an edge. This button is used for turning the phone on and off, but more to the point it's used for waking the phone up whenever it goes into sleep mode. It may be the single most-pushed physical button on Android and Windows smartphones...
New iPhone 6 Plus is a big deal (10/08/14)
It was only a few weeks ago that I wrote in this space about the iPhone 6, which is a little larger than previous iPhone models, and the iPhone 6 Plus, which is considerably larger. The late Steve Jobs had declared that the original iPhone was the perfect size, but in the years since consumers have shown some support for larger screens, which allow you to do more in terms of web surfing and viewing content...
You wanted to punch me? For once, that's just great! (10/02/14)
I'm hoping to make it through this weekend without anyone telling me that they want to punch me. It will be the first time in several weeks. You see, last weekend I finished up a two-week run as a cast member in "Daddy's Dyin' ... Who's Got The Will?", a play by Del Shores, at the Fly Arts Center. I enjoy community theater, and I've been in a number of productions over the years. But this was different from any play I'd ever been in before...
Windows Phone doesn't deserve to be shoved aside (10/01/14)
MakeUseOf, a web site I follow, announced last week that it would no longer be actively covering the Windows Phone operating system. And my heart broke a little bit. I use Windows Phone -- I've reviewed many Android devices in these pages, and I can't wait to try out a new iOS device that should be arriving for a review by the end of the week, but my actual phone -- the one I get to keep, and the one I actually use to make and receive phone calls -- is an HTC Windows Phone 8X. ...
John I. Carney
Loose Talk / Charge Complete
John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette.