Saving Battery Life on Your Smartphone

Smartphones are amazing inventions that we all love.  In an instant, we can get directions to someone’s house, lookup the price of items we see in the store online, and of course, “Gram” our food at our favorite restaurant for the world to enjoy.  However, as smartphones become more powerful, it seems that they use more power, and use it quickly.  The following article will give you tips on how to conserve battery life.

 

Blackout Bluetooth

Most smartphones today come with Bluetooth enabled by default.  There is a reason for this.  It is so that you do not fumble around trying to figure out how to turn it on when you are trying to sync your phone to your vehicle’s handsfree system.  However, unless you have a Bluetooth headset that you walk around with, leaving Bluetooth enabled all day is going to drain your battery quickly.

If you are not familiar on how to disable Bluetooth, it is very easy to do on both iOS and Android devices.  On iOS you can swipe up from the bottom and tap the Bluetooth icon to turn off.  On Android, most devices you swipe down from the top, and tap the Bluetooth icon to disable.  An even easier way on both devices is to bring up the virtual assistant (voice command) and simply say, “Disable Bluetooth”.  The latter method is the “lazy” to some, but it gets the job done.

Wireless Wear-Down

Wireless is a useful feature on phones, and most employers, shopping centers, and other public places make it available for patrons to browse at speeds faster than 4G.  Whether or not Wi-Fi is available, having it enabled on your phone is a battery drain.  If you find yourself in the middle of the day at 50% battery life, disabling wireless on your phone will extend your battery life.

To disable, you can follow the same steps listed above on disabling Bluetooth and apply that to wireless.

 

Do You Really Need That Many Apps Open?

So, you have disabled Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, but still your battery life is dwindling away.  If you are like most people, you may find that every single app you have ever opened, is still open.  Most apps have location awareness services enabled, which do exactly that.  They report your physical location to the app servers.

If you have a lot of these open, they are constantly sending data back and forth on your phone and using up processing and memory.  All of that comes together to drain your battery life.  On most phones, there is a “home button” that if you double tap, will pull up all the apps you have open.  Either swipe to close them or click an “X”.  Afterwards, you may want to consider rebooting your phone to clear out the memory.  You do not have to close all of them out, but the fewer you have running in the background, the better.

 

Winning The Day

One of the biggest challenges to having a smartphone, is making it to quitting time with battery life to spare.  Keeping your smartphone running lean and mean is essential to extending battery life.  If you follow the steps listed in this guide, you will come out at the end of the day with enough battery life to get you home and then some.

 

Hunter Bonner is a System Administrator.  He can be reached on his blog techedgeblog.wordpress.com and on Twitter @TechEdgeBlog.

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Spam/Scam Phone Calls – How To Identify and Stop Them

Have you ever had your mobile phone ring, answer it, and immediately you get a recorded message wanting you to buy something?  Wait, even better.  It rings, you answer and there is no one on the other line responding.  No recording, no sales pitch, but it’s the same number calling you multiple times a day.  It annoys you, interrupts your day, and may be the leading cause for you launching your phone out the nearest window.  Welcome to the world of scam/spam calls.

Spam or Scam?

So, what is the difference between these two?  Right now, all you may recognize is that they are annoying, and they are that.  However, it is vital to recognize the difference between a spam call and a scam call.  First, a spam call is simply your number being loaded into some dialer program to sell you something.  Yes, they are annoying, and basically, it is just a high-tech spin on an old method called “cold calling.”  If you hang on long enough, you will eventually get transferred to a live person.

A scam call is very different.  It is a phone call to try and separate you from your money, your identity, or both.  Usually the there will be a message stating something to the effect that you owe the IRS money, and that a warrant for your arrest will be issued if you do not send money now.  A very popular one is either an automated message, or a live person stating they are from Microsoft and that a virus has been detected on your machine and you need to clean it now.

In both spam and scam calls, you may see the caller ID display that it’s an 800 number.  However, lately the caller ID will appear to show a local area code and phone number calling.  That is done deliberately, so that you will answer it.  It is vital that you do not.  More on that in a moment.

 

Why Is This Happening?

There are many reasons why this could be happening.  First, you may have filled out a web form on some website in which you entered your phone number.  That company likely sold your information to another company and they started calling you.  However, most of the relentless calls coming through are scam calls.

As you might suspect, the scammers trying to contact you, are using sophisticated programming to mass call everyone in an area code and prefix.  Even if you do not answer, they may call you several times a day, and hence you become annoyed.  You may notice that the number on the caller ID keeps rotating.  The scammers on the other end are faking where they are calling from.  Many of them are not even physically inside the area they claim to be calling from, or the United States for that matter.

Time To Drop The Hammer

So, you know the difference between the two types of calls, but how to stop the madness?  It’s simple, and while the following suggestions cannot 100% eliminate spammers and scammers, it can greatly reduce the amount of calls, and bring some sanity back to your smartphone.

First, do not answer calls from numbers you do not recognize.  The main reason is, if you do not recognize the number, you likely do not know who it is on the other end.  Let it go to voicemail if the caller thinks it is that important.  Many times, scammers and spammers will not leave a message, so you just saved yourself some wasted time.  Another reason you do not want to answer those calls is if it is a scammer/spammer and you answer it, their programming oftentimes will make note that someone is answering this number, and then start calling you from other faked numbers.

The next best thing you can do is to block the caller from your caller ID on the native phone app.  While this initially can be effective, scammers will find a way around this.  Therefore, I highly recommend using a third party phone app for this.  The following suggestions, I in no way, get any sort of endorsements from.

 

Hiya – This smartphone app is an amazing tool to help stop the annoying and incessant scam calls.  How it works is that other users mark phone calls as different categories like spam, scam, fake number, and the like.  This builds up a database, so that those with the app installed, if they get a call from a previously reported number, the caller ID will warn of what type of call it happens to be.  In many cases it will block it altogether.

 

Mr. Number – This was the first app that I tested to stop the madness, and it works very well.  Mr. Number does pretty much the same thing that Hiya does, but just looks a little different on the interface.  One of the things you will notice about Mr. Number is the already exhaustive database of scam phone numbers that have been recorded.  This is where Hiya is a little bit thin on, and that is mostly due to Mr. Number being older than the other.

 

Both apps come with the ability to either warn, or block suspected spam, telemarketing, or scam phone calls.  I highly recommend that if you are already at the point of receiving as many at 5 to 10 calls a day, turn these features on.  They allow anything in your contacts to pass through, so you do not have to worry about missing a legitimate call from someone you know.  Both Hiya and Mr. Number are available on iOS and Android.

 

Take Back Your Life

You now know what scam and spam phone calls are, and you now are equipped with the tools to combat them.  However, as I stated at the beginning, there is no app out there that will 100% guarantee stoppage of all types of these annoying calls.  However, using the tips suggested here in this article will greatly reduce the number of phone calls you are receiving, and likely save you from having to file on your phone insurance due to an “accident.”

 

 

 

 

Windows 10 Annoyances And How To Cure Them

Windows 10 is Microsoft’s flagship operating system and has been on the market now for several years.  Windows 10 has been adopted by a large section of the population, due to it’s design, and there is the faster speed over its predecessor, the much-maligned Windows 8.  However, whether you are a seasoned Windows 10 user, or someone new to the OS, you are bound to run into some major annoyances.  In this article, we will identify those annoyances, and how to cure them.

 

Default Printer Changing

Have you noticed that every so often the default printer on your computer keeps changing?  No, you are not losing it, because it is happening, but why?  Microsoft in their infinite wisdom decided to put in a feature that they thought we would all just love.  It is the ability to let Windows manage our default printer.  But Windows already does that when I right click and set as default printer right?  You would think that, but both of us would be wrong.

If you right click on the Start flag, and go-to Settings/Devices/Printers, you will see all your printers listed.  If you scroll down near the bottom you will see the following option:

Default Printers

Uncheck this box and then make sure to select the printer you want to be your default.  Now you may be thinking, “Well I just have one printer, so it shouldn’t be a problem in the first place.”  You would think that, but I have seen on many computers, even with just one printer connected, that it would change to “Microsoft XPS Writer”, or some type of PDF printer, and seemingly at random times.  Even with multiple printers connected, and you printing to the same one all the time, I have seen it switch.  My best advice, turn this feature off.

 

Default Browser Is Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge is the browser that comes with Windows 10.  To give some context, Microsoft decided to totally redesign its browser that they bill as much faster than Chrome and Firefox.  I am not going to get into that debate, but suffice to say, Edge is the browser of the future for Microsoft.

Having said that, one of the great annoyances any new user of Windows 10 immediately notices is, you click the blue “E” thinking you are launching Internet Explorer, but you get Edge instead.  Also, when clicking links in emails, they open in Edge instead of IE.  Even more infuriating is opening PDF documents, they open in Edge, because like Chrome, it has a built in PDF viewer.  One of the big issues with Edge is, while many sites work just fine with Edge, there are a lot of them that do not display properly while using that browser.  So how do you change all of this?

Going back through a similar path, right click the Start flag/Settings/Apps/Default Apps, you will see an option like this:

Default Apps

When clicking on the “Web browser” section this window opens and you can select whichever browser you would like to be default.  When you do attempt to switch from Edge, Microsoft will once again try to get you to try Edge.  Simply click “Switch Anyway”, and you are off to the races.  While you are on this same screen, you might want to scroll a little further down, click “Set Defaults by App”, and then make sure Adobe is your default PDF viewer.  There!  You’ve just conquered one of the biggest annoyances of Windows 10.

 

Notification Nightmare

I am not against notifications from apps, and especially at my computer where I spend most of my day.  However, with Windows 10, it seems that there is a notification for just about everything.  If you are like me, and constantly seeing the notification box popping up with it’s little chime in the lower right corner of the screen, and it’s annoying the heck out of you, please read on and we will fix this.

 

First, the easiest thing to do is to right click on the notification balloon on the taskbar, and then click “Turn on quiet hours.”  That will stop all notifications.  However, what if you are needing notifications, like from Outlook, and other apps?  Well, fortunately you can customize that too.

Go back into Settings as before, but this time in the search box, type in “Notifications”, and then click “Notifications and Actions settings”.

Notifications

From there you can actually select individually what you want notifications on, and what you can live without.  This is going to greatly reduce the seemingly non-stop notifications that come throughout the day.

 

Time To Explore On Your Own

These are just a few annoyances that affect most people, but you may have others.  Since you are in the Settings section, maybe you can explore around for yourself and see what else you can do to minimize the disruptions.  Most of using a computer, especially a new one, is about finding out where things are.  Once you do, you will become more proficient at using a computer.  While these annoyances may have drove you crazy up until now, you now can rid yourself of those pesky things and enjoy your Windows 10 machine more!

 

Hunter Bonner is a System Administrator with lifelong experience working with computers.  He can be reached on his blog, techedgeblog.wordpress.com, and on Twitter @TechEdgeBlog.

 

Holiday Shopping Does Not Have To Be A Hassle

This week starts the season, where for the next two months we will stuff ourselves silly with ridiculously rich food that takes way too long to prepare.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are once again upon us, and on the latter, the biggest shopping day of the season looms for eager shoppers.  If you are in the market for some new computers, some of the ads may seem very tempting with “door buster prices.”  However, there are some things to be aware of during the mad dash.

 

Let’s Be Perfectly Clear

I do not mean to throw any retail stores under the bus, but I do think it is important that we be honest about what some of these stores are offering.  For example, one of the traditions of the last few years at Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, etc is to offer a laptop for under $300.  That sounds amazing right?  Well that is what they are hoping for, and that is, the low price associated with the word “laptop” will get you to separate with some of your money.  The problem is a sub $300 laptop is going to be a piece of junk.  Allow me to explain further.

Wal-Mart is advertising an HP laptop for $249.00 that will be available only on Thanksgiving Day.  Those laptops that are priced sub-$300 are ridiculously under-powered.  Most of them will come with 4GB of RAM (Memory) and Windows 10.  Even if you are just surfing the web, reading emails and doing social media, 4GB of RAM is not enough, and you will see performance issues after a while.  Especially after you apply a nice slew of Windows Updates and install Microsoft Office(a huge Hard Drive consuming program).  While the machine can be upgraded to 8GB of RAM, the processors are usually of the Celeron line, or low end Pentium processors from well over a year ago that is billed as “cheap”.

For just another $150.00 you would be in the Intel i-Series of processors, which are incredibly faster than the Celeron line, start with 8 GB of RAM, and can be upgraded to 16 GB or more, and still get the fancy touchscreen.  Also, you are talking about a computer that is made with more quality parts, than the cheap parts that the aforementioned “deal” is made from.  In short, you are looking at a longer usage life for just a few dollars more, versus likely having issues with the cheaper model in about 15 months.

 

Crowds, Money, and PJs

While we are on the subject of prices, it is important to remind people that when it comes to technology, or really anything, Black Friday is not always the “best day” to buy such things during this time of year.  Cyber-Monday, which is the Monday after Thanksgiving, is a traditional day where online retailers offer deep discounts for products and or services.  This is a great day to get some great deals on gifts, and all from the comfort of your home without fighting crowds in the malls, etc.

Even on Black Friday, try going to the store’s website first before waiting out in the cold.  I have found that many of the in-store advertised items you can get online.  Thus, before you brave the crowds, you may well have most of your shopping done and thus, a less stressful day!  Also, if you are waiting in line, use your smartphones to your advantage.  Retail stores have made their websites more mobile friendly, or better yet, download their app.  My recommendation though is that you download the Black Friday App for either iOS or Android.  This is from BlackFriday.com and has every ad from every major retailer.  Also, CyberMonday.com is another excellent app and website for shopping this holiday season.

For those that may be concerned about shopping online (yes, there are some people who have not done this) because you do not want to give out your credit card number, there is a safe solution for you.  You can visit your local bank and obtain a debit card that you can charge up with a fixed dollar amount.  It will either be a Visa or Mastercard, but with it, you can shop online and have peace of mind knowing that it is not linked to your bank account, thus limiting your risk.

 

Enjoy Your Holiday Shopping

While this is a technology blog, I do try to offer a human factor whenever possible.  Each year it seems the stories about Black Friday stampedes, or fights breaking out over video games, $4 waffle irons, and the like, come to the surface.  The image headlining this article is a scene all too familiar during this time of year.  Shopping for our loved ones sometimes ceases to be a “fun” thing, and instead turns into an “Us vs Them” type of situation.  This is not how it should be.

We are humans, and as such, we should act like it.  We are not a pack of dogs fighting over a piece of meat.  When you are standing in that long line waiting for a particular item to go on sale this Friday, talk to some of the people around you, versus isolating yourself via your smartphones.

Ask them what they are looking for, and if you are in a position to get it for them, team up!  Say, “Hey, I see that right over here, and I’m looking for such-and-such.  Can you grab it if you see it?  We can meet up over here and exchange items.”  Also, use that technology in your hand for more than posting Black Friday selfies.  If you have seen deals at other stores on tech-related items, share the wealth!

Shopping during this time of year does not have to be a hassle, or stressful.  By using technology, you can divide and conquer Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and take advantage of great deals, and avoiding ones that appear to be “great.”  Bottom line is, when it comes to technology, you get what you pay for.  So shop smart, be kind to one another, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Hunter Bonner is an Information Technologist and can be reached at www.techedgeblog.wordpress.com and on Twitter @HunterBonner