The Google Now Launcher – Updated and Revisited

This afternoon, I was on my Nexus 5, and noticed Google has made some changes to its launcher, the default on its Nexus line of phones. This update primarily features updates to the way the app drawer functions. Instead of cards that scroll horizontally, Google has opted to organize the apps in a vertical list, as seen below.

This version of the launcher has some new features. The app drawer now has a favorites bar, where common apps appear. I have not found a way to customize it yet, though it appears to have a limit of 4 icons. A dedicated app search bar has also been added. Though searches for apps before though Google’s main search bar, this one is much quicker at finding the specific app one is looking for. Holding down the app drawer icon will cause the search bar to be automatically opened, and the keyboard will pop up, allowing for a quick search to find the app one wishes to open.

Searching is easier in the new launcher.

Many people have complained about the way Google updated this app. Many do not like the scrolling list, as compared to the horizontal card option. However, third-party launchers, such as Nova Launcher, allow users to customize their app drawers, even organizing apps into folders. I have used custom launchers before, and many of them have many different options, but switching to a different launcher would mean losing certain abilities of Google’s launcher, such as the ability to say “Ok Google!” from any screen to start a search, the Google Now cards, and other Google-related features.

Windows 10 – How to get your free upgrade

If you have been watching your task bar lately, you may have seen this logo in the taskbar.


Clicking on this logo opens a new window with an option to reserve your FREE upgrade.
windows10iscomingPersonally, I have been using the Windows Technical Preview for a while, and Windows 10 brings in many useful features. Multiple desktops and a redesigned start menu are new in this version.


More snap features are now available. If you haven’t heard of snap, this was a feature that allows you to drag a window to the edge of a screen, and it will snap to that half of the screen, automatically resizing the window to fit. Now windows can be snapped in quarter sections, and Windows will automatically suggest a second window to snap after snapping a first.


Windows 10 also comes with Cortana, Microsoft’s version of voice recognition software that helps you get tasks done quickly. Unfortunately, I have not been able to try it out, as the beta version of it is not available in Canada, because apparently we speak a different English than the Americans…. 🙁

Clicking the register button simply asks for your email address to get a confirmation message. Windows has set the release date for July 29th. Once it is released, Windows 10 will automatically be downloaded to your computer and installed.

Windows 10 is a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8.1 users.

Windows 10 is coming

Windows is currently working on it’s next-generation operating system, Windows 10. What happened to Windows 9 you ask? Well I don’t know. They just decided to go all the way to ten.

Windows 10 brings back a start menu that the desktop users are used to, blending the metro tile look of Windows 8, and the start menu of Windows 7. Windows 10 also brings multiple desktops to Windows, something Mac and Linux users have had for quite a while. Metro Apps, which are apps downloaded from the Windows Store, can now be ran in Windowed mode, rather than full-screen all the time.

Windows is working on a voice-recognition system dubbed ‘Cortana.’ Videos show users being able to use their voice to do common tasks, like searching the web, checking the weather, setting reminders, and calling people on Skype.

Though a release date has not been set yet, Microsoft has an event for January 21, 2015, where more details about its next operating system are expected to be announced. Windows 10 is currently available as a free preview until mid-April. You can download your copy from the Microsoft website. I would recommend that you would not install it on the main computer you use, as it is still in development, could fail, and you could lose all your data.

There are ways, of course, to install the Windows 10 preview alongside your current operating system, so that you don’t have to replace your current system with Windows 10 if you just want to try it out. I shrunk the partition on my hard drive and made a second partition onto which I installed Windows 10. One could also create a virtual drive in Disk Manager and then mount it during the install process, allowing them to install a copy to a virtual drive in your computer. However you choose to do it, back up your data first. You wouldn’t want to lose that.

Hopefully, Windows 10 will encourage users to upgrade from Windows 8, 7, or even XP. Adoption of Windows 8 has been hesitant, as many users do not like the new start screen. Users of Windows 7 should consider upgrading, as mainstream support just ended last week (January 13, 2015), though extended support for Windows 7 will still be available for another 5 years. Users of XP should definitely considering upgrading as no updates have been issued for the operating system since last April!

That’s all for now…

How To Not Lose Your Phone Contacts

Have you ever lost or broken your phone, bought a new phone, and then didn’t have any contacts? Not fun. However, there are a number of ways that your contacts can be backed up so that you can retrieve them later. It’s easy and takes minutes to set up. Here are a number of different methods to keep your contacts safe.

sync contacts private1. Use Google Contacts.

If you have an Android phone and you are logged in to your Google account, you can sync your contacts to your Google account. When you are in your Contacts/People app, you’ll have to go into the settings and choose “Merge with Google.” This will upload all your phone’s contacts to Google’s servers, and new contacts will automatically be synced with your Gmail address book. If you lose or break your phone, when you log into your Google account on a new Android device, your contacts will be there as well.




2. Transfer contacts to a new phone via Bluetooth.

Sometimes you’ll get a new phone and need to transfer contacts from an old phone that doesn’t have a method to sync contacts to the Internet. In this case, Bluetooth can be used to transfer contacts between phones. First, pair the phones with Bluetooth. You can do this from your Bluetooth settings menu. Then, in your contacts application on your old phone, look for a setting to send contacts via Bluetooth. Select all your contacts, and press send. On your new phone, you should see a notification to accept the new contacts. Once that is done, you should have all your contacts on your new phone.

3. Sync to iCloud (Apple)

If you have an Apple device, you can sync your contacts to the Internet with iCloud. Look for an enable this option in your settings. Contacts will be backed up to your iCloud account.

Back up your photos too!

Options also exist to back up other things on your devices, such as Photos. On your Android device, open the Google+ Photos app and go to settings and turn on “Google+ Auto Backup”. This will automatically backup all photos on your device, though you can choose certain folders to be backed up if you so desire. Photos backed up online are only visible to you.

On your Apple device, iCloud can be used to back up your photos. Photos backed up are only visible to you.

Windows 10 Technical Preview – What’s New?

So I’ve been trying out Windows Technical Preview for the past few weeks. The technical preview became available on October 1st. As with its last few operating systems, Microsoft has released an early beta testing version, allowing users to send feedback to Microsoft about the new operating system. This next version will be released sometime in 2015.

The next version of Windows seeks to introduce a number of new features. First, the start menu is back. The start menu of Windows 7 is blended with the start screen of Windows 8. Users can quickly search for an app, or click on a search suggestion to bring up the Search app.

Windows apps now run in a windowed mode, rather than just full screen, allowing keyboard and mouse users to use the apps more effectively.

Another recent addition that I enjoy is the recent files menu being included in Explorer’s main page. I can find files I just saved/downloaded, without having to navigate to the specific folder they are in.

Windows now supports the addition of multiple desktops. For example, I could have one desktop with a word document open, and another with a web browser open, and then switch between desktops, rather than having to find the app I want in the myriad of windows open on just the one screen.

On the technical related side, it seems Windows 10 will be built similarly to Windows Phone 10 and the next version for Xbox One. This will allow develops to easily make an app for all devices. Rather than having to start from scratch for each app, some of the same code will work between each platform.

Who Called Me From (760) 705-8888? – Google Introduces Voice Calling to Hangouts

Google has finally updated its Hangouts app to include voice calling. You’ll have to download the Hangouts Dialer app first if you have an Android phone.This app will allow you to call people in the US/Canada for FREE! If you have a Google Voice account, you can add funds and also make very cheap international calls as well. Once you download the app, just open it and click on the dialpad icon and place your call.

Hangouts is Google’s chat app. Hangouts users can chat, voice call or video call each other. You can choose to integrate your phone’s SMS with it, and Google uses it as the standard messaging app in it’s latest version of Android (KitKat). 

Facebook’s Forced Messenger Update – Is It Spying on Me?

Some people are concerned about Facebook’s Messenger app, and how it is now required that people use it to view their messages. Rather than having the capability to read messages in the Facebook app, the company has now  made a standalone app for sending and receiving messages . Many are concerned over the apps permissions, which allow the app to utilize certain parts of the phone. Many are concerned that permissions like recording audio and taking pictures means that the app is spying on them. However, many are misinformed about how app permissions work.

Now for myself, I have only had the experience on an Android device, but the permissions are set up by Android. When an app wants to have access to certain parts of the phone, it must declare the permissions it needs to run. These are the same permissions you see when you download the app. The problem comes from the wording of the permissions. It’s a default wording set by the makers of the Android system. They seem very general, such as “take pictures” and “record audio.”

Now once someone starts using the app, they will begin to see why these permissions are necessary. The Messenger app can be used to record audio clips, pictures, and videos, and send them to a friend. Rather than having to open a separate app to take a photo, or record audio, you can do it right from within the Facebook app.

Other’s are concerned with Facebook’s permission to read text messages. Facebook uses this as an auto verify service when you are verifying your phone number. Usually, when a service wants to verify your phone number, they’ll send you a text with a verification code for you to type in. Facebook uses this permission to read your that one text message automatically, so you don’t have to type in the verification code. Again, Facebook isn’t able to make the wording say “read text messages from Facebook.” The only way in is to request permission to your whole contacts list,  because that’s the way that Android currently works.

Overall, people need not be concerned. Facebook is not secretly recording your conversations or anything like that. The permissions are just vague, and need to be explained.For future details, you can visit Facebook’s help site here.

The Lies of the Interwebs

Okay, so many people have been trapped into all sorts of things on the internet.  It’s best to stay informed on how to be safe on-line. There are preventative measures that you can take, in order to avoid being taken advantage of by internet scammers.

1. Sharing to get access

People often get duped into sharing a link on their Facebook walls. It will often say, “Share this link to watch the video,” or something similar. Once you share the link, you don’t get access, and you have also just posted a link to your wall, which then traps your friends as well. Don’t do it. It’s a trap!

2. Programs that come with free programs. 

Often, when you get free programs off the internet, they will come with additional free programs that try to install themselves when you are installing the program you actually want. You have to watch out for these dialogues while installing the program. Often, there will be a check box that is automatically ticked that you will have to untick in order to prevent the installation of additional software.

3. Copying and Pasting Code

Hackers will often use snippets of code, and order you to copy and paste them into your address bar and then press enter. This takes advantage of JavaScript programming, and can manipulate the web pages you paste it on. For example, hackers can create code that will automatically post stuff to your Facebook, or add comments, send messages, etc. Do not copy and paste code into your address bar in order to get access to content!

4. E-mailed spam links

Hackers will often break into email accounts, either because of an easy to guess password, or easy security questions which hackers easily guess. They then use the account to email all the contacts on that account with a spam link. Often, that is the only link in the email, and nothing else is said about the link. There are certain things that throw red flags. Foreign domain names (for example, .fr instead of a .com address), long codes, etc.

Additionally, be aware of emails which say “You need to recover your account” or etc. For example, it might be an email from PayPal. However, it is not an actual email from PayPal, and clicking the link takes you to a PayPal looking website, designed to entice you to enter your username and password so they can use that information to compromise your account.

5. Password Stealing

Again, only enter your password on the website for which you use it. If a website asks you for a password for another website, make sure you trust that website before giving away your password.


These are just a few of the ways you can stay safe online. As always, be careful what you click on.

Facebook Adds Following Feature – Loses Ability to Choose Content

Facebook has recently added the Following button to the top of friends’ profiles

So, you may ask what’s this new following button you’ve seen on people’s profiles recently? Well, the feature has always existed, it just hasn’t been this prominent before. This setting used to exist as “Show in News Feed” in the drop down Friends menu at the top of a person’s profile. You could check or uncheck if you wanted to a see a friend’s posts in the News Feed. However, below this was an option to choose the types of updates you’d want to see from that friend. From this list, you could select whether you wanted to see certain things like status updates, life events, photos and videos, and, my most favourite, other activity. Other activity would get rid of annoying stories like “This person just became friends with that person.” With the new update, it means I can’t control what I see in the ticker. Though I rarely use it these days, I go through and clear it up every once in a while. Now with this new following option, changing the type of updates you see from friends is no longer possible.