12 Tech Problems Solved

Tech problems that can be solved by you in a few minutes
Team G&G        Print Edition: July 2013

Some tech problems have become so much a part of our lives that we have learnt to live with them. But some of these can be solved in a few minutes if we apply ourselves to it. In this fourth anniversary special feature we tackle 12 such problems.

1. FREE ALTERNATIVES TO PAID SOFTWARE

Microsoft Office might be the best companion for work, but not everyone can afford it. The best free alternative to MS Office is the Apache OpenOffice, an open source office software. OpenOffice comes with replacements for most of Office's components and has a word processor in Writer, spreadsheet in Calc and presentation maker in Impress. (http://www.openoffice.org/) Another software that we lust to own legitimately is Adobe Photoshop. We found a good replacement for Photoshop in Photoscape, an easy software that lets you do even advanced editing. This software is especially good if you are trying to edit or convert RAW images, which most other free software cannot handle. There is also an option to create GIF files.

2. HOW TO MANAGE WIRES

As the number of devices in your house goes up there is also a marked increase in the tangle of wires that it creates. While you can use many types of cable management solutions - they range from hiding cables in neat looking boxes to tying them up with loops - it is better to think of wireless solutions wherever possible. For the home entertainment system, you could look at solutions like the ScreenCast AV 4 Wireless AV-to-HDTV Adapter from Belkin. This neat little gadget lets you keep all gadgets that connect to your HDTV stowed away somewhere else in the room. All you see near the TV is the small box that is being fed wirelessly by the other devices. In case you have a smart TV, or one of those new smart PC monitors, they can connect to your wireless network and play filed directly from shared devices. Alternatively, you could buy solutions like the Warpia SWP100A or the Altona AT-AiR3 to beam content from a PC to a monitor or TV.

3. HOW TO SPEED UP SMARTPHONES, PCs

With phones that support active multitasking, apps continue to run in the background using resources. They then tend to slow down phones. To prevent this, properly exit apps while using Blackberry or Android smartphones. There are also apps that close other apps, thus freeing RAM. Also, keep device memory free by removing unwanted files - images, movies, songs.

Like phones, PCs slow up over a period of time as they tend to accumulate temp files from pages visited. Often, PC have over one 1GB of such files and this means your computer is not performing optimally. Windows itself comes with tools to remove these files. The easiest way is to open Accessories>Sytem Tools>Disk Cleanup to find and delete unwanted files. If you are doing it for the first time, the process will take quite long. It is recommended that you do this at regular intervals. Alternatively, install programmes like CCleaner that does this cleaning for you at scheduled intervals or whenever you need it to. Also, make sure there are no unnecessary programmes using resources during startup. You can again use CCleaner to fix this. Then, defragment disk (also found in system tools) once in three months or so.

4. CLEANING YOUR DSLR CAMERA SENSOR

If you start noticing dark spots in your pictures, then it is time you cleaned the sensor of your DSRL. Dust is a problem that affects DSLRs more as you keep changing the lenses. The best way to avoid dust is to change lenses only in closed rooms, away from wind and dust. But this is better said than done.

It can be a bit intimidating, but the sensor of the camera can be also cleaned. You will need a rocket blower to blow away loose specs of dust, then a sensor cleaning swab and solution that is recommended for your camera. There are many sensor cleaning kits with swabs that don't damage the sensor. If your camera does not have a cleaning mode in the menu, select the Bulb mode and press the trigger to see the sensor - the sensor is not to be mistaken with the mirror before it. First use the blower to blow dust away and ensure that you don't damage the sensor by rubbing particles on it while cleaning. Then gently move the swab from one side to the other, trying to reach the corners as you repeat the process. While repeating this process, make sure you are using a clean part of the swab each time. The sensor should be clean in four to five strokes. Repeat process if you still notice dust in pictures. Also, make sure you clean the camera only in dust-free environments.

5. READ SAME CONTENT ACROSS DEVICES

It makes sense for all your content to be available across all your devices. That is the real power of the cloud for average users. Those who use Safari have the convenience of making open tabs visible across all their Apple devices. Those who log-in using Google Chrome can also make the best of this, as well as having a common browser history, autofill data and passwords. Many apps also lets you share content across devices, most notably Evernote. Add Evernote webclipper to your browser and use it to clip whole pages or parts of it to your Evernote account, which you can then access from any device with the app or web access. Another app that does this wonderfully well is Pocket, available as a button on most browsers. You can even save tweets here.

6. HOW TO GET MORE OUT OF YOUR BATTERY

Gone are the days when you used to charge your phone once in two days. The situation today is completely reverse of what it used to be earlier. Even with the humoungous battery onboard, smartphones today struggle to last a day. But before blaming the battery and cribbing about it, learn the best ways to conserve charge on your smartphone. The most important of them is to keep your phone on automatic brightness as the well-lit screen hogs a lot of battery. Most Android smartphones often have haptic feedback turned on by default. Turn it off. Also turn off connectivity options such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC and location services when not in use. For phones supporting multitasking, close unnecessary apps as they continue to run in the background. Maintain proper charge cycles.

While using the camera, something as simple as switching off the flash will make the battery last much longer. If you manage 100 clicks with the flash on, you could do at least five time more with it switched off. For something in the middle, opt for the auto setting. No, you don't need a flash while clicking pictures in the open.

7. BEST CLARITY ON DIGITAL MUSIC

Most of us blindly download MP3 files that we ultimately end up listening to on high-end audio systems. But a regular MP3 is just not good enough for a hi-fi system because it does not have all the audio information in the original recording. Since MP3, in all its forms, loses some amount of information, it is always better to get music in lossless formats like FLAC or Apple Lossless if you are playing on a good system. Yes, these files will be considerably heavy, but the quality of the playback will be much superior. For the best MP3 audio quality ensure that your files have a 320Kbps bitrate - most of the files we have is 128 Kbps, which is what you hear on the radio as well. Keep 128 Kbps as the rockbottom as far as audio quality is concerned and you will not regret the experience.

8. HOW TO CONSERVE POWER ON PC

We have all seen it in our computers, but how many of us actually set a power save option on our PCs. The power options in the Control Panel, lets you decide when the PC should go to sleep, or hibernate, if it is in a idle state. The ideal setting is to initiate sleep of the monitor after 20 minutes. In case you want to turn off the hard disk too, set that to beyond 90 minutes as there could be processes running in the background. We often leave the computer on overnight while running a virus scan or downloading large files. In such cases, select the option that shuts down the computer when these processes are over. Also, make sure speakers are turned off when not in use.

9. HOW TO REDUCE DATA CONSUMPTION

They are an integral part of our digital lives, but push email accounts, Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp/BBM all consume huge amounts of data to refresh themselves. You can schedule data fetches to every hour or so, or even do it manually. But that would defeat the whole point of using a smart device. There are other ways too. For instance, the Opera Mini browser can compress a webpage by 90% before opening it. UC Browser claims to reduce data transfers by 60%. Also, try using Google maps offline as it can precache maps. On an Android device, you can set a data limit in the settings. An alert will appear as you approach the limit. On iOS, you can track mobile data consumption.

10. HOW TO SAVE A WET GADGET

It is common for cellphones to meet a watery grave or for water to be spilled on laptops. Keeping your nerves in such situations can actually help you save the device.

So, the first thing you should not do in such a situation is to see if the device is working or not. First, get rid of the water. In case of cellphones, remove the back panel, battery, SIM card and memory card from the phone and dry it with a towel. The next step to be followed is to place your phone in air-tight bag full of uncooked rice for absorbing moisture overnight or even a couple of days. Avoid using the hair dryer or vacuum cleaner. In case of laptops, unplug them from the mains. Also, if your laptop has a removable battery, remove it. In case of a nonremovable battery, shut down your system immediately. Turn it upside down to prevent water from damaging the innards and then tap the machine dry. Keep it under a strong light such as a table lamp that can evaporate the liquid. Turn on the machine and click the autobackup option (if available) to backup the data. Next should be to visit a service center to get the extent of damage checked.

11. HOW TO OFFER REMOTE ASSISTANCE TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS

Are you the tech expert of your family? Do you often receive calls from friends and family about the software and hardware issues they are facing with their PC? But making them understand the problem and its solution can be very tiring. Next time, try using a remote assistance app that gives you access of a remote PC. Team Viewer is multi-platform software available for Windows, Mac and Linux. After keying in the user name and password of the Team Viewer appearing on the other PC, you get a complete access to the PC. Team Viewer also offers file sharing between two connections. The software can be downloaded for free for non-commercial use. There is a Remote Assistance feature that comes installed on all Windows machine. Using this software, you will be able to view their desktop screen, control mouse and chat side-by-side in remote assistance window.

12. HOW TO GET PREMIUM APPS FOR FREE

Though there are thousands of free apps on each application store, the best apps are seldom free. But you can download them for free through discovery apps that have limited deal periods. For instance, Apps Gone Free by App Advice gives a pick of five to 10 best free iOS apps. Getjar Inc's Free Apps Every Day Android app discovers and delivers deal of the day, claiming to save up to 75 per cent on paid apps. S4BB Limited's App Stalker for BlackBerry integrates with the OS and notifies you about new free apps. It also lets you share app discounts with BBM contacts. On Windows Phone, App Discounts by Remiak Studio divided deals into games and applications. The information about the discounted app can also be shared on social networking site. Now, you know great apps also come for free.

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