Digital Thingamajigs
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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Keep your Web to yourself

If you’ve been hearing all the talk lately about Google and privacy, but are unsure what it means, you’re probably not alone. Reading all those privacy policies can take forever and understanding them almost requires an engineering degree.

But don’t fret, Google isn’t selling your soul … yet.

In a nutshell, Google has dozens of services that people can use on the Web — email, calendar, shopping, Google+, etc. And as of Feb. 29, 2012, all of those services have separate privacy polices.

On March 1, 2012, however, Google will consolidate its privacy policy so that all of its services share the same policy — which also means it can share your Web history. Google says its reason for doing this is to improve your Web experience by letting Google tailor ads, emails and other functions specifically to your own tastes and preferences.

However, this understandably makes some people nervous. If so, there’s a quick way to keep Google at bay.

Log in to your Google account and enter the following address in your Web browser:

Once you’re there, tick the small box on the left and click the box that says “Remove all Web History.”

Viola. You’re set. You are now dead to Google.

This action deletes your Web surfing history from Google’s database, which will keep them from knowing what sites you’ve visited. More importantly, though, it “pauses” your Web history, which means Google will no longer be able to track your Web activity.

If you change your mind later, just log back on to the Web site and resume Web history. But be quick. Google’s new privacy policy kicks in Thursday, March 1, 2012. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Nexus reviewed

-Large, high-definition AMOLED screen
-Comes with latest version of Android (Ice Cream Sandwich)
-Fast dual-core 1.2 GHz processor and 1 GB of RAM 

-5 megapixel camera, instead of 8 MP
-Relatively short battery life

Gone are the days of tiny screens on smartphones.

While Apple keeps its iPhone screen size and form factor consistent, its competitors are getting bigger and better and faster. One of the latest Android-based phones, Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, is big. The Nexus measure 5.33 inches by 2.67 inches, whereas the iPhone is a mere 4.5 by 2.3 inches. The only similarity between the two phones is thickness, where they both measure about .35 inches.

As is becoming standard with many of the high-end Android-based phones, the Galaxy Nexus comes with a Super AMOLED screen. And if you’ve ever used or seen a phone with an AMOLED screen, you’ll know why that’s special: bright colors, true blacks and rich contrast. Along with that big screen, comes a nice boost in resolution. And while the Nexus’ pixel density is not quite up to par with the iPhone (316 vs 330 respectively), the resolution is. The Nexus is the first phone to combine a high-definition resolution — a whopping 1280 X 720 — with the AMOLED display. Watching a movie via Netflix or Hulu gives you a truly unique viewing experience in the palm of your hand.

The phone also features an HDMI connector to hook the phone up to an HDTV, access to Verizon’s ultra-fast 4G service and is packed with the latest version of the Android operating system, version 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich. 

Watching TV shows on the Nexus is a truly unique experience. 

Inside the Nexus, users will be pleased with the dual-core 1.2 GHz Texas Instruments processor, with a graphics processor and 1 GB of RAM. Loading applications or scrolling through the windows is quick. The dual processor means the phone is very responsive. 

However, the hefty processor and high-definition AMOLED screen come at a price: battery life. Stand-by time is rated at 12 days, which is quite a bit lower than the overall average of 16 days, as determined by In my experience, if I didn't charge the phone every two or three days, it was completely dead. 

Loading Web pages or software is quick and the 1 GB of RAM means smoother multitasking. The Nexus also comes with the standard dual cameras: a rear-facing 5 megapixel version and a front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera. And while 5 megapixels may be plenty for most, it doesn’t quite live up to some of the other high-end phones that are packing 8 megapixel cameras. If you’re an avid photographer, the lower resolution camera can be a let-down.

The Galaxy Nexus is one of the first Samsung phones to feature Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich operating system.

When you first start up the phone, you’re greeted with a simple “Google” logo, which is quickly followed by an explosion of colors that, quite frankly, look pretty darn nice on the AMOLED screen.

Scrolling between pages comes with a new effect where some of your apps on the previous page will overlap some of the apps on the next page you are viewing. It does nothing, of course, for the function of the phone, but it does look pretty cool.

The interface is a bit different than what Android users have been accustomed to, starting with the four buttons at the bottom, which have now been replaced with three buttons: back, home and recent apps. There are also two tabs at the top of the screen for apps and widgets, and a shortcut to the Android Market.

Some of the widgets that come with the phone include an analog clock, Web bookmarks, books and a calendar. Scrolling through the pages presents the user with several more widgets, including contacts, a photo gallery, YouTube, weather and links to Google searches and mail. The widgets are basically another way to interact with the apps on the phone, and may prove useful for some. However, in the few weeks that I have used the phone, I found myself sticking with the traditional apps and never using the widgets.

Overall Impressions
While the Android upgrade, dual-core processor and new widgets are all nice, the one thing that stands out on this phone is the screen. We’ve seen AMOLED screens before, but seeing it combined with the high-resolution display of the Nexus is absolutely brilliant. To be honest, the first time I sat through a high-definition video on the device, I was in total awe. You can’t find this kind of beauty on an HDTV. AMOLED technology has not yet progressed to the big screen — at least to the point where it’s even close to being affordable — and you’re not going to get this kind of quality on an iPhone.

Apple has done a lot of things right when it comes to the smartphone market. But, the one area where it is now getting hammered is with the display. With a new Android smartphone coming out seemingly every other day, the technology has surpassed the iPhone. If Apple is going to remain competitive in this cut-throat smartphone market, they must come out with updates more frequently or find another way to keep up.

But right now, quite frankly, Android is winning.