SelfControl: Goodbye Procrastination

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Selfcontrollogo

Okay, so you have a ton of stuff to do. Emails to respond to, presentations to finish, proposals to complete. Calls to make, appointments to schedule, packages to deliver, documents to sign. 

But that one tab… it’s flashing. It beckons you. 

“Bob sent you a message!”

Bob. He sent you a message. 

All of the sudden, your entire agenda turns to nothing as you get sucked in to this pointless conversation with Bob. 

But wait – you have a new notification. Someone commented on your cat photo. You need to respond. If you don’t, then your opinion wouldn’t be expressed to the world! Oh, that post, it must be liked. Oh, there’s Bob again – Gotta reply to that. Oh, new comment on that cat photo. What?! They don’t think cats are better than dogs? I need to google why cats are better than dogs. Oh, there’s that flashing tab again! It’s Bob. Oh, I have a new chat. I have to respond to it. Oh hey, there’s my old high school friend! I should say hi. Oh, that post is cool, I should like it. Oh, I need to respond to bob. Oh, someone liked my status. Oh, I have to respond to my chats. 

Three hours have passed. You’ve gotten absolutely nothing done. 

This, my readers, is a daily phenomenon that affects almost 100% of active Facebook users. The term for it is “unconscious procrastination, meaning that you procrastinate and you don’t even realize it until you actually take a look at the clock. And thanks to many sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more, unconscious procrastination is a problem that affects the productivity of the entire world. 

Well, thankfully, there is indeed a solution: SelfControl. 

SelfControl is very simple: Add the sites you don’t want to it’s blacklist, set a timer, hit start, and goodbye procrastination. Any of the sites that you added will no longer work for that amount of time! So no matter how much you might want to get to Facebook to see if Bob responded, you can’t – so I guess that gives you the opportunity to get something done!

One of the beautiful things about SelfControl is that once you set the timer, you can’t stop it. Even if you restart your mac, uninstall the application, whatever, you won’t be able to visit your blocked sites until the timer is up. 

Okay, now for the technical part (those who aren’t interested, skip to the next paragraph). On your Mac there is a file called the hosts file. Basically, it contains a local DNS registry, which usually only consists of localhost being 127.0.0.1. What SelfControl does is adds an entries to the hosts file that direct whatever sites you blacklisted to 0.0.0.0. This means that if you try to visit a site that you blacklisted, you will be redirected to the server at the address 0.0.0.0 – which doesn’t exist. Now for the spoiler: if you really want to get your Facebook and other social networks back before the timer is out, you can use the Terminal to edit /etc/hosts and delete the SelfControl entry.

So say goodbye to Bob, your friends, and your admirers alike; you have work to do. 

SelfControl Website

Direct Download

MightyText: Desktop SMS through your Phone

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Over the years, there have been many different solutions to texting through your computer.

A couple of carriers would allow you to text over their web interface, but it was usually very unreliable and, well, bad.

Google Voice allowed you to get a phone number that could be used through your computer, phone, or any other internet connected device – but this required you to get a completely different phone number.

iMessage allows you to text from your computer if you have an iOS Device, but this only works for Macs and iOS.

Well, there’s finally a solid solution for us android users: MightyText.

It’s really simple. Install the free app on your android device, install a browser plugin, and you’re good to go.

The entire system works through the cloud. When a text is received on your phone, it pushes the information to the MightyText servers, which then push it back down to your computer. This means that the system will work even if you aren’t anywhere near your phone, as long as your phone and your computer are both connected to the internet.

The computer interface is web-based, and the browser plugin allows notifications to pop up when you receive a new text. The interface isn’t half bad, and if you decide to sync your contacts with Google, then you can get all of the names in the text interface as opposed to all of the phone numbers.

As I said, it’s completely free, and all that you need is an android phone running 2.2+ and an internet connected computer.

Get it on Google Play

Install Browser Plugin (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and IE (but hopefully not))

Koush Brings us Root Free Tethering

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Koush, you have improved the lives of android users once again.

In case you don’t know, Koush is the creator of ClockworkMod, the custom recovery that is used by rooters worldwide.

Koush has now brought us a root free USB tethering solution, for all of you who are either having problems with rooting (like if you have a rooted Galaxy Nexus and you updated to 4.0.4 OTA and your root is gone and no matter what you do you can’t get it back, *cough* *cough*) or if you don’t want to root your phone out of fear of destroying it.

It’s an extremely simple application. On your phone, you download the app for free from the android market Google Play. The free app is a 14 day trial, but you can buy the full version as an in-app purchase for $4.99 (worth it!).

Once you’ve downloaded the app on your phone, you just need to get the drivers for your computer. Now, you’re probably going to be downloading this app because at the time you don’t have internet, and Koush has thought of that as well. In the android app, you can download the app files onto your phone then transfer them onto your computer for installation. Genius!

The small connection application is available for Mac, Windows, and even Linux. Ubuntu users rejoice!

Once you’ve installed the driver, you’re ready to go. Tap the USB icon on your phone, click start on your computer, and in a few seconds, your computer will be connected to the internet through your phone’s network. Easy as that!

If this comes in handy for you, I highly recommend that you buy the app. Koush has created some amazing things for android, and without him flashing ROMs would be nearly impossible.

Thank you Koush for all of your contributions to Android!

Click here to download the app for Android.

Apple Says Things at WWDC

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So Apple had some fun at the WWDC Keynote this year.

Siri did stand-up comedy to open.

No really, I’m excited about the new Samsung. Not the phone, the refrigerator.

I must admit, that was pretty funny.

First of all, Apple updated its notebooks. The MacBook Air finally got a speed boost, the MacBook Pro got a speed boost, and the 17″ MacBook Pro bid farewell.

Apple also announced their next generation MagBook Pro, which is almost as thin as an Air, has a retina display, and a new Magsafe Port. Great.

All of these computers have gotten upgrades to USB 3, which is nice for those people who actually have devices that can take advantage of that.

Then, our friend iOS got an update.

Finally, iOS has turn by turn navigation. Siri is available on the new iPad, and has supposedly gotten a bit better. Facebook is now integrated as much as twitter. FaceTime is available on cellular networks. Photo streams can be shared. A new app called Passbook allows you to store tickets for planes, movies, and stores. There’s also a few other things that aren’t worth mentioning.

Mac OS X Mountain Lion didn’t get anything new from what we knew already, except thatdictation will be available in any text field. For many people, this will definitely come in handy.

Some people were unhappy with the absence of an iPhone 5. But I think we should be content with iOS 6, and expect the new iPhone this fall – along with the public release of iOS 6.

I’ve been playing around with iOS 6, and so far it works well. Siri works just as expected, and the Facebook and twitter integration is also very handy.

The MacBooks that were updated are available now, but iOS will be available in fall. Mountain Lion will be available this July.

MacBook Pro

Macbook Air

iOS 6

Mountain Lion

Spotify for Android gets Overhauled

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Pretty new artist page

Spotify is by far the best music service I have ever come across. For $10 a month, I get all of the new songs streamed to my computer and phone. For the price of one album a month, I can have as many songs and listen to all of them as many times as I want without any ads or issues. It’s magical!

The only problem is the the android app. It really lacks – the interface is a little bit hard to use, it doesn’t offer as much functionality as the desktop app, and the graphics are quite low resolution.

Well, not anymore. Spotify has released a preview of their new app, which features facebook- and twitter-like slide-out menus, cleaner, easier graphics, and a nicer, more refined playing menu. The interface is also a lot faster in general.

A nice new player interface

The application isn’t available on Google Play quite yet, as they’re working on adding a few more features like Last.fm scrobbling, folders, and more. However, if you’d like to update now, you can still download the preview of the new app.

First, you’ll need to open Settings > Applications and check the box that allows you to install applications from unknown sources. Next, open this post on your phone and tap here. The apk file should download. Next, pull down the notifications and tap the downloaded file. Follow the steps and in a few taps you’ll be enjoying the new spotify interface!

I’m excited that spotify is finally cleaning up their Android app – it was getting a bit, well, old.

Instagram for Android

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Finally. At long, long, long, long, long, long, long last. Instagram has released their official Android Application.

In case you don’t know, Instagram is a photo-sharing platform which incorporates different fun-style effects and third party sharing into the mix. It’s been available for the iPhone since late 2010 and has collected over 30 million users. Yeah. Whow.

There were many speculations of an Android App over the past while, but no confirmed release date.

Now that Instagram has released their Android version, they are well on their way to a giant user base. After all, Android does have more of a market share than the iPhone.

As far as the application goes, it’s the exact same as the iPhone with one important exception: The android application does not have the tilt-shift function, a popular option among Instagrammers. (Tilt-shift is where a selected part of the photo is in focus and the rest is not.)

If you are an android user longing for some instagrammal love, click here to download the free app for android. Enjoy!

The New iPad

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My last post was about the new iPad announcement. I was able to get my hands on one, and here’s what I think.

What’s new:

  • Retina Display
  • Upgraded A5X Chip
  • 5MP iSight Camera
  • 4G LTE support

Retina Display

The biggest deal about the entire new iPad is the retina display. When it was shown on the iPhone, it was kinda crazy. Whow, I actually *can’t* see the pixels! Seriously!

For those who don’t know, here’s a description of the retina display:

Displays work with pixels, each one having RGB units (sometimes called “sub-pixels”). A combination of the colors red, green, and blue can make up any visible color.

All of these pixels are squished next to each other and light up at different times to make different colors. This gives us our shapes, colors, and pictures.

Each display has a rating of the density of the pixels, which is how many pixels are crammed in each inch. Many displays are 72, some 100, and a variety in between.

The whole deal about the “retina” display is that the DPI is so high, and the pixels are so small, that you can’t pick out any of the pixels. That way everything is sharper and less distorted.

The DPI of the new iPad’s retina display is 264 DPI. Compare that to a printer at 300, and you’re damn close.

Now, the total resolution of the iPad is about 3 million pixels. Hint: that’s a lot. As you may have seen in one of their promotional videos, Apple had to separate the pixels from the layer of signals that tells each sub-pixel when to light up. That way, signals don’t get crossed and what not.

Simplified: the retina display is very sharp and very pretty.

Upgraded A5X Chip

As you (hopefully) read in the last paragraph, there are 3 million pixels that need to be lit up and controlled by the graphics card. That means that the card needs to be nimble and powerful. So, there’s the A5X chip. Honestly it’s hard to notice a difference unless you’re playing games with a lot of 3D rendering and action (A.K.A. Infinity Blade).

5MP iSight Camera

The one thing that really just sucked about the iPad 2 is the back camera. Its megapixels were at near-flip-phone levels (critical). Thankfully, Apple stuck in the 5MP chip from the iPhone 4 and the optics from the iPhone 4S, and voila, we have a less awful camera.

The front camera is still the same (not great), but hey, it’s okay for impromptu self-portraits, video chat, and using as a mirror.

4G LTE Support

At long last, we have a 4G Apple device! Fanboys unite!

Yeah, the title basically says it. The new iPad has an antenna that supports both AT&T and Verizon’s 4G LTE networks.

I had to set up a Verizon 4G iPad and it was NOT easy. Verizon insists that you create a new account, and they have no option to login and add the iPad to your existing account. Instead, I called Verizon customer service, was redirected to a different customer service line, and after giving the guy a ton of numbers and passwords and who knows what, I was finally able to get 3G on the thing.

AT&T was different; They had an “Already have an account? Tap here to login” link.

Conclusion

Overall, the new iPad brings about some changes that are simple, yet long awaited. The physical profile is still the exact same, and the only complaint that I (and many others) have had is the temperature. The iPad seems to run at hand warming temperatures, which is great when you’re in an isolated log cabin in canada, but not so great when you’re in a standard thermally regulated room and start worrying if your precious device is going to melt. At the moment, that’s the only major complaint, to which Apple has responded that the iPad “runs well within it’s operating temperatues.” Well, if you say so.

Another small thing that we got with the iPad is Dictation. Hit the microphone button and talk, and you can input text anywhere using only your voice. This is a sad excuse for not adding in Siri, considering that Apple could have easily done it had they wanted to. Siri or no Siri, the new iPad is definitely a step up from the last, but we’re still waiting for the giant evolution (3Gs to 4 evolution).

 

The Future of the Windows Logo

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In the past, Microsoft has been known for it’s flashy red, green, blue, yellow logo with curvy edges. That’s how it’s always been, from Windows NT to Windows 7.

A few days ago, Windows released on their blog what the logo for Windows 8 would look like:

8037

Really? A few blue squares and Windows 8 in a typical boring sans-serif font.

Also, the little block of boring squares is trademarked.

If this is the direction Windows is headed, then I think I’m in business. Here, I present to you, what I believe the Windows 9 logo will look like:

Window9

Thanks to metro apps, Microsoft is moving away from multiple-window desktops. That’s why it’s not Windows plural – just Window. This will be followed by Window 10 featuring the removal of the text and the copying of apple’s Mac OS X:

Window10

Then, with Window 11, black will be out of style. That’s why they’ll switch to white.

Windows11

And after that, I can’t tell. Transparent?

That’s where I think the Window(s) logo is going. Thoughts?

Google Chrome for Android Beta Released

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Android has always had a great browser built into it, but that browser was never Chrome.

Well, that’s about to change.

Kind of.

Today, Google has released a beta version of Chrome onto the Android Market… for Android 4.0 ICS phones. Luckily, thanks to my Galaxy Nexus, I get to try it out and give you this review.

First off after opening this app you’ll notice a pretty little googlicious introduction to the app.

Firstopen

Quite simple, quite clean, quite google.

I’m going to warn you in advance – many of the features in the Chrome for Android application are identical to those that are available on the desktop version of the browser.

Tabbing

In my opinion, the tabbing interface has been improved from the tabbing of other mobile browsers. Instead of just a list of tiles, Chrome gives you a very pretty sorting-through-a-card-deck like interface.

Tabbing

Don’t want a tab? Just slide it off to either side and it will make a spin-like motion into nothingness. These little effects add some very nice feel to the app.

Slideoff

Sync

The other coolest feature of the Chrome for Android application would be its ability to sync with Google Chrome for Mac and Windows. If you’ve signed in to Chrome on your desktop (Wrench thing > Sign in to chrome…), then all of your bookmarks, history, and tabs are already synced up.

This means that you can easily retrieve them on the new tab page in Chrome for Android. This grants access to one, extremely awesome thing: live tabs.

Basically, if you have a set of tabs open on your computer and need to go somewhere, you can just leave your computer and all of your tabs will show up on Chrome for Android.

Gettabs

Pretty awesome, right? I must say, it’s not perfect – It takes a while for the tabs to get synced, and there isn’t an easy button to tell your computer and/or phone to sync. Remember though, this app is only in beta.

It’s the same deal with bookmarks – they will all get synced across your phone and computer(s).

Feel/Speed

If you use Chrome for Desktop on a daily basis, you already know the feel of the app. Google’s minimalistic style and code makes the app very light and quick to the touch. Pinch to zoom works fine, things render great, and the only thing missing is (of course) flash. But hey, who needs that anyways? We have HTML5!

In fact, lets compare. First, here is the html5test.com result for the built-in browser.

Html5def

Not bad, actually – Firefox Mobile’s score is down the drain.

Now, lets test out chrome:

Html5ch

Sweet!

As I said, who needs flash anyways?!

Conclusion

Chrome Beta for Android is definitely a nice browser – if you have a device running Android 4.0 in the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Australia, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Argentina, or Brazil, it’s definitely something you should try out.

Otherwise, I don’t know when Chrome for Android will be released to the masses.

Enjoy!

Link to Chrome Beta in the Android Market

AppCleaner: A Thorough Uninstallation

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One of the conveniences of Mac is that applications come in packaged files ending in .app. For this reason, they are usually said to be easy to uninstall – just delete the .app file from your applications folder and it’s gone.

True, this will get rid of most of the files, but often there’s still some application metadata gunk left laying around in hidden folders.

That’s why AppCleaner is so handy.

Drag in a .app file, and it will find all of the supporting files and allow you to delete them. This allows you to get a completely clean uninstall of an application on your mac.

 

Did I mention it’s free? Pick it up from FreeMacSoft using this link. Enjoy!

Otterbox Defender Series for Galaxy Nexus

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Over my years of reviewing and testing, no other case company has ever been able to  replicate the protective properties of Otterbox’s cases. When I plan on dropping my phone off of a two story building, they’re the only ones with a case I can trust.

That’s why when I got my Galaxy Nexus, I knew that the case I would be getting would be from otterbox. Here’s my scoop.

Design

The case consists of two main parts: an outer silicone skin, and an inner hard plastic shell (with a screen protector built in).

The outer silicone skin has a nice grip and absorbs a majority of the initial shock if you happen to drop the device. It has openings for all ports, so you can attach everything you need without having to ever remove the case. This is a nice feature, although it does add more parts and complexity to the overall design of the case.

The Flaw

The inner shell is the hard layer of protection for the device. It has two parts: a bottom and a top section, which snap around the phone. This is where the only problem with the case is.

A "practically indestructible" case?

The top section is a frame around the screen (with openings for speakers, cameras, lights, etc.) which also has a screen protecter glued in. This means that you need to clean off the screen protector of the case in addition to your phone’s screen and try to get them together before any other dust settles. The only issue with this is that if any dust settles after you’ve snapped it on, good luck getting it off – without breaking it, that is. After my first attempt at putting it together, I noticed a bunch of dust particles under the protector. So I take the case off, but the tiny snaps on the edges that hold the case together aren’t willing to let go. In the end, I need to pry them apart to even get to my phone. This bent the frame a bit. On my second attempt at taking the case off, I tried to use a key in the tiny slots next to the snaps. I ended up cracking the frame, and it still took a good ten minutes for me to get the case off of the device.

Conclusion

Otterbox was always (and most likely will always be) known for it’s super-protective lines of cases. At $50, the materials are not very well-built and are extremely prone to cracking and bending. Although it may protect your device, the case is oddly fragile for its super-hefty title. I can’t say I don’t recommend this case, as the protection it offers is above-par, but I can’t highly recommend it as it is fragile and the plastic materials are prone to breaking and bending.

If you want to pick one up for yourself, click here to be redirected to the Otterbox page.

P.S. Thank you otterbox for sending me this awesome (but fragile) case!

Android Wifi Tether Now Working on Galaxy Nexus

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The only real reason I ever root my phone is to use the Wifi Tether app. Wifi Tether is a free application that allows you to get the internet from your rooted android phone onto your computer, without having to pay for Verizon’s ridiculous tethering plans.

Right after I rooted, I installed Wifi Tether and was disappointed when it gave me an error and didn’t work. I went to their Google Code page and there was already a very popular thread about it’s dysfunctionality on the Galaxy Nexus.

Well, rooters unite – Wifi Tether has just released an experimental pre-beta version that has support for the Nexus. Although it’s considered “experimental,” I’ve had absolutely no problems with it and I’m loving the 4G speeds. It’s like having a 4G Mifi with no data limits and a much cheaper data plan ($30 a month!).

Click Here to download the app. I recommend browsing to this page on your phone (here’s a shortlink to save you a little bit of time: http://wp.me/p1GtXy-vW) and hitting that download link.

Once it’s downloaded, go into Settings > Security and check the box that says “Install Apps from Unknown Sources.” This will allow you to install the apk file you just downloaded.

Now open your downloads and tap the apk file I told you to download up there, and you will go through a quick install process.

Open up the app and you’re ready to tether over 4G speeds!

If you’re not rooted yet and would like to be, click here for my post on how to root the Galaxy Nexus.

Enjoy your 4G Tethering!