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Winterizing Your Portable Tech

Winterizing Your Portable Tech | 40Tech

I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time in the soon to be frozen hell that is central North America. This has led me to consider things that, heretofore, I had no inkling about while hanging out on the often wet but nearly always mild Northwest coast. Things like: how to touch my smartphone or iPad screen in the freezing cold weather, should I even bring the damned things out in the freezing cold weather and, oh, what about my tech and the, you know, freezing cold weather? So I did a bit of looking around, and here are the best tips that I found…

The biggest — and most obvious — suggestion was to just never take the things out when it’s truly cold, and to make sure you never forget them in your car. This sort of silliness can lead to cracked screens (especially for the glass ones, like iPhones, iPads, and other smartphones and tablets), and dead batteries. That’s not all, though. Condensation is also a concern. Nothing like little droplets of water forming inside your electronics. That’ll make for a fun and expensive day, yes?

Condensation can form inside your device if you turn it on while it’s still cold. The best advice I’ve found to avoid this is to wait until your toy — or essential life device (ELD) as the toys are fast becoming — reaches room temperature before turning it on. Other management options are to try and keep the things warm in the first place. There are laptop warmers out there, and someone is probably bringing heated iPad cases to market as we speak, but the tried and true option is to keep the device close to your body. This only works if you dress warmly, however — and it really only works for smartphones or little wee-tablets.

If you do see condensation, don’t turn on your device. Wait! You’ll want to check if it’s still working but that is an incredibly bad idea! Instead, stick the thing in some uncooked rice — cover it! — and let that attempt to draw the moisture out. It may or may not work, but it’s your best chance, even if you drop your device in a puddle or something.

The phone doesn’t stop ringing just because it’s cold. You can always purchase (or make) some gloves with removable or conductive finger-tips, but a better option in extreme cold weather is to just keep the thing in your pocket and use a good earbud with inline mic and call answer buttons. Something with music track-changing buttons doesn’t hurt either.

Here’s something I didn’t know: I had no idea that leaving your device in sleep mode can increase the potential for problems and damage in cold weather. I read this on a couple of different sites and, while no one ever said why, they all said that turning off your device completely — at least in regard to laptops and netbooks — is always a good idea before going out into the frozen outside world. Better safe than sorry, I say.

Some sites also advised wrapping your device up in a scarf or something if you have to leave it in your car. If you use it often, this could work, as it will help to keep the device’s generated heat from dissipating. If you leave it out over night — or even for an hour — in really cold weather, however, wrapping it up won’t do a thing. Not unless what you wrap it in has it’s own heat source.

So what do you do to protect your portable electronic devices — smartphones, tablets, laptops, et al — in extreme cold weather?


Hotspot Shield VPN Officially on iOS — Secure Browsing, Bandwidth Compression, Access Blocked Sites/Services

Hotspot Shield Now Officially on iOS -- Say Hello to HTTPS, Bandwidth Compression, Out-of-US Netflix, Pandora | 40Tech

When we first told you about Hotspot Shield, it was to use the free Virtual Private Network to bypass blocked media, as well as increase your browsing security. Over a year later, we posted a tutorial on how to use the VPN to watch US Netflix outside of United States, using your iOS devices. Unfortunately, the Hotspot Shield sign up process for iOS was broken soonafter, and their customer service team didn’t have a lot to say about it. Now we know why: Anchorfree, the creators of Hotspot Shield have released an iPhone app that makes all of the steps go away, and even solves a few of the problems.

The new Hotspot Shield app will have you up and running with a couple of touches, installing two VPN configurations on your iPhone or iPad. The second one is for manual use — you turn it on when you need it, and leave it off when you don’t. The default configuration, though, is Always On, which handily accomplishes two things: it allows you to automatically have the VPN’s data compression and additional security in place whether you are on WiFi or mobile broadband, and it also fixes potential annoyances by automatically re-establishing the VPN’s connection when it drops (which is still a regular occurrence).

In testing, I found that the VPN is more stable on iOS than it was previously, and that using it was practically painless. I also discovered, very quickly, that the free-ness of Hotspot Shield — at least for mobile — is a thing of the past. In comparison to other VPNs, though, especially services that are as effective, the price is still more than worthwhile. You can use the VPN free for a week, after that, it’ll cost you $0.99/month or $9.99/year. You can also use a purchase code the app provides you to activate up to five personal devices that are connected to the same iTunes account. If the incredibly attractive price is to much for you, and you already have an old Hotspot Shield VPN installed on your iOS device, it should still work, at least for now — mine does, anyway.

Hotspot Shield VPN for iOS, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch | 40TechHotspot Shield VPN App for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch | 40TechHotspot Shield VPN App for iOS | 40Tech

Some other fun features of the app are the abilities to track your bandwidth savings and to control your compression level. You can turn it off completely for WiFi, or turn it up to maximum to save bandwidth on images and the like. This will downgrade image quality, of course, but how much is your data worth to you?

All in all, I recommend it to pretty much everyone on iOS with even a passing interest in security (or in using Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, etc., outside of the US). You can never be too careful with your data, and HotSpot Shield does a decent job of protecting you. According to ReadWriteWeb, it was even used during the revolutions of the Arab Spring to allow “users to skirt detection of officials that may have been monitoring mobile internet activity.” Handy, that…

If you do decide to use Hotspot Shield for iOS, do keep a couple of things in mind:

  1. The terms of service are very explicit about the VPN being for personal use only. Don’t use it for business or they may cut you off.
  2. Using a VPN to access a US-only service outside of the US may be considered breach of that service’s terms of use. You may want to double-check that before going ahead to make sure you don’t have any issues — especially if you pay for said service.

What do you think of Hotspot Shield for iOS? Do you plan to use it to increase your browsing security? Let us know in the comments!


One of the Most Beautiful Things Humankind Has Ever Made-and I’m Not Talking About the Phone [video]

Japanese Gravity Marimba, Sharp Touch Wood SH-08C | 40Tech

This is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. In my life. Seriously. And oddly enough, it’s for a smartphone commercial — the Sharp SH-08C Touch Wood. Picture this, if you will: a quiet day in a beautiful forest, the occasional deer, and a small stream chattering as it flows by on its merry way. Doesn’t that just scream relaxation? Now imagine yourself breathing in that fresh air, drinking in that view — and listening to the sounds of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147) as it tinkles through the air. You look around, wondering where the music is coming from, and see a long, angled construction between the trees. It’s made of wood, is kind of pretty in its own right, and it’s singing out the notes of the 10th movement as a little wooden ball rolls ever downward, toward the waiting ground.

You can’t tell me that you don’t think that’s cool!

Japanese Gravity Marimba | 40Tech

The gravity marimba, as it’s called, is a masterful feat of engineering. So much so, in fact, that a part of me still thinks it might be computer graphics — but from all reports, it’s real. Each time the little wooden ball hits one of the wooden slats, a note sounds. Each wooden slat is just long enough, and angled in just the right way to provide the proper rhythm; slowing down or speeding up as needed. The sustained notes are an added treat — very cleverly done. The math that must have been required to create this thing boggles my regular, writing-loving mind!

My just-about-three-year-old daughter and I were enthralled by this video — we watched it four times in a row — and like I said, probably one of the neatest things I’ve ever come across, online or off. These things should be built everywhere. The phone that I mentioned doesn’t come up until the end of the commercial, and is in itself an interesting attempt to marry technology with nature. It appears to have a wooden back, for example.

Watch the video! Absorb it. It just might make your weekend! :D

Japanese Gravity Marimba Plays In An Ancient Forest [Make Magazine Blog]


[Reader Survey] What Kind of Battery Life Does Your Smartphone Get?

battery life for smartphones

Smartphone battery life is a fickle thing, not only between different phone models, but among supposedly identical phones. After nearly two years with an iPhone, I started using my Android-based AT&T Captivate in December. One difference, among otherwise Android awesomeness: pathetic battery life. I installed Serendipity, a custom ROM, and saw some improvement, but I still can’t go from morning until bed time without plugging in the phone. The catch, though, is that other Captivate users who run Serendipity report battery life that is double what I get. Battery life seems to depend on an individual’s usage, the apps installed, and the condition of the battery in the device.

Let us know in the comments what kind of battery life you get. Make sure you let us know what phone you use, how heavily you use your phone, and any tips you’ve come across to increase your battery life.

To get the ball rolling on some tips, here is a very thorough thread from the xdadevelopers forum, for you users of Android custom ROMs, with several tips and links about how to improve battery life. The tips include deleting your battery stats, and doing a “bump charge,” among others. I’m running at about 13 hours now. How about you?


FundedApps Wants to Make Your App Ideas a Reality — Is there a Catch?

FundedApps Wants to Make Your App Ideas a Reality -- Is there a Catch? | 40Tech

If you’ve ever thought that you had the perfect idea for an app, but just didn’t have the time, the means, or the skills to build and launch your gift to the mobile world (and your wallet), well guess what: there’s an app for that. Now before you begin mentally slaying me for my use of Apple’s now cliche slogan, read on — I’m actually not joking. The app is called FundedApps, and its entire purpose is for you to send in your idea so that they can make it happen for you. If they like your idea, you get £250 upfront, plus 25% of the net profit that the app makes.

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