Category: Hardware

iPad App Store App Update Page Got You Blank?

Over the past few days a significant number of iPad users have been left staring at blank App Store app update screens. It appears Apple is aware of the problem. How people have worked around the issue have been all over the board and no one solution works for everyone.

While some have been able to solve the problem and update their apps through manually updating apps under the Purchased button option. Some have fixed it by changing the language option. For many others, the system just fixes itself over time.

I tried most of the fixes and they did not work for me. However, I came across this suggested fix and it did work on the two iPad’s I tried, so I wanted to share…

  1. Kill the App Store app
  2. In settings, set side switch to rotate lock
  3. Make sure rotate is unlocked
  4. Turn iPad horizontal so side switch side is up
  5. Lock, and when icon fades, unlock
  6. With iPad still horizontal, launch App Store app
  7. Select the App Store app Update button

Again, this may or not work for you, but while it seems strange, it did work for me.

-Eric Schnell

TechTips: Near Field Communication

Anyone that has gone into a retail store recently has likely seen a Mastercard “PayPass” pad at the checkout station. Using a credit card with a special built in chip, the customer makes contact with the pad with the card rather than swiping it. NFCThe technology behind the tap-to-pay devices is call near field communication.

Near field communication (NFC) is a technology allows enabled devices to communicate with other devices by establishing radio communication, by either touching them or bringing them into close proximity of one another. This is done through the use of NFC chips, or tags, which can be custom-encoded or may use the specifications provided by the NFC Forum, an industry association charged with promoting the technology and setting key standards. The tags can securely store personal data such as debit and credit card information, loyalty program data, PINs and networking contacts, among other information. NFC typically tags contain data and are typically read-only but may be rewriteable.

Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are similar to NFC since all three allow wireless communication and data exchange between digital devices. However,  the significant difference with NFC is that it utilizes electromagnetic radio fields while Bluetooth and Wi-Fi utilize radio waves. NFC builds upon Radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems by allowing two-way communication and works in the same 13.56 MHz radio frequency spectrum. Unlike RFID, both the NFC device and the tag can initiate the communication.

One application of NFC technology already on the market is the Google Wallet, a mobile payment system that allows its users to store debit cards, credit cards, loyalty cards, and gift cards among other things, as well as redeeming sales promotions on their mobile phone. BMW is working to allow car owners to use their key NFC  key FOBs to store downloaded event tickets or check out of a hotel. Hospitals can use NFC to monitor patients at their homes. Students cab use their NFC enabled phones to get into their dorm rooms. A fun application of the technology is the Karotz Bunny.

There are many interesting possibilities for this technology:

– Touch a mobile device over display at a local museum or at an exhibit to access more information and multimedia content
– Touch a device at a display or a poster to create an interactive experience
– Could replace the pairing step of establishing Bluetooth connections or the configuration of Wi-Fi networks

As with other such technologies there are concerns aabout privacy and security. Adopters will want to know that all of their vital information is encrypted and that that viruses can’t be passed by NFC.

TechTips: Google Drive

Google has finally released their long awaited competitor to Dropbox, SkyDrive, and iCloud, which they are calling Google Drive. Individuals can get up to 5GB of space for free but a premium service is available for 25GB at $2.49/mo, 100GB for $4.99/mo, and $49.99 a month for 1TB.

Users of Google Docs will find Drive very familiar. In fact, Google Docs is built into Drive.  Just like Docs, one can collaborate with others on documents, can share content with others, and one can add and reply to comments and receive notifications when others have commented on shared items.

Users can attach photos from Drive to posts in Google+ and will soon be able to attach Drive content into Gmail, which can reduced the reliance on the use of file attachments. Work is also underway to allow third-party apps to access the content.

Drive supports a large number of file formats and includes the Google Drive viewer, which allows one to preview documents in 16 formats. Drive also tracks changes made to content so one view the revision history for the past 30 days.

Like other cloud storage services, Drive provides a single location at which to save and store documents and media content that can be automatically synced across multiple devices.  Since Google is also behind Android, it’s mobile version of the service was released first. As of this writing the iPhone/iPad app had not yet been released. Drive also takes advantage of Android’s accessibility features so those with sight impairments can use the mobile app, eyes-free.

The desktop client works just like Dropbox’s.  A folder is created locally which is used to store the content to be synced. One simply has to drag and drop an item in the Drive folder. Also like with Dropbox, the contents of the folder can be managed as any local folder. Since the desktop I first installed the client on is located behind a corporate firewall, Dropbox required the use of a proxy to allow real-time syncing. This was not the case with Drive. After installation, I dragged a file into the desktop folder and it showed up on the web client within 3 seconds.

Those with Google/Gmail accounts should visit to get set up. It may take a day or two for your account to be setup. There is plenty of online support available.

Eric Schnell

TechTips: Optimizing the New iPad

It’s been a  few weeks since  the release of the new iPad and early adopters have uncovered a few “features” which can be optimized to get the most out of the device.

Data Plan Management

Edward Baid at USA Today wrote about how the new iPad’s 4G service can use up a data plan’s allotment very quickly.  In fact, streaming an hour of high-definition video alone on either Verizon or AT&T’s4G data networks can use up an entire monthly allocation. One’s data allocation can also be eaten by using the 4G service to download apps already purchased for another iPad onto the new iPad through Apple’s iCloud. While the new iPad has a 50MB per app download limit on 4G. The data use required to move all the smaller-sized apps to the new iPad collectively using 4G adds up.

Verizon has advised users to use Wi-Fi when it is available to help extend the data plan since the iPad almost always defaults to a Wi-Fi connection when available. To ensure that you don’t use cellular data it would be a good practice to turn off Cellular Data within Settings when you don’t need it. Or, just shut deactivate the LTE service. Since the data plans on both AT&T and Verizon are prepaid one can select only what you think you’ll need and then add on or cancel data plans as often needed under the Cellular Data opinion in Settings.

Battery Life

The retina display on the new iPad is exceptional with great screen resolution and the enhanced color saturation. However, both features also require a lot of battery power. So much so that although the battery on the new iPad has 70 percent higher capacity than the iPad2 it still has the same run time.

Information Week posted several tips for optimizing the battery life:

  • Instead of using the auto-brightness setting, which adjusts the brightness to match the amount of ambient light, use the manual controls. The suggestion is to set the display set to about 25%-30% brightness, which is still plenty bright for indoor use.
  • App notifications use battery power even when the device is not being used since they turn on the display and use battery when they arrive, even for 5 or 10 seconds. In the Notifications setting menu, turn Notifications “off” for as many apps as possible. For apps which you must have notifications, turn the View on Lock Screen setting off so the display is not turned on when notifications arrive.
  • Wireless radios rank second to the display in battery use.  The new iPad defaults to using Wi-Fi when available. If you have access to Wi-Fi turn the cellular radio off completely. Turn off Bluetooth unless you’re actively using a Bluetooth accessory, such as a keyboard.
  • Location services (GPS) also drain battery. Turning location services off completely can extending battery life. If certain apps need location services one can just limit notifications to only those apps that must use them.
  • The iPad uses battery when it wakes itself up to check for email or other synced data (such as calendar/contacts)  To increase battery life turn off push email entirely or sync once every 15, 30, or 60 minutes. Better yet, have it sync manually and it will only check for mail only when the email app is opened. This is also a good strategy for lowering data plan usage.

Test results from DisplayMate Labs conclude that the battery life indicator on the new iPad displays 100% charged when it is really at about 90%. The labs suggest that  if one stops charging the new iPad when the battery indicator says 100% you won’t get the maximum running time. To maximize the battery keep your iPad plugged in for an hour or so more after the display reads 100%.  The lab also discovered that when the new iPad is fully discharged it takes 5.5 hours to charge. That’s only if the new iPad is off or in sleep mode. The labs estimates that recharging while using the new iPad, with the display set to maximum brightness, will take about 20 hours. It would be a good practice to charge the new iPad overnight or when you’re not tempted to pick it up while it is charging.

Portable HotSpot

The Verizon version of the new iPad launched with the ability to use the device as a portable WiFi hotspot, allowing other deives to sdhare the network connection. There is an option of sharing the data connection using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or a USB connection.AT&T has indicated that they are working on this feature.   Setting up the new iPad as a hotspot is fairly simple and requires an active cellular data plan.

Of course, having more devices using the connection will also eat up the data plan allocation.

Eric Schnell

TechTips: Extending Cellphone Battery Life

I recently purchased a new Android-based mobile phone. I spent the first day checking out all the features and options, downloading a bunch of applications, and experimenting with the GPS and location-based services. It didn’t take very long to notice the battery drained relatively quickly.

The problem with the current generation of phones is that all the neat features also eat away at the battery. They have large bright screens.  They have connections for 3G, Wi-Fi, and GPS. They connect to the Internet. They have applications that run in the background to provide alerts.

Simply put, cellphones spend a lot of time connected to their chargers these days.

Here are a few things one can do to extend cellphone battery life:

Check the settings of your background applications and notifications: Having email, Twitter messages, Facebook updates, and calendar appointments delivered minute-by-minute is perhaps the largest battery drain. Resetting the email polling interval from every 5 minutes to an hour will do wonders for battery life. If you keep multiple applications “open” for quicker access or alerts, run them only as needed. There is no need to get storm alerts if it is going to be 80 and sunny.

Turn off roaming/3G/4G when not needed:  If you have good coverage and are mostly usind the phone for talking, or get only occasional email updates, there isn’t a need to keep such a wide wireless connection open.

Use location-based services onlt when needed: Having the phone constantly look for new Bluetooth devices, Wi-Fi hotspots, GPS positions definitely eats up battery. Find out how to turn these things off on your phone, or automate their use. Add shortcuts and widgets to the homescreen to make it easier to control the radios.

Play with screen time-outs, brightness, and backlight: Adjust the setting for how long the screen stays lit after a quick check of the clock. Turn on automatic brightness so the screen auto-adjusts in light and dark environments rather than having brightness turned all the way up. Alternatively, lower the default screen brightness.

Keep it cool: Avoid keeping the battery at full charge and high temperature. This is the case when placing a cell phone or spare battery in a hot car. Keep it out of your pocket and away from your body heat whenever possible.

Turn off live wallpapers and vibrate; lower ringer volume: They do use processing power and eat into the battery life.

Please leave a comment if you have any other tips for extending smartphone battery life.


 iPhone | BlackBerry | Windows Mobile | Palm


LifeHacker | Gizmodo | wikiHow |

Photo by fbar under Creative Commons license 

Eric Schnell  

TechTips: Can My Smartphone Get a Virus?

A couple of weeks ago I bought my first Android phone. As I was researching cool applications to install, I stumbled upon this blog posting from the security company Panda about smartphones sold by Vodafone in Spain being infected with the Mariposa botnet.While the Vodaphone outbreak was limited is scale it did make me think.

If the primary methods used to spread viruses on a desktop computers include email clients and web browsers, and if these applications are also installed on my smartphone, is it vulnerable to a virus?

In short, yes.

As phones evolve to include even greater functionality the more vulnerable they are becoming to the same threats that plague our desktops and laptops. At a security conference in early March 2010, researchers demonstrated how they could send the malicious version of an application to smartphones via an auto-update feature.

According to McAfee, the most vulnerable smartphone features include:

  • Text messages
  • Contacts
  • Video
  • Phone transcriptions
  • Call history
  • Documentation
  • Buffer overflows

The outbreak might not be contained to the smartphone either.

Most of the current generation of smartphones have mini usb connectors. The connector not only allow the devices to be charged, but also allows them to be plugged into a desktop computer for data syncing. This could allow a virus to be transferred to your desktop or laptop from your smartphone.  (I also plug my smartphone into my car’s usb connector to charge. Could a virus be uploaded into it?)

So, what should smartphone owners do? While many companies have developed anti-virus software for smartphones, I suggest simply using the same safe computing practices one uses with their desktop:

  • Be wary of email attachments, even if they come from friends
  • Obtain applications from trusted sources
  • Keep your sensitive data safe
  • Protect your passwords
  • Be careful using open wifi networks

Eric Schnell  

TechTips: Third Generation Mobile Phones (3G)

This TechTip comes from the mail bag. The reader’s question: What is a 3G phone?

3G refers to third generation mobile phones, and associated networks, which incorporate high-speed Internet access and multimedia. This particular phone/network architecture enables mobile service providers to offer a wide range of more advanced services through greater network throughput and capacity.

The first generation of cell phones were known as AMPS (Analog Mobile Phone Service). Analog networks were a  proven technology for decades, but went dark in 2008 as a result of a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling. The second generation mobile technology is digital cellular. Digital transmissions allow for more phone conversations in the same amount of radio spectrum.

Third generation mobile phones are what we see on the market today. 3G ‘smartphones’ ( e.g. iPhone and the Google G1) and associated networks provide Internet access, text messaging, photo sharing, video, voice and data services. 3G networks have potential transfer speeds of up to 3 megabits per second (~ 15 secs to download a 3-min MP3) while the fastest 2G networks achieve transfer speeds up to 144 kilobits per second (~ 8 mins to download a 3-min MP3).

(Warning: tech talk acronyms ahead) The major 3G technologies are EV-DO for CDMA networks, such as used by Verizon and Sprint, and HSDPA for GSM networks for carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile.

Library users are increasingly using their 3G phones to access library content and services.  This is an opportunity for libraries since they can begin extend multimedia content and interactive services to our mobile users including tutorials, virtual tours, and instructional materials. The technology will also allow users to create new content, such as students studying abroad to capture examples of language, images of archeological sites or movies of cultural events.

What’s that?  Yes, you guessed it. 4G mobile networks are already in the pipeline and will have even faster speeds than 3G networks; up to 1 gigabit per second. Mobile WiMAX will be a type of 4G network. Large scale deployment of 4G is about two years away.

Additional Resources:

How Stuff Works

Eric Schnell

TechTips: NetBook Computers

As a gadget lover, I always wished I had the travel budget to go to the Consumer Electronics Show. It is the place to see what technology is emerging and will possibly impact library services 2-3 years out. Netbook Computer

This year’s top technology may be Netbooks, tiny laptops could soon be as ubiquitous as mobile phones. Netbooks are low-powered portables that offer web-based email, office and other services – a cloud computing device.

Netbooks, which have screens measuring 7-10 inches and weighing around 2 lbs, are being marketed at people who want to be able to surf the web on the go and always have access to email and social networking sites.

Netbooks are defined by their low cost, many selling for under $600, and in a very compact form factor. Nearly all offer several USB ports, a webcam, LED backlit screens, integrated speakers, and Wi-Fi. Next generation Netbooks should include touch-screens and GPS navigation.

Sound interesting? Here are 5 tips on buying a Netbook.

Eric Schnell