Category Archives: tips and tricks

Tips to Stay Anonymous Online

We have plenty of good reasons to care about the privacy and security of our online activity.Pretty soon, just about everything we do on the Web will be logged, analyzed, and used for things outside of our control.
This guide will help you learn ways to anonymize the majority of your Internet-based communications and activities. But before we get started, it should go without saying that if you’re trying to stay anonymous online, you shouldn’t use your real name when creating any account and shouldn’t sign in with any profile that has your personal information connected to it (ie, Google, Facebook, Twitter).

Step 1: Anonymous Web browsing

The best thing you can do to stay anonymous online is to hide your IP address. This is the easiest way to trace your online activity back to you. If someone knows your IP address, they can easily determine the geographic location of the server that hosts that address and get a rough idea of where you’re located. Broadly speaking, there are three ways to obscure your IP address and hide your location:
  1. Use a proxy server. If you want all of your online activity to be anonymized, the best way to do it is to pretend to be someone else. This is basically what a proxy server does: it routes your connection through a different server so your IP address isn’t so easy to track down. There are hundreds of free proxies out there, and finding a good one is just a matter of searching. Most major browsers offer proxy server extensions that can be activated in just one click.
  2. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). For most intents and purposes, a VPN obscures your IP address just as well as a proxy does – and in some cases even better. They work differently, but achieve the same result. Essentially, a VPN is a private network that uses a public network (usually the Internet) to connect remote sites or users together. So, if I were to log into Digital Trends’ VPN, anyone looking at my IP address would think I’m in New York when I’m actually on the West Coast. Here’s a list of good VPN services to get you started.
  3. Use TOR. Short for The Onion Router, TOR is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. Browsing with TOR is a lot like simultaneously using hundreds of different proxies that are randomized periodically. But it’s a lot more than just a secure browser. We won’t get into the details here, but you should definitely check out its site if you’re concerned about anonymity.

Step 2: Anonymous file transfers and sharing

Getting files from the Internet is easy, but the sender has access to your IP address when you download files. In the case of BitTorrent, there are thousands of different peers that can see your IP address at any given moment, which means downloading is one of the least anonymous things you can do on the Web. However, if done correctly, it is possible to download and share files while keeping your IP address and identity concealed.
  • If you’re downloading directly form a file hosting site like MediaFire or Mega, you can just use a proxy or VPN to obscure your IP.
  • If you’re using BitTorrent to download stuff, using a proxy or VPN will keep your identity hidden, but rather than just using any old service, we recommend using BT Guard. At its core, BT Guard is exactly the same as any other VPN or proxy service with the one difference being that the site is designed specifically for heavy BitTorrent users. Don’t worry about DMCA violation notices you might elicit – BT Guard just ignores them for you.

Step 3: Anonymous email and communication

Using proxies, VPNs, and TOR will obscure your IP address from prying eyes, but sending emails presents a different anonymity challenge. Let’s say you want to send somebody an email, but you don’t want them to know your email address. Generally speaking, there are two ways to go about this:
  • Use an alias: An alias is essentially a forwarding address. When you send mail through an alias, the recipient will only see your forwarding address, and not your real email. Since all mail is forwarded to your regular inbox, this method will keep your real email address secret, but it will not, however, keep you from being spammed like crazy.
  • Use a disposable email account: This can be done in two ways: either you can just create a new email account with a fake name and use it for the duration of your needs, or you can use a disposable email service. These services work by creating a temporary forwarding address that is deleted after a certain amount of time, so they’re great for signing up for stuff on sites you don’t trust and keeping your inbox from being flooded with spam.
Also, using a VPN and communicating through an anonymized email address will keep your identity hidden, but it still leaves open the possibility of your emails being intercepted through a man-in-the-middle scheme. To avoid this, you can encrypt your emails before you send them. Here’s how:
  • Use HTTPS  in your Web-based email client. This will add SSL/TLS encryption to all of your Web-based communications. It’s not bulletproof, but it definitely helps. Just make sure the URL of your webmail has an S (for Secure) after the HTTP. Gmail users, for example could use https://mail.google.com. We also recommend using the HTTPS Everywhere extension.
  • Use PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) software. We won’t go into great detail on how to install/use PGP, but you might want to consider looking into it. While using HTTPS will encrypt your data on a network level , PGP software will encrypt the actual files themselves. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but that’s the gist of it.
In addition to email, you might want to encrypt any instant messaging you do for the same reasons. We recommend the following two chat clients:
  • Cryptocat: a Web-based chat client that uses the AES-256 encryption standard, which is extremely hard to break. It also supports group chats, so its perfect for all those top-secret world domination meetings you have with your buddies.
  • TOR chat: a lightweight and easy-to-use chat client that uses TOR’s location hiding services. It uses SSL/TLS encryption.
If you have any good tips or tricks for staying anonymous online, we encourage you to share them in the comments.
Advertisements

Tips to use Facebook hashtags safely and effectively

The social network announced last week that it is rolling out the popular feature to users over the next few weeks.
Hashtags, made famous by microblogging site Twitter and used on a number of other social sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr, turn topics and phrases into clickable links on your personal timeline or your Page. They also make your post searchable.
“To date, there has not been a simple way to see the larger view of what’s happening or what people are talking about,” says Greg Lindley, product manager at Facebook. Hashtags, he says, will help bring more conversations to the forefront.
As part of the rollout, Facebook says you will also be able to click hashtags that originated on other services, such as Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. It also plans to roll out additional features, including trending hashtags, in the near future, it says.
According to Facebook, hashtags will appear blue and will redirect to a search page with other posts that include the same hashtag.
Tips for handling hashtags
While hashtags are widely used on other sites, there are a couple of things you need to know about the new feature and how it does and doesn’t affect your Facebook privacy.
First, adding a hashtag does not affect the privacy of your post. If your privacy settings are set to Friends, for example, only your friends can view it. Similarly, if your friends search for a hashtag that you’ve used in the past, your post will appear only to them and no one else will see it in search results, Facebook says.
Second, if you use a hashtag in a post you publish and you want it to be searchable to everyone, remember that your most-recent privacy setting is the one Facebook will default to for subsequent posts, unless you change it back.
For example, say your privacy settings are “Friends Only.” You decide to change the privacy setting for one particular post to “Public.” Your subsequent posts will be public unless you change it back to “Friends Only.”

Cell phone buying guide: Things to know when shopping for a cell phone

Cell phones have become the most crucial personal technology purchase you can make. Not only are these devices full-fledged miniature computers in their own right, they’re getting smarter with each product generation. But choosing the best one sometimes remains undecided or need a little more guidance. Well,  then read on for expert advice on how to buy the best cell phone for you.

3 key phone shopping essentials

1. Don’t be a cell phone cheapskate
Because of the way most people buy phones in the U.S. under a two-year contract chances are that once you commit to a handset, you’ll probably have it for a while. Unless you’re buying an unlocked device that’s not subsidized or a basic feature phone, it makes sense to spend as much as you can. This will help your handset stay fresh for a long time.
2. Know what phone features you want
If you understand exactly what skills and abilities you’d like to see in your new phone, it’ll help you avoid paying too much for features you don’t want or need and you won’t be using them even after your phone is functional with them.
3. Find the right design
Buying a cell phone means entering in a deeply personal relationship with a highly portable object. That’s why you should think hard about how it’s designed, since you will be spending plenty of time with it. Make sure you’re comfortable with the way it looks and feels in-hand, and make sure it reflects your sense of style. This holds true whether you use a sleek iPhone, cutting-edge Android, simple flip, or armor-plated rugged handset.

Cell phone types

 Smartphones

At the top of today’s handset pecking order is the smartphone. These devices by definition run true mobile operating systems such as Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone and typically have the most power,not to mention top-notch components such as processors, memory, screens, and connections to fast wireless data. They also support downloadable applications via virtual stores tied to their associated software platforms. Because of all their capabilities, smartphones are usually the most expensive phones on the market.

Messaging or feature phones

One step below smartphones, feature phones strive to offer many of the same abilities that their more pricey siblings do. Instead of popular mobile operating systems, these gadgets run proprietary software crafted by hardware manufacturers for example, Samsung or LG. Many feature phones tend to be made primarily for text messaging and e-mail, sporting full QWERTY physical keyboards.

Basic phones

There are plenty of people who have no interest in running apps on their mobile device or viewing full desktop-quality Web pages . Simply they just want a phone for making phone calls. While basic handsets have been eclipsed by smartphones, they’re uncomplicated, use traditional simple keypads, and are designed to do one thing. That is, to make and receive voice calls reliably and with excellent audio quality.

Key consideration points

1. Screen size

    • Large screens (4.7 to 5.5 inches)
The current rage among mobile phone design, especially in advanced Android smartphones, is having a massive display. We consider any handset with a screen of 4.7 inches or greater to be on the top end, both in terms of physical size and display dimensions. Some gadgets such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (5.5 inches) and LG Optimus G Pro (5 inches) push the screen  to new heights, almost reaching a tablet level of functionality and girth. Keep in mind, however, that while devices with larger screens offer a bigger view, they are also harder to manipulate in one hand and can be uncomfortable to hold for long periods when you’re making a call.
    • Medium screens (4 to 4.5 inches)
Sitting in the cell phone size sweet spot are devices with screens ranging from 4 to 4.5 inches. Phones in this middle category typically strive to balance the high degree of engagement and entertainment a larger display brings while still remaining practical. Motorola’s Droid Razr M andApple’s iPhone 5 are good examples of this approach, offering large high-resolution screens that users can grip with one hand while their thumbs can comfortably reach all portions of the display.
    • Small screens (under 4 inches)
Compact cell phones are a shrinking segment of the mobile handset market. Some people still place portability highest on their list of phone features. If you’re one of these individuals then we suggest limiting your shopping to devices that have screens that are 4 inches or less. Models such as these, like the BlackBerry Q10 for example, are extremely pocket-friendly, yet they manage to pack a full QWERTY keyboard.

2.Processor

The beating heart of any phone is its processor or CPU. It provides the computing power to churn through various tasks, like running applications. A fast processor also has a big impact on overall performance, such as how smoothly a phone handles flipping through menus and running home screens. Traditionally, clock speed, listed in GHz, has been the quick way to judge CPU power. These days a chip’s architecture, specifically how many computing cores it has, is becoming a more reliable predictor. Another factor is that older processors tend to use less efficient designs, making them worse performers while being harder on batteries than their newer counterparts. We talk more about processors below.

3.Camera

A phone’s camera depends on a whole host of variables. Though you might think that more megapixels is better, that’s not always the case. You can get sharper images from a 5-megapixel camera than from an 8-megapixel shooter, so it’s better to concentrate on other specs.
There are other factors to keep in mind, though, such as the quality of the lens, which could aid the sensor by exposing it to more light. The sensor itself might also offer a lower pixel count, but be more sensitive to illumination, resulting in better performance under low-light conditions.
Many phones ship with fancy image processors such as those from HTC and Nokia which promise high image quality, plus the horsepower to drive the camera and auto focusing systems faster. The end result is nimble shot-to-shot times with minimal shutter lag.

4.Battery

If your cell phone battery conks out, all the features in the world won’t be able to help you. Now manufacturers have begun to recognize the critical importance of battery life and are squeezing greater capacity batteries into their phones. Typical phone batteries start in the neighborhood of 1,700mAh capacities and go all the way up to 3,300mAh.
Manufacturers list battery performance in terms of talk time, standby time, or by how many hours you can expect a device to perform tasks such as playing video and music.

5.Wireless carriers

Choosing a wireless carrier is perhaps the most difficult aspect of shopping for a cell phone. In many cases you don’t have much of a choice since you’re likely locked into a two-year contract and will pay a hefty early-termination fee if you cancel before your time is up. That said, when selecting a carrier, first on your list of criteria should be coverage. You’ll want a carrier with decent coverage in your home, at work, and all the places in between.
Figure out if you’ll be sticking to urban centers or trekking through rural areas often. With your wireless usage in mind, settle on a carrier that offers coast-to-coast coverage.
[divider]

Featurs Explained

Display types

    • LCD
Short for liquid crystal display, LCD screens have come a long way from the alarm clocks and digital wrist watches of the 1980s. Today’s smartphone LCDs offer HD resolutions of 1,280×720 pixels or higher and come in sizes of up to 4.7 inches. Traditional weakness of LCD technology has been its use of an external backlight for illumination. This results is shallow viewing angles and lower contrast compared with AMOLED displays.
    • Retina
Apple uses what it calls Retina Displays in its latest iPhones. Essentially this is a clever marketing phrase to say the iPhone sport LCD screens with 326 pixels per inch (ppi). Of course as a way to describe screen quality, ppi isn’t quite cut and dried.
Samsung’s Galaxy S4 for example has a higher ppi of 441, a larger display and higher resolution (1,920×1080, 5 inches). The HTC One on the other hand uses a 4.7-inch display (1080p) yet offers the highest pixel density of all three phones (468 ppi).
    • AMOLED
Long billed as the screen technology destined to replace LCD, active matrix organic light-emitting diode displays (AMOLED) use organic chemicals as the material to generate light. Much like neon light fixtures and plasma HDTV screens, AMOLED displays use OLEDs to create light when they’re exposed to an electric current. Since they don’t rely on backlights for illumination, AMOLED screens tend to have higher contrast and more-vibrant colors than LCDs. LCDs use liquid crystals to twist shut and block out light from LEDs placed behind them.

Processors

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon
    The current CPU smartphone king, at least for Android devices, is the Snapdragon family of processors. The quad-core Snapdragon 600 powers high-octane devices such as Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, and the LG Optimus G Pro. The 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro found in the LG Nexus 4, Sony Xperia Z, and HTC Droid DNA, is slower yet still potent.
    • Samsung Exynos
As well as displays and memory components, Samsung makes its own processors under the Exynos brand. Its most recent Exynos chip, the 1.9GHz quad-core Exynos, gives the Galaxy S4 its muscle and is one of the first phones to lean on four computing cores.
    • Apple A6
The A6 is Apple’s latest wafer of processing silicon to grace the company’s newest handset, the iPhone 5. So far all we know about the A6 is that Apple says it’s twice as fast as the A5 chip that powered the iPhone 4S.

Operating system and software platform

    • Android 
Though it had a later start than Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android operating system has taken the lead both in terms of the number of products it powers and the number of individual users who rely on it. Android’s freshest version, 4.2 Jelly Bean, first officially ran on the LG Nexus 4 but landed on other phone models such as the HTC One Google Play Edition and Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition.
    • iOS
Ever since the first iPhone, iOS has been the software powering Apple mobile devices. The current version, iOS 6, notably made waves when it dropped support for Google Maps in favor of Apple’s own Map solution.
Apple recently unveiled iOS 7 as well which is expected to arrive by the fall of 2013. It features a cleaner, more modern UI along with a host of improvements including a new “Control Center” settings menu.
    • Windows Phone
Microsoft has been trying to convince phone users to buy devices running its software for almost a decade. The company’s current Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system is the most compelling yet, with its new support for HD screens, multicore processors, and NFC.
  • BlackBerry
  • BlackBerry, once the premier brand of mobile communication devices, has been in dire straits lately. While many BlackBerry owners in the U.S. have landed to either the Android or iPhone, the company hopes to reverse its fortunes with BlackBerry 10.BB10 does provide a much improved interface, browsing, and application-friendly platform than the company’s aging BB7 products. That said, the operating system which currently ships on the BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry Q10, lags far behind iOS, Android, and even Windows Phone 8 in terms of its app selection.

Cutting-edge phone features

  • NFC
  • Short for “near field communication,” NFC is a technology that has found its way into most current smartphone product lines except the iPhone 5. NFC enables fast data exchanges between devices over short distances, just by tapping handsets together. While NFC is behind solutions such as Google Wallet mobile payments and Android Beam, it’s not clear if there is strong consumer demand yet for NFC. One application that looks compelling is the ability for NFC to make pairing with other wireless devices, such as speakers and headphones via Bluetooth, simpler and more hassle-free.
  • Wireless charging
  • Wireless charging isn’t a new ability. Toothbrushes and other household appliances have been able to perform this trick for years. It’s been slow to catch on with phones, however, despite the greater need for constant power on the go. Hopefully the Nokia Lumia 920 will change things for the better. Not only is this Windows Phone 8 handset able to pair with accessories in a snap via Bluetooth aided by NFC, the gadget supports for inductive charging too. Simply place the phone on accessories like pillows, mats, and countertops to power up, sans cords.
  • Bluetooth and hands-free audio
    Connecting mobile phones to accessories such as hands-free headsets has been available for years. Bluetooth is changing with the times, though, supporting new gadgets such as wireless stereo headsets and fitness trackers like the Fitbit Zip and Fitbit Flex. Additionally, Bluetooth version 4 promises to greatly improve battery life in supporting wireless phone accessories.