With Nova Launcher Prime, the Problem Is Too Many Options

Here’s a simple way to refresh the look and functionality of your newer Android device without going to the trouble of rooting, bootloader-unlocking or installing a customized ROM. It’s by using a home screen replacement app called a launcher, which is essentially a super-customizable home screen with themes. The one I’m looking at this week — Nova Launcher Prime — is one of the most popular.

CrashPlan: A Good – but Not Perfect – Linux Backup Plan

CrashPlan is an automated backup system that does the job, but it’s not without its pitfalls. The software offers a cross-platform backup solution that’s reliably easy to use once you configure the software. Installing it to your Linux system, however, is anything but user-friendly. More than a few Linux users will emerge looking for a less-finicky solution.

Setup’s Sharp Edges Don’t Mar TinCan’s Network-Free Messaging Potential

One lesson that’s easy to learn if you’ve been through any natural disaster is that you shouldn’t rely on classic means of communications like land lines, cellphones or Internet. Capacity gets challenged; infrastructure gets destroyed. Where I live, neighbors have developed ham radio-based communications plans geared solely towards communicating in a disaster.

A World of Skins Add Beauty to the Joy of ExDialer Pro

I was banging my head against the wall the other day because the dialer on my aging Motorola Photon 4G stopped working. Normally what I’d do — and recommend doing — is upgrade the OS to a later version while at the same time doing a hard reset on the device. However, you need an unlocked bootloader to do that, and Motorola has locked the bootloader on that model.

Startup Manager Renews Shine on Android’s Boot

For some inexplicable reason, probably related to egocentric human nature, software developers can’t seem to resist designing their programs as if they were default services: always on and ready. If you’re familiar with maintaining a PC and like tinkering with programs, you’ll know that you need to periodically disable or get rid of accumulating programs that automatically run processes.

Kazam Screen-Recording: Do Try This at Home

Kazam is a screencasting and screenshot application that shows much potential, but it is not yet fully suitable for anything more than personal use. Screen-recording tools are a step or two beyond single-frame screen-capture applications. Kazam performs both functions and can record input from the computer’s microphone as well as from the speakers.

‘Systems Performance’: A Definitive Guide for the Cloud Enterprise

Systems Performance: Enterprise and the Cloud is a must-have reference guide for any IT manager or sysadmin whose job involves working with computer systems that are tethered to the cloud. Author Brendan Gregg is no newcomer to writing definitive books on computer networks and system performance, but his latest release could well be his best work so far.

Remote Video Security Is Mydlink+’s Weak Link

As a smartphone app reviewer, I often like to include a bit of explanation for why I choose to review the apps that I do. It adds a bit of human interest, and can make for a more enjoyable read. This week, the story is especially exciting. This is a review of D-Link’s Mydlink+ remote security camera Android app add-on, and I can explain the reason for the review in one word: goats.

Manjaro Smooths Out Arch’s Rough Edges

If you want a Linux distro that is different and almost always up to date, look no further than Manjaro. If you can get it to load on your computer, Manjaro has a few features that could interest a Linux user who likes tinkering with the OS. The latest release failed to impress me with its cantankerous loading, but once I got it running I was pleased.

If You’re Jonesing for a 2nd Screen, Air Display Is a Nifty Fix

I was intrigued when I came across Air Display, an Android app that lets you use your tablet as a second screen. Second PC displays definitely boost work productivity. I’ve been using two displays for years, keeping my email client open all the time on the left screen — a laptop display — and work-work on the right screen. I’m able to monitor incoming junk mail without having to stop working.

Terminator Ends the Terminal Window Blahs

Terminator is not for casual Linux users who rarely stray from the menu-driven applications. If you ever venture into what some regard as the dark side of the Linux OS, however, Terminator can end your discomfort by using a single-session terminal window. Terminator is a powerful and useful terminal emulator built with many features not included in standard terminal applications.

GoToMyPC for Android Shines With Striking Simplicity

If you’ve had any technical support dealings recently, you may have experienced the wonders of a tech agent taking over your PC remotely — with your permission — and running ghostly commands and installs using remote-access software. I saw this first-hand recently when a Microsoft support engineer had to repair a failed Office installation on a machine of mine.

Task Coach Keeps You On Target and In Control

Attention to detail is often the missing feature that separates really useful To-Do managers from the mundane list-tracking options. Task Coach goes out of its way to help you keep track of the details. The latest version of Task Coach — version 1.3.33-1 — does a good job of servicing two categories, in fact. It is both a personal task tracker and a To-Do manager.

CamScanner Delivers Document Freedom on the Go

If you’ve been trying to keep an aging all-in-one printer out of the graveyard, forget it. Move on. I’ve been banging my head against the wall with a bunch of space-hogging Dell printers. I had an 8-year-old, office-grey laser printer for manuscripts and an equally old and grumpy faded-white scanner-fax-printer inkjet combo for which the cartridge nozzles kept drying out, still half full of ink.

PCLinuxOS Makes Desktop Linux Look Good

PCLinuxOS is as close as a distro can get to masking all the technical things that scare people away from the Linux OS. It makes installing and using the distro beginner-level easy. That says a lot for attracting both new and experienced users. PCLinuxOS offers several very good desktop options. It also makes a solid choice for more experienced Linux users.

Silent Text: Basic Anonymity at a Hefty Price

The Tibetan government, law firms in Thailand and human rights groups in Sudan are all using a relatively new encrypted communications tool — one that fits easily, if not cheaply, onto your smartphone. Silent Circle is an encrypted voice, video, text and file-transfer protocol that’s available in app forms for Android devices, among others.

Ubuntu’s Saucy Salamander is a Slick but Spiritless Upgrade

Ubuntu’s latest desktop OS release, Ubuntu 13.10, is more of a plain-Jane release than its "Saucy Salamander" nickname might otherwise suggest. This release comes six months after the Raring Ringtail version, which was also a bit of a yawner in terms of offering any must-have-the-upgrade enthusiasm. Like the last release, Ubuntu 13.10 also does not deliver much "wow."

Yuilop: Free-to-Mobile Calling and SMS – With a Catch

I know, from correspondence that I receive, that readers of this column are pretty global, spread all over the world and in some pretty distant places. That’s why I was intrigued when I came across VoIP Android app Yuilop. Here’s an app that promises to provide the hitherto unknown Holy Grail of international voice and text calling: free calls to overseas cellphones.

Tomahawk Music Player Takes Listening to a New High

The trick to designing an all-purpose music player is to make it work the way you want. The Tomahawk Music Player performs that trick very well. It could well be a better listening choice than any other cross-platform music player application. It runs on a variety of Linux distros, Microsoft Windows and the Apple OS platforms. This flexibility is important to me as a user because I work on all three.

Scanner Radio Pro Helps Keep You in the Know

Fire season is upon us here in Southern California, and due to the lack of rain earlier in the year, we’re seeing critically low live fuel moisture. The amount of residual moisture in grasses and brush is at levels lower than we’ve seen in years. This means that those inhabiting the wildland-urban interface are on tenterhooks. That unease has many looking for tools to mitigate the danger.