Category ArchiveMobile Phones

Hardware &Mobile Phones &nob &Software Wes Novack on 15 May 2012

Online file sharing now ubiquitous thanks to cloud storage services

Online file sharing now ubiquitous thanks to cloud storage services

Online storage, file sharing and data backup is all the rage these days. While perusing the latest tech news, you can’t go for long without reading all about the cloud, cloud, cloud! Cloud solutions! Cloud backup! Cloud storage! And while the term “cloud” might be the latest catch-phrase for storing data online, the concept has existed for quite a long time.

One of my first encounters with this type of service occurred back in the early 2000’s, when I signed up for a free Xdrive account. This now defunct service was one of the initial pioneers in online data storage, offering consumers free online storage space to house their data. Xdrive provided software that integrated with Windows Explorer, allowing for a seamless user experience. The online storage simply showed up on the PC as an additional drive letter, the X drive. It was easy to use and worked relatively well.


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Mobile Phones &Software Wes Novack on 10 Mar 2012

Convert virtually any audio file to MP3, WAV, OGG or WMA format with

Convert virtually any audio file to MP3, WAV, OGG or WMA format with

I use my personal mobile phone for receiving pages text messages from work, as I’m required to be available 24 x 7 in case of issues and I also work a rotational on-call schedule with the rest of my team.

When you REALLY need a text message to get your attention, the stock “bling”, “beep” or “bloop” sound bytes used by most mobile phones just won’t cut it. Due to this, back in my Windows Mobile phone days, I would set the WakeupAlarm.WMA file as my text message audio notification when I was on-call. This is a really obnoxious and loud alarm clock sound byte, and that is sure to get your attention when a new text message arrives.

When I moved over to Android, first with the T-mobile G1 and then with the Motorola Droid, I kept using this sound clip by copying the WakeupAlarm.WMA file over to my phone. And why not? It was a proven, effective, paging alert sound.

Unfortunately, my Stand Operating Procedures (SOP) were thwarted once I upgraded to my Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Apparently Android 4.0 does not support WMA files, unlike previous versions of Android, which did so with no problems whatsoever. To continue using this sound file with Android 4.0, I had to convert it to a new format.

Enter is an online audio file conversion service that allows anyone to convert virtually any audio file to an MP3, WAV, OGG or WMA audio file, all for free. As of this posting, the site also has zero advertisements and a very clean interface (see above for a partial image of the webpage).

I was able to quickly and easily convert my WMA file to MP3 format thanks to There were no artifacts, distortions or any other problems found in the resulting MP3 file and I am now once again happily using the WakeupAlarm sound byte on my Android 4.0 smartphone.

I have tried using many other audio file conversion apps in the past, including some freeware found on CNet. None of the other apps that I tested were able to successfully convert a WMA file to MP3 with good quality. Many of the apps would do the conversion, but the resulting MP3 file would be static laden or contain other audio artifacts.

Huge thanks and many kudos to creator Johann Burkard for creating such a useful, effective and totally free audio file conversion service.

Mobile Phones &Software Wes Novack on 03 Mar 2012

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich: the not so tasty problems & issues

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich: the not so tasty problems & issues

After my trusty ol’ Motorola Droid bit the dust, I selected Google’s flagship Android smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, as my new mobile computing device. This phone comes loaded with the very latest Android OS version 4.0, also known by its code name “Ice Cream Sandwich” (ICS).

In this post, I’ll explore some of the issues that I have encountered during my month and a half relationship with Android 4.0. But before I get into that, I’d like to preface the following segments by stating that I am very VERY pleased with the Galaxy Nexus and it is undoubtedly one of the best smartphones available on the market today. In that vein, I plan on featuring some of the more interesting (and positive) ICS features in future posts coming soon. In this post, however, I’ll be getting down to the nitty-gritty: problems & issues encountered in Android 4.0.

Android 4.0 issue: Voice Search doesn’t provide location based results for the call command

You know what’s awesome? Google Voice Actions and Google Voice Search. Before Siri captivated iPhone 4 users, Google’s Voice Search & Voice Actions were available on the Android platform, allowing users to search, text, send emails, call phones and complete many other tasks using voice commands.


Unfortunately, when I migrated from my Motorola Droid running Android 2.2 to my Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.0.2, I was sorely disappointed to find that the Google Voice Actions “Call business-name” feature no longer provides location-specific/GPS tailored results.

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Mobile Phones &nob Wes Novack on 24 Jan 2012

What should you do with an old smartphone?

What should you do with an old smartphone?

My recent post on the death of a smartphone got me thinking about what should be done with an old smartphone that no longer has voice service. Once you’ve upgraded to a fresh device, is your old phone useful for anything other than collecting dust? It most certainly is, and here are a few ideas of what you might do with that old device.

Sell your old mobile phone

One of the first and most obvious things that you can do is to list your smartphone for sale or use a website service that allows you to sell mobile devices. Depending on the age and popularity of your old device, there could be a lucrative market out there awaiting your gently used phone. iPhones in particular seem to have a strong second hand sales market and many other phones do as well. If your old phone still carries some worth, why not recoup some of the cash that you gave up on your initial purchase?

Repurpose your old smartphone

Another idea is to repurpose that old smartphone. I’ve see many people reusing their old smartphones in a new way once they’re no longer used for traditional voice calls. There are many uses that you might consider. You can utilize the old rig as a dedicated media device for playing music, video and games, use it as a VoIP phone over WiFi with Skype or another app, use it as a portable storage device, use it as a remote control, use it for taking photos/video, or give it to a child to use as a toy. And let’s not forget, there’s always the option of donating that device to a friend or family member who could use an upgrade from their Motorola StarTac or a similar dinosaur.

Keep the old smartphone as a backup

Accidents happen, and what happens if your new device meets an untimely end? If that were to occur, it’s nice to have a backup phone that can get you back in business right away, avoiding the pressure of having to purchase a brand new replacement immediately. Personally, I always try to keep at least one backup phone to use in case of emergencies and sometimes use a backup on “risky” trips (to avoid the loss or damage of my primary device).

Recycle your old smartphone

smartphone recycling

Worst case, if you can’t find another use for your old device, recycle it! Retail shops like Target and Best Buy have bins for recycling old phones, so drop them off there instead of tossing them in the trash.

Do you have any other ideas for what to do with a smartphone after voice plan deactivation? If so, we’d like to hear your ideas in the comments below!

Mobile Phones &nob &Software Wes Novack on 21 Jan 2012

Go from smartphone to remote control

Go From Smartphone to Remote Control

The following is a guest post written by Bre Carter.

If you are anything like me, you probably talk less on your smartphone than any other activity. Texting, searching Google, playing games, and posting to Facebook all consume much more time than actually using the device for its main purpose. Communicating with each other has kind of devolved into a text based system that places a steep value on literacy. Fortunately for those who do not want to read, you can also turn your smartphone into a cool remote control for your home theater.

Most home theater systems require you to own several different remotes in order to control what you see and hear. This practice of remote control overload gets confusing really fast and keeps people from watching DVD’s or operating other cool features on their systems. By converting your smartphone into a remote control, you can do away with your useless remotes and enjoy the media that you want to.

Google TV Remote app

Google TV Remote app

Instead of going out and purchasing a brand new remote with a specialized interface, most people are deciding to download free apps and products that convert their smartphones into remotes. While still costing up to $100, using a smartphone is a much cheaper option than the existing smart products on the market.

In order to use an app installed on an iPhone, you must purchase additional equipment from a retailer. Most televisions rely on an infrared system to communicate information with remote controls. According to PC World, you need to use products like NewKinetix for iPhone, or AV/Shadow for Android and Blackberry devices.

One of the most useful ways to control your television through your smartphone is the DVR. Companies like Direct TV, DISH, and AT&T U-Verse all have mobile websites that allow you to program your television. If you want to watch Jerry Springer, but have to work during the day, you can program the show from your office and have it waiting for you when you get back.

While the market for smartphone remote apps may be weak right now, once people start purchasing more smart televisions the need will start to increase. In order to get more brand recognition with consumers, brands like Samsung and Google will want to immerse their image in the minds of all of those watching with free apps.

If you are still only using your smartphone to make calls, or look up unknown numbers through, you are missing out on a wide world of diverse entertainment. Try exploring the App Store or the Android Market in order to find remote control options that fit your needs.

Editor’s Note: In our household, we use many Android remote control apps to manipulate our WiFi connected devices, including Google TV remote, Roku Wi-Fi Remote and GMote (used to control a laptop connected to a TV via HDMI). All of these apps connect to the device you’re controlling via Wi-Fi, so no additional equipment is necessary.

About this Guest Author: Bre Carter is a journalism student at Saint Louis University. Upon graduation, she hopes to travel the world while producing compelling content for the masses. When she isn’t writing, you can find Bre with her nose in a book, or her headphones in to block out the rest of the world.

Hardware &Mobile Phones Wes Novack on 16 Jan 2012

The death of a smartphone, goodbye Motorola Droid

The death of a smartphone, goodbye Motorola Droid

My beloved Motorola Droid (OG) bit the dust about a week ago, thanks in full to a swift drop to the pavement, which resulted in the top layer of the display getting cracked into a messy web of shattered glass (see image below).

A mixed bag of thoughts surged through my mind at the realization that this device had met its end. I glimpsed a bit of sadness, disappointment, fear, nostalgia, shock, disbelief and a few other fleeting emotions. The medley of feelings that I experienced was certainly surprising, but hey, we did have a history together. This little puppy had been my number one personal assistant for a span of over 2 years. To see it meet its demise unexpectedly was quite a bit unsettling.


This unexpected situation had me ruminating on the relationship that people have with their “smartphones” in this day and age. These pocket-computing-systems are inanimate objects of course. They are mere possessions of the physical world, but like anything else that we extract some form of pleasure from, we develop emotional and subconscious attachments. There is a certain fondness and attachment there that you might not take notice of until that connection is forcibly severed.

But enough of me lamenting over a little circuit board and screen. After all, in any situation like this, there’s always an upside. Due to this unfortunate event, I now have the pleasure am forced to upgrade my phone to a shiny, brand new device. Huzzah!

So as I head into the remainder of 2012 with a state-of-the-art, brand-spanking-new smartphone, figuratively attached at the hip, I pay homage and say goodbye to my Motorola Droid. It’s been a fun ride OG!

Mobile Phones Steven Kippel on 28 Nov 2011

Smartphones for the budget minded

Smartphones for the budget minded

In the world of technology, everything is so cutting edge that if you don’t have the latest quantum-core, fiber-spacial smartphone, you might as well be living in antiquities. I don’t really blame the tech writers for this, nor do I harbor any ill feelings towards the tech subculture that these writers cater to. But I’m not that guy, and you probably aren’t either.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology, and I have been an early adopter on many technologies. I was on the internet before the World Wide Web was a thing. I was the first person in my area to have cable internet. But I’m also not a wealthy individual, so I’m not neck deep in technology. I didn’t have a cellphone until 2004. I still use a basic phone whose primary function is talking, and it doesn’t have a qwerty keyboard.

The allure of the technology is great, but I haven’t had enough desire to go that route. I don’t need to be connected to the internet all the time. I’m already in front of a computer nine-hours every work day, so it’s also nice to have a break from it while I’m away from work. And I’ve got to admit, a pet peeve of mine is when people pull their phones out while we’re talking, or at the dinner table.

But life is changing for me where the use of some features, like GPS or Google Music, would be practical. I’ve also just reached the contract end on my current wireless provider (T-Mobile), so it’s the perfect opportunity to seek out my options.

One of the major priorities I have is economical. My budget is at its limits as it is, so I must justify increasing my mobile plan rates with cuts somewhere else. The best case scenario would be to lower my overall rates. So I took the method of factoring in monthly rates, activation fees, and phone costs and average it out for two-years so I can compare costs between services both contractual and pay-as-you-go. I won’t go into the details here, but I found that if I were to use my current mobile service payments as the baseline (700-shared minutes and unlimited texts on two phones), a cheap smartphone at $99 plus only smartphone data plans would cost over $1,200-per-year. If my wife and I both did this, it would be over $2,400-per-year, obviously. Is that worth it?

Everyone has different priorities, but is having access to Facebook in my pocket worth as much as a decent low-cost vacation? My wife and I could hit the Mexican Riviera on Carnival Cruises for a week with that amount of cash, or I could have GPS when I’m out of town once a month, and I can compare prices while I’m shopping (which isn’t very often at my income level). I know there’s more to a smartphone than that, but I’m finding it very difficult to justify such a hefty price just for the minor convenience of the laugh track app when I tell a particularly dry joke.

One website I follow covered this dilemma and opted for Virgin Mobile or Boost Mobile as alternatives. Today being Cyber Monday, Virgin Mobile is offering three Android smartphones for 50% off, and an unlimited data plan starts at only $35-per-month. At that rate, a smartphone would be even cheaper than what I’m currently dealing with. But as price isn’t the only factor in economics, I don’t know how the Virgin network compares to other alternatives.

I really hope I’m not the only one who is in this predicament. If you have done this accounting for yourself and decided one way or the other, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

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