If you use the Chrome web browser instead of Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer, you probably saw an on-screen notice for the Chrome web store. It has thousands of free apps. We did a little shopping (can’t beat the price) and here are three we liked.
Having a large number of browser extensions can slow down your web surfing. But apps only use your computer memory while you’re using them. We just installed the free Marvel Comics app, for instance, which puts an icon on the screen but doesn’t add itself to your browser. After installation, we clicked “Free” and got an “Avengers” comic book and could have gotten dozens of others, including X-Men, Wolverine and Captain America.
The other apps we installed were a calculator and “RemindMe,” which plays a little tune and delivers a pop-up note when it’s time to do something. The calculator is just a regular on-screen calculator. But it’s free and handy to have. (There are many free calculators you can install, including some that do scientific and interest rate calculations.)
STILL APP HAPPY
Google Maps now come indoors as well as outdoors. You can get a map that’s the floor plan for an airport, a mall, or retail store. The maps come in on any Android phone or tablet. Just keep zooming till you get there.
Google Maps has had indoor maps before, but they were a bit fuzzy on details. The maps still don’t have a search function, so if you’re looking for a restroom, say, you have to zoom around. Not every store has uploaded indoor maps yet, but there’s a long list of those that have: Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Macy’s, Home Depot, IKEA, Bloomingdales, etc.
OWN PRIVATE CLOUD
Storing information on the Internet makes some people nervous. It makes us nervous too. So how about having a private cloud?
A “cloud” in computer talk is a storage place for information. Commercial ones for corporations and government tend to be huge. The “my-Ditto” is a book-sized box that can act as your own private cloud. It can handle up to four terabytes of storage if you pay $370 for the maximum capacity. Less capacity costs appropriately less. It has its own Internet address, which means you can access it from any device that can connect to the Internet.
Four terabytes is a lot of storage, more than 4,000 gigabytes. For comparison, our laptop holds 219 gigabytes, which is less than a fourth of a terabyte, and we’ve never filled it up. The my-Ditto storage drive comes with a coded USB key. Instead of taking the box with you, which would be fairly heavy and mildly bulky, just take the key. When you plug that key into another computer it provides access to the box back home. Or use the my-Ditto iPhone/iPad app. You set your own user name and password.
My-Ditto, works with Windows or Mac and won an award at MacWorld 2011. If you supply the disk drives, my-Ditto sells for $110, otherwise, it starts at $150 for 500 gigabytes. (Note: In nearly any remote storage device of this type, you can supply your own disk drives to go inside it; they should be SATA drives.)
A similar device is called the iTwin, and won an award from Popular Science magazine. It can set up a connection between two computers, wherever they are, when a coded USB key is plugged into each one and they’re both connected to the Internet.
As files move between the two computers, they are encrypted. The iTwin is $99 and can access whatever you have on two computer hard drives plus any attached extra storage. However, unlike my-Ditto, both computers must be on.
Many Facebook apps post items on your page as if they were you. That gets annoying. To stop it, go to Facebook and click the arrow next to the “Home” button. Then choose “privacy settings.” Scroll down to “apps and websites” and click “edit.” Click “remove” to get rid of anything you don’t want.