Facebook Home: Where Your Heart Is?

April 22, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                              return to JayVee Media Link LLC

Facebook’s Home app suite began its official rollout last week, finally putting to rest the escalating rumors that an actual Facebook phone was being introduced. Home is currently available for certain Android phones; the app for tablets will be rolled out soon.  Talks are underway to deliver it to iOS users as well.  So what’s it all about?

Facebook Home app suite screen shotFacebook software developers created a system that essentially turns an Android user’s cell phone into a Facebook phone. The Home app suite overlays Google’s open source operating system (OS), thereby creating a Facebook-centric user experience for the phone’s owner. Facebook friends’ pictures and activity notifications take the place of the Android device’s default home screen. A movable feature called Chat Heads enables messaging with one or more friends to proceed easily from the home screen even while other activities are undertaken. And of course, Home allows a pass through to access the phone’s other apps and features. So in essence, the Facebook gurus created a Facebook phone without creating the actual physical object.  And they promise monthly updates to the app suite to fine tune its operation. Happily, if a user is dissatisfied with the Facebook Home experience he/she can disable it or even delete it altogether.

To get a better understanding of how Facebook Home operates, you may wish to view this video demonstration, shared courtesy of Matt Kapko of ClickZ. 

Facebook Home Chat Heads screen shotWhere is the appeal in the Facebook Home app suite?  Business benefits and possible adaptations for pages are yet to be seen.  The developers are currently focusing on interactions on the personal front.  On a personal level, initial reviews – and common sense – suggest that it is best received by Facebook “addicts.”  It is a dream come true for those who spend the bulk of their time online interacting on the platform.  A majority of the rest of the online population, however, aren’t too thrilled with Home. Many don’t like giving Facebook – or any other individual platform, for that matter – what appears to be total control over their phones.   A number of reviewers have also expressed concerns about possible privacy issues. Facebook does claim there will be no additional mining of private information via their Home app suite. But considering all the new permission requests it makes one has to truly wonder.

How do YOU feel about the Facebook Home app?  Will you use it if it is available for your phone?  Are there features that especially appeal to you?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Lookout – Why You Need It Now!

April 15, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                return to JayVee Media Link LLC

Lookout logoEvery so often I like to spotlight a social media platform, tool, or mobile app that offers excellent value for our online existences.  This week the topic for discussion is Lookout.

Lookout is an app that offers the most comprehensive protection for our mobile phones and tablets I have seen so far.  Considering how these devices are our lifelines to our businesses (not to mention families/friends), the importance of the service it provides cannot be understated.

Lookout all is okay notification on mobile deviceLookout is part antivirus protection and part security guard against loss/theft.  For a long time, mobile phones were immune from malware threats.  This is no longer the case, particularly for Android devices.  Today’s high powered mobile “gadgets” are more like little computers than just phones, and the software that runs them is vulnerable to malicious attacks.  When installed, Lookout scans all downloaded apps to ensure they are virus free.  It does so again each time those apps are updated in order to make sure they remain so.  As an extra measure of protection, the app also backs up our contacts and keeps them securely on its website.

While antivirus protection is absolutely essential, the Lookout feature that blows me away deals with loss or theft of our mobile devices.  This app offers two remedies: it sends a “scream” signal to our phones – even if they are in vibrate or silent mode.  This addresses the possibility that our devices may have been inadvertently dropped or misplaced near our current locations.  The signal sounds like a loud siren, and it goes for one full minute unless silenced by unlocking and accessing our home screens.  The scream feature can be relaunched repeatedly.  The other remedy uses our phones’ GPS capabilities to pinpoint their locations with impressive precision.  All it takes is a quick log in to Lookout’s website via another mobile device (a tablet or a companion’s phone) or a computer.

Lookout device located notifications

All the Lookout features discussed up to now are available in the free version of the app.  There is a yearly paid subscription ($2.99/month or $29.99/year) that brings even more enticing features:

1. With the free version, the app backs up and stores our contacts. The paid version expands this feature to include our photos and call histories.

2. The free version allows us to restore our backed up information to our phones if it is necessary once we retrieve them.  The paid version allows us to transfer our backed up info to a new device should our phones be gone for good.

3. In addition to the scream feature, Lookout saves our phones’ last known locations before their batteries die.  And the app snaps a picture of anyone who tries unsuccessfully three times to unlock our phones.  With the paid version, we become able to remotely lock and even wipe the entire memories (including the SD cards) of our devices.

4. Lookout’s premium version also provides preemptive services such as notifying us if a site we wish to visit contains malware.  In addition, it warns us about apps we have downloaded that access our locations and personal information.

Whether it is the free or the paid version, Lookout is a must-have app to keep our mobile devices safe and secure.  Nothing beats the reassurance of seeing that “all is ok” message on our devices, and receiving the email that arrives as frequently as we desire telling us all is well.  OR, should the unthinkable occur, seeing an email telling us our devices have been located.  Which of the above listed features is most important to YOU?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.  Then go download Lookout!

Lookout email status briefing

Surviving an Extended Power Outage

November 12, 2012

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                      return to JayVee Media Link LLC

candle flashlights and radio for blackoutPower outages.  They’re no joke for anyone who has to live through them.  Those of us who make our livings on our computers and smart phones suffer a double whammy when everything goes dark.  What steps can we take to maximize the power that we have when the possibility of recharging becomes remote?

First the obvious:

–Those of us who conduct our businesses on computers and cell phones should always have backup batteries for our devices.  Those backups should be fully charged.  If bad conditions are preceded by advance notice the batteries in our devices should also be fully charged – even if it means keeping our charged devices plugged in while conducting our business.

–We should also own a personal wifi device, be it our smart phones (though that activity will drain our batteries), j-devices or mifis.  If our internet service is interrupted there may be opportunity to access the internet via open channels in places like coffee shops.  But open channels leave us vulnerable to malware and hackers.  That’s not a good chance to take with systems upon which we depend for our livelihoods.

–If we are able to drive, we should use car chargers to top off our devices while we are on the move.

–It is wise to carry our chargers with us everywhere we go.  In our travels, we need to keep our eyes open for charging opportunities.  Anywhere live outlets are available, and where it’s not expressly forbidden, is an opportunity to charge our devices.  In addition, products do exist that don’t rely on electrical outlets to accomplish their purpose.  There are battery powered chargers, solar powered ones which are fine as long as there is sunshine, and chargers that depend upon motion, whose functionality is a bit more questionable.  The bottom line is all possible avenues should be explored, ahead of time whenever necessary.

There are additional steps we can take to keep our smart phones from running down too quickly:

  1. Lower the brightness of the display, and set it to “sleep” after a shorter period of time.
  2. Set phone to “airplane mode.”  Take it out of that status only when needed to make a call or send a text message.
  3. Disable the phone’s “email synch” feature.  This process uses a lot of energy.
  4. Turn off Bluetooth and GPS services.
  5. Disable 4G.  It’s wonderful for fast surfing, but it’s a real energy hog.
  6. When possible, send text messages instead of making/taking calls.
  7. Shut the phone when in an area with poor reception.  Searching to connect to a network is a real battery killer.
  8. Don’t stream audio or video.
  9. Disable push notifications from social networks.
  10. Close unnecessary apps that are running in the background.
  11. When possible, limit use of our phones.

Hurricane Sandy brought us renewed notice of the importance of preserving our ability to communicate, and in certain cases to conduct our businesses.  Let’s remember the ways in which we can maximize the life of our digital equipment, so they may serve us better and longer during times of energy drought.

What other ways can we preserve precious energy for our digital devices?  Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

phone battery and chargers