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Reviews, comparisons, and opinions about the latest technology products, services, trends and anything of interest to the thick glasses crowd!
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SwampGeek Android TV & Fire TV apps - December 2017 More about Read More...

Android TV apps continue to evolve and expand, even as old favorites like Kodi decline.  Here are the SwampGeek recommended Android TV & Fire TV apps for December 2017.        

Click the image to view screenshots of the December 2017 Android TV Apps

Although popular Kodi plugins have disappeared, others have evolved and been renamed in order to continue providing links to content.

New Android apps, also supported by Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, offer good alternatives to the ever popular Kodi, including:

  • Terrarium TV - probably the best alternative, but must be downloaded from backup sources as the GitHub download has been removed
  • Stremio - available in the Play Store
  • Pluto TV (untested)
  • Cloud TV (untested)
  • TubiTV (untested)
  • YouTube
  • (commercial) Amazon Prime Instant Video (not available in the Play Store for Android phones, tables and TV boxes for newer Android versions)
  • (commercial) Netflix
  • (commercial) WatchESPN (requires cable subscription account login)

Many other apps can enhance your Android TV for Amazon Fire devices...

SwampGeek Guide to Windows Safe Browsing, Security, Privacy
Swamp Tech

With increase of online usage, the number and sophistication of attacks against personal computers are on the rise. The How-To Geek offers some excellent advice on "Basic Computer Security: How to Protect Yourself from Viruses, Hackers, and Thieves." This primarily focuses on real-time and reactive detection and blocking.  It also suggests being aware of scams, avoiding malicious links in email (assuming you know they're malicious), and how to protect your information when using the Internet and email.

But it leaves out other important ways to protect yourself and your computer, including recovery / backups and preventive (vs. reactive) blocking of malicious software (aka malware).  These can be especially important in the age of ransomware, encryption, spoofing, phishing, pharming, and the old stand-bys from the 1980s: adware, keyloggers, spyware, trojan horses, viruses and worms. 

Here are the SwampGeek recommendations to protect yourself against malware, invasion of privacy, drive failures and more using powerful, free software:


SwampGeek Quick Guide to Cutting the Cable Cord with Kodi More about
Swamp Tech


Here are the simple steps, many with video, to cut the cable cord with Kodi:

  1. Use a commercial VPN, like Private Internet Access, to keep your ISP at bay. ($40 / year or less, for up to 5 devices, including routers, which count as 1 device no matter how many are connected)
  2. Purchase the TP-LINK TL-WR841N Wireless N300 Home Router (~$20) to host VPN
  3. Install DD-WRT on the TP-LINK TL-WR841N to configure VPN
  4. Configure Private Internet Access VPN via PPTP on DD-WRT
  5. Purchase the Amazon Fire TV Stick ($40)
  6. Install Fire TV Stick, connect to a router with VPN installed, and disable "Collect App Usage Data"
    • From the Fire TV home screen, select Settings, Application, Collect App Usage Data (off) 
    • Note from the "If you aren't paying for it, you're the product" department:  To use Amazon Underground apps and in-app items you are required to enable the "Collect App Usage Data" setting on your device.  This allows you to download and use Amazon Underground apps, games and in-app items for free.
  7. Install Firestarter and Kodi (without Firestarter, Amazon makes accessing Kodi on a Fire TV device really hard)
    Update: Use this link to install Firestarter: http://bit.ly/1NzPaKE
  8. Use the Config Wizard for Kodi (aka Hub Wizard) from TVaddons.ag to configure the Fire TV platform
Out of Control iPhone Data Usage More about
Swamp Tech

Out of Control iPhone Data UsageBe careful what you wish for...

For years, iPhone users have envied Android's ability to monitor and control devices, both manually and automatically.  The demise of unlimited data plans forced smartphone owners to pay attention to how their phones use data. iOS 6 added the ability to monitor total data usage independently of carriers like AT&T. iOS7 added the ability to monitor and control usage by application, but the price may have been too steep.

iPhone users are reporting problems with significant mobile data usage, and some are offering suggestions to limit data usage by removing many features that separate smartphones that would be pitiful if there were ways to address the issues without jailbreaking the phone.

The Breakdown by Usage Type chart shows my Verizon family plan usage by line.  The first and 4th lines are college students living away from home. Both have wifi access when they aren't in class. The first line, a Moto X running Android Kit Kat, normally has more usage than the 4th, an iPhone 5s. Why does the iPhone have almost 5 times the usage of an Android phone that likely has more usage?

Here's what I've learned so far:

  • iOS applications still use mobile data, even if connected to a wireless network, including:
    • iTunes and app updates
    • Facetime
    • Text messaging (by default)
  • You can turn off mobile data by application, but sometimes it comes back.
  • You can manually turn off mobile data, but the only way to automate that is by jailbreaking the phone.
  • Wireless access is deactivated when the phone sleeps, but iOS updates and other background activities will still happen using mobile data.
  • Poor reception will cause the phone to continuously connect (this happens on all smartphones).
  • The mail app will continuously attempt to send unsent mail from the Outbox.

To be fair, I had a similar problem with the Amazon store (not to be confused with the Amazon app store) on an Android phone.  It synchronized 100MB of data, images and information on every product I viewed on the Amazon website), even though I didn't use the app on my phone. That isn't trivial (and I suspect it would happen on any phone with the Amazon store), but it pales in comparison with what I estimate to be the 5GB of phantom data usage on the iPhone.

Unfortunately, for now it seems the best option is to manually turn off mobile data unless, and only if, it's necessary.  I'll update this as we learn more...


Open Source CMS Social Media Marketing Review
Swamp Tech

 While working on a social media marketing plan for RavenNuke™ CMS (content management system), a review of three major CMS applications provided some interesting insights into different approaches for similar software, including Drupal, Joomla and Wordpress.

This compares the main navigation, about and getting involved pages, social media marketing (links, calls to social media action, etc.), use of major social media functions (Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus), and marketing support.  Although the main navigation, about, and getting involved pages aren't specifically intended to support social media marketing, this content provides insight into the important messages these projects want to make on the project website - and in social media marketing efforts.  The links to major social media functions enable quick reference to see how well the actual social media content support those efforts.

Cubby = Dropbox + Windows Live Mesh + Crashplan Read More...
Swamp Tech

Cloud storage and synchronizing services pop up and disappear almost as quickly as Instagram's employees became mega millionaires.  Who remembers Apple's MobileMe, Microsoft's Foldershare, MyBloop (unlimited storage), oosah, XDrive, or HP's Upline?  More recently, Motorola acquired and is shutting down ZumoDrive, which even has mobile clients unlike its many predecessors.

Perennial cloud storage favorites DropBox and Box.net have a new competitor: Cubby from remote access powerhouse LogMeIn (currently in limited Beta testing by request).  With 5GB free online storage, file versioning and built-in synchronization that lets you choose whether or not to use online storage, Cubby has most of the best features of DropBox, Windows Live Mesh / SkyDrive and Crashplan.  What's the catch?

Just Got an Android, now what?

First, welcome to Android! One of the major benefits of this open operating system is flexibility - instead of one-size-fits all, you can choose to replace any app or function with something different and better - for you.

For links, see my Appbrain list of apps for new Androids. If you get an AppBrain account (and install the AppBrain App Market & Fast Web Installer), you can select all these apps and install from the list. And since this list changes as apps improve or new apps are released, you can follow the list.

I've tested over 500 apps - very few of which were games. Since games & social apps are more subjective, my list includes security , replacement of standard apps, widgets / productivity, and utilities. Most are free.  2 that aren't on the list because they aren't on the market: Amazon Appstore and GetJar (both offer free paid apps). It also doesn't include apps that require root access (there is another list for that).

Security: avast! Mobile Security (with Theft Aware), Wave Secure, Carrr Matey

Replacements: Dolphin Browser, Handcent SMS or Go SMS Pro, K-9 Mail, SwiftKey X, Winamp, (Elecont) Weather, Radar, Alerts, Quakes

Productivity: Tasker or AutomateIt (free), Astrid Task / Todo List, Jorte (calendar), Evernote, Google+, GroupMe, Pulse News, Vlingo, Voice Alerts

Interface: Aix Weather Widget, Audio Manager, Auto App Organizer, DayWeekBar English, Executive Assistant, Fancy Widget, Make Your Clock Widget, QuickDesk, SysInfo Widget, WiFi Manager, Widgetsoid

Utilities: CacheCleaner NG, JuiceDefender, DiskUsage, AntTek or Astro or ES File Explorer


Thoughts on ''Tech Wars 2012''
Swamp Tech

Fast Company published an interesting article on what is calls "The Great Tech War of 2012" among Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google." The thought-provoking article describes various battlefields in a war to win our tech hearts and minds. My friend Raul's tweet that Apple didn't need dominant market share to win this war set off my "Media bias towards Apple" alarm.  Does Fast Company (or the article author) have a vested interest in Apple? Other media players (e.g. iOSWorld, aka InfoWorld) frequently exhibit bias towards Apple, promoting it's products and services, while glossing over its failures, and treating Apple's competitors with a much harsher approach.

Since I hacked an Apple IIe in 1983, I've never been a big fan of the company. Yes, the article treats Apple with kids gloves and glowing references ("brilliant"), with a much more critical view of its competition, especially Google.  Still, there is really only one battlefield where I had significant issues with the points presented: profitability.

Is a smartwatch on your holiday wish list?
Swamp Tech
imWatch smartwatch i'mWATCH

It's not an iWatch (Apple isn't really THAT innovative).  It's an i'mWATCH - one of the more stylish forms of the newest generation of the smartwatch. Unfortunately, the €299 to over €10K, Android-based smartwatch won't be available until early 2012. Like a kid on Christmas, if you can't wait, the developer's MetaWatch - with investment from Fossil - can be yours for just over $200.  Similar to the i'mWATCH, the $100 to $200 inPulse smartwatch is available "soon."

MetaWatch smartwatch MetaWatch

There are several approaches to today's smartwatches, including:

  • enhanced bluetooth device (aka "smartphone companions") that are really controlled by an app on your smartphone
  • standalone device with WiFi connectivity


11 aggregators of feeds on the wall More about Read More...
Swamp Tech
"Take one down, pass it around," one less feed aggregator on the web.  It seems several once-popular sites that combine feeds (aka feed aggregators, blenders, combiners, mergers, mixers, multiple feed merge) are no more. These sites combine 2 or more syndicated (RSS / ATOM) feeds into a single feed.  This can be desired if you want a single source for multiple sites or have limited space for displaying syndicated content.
Several feed aggregators discontinued their free feed aggregation services, including RSS Mixer and FEEDblendr, for various reasons including RSS spam and cost of operations.  Several others, including ChimpFeedr, Feed Informer, and Yahoo Pipes, continue to provide this free server.  In addition to combining feeds, some of these hosted services provide the ability to filter stories based on keywords in addition to setting the number of items to display in the feed and the maximum number of items per source feed. Read More...

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