This and That, Part 1: Still lovin’ ‘that Android of mine’; iOS 8; OS X 10.10 Yosemite

Nothing specific to talk about today…just some general thoughts on a few things. (I am working on a new somewhat controversial post…but more on that when it happens.)

First off: The Hisense Sero 7 LT Android tablet. I’m still lovin’ this little guy, but as I’ve added apps, predictably the overall speed has gone down. I’m not one to have more than a few windows open at once anyway, so this isn’t all that big of a deal as far as an adjusment…and I’m also no stranger to waiting for something to open or finish loading. (I suppose this is due to having more than a few older computers–patience, patience!) I have been seriously considering an upgrade to the Hisense Sero 7 Pro with 8GB of RAM (as opposed to the LT’s 4GB), but I’m now way past the date to return the Sero 7 LT, and the only way to obtain a Pro is through online ordering. I’d like to play around with the Pro for a bit first to be sure it’s what I want…as for returning the LT to Fry’s, the reason is simply because I don’t see a need for two of these. At some time there will probably be a “tipping point” where I will have to make a decision to live with the app lagging, or upgrade and have a redundancy of devices–but I’m not there yet.

I know what some of you are thinking: if slowness is a problem, why not just get a Samsung or bigger brand-named device? First reason is cost; then the redundancy factor…then, the bloatware. This machine (I am using the Sero 7 LT to write this post) is remarkably free of junk–usually third-party apps that you can’t remove–known as bloatware. All devices have them–there are a couple on here I could do without–but not nearly as many as some. It’s just a waste of resources.

Next: iOS 8. While I wasn’t plagued by the bugs and inconsistencies that hit this iOS’ early adopters, there’s still been some iPhone reboots (and hey, two or three really isn’t that many–but when compared to the number of reboots to fix iOS 7 issues–ZERO–it is kind of a big deal). While overall I’m pretty happy with this new version, despite its occasional slowness, I do have some concerns as to how I am going to eventually be forced to upgrade to a 64GB iPhone 6 (or 6 Plus).

I had to delete a lot of stuff–stored photos, unused or seldom-used apps–to get enough storage room to even be able to install iOS 8. Clearly, a 16GB model is just not going to cut it any more. It will, I think, become the smartphone model of the classic flip phone that phone makers still produce for those elderly or non-tech-savvy users that just need a phone, period. Like the 8 GB model gave way to the 16…so must 16 give way to the 64. Oh well.

(I just got message on my iPhone that my storage is almost full. Again. Grrrrrr.)

Finally: OS X 10.10 Yosemite. No, that’s not pronounced YO-SEH-MITE. It’s YO-SEM-IT-TEE. And, just as the pronunciation is different, so is this upgrade. The font is different on the desktop, the title bar, everywhere…for the first time that I can remember. It’s bolder and cleaner…missing to is the “shelf” in the Dock the apps used to rest on, now there’s just a long enclosing rectangular strip. Also gone are the 3D effects…like iOS 8, the app icons are flatter in appearance.

BTW, get used to those words…”like iOS 8″. Apple is bringing closer and closer together the Mac and mobile operating systems. For example: you can now make phone calls from your Yosemite-equipped Mac. As my late grandfather (whose usually quiet manner would often be broken by loud outbursts, not unlike an individual whose name was also Yosemite) might snort in derision, “AHHHHHHWWWWWWW!” (Followed by “Well, did you ever…!”)

There’s too much for me to talk about in this post (“JERUSALEM!”)…you can read more about OS X 10.10 Yosemite here and here. The first link is to the UK’s TechRadar site, who had this to say about it:

“Yosemite does make compromises in its quest to integrate further with iOS, but there’s a lot to like here, and some really neat new features.”

I just upgraded, so after I’ve spent some time with it I might have another post later on. For now, though, it would seem that Yosemite is really “THE DEAL!” (as my grandfather would say). So far, I really like it.

Alright, Pap…you can continue on with your eternal rest now…and may God bless you.

Link

Yes, readers, you read that correctly. I’m going to praise an operating system that I have historically bashed.

And yes, this is a new post. I have returned from wherever I’ve been to write something new for Brood Coffee Talk*. Actually, I’ve been wanting to do just that for quite a while now, but haven’t been able to find the time.

It’s been about a month since I took a day off from work to drive my–for all intents and purposes–wife to the airport, flying back East for her father’s funeral. Soon afterwards I found myself at a nearby Fry’s Electronics, and after taking a few minutes to peruse their newspaper ad (posted on a wall by the entrance), I headed over to the tablet area.

The actual details of how I arrived at the Android tablet I ended up with are best left for another post. Let’s just say that the store was advertising a tablet for $47, were out of that one, and after much deliberation I settled on another that I’m certain was the better choice.

I bought a Hisense Sero 7 (refurbished) for $69. It’s a 7″ Android tablet with 4.2 Jelly Bean…it has a nice bright and sharp 1280×800 display, a mini HDMI port, it accepts a 32GB (maximum) mini-SD card, etc. You can read more about it here.

Anyway, as someone who has used Apple products fairly exclusively (I’ve also owned a BlackBerry 8300 Curve, an HP iPaq x3715, a Handspring Visor, and a Windows Mobile phone), there was a bit of a learning curve. I have friends that have Android devices, and I’ve played around a little with them…but, just in case no one has ever told you, having such a device for your very own is quite a bit different than that. For one thing, you probably won’t have them at your side every minute of every day to answer questions for you. And, believe me, I had a LOT of questions, mostly of the “how-do-you-do-THIS?” variety. Fortunately, it was pretty easy to figure out. It wasn’t long before I had added some of my favorite apps from my iPhone: Dropbox, avast! and Evernote. The tablet has a lot of useful apps already included…I also added ES File Explorer, textPlus and HP ePrint through the Google Play store.

How do I like it? I absolutely love it! While I won’t be trading in my iPhone for an Android one any time soon, I was and remain VERY impressed with the Android experience. (One reason is that there’s too much integration between iOS and OS X for such a switch, which is only going to get better with iOS 8 and OS X 10 [Yosemite]).

I paired it with a low-cost ideaUSA leather-styled clamshell case that includes a built-in mini-USB keyboard…I am using both to compose this WordPress post.

One of the reasons I thought this might be a good idea was an Andy Inhatko column I read about a year and a half ago. He’s an Apple guy, been one for many years. That’s why I was very surprised to hear–in his three-part article–that he preferred an Android phone to his iPhone. I wrote about that here, in this Brood Coffee Talk post.

Inhatko is no dummy. He knows what’s good and what’s…better. And, apparently, isn’t afraid to come right out and say it.

So, I did it. I gave the other side–“the Dark Side”–a try…and, I was very impressed. You Android owners–you’re really on to something, here.

How many of you would join me? Show some, uh, stones and go to the other side…? Hmmm? Try an Apple/iOS product?

You never know, you might actually LIKE it. I know that I did.

*******

*(I suppose at least some of the reason I stopped was in large part due to a certain burnout factor. Those of you that post regularly have my admiration–it’s harder than it looks.)

Longtime columnist/iPhone user Andy Inhatko switches to Android

It’s like Coca-cola users suddenly drinking Pepsi! Chevrolet owners switching to Ford! Budweiser drinkers guzzling Miller beer! Michigan fans now cheering for Ohio State!

Well, something like that.

One of the things that I’ve noted about iOS (Apple) users versus Android (Samsung, HTC to name a few) users is that while neither side likes the other, I suspect that each side secretly fears that the other one–just might be better. Thus, the war of words.

And, there’s some ignorance and hatred mixed in as well, outright contempt. It’s like the Communist/gay/liberal hate mongers of years ago (the last two, from far too recently)–“What do you mean? I’M not (a)_______! Wait a minute…why, I’ll bet it’s YOU! YOU are (a)__________!” Just insert the same word in both blanks to see what I mean.

So, word came down Tuesday that Chicago Sun-Times tech columnist and longtime Apple supporter Andy Inhatko switched from the iPhone brand he’s had for years…to Android!

THE HORROR!

So, how did we find out about this dire deed? Did someone spy him at an AT&T store buying a Samsung Galaxy S III? Was he seen using his computer to download apps from the Android Store? Was he seen actually USING an Android phone?

Nope. Simpler than that. He told us.

In a three-installment TechHive story appearing online today, Inhatko says there’s nothing wrong with his iPhone…and no, he doesn’t think Apple is failing to innovate and that Android has passed them by (hint: he says he still loves his iPad)–far from it, he says.

He says after using the Galaxy S III for several months, he just likes it…better.

And he’s always been an APPLE guy!

I can just hear the screams and moans of Apple fanboys and supporters everywhere. It’s like the three words I mentioned before. “We listened to the same music…wore the same clothes, ate the same food, had the same ideas…GEEZ, MAYBE I’M ALSO (A )______!” (Except–now insert the words “Android user” in there.)

STOP IT! IT’S A CHOICE! All of those words are CHOICES–that any of us can make…if we think that any of them are about us. You can’t catch it, it’s not like Cooties!

Anyway, Inhatko chose. And he chose Android. And, I gotta say…I read the article, and I agree with a lot of it. I’ve said for some time that if I found something I liked better, I also wouldn’t hesitate to switch. I’ve looked at Windows Phones for some time…but they’re not quite there yet. I said before that I’ve had access to an Android phone and was able to try it out…and while I wasn’t overly impressed, that was a few years ago, maybe today I’d feel differently. I will say that Android’s Swipe-style keyboard feature easily trumps the iPhone one. That alone would not be enough to make me switch, but it is something to think about. Like him, maybe given the choice I’d consider it.

An excerpt from Part One is below; Parts Two and Three are linked from the article–I’ve got links for them below as well.

Parts One and Two cover the good points of his Android phone, and why he prefers it. Part Three talks about the problems that many say exist with Android, and Inhatko explains why he doesn’t agree. He also describes the very real problems with the platform, and tells how to handle them. He’s also careful to point out not to read too much into this switch, he still uses and enjoys Apple products. Simply:

I’ve switched from the iPhone to the Samsung Galaxy S III because it’s the best there is at the kind of things I need my phone to do. And as soon as something comes along that’s better, I’ll switch again.

Here’s an excerpt from Part One of his article on why he switched:

About a month and a half ago, I walked into an AT&T Store, handed over my iPhone 4S, and asked to be switched from my unlimited iPhone data plan to a new LTE data plan.

I bought the first-generation iPhone and I bought it early, during a brief and wonderful window before AT&T realized that offering an unlimited data plan on what would prove to be the greatest mobile Internet device ever created was aterrible idea. Those of us who still had Unlimited iPhone data could keep it, so long as we didn’t make any changes to our service.

The LTE Data Plan, in contrast, includes a monthly cap of 5 GB.

Any mathematician will confirm that 5 GB is indeed lower than infinite GB. I’d hung on to that unlimited data plan like it was a rent-controlled apartment in midtown Manhattan. I kept it even when unlimited data meant that I couldn’t sign up for tethering and Wi-Fi hotspot features.

I’m telling you all of this to make an impression. I wouldn’t have given up unlimited data unless I could swap it for something I wanted even more than the ability to stream Netflix 24/7… something that hadn’t existed during my previous five years as an iPhone owner.

A great Android phone.

Things have changed

Here’s what changed: Android got great. The OS got great, and the hardware got great. One of the sweet benefits of being a tech columnist is that I get to try out every significant new phone for a month or so. Time after time last year, I’d pack up and send back another flagship Android phone, switch back to my iPhone exclusively, and spend the following few weeks missing a great feature of the Android phone’s hardware or OS that I’d come to rely on during my testing.

And so, by the end of the year, the idea of continuing to use an iPhone exclusively, or even as my primary phone, was no longer appealing. That’s why I willingly parted with my unlimited data plan. On my new LTE plan, I can swap my iPhone’s SIM with other phones and get the high speeds all of the other digital features of the AT&T network.

My positive reviews of new iPhones and new editions of iOS have always been sincere. Wait, “sincere?” Sometimes, they’ve been downright florid. I’ve been so enthusiastic that I’ve often been accused of saying those things because I’m an Apple fanboy.

I’ve always had a standard response. “In 2007, I switched to the iPhone because it was way better than the Windows Mobile device I was using at the time,” I would say. “If someday in the future somebody makes a phone and an OS that’s a better fit for me and my peculiar needs than the iPhone, I’ll make the exact same choice.”

Yep: that day has come. I’ve had a Samsung Galaxy S III since the summer. Throughout 2012, I kept its SIM slot empty and I used it as a WiFi device, but that wasn’t good enough. When I switched my data plan in January, I imagined that I’d be shuttling my SIM between my iPhone 4S and the S3 several times a month.

Nope. There’s a SIM extraction tool in my wallet (tip: it’s the only way you can findthe damned thing when you need it) but the card stays in the S3.

Why would I put it back in the iPhone? My Galaxy S3 is working great, and with only one exception, I only notice improvements, not drawbacks. I made a slow, cautious, and careful examination of what I want and need from my phone, and at the end of this mobile warrior’s pilgrimage, I couldn’t escape the conclusion that the best phone for me is no longer an iPhone.

In this three-part epic, I’m going to walk you my decision. It’s the story of why Android 4.1 and the S3 got me to switch. No way is it an argument about why anybody else should drop their iPhones and switch to a flagship Android phone.

This isn’t the story about how Apple has lost its way and no longer innovates. It hasn’t and it still does. This is merely the story of one dude who got a new phone. Nonetheless, my tale presents a picture of the strengths of modern Android.

Follow the rest of the article here.

Here’s the link for Part Two.

Here’s the link for Part Three.

Control AA-powered devices using a smartphone with ingenious new invention

It’s said that the best answers are often the simplest ones. So, how much genius is involved in a small thin plastic case with tiny electronics embedded into it that fits around an AA battery, which is then inserted into a typical battery powered device, like a child’s toy or a baby monitor…and then allows that device to be turned on and off through a Bluetooth connection to an iOS or Android smartphone?

According to TechHive.com, it’s amazingly simple:

The Bluetooth people have been on the hunt for new and cool uses of the popular radio technology, and they have certainly found one in Tethercell. Tethercell is an app-enabled battery adapter that lets you control and monitor AA battery-operated devices using your smartphone or tablet.

The small company who made Tethercell, Los Angeles-based Tetherboard, launched its product as a crowdfunding project on Indiegogo.com. And last week, the product was announced as the winner of the “Prototype of the Year” award from Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Tethercell also won the overall prize of “Breakthrough of the Year” in Bluetooth innovation.

Part of Tethercell’s appeal is its simplicity. It’s just a small piece of plastic housing that fits around an AA battery. You need only put the Technocell around one of the batteries in the device you want to control; interrupting or restoring the power from one battery will control the operation of the device. Examples include baby monitors, bike lights, and battery-operated toys.

A mobile app (iOS or Android) running on your phone or tablet turns the battery-powered device on and off, or schedules times for the device to be on or off. Tethercell can also monitor battery’s power level and display it in the app.

[See the Tethercell demonstration video.}

Tetherboard will continue raising money on Indiegogo for another 48 days, but has already surpassed its $59,000 funding goal.

TETHERBOARD

A mockup of the Tethercell battery adapter with circuit board

In the meantime, the company continues to build new bells and whistles into its product.

Most recently the it added a “locate” feature to Tethercell that lets you find your battery-powered device by measuring the Bluetooth signals between your phone and the Tethercell inside the lost device.

Tetherboard’s Indiegogo funders will be the first to get their hands on a Tethercell. Then, the company hopes to package it and sell it widely. No word yet on retail pricing or distribution channels.

The biggest problem I see with this is the limited range of Bluetooth, typically 100 meters (about 328 feet). So, you couldn’t turn on the portable radio from across town so there would be music playing when you got home, for example.

Still, every idea can be a stepping stone to the next one. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Microsoft’s Ballmer: There’s no need for either an iOS or Android version of Office apps

Some of you out there (and you know who you are) want to believe that there is an official version of Microsoft Office coming to iOS and Android in the near future.

Some of you even believe that it will be days, not weeks, before you can finally use the Office apps happily on your iPad, iPhone or Android smartphone or tablet.

Some recent comments from Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, might rain on your parade a little bit. He thinks it’s okay that you don’t have actual Office apps on your device…they’re available online at either Office on Demand for PC users, or on SkyDrive for those who have Macs.

From PCWorld.com:

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has suggested that it isn’t necessary to offer app versions of the Office applications as people can access Office through the browser.

He is referring to Office on Demand (which allows a PC without Word, Excel, or PowerPoint installed to run those programs via Internet streaming). Mac users have to rely on the basic versions of the Microsoft web apps (Word, Excel and PowerPoint), which have available on SkyDrive since 2011.

These basic apps allow you to create and edit in Word, Excel and PowerPoint using the web-based versions of those apps, but the web apps aren’t as full-featured as the desktop versions.

Ballmer told Bloomberg Business Week: “We’re very happy with the product that we’re putting in market. It makes sense on the devices like the Mac and the PC. We have a product that we think makes a lot of sense. We do have a way for people always to get to Office through the browser, which is very important. And we’ll see what we see in the future.”

A rumour from last year suggested that iOS versions of Office would ship in February or March this year. Yesterday another report claimed the iOS Office apps are “Coming Soon“.

It is thought that the real reason why Microsoft isn’t pushing to release Microsoft Office for iOS apps is Apple’s insistence that it take a 30 percent cut on sales and complications arising from Microsoft’s subscription model. There has been some speculation that the launch of the had been delayed due to disputes about the subscription process and Apple’s requirement that it takes 30 percent from the sale of the apps.

IDC analyst Bob O’Donnell thinks Microsoft would be unwise not to release iOS versions of Office: “The day they [Microsoft] introduce Office for iOS and Android, they’ll start printing money.”

However, he added: “If Microsoft doesn’t pull the trigger on Office for iOS and Android soon, it will miss the boat.”

It’s a tough call for Microsoft. If it releases the iOS and Android versions it loses its competitive edge that forces users to buy its own products to have access. On the other hand, those versions would bring in tons of cash, but it would likely have to give Apple its required 30% cut in sales volume.

It’s definitely a situation the software giant will be watching carefully.

Why the new BlackBerry Z10’s success is so important

In a recent post we discussed the BlackBerry Z10–five reasons you should stay with the platform, and five reasons why you should leave for greener, uh, smartphone pastures.

It occurred to me that many of you don’t know much about the new BlackBerry, or how important it really is to its recently-renamed parent (the former Research in Motion)…which, if there is ever going to be any more BlackBerrys, this one is going to have to do prey-ty well indeed.

It’s actually a very nice device…looks and feels good, has some very cool features, like the ability to keep your work data and personal data completely separate, yet allow some integration as well if needed.

And that brings up the problem with devices built to do one thing, but being adapted to do another. The BlackBerry is a business phone, a phone for the enterprise sector. The company started to lose its way when it decided it also wanted to attract consumers, which meant watering down or altering some of its better features.

Anyway…the problem usually wasn’t with the devices themselves, but the bloatware that got added to each phone by whichever wireless carrier you were purchasing it from. Except for that accursed nonworking trackball on the last generation of Curves that “featured” it, the machines were good quality. It was the company’s management decisions that eventually brought it to where it is today.

Which is to say, in life support.

Cue the excerpt from Matt Hamblen’s PCWorld article, “Can new smartphones rekindle the BlackBerry fire?”

(Please note that the article was published January 25, 2013. It makes reference to Research in Motion or RIM…since this article was published the company has officially changed its name to BlackBerry. Also, the new models were introduced January 30.)

“Not dead yet” could well be the new BlackBerry marketing theme, as the world prepares to hear about two new BlackBerry 10 smartphones to be announced next Wednesday.

Days before the announcement, there is fairly wide disagreement among analysts and developers over whether Research In Motion can stop the dramatic decline of its BlackBerry phones. The BlackBerry was the market leader until the iPhone was introduced in 2007 and Android phones after that. Its market share fell to 10% in 2010 and has dwindled to 5% today.

In advance of the event, specifications and photos have been widely leaked of the new touchscreen and QWERTY-keyboard versions of BlackBerry smartphones, but RIM hasn’t confirmed many of the details.

According to unconfirmed reports, the touchscreen version, dubbed the Z10, will have a 4.2-in. display, a resolution of 1280 pixels by 768 pixels and 16GB of internal storage.

It will also include a Snapdragon processor, an 8-megapixel rear camera, and Near-Field Communications technology (useful for mobile payments). Moreover, the models available from Verizon Wireless will be able to run on 4G LTE cellular networks.

Less is known about the smaller QWERTY version, known as the X10. With this model, RIM is acknowledging its loyal following of users, among 80 million overall globally, who prefer a physical keyboard.

Pretested smartphones

RIM officials confirmed that thousands of prerelease BlackBerry 10 devices have been tested by corporations, which have been the mainstay of the company’s customer base, even as BlackBerry’s global market share has dwindled to 5%, according to Gartner. Meanwhile Android has captured 65% of the global smartphone market and the iPhone has about 21%.

Analysts who have tried the devices offered some promising predictions. “The new BB10 offers the best [user experience] on the market—not perfect, but certainly a rival to the iPhone 5, with even greater performance,” said Gartner analyst Phillip Redman in a blog post this week entitled “RIM begins its comeback year with BES 10 launch.”

In an interview, Redman said that BB10 devices won’t surpass Apple or Android devices, but, he added, “I think they will beat Windows Phone.” Moreover, he predicted that RIM will “market this like nothing before, [with] much of the future of the company depending on the launch.”

In contrast, Citigroup financial analyst Jim Suva reminded clients in a note that the pre-announcement optimism for BlackBerry 10 devices is not necessarily an indicator of how well the phones will sell.

“We remind investors that actual sell-through matters to determine the true financial impact that the new OS and hardware will have on the company’s financials, especially in an increasingly competitive environment,” Suva said.

Michael Mullany, CEO of Sencha, a company that is an HTML5 development partner of RIM on the BlackBerry 10 platform, remains optimistic. “We think BB 10 has a good shot at re-igniting RIM sales,” he said.

In an interview, Mullany said the prerelease Z10 touchscreen model that developers have been testing offers “incredible performance for the browser inside—it will be a market leader for HTML5.”

Developer interest in apps

RIM also said it has seen heavy developer interest in building apps for BlackBerry 10, with 15,000 apps published in the BlackBerry World app store in two days.

Previous browsers in BlackBerry smartphones have been a sore spot for RIM, and Mullany remarked that the BlackBerry Torch smartphone, which was released two years ago was a disappointment. “When we got the Torch,” he recalled, “we scratched our heads and said, ‘Are they serious?'”

But Mullany also said that RIM has not “irreparably harmed itself,” because mobile consumers “have very short memories.” He said the Z10 has impressive speeds for scrolling content and responds quickly to touches.

Mullany said he’s not privy to RIM’s plans to market the Z10 or X10, but he noted that RIM has faced difficulties in the past in trying to attract consumers to BlackBerry devices after years of serving the needs of working professionals and enterprise IT shops.

In recent years, RIM relied on rock star Bono and the hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas to promote the BlackBerry brand among consumers. But even stellar marketing could not correct a problematic product like the Torch.

“I feel this [Z10] is a very robust consumer device,” Mullany said. “It’s not a business-only device for sure. It will do well in the consumer and prosumer market.”

There’s more to this story found here.

I’d like to see the new BlackBerry Z10 do well. I think the smartphone industry could use a few more companies bringing great products to market (notice I said “great,” with new ideas and innovations). I’ll admit that I like Apple products and use them daily…but I’ve had a Windows Phone and a BlackBerry, and I’ve had access to and used an Android phone. Each and all of those had individually good and bad points.

You should be able to purchase a smartphone–or any product–because you like it, not because it’s the lesser of what you perceive to be two evils. Perhaps that’s what the Z10 will be–a choice for those who don’t like either the iPhone or Android, and can’t figure out the Windows 8 phone.

Now appearing on your smartphone: a way to monitor and manage remote PCs

There is an old expression: “Work smarter, not harder.” Thanks to existing technology and a very productive smartphone app, you can do just that with your remote PCs–monitor and manage their functions, saving you the time spent visiting each one in turn to perform those tasks.

MMsoft Design Ltd. has created the PC Monitor app, which allows you the freedom to do what would before have been the stuff of science fiction movies.  The app is available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Windows 8, and for the Windows, Mac and Linux platforms. PCWorld.com has an excellent review of the process from start to finish (note that the instructions are for Windows users). An excerpt:

It’s 2013, and computing has entered a new age of mobility. If you’re still wasting time trudging over to your PCs to perform routine maintenance, check for software updates, and power down every night, you haven’t gotten with the program.

Businesses of all sizes need tools for remotely monitoring and maintaining multiple PCs simultaneously—and today we show PC enthusiasts and amateur efficiency experts (read: lazy people) how to use these tools for their own purposes.

If you have a smartphone in your pocket, a data plan, and a few computers that need monitoring, you can set up a convenient PC remote management system that lets you check on your PCs from anywhere, saving you time, money, and (potentially) your business.

Get started

A mind-boggling array of remote PC management software is available, but this guide focuses on installing and using an excellent tool called PC Monitor from MMSoft Design Ltd. PC Monitor is designed to help you administer a few systems from any smartphone or tablet that has a live Internet connection. PC Monitor is available for mobile devices running Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, or Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating systems. Companion applications for the PC are available for Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux.

PC Monitor is free to use on up to three PCs. MMSoft will sell licenses to end users who want to monitor more than three systems from a single account; the company also markets its PC Monitor Enterprise Server, which can be hosted on an internal network. The free mobile app and its PC counterparts are full-featured and immensely useful, but only on systems that maintain an active connection to the Web; both the PC and the mobile components of PC Monitor require access to MMSoft’s servers in order to interface with each other.

Installing and configuring PC Monitor takes only a few steps—and if you don’t customize the notifications, rules, and monitors, you can complete the installation in minutes. For our description of the process, we use an Android-based tablet and Windows 7-based PCs, but the steps are virtually identical across all platforms.

Install PC Monitor on your systems

When you launch PC Monitor Manager for the first time, it will prompt you to create a new account.

To install PC Monitor on your desktop, point your browser to the PC Monitor website, open the download section, and download the correct version of the tool for your operating system. When the download is complete, double-click the file to launch the installer, and then follow the on-screen prompts to complete the installation. The default setup options should be sufficient for everyone. The application is very small (less than 9MB) and consumes minimal resources. You’ll need to install the appropriate application on each of the systems you want to monitor.

After the installation is complete, run the PC Monitor Manager application. The first time you launch the PC Monitor Manger, it will prompt you to create an account. That account is crucial for connecting your PCs to your mobile devices (or for monitoring your systems through PC Monitor’s Web interface, accessible from MMSoft’s website). After you submit your contact information, MMSoft will send a validation code to your email address. Enter the validation code to authenticate the account, click OK to close the window, and then click OK in the PC Monitor Manager application window to log in and start the PC Monitor service.

On the initial account screen, you can enter a computer name and a group name for the system. By default the full Windows computer name is used, along with the group name ‘Default’.

More information on setting up, running and connecting the PC Monitor software can be found by clicking on the link provided above.