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Talking Tech: Last app you open before sleep?

Consumers tell Jefferson Graham the last app they look at before shutting their eyes, on Talking Tech.

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VENICE BEACH, Calif. — We use smartphone apps all day to check the weather, take photos, catch up on the news and find love. But what's the last app we look at every day before we close our eyes?

For Steph Jackson of Seattle, the choice is easy: Hautelook, (free; Apple, Android) the Nordstrom fashion app offering daily discounts.

Reason: sweet thoughts through the night.

"I dream of shoes," she says. "A room filled with shoes that are all mine, that are all my size."

For David Brozzis of Portofino, Italy, his last app is the dating website Tinder (free; Apple and Android), the one that matches men and women based on their photos. He likes to look at pictures before he goes to bed? "Of course," he says.

Valerie Wasveiler of Los Angeles likes Medium, the iPhone app from a Twitter co-founder that offers personal essays.

"It's people writing stories about their lives," she says. "It gives you a good perspective on things going on in the world."

Interesting fodder, but what could be beat waking up to tons of likes?

For Jae Beas of Long Beach, Calif., and surely thousands others like her, that app would be Instagram, the photo sharing app for Apple, Android and Windows.

"I post a picture, go to sleep, wake up, check my likes," he says. Sometimes that can be in the hundreds, which, she says, "makes me feel a little loved."

Readers: What's the last app you look at before going to sleep? Let's chat about it on Twitter, where I'm @JeffersonGraham.

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Tiny in-ear headphones boast a massive soundstage

Virginia Barry, Reviewed.com 8:03 a.m. EDT April 20, 2014

The AKG K323 XS in-ear headphones (MSRP $59.95) are as portable and sleek as they come. Pop them in and treat yourself: The XS produces huge sound marked with prominent bass, supportive mids, and very healthy highs.

Moreover, these are some of the best passive isolators we've ever tested, and we didn't measure even a speck of audible distortion. High-five, AKG: These things are top-to-bottom winners.

THE DESIGN

These AKGs are tiny, good-looking, and comfortable enough for most. We tested the white version, but they also ship in blue, orange, yellow, green, and the list goes on. Aesthetics aside, if you're searching for the perfect travel companion, you'll want to give these a close look. In fact, the XS are a friend to commuters and athletes alike.

The form factor is just perfect for multitasking in general: The Android-ready version packs a one-button universal remote, and there's also a three-button variant for iOS. The XS's teeny form factor, featherweight frame, and small carry case are additional on-the-go perks.

BEST OF THE BEST:See our favorite picks for headphones of all kinds

The cable is simple, but of decent quality. It's shorter than most cords — just 3.5-feet long — which makes it very manageable for busy listeners. There could be better reinforcements around the jack and earpieces, though, so definitely keep these AKGs wrapped up in their carrying case for safekeeping.

Users get four different ear pieces, too: extra small, small, medium, and large. Take note, Goldilocks.

THE AUDIO

Basically, the XS in-ears do everything right. The headphones' time in our lab painted a portrait of a straight-A student.

THE SCIENCE:See how these headphones performed in our lab tests

Thanks to moderate bass notes and very prominent middle and high notes, music sounds both full and balanced. From classical, to jazz, to hip hop, every genre benefits from this even-handed sound quality. Listeners will enjoy big, thumping bass that doesn't obscure subtler instruments like violin and piano.

These tiny in-ears aced distortion tests, balanced volume properly in the left and right speakers, and effectively isolated the soundstage. That last point is particularly notable: The amount of outside noise that these things block is comparable to some sets of active noise cancelers — extremely impressive.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The K323 XS shines, even in a crowded market. It's hard to pick which glowing attribute to praise first: The massive, well-balanced soundstage? The distortion-free listening experience? The very reasonable $59 price tag? The great isolation? The tiny, portable design? These AKGs are simply aces, and online sale prices of around $40 kick everything up another notch.

Users who are searching for ultimate durability, removable cables, or piles of flashy extras may want to keep shopping, but everyone else is likely to be wowed by 'phones that can produce a soundstage this big and balanced at such a low price.

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Awesome apps for a new Android device

Marc Saltzman, Special for USA TODAY 6:03 a.m. EDT April 20, 2014

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When it comes to downloadable applications, iPhone and iPad seem to get all the love, no?

Oh sure, Apple can boast a very successful App Store — customers spent $10 billion dollars on apps there in 2013 — but the Google Play store has now caught up in the number of apps available for Android smartphones and tablets, each at about 1.2 million at last count.

After all, the open-platform Android enjoys a larger smartphone install base than Apple's iPhone, and as of last month, Android tablets are outselling iPad, says Gartner.

If you're looking for something worthy to download to your 'droid-based phone or tablet, consider this handful of apps — many of which are exclusive to the platform.

AVIATE

Designed and developed "with smiles" by Yahoo in San Francisco, Aviate (getaviate.com) is considered an intelligent home screen for your Android device.

The app re-skins your device by replacing the usual black background with clean, white wallpaper and a smarter way to organize your apps.

Specifically, swipe to the left, right or down to see apps cleverly segregated by time of day or the location you're in, as well as automatically organized by type of app (Productivity, Games, Music, etc) and listed alphabetically once you swipe again to the left.

You can also add photos and widgets to your main home screen, if you like.

While free, be forewarned you'll need to sign up for Aviate and wait for a confirmation email, or ask a friend to invite you to be part of the beta.

KINGSOFT OFFICE

Need to view, create or edit popular Microsoft Office docs, such as Word, Excel or PowerPoint files?

Android users can download and use the free Kingsoft Office (kingsoftstore.com), a Microsoft Office alternative that supports nearly 25 kinds of files including .doc/.docx, .dot/.dotx, .xls/.xlsx, .ppt, .pptx, and .pdf.

A built-in file manager automatically organizes your files. And gesture support means you can flick, swipe and tap to get your work done — even with one hand. Along with support for email, this app also lets you import and export files to popular cloud services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and others.

A Shareplay tab lets you give a wireless presentation using your Android device.

DEJAOFFICE

Speaking of Microsoft Office support, DejaOffice (dejaoffice.com) is one of the most reliable ways to sync your 'droid with Outlook on a PC or Mac.

Specifically, DejaOffice works with CompanionLink software on a personal computer (from the same company), so whenever you update something in Outlook — a calendar appointment, contact, note, journal entry or task — it'll automatically be updated on your Android device (or vice versa).

While DejaOffice and its core features are free, CompanionLink costs $49.95 after the 14-day free trial, in order to sync your information over Wi-Fi or USB. Plus, it includes one year of "cloud" syncing over cellular connectivity (and then costs $14.95/quarter after that for this feature).

DejaOffice includes multiple features such as support for Microsoft Exchange, advanced search, CRM (customer relationship management) tools, five different calendar views and colored-coded categories, and more.

NORTON MOBILE SECURITY

Given how common malware (malicious software) is becoming on mobile devices, it might pay to protect your data with security software.

One of the best I've tested is Symantec's Norton Mobile Security (mobilesecurity.norton.com), which not only protects your device from viruses and other malware but also locks down your privacy settings, scans Google Play downloads and memory cards for threats and helps you find your lost or stolen phone.

Along with security and privacy controls, this app lets you set up call blocking — simply enter the name and/or number of anyone whose calls or texts you want to block.

The anti-theft feature is quite impressive. Should your phone or tablet become lost or stolen, you can use a text message or a web portal (mobilesecurity.norton.com) to remotely lock your device; locate your phone or tablet on a map; wipe the data clean; send a message to whomever finds your device; or have it chime loudly, in case you've misplaced your phone. There's also an option to use the device's built-in front-facing camera to take a photo of anyone using your device once you list it as missing.

The app is free to try but $29.99/year to buy. Alternatively, Symantec also sells Norton 360 Multi-Device, for $69.99/year, which supports up to five devices, including PCs, Macs, phones and tablets.

OVERDRIVE MEDIA CONSOLE

Of course you know you can buy e-books and audiobooks for your Android device, but you can also borrow e-books and audiobooks, for free, from your local library — with no more late fees.

As long as you have your library card and the free OverDrive Media Console (overdrive.com) app installed on your favorite phone or tablet, you're in business.

First, download and install the app from Google Play and once installed, you'll be prompted to create an Adobe ID, if you don't already have one, and authorize it to work with OverDrive. Now you can borrow e-books and audiobooks wirelessly.

SPLASHTOP 2 REMOTE DESKTOP

Your Android phone or tablet is capable of logging into your home computer and letting you control the experience as if you were sitting in front of your PC or Mac.

Whether you left an important document on your desktop before you left on a business trip or want to stream a movie residing on your hard drive, you can use the Splashtop 2 Remote Desktop (splashtop.com) app to log in securely and move the mouse via your fingertips. It is a free download, with no subscription required for local-network connections. For $1.99 month you can access your computer from anywhere.

The interface is clean and intuitive, making it an easy app to use — even for non-techy users.

While not tested, Google just launched a similar app, called Chrome Remote Desktop app for Android, which also lets you remotely access your computer from your Android device.

Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. E-mail him at techcomments@usatoday.com.

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Samsung slugs it out with Apple for consumers

Edward C. Baig, and Jon Swartz, USATODAY 6 a.m. EDT April 20, 2014

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SEOUL — In the South Korean industrial town of Gumi, about a 45-minute helicopter ride southeast of here, Samsung Electronics factory workers, nearly all of them young women, are methodically applying the finishing touches on Galaxy S5s.

The launch of Samsung's newest flagship smartphone on April 11 was a little over a week away, and though most of the Galaxy S5 manufacturing process in the factory is automated, workers on this day were putting the backs of AT&T Galaxy S5 phones on or manually removing the stickers on certain tiny components.

Not far away on the Gumi campus, Samsung's very first mobile phone, the SH-100, is on display. A monstrously large and heavy contraption compared to today's models, it launched during the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Samsung pays homage to its remarkable mobile past at Gumi, where walls of about 1,800 phones introduced by the Korean electronics giant are encased behind glass and displayed by year.

Could 2014 be the year Samsung KOs rival Apple in its dogged pursuit of the mantle as top consumer-tech brand? Silicon Valley's marquee heavyweight bout is all the buzz in tech.

In this escalating slugfest, Samsung has become tech's Joe Frazier to Apple's Muhammad Ali, less flashy but tenacious in battering its opponent with a flurry of new products. Apple's product arsenal remains select — by design.

They compete on the airwaves, with clever take-downs of each other's products. They trade legal barbs in courtrooms, over complicated legal patent disputes. They were principal combatants after a record-breaking selfie from Ellen DeGeneres. But they mostly compete in showrooms, where nothing less than the $300 billion worldwide smartphone industry is at stake. Samsung sold 314 million smartphones last year — twice that of Apple. But iPhone and iPad remain dominant in the U.S., cultural icons that many consumers are reluctant to abandon.

It won't be easy. Apple still commands the loyalty of its customers who re-buy its highly regarded products at an industry-high rate, and it still can make or break a market with one product. (See iPhone, iPad and — perhaps? — iWatch.) Innovation remains a hotly contested battleground, in markets and in court, between Apple and Samsung.

"Apple's approach is much more sustainable," says Ben Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies. "IPhone is still dominant in the U.S.; Apple's hardware and software are highly differentiated from what else is in the market; and it has incredible brand loyalty."

What the Korean electronics giant is attempting to do is nothing short of a sea change in tech: upend the competitive and innovative landscape, and displace Apple as the go-to choice for consumer-electronics devices.

Apple may be the main event, but it's also worth watching to see how Samsung contends with other tech heavyweights, notably longtime Android partner Google. On its newest smartwatch, Samsung dumped Android in favor of the software it has its own vested interest in called Tizen. But Samsung has also pledged support for Android Wear, Google's own emerging new wearable computing initiative.

The launch of the S5 and three new wearable devices underscores Samsung's relentless pursuit of not just consumers and big business but the most coveted of commodities in Silicon Valley: attention.

It has spent the better part of two years flooding the market with cereal spoon-dropping gadgets and blitzing the airwaves with ads in an audacious bid to cajole consumers weaned in the age of iPhone and iPad. Samsung has stolen market share from Apple in smartphone and tablet sales, both worldwide and in the U.S.

At the same time, it is climbing Fortune's annual Most Admired Companies list, and is now No. 21, still far off from Apple, which has topped Fortune's list for seven straight years.

Going where Apple is absent

Samsung's stated goal is to hit revenues of $400 billion by 2020, up from $217 billion, and be a top-five global brand by then. By any measure, Samsung is already an international powerhouse, a status Chairman Lee Kun-Hee set in motion as far back as 1993, when he declared that Samsung would have to "change everything except your wife and children."

This month, the company offered USA TODAY unfettered, behind-the-scenes access to its testing and design labs here. It outlined its product plans and a glimpse into its highly regimented business culture. (USA TODAY paid for airfare and hotel.)

It's nearly lunchtime at Samsung's sprawling Digital City headquarters in Suwon, outside Seoul. The spacious Delacourt (Delicious & Delightful Court) cafeteria is teeming with employees. A sign on the wall, in English, reads "Eat Love Work." The atmosphere is collegial.

Some employees skip the food: They're swimming in a gigantic indoor pool, jogging along an indoor track or exercising in a health club facility. Someone explains the hours are restricted during the day. Folks are expected back at work.

Samsung has out-flanked Apple by venturing to parts of the market where the Silicon Valley company is absent — with larger phones, larger tablet displays, smartwatches and aggressive pricing — says Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

The strategy has worked swimmingly. Between 50% and 60% of all Android phones branded worldwide are Samsung. "There was a jump ball (a few years ago) for which hardware manufacturer would compete with Apple: Nokia, BlackBerry, Motorola and HTC," says Gene Munster, senior analyst at investment bank Piper Jaffray. "Samsung was not part of the discussion then. Now, it is a ball hog."

"When we introduced the Galaxy Note in 2011, we raised some eyebrows, but we knew the larger screen would enhance the consumer's experience," says Gregory Lee, CEO of Samsung North America. "We won consumers over with the large-screen smartphone and ultimately started the trend for other manufacturers to follow."

The Next Big Thing (and bet)

Samsung's Sisyphean quest to unseat Apple rests, in part, on the success or failure of its latest flagship, the Galaxy S5. That will be among the biggest story lines of the intensifying rivalry this year. So will Samsung's deeper push into wearable technology, with the Gear Fit, Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches that arrived just as the new phone did, and ahead of whatever Apple has up its sleeve in the wearable computing category. Samsung's first smartwatch was a dud.

Samsung competes in other areas where Apple is a mere bystander, notably household appliances such as refrigerators and washer-dryers. It envisions health and medical equipment as an area of future growth.

But the fuller narrative is about how the Korean electronics giant cultivates its relationship with consumers worldwide. The products are there, but is a loyal, long-standing audience, asks Munster. He points to 90% repeat buy-rates for Apple products.

Samsung invests heavily in R&D, to the tune of $13.6 billion or about 6.3% of annual sales last year. Indeed, more than 69,000 Samsung employees globally, a fourth of its workforce, are dedicated to R&D or focused on future products.

"There is a philosophy in Samsung that says we start from the consumer and incorporate the future in (them)," Samsung Executive Vice President Donghoon Chang said in an interview in Seoul.

Shifting its center of gravity

What Samsung also intends to offer consumers is a new business wrinkle. The company is making a "lifestyle play," as it did when Academy Awards host DeGeneres crashed Twitter with a selfie that was retweeted a record 3.4 million times. (To be fair, DeGeneres tweeted from an iPhone backstage.)

So-called "organic moments" as those not only highlight Samsung products — a Note 3 phone in Ellen's case — but resonate with consumers, says Todd Pendleton, chief marketing officer of Samsung Telecommunications America.

"The Ellen selfie was one of those moments you can't plan or orchestrate," Pendleton says. "It was a true moment of capturing joy among some of the most famous people in the world."

Apple under Steve Jobs famously chose the products it thought best for the customer. Samsung takes a near polar opposite approach, relying heavily on customer input and market research.

Apple, which has been noticeably quiet this year, declined to comment for this report.

Analysts say Apple's silence merely masks an ambitious new product lineup in the works, led by the long-rumored iWatch, larger-screen iPhone 6, iPad Air 2 and Apple TV.

Apple's possible product road map highlights the impact Samsung has had on it and the rest of the tech industry.

The technological showdown comes against a backdrop of legal jousting. While Samsung says it received 4,676 patents in the U.S. in 2013 — second only to IBM — Apple and Samsung resumed their patent battle in federal court in San Jose, Calif., this month, with claims and counter-claims of ripping off smartphone and tablet designs and features.

The court contretemps adds to a battle that could linger for years, given the size and market prowess of each company.

On a cool April afternoon, a Samsung helicopter lands in Gumi on Samsung's Smart City campus. Inside an assembly plant, the room is well lit. A wall adjacent to the factory floor shows pictures of workers who found time to volunteer their time — it is labeled the Corridor of Volunteer Activity. But it's all business now. The women are laser-focused on the delicate tasks at hand.

In the slug fest against Apple and others, there is apparently still too much to be done at Samsung.

Baig reported from Seoul, Swartz from San Francisco.

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TECH NOW: Get money, good karma for tossing old gadgets

Jennifer Jolly, Special for USA TODAY 1:24 a.m. EDT April 20, 2014

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Oh sure, you're all buttoned-up in your daily life; you've got your nails done, hair just so, you even wear matching socks (show-off). But when it comes to getting rid of old gadgets, you're a bit of a hoarder. You collect cyber clutter in tangles of old wires, long-dead battery bricks and flip phones jam-packed into junk drawers. Gadget hoarding. It's a thing.

According to a survey by phone price comparison site SellCell.com — 50% of all Americans have two or more old cell phones just lying around. Now, here comes the good part, they're actually worth an average of $90 per phone. What?! We could have nearly $200 of cold hard cash in place of these dusty ole' digital dinosaurs? Sweet. That's just the start of the old gadget gold-rush hiding in our homes. Seven out of every 10 of us own gadgets we haven't touched for at least two years. With Earth Day around the corner, it's time to pack 'em up and ship 'em out, if not to make money, then at least to do something good for the planet — 20 to 50 million metric tons of mostly toxic e-waste is tossed into landfills each year.

I, too, have a ton of old electronics that seem too valuable to send to Goodwill, or have been dead so long that I can't find the chargers to crank 'em up one last time and wipe all of my information off before passing them along. So now what?

FIRST THINGS FIRST: WHAT'S IT WORTH?

The first step (after admitting you too might be a gadget hoarder …) is figuring out whether you should resell, recycle, or reuse. Let's start with the idea of getting some money back and figuring out if it's actually worth anything.

Android and Windows phones from the past three or four years are likely worth the time it takes to sell them, and iPhones tend to hold their value even longer. If you're just now getting in on the smartphone craze and are looking to get rid of your antiquated flip phone, it's probably worthless — sigh.

Tablets are slightly different, and most tend to be worth more than their smartphone counterparts released around the same time. For example, an Android phone from 2010 might be a hard sell, but Android tablets from that time are still considered capable devices for Web browsing and social networking, so don't toss it before you find out.

The single easiest way to determine the cash value of your just-replaced gadget is to hop on eBay. But wait! Don't fall victim to the old trap of simply searching for your gadget, seeing the first price that pops up, and thinking that your dusty old desktop is worth a cool hundred bucks. First, filter your search results by clicking the "Completed Listings" check box on the side. This will show you how much people have actually paid for that old whatever, not just how much people are hoping to get.

This should give you a rough idea of your gadget's value, and things like overall condition and included accessories will sway that number one way or the other. If you dumped a bottle of Dr. Pepper on your iPad, it's obviously going to be a bit harder to market. But don't just toss your item on eBay while you're there — you may end up deciding to use eBay, but you have some questions to answer first.

WHERE'S THE BEST PLACE TO SELL?

Where you end up selling your out-of-date electronics should be based on what you want to get out of it. Are you looking for cold hard cash or will store credit be OK for you? Do you care more about a quick turnaround than a top-dollar offer? Are you willing to ship your device or meet a buyer in person? Here are your best bets, depending on how you answer these questions:

GET RID OF IT FAST

Want that old Samsung handset or iPad out of your house as fast as possible? Store trade-in programs and gadget resellers are just what you're looking for. No need to mess around with finding a buyer, no haggling, and no risk of a sketchy buyer e-mailing you two weeks later telling you they want their money back.

Gazelle is the leader in this space, offering consistently high prices for iPhones, Android devices, and tablets. The company will quote you a price online and then send you a prepaid box to ship your device. Easy-peasy.

Retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, and Amazon all accept trade-ins as well, offering credit toward future purchases in the form of a gift card. Best Buy offers the added bonus of letting you walk into a Best Buy store to do the trade, rather than forcing you to ship it. Its offers are competitive and comparable with exclusive resellers like Gazelle, but you have to use your money there.

YOU WANT TO DEAL LOCALLY

If you can't be bothered to mail something, and the Best Buy walk-in trade doesn't fit the bill, Craigslist can come in handy. I'm sure by now, you've heard of this massive "classifieds" section for your city or region. It comes with a huge following and you'll get plenty of eyes on your listing in a relatively short period of time. Be sure to put a real photo with whatever you're selling.

You'll likely need to meet the buyer in this case, which can be a little bit weird, but if you're cool with it, it's a time tested way to get some cash for used electronics. Just be sure to follow safe Craigslist practices like meeting in a public place and only accepting cash — no need to risk your safety just to get rid of an old phone!

YOU WANT ABSOLUTE TOP DOLLAR

The one place you can truly name your price without having to actively peddle your device to prospective buyers is on eBay. With the massive number of eBay members constantly looking for devices new and old, you can be sure that your phone or tablet will get plenty of eyes, and the "reserve" sale price feature lets you set a minimum dollar amount you're willing to settle for.

The downside of eBay is that your gadget is going to be competing with hundreds, or even thousands of similar devices — not to mention a bajillion other items like toast that looks like religious figures and Beanie Babies — so you'll want to do something to make it stand out. High-quality photos, a thorough description, and perks like free shipping will help you get the attention you need to make top dollar.

WHERE TO RECYCLE

Unfortunately, there's a chance that your smartphone or tablet is just too old — or too busted — to be worth anything. But wait! Even if it's trash to you, it can't just get tossed in with the rest of your daily garbage. Smartphones and tablets contain some components that are not only high tech, but also highly toxic, and you have to ditch them in a way that's both environmentally friendly and economical.

Even if you live in a small municipality, there's a good chance you can find a certified electronics disposal company nearby, and there are tools to help you do so:

Best Buy: Even if your antiquated gadget isn't worth anything to Best Buy, many of the company's stores will take your old electronics and dispose of them responsibly for zero cost to you. Thus far, the company has taken in 909 million pounds of outdated electronics, and there's no end in sight.

1-800-Recycling: It may look like a phone number, but this web-based tool is a perfect resource for finding recycling services in your area. You can filter your results for electronics, view all results on an interactive map, and look up directions.

WHATEVER YOU DO, WIPE IT!

Whether you're sending your device to meet its end at a recycling facility or selling it to an odd dude in a torn leather jacket on Craigslist (no offense), you're going to want to wipe that digital diary clean of your private info. Of course, before you do that, you'll want to be sure to backup all your precious photos, documents, music, movies, and games. Hopefully, you're backing up all your digital data regularly anyway with an automated service like Backblaze or with an external storage device. For Android or iOS devices, you can also store everything in the cloud with Google Auto Backup or Apple's iCloud service.

DELETING YOUR OLD FILES IS NOT ENOUGH!

Okay, clean-up and clear-out time:

Modern smartphones and tablets make this extremely easy via built-in tools. If you have an iPhone or iPad, here's how it works:

• Click the settings icon on your home screen

• Scroll down to the "General" tab and click it

• Scroll down to the "Reset" tab and click it

• Select "Erase all content and settings" and confirm

Android devices are just as simple, though the specifics might vary slightly depending on which version of Android you are currently using:

• Click on the settings icon

• Select "Backup & Reset"

• Click "Reset phone data" and confirm

Windows phones follow the same pattern:

• Click on the settings icon

• Click "About"

• Click "Reset your phone" and confirm

If you have an old clunker of a laptop or desktop from waaay back, like 2009 or even older, the best way to make sure no one can get their eyes on your data is to physically remove the hard drive yourself. For that, you'll need a screwdriver, and you'll want to Google your particular model along with the key words, "remove hard drive." There are many-a how-to all over the Internet. This means that you can't pass the computer on to someone else quite so easily though, so here are some other ways to wipe it down of all your digital data:

On a Windows 8 PC:

• Open your PC's options menu and click "Settings"
• Click "Change PC Settings" and then "General"
• Click "Remove Everything and Reinstall Windows"
• Pop in your Windows 8 installation disc when prompted and the computer will handle the rest

On Windows 7 or earlier:

• Place your Windows operating system disc in your computer and restart it
• Select the "Boot from disc" option when prompted
• Select a "Custom" installation
• Select your computer's main partition (typically C:) and select format
• The computer will then format the disk and reinstall a clean versions of Windows

Note: Different versions of Windows behave slightly differently, but Microsoft's support site is a good place to look for specific details on the various flavors of Windows.

On a Mac:

• Restart your Mac and hold the "Command" and "R" keys while the computer boots up
• Select "Disk Utility" from the menu that appears
• Select your main start-up disk from the list (it will almost always be the largest one) and then click "Erase"
• Select "Mac OS Extended" from the Format menu and click "Erase"
• When the computer is done formatting, select "Reinstall Mac OS X" to install a fresh version of OS X

If you lost your startup disc long ago, like I have, another option to securely erase a Mac or PC is by making a DBAN CD or flash drive. If you want a full wipe, type "autonuke" to erase all drives. Other good services include Active KillDisk for PC's and White Canyon Software's WipeDrive for Mac's. If these are too hard to figure out, you can always get help through a program like Best Buy's Geek Squad, who charge a pretty penny, but usually get the job done well.

That's it! If you have an older flip phone or other device that doesn't use one of these common platforms, you can almost always find the reset option within the settings menu. However, if you just can't find it, simply type your gadget's name into Google along with the words "reset" or "erase" and you're almost guaranteed to find a guide.

While squirreling away old gadgets might just be a distant cousin to real hoarding — not serious enough yet to have its own reality TV show — there's no reason to sit on a mountain of old devices.

If you have questions or concerns about a particular device, be sure to send us a note or use the comments below.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech contributor and host of USA TODAY's digital video show TECH NOW. E-mail her at techcomments@usatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JenniferJolly.

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ANCIENT EASTER RITE ‘Holy fire’ ceremony draws thousands in Jerusalem

Apr. 19, 2014: Christian pilgrims hold candles at the church of the Holy Sepulcher, traditionally believed to be the burial site of Jesus Christ, during the ceremony of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem's Old City.

The dark hall inside Christianity's holiest shrine was illuminated with the flames from thousands of candles on Saturday as worshippers participated in the holy fire ceremony, a momentous spiritual event in Orthodox Easter rites.

Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected at the site where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher now stands in the Old City of Jerusalem. While the source of the holy fire is a closely guarded secret, believers say the flame appears spontaneously from his tomb on the day before Easter to show Jesus has not forgotten his followers.

The ritual dates back at least 1,200 years.

Thousands of Christians waited outside the church for it to open Saturday morning. Custody of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is shared by a number of denominations that jealously guard their responsibilities under a fragile network of agreements hammered out over the last millennia. In accordance with tradition, the church's doors were unlocked by a member of a Muslim family, who for centuries has been the keeper of the ancient key that is passed on within the family from generation to generation.

Once inside, clergymen from the various Orthodox denominations in robes and hoods jostled for space with local worshippers and pilgrims from around the world.

Top Orthodox clergymen descended into the small chamber marking the site of Jesus' tomb as worshippers eagerly waited in the dim church clutching bundles of unlit candles and torches.

After a while, candles emerged lit with "holy fire" -- said to have been lit by a miracle as a message to the faithful from heaven.

Bells rang as worshippers rushed to use the flames to ignite their own candles.

In mere seconds, the bursts of light spread throughout the cavernous church as flames jumped from one candle to another. Clouds of smoke wafted through the crammed hall as flashes from cameras and mobile phones documented what is for many, the spiritual event of a lifetime.

Some held light from the "holy fire" to their faces to bask in the glow while others dripped wax on their bodies.Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said tens of thousands of worshippers participated in the ceremony.

Many couldn't fit inside the church and the narrow winding streets of the Old City were lined with pilgrims.

The "holy fire" was passed among worshippers outside the Church and then taken to the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, where tradition holds Jesus was born, and from there to other Christian communities in Israel and the West Bank.

Later it is taken aboard special flights to Athens and other cities, linking many of the 200 million Orthodox worldwide.

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How to use password managers for mobile – #AskJeffTech

Jefferson Graham answers readers questions-on using password manager apps on the go.

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LOS ANGELES — Last week we spoke about using password manager apps to keep track of the ever-growing list of passwords and user names for favorite websites.

Free tools like Dashlane, PasswordBox and LastPass work great when used on a computer. But we heard from readers with follow-up questions about using them elsewhere.

Gary, for instance, on Facebook, comments: "Much harder on mobile than desktop."

Considerably. For instance:

— Will Dashlane open the lock screen on my iPhone? (No.)

— Does PasswordBox throw the iTunes password in there for me when I pick up new apps? (Wouldn't that be nice?)

— Can any of the password managers key in my password for websites I visit via Safari, like Facebook or Dropbox? (Most won't, but PasswordBox will. On Android phones, it's not as cut and dried: You can do way more with password managers.)

So let's take a closer look, using, as examples, Dashlane and PasswordBox, two heavily downloaded apps.

Both apps have free versions. Dashlane charges $29.99 yearly for mobile access, while PasswordBox charges $12 yearly if you access more than 25 passwords.

The challenge for Dashlane is using it to create impossible-to-remember passwords, and then trying to open those sites on Safari, the Web browser for the iPhone and iPad.

Instead, think of Dashlane as a vault, a place to store those hard-to-remember combinations of letters, numbers and symbols that were created within the manager.

Open the app on the iPhone or iPad, and from there you can copy the password by clicking a tab, and then pasting into a website for sign-in.

Or, if you prefer signing in without copying and pasting, you can use the built-in browser — both Dashlane and PasswordBox have them — to bypass Safari. This is the workaround to open up sites and have sign-in credentials entered automatically.

It's also a workaround for e-commerce. One of the benefits of Dashlane (a feature you can't currently do with PasswordBox) is storing your credit card info — including the card number, expiration date and CVC code, along with address book info. When you want to buy, you just click one button for the transaction.

But you won't be able to do this in Safari. You'll need to use Dashlane's browser on sites like Amazon, eBay and the like.

On Android, it's a different story.

You still can't use the manager to unlock the lock screen — although PasswordBox says it's working on a solution with Samsung for the new Galaxy S5 to make this happen.

On most Android phones, like on PCs, the managers interact directly with Google's Chrome browser, making the add-on browser tool or vault status unnecessary.

So, if you have an Android phone, you're going to find the password manager experience to almost mirror that of the computer. And if you prefer the iPhone or iPad, either learn to use few passwords to make use of PasswordBox's iPhone 25 password limit for mobile log-on, pay the subscription, or stick with and pay for Dashlane's mobile access, and get used to copying and pasting those passwords within the built-in app browser.

Folks, keep the questions coming in. Look for me on Facebook, or on Twitter, where I'm @JeffersonGraham, and use the hastag #AskJeffTech so we can find you.

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Top tablets for kids: Your essential guide

Jennifer Jolly, Special for USA TODAY 1:07 a.m. EDT April 19, 2014

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It's official: You're buying a tablet for the kids. Since you've done all your homework with parts one and two of this Kids and Tablets series, you know what's in store for you when you turn your young ones loose on these high-tech toys. But before you run out and plunk down hundreds of dollars, take a look at some of the options to figure out the best fit for your family. Here are some of today's top choices based on age, price and overall wow factor.

TABLETS WITH TRAINING WHEELS

Kid-specific tablets, like those from ClickN Kids, Kurio, VTech, Fuhu, or LeapFrogare like tablets with training wheels. As we mentioned in part two of this series, these can be a great way for youngsters to cut their cyber-teeth. They're often targeted to kids 3 to 9, and come loaded with varying degrees of age-specific games, educational apps, parental controls, content filters and even timers to help with that whole "too much screen time" issue. Here are a few kid-centric options to consider:

PART ONE: Kids can't resist the tablet temptation

CLICKN KIDS, $100

Pro: Inexpensive, long battery life, great suite of parental controls, great phonics program
Con: Dark screen, hard to find the on/off switch

This is a low-priced, entry-level Android tablet that the whole family can use. It comes preloaded with more than 30 apps, including a learn-to-read specific Looney Tunes Phonics series (which normally costs an additional $30). There's a slight learning curve (it's hard to find the "on" switch — though the company is revamping its design and bumper cover to make this easier). But one of the features I like the most is the home screen with two giant buttons: one labeled "Grown Ups," the other labeled "Kids."

PART TWO: Rules of the road for kids and tablets

It also has a bevy of parental controls, including app approval, Internet management, time-limit controls and activity monitoring. But these aren't always easy to find and use, and it will require some time and patience to really take advantage of these features. Put it next to one of the more expensive kids' tablets and it looks a little bleak in contrast, especially since it has the darkest screen of all of the models we reviewed. Will kids notice this? Probably not, as long as you don't give them a side-by-side comparison.

LEAPPAD ULTRA, $149

Pro: Awesome educational tablet for young kids
Con: Apps can get expensive, not a good tablet for older kids or adults

This is a great first tablet for a young child, especially in the 4- to 9-year-old range. The LeapFrog LeapPad Ultra has an education focus and is covered with plastic bumpers, a large 7-inch touch screen, full Wi-Fi capabilities and a rechargeable battery. These were fan favorites with the youngest of our reviewers, who especially like the front- and rear-facing cameras, MP3 player, and fact that this just looks like a fun toy. While it's tough enough to hold up well through various spills, drops and other kid-life wear and tear, this is not a tablet your tween will want to be seen with, nor one you'll use after the kids go to bed.

SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB 3 7.0" Kids Edition, $199

Pro: Great battery life, beautiful high-end tablet that can grow with kids
Con: Expensive, fewer parental controls

Like the ClickN Kids, this tablet also swaps between adults and children with ease. Overall, it is one of the best and easiest to use kid-specific devices around. Within Kids Mode, youngsters can play preloaded games, and you can always add more from the Kids Store and the Google Play Store. Parents have the option to approve which apps children can play with and also set time limits on how long kids can play on the device.

The tablet comes with a bumper or a protective case, which also doubles as a stand. With a beautiful, bright and crisp screen, and a solid nine hours of battery life, this tablet can outlast most kids on a single charge. On the downside, it's all or nothing with letting your child surf the Web on this device. It's easy to limit a child's access to apps and set time limits for playing with the device, but when it comes to overall Internet security, there's no middle ground — you have to turn the built-in browser "on" or "off," so you can't really customize which websites or categories kids can visit.

KIDS TABLET TRENDS TO WATCH

FUHU DREAMTAB, $269

Fuhu's a prolific kids tablet maker, and the company is about to launch a new tablet that makes a deeper connection between super-popular kids movies and the exploding tablet market. The Android-based Fuhu DreamTab comes out in early June, loaded with DreamWorks Animations interactive videos and games based on the Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar franchises, as well as others. While Fuhu has been criticized in the past for not putting enough emphasis on educational content, the new tab stands up well to the competition, coaching kids on how to draw and animate their favorite characters, create books and edit videos. Even the parental controls get the cartoon treatment. A short video of a DreamWorks character tells kids when it's time to take a break from the screen or shut down for the day. Parental controls have also gotten the star-treatment, including first-of-its-kind Child's Online Privacy Protection (COPPA) compliant email, a kid-friendly social network and texting.

KURIO EXTREME, 4G LTE (exclusively on the Verizon Wireless network), $229

Launching this fall, this 7-inch Android tablet is designed just for kids, yet loosens the leash with the first 4G connectivity through Verizon. This means that kids can have the same connectivity as adults, using tablets to play, watch and surf the Web on the go. Back in January, when this was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show, company officials told me this connectivity is important, with one official noting that "kids want to use tablets the same way as their parents, and that means having access to all kinds of content wherever they are, and whenever they want." Hmm.

It seems to me that with this new connectivity comes new concerns with child privacy, and additional cellular expense, though the company says the tablet will be easy to add to existing family plans, and per-app parental controls prevent kids from visiting salacious websites or streaming music after bedtime.

TABLETS TO GROW WITH

Depending on the age of your kids, your budget and whether you want to use the tablet too, a better value might be a full-featured "grown-up" tablet that kids can learn from and also grow into. Many of these now come with features geared toward kids — like Amazon's Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, or Netflix's kid-specific interface — and just might be all you need to turn a family tablet into a more child-friendly device.

If you're hesitant to buy a device kids will outgrow relatively soon, you might be tempted to plunk down $50 or so for a Target or Walmart special, but remember, ultra-low prices usually mean ultra-low quality. Your child could crumble under the frustration of buggy software and cheap construction that can't take what kids dish out, and you'll likely find yourself shelling out more cash for a proper tablet later on anyway.

If you do decide on a full-fledged tablet, the biggest decision you'll make is deciding between an Android device or an iPad. There are high-quality options on both sides, and you'll get a wealth of parental controls either way, so it can come down to a matter of taste. But if you're ready to help your novice tablet user dive into a real tablet, these are your best bets:

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7" (Wi-Fi), $244

Amazon's hugely popular tablet runs a slightly modified version of Android, but still plays all the hit games, and the Kindle store has a ton of kids programming and educational content. The Kindle Fire HDX stereo speakers and sharp LCD screen are great for videos. Kindle FreeTime is a solid parental control mode that lets you set separate time limits for different kinds of content; similarly, the new Mayday remote video support means you can get help whenever the child messes up the settings. Amazon's media store reigns supreme with the best selection of books, movies, TV shows and music, and its simplified interface is also easier for kids to use than standard Android.

Google Nexus 7" (16GB), $229

Google's premiere gadget, the Nexus 7", is an intuitive device that kids will be able to navigate without issue. But don't kid yourself: This is a very "adult" device, and you may need to set limits for Web browsing, mature games and other content. We show you how to do just that in part four of this Kids and Tablets series.

Apple iPad mini, (16GB, Wi-Fi), $299

If you want to go all out, get them a pint-sized but powerful device worth growing into. The iPad mini is just as capable as its bigger brother, but its shrunken form factor is a big hit with young hands. The biggest issue with giving such a grand tablet to a child is the fear of losing or breaking it. You'll have to invest in a great case, and be sure that Find My iPad is turned on!

HAND-ME-DOWN DEVICES

Of course you don't have to bestow a brand new, top-of-the-line tablet on your kids. Consider handing down your own tablet and scoring a personal upgrade in the process, or picking up a last-generation or refurbished model for a fraction of cutting-edge prices.

Regardless of which one of these is the best fit for your family, it's important to make sure risky apps and websites are nowhere to be found. Keep an eye out for the next episode of Tech Now, where we'll show you everything you need to do to keep your kids' tablet on the right side of the tracks.

Don't see the model you're wondering about in this list? We've reported extensively on all brands, shapes, sizes and models, so be sure to do a quick search for the brand you're looking for, and read more here in our tech section at USAToday.com. As always, be sure to share your comments with us below.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech contributor and host of USA TODAY's digital video show TECH NOW. E-mail her at techcomments@usatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JenniferJolly.

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Photo: Facebook announces redesign for Android smartphone app – @YahooTech

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Pro-Russian militants continue occupation of goverment buildings in eastern Ukraine

DONETSK, Ukraine — Pro-Russian activists continued their defiant occupation of government buildings across eastern Ukraine on Friday, though some of their leaders said they would surrender weapons and pull back if the Ukrainian security forces also withdrew.

The pro-Russian militants occupying the Donetsk government offices said they supported an accord signed Thursday in Geneva that seeks to calm the potential for violence in the restive region. But they said they would lay down their weapons and leave only if the new national government in Kiev steps down.

“It is an illegal junta,” said Anatoliy Onischenko, of the leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the organization that has occupied the regional parliament building. A separate group is occupying the Donetsk City Hall.

Other pro-Russian activists also said they would not leave the occupied buildings as long as pro-government protesters still were massed in Kiev’s Independence Square.

The pro-Russian activists did not appear to be preparing to decamp, and so the standoff looked likely to continue.

In the parliament in Kiev, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Friday that the new government was watching to see what the pro-Russian activists would do on the heels of the Geneva agreement. The accord, reached by top diplomats from the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union, is intended to defuse the Ukrainian crisis and includes provisions aimed at stopping violence and provocative acts. The deal also calls for all illegal groups to be disarmed.

The prime minister said parliament was ready to pass a bill that would grant amnesty to protesters who vacate occupied buildings and put down their weapons, but he said he did not have “unreasonable” expectations that the stalemate would quickly end.

“Russia had no other choice but to sign the statement and condemn extremism,” he said. “Having signed this statement, Russia effectively asked these “peaceful protesters” with Kalashnikov assault rifles and air defense missile systems to immediately disarm and surrender their weapons.”

On Thursday, Ukrainian forces engaged pro-Russian separatists in what appeared to be the most intense battle yet in restive eastern Ukraine, killing three militants and wounding 13 after what the Interior Ministry described as a siege of a military base.

“A mob of 300 militants, wielding guns, molotov cocktails and homemade explosives, attacked the Ukrainian military outpost in the city overnight,” Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a statement. The attack, he said, was repelled by National Guard and police in Mariupol, a southeastern city on the Sea of Azov.

After a “short battle,” Ukrainian commandos and counterintelligence units fanned out into the city by ground and helicopter in an operation to round up militants, Avakov said. He said 63 separatists have been detained in the operation, which he described as ongoing. Avakov reported no causalities among Ukrainian forces.

“Weapons, communication equipment and mobile phones were confiscated,” he said. “The identities of the detained persons are being established.”

Speaking at the parliament Thursday morning in the capital, Kiev, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said the pro-Russian gang attempted to storm the base three times and carried automatic weapons, according to an Associated Press report.

Avakov said Ukrainian forces opened fire only after being attacked and firing warning shots in the air. “Following further warnings, they executed ‘shoot to kill’ instructions in compliance with their charter, after they were attacked once again,” Avakov said.

A dark YouTube video purportedly documenting the clash captured the sound of gunfire and militants hurling molotov cocktails into the outpost. Separatists yelled, “Go home, Bandera,” a reference to Stepan Bandera, a controversial World War II-era Ukrainian nationalist who collaborated with the Nazis and is seen as a symbol of the divisions between eastern and western Ukraine.

In Mariupol, a grisly tableau of bloodstains lined the scene beyond the ruined gates of the military base Thursday. A wrecked jeep — its windows and tires broken and its frame dented and partially crushed — rested in front of two military trucks being used as impromptu barricades. Remains of molotov cocktails were scattered inside the entrance to the base, where nervous young soldiers tried unsuccessfully to keep onlookers from gazing at the wreckage.

In the afternoon, the city remained calm, but tensions were high at the scene of the clash, where clusters of pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian residents were engaging in heated arguments over the future of the country. Pro-Ukrainians accused some present of being on the payroll of local Russian operatives. One pro-Russian man, who gave his name only as Konstantin, was accompanied by a man carrying video cameras, who described himself as a journalist supporting the militants who have taken over official buildings in the eastern region of Donetsk.

Waving his finger, Konstantin, who said he had formerly served in the Soviet military, accused residents who support the Kiev government of being American lapdogs. “Don’t listen to them; they are trying to turn brother against brother,” he said, referring to Russians and Ukrainians.

“Why did they open fire? These were peaceful protests!” Konstantin continued. Moments later, however, he conceded that the pro-Russians who had gathered here last night had hurled molotov cocktails at the Ukrainian troops.

The base sits only a short distance away from the Mariupol City Hall, which was seized by pro-Russian militants last week and remained under their control Thursday. Eyewitnesses and military officials said the clash began at 7:50 p.m., when hundreds of pro-Russian activists — some in green camouflage and wearing balaclava masks — marched to the gates and demanded that the military surrender weapons that had been moved to the base for safekeeping from police stations around this port city.

Witnesses said the protest seemed to start peacefully, but by 8:30 p.m. local time, the crowd grew belligerent, throwing makeshift explosives over the gates and firing bullets. A 75-year-old who lives next door to the outpost and gave her name only as Klavdia said she heard a Ukrainian military official ask the crowd to disperse.

She said the soldier called out: “Please put down the weapons and molotovs. We don’t want blood.’’

But his warning was ignored, she said, and troops fired in the air. Enraged protesters soon stormed the gates, leading to exchanges of gunfire that left the bodies of dead and wounded strewn on the asphalt outside.

The Ukrainian military set up check points around Mariupol on Thursday, and newly arrived special forces were apparently seeking to identify the camps being used by pro-Russian militants. But there was no immediate sign of an attempt to raid the occupied City Hall, where anti-Kiev militants could be seen patrolling the grounds.

Ukraine is struggling to restore order in the eastern part of the country, where it says Russian special operatives are aiding local separatists in organized and well-armed occupations of official buildings in cities including Mariupol, a municipality of almost half a million people.

Ukrainian forces have seemed to be treading carefully, out of fear both of wounding civilians and of giving Russia a pretext to openly join the fight.

On Wednesday, a squad of separatists backed by seven masked gunmen in camouflage stormed the headquarters of Donetsk’s mayor and local council. By afternoon, more than 40 pro-Russian militants had occupied the building but were allowing officials to go about their business inside.

City workers shuffled to and from meetings under the watchful gaze of militants — many of them clutching automatic weapons — who loitered in the corridors. A few police officers strolled outside without attempting to intervene, evidence of the government’s tenuous grip on the region.

The militants said they are not connected with a similar group that occupied the regional headquarters in this city 10 days ago, but they issued at least one similar demand. They called for a referendum on May 11 with two questions: whether the populace agreed with the creation of a new Donetsk People’s Republic and, if so, whether it should be part of Ukraine or Russia.

“Why should we consider Russia a hostile state?” asked Alexander Zakharchenko, a commander of the militants at City Hall. “They are the closest people to us in the world.” He commands the Donetsk branch of a group called Oplot, a pro-Russia movement that started as a fight club of young men in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, to the north.

In this region of coal mines and machinery plants, where according to a local saying, “people work, not protest,” residents often tend to vote with their stomachs.

And there is no doubt that bread-and-butter issues are influencing the debate here. There are mixed feelings in the east, for instance, over the new government’s move to sign a trade deal with European Union that could lead Russia to slap higher duties on Ukrainian imports.

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