Tag Archives: smartphone

How much “Stuff” is in Your Phone??

Ever wonder what kind of stuff is in your phone?

An Amazing Variety! Out of the 90 or so (depending on how you define them) naturally occurring chemical elements, at least 29 of them go into the making of a smartphone, including some you’ve probably never heard of.

  1. Lithium. You’ve probably heard of this one, it’s what a lot of rechargeable batteries are made from. A metal that is highly reactive (drop it in water and it dissolves, liberating heat and hydrogen), which is why lithium batteries cannot be shipped by air.
  2. Carbon. The stuff of life. Also, in the form of graphite, part of the battery.
  3. Oxygen. Glass is silicon dioxide.
  4. Magnesium. A very light metal. If your phone has a metal case, it’s probably a magnesium alloy.
  5. Aluminum. Could be part of the case. Also the glass is an aluminum oxide – silicate.
  6. Silicon. Major component of the actual chips, also major component in glass.
  7. Phosphorus. Minor component of the chips.
  8. Potassium. Strengthens the glass.
  9. Cobalt. Part of the battery.
  10. Nickel. Used in the microphone.
  11. Copper. Wires and the circuit board.
  12. Gallium. An important metal in semiconductors, especially LEDs.
  13. Arsenic. Used in LEDs and other semiconductors.
  14. bromine. Used to make plastics fire-resistant.
  15. Yttrium. Heard of this one? This element and others like it are used in the screen for their glowing colors.
  16. Silver. Used for some wiring.
  17. Indium. Along with tin, used in the touch screen. Indium tin oxide is transparent yet conducts electricity like a metal.
  18. Tin. Used in the solder holding the circuitry together..
  19. Antimony. Used in the chips.
  20. Lanthanum. Used in the color screen.
  21. Praseodymium. Another you’ve probably never heard of. Used in the screen.
  22. Neodymium. Maybe you’ve heard of this one – used in magnets. The vibrator is a tiny motor using neodymium magnets.
  23. Europium. Yes, it’s named after Europe. Used in the screen.
  24. Gadolinium. Used in the screen.
  25. Terbium. Used in the screen.
  26. Dysprosium. (Means, “Hard to get.”) Used in the screen.
  27. Tantalum. Makes some of the finest capacitors. Supply may be at risk; comes mostly from “conflict” countries.
  28. Gold. Used for connectors since it never corrodes.
  29. Lead. Used in solder.

Wow! God’s “building blocks” used in ways not even dreamed of a few years ago.


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This has gotten out of hand!

Did you know that last year, selfies killed more people than shark attacks?

The narcissistic practice of taking “selfies” is bad enough, but now we see the rise of using “selfie sticks” to get the camera farther away from the self-absorbed subject. Don’t these people have any friends? I mean real friends, not the kind on Facebook. Apparently not. Many places have started banning selfie sticks, because people using them are a hazard to themselves and others around them.

Friends don’t let friends use selfie sticks!

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Androids Among Us

What is an android? Well, originally it meant a manlike robot, then it was shortened to “Droid,” which promptly entered the vocabulary in 1977.

These aren't the droids you're looking for...

These aren’t the droids you’re looking for…

Fast-forward more than thirty years, when Google developed a mobile operating system for smartphones and tablets to compete with Apple’s iPhone, and called it Android.

The iPhone was the first so-called “Smartphone,” essentially a pocket-sized computer with internet access, email, PDA functions, and GPS, among other features. Android phones (and now tablets, too) are similar, but there are important differences.

By the way, please don’t call an Android phone a “Droid”; that is a trademark of Verizon Wireless applied to their Android phones.

One of the major differences between Android and Apple iPhone products – and one of the reasons I really like Android – is that Android is “open source.” This means that the actual programming code the operating system is built from is freely available for people to analyze, pick apart for flaws, change for their own purposes, and improve upon. Thus it is very well understood by many people who are not employees of the company. “Closed source,” on the other hand, is what Apple practices with their operating systems, and they certainly have a right to guard their intellectual property in that fashion. Problem is, if there’s a security flaw, say,  you may not know about it for months, until the company issues a fix. With open source, since lots of people who don’t have a vested interest are looking at the code, the fix may take just as long, but the flaw can often be exposed quicker.

Buy an Android phone, and save money you will!

Buy an Android phone, and save money you will!

Another benefit of open source is that anyone can modify it as needed for whatever strange and esoteric hardware they dream up. This gives you, the end user, an incredible array of choices. There are only a handful of different iPhones for sale at any given time, but there are hundreds of different android phones available. They can also be much less expensive than an iDevice.

A third reason I’m fond of Androids is I like to tinker and customize. I find that Android has lots more knobs and switches (figuratively speaking!) than the iPhone has. Now this may be a benefit for the new user, but after a while, you may find yourself wishing for more options.

I think that both Apple and Android devices are about equally easy to operate; if you haven’t made up your mind yet, I encourage you to try both, and wring them out over a period of an hour or more before making a decision.

For more information on Android:


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Use Your GPS, But Use Your Head

IRS-GPSGPS has got to be one of the coolest products of the Space Age. Declared fully operational less than 20 years ago, many people wonder how we ever got along without it.

GPS, originally developed for military use, was first made available to the civilian world by the Reagan Administration in 1983, following the downing of Korean Airlines flight 007 by the USSR. It was hoped that by making precision navigation available to non-military personnel, such tragedies could be reduced by cutting down the chance of accidentally straying into hostile territory. It uses a network of 24 satellites in overlapping orbits so that, at any given time and place, there should be at least 3 above the horizon. At least 3 satellites are required to give a surface position; at least 4 are required for position and altitude. The more satellites “visible,” the higher the accuracy.

You probably already know how useful modern mapping GPS receivers are for finding your way around a strange neighborhood, but GPS is used worldwide by aviators, sailors, hikers, and virtually anyone who needs to know where they are. There is even a game invented by GPS owners, called Geocaching, where someone hides a small container of trinkets, posts the coordinates, and others try to find the container using the coordinates. If you Geocache, you can truthfully say your hobby is “Using billion-dollar military satellite technology to find Tupperware hidden in the woods!”

The accuracy of consumer-grade GPS used to be only about 300 feet, deliberately degraded from the military precision level of 66 feet, until President Bill Clinton ordered the “Selective Availability” turned off as of May 1, 2000. Now, on a good day, consumer-grade accuracy within the U.S. can be as little as 10 feet, depending on how many satellites are above the horizon. A sailor once told me a story about his first GPS navigation adventure, when he didn’t have a device with built-in maps. He read the coordinates from his GPS on the bridge, then went below to plot them on his chart. When he plotted his position, he said to himself, “I knew that GPS was junk! According to this, I’m on land!” Just as he was saying that, he ran aground!

This is a good place to dispel a myth about GPS: GPS satellites can not track your location. A GPS satellite is merely a beacon transmitter, like a 21st Century lighthouse, that your receiver can translate into a position. Now, a phone equipped with GPS and the proper software can track your position, with or without your knowledge. That’s because the phone itself does have a transmitter which has nothing to do with the satellites. There are also many devices on the market that can send positions either to a website or via text messaging. These are very useful for sailors and aviators in emergencies.

The tendency to rely too much on our Electronic Enslavement Devices can be very dangerous, maybe more so with GPS than most things. Stories have been told of folks getting stranded for days or driving off of bridges because they put too much faith in the electronic map. Remember, maps always have errors because they are made on Earth by human beings, and just because the map is in a seductive black box or phone, they are no less error-prone. Google maps used to have directions from Chicago to London that included “Swim across the Atlantic Ocean…”

GPS itself, while very reliable, is not perfect. There are many ways for a position to be reported erroneously, off by feet or even miles. Rarely, there may not be enough satellites visible at a given location for a fix (This condition usually only lasts a few minutes). GPS signals can be jammed, and do not penetrate earth or walls, so positions indoors or in tunnels, etc. should not be trusted. All of this is just to say, pay attention to your surroundings. You’re not “flying on instruments” here. If you’re going to be way off the beaten path, it’s a good idea to have a backup system in case you need to navigate the old fashioned way. This means, at the very least, a paper map and an ordinary magnetic compass. The life you save may be your own.


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Quick, Hit the Kill Switch!

Is This a Good Idea?

The bureaucrats in our country and others are now calling, in their usual shrill fashion, for smartphones and tablets to have a so-called “Kill Switch,” enabled by default, in all new smartphones and tablets. It looks like this will happen by 2015. The idea is that a phone or tablet could be remotely disabled in the event of theft or loss.

The rationale goes something like this: “A large percentage of violent crimes now involve smartphone theft. If the thief knew he couldn’t use or sell the phone because it had been “bricked” (rendered inoperable) by the owner or carrier, he wouldn’t steal the phone.”

Anybody here buy that??

Kill Switch

Given the fact that a lot of thieves are stupid scum, do you really think they would stop stealing phones like magic? Or that the (slightly) smarter ones among them would not find workarounds for the kill switch? Or just sell the parts?

Given the proliferation of recent hack attacks, does anybody think the Kill-Switch system would be immune to outside interference? I don’t.

Imagine waking up one morning to find out that not only was your phone inoperative, making your data inaccessible, but every phone on your carrier, or in your town, was suffering the same fate. Did you have a backup? Yes? Good for you. But what about all those other people that never thought of that? What about police and other authorities that depend on their phones? This could result in something far worse than mere theft.

The proponents of this Big-Brother system think that the carriers are against it because they would lose revenue from selling replacement phones and phone insurance. They won’t, for two reasons: First, people will still lose and break their own phones. Second, a stupid thief, when he finds out the phone is useless, will undoubtedly smash it or otherwise destroy it, and the owner will still need a new phone.

Kill switches can be a good idea, considering the amount of personal data that folks now keep on their phones. But such a thing should always be voluntary, reversible, and only under the control of the owner of the device. There should also be competition among the makers of such programs, so you’re not stuck with whatever the phone manufacturer decides you need, and won’t let you turn off! I want to be in command of my own affairs, and I will always resist this kind of Nanny-State BS.




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That dog don’t hunt and that phone don’t Float

Almost the worst thing that can happen to an electronic device is getting wet. This is a far worse issue than just dropping your phone and breaking the screen. Today we’ll discuss treatment and prevention of water damage.

Water and electricity don't mix.

Water and electricity don’t mix.

There are several problems with water. First, it conducts electricity. That’s why they make fiberglass ladders for working with power tools. That means if your device happens to be on at the time it gets wet, power can go places it shouldn’t, and that can cause permanent damage.

Second, water is corrosive. It’s not very corrosive, but when you’re dealing with the tiny circuitry in modern electronics, it’ll wreak havoc if not dried off quickly.

Third, water will go places where it’s hard to get it out again without extraordinary measures like complete disassembly.

The survival rate for dunked electronics is no better than 50/50 even if you follow the instructions below, but you do have a chance if you act fast. (If you drop it in salt water, you are most likely up the creek!)

What to do if your electronic gadget gets wet

  1. Don’t press any buttons or switches!
  2. Immediately, right now, remove all power from it. That means unplug it if it’s plugged into AC, take the battery out if possible, and don’t wait to shut down normally. Take the battery out now, whether it’s a laptop, phone, or other device. More damage can be done by leaving the power on long enough to do “Start, Shutdown…etc” than by just removing power now.
  3. If the spilled liquid is sugary, salt water, or sticky, you might try rinsing it off with distilled water, if you have any available.
  4. Dry off the exterior of the device. Turn it upside down and shake it to try to get water out of crevices.
  5. Remove all removable parts such as covers, memory cards, etc. and dry them off.
  6. Place the device in a sealed bag with a desiccant such as silica gel, a commercial “Wet electronics/phone emergency kit,” or, if you have none of these, wrap it in a piece of cloth or paper towel and put it in a sealed bag with a couple of pounds of ordinary (Uncooked) white rice. Leave it in there for at least a couple of days.
  7. There are also specialists that have phone drying equipment. Check to see if any are in your area.
  8. Using a hair dryer or blowing with canned air is not recommended. Hair dryers may get too hot, and blowing may push water further inside the device, where it can no longer get out.
  9. Just in case you’re thinking about putting it in the microwave, NOOOOOOO!

If, after all this, the device turns on and works, you may still have bought yourself only a temporary reprieve. You should back up all data as soon as possible, because it might stop working for good at any time.

If you still get no life out of the gadget, it’s usually possible to get some or all of your data back. A laptop hard drive can usually be easily removed and copied to another device. Memory cards are generally not damaged by a quick dunking, and may work fine after being dried off. Smartphones usually back up to a cloud service, although they don’t always back up everything. If necessary, there are plenty of data recovery specialists in the yellow pages, but they will be expensive. You have to decide how much your data is worth to you. It’s always a lot cheaper to back up ahead of any disaster.

How to minimize the risk

  • Phones, cameras, music players: Always be aware of where your phone is.
  • There are waterproof phone cases available. If you’re going to the lake, make sure you get one that floats! Resist the temptation to test your waterproof case with the phone inside. Some are only rated for very shallow water, like puddles.
  • Don’t jump in the pool until you’ve checked your pockets (Unless someone is drowning!)
  • Check pockets carefully before doing the laundry.
  • Be especially careful when using the restroom. You wouldn’t believe how many people drop their phone in the toilet!
  • Be careful where you put your phone down. A small puddle of condensation from a cold glass can do as much damage as a dunking.
  • Laptops: Put your drink on the other side of the table, or on another table entirely, so if it does spill, it won’t spill on the laptop.

It never hurts to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, and have a plan for how to deal with it.