IRS Hell for BitCoin Users

Summary

2018 is the first year U.S. citizens have to file taxes on their cryptocurrency activities for 2017.  The limited “rules” the IRS has published do not cover the majority of types of activities and the information needed to accurately file taxes is simply not available to non programmers and is excruciatingly difficult to acquire, even for programmers.

Tax “Guidance”

In 2014, the IRS published a somewhat vague guidance on how to report cryptocurrency taxes.  It essentially boils down to:

  1. How much did you buy? 
  2. How much did you sell?
  3. What’s the difference?
  4. Send in 30% of your profits.
  5. Determine fair market value on the day of your transactions.

Here’s the actual 2014 IRS tax guidance document.

Reality

Unfortunately, reality is much more complicated than that.  Here are the real-world things that we have no clear rules on:

  1. What if I bought some prior to 2017?
  2. When I sell some, which of the MANY prior purchasing transactions do I apply the price to?  The price is different for every transaction.
  3. What about mining?
  4. What about mining hardware prices?
  5. What about price of electricity?
  6. I bought & sold on more than one exchange.
  7. I moved crypto between exchanges.
  8. I converted crypto from one to another.
  9. Prices at the moment of each transaction are not available when converting between currencies.
  10. Which price would we use, even if we had it?  There’s no universal price on any crypto.  Each exchange has its own, moving price that changes by the second.
  11. What about when a cryptocurrency forks, like BitCoin to BitCoinCASH and BitCoinGold?
  12. They say to use the fair market value of the day to determine prices on transactions, but that’s of no use since the price can swing thousands of dollars within a day.

My Experience

Since 2014, I’ve bought and sold crypto hundreds of times.  On some days, I’ve made dozens of trades in a single day.  In addition to that, I have accounts on 4 exchanges and also mine Ethereum.  I also traded between cryptos like converting BitCoin to LiteCoin and LiteCoin to Ethereum & Ripple & IOTA, etc., and moved crypto between exchanges like CoinBase, Kraken, Bitfinex, & Bittrex, and to and from my personal wallets,  and gained some crypto during forks, and lost some due to CoinBase not giving me my Ethereum Classic.

Over the past week, I’ve spent about 6-10 hours or so JUST on trying to gather what I understood would be needed for my tax accountant for cryptocurrency (not counting my usual taxes).  From the list above, you’ll get a rough idea of what I was going through to try to collect the information.

It’s 2018-03-31 and I finally finished my taxes.  Here’s how the day went:

I was woken up around 9:45 am this morning (I like to sleep late on Saturdays) by my tax accountant.  We spent a SOLID FIVE HOURS on the phone, trying to resolve everything (95% of that was related to cryptocurrencies).  This is their first year dealing with this.  I had to explain a lot about crypto and even the IRS’s rules.  She, apparently, had the same, uninformative PDF document from 2014 from the IRS too and just assumed it’d be as simple as they explain.  Reality is hugely different.

She wanted me to make it simple for her.  I wanted her to make it simple for ME.  That’s kind of why I’m paying her, right?  I spent hours gathering everything she could possibly need (minus the information that was just not feasible to get, but that we actually DO need).

It was simply not enough information, not just the lack of data that I didn’t have access to, but the lack of rules from the IRS.

Conclusion

The amount of effort trying to figure out just HOW to report my cryptocurrency transactions to the IRS was a nightmare and equals about the same amount of effort I spent throughout the year transacting and buying, learning, and setting up my Ethereum mining.  And it was significantly more frustrating than the actual crypto activities.

The IRS needs to get their act together, learn what it is we actually do, and come up with REALISTIC rules that we can actually perform.

After all the time and effort I spent preparing my taxes for my accounted, PLUS the amount of time we spent on the phone afterwords was insane and we STILL didn’t get everything.  We probably got about 85% of what was needed and I guarantee that what we reported was not right, but that was the best we could do.  I had tens of thousands of dollars in transactions.  With the limited information we had, she simply ended up using what I sent to her from the website CoinTracking.com, which is ONLY good for a SINGLE exchange.  So, I reported a $200 profit and paid taxes on that.  At least that is small, to keep my taxes down AND shows a “profit”, which should keep the IRS off my back, since I’m actually paying them something.  I was told that if I reported a loss, it would likely trigger an audit.

What?  Were you hoping to come here for a resolution to YOUR tax problems?  Sorry.  All I can offer is comfort that you’re not alone.  The IRS needs to get their act together and YOU need to click this link to contact your U.S. representative and explain to them the nightmare they’ve created for us.  Click the following link:

Find Your Representative

 

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Encrypting Degoo Cloud Drive With Cryptomator

In this article in my series of “Encrypt All The Things!”, I’ll show you the specifics of encrypting a cloud drive using the Degoo.com cloud drive service. For a generic overview, that’s not Degoo specific, see:

If you use cloud drive services, of any kind, it’s critical that you do so ONLY with data that YOU have encrypted on YOUR END and that YOU are in control of the keys. Any service that handles the keys for you is NOT SECURE! The ONLY way your own data is secure is if YOU are in control of the keys. Some cloud drive services offer encryption at an extra price, which is crazy because you can do it FOR FREE with the added benefit of YOU being in control, NOT THEM!

The best way to ensure that you’re in control is for you to do the encryption yourself with software NOT provided by your cloud drive service.

In this article, I’ll show exactly how to do this with a commercial cloud drive service called Degoo.com and a free and open source encryption application called Cryptomator.

Create a Degoo account and install the software

First, you’ll need to sign up for the Degoo.com cloud drive service here.

100 GB Free Backup

Be sure to download and install the software. Don’t set up the download or sync folders yet. We need to get the encryption app installed first. BTW, Degoo has both free and paid options.

Install the Encryption App

Go to Cryptomator.org and download and install the software (It’s free and open source!). Once installed, you’ll need to setup one or more “vaults”, which are simply nothing more than a folder on your hard drive where encrypted files will be stored.

Set up a Cryptomator vault

First, you need to understand how Cryptomator works. DO NOT SKIP THIS!

The first time you run it, you will not have any vaults (encrypted folders). First, create a new folder on your drive in whatever way suits you best. This is where you’re going to have encrypted versions of your sync files stored.

  1. Click the “+” sign in the lower left and choose “Create New Vault” to create a vault.
  2. Navigate to the folder you want to store your encrypted files (the folder should be blank, right now) and give it a name, here I Cryptomator.
  3. Then create a password for it. DO NOT FORGET THE PASSWORD OR YOUR DATA WILL BE LOST FOREVER!!!!!
    1. I Highly recommend saving it in a password manager like LastPass.com. I also recommend using that password manager’s password generator to generate a long, random password for you.
  4. Create the Vault by clicking the “Create Vault” button. This stores a couple of small files in there that cryptomator needs.
    You’ll be prompted for the password again. This is not part of the vault creation process. You’re done. Now you’re ready to use it like you will everyday. Now you unlock the vault by entering your password.
  5. Click the “more options” button to see what you have available. Those options are pretty self-explanatory. I’ll skip those and let you choose how you want to configure it.

Your vault is now unlocked and is opened in a Windows Explorer window, usually as drive letter Z:.

The real folder on the real drive is here (below) (depending on where YOU chose to create it… this one is mine):

Now, I can store files in my Z: drive (as long as my vault is unlocked) and I can use any apps I want to read and write to the Z: drive. Everything works normally. Apps that read and write there have NO IDEA that they’re reading and writing to an encrypted folder.

You’ll notice that in Documents\deleteme\test (again, that’s where I created mine; yours will be where ever you put yours), you’ll see a “d” folder and 2 masterkey files. Those masterkey files have an ENCRYPTED version of your key. No one can decrypt it without knowing YOUR password that you just created.  This masterkey file WILL BE ON THE REMOTE SERVER, so this is why you need a STRONG password, preferably random characters generated by a password manager.

As you save more files into your Z: drive, you’ll see more files show up somewhere under Documents\deleteme\test (again, MY folder is here, YOURS is where ever you put yours). The files that show up here have unreadable filenames and if you try to open them, they will have what appears to be garbage in them. These are the files you stored in your Z: drive, but these are encrypted.

Think of your Cryptomator unlocked vault Z: drive as a decrypted, magic window into your physical, encrypted files stored in their encrypted state in your Documents\deleteme\test (again, MY folder name I chose, YOURS will be different).

One caveate: Files in your Z-Drive CANNOT be larger than 2GB! That’s a limitation with the current version of Cryptomator.

I created a text file in my new Z: drive. As you can see below, Cryptomator created a file in the Documents\deleteme\test\d\WQ folder with a funky name. That’s what’s REALLY stored on my REAL hard drive. If I try to open the funky named file, it looks like garbage bytes. Both of those windows are showing the SAME data, it’s just that the REAL data is encrypted (top window). The bottom window is a VIRTUAL drive with an decrypted view of the data. ALWAYS remember this! You will NOT back up your Z drive! EVER! You’ll back up and/or sync your Documents\deleteme\test folder. More on that later.

Now, how to sync your encrypted files with Degoo.com

Now that you have a folder that contains your encrypted files and an easy way to use the the encrypted files (your cryptomator Z-drive), you need to sync the encrypted files to your Degoo.com account. DO NOT SYNC OR BACK UP YOUR Z: DRIVE!!!!!!

  • If you haven’t already, download and install the software on Degoo.com and create an account.
  • When you open it, click on the “Choose what to backup” tab. The actual folders on disk that are being backed up are each in their own cryptomator vault folder with encrypted files.
  • Click the “Add folder to backup…” button and navigate to your Cryptomator vault folder… the one with the unreadable encrypted files NOT YOUR Z-DRIVE!!!! and click “Add folder to backup”
  • Your folder will be added to your list of folders to be backed up.

Now, you’re all set. Anything you put into your Z-Drive is automatically encrypted at the time it’s written and since the real folder with the encrypted files is the one that’s backed up, you automatically get your data backed up in addition to automatically encrypted. Now, no matter how malicious anyone at Degoo may be (I have to reason to believe the are (or aren’t)), your privacy is safe. They cannot see anything other than what you see when looking at the encrypted version of your folder. Unless they have your password to your vault (which, of course, should be DIFFERENT from your Degoo password), they’ll never be able to see the contents.

But that was hard!

No it wasn’t! And, the small amount of work you did above is only done when creating a new vault and installing everything for the first time. Once it’s done, here’s all you need to do moving forward:

  • Turn on your PC and log into Windows (or Mac or Linux)
  • Start Cryptomator and unlock your vault.

That’s it! You can even shorten that to not have to start cryptomator setting up your vault to save your password and auto-unlock on start.

You can also add more cryptomator vaults at any time.

Quick review:

In this tutorial you did the following simple steps:

  • Signed up with and installed Degoo.
  • Downloaded and installed Cryptomator.
  • Created a vault with Cryptomator.
  • Told Degoo to sync the encrypted version of your cryptomator vault.

That’s really all you did. And now, you’re protected both with encryption and with an automatic, encrypted backup.

What’s Next?

Just continue to use your computer with your Z-Drive as your unencrypted version of your data. You can even lock your vault and Degoo will continue to back up your data. Degoo doesn’t need you to have it unlocked because it’s NOT backing up the unencrypted files. It’s only backing up the encrypted bits.  Degoo isn’t even aware of the Cryptomator software.  From Degoo’s software’s point of view, all that matters is that folder with the encrypted files in it.

Conversely, the Cryptomator software is unaware of Degoo.  All Cryptomator knows is that you have a folder with encrypted files and it provides the means to unlock and use them.

You can create more vaults with Cryptomator, if you like and add them to Degoo as well.

You can create vaults inside your Google Drive sync folder, your Microsoft One-Drive sync folder, your DropBox sync folder, etc, etc… As many or as few as you want.  Cryptomator works by encrypting any folder and providing an unencrypted view of it.  Cloud drives work by backing up and/or syncing a folder.  Put the two of them together and you’ve got a robust and secure backup strategy.

I do strongly recommend you make a cryptomator vault in EVERY cloud drive sync folder and move all your non-encrypted files INTO your virtual drive letter created for that vault.

WARNINGS!

You MUST obey the following rules!!!

  • Don’t write files directly into your real folder that contains the encrypted files. If you do that, it will be backed up AS-IS… WITHOUT ENCRYPTION!
  • Do NOT backup your Z: drive (or whatever drive letter cryptomator makes for you). That is DECRYTPED and if you back THAT up, you’ve wasted all your time and effort and are NOT storing an encrypted version of your files. Your Z: drive should ONLY be used for your normal work. DO NOT BACK IT UP!!!!

You are, of course, free to break these rules, but your secure backup is not going to be encrypted if you do break them.

Is BitCoin Legitimate?

(Image credit coindesk.com)

It’s time to correct some misunderstandings about BitCoin.

I was interested in BitCoin and read about it, but one can only learn so much without actual experience, so I dove in and bought some BitCoin, did some mining, gave some BitCoin to my kids, and bought and sold BitCoin over the last year.

What I learned

  1. It’s absolutely, positively not a pyramid scheme. I know pyramid schemes. Pyramid schemes were a friend of mine, and you, BitCoin, are no pyramid scheme.
  2. BitCoin is not centrally located, is user supported, and cannot be shutdown by this or any other government, similar to Tor or bittorrent.
  3. It’s draw is that it is NOT controlled by a central authority like a government or Google.
  4. Everything costs money. Transactions have to be processed and that costs money, but BitCoin transactions are crazy cheap.
  5. 100% of every BitCoin transaction that’s ever taken place has been tracked and is a permanent part of the BitCoin block chain.
  6. Just as cash is not taxed, neither is BitCoin. But BitCoin purchases are no different than cash purchases. They are taxed unless the buyer and the seller agree to not report the transaction. But, the buyer usually has a tax incentive to report the purchase for income tax reasons. Same as cash.
  7. BitCoin is not a tax free paradise.
  8. BitCoin is not an illegal transaction paradise. Cash has no circulation ledger history. BitCoin has a complete and total transaction ledger and history.
  9. Illegal transactions happen in all markets, in all countries, in all currencies, including BitCoin, but only BitCoin has a complete and total history of every single transaction.

Responding to claims that it’s a pyramid scheme, anonymous, you don’t know who promotes it  nor how much BitCoin they have, and that BitCoin has no value, and that only scammers, drug dealers, and hackers use it…

A pyramid scheme works with or without anonymity. As such, anonymity is not a requirement for a pyramid scheme.
A pyramid scheme is when a smaller number of people at the top of the  scheme make money only as larger numbers of newer recruits pay in. Drawing this relationship and hierarchy on paper looks like a triangle, hence the term “pyramid”.  And since the only way people get paid in a pyramid scheme is by larger numbers of recruits, mathematically, that scheme is doomed to failure because after only a couple dozen recruit layers pass, the new numbers needed to keep it going become larger than the human population. That is not BitCoin.

A single BitCoin is an answer to an extremely complicated mathematical formula that takes an ordinary home PC more than a year to compute at full CPU speed. As such, they cannot be counterfeited.

There will only ever be 22 million BitCoins in existence. Their value is on their limited numbers and work involved to be mined.

Promoters of BitCoin are not anonymous. The creator is, but that has no bearing on the existing, known community that supports it. Coinbase, CoinDesk, etc are not anonymous entities.

Everyone that buys BitCoin usually buys it from a known entity, such as the ones I listed above. But what’s cool about BitCoin, is that you CAN buy BitCoin from some anonymous entity SAFELY. That’s the beauty of it. The worldwide BitCoin network validates the BitCoin you’re purchasing is valid, has not been already spent, and that it has successfully been transferred into your wallet. You can safely buy BitCoin in a back alley, with cash, in a foreign land, at night, while naked, if you prefer. 🙂

No one needs to know how much BitCoin the person or entity you’re transacting with has. But, if you want to know, that’s public knowledge too. It’s all in the public, permanent BlockChain. All you need to know is their wallet address. You see 100% of every transaction on that wallet. And to do any transaction, you do need to know that wallet address. So it’s all out in the open.

BitCoin, like fiat currency has no intrinsic value. Both currencies have value in them as their users see fit. Since BitCoin sells for real money by real people in a real society, by definition, society has indeed placed a value on BitCoin. At the moment, that’s $402.38.

Scammers, drug dealers and hackers are and have been using cash too. That has no bearing on the fact that we can and do legitimately use cash, just as we legitimately use BitCoin.

The EU court, just the other day, officially ruled BitCoin as a currency. Big credit cards are getting into it. More and more major retailers are accepting it like Amazon gift cards and http://overstock.com.

What can I buy with BitCoin?

It’s real, has value, is safe, is 100% recorded in the BlockChain.
I hope this has provided you with useful information.

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Today’s best hard drive prices

This pricing data was collected on 2015/03/15 from Newegg.com.  I filtered by 3.5” drives and by each capacity they offered, sorted by lowest price, and have listed the lowest price drive in each capacity offered.  I’ve put them in a spreadsheet and added a column showing the price per TerraByte, and sorted by that.  This will give you the absolute best deal (best if price per TB is your main criteria) as the first drive listed and the worst price at the bottom of the list.

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Here’s how to put your mind at ease to ensure you’re getting the best price on hard drives:

Hard drive prices change daily, so the actual price data I’m showing here is only relevant for a month, at best.  So use the technique in the linked article above to find your best prices from your favorite store at the time you need it.

Here’s a readable screenshot of today’s best prices per capacity available on Newegg.com:

image

The following is not as readable, but at least the links are clickable, unlike the image above.

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$29.44    <– Min Price/TB       
Price/TB    TB    Price    Link
$29.44    2    $58.88    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA5AD2M15415
$30.00    3    $89.99    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822236098
$35.00    4    $139.99    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822178338
$37.50    8    $299.99    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822178748
$39.00    5    $194.99    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822178752
$41.50    6    $248.99    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822236797
$46.95    1    $46.95    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA5AD2N65236
$51.93    0.75    $38.95    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA5AD2HS9891
$59.99    1.5    $89.99    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822236883
$71.98    0.5    $35.99    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822148787
$75.38    2.5    $188.45    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA0AJ1N07310
$130.39    0.64    $83.45    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA0AJ1MP2002
$144.19    12    $1,730.23    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA24G1E34379
$166.65    0.6    $99.99    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822178479
$175.50    0.8085    $141.89    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA67S23Y8983
$416.58    1.2    $499.89    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA67S2709964
$472.29    1.8    $850.12    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA24G2NU4473
$568.83    0.9    $511.95    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA75M2FX7519

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Dragon Touch Tablet–High End Hardware–Low End Price

DragonTouchTablet

This is going to be a quick and short review.  The Dragon Touch 9.7” Android tablet by TabletExpress (as U.S. company) has fairly high hardware specs considering its low price of $179.99.  Most tablets that size are much more expensive.  But, it’s not just a 9.7” screen tablet, it also has a ridiculously high resolution of 2048×1536 (again, hi res for that price).  It also sports a Rockchips RK3188 Quad Core Cortex A9 CPU at 1.8Ghz per core.

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Here are the specs:

  • 9.7” screen
  • 2,048×1,536 pixels “Retina” display
  • Rockchips RK3188 Quad Core Cortex A9 CPU at 1.8Ghz per core
  • Front and rear cameras
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • MicroUSB port (data only, not for charging)
  • HDMI port
  • Headphone jack
  • SD card slot, up to 64GB
  • 12v DC proprietary adapter
  • Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
  • 16GB internal storage
  • 2GB RAM
  • Wifi

Here’s an unboxing of it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xZP8B3V46k

The Good:

  • 9.7” screen
  • 2,048×1,536 pixels “Retina” display
  • Rockchips RK3188 Quad Core Cortex A9 CPU at 1.8Ghz per core
  • MicroUSB port (data only, not for charging)
  • HDMI port
  • SD card slot, up to 64GB
  • Screen Protector

Remember, this “goodness” is all based on getting this for $179.99.

You almost never see a screen larger than 7 inches for this price.  Remember, the Nexus 7 is only 7 inches, only has a resolution of 1920×1200, same amount of RAM and internal storage, and is only 1.5Ghz and NO SD card slot for expandability and IT costs $229.  Hardware wise, this thing kicks butt, especially for the price.

That screen resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 is insanely high for such a cheap tablet.  Even many more expensive tablets don’t even have that resolution.

The processor is a fairly fast Quad Core with a higher clock speed than what you get with the much more expensive (and small) Nexus 7.

It has an HDMI port so you can view it directly on your computer monitor or HDTV.  That can turn it into a game console or a cheap way to show the family photos and videos while on the go or to give presentations.

The Micro USB port is both a pro and a con.  Since we’re in the “Good” section, let’s focus on the good.  This is pretty standard on Android devices and any device without a MicroUSB port would be a joke.

It comes with 2GB of RAM and 8, 16, or 32GB of storage.  I’m reviewing the 16GB version here.  It also has a Micro SD card slot so you can add up to 64GB of more storage.  “Officially” it supports up to 32GB, but reviews on Amazon.com say that 64GB cards do indeed work.

The build quality is pretty robust too.  It doesn’t feel like a light piece of plastic.  This thing is solid.

It also comes with a screen protector already installed for you!

Google Play:

Yes!  This tablet has all the Google Goodness, including the Google Play store.  I do have to mention this because many tablets in this price range do NOT have any of the Google software and lack the Google Play store.

The Bad:

  • Front and rear cameras
  • MicroUSB port (data only, not for charging)
  • 12v DC proprietary adapter
  • Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

Let me first say that the good outweighs the bad.  I highly recommend this tablet.

BUT!  It’s not perfect.  For example, the front and rear cameras are both only 2 megapixels and the quality is not that great.  So, you’re not going to use this for keepsake photos and videos, but it’s good enough for scanning barcodes and doing video chats.

The MicroUSB port does NOT charge the device!  This is a pretty important thing to note because to charge it, you have to use their supplied, proprietary charger with a  very short 2 foot cord.

Also, the OS is not the latest.  It comes preinstalled with Android 4.2 Jellybean.  Today’s version of Android is 4.4.4 Kit Kat and the next major release, code named “Android L” is just around the corner.  I can’t confirm this, but rumors are that there will be no updates for this.  BUT, Jelly Bean 4.2 is a robust and powerful version of Android and as long as you update Google Play Services from the Google Play store, you’re going to get most of the important updates from Google.

In spite of the powerful hardware, it’s quite laggy and choppy.  My wife hasn’t complained, but my son noticed and I noticed and the reviewers on Amazon noticed.  Read below on “Make it better” for a fix.

The Box Contents:

There’s absolutely no paperwork or manuals in the box.  You get the tablet, the charger, a Micro USB to standard USB (PC to tablet) cable, and a USB PC female adapter cable.  I mean, one end plugs into the MicroUSB data port on your tablet and the other end is an open USB female port so you can plug in things like PC mice, keyboards, and external hard drives.

Make it Better:

For the technically capable… You can root this tablet with TPSparkyRoot.  Once rooted, you can then flash an alternative firmware (more commonly mislabeled as a “ROM”) and reports are that it makes this thing liquid smooth, like butter.

Conclusion:

For the money, you’ll have a really hard time finding this much bang for the buck.  With the screen resolution so high, and a decent enough size screen, you can even remote control your high-end desktop PCs with it.   –>Get it here<–

What is Bitcoin?

Production Of Bitcoins By Mike Caldwell of Casascius

BitCoin, also known as a “Cryptocurrency” is not as complex to understand as one might think.  To understand BitCoin, let’s first review what “real” money is (or what it’s supposed to be):

In the United States, “Real” money is paper and coins, manufactured by the Federal Reserve.  It has no real value on it’s own.  It’s a low cost representation of gold.  At least, that’s what it used to be.  When it’s backed by a real world and limited resources that can’t be duplicated, it can represent real value because the item behind the money (the gold) is rare, limited, and can’t be duplicated.  Instead of exchanging actual gold for goods and services, we exchange the paper and coin representations of that gold.

So, what about BitCoin?

Now, think of this:  You have a set of incredibly complex mathematical formulas that you want to calculate the answers to.  The problem is that it takes a high speed computer days (or more) of crunching numbers 24/7 before it can find an answer to just ONE of those formulas.  That’s what a BitCoin is!  It’s an answer to one of those complex numbers.  You can’t duplicate it.  You can’t fake it.  You have to mine it, just like you have to mine gold.  But instead of picks and axes, you use CPUs.  It’s still a LOT of work to “find” the “nuggets” of answers.  Additionally, there are a limited number of answers… about 21 million.  So, once the last one is mined, that’s it.  No more manufacturing of more BitCoins.

Now, as you know, gold is represented by paper and low cost metal coins.  How is BitCoin represented?  Well, it’s NOT represented with tangible things you can hold in your hand.  It’s just numbers… the numbers that represent the answers to the formulas.  You CAN print them out on paper and store them under  your mattress, if you like, so in a way, you CAN make paper representations of it.  But, you CANNOT counterfeit it.  When you buy something with BitCoin, you don’t just hand someone a printed piece of paper with a bunch of numbers on it.  I mean, you COULD, but that, by itself, won’t fly.  You give them the numbers (either electronically or on paper) and they then run the numbers through one of many transaction processors (actually, I think it goes through many).  The processors are servers run by many people around the world.  They VALIDATE that those numbers are, in fact, an actual BitCoin… an actual answer to one of the 21 million formulas.  Once validated, the person you’re buying form can accept it, then give you the goods or services you’re wanting to buy.

In short:

A BitCoin is a limited and non counterfeit-able asset, just like gold.  But instead of a tangible asset, it’s an answer to a complex math problem.  Your “money” in BitCoin is usually kept in digital form and is validated on each transaction as being real.

[poll id=”12″]

Best Android Apps to Start Off 2014 (SHOPPING)

All these apps are free.  This article is one of a series of articles about the best Android apps available as of the beginning of 2014.  Click here for the main article that includes links to this article and links to all the other categories of “The Best Of” apps for beginning 2014.  This article is for the shopping apps category available at the beginning of 2014.

Amazon

2014-02-03 00.47.08The Amazon app [phones] [tablets] (not to be confused with the Amazon App Store, also reviewed below) is a native front end to the Amazon online store (not the app store).  This provides most of the features in the web site (if not all of them… I’ve, by no means, researched each and every feature of this massive web site).

This app is useful for obvious reasons in addition to the fact that you can be browsing in a brick and mortar store, like Wal-Mart, pick up an actual item off the shelf and scan its barcode into this app and it’ll tell you what you can get it for on Amazon.

I won’t go into extreme detail of what this app does.  If you’re familiar with Amazon.com, you already have a good idea.  You can, of course, track your Amazon.com orders with this app too.  Not much has changed from my review of it last year.  It’s still a good, solid app and I highly recommend it, even if you don’t purchase anything from them, at least you can do some comparison price shopping while walking around inside other stores.

 

2014-02-03 00.52.30Amazon App Store

Download Here.  One of the great things about Android is that you’re NOT locked into just ONE app store, like you are with iOS and Windows Phone.  You don’t have to root or “jail brake” your Android phone to install another app store.  It’s perfectly legitimate to do so on Android and is activated with just a simple settings change on any Android phone or tablet.

The Amazon Android App Store is a direct competitor to the Google Play app store that’s pre-installed on almost every Android device made (with the exception of the really cheap and crappy Chinese Android products).

This app has been improved significantly from this time last year.  It still has some issues though.  For example, it still doesn’t have a “What’s New” section for each app.  Apps are not updated nearly as often here as they are in the Google Play Store.  Installing an app seems to take significantly longer and they do NOT install in the background.  You HAVE to wait until the app finishes installing before leaving the App Store, or next time you come back to the App Store, you’ll find (even days or weeks later), that it hasn’t finished installing your app yet.

One thing I really like about the Amazon Android App Store is their Free App Of The Day.  Every day, they GIVE AWAY a PAID app.  In other words, it’s an app that’s NOT free on any other day, but on THAT day, you get it for free!

To Install It:

On your phone, go to Settings –> Security –> Unknown Sources

and make sure it’s checked.

Then go to this URL to download it to your phone (or Google search for “Amazon App Store”).

image

Amazon Price Check

2014-02-03 00.59.01This app [Amazon App Store] [Google Play] lets you scan barcodes while in a real store and compare the prices to Amazon… Not sure why this is a different app from the Amazon app, which provides the same functionality.

Ebay

2012-12-31 18.42.002014-02-03 01.04.41

This is a nicer and more responsive native app [Amazon App Store] [Google Play] than trying to use the ebay website from your mobile browser.  If you’re familiar with ebay, you already know what you can do with this app.  If not, just look at these screen shots and those should pretty much tell you what you need to know.  On the left is my screen shot from last year (logged in).  On the right, from this year (not logged in).

Best Buy2012-12-31 18.43.472012-12-31 18.44.45

[Google Play] This is a front end to the Best Buy web site and is very useful when you’re in a physical Best Buy store.  If you’ll notice, most products have a ticket on the shelf with a price, a small description, and a 2D QR bar code.  Scan it with this app and you’ll get the full details of the product.  No significant changes from last year’s review, though I’ll point out that I now seem to lose my logon and have to continuously log on.  Since my passwords are long and complex and stored in LastPass, this is very frustrating.

You can also check the balance of your Best Buy gift cards by simply taking a picture of the back of your gift card.

If you’re a RewardsZone member (and if not, WHY NOT?), you can check on your RewardZone points and even display your RewardZone points on your phone to the cashier at checkout to redeem your points, instead of printing them out at home and bringing them in.  You’ll save ink, paper, time, frustration, and money… an the “green” Nazis will sprinkle their happy happy fairy dust on you.

 

2012-12-31 18.45.502012-12-31 18.45.20Game Stop

I no longer recommend this app.  It tracks too much of your information.  I’ve uninstalled it.

2014-02-03 01.14.42FedEx

[Amazon App Store] [Google Play] The FedEx app is highly useful when you’re tracking a packing you’ve either sent or are expecting to receive (such as one you ordered with say, the Amazon app).  The screen shot to the right pretty much sums up what this app does.  It’s short and simple… It does the things you expect and nothing fancy.

 

2014-02-03 01.16.432014-02-03 01.17.35UPS

[Amazon App Store] [Google Play] The UPS app is similar to the FedEx app.  It does the same thing, except for UPS shipments.  No surprises here.  New this year (since my review last year) is the “UPS My Choice” feature.

QR Droid & Barcode Scanner

2014-02-03 01.24.382014-02-03 01.25.23[Amazon App Store] [Google Play] Both apps “QR Droid” and “Barcode Scanner” let you scan those 2D barcodes you’re seeing everywhere.  They usually represent a URL and it’s extremely convenient to scan them in places like BestBuy on product tags on the shelves or on movie posters or even on web sites on your desktop computer to load up the URL on your phone.  Installing QR Droid also gives you the ability to create your OWN QR Codes.  For example, you can send a contact from your contacts to it and it’ll display as a QR code on your screen.  Someone else can scan your screen with their phone and receive your contact.  If you’re on a web page, you can share the web page to the app and it’ll produce a QR Code with the URL encoded in it.  You can save it and e-mail it or publish it on your website, or show it on your screen to let someone else scan it.  But, since we’re in the “Shopping” apps category here, you can use it to scan 2D QR Codes in stores to get more information on the products and to even compare prices.

 

2012-12-31 19.07.39Kroger

[Google Play] The Kroger app is a master app for all the stores shown in the screen shot:

  • Kroger
  • Baker’s
  • CityMarket
  • Dillons
  • Food4Less
  • Food4Less Fremont
  • Foods Co
  • Fred Meyer
  • Fry’s
  • Gerbes
  • JayC Food Stores
  • King Suupers
  • Owen’s
  • Pay Less Super Markets
  • QFC Quality Food Centers
  • Ralphs
  • Smith’s

2014-02-03 01.28.25Kroger is the parent company for all these grocery stores.  This app works with all of them.  If you have a customer loyalty card at any of these stores (and if you don’t, WHY NOT?) they all work at all those stores.  This app will let you browse coupons and add them to your card.  When you check out, if you’ve put any of those products in your cart, when you swipe your card at the register, all those coupons are applied.  You can check your fuel points too and see the weekly ads.  This is a MUST HAVE app if you shop at any of these grocery stores.

CraigsNotifica

That’s not a typo.  That’s actually what it’s called.  This app is dropped from last year’s recommendation because it appears it’s no longer available.

Google Shopper2012-12-31 20.37.39

Google went on a rampage last year, axing many apps.  Google Shopper was one of them.  So, this is no longer available.  But see “Google Offers” below.  But, here’s my review from last year:  Google Shopper integrates with “Barcode Scanner” (reviewed above).  Scan any barcode and this app will find multiple sources for that product.  This is probably the best way to find the best price on anything.  Use this when shopping in any physical store to decide whether or not it’s worth buying that product in your hands now, or somewhere else.

Google Offers

image2014-02-03 01.33.05

New on this year’s list, Google Offers, I believe, is somewhat of a replacement for Google Shopper.  I have chosen to NOT install it because you have to enable both GPS location services AND location history.  That’s too much for my personal taste, but if you don’t mind your personal location being tracked and recorded, then this app can provide you some savings.  From their description:

“Now with Google Offers, you don’t have to pay to get offers. No need to buy them, just save offers to your account and redeem with your phone when you shop.

The app helps you discover relevant offers from local businesses and big brands, and keeps track of offers you find on Google Search, Maps, and more.

You can use them straight away, or the app will remind you next time you’re near the store. Then, all you do is open the app to show your offer at checkout—no printing needed.”

Gift Shopper Pro ($0.99)

image

[Google Play] [Amazon App Store] New on this year’s list.  This was a free app of the Day on the Amazon App Store, so I got it free.  This is a great app for keeping track of gifts you’re buying for loved ones for any holiday or occasion you need to track.  It is tablet friendly as well.

 

T-Mobile MobileLife

2014-02-03 01.41.452014-02-03 01.41.32Available for free [Amazon App Store] (and likely pre-installed) for T-Mobile customers, this app does many things, but my family uses it for a shared and immediately live shopping list.  Whenever I discover I’m out or running low on something, I’ll pull my phone out and enter it onto our shopping list.  When my wife or I are getting groceries, we’ll pull out this list on our phones and check off the items as we put them in our buggy.  What’s great is if I remember something after my wife has already left for the store, I just add it to the list, and she’ll see it while she’s shopping.  A non-carrier specific shared shopping list app that’s very popular is  “Out Of Milk” [Amazon App Store] [Google Play]

 

You Chime In

What are some of YOUR favorite apps in this category?  Let us know in the comments below.

Conclusion

This completes my list of “Best” shopping apps available to start off 2014.  There are, of course, other shopping of apps and this is, by no means, a comprehensive list.  Some of these are the apps in this category that I use on a daily basis and install on a new phone or tablet as soon as I get it.

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BEST ANDROID APPS TO START OFF 2014 (Financial Apps)

This article is one of a series of articles about the best Android apps available as of the beginning of 2014.  Click here for the main article that includes links to this article and links to all the other categories of “The Best Of” apps for beginning 2014.  This article is for the Financial apps category, which lists the best banking, debt, and financial apps available at the beginning of 2014.  Most of these apps are free or very cheap.

Google Wallet

imageNOTICE!  Google Wallet used to be just for phones with NFC, and was also blocked by many carriers and wouldn’t install on many phones.  Google has significantly changed what Google Wallet is now.  Now, it is your Google money account.  With it you have access to transactions from the Google Play store (apps, music, movies, books, etc…).  You can also send money to friend through it, as well as make NFC payments at your local retailers (even make local purchases WITHOUT NFC!).  Google Wallet now works on just about any phone on just about any carrier.

If you enable location services (let it see your GPS), then it can notify you of nearby deals.

 

Debt Payoff Planner ($0.99)

imageDebt Payoff Planner lets you enter all of your debts, their interest rates, minimum payments due on each, what you can afford each month towards paying off debt, and it will show you the best way to pay down those debts to get it paid off the earliest, paying the least amount in interest.

It will produce payoff tables, showing you each debut, how much to apply to it, on what days.  It’s very simple to use and doesn’t require you to understand the complexities of compound interest or anything like that.  All you need to know is how much you owe on each, what their interest rates are, their minimum payments, and how much you can afford to apply towards your debts each month.  It does all the complex work for you and shows you simple payment plans.

 

aCar (free & paid)

imageaCar keeps track of your auto expenses, including fuel costs, repair and service records and costs, and can show you where you’re spending the most and will even calculate your mileage that you’re getting.  There’s both a free version and a paid version that gives you some nice graphs and reports.

Each time you fill up, enter the number of gallons you purchased, your total price (or price/gallon) and your current mileage.  It’ll figure out the rest.

This does take due diligence on your part to stay current and enter it every time.

 

adSense Dashboard (free)

imageDo you use Google ads for a side income on your websites and blogs (or perhaps your own apps)?  adSense Dashboard shows you your earnings in a nice, clean dashboard UI.

 

 

 

 

You can also choose views for:

  • Overview (the dashboard)
  • Sites
  • Custom Channels
  • URL channels
  • Ad units
  • Graphs
  • Reports

Google AdSense (Free)

imageMuch like adSense Dashboard, Google’s AdSense provides you a different kind of view of your Google ad income.  Of course, it looks more like the Google Now Cards interface.

Google’s version also has notifications, much like the notification drop down in their Google+ mobile app, so if there are any notifications on your account, you can see them from the bell menu.

Quicken 2013 and Quicken 2014

image

If you use Quicken on your desktop, then you have access to the free, mobile app.  Though the mobile app is free, the desktop app (required) is not free.  There’s a version for Quicken 2013 and one for Quicken 2014.  From inside your desktop application, you have it sync with your Quicken Cloud account, then on your mobile device, you log into your cloud account and you can view all your accounts from your mobile.  Additionally, you can finally enter transactions directly from your mobile device.  This has created a new level of convenience in the Quicken software.  You can enter your transactions at the time you write your checks, rather than downloading them and going through your checkbook register to validate.

Just be aware of the MANY bugs in Quicken software!

 

Financial Calculators (Free)

image

Financial Calculators is a free app, and despite the pluralness of the name, it’s a single app, but it does have multiple calculators in it.

Most (if not all) of the many calculators in this app provide multiple fields for you to enter.  You can leave some out and it will auto-calculate the values of the others (provided you gave it enough information).

Rather than explain each calculator in this app (there are MANY), here’s a screen shot of the top of the list (there are more):

2014-02-03 00.06.19

 

Your Bank’s mobile apps

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Of course, I can’t provide a review of every single bank’s and credit card company’s apps.  Instead, I’ll explain what you can expect from most of them in 2014:  For bank apps, you should have access to your checking transactions.  You should also have the ability to make deposits from home (or anywhere) via your mobile app.  You simply sign the back of the check you received, then use your bank’s app to take photos of the front and the back, then tell the mobile app how much the check is.  The app will do OCR on the routing number and account number of the check, then make those funds immediately available to you.  No more rushing to the bank during their highly useless hours (openning an hour or to after you go to work, and closing an hour before you leave work).

 

Conclusion:

This is just a small fraction of what’s available as far as financial apps are concerned.  Search the Google Play store for your own bank’s or credit card’s apps.  They can be quite convenient.

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BEST ANDROID APPS TO START OFF 2014 (PHONE/COMMUNICATION APPS)

This article is one of a series of articles about the best Android apps available as of the beginning of 2014.  Click here for the main article that includes links to this article and links to all the other categories of “The Best Of” apps for beginning 2014.  Let’s get started with the Phone/Communication category, which lists the best phone and communication apps available at the beginning of 2014.  For last year’s list, click here:

Groove IP and Talk-A-Tone (Free VOIP)

imageimage

If you have a Google Voice Account (and if you don’t… WHY NOT???), you can install Groove IP (free version or paid version $4.99) or Talk-A-Tone to make and receive calls over your data plan with your Google voice number.  As far as your mobile carrier is concerned, no call took place, so NO MINUTES ARE USED!

Groove IP is one of the few apps I’ve actually purchased.

I don’t know how many times I’ve explained this to people… they just DO NOT get it, so hopefully you WILL (pay attention!):  The official Google Voice app DOES NOT MAKE VOIP CALLS!!!!  The official Google Voice app does everything EXCEPT make VOIP calls.  Yes, you CAN change your GV settings to forward calls placed to your GV# to your real cell phone number, but when you answer, you’re USING MINUTES because you’re actually using your mobile carrier’s phone connection.  But if you use Groove IP or Talk-A-Tone, you can send and receive calls ON DATA ONLY.  As far as your mobile carrier is concerned, nothing is happening except “stuff on the internet”.  I’m hoping you can see the difference.  Making “real” phone calls with your carrier USES YOUR MINUTES.  Using Groove IP or Talk-A-Tone, you have UNLIMITED minutes.  (note: it DOES use your data, so if you have a data cap, be mindful of that).

[GARD]

So, eat my shorts Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and everyone else!

Sadly, Google is turning off 3rd party APIs for VOIP in May, so these apps will ONLY work until then.  Then it’s lights out. Sad smile  ALL 3rd party VOIP apps that use Google Voice will cease to function.  This is a huge downer for me as my home phone is actually a 100% free Google Voice phone.

Both Groove IP and Talk-A-Tone have both free and paid versions.  The free versions work only on your Wi-Fi connection.  The paid versions will use your mobile data connection too.  But, if you do pay for them, remember, they stop working in May 2014.

Red Phone (Encrypted Phone Calls)

image

New in my list this year:  With Red Phone installed, your cell number is registered with them.  Then, when anyone else with Red Phone calls you, Red Phone notifies them that you have it to and they can place a secure call with you.  This bypasses making a real phone call and instead makes a VOIP call and it’s encrypted.  This not only encrypts your call, but it does NOT use minutes from your cell phone provider because you’re not really making a “real” phone call.  As far as your carrier is concerned, it’s just “stuff on the internet”.

Eat my shorts, NSA!

TextSecure (Encrypted Text SMS)

image

New in my list this year:  Make by the same people that gave us Red Phone, is TextSecure.  this is a texting app, but with a special feature:  Anyone you text that’s also using it will receive your text messages securely.  Both of your messages are encrypted locally, before sent out.  Just like RedPhone, when you install TextSecure, it registers your phone number with their servers so that your contacts who also use it will automatically detect that you have it and will encrypt your text messages.  You can use this app as your standard SMS app too.  If you text someone that does NOT have TextSecure, it just sends the text messages in the normal way any other SMS app does.  If your text messages ARE encrypted, it’ll show a lock icon by them so you always know whether you have a secure or unsecure connection.

Eat my shorts, again, NSA!

Chomp (SMS)

image

New in my list this year:  Chomp SMS is my favorite SMS app (aside from the encryption provided by TextSecure.  You have a LOT of customizations of the look and feel of your text messages.

Of course, if you want encrypted messaging, this is not the app for you.  But if you want a great looking messaging app, this is one of the best.  You can even make it look like the bubbly iOS texting app, if you like.

One thing to note about encrypted messages:  If you are running CyanogenMod 11 (if you’re not sure, then you most certainly are NOT), it has TextSecure’s encrypted technology built directly INTO the Operating System so ALL your SMS apps can send and receive encrypted messages!  So, since I am running CM11, I continue to use Chomp SMS and I also get the benefit of encrypted messages without the need of the stand-alone TextSecure app.  Yes, I have the best of both worlds!

Yes, it’s supports EMOJI and themes as well.

Thanks CyanogenMod!

Google Hangouts

image

New in my list this year:  Google Hangouts is Google’s latest offering for messaging.  They are integrating all of their various messaging apps into one.  This app does SMS, Google Chat, some of Google Voice, and Video and Audio chatting all in ONE app.  If you like the Google card like interfaces (I personally do NOT for this type of app), then you’ll love this.  It can even be your default SMS app.  This is almost an all-in-one messaging app.

Google Voice

image

Staying on the list this year:  Not to be confused with the Google Voice SERVICE, this is the Google Voice Android App.  Yes, it sounds like I’m splitting hairs, but the Google Voice SERVICE is much bigger than this lonely, single, Android App.  Of course, this app gives you a user interface into the Google Voice service.  This app does SMS (only via your Google Voice #, not your real cell #) and provides you a great UI for your Google Voice voice messages.  BTW, you can make Google Voice your REAL voice-mail provider for your REAL cell phone number, instead of your cell phone providers very limited voicemail service.  If you use GV as your standard VM provider, then you get everything you had before PLUS you can get your v-mail sent to you in e-mail.  You get automatic voice to text transcriptions (which are searchable!), can access your v-mail from any web browser, from the GV app, from your e-mail.  You can play them on your phone or in a web browser.  You can SEE them as if they’re e-mail with a GMail like UI.  Once you try it, I promise you, you’ll NEVER go back to that crappy old v-mail service your cell provider has for you, wasting all that time listening to messages with just your audio and phone pad interface.

[GARD]

Note that if you have CyanogenMod 11 or higher (again, if you’re not sure, then you definitely do NOT), then you have Google Voice support DIRECTLY in your phone’s operating system.  You PHONE can use the free, unlimited texting service from your Google Voice number.  ANY SMS app on your CM11 phone can use your Google Voice # for sending and receiving SMS messages.  If you do NOT have CM11 (or Sprint), then Google’s free SMS via your Google Voice number has utility ONLY in the Google Voice app.

But, with your Google Voice service and this app (or any SMS app on a Sprint phone or a CM11 phone), you can cancel your expensive texting plan and use ONLY your Google Voice service.  It’s free and it’s unlimited.

Oh!  And calls to your GV# can be filtered for telemarketing spam.  So can SMS messages.  It’s an optional (and free) feature.  Of course, you want this feature turned on!

See my 2013 “Best Android Apps to Start off 2013 (Phone/Communication Apps)” for a more, in-depth description of this service.

Eat my shorts, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Virgin, etc…

Mr. Number (Spam Blocking)

image

Still on my list this year:  This is an oldie, but a goodie.  Install Mr. Number and it will instantly lookup any incoming call and compare the caller ID information to a known list of telemarketers.  It will actually WARN you with a popup notification that the caller is a suspected spammer.  At which point you can choose to answer, hang-up, or block it.  If you block it, it gets added to your block list and you’ll never receive a call from them again.  If you get a call from a telemarketer that Mr. Number didn’t recognize, you can then tell Mr. Number that this number is a telemarketer and block it.  The great thing about that is it registers that number with the Mr. Number servers as a spammer so OTHER users get notified too.

This service is a crowd sourced service.  All of you are helping each other out.  You can even leave a description of the telemarketing call.  Even iOS users have a version of this app, so they too are contributing to the crowd sourced information.

Eat my shorts, telemarketers!

YP Mobile

image

Same as last year:  YP Mobile (available here in the Google Play store) provides your basic yellow pages phone book, plus the familiar stuff you find in other “local services” apps for finding restaurants, gas prices, etc…  Not much more to say about it.  This app is no more or less special than others of its type, but I’m including it as one in that type of category.  Others are Yahoo!, Yelp, and Where.

[GARD]

Personally, I find Google Maps a superior tool for finding local businesses and their phone numbers as it shows a map of your results, so you can see, visually, immediately, what’s close by, then just tap whichever one you want on the map to get the details and phone numbers.

Google Maps

imageNew on my list this year:  Why Google Maps in a list of PHONE apps?  Because, I’ve found this is the most convenient way to find local numbers by business name OR by category (such as “Pizza”).  The search results are pins on a map, showing me WHERE these places are, which is almost always important to me for local places.  Touching a pin shows you that company’s contact information, INCLUDING their phone number, which you can tap and call immediately.  It is UBER useful!  I actually use Google Maps more than anything else for finding phone numbers.  To be honest, I don’t even have YP Mobile installed anymore.  I do want to leave it on my list, because it is useful and I just can’t bring myself to not recommending it, even though I honestly do NOT use it myself, anymore.  Google Maps is just awesome for finding local (and even non-local) businesses.

Dropped from this year’s list

imageNot all apps from last year made this year’s list.  Among them is Call Master.  Now, this is actually a GREAT app and works even better than Mr. Number, but it has one terminal flaw:  It sometimes pops up a nag screen in front of an incoming call, making it impossible to answer the phone.  I’ve missed a couple of very important phone calls.  For that reason, I’ve removed it from this year’s list.  BUT, if you’re wanting to pay for the full version, I’m sure this nag screen problem would go away.

What was better about it than Mr. Number was that it embeds itself DEEP into the OS so it would actually PREVENT the telemarketing call from making its way into the phone’s notification system.  The phone won’t ring.  You’ll have no call log.  Not even Mr. Number will be aware of it.  With Mr. Number, when a blocked caller calls, you hear a short ring before Mr. Number shuts them down.

You Chime In

What are some of YOUR favorite apps in this category?  Let us know in the comments below.

Conclusion

This completes my list of “Best” phone-specific apps available to start off 2014.  There are, of course, other communication types of apps and this is, by no means, a comprehensive list.  These are the apps in this category that I use on a daily basis and install on a new phone or tablet as soon as I get it.

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Best Android Apps to start off 2013

2012-12-26 21.38.05Here are my “Best of” Android apps to start off with in 2013.

I’ll list them by category and explain the purpose of each one and why I’m choosing it.  Each category will be a separate post because, as you can see of the length of the list, it would be quite long if it were all in one post.  Each bulleted category below is a LINK to the article about the apps in that category.  The list of categories below will only have hotlinks to articles for which I’ve completed.  Keep checking back as I post more articles… one for each category below.

Phone/Communication Apps
Finance
Shopping (Everything here is FREE)
Imaging
Utilities
Audio
Games
Calculators
File Management
Security
Geo Location
Launchers
Productivity
Social
News & Reference
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Phone/Communication Apps

These apps have to do with phone calling features or communicating with IM or Texting or live video communication.

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