Tech Review: Apps to make taxes less taxing
With the deadline to file income taxes just days away, you may be suffering from calculation exhaustion, especially if you're going over your returns one last time for the 100th time. But you still might consider adding these specialized calculators to your phone and tablet, because they are useful even on the 364 days that aren't April 15.
10bii Financial Calculator
(iOS, Android; $5.99)
Math, science and business majors will immediately recognize this mobile homage to the popular Hewlett-Packard calculator by its multitude of buttons that are sometimes indecipherable to the average person. Like the H-P 10bII, this app does a powerful array of business, statistical and financial calculations, including payments for mortgages and other loans, cash-flow analysis and the potential future value of investment portfolios. There's an "easy mode" for beginners.
There are numerous percentage calculators available on the app stores, but this one from developer Mateusz Mucha is among the most popular and highest rated for a reason. The clean interface makes it easy to perform several percent-related calculations quickly, and there's also a tip calculator function. One caveat: Because of a Samsung quirk, the decimal point isn't displayed on some stock Samsung keyboards, although the developer is promising a fix. iOS users can check out the similar PercentDiff (free).
Fraction Calculator Plus
(iOS, Android; $0.99)
This app handles the often tricky job of adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions, and it does it with a clean interface and stylish display. It's especially useful in the kitchen, where it can make adjusting servings for recipes easy as pie. There is also a free ad-supported version available.
(iOS, Android; free)
Before calculators ruled the Earth, slide rules were a staple in every student's toolbox. Lovingly re-created by Gushiku Studios and developer Timothy Scott, this app is, indeed, a working slide rule. Yes, it may not be as quick as a calculator, but there's a sense of achievement in sliding the rule and seeing that 3 x 2 really does equal 6, or, if your slide is a tad off, maybe it's 5.9. The iOS version from the same developer is called Slip Stick Virtual Slide Rule (free).
Thinking of booking your summer vacation at your work computer? You may want to wait until you get home. People who make hotel reservations at work generally book more expensive rooms but were less satisfied with their stay, according to a new Rice University study. Researchers speculated that an expensive hotel looks more appealing to people who are "fatigued at work."
Flash and Dash
Amazon has unveiled Amazon Dash, a scanner with a built-in microphone that connects to a home Wi-Fi network allowing users to order items from the company's AmazonFresh grocery delivery service. Users scan bar codes or speak the names of items using the wand-shaped device. AmazonFresh and Dash are available only in Southern California, San Francisco and Seattle. Amazon plans to expand to other cities in the future.
Microsoft, under attack for accessing the Hotmail account of a user suspected of stealing the company's source code, says it will no longer inspect customers' emails. Instead, the software giant says if it suspects illegal activity, "we will refer the matter to law enforcement." Still, the company maintains the search "was clearly within our legal rights."-- Peter King