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I have heard that the next version of Google's Android operating system will run on older phones that couldn't handle some of the newer updates. How can I find out if my handset can use the system?

Android 4.4 (also now known as KitKat, in keeping with the software's tradition of dessert-themed nicknames), is expected this month. Check with your phone's manufacturer or wireless carrier for announcements about your particular model.

Many hardware makers have customized Android to work better on their own devices and have added their own features to it — like custom interfaces or special apps — so putting out a new version of the system often requires some extra time. And most do not bother to update software for models more than a few years old, partly because of outdated hardware and partly because of the desire to sell you a new phone. (Owners of Google's recent Nexus phones typically get the update quickly, as Google puts out its own straightforward version of Android.)

Some people have gone the unofficial route and modified their devices outside of the manufacturer's official guidelines. While this typically voids any warranty, it is one way to get newer software, and the Web has plenty of instructions for doing so.

Why does my camera flash twice?

Cameras with a "red-eye reduction" setting rapidly fire the flash twice for each photo. The first flash illuminates the scene enough to cause the pupils in a person's eyes to contract a bit from the brightness. The second flash then goes off when the shutter snaps to capture the scene.

The "red-eye" situation happens when the bright light from the flash creates a reflection from the blood vessels in the back of the subject's eyes. Causing the pupils to contract right before the second flash fires helps reduce or eliminate the glowing red effect by letting less light into the eye. Because eye pupils are larger in darkened rooms, they allow in more light, so turning on a lamp or moving to a brighter room can also make for fewer pictures of people with a demonic gaze.

Tech tips 11/10/13 [Last modified: Sunday, November 10, 2013 6:15pm]
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