DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

November 28, 2017

Thunderbird

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:26 am

Nope, I am not referring to a car, a new superhero movie or a cheap wine.  I am however talking about one of the better applications out there.  It is cross platform meaning it is available for Linux, Windows and Mac computer operating systems. However, at this time it is not available for iPhones or Android devices but we never know what the future holds.

OK, what is it for?  It is an exceptional email program. Thunderbird (rd.dblclx.com/1ejd3ax) was created by the people behind Mozilla’s Firefox browser.  Both of which are under constant development now.  Thunderbird developers took a break for a while but they are now back at it.

Visit Thunderbird

The current version, v.52.x has most of what Outlook has but one large difference, it is free.  One caveat to mention here.  If you are using Outlook for business with and Exchange Server do not consider using Thunderbird.  At this point it will not work.  But for users that have not bought Outlook or Office (in any of its many versions) I think Thunderbird will satisfy your email needs.

In my initial testing I found that it easily performed most of Outlook’s functions.  It has many plugins which are also free to add and you do not need the Windows Store to them.  The plugins give you added abilities you may not have, "out of the box."  Plugins have various uses, from different dictionaries, change colors of backgrounds, add different scrollbars and one of my favorites, "Provider for Google Calendar."  That addon/extension allows syncing between Google calendars and the calendar now built into Thunderbird.  So, you are always up-to-date on your appointments.  In older versions of Thunderbird is was much harder to make that happen.   

Thunderbird has options that I prefer over other email applications.  One of them is a view setting. It is called, "Unread Folders – Compact view."  This gives you a one-line view of each email account (if you have multiple accounts as I do) but only the accounts that have email you have not read.  To get it all you need to do is click the dropdown menu above your mail folders and choose it, easy.  

Even though it uses more memory than Outlook it has run well for me.  Thunderbird has also not slowed down my systems or locked up/frozen from time-to-time.  This has occurred in Outlook for me…sometimes often.  It also has an excellent spam filter that can learn as you go.  It allowed me to install all of my email addresses including free Outlook.com, Hotmail (Hotmail has been replaced by Outlook.com), Gmail, personal domains and a friend tells me that iCloud addresses will also work. Consequently, I believe that most any email should work – other than some work accounts due to security. 

I now enjoy Thunderbird on all of my personal systems.  The only issue I have had is that I cannot us it on my work PC.  The antivirus on that PC marks it as some sort of problem file and wipes out my passwords in Thunderbird.  Not a biggie if you only have one account.  To overcome the issue, you need to enter the account’s password when Thunderbird starts. However, when you have many email accounts it becomes unwieldy. 

All around a great application!  You should give Mozilla’s other application, the Firefox browser a shot too as it is also a cut above (rd.dblclx.com/2iHBvaX).

Firefox Browser

March 15, 2016

Updates

Picture of new Waze mapHere is one update to the last two columns I wrote about Google Maps and Waze for Android devices.  Guess what?  Waze released a new version of its excellent product.  It has a couple of nice new features but mostly it was cosmetic with a few navigational changes.  I believe it looks better, is quicker and well worth the time for the upgrade.  Try it out and let me know what you think.

Another update that took place toward the end of 2015 was the Google Chromecast.  This device allows you to view most anything you can watch on your computer on your TV.  Of course, you have to plug it in and do a quick setup.  I had the first version of Chromecast and all was well.  They rolled out the second one and all continued to be well.  Then early this year they did another update which was to work with either the older or newer devices.  It may have been well for some but not me. 

I used an older broken Android phone to "act" as my remote control for our Chromecast.  The phone had not been able to make calls for years.  However, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth features functioned perfectly so for those it remained useful. 

After the update the Chromecast app failed.  I could no longer control, start or even make the application run with the old phone.  When I started the application it looked good then a message came up saying it had to restart, over and over again.

I uninstalled it, reinstalled it, rebooted the phone, etc.  You know, all the techie things you should do.  Nothing worked.  I then Googled and found other people with the same or a similar issue.  They suggested downloading the previous version from a now-defunct site.  I did and it all worked well again but within a week or so the new version was pushed back on my phone automatically and it started all over again.

To make all things good once more I installed the new version of Chromecast on my current Android phone and now all is well.  I just do not care for using my phone as my TV remote.

CCleaner main screenNow the Windows 10’s update:  I was basically and still am a W10 supporter with a few caveats you have read from me before now. Here is one more.  

After a recent update Microsoft decided that CCleaner (one of my favorite third party apps) could be a danger to my computer.  So instead of warning me about it and letting me make a decision as to what should be done, guess what?  The programming brains behind W10 decided it should automatically be uninstalled from my system!  All I had to do was reinstall it but what if I had not seen the small warning message when it rebooted?  I would have spent a long time trying to figure out what happened.  W10 can do this to you for a multitude of programs, so be cautious and read all the pop ups.  

February 2, 2016

I Took One for the Team

It finally happened to me, the tech "professional."  After years of reading, writing, researching, testing and reporting on technology and applications I got in trouble.

When I suggest software to you I have always tested the applications or sites that I recommended before telling you about them.  In testing software applications I test them in a "sandbox."  No, not that kind of sandbox.  

A sandbox for a geek is a place created on a computer which has no or very limited access to other parts of your computer.  The sandbox is like a computer running within your regular computer system but it cannot touch anything on the main system unless you allow it to do so.  Once you are finished with the sandbox you can easily delete the entire thing and be done.  That way you can run untested applications and if they work without any issues you can feel safe about installing it on your main system.  If they negatively affect your sandbox after testing you can delete the entire sandbox and it is all gone.  Safe and sound.  After testing I tell you about the app.

You may then ask, "Why don’t you tell us the bad ones, Ron?"  The reason I do not tell you about the bad apps goes something like this:  I mentioned a popular app one time that tracked when you go on the internet for advertising purposes.  I mentioned the name of the product.  A week later I was contacted by the company’s lawyers "requesting" me to retract my statement. 

I am one little techie who writes part time and I have no legal reps.  So I presented my facts to the attorney with lines of code and proof.  I asked if he wanted me to post the entire findings online and in the next column.  I received an email back stating that was only in the free version; the paid version was clean.  They sent me the paid version to test.  I never heard back from them.  I do not want to play that game again.  

Back to the present.  I installed a new application on my PC…no sandbox, oops.  

After the installation finished I ran the program testing whether it did what it was supposed to do.  It worked pretty well but not well enough for me to recommend.  So I uninstalled it from my PC, not the sandbox. 

I immediately noticed that all of my browsers now opened my homepage tab and a fake Yahoo page.  The page was not related to the real Yahoo but it sure looked good.  I tried all of the known fixes for a browser highjack and it would not go away.  I then searched online and yes, it was a known malware from installation of the program I had tested.  It gave some suggestions on how to possibly resolve it.  I tried them, rebooted and now that computer will no longer start.  Shoot me an email if you wish to know the application that I believe caused the issue. 

I will be working on it this week and give you any results I have next time.  Stay tuned as the adventure continues.  

December 3, 2013

Go Different Waze

Last week I mentioned a trip to the "big city" and using my GPS. 

So today, back to my big city experience. 

image I was going somewhere and had just reinstalled Waze.  I was also running the family GPS.  They both directed me the exact same way on my 25 mile/35 minute trip.  About three quarters of the way to my destination Waze changed and told me to take the next right. 

I ignored it because, well, I do not know for sure… but I did.  OK, still driving along and all is well then Waze "bugged" me again and told me to take the next right…again I ignored it.  All of a sudden I got to the top of a hill and I saw that I was on a highway parking lot.  The cars were sitting still and the people looking rather hostile.

I sat there for almost an hour barely moving until finally traffic started to move.  I have no idea what stopped it.  The Garmin and Waze agreed again, ah, harmony.  When I got to my destination I checked everything out and found that even though the Garmin has a traffic alert function it did not work; however, Waze did.  If I had taken the first right where it told me I would have only been five minutes later instead of almost an hour late.  I also checked the reports in the area and saw a user had submitted a picture of the truck/car wreck.

How does Waze do this?  It tracks all of the GPS signals from its user base and figures, "Hmm, Ron Doyle was going 40 in a 40 mph zone and now he is going 5 mph."  Then other cars near me slow down as well for a few minutes.  Waze then automatically reroutes you the quickest way to get you going. 

It also allows you to let people track you by emailing or texting them a link.  They can follow you on a map to see when you will be there.  It has other fascinating features like posting pictures of the traffic, reporting which lane is going slowly, police sightings (I guess that is for you speeders out there) and several other useful settings.  You can either read this information or supply it.  The choice is yours since no information is taken from you unless you grant Waze permission to do so.

If you ever travel out of the area or even if you are in a hurry to get somewhere locally, try out Waze and see if it helps you avoid traffic problems.

November 26, 2013

Glympse or Waze

A few weeks ago I was on a trip out of town in a large city I did not know very well.  I used our family Garmin GPS to navigate around town.  It worked as it should but I kept getting into big traffic jams. 

There are two excellent apps I have used on my Android phone which perform similarly to a GPS.  They both use the GPS system as does the Garmin, but they have differences you may find useful.

image The first is called, "Glympse." This was the first app I used which would allow you to share your map location along with a map.  You can send your location to someone via text or email so they can keep track of you while you are on your "trip."

It does a very good job as far as mapping and sharing your location.  I do not, however care for one of their informational videos showing the pizza delivery person saying they use Glympse with their customers in order to get bigger tips.  Seems like a great idea but I have not seen anyone implement it yet.

image In previous times I used an Android application named "Waze" which was far superior to the regular GPS.  Waze was/is also available for iPhones and Window phones.  The reason I did not use it any longer comes from the fact that in June, 2013, Google purchased the Israeli application Waze.  A short time after this time it failed for me and continued to be non-functional for a few weeks after that.  So I deleted it and start using the Garmin.

But wait – I was talking to a geek friend in the big city.  He said that, true, it was not working but had recently started back up; better than ever.  Now being purchased by Google will be good for us consumers (unless of course they shut it down in a year or three, but don’t get me going).  They will surely connect it with Google Maps which will be even more excellent. 

The Google Maps app/site is great all alone in my opinion but Waze has total user incorporation making it completely interactive and not only for directions.   Waze takes the mapping app an immense step further.  It does this by allowing Waze users to be tracked by GPS and interpreting that information.  With almost 50 million users (per several estimates) this makes a lot of info available for travelers.  It is your choice whether or not to log in as a user.  Once logged in you can choose to either provide your location via the app or not.  You can also be a "lurker" and get traffic information without giving out any of yours. 

But what is the fun in that?  More ways to use Waze next week.

February 2, 2010

Help with Application Updates

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:22 am

I got an email from a reader in Mt. Crawford over a month ago asking an excellent question.  They wanted to know if there was a way to keep all of their programs up to date, keeping the latest version always on their system.

In talking back and forth with them we came to the conclusion that there should be something on the market that was similar to “Windows Update”.  WU comes with all versions of Microsoft windows as all of my readers should know.  It allows you to check and see if there are any new versions of your MS products that need updating.  If there are, it allows you to update them so that you can stay ahead of the curve.

After a little Googling and searching I found a program called Secunia-PSI.  I have no idea what “Secunia” means but PSI is for “Personal Software Inspector”.  This program does almost everything the reader wanted.  I have been testing it for a little over a month and it seems to work very well.

Visit Secunia-PSIYou can go to secunia.com to read about and download the personal edition of the application.  There are actually three different versions of Secunia.  They are OSI (Online), PSI (Personal) and CSI (Corporate).  I tried the OSI and it was adequate but does not look for as many programs as the PSI and CSI versions.  The CSI version is really for the corporate environment and home users do not need it.  All three are here: bit.ly/bx3f5u.

All versions are free but I recommend downloading/installing the PSI version which seems to  be very thorough.  You will find it in the middle of the three on the page recommended above.

The default setting for Secunia runs in the background all the time checking your computer’s software for updates.  I leave it like that on my desktop since I have loads of memory. However, for my netbook I just run it once a week or so.

I pride myself in always keeping all of my software up to date, so let’s take a look at how my three computers faired after being scanned by Secunia.

My netbook scored 100% as all of my software was up-to-date, yeah!

My notebook didn’t do as well.  There were four applications that weren’t up to standards.  But I still did better than 15% of users in Virginia; Secunia gives you this info if you register the product.  (free)

Now my pride and joy, my desktop computer…oops, I had 11 applications that were not where they should be.  I spent about an hour uninstalling some old versions which Secunia advised me to do, before I updated them.  I also downloaded some of the new versions from the links provided by Secunia.  And I learned a valuable lesson, as the bible says, “Pride goes before destruction.”

Now, let’s look at  a couple of drawbacks.  It indicated that all three browsers on my system were insecure and needed updates.  They are MSIE, Firefox and Google Chrome.  Come on, give me a break!  They were all updated and as secure as possible.  I guess it wanted me to uninstall all three of them. Of course, then my surfing the net time would be cut down considerably.  I decided to ignore those threats.  You can always make rules to ignore certain warnings.

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