About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

May 19, 2015

PC Spring Cleaning, Part 3

The last two weeks we looked at some of the ways you need to physically clean your computer for spring or any other time of the year.

Today we will clean your computer’s software.

First, make sure that you are regularly checking your Operating Systems upgrades, i.e. HaWindows 7, 8.1, etc.  Yes, you may have it set to automatically run updates; however, you need to make sure you have the latest every now and then.  Check your update settings by going to Start and typing, "Windows Update," then clicking the "Change Settings."  Check the appropriate choices.  They will make sense to you.  If not, Google for a description.  Mine is set to check for important updates, but let me choose to download and install, give me recommended updates and finally, give me updates for other MS updates.  I am comfortable with those choices but you may not be. Change them and nothing will hurt you, unless you never update.

Windows Update

The funny thing is there is no choice to download and install optional updates.  To get all offered updates for your devices, occasionally check Windows Update for all available updates, including optional updates. I always install those too; however, that is your choice.  This is why you should manually run Windows Updates monthly.  I also suggest you do this after the second week of the month due to, "Patch Tuesday."  Patch Tuesday occurs on the second, and sometimes fourth, Tuesday of each month in North America.  This is when Microsoft sends out all of the items for download to your system for updates.  Wait until after that time and you will get them all.

All of your other software is harder to update but you should take a stab at it on occasion.  You could check most every application you have on your computer by opening the app, going to "Help" then either "Check for Updates" or "About" which is where they are usually found.  Then run the recommended update.

There are also several applications you can get to check your other applications’ updates.  However, none of them are perfect.  I regularly compare several of the main ones and usually get varying results.

  • FileHippo App Manager ( – the one I use most often and is quick and easy. Use the "Download our free app manager" link only.Kaspersky Software Updater ( – good and can be set to run on a schedule of your choosing.
  • Secunia PSI ( – I have used this the longest, if you run the scan manually it takes a good while. It also appears to search more apps than the others.
  • SUMo ( – finds many apps; however is the hardest to use of all I have tested.
  • Update Notifier ( – a simple one but still finds many. Check settings to not get beta updates. 

I ran all of these as well as a couple of others today.  I got varying results and none of them match.  So I guess you could run all of them for better coverage.  I alternate between FileHippo (quick and thorough) and Secunia (slow but very thorough) but they both find apps the other one misses…go figure.



July 23, 2013

My New Tablet

Nexus 7About two years ago I wrote in regard to buying my first tablet, a Toshiba Thrive.  Well time has continued on as it usually does and I have come to the point where I needed a replacement.  So I have recently purchased a Nexus 7 by Google.  Yes, I know I have not been extremely nice to Google over the past couple of months but I am not their enemy.

Please do not misunderstand, the Thrive and its successor the Excite are both excellent tablets.  I still believe for the price and features the Excite is one of the best out there.  However, there are two things that I grew to not like as much with the Thrive, its size (form factor) and weight.  It is a 10.1 inch screen and weight in at 1.7 pound.  Almost two pounds does not sound like very much.  However, after you hold it in your hands for a couple of hours reading the latest novel by your favorite author it gets to be a load.  Even when you are switching back and forth from hand-to-hand, throw in a case of carpel tunnel and it just is not that comfortable.

In steps the Google Nexus 7 made by Asus.  The “7” is for the screen size of seven inches and the weight is a mere .75 of a pound.  Also, not that it matters tremendously but the 0.41 inch thickness is amazing in comparison to my Thrive.

I know I am not really comparing apples to apples here since the Thrive has many more features, some of which I feel should have been on the Nexus but did not make the cut.  The Thrive was much thicker; however, that was so that it could have a multitude of access ports one each for USB, HDMI and for SD Card external storage.  The Nexus has, like most other tablets, none of these niceties.  Nevertheless, after using the Thrive for a couple of years I only used the SD Card but never really needed it that often, the others were good features I experimented with but did not use at any other time.  For me the Nexus 7, actually built by Asus, has all that I need which is a tablet I can do all I need with.

Some of the advertised features from Google say that you get over eight hours of HD video playback, ten hours of web browsing or e-reading, and up to 300 hours of standby time.  For the browsing and e-reading I agree that mine has easily gone that long.  Regarding the standby time, I have not officially tested it but it goes for days without worrying about charging.  I have watch two movies on it in a row and had more that 50% of my battery life left, so I can figure that video playback number from the Nexus marketing team is good too.

You can read more of the advertising about the unbelievably lightweight, the fantastic crisp, clear display and all the other great adjectives used to describe the Nexus 7 but my belief is that generally they are correct.  It is a very nice tablet for the smaller form factor.  Also, prices are now dropping for the Nexus 7 since the Nexus 7 version 2 is supposed to be out in the next couple of weeks.

It was recently announced that the Google Play Store has approximately 1,000,000 applications and over 50 billion downloads.  You will not be alone if you own a Nexus or any other of the great Android devices.

March 26, 2013

Office 2013–Word

3-27-2013 4-34-39 PM

So I made the plunge recently and moved to Microsoft’s latest Office version which is blandly, yet I guess appropriately named "Office 2013." 

So far my evaluation leans toward… "Yawn."  It performs as well as the previous version in most areas I have checked,  looks a little different,  saves to the cloud a little easier,  has a few new buttons and bells, but  still contains all of the office applications you are used to. 

Keep in mind my thoughts here are toward you, the normal user out in the world; not the published authors out there.  Though I have talked with a couple of you who have written books, newspaper articles and blogs, most of my readers are normal people who use Office on occasion, but maybe not for a living.

There are some interesting new features, or "buttons and bells" I will mention.  Today we will talk about Word 2013 and if I receive enough emails from you this week showing interest, I will move on to Excel, PowerPoint and some of the other apps in Office.  Its will be your call.

One change I really appreciate in Word is the new look when you use the "Read Mode." This is a great way to read a large document you have more than a passing interest in.

The read only mode was also present in previous versions of office so that in itself is nothing new; however, it looks much better and is significantly easier to read in this view. 

In the previous versions of the read mode your document changed into a two-page or column-type view.  Now, when you click the small book-like icon on the lower right of the Word screen it pops off of the page at you.  The words appear larger, darker and much clearer than before.  Another feature in this mode, which I accidentally found, was that when you double click on an object; picture, table, etc., it zooms in and becomes larger and even more readable.  This gives you a precise and higher quality view of the object.

Now if you are a PDF (Portable Document Format) user, creator or reader here is one of the best new features of Word 2013.  You can not only open a PDF document in Word but you can also edit it.  Yes, you read that correctly!

3-27-2013 4-34-39 PM

When I first heard this I thought, "Hmm, I bet you can, but I also bet it will not look very good."  Now that I have tried it, I have found that was absolutely incorrect thinking.  I have opened several PDFs in Word and after asking if you want to open it in Word it opens right up as a PDF.

I have edited them by removing words and graphics, adding words and graphics, moving paragraphs (and graphics of course) and saving the file.  They look identical (other than the edits) to the original document.  Even better you can save it as a regular Word file (docx is the default format but other choices work as well) or as a PDF.  This is amazing when I consider all the licensing requirements they must have had to work on with Adobe (the creators of that format) in order to achieve this.  If you get Office 2013 and use PDFs you will grow to love this feature very quickly.

The current retail cost for Office 2013 is $139.99, $219.99 and $399.99 for the "Home and Student", "Home and Business" and "Office Professional" versions respectively.

Let me know if you want to learn more.

July 31, 2012

Got Software To Install? Try Ninite

In a column last year, I mentioned in passing an application that has come to my attention (through my own research and a few emails from readers). Today, we will take a look at a delightful little program named, “Ninite,” found online at
This is a freeware offering from the developer and, of course, the developer is also offering a pro version for a fee. I would not worry too much about the pro version, which appears to be geared toward users who have multiple computers to take care of, which usually isn’t the case for individuals like you and me.
SNAGHTML3a45b7If you go over to the Ninite, you can choose programs you want installed on your computer. This is especially useful if you get a new computer and know of several applications that you want to install. This will keep you from having to print out a list of all the programs currently on your computer.
Not all of the world’s programs are on the site, but the ones you hear about most often are available. At last count (and, yes, I really did count them) there were 91 applications listed.
If you want one that is not on the site, you are out of luck …  this time. However, you can ask for the missing app to be added to the list and it may be there next time you visit.
imageTo get your combined installation file, check off each application that you would like to install. After you have finished selecting the proper applications, click the “Get Installer” button. The next screen will ask if you want to share your experience online (Facebook or Twitter) or sign up for their newsletter. After that, you get a popup (depending on your computer’s settings) that asks you to download your new file.
Once you download the file (one single, executable file) make sure you know where it is so you can easily find it later. Double click the file and the installs will begin. The applications will automatically be installed onto your new computer. Ninite includes an installation list and, as it installs, shows you each application so you can easily keep up with the progress.
Since I just received a new work computer and had to set it up, I learned one thing that was very interesting: The installs go much quicker using Ninite than they do individually. I installed 24 of the 91 available applications. I did not time the installation process, but the “feels like” index was basically … really fast (yeah, a high-end computer engineering term).
When I wrote about Ninite in days-gone-by, I mentioned something that I did not like about it at that time. When I ran the installation file, it would install some applications in an older version than the one I was using and I could get on each individual program’s homepage.
I would now like to tell you, “Not so any longer.” I got the most recent versions of every application I chose and they installed smoothly and with absolutely no problems.
Ninite is truly a great app and I highly recommend it if you need something like this!

November 1, 2011

Jump Lists

Last week we were looking at some tricks you can do with your Windows 7 taskbar.  Today let’s see how to actually add a task to the taskbar.

Pinning and Unpinning ProgramsTo add any program which is installed on your computer to the taskbar, first find the program you want to add.  Do this by clicking the Start button and All Programs. Scroll to the specific program you want to add and right click on the icon.   The dropdown menu will include several different choices but the two you need to pay attention to here are, "Pin to Taskbar" and "Pin to Start Menu."  If you choose "Pin to Taskbar" it will add the program icon/link to your taskbar.  If you do not like where it is located on the taskbar it is easy to move.  Click the icon and drag it to the location on your taskbar you prefer.

Obviously, you can also add the program icon to your Start Menu.  If you choose that one the program will be added somewhere near the top of the menu list when you click the start button.  Again, you can click and drag it to slide it to the location you prefer on the menu list.

Now, how about "Jump Lists?"

Jump Lists are lists of recently opened items like websites or documents folders depending on which program you used to open them last. You can use a Jump List to open these items, and you can also pin favorites to a Jump List so you can quickly get to the items you use every day.

Jump List in WordThey are found on the taskbar and in the menu.   Again, this depends on what programs you have added to the menu or what programs are currently running.  On the Start menu jump lists appear for programs you’ve pinned to the Start menu and programs you’ve opened recently. Note that not all programs use jumps lists so they may not appear.  However, most of the main programs will have them.  Jump Lists can include recently opened items and any you have added or pinned there.

The same jump list items will appear in the start menu and the taskbar no matter which way you access them.  So, if you pin an item to a program’s Jump List on the taskbar, the item also appears in that program’s Jump List on the Start menu.

Using this quick access feature is easy.  To view a Jump List for an application, click start, point to the pinned program near the top of the menu list, point to the item and click it.  It then opens up. 

Pinned and Unpinned in the Start MenuTo add an item to the jump list, click start, hover the program in your start menu, hover the item you want to pin, click on the little "push pin" icon and click "Pin to this list". To remove the item follow the previous directions and click the "push pin" icon again.  Next choose, "Unpin from this list."

Follow the same process on the taskbar but start by hovering and then right-click.  Now practice your new productivity in Windows 7.

April 5, 2011

Windows Live Essentials

Last week I mentioned that Family Safety is one of the applications you get if you choose to install Windows Live Essentials (WLE). Here is a very short description of all the apps which come with a full installation of WLE. If any of them sound appealing try it, if not ignore them.

First go to “,” scroll down the page and click, “Windows Live Essentials” then you will be taken to the main page. Here you will see each of the applications available and a short blurb on each.

Explore Windows Live Essentials

Messenger is Microsoft’s “chat” or messaging client which is used to send text messages in real-time to other people who are online. They can be online via either their computers or phones.

Live Photo Gallery allows you to edit photos, share those photos, and even movies, online. I wrote an article for Microsoft last year about using Photo Gallery to create panoramas at

Movie Maker is a neat little app that will let you take your digital pictures and turn them into a movie with music, sound effects, and transitions. You can also do a little movie editing and publish them online. I have used this along with other programs to create a couple of YouTube videos. Search there for “dblclx” to find them.

Next is Live Mesh which I have written about several times over the past three years. It provides “cloud” storage and auto-backup capabilities for your files.

Live Writer is a program mainly for bloggers and there is Family Safety, both of which I have covered in detail over the past several months.

Live Mail is the replacement program for Outlook Express. It is a good application for email. I highly recommend it if you don’t have Outlook or Thunderbird already in place for your personal email access.

The last four parts of Live Essentials are really just add-ons for other programs. First is Messenger Companion, which adds a couple of extra features to Messenger’s chat program. The most appealing one gives you the ability to add comments directly from within Microsoft Internet Explorer (MSIE). I am not an online “chatter” so I have not really used this other than to test for a short period. The second add-on is Bing Bar which adds a toolbar to MSIE for searching, checking your email, etcetera while surfing the web.

Finally, the last two are Outlook Connector Pack and Silverlight. The connector pack allows you to add, email accounts and Messenger to the full version of Outlook. Silverlight is an add-on which allows special video, audio and/or interactivity to be run on your MSIE browser. Silverlight is worthwhile if you go to a site requiring it. However, so far it isn’t widely accepted throughout the net-world.

Note: When you start the install for WLE select the link that says, “Choose the programs you want to install.” You can then select ANY of the above applications. If you choose the other link you will install all of the applications on your system.

January 17, 2011

2011-01-17 Show Notes

Here you go, the links we talked about this morning on the call in show.  Try them out, enjoy them and let me know what you think.

Have a great day!

Security Essentials
Get high-quality, hassle-free antivirus protection for your home or small business PC now. It’s from Microsoft and works great per all f the test parameters.

Slim Computer
Tired of Getting Resource-Draining Promotions on a New PC? The solution is innovative software with community-sourced feedback to remove & disable unneeded software. Optimize your system with push- button controls that let you disable services, remove links & uninstall the software you never asked for.

Secunia – PSI
Keep all of your software updated. This is just like Windows Update but for most all of your other applications.  Whether you have a new or old computer I highly recommend you install it.  Make sure you download the PSI version (Personal Security Inspector).

Speccy is an advanced System Information tool for your PC. Need to find out what’s inside your computer? No problem! Speccy will give you all the information you need. Once you run it you can save the report, print it or just run it again the next time you need to know what type of hardware and OS you have running.

Ninite Easy PC Setup – Silent Unattended Install Multiple Programs At Once
Ninite – you never have to install same old apps individually, again on your next computer.

  1. Pick your favorite software.
  2. Click "Get Installer".
  3. Run it.
  4. You’re done!

Convert a large number of file types to another type. For instance, enter a YouTube video on ZamZar and have it converted to .MP3. One of Ron’s favorites is to convert a PDF file to Word format so that it can be edited…free. Wayback Machine
The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, they provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public.  Plus you can go back in time and look at many websites from years ago.

1 Sale A Day
Get good prices on wireless, watches, family jewelry products at deep discounts and of course, “The Deal of the Day”.  They change everyday at midnight (or really close to it) which is when the old sales go off and the new ones come on.

Mentioned by a caller (Ron has never tested this or tried it…yet):
DSL was originally developed as an experiment to see how many usable desktop applications can fit inside a 50MB live CD. It was at first just a personal tool/toy. But over time Damn Small Linux grew into a community project with hundreds of development hours put into refinements including a fully automated remote and local application installation system and a very versatile backup and restore system which may be used with any writable media including a hard drive, a floppy drive, or a USB device.

Talk to you next time.

July 13, 2010

Gmail vs. Windows Live Mail

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , — Ron @ 4:35 am

Last week we talked about the top online email programs.  Today I will discuss the top two I have heard about from readers and others in the area.

Although, Yahoo! Mail was listed as number one around the world, those I have heard from put Gmail and Windows Live Mail as their favorites.  Mine is not a very scientific poll since I used emails from you all and asked people I work with.  Keep in mind, the majority of my coworkers are geeks which could be skewing the results. 

Windows Live Mail (WLM from here on out) has two different address formats.  In 1996 there was  Then in 2005 Microsoft decided to revamp the name and add more functionality so Live Mail was born. Therefore, if you have an older account you have a "" address, while the newer members have "" as their address.  Being the geek tester that I am, I have one of each but rarely use either.

With Gmail everyone has the same domain in their address.  They are all formatted as,  Gmail started in 2004 by invitation only and then went public for everyone in 2007. 

WLM  will very shortly (maybe by the time you read this) be expanding storage on the site to 25GB.  They will allow this for email and all other types of files with their "Live Sky Drive" app.  Gmail started out with 1 GB of storage and continues to expand daily.  It is now at approximately 7.5 GB.  The issue I have with Gmail is that the storage is not contained in one location.

As stated above Gmail provides an ever increasing 7.5 GB of storage for email only.  Google’s Picasa Web Albums offers 1 GB of storage for photos and videos only. Google Docs gives you 1 GB for everything else; all of your docs, spreadsheets, presentations etc.  You should know this free storage is not transferable from one product or application to another.  My belief is that Google will be merging them together sooner or later. It will most likely be sooner, once Microsoft finishes rolling out their 25 GB.

Both WLM and Gmail offer calendars, address books and more online.  One very important factor is that it is all free.  Of course, both offer upgrades in storage size for a charge.  The basics should be more than enough for the average user.

After doing a review of the two I found that even though I exclusively use Gmail; Live Mail has a lot to offer.  Of course, there is Google Voice but more on that another time.

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