About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

November 15, 2016

Take a Chill Pill Folks

I have decided to not mention you know…that which has been going on in our country lately that shall not be named.  To relieve some of the stress out there I have decided to give you a few fun sites to visit on the web that may put a smile on your face.

Visit the AkinatorFirst off is one of my favorites, “Akinator” found at  To use the site, think of a character, alive, dead, fictional historical, etc.  The only requirement is that they are known to the general public.  Fill in your age, why I have no idea, think about your character and start answering questions.  Today I tried Abraham Lincoln and Peter Pan.  Akinator got them both in (a guess here) less than 15 answers. Give it a try and do not worry.  Although it may seem like it, it is not magic or mindreading but a really well done algorithm   and database combination.  Just the miracle of computing quickly.

Next is one that may be useful for some of you but I think funny,  Go to the site and check off the items you have in your refrigerator.  Now click the, “Find Recipes” button and you have a list of dinners to make.  To be honest I tried it and occasionally it will add a general item I did not list, but still interesting.

How about  The name says it all, click the one you want and keep a running total.

How about a handy app that will clean the inside of your computer’s monitor?  Try

Do you like to shop on and sometimes run out of ideas for gifts?  Go to  Every click of the. “Please” button will take you to Amazon to show you something – you guessed it, weird or confusing.  How about trying to bounce a few cats at


Try and no matter where you hold your mouse pointer someone will find it and point at it.  Now that everyone is pointing your way show them some art. Go to and make some sand art.  It will give you a few easy instructions when you enter the site, make sure to read them on your first visit.  Now create!


Would you like to watch a movie by a cozy fire but you do not have a fireplace, try  How about seeing if you can tell where a picture was taken?  Go to and with Google Maps try the single player mode.  The closest I got was about 700 miles.

There are always funny cat videos on, but I am sure many of you have already seen them all.

Finally, and only try last.  Warning only use this site if you are absolutely finished.  Now I bet for a little while you have forgotten all of that stress.

October 11, 2016

Ron’s Favorite Add-on Apps, Part 2

Last week we looked at several programs I recommend to be good additions to a Windows system.  They are either better than what comes on a PC or those applications may not usually be found on a new computer.  Of course, the apps are free…you know me. From the responses I have received you want more.  So here are some additional applications for you.

You need a good cleaner and CCleaner ( is great.  I have previously written about it in length so go check those older articles.   CCleaner can speed up a slow computer and get it to start faster while cleaning up unneeded files. Well worth the $0.00’s. 


Oh boy, now a biggie…antivirus software.  There are several good ones to pick from. Avast ( and AVG ( always come to my mind first.  They are closely followed by Avira (, Bitdefender ( and Panda (  Take your pick.  They are good and all have a free and paid version.  You may even choose to stick with "Windows Defender" which comes pre-installed on your computer.  It is really pretty good.  Just make sure you run one of them, but only one at a time or they can interfere with each other.  

Avast! site          AVG logo          Avira logo     

Bitdefender logo          Panda logo

Another good protection app you need is Malwarebytes ( which takes care of threats.  The free version needs to be run manually by you; whereas, the paid version runs automatically.

Malwarebytes logo

How about the best video/audio player?  There is only one and it will run on most anything you own, PC, iPhone, Android, etc. and that is VLC (  The great thing about this app other than dependability and quality is that it can play every video or audio format you can put on it.  That includes DVDs as well as Blu-Ray discs. 

VideoLAN (VLC) logo
Now to online storage or cloud storage.  There is really only one name in this area that I prefer, Dropbox (  It is solid, works flawlessly and also allows for quite a bit of storage space.  There are others but for free, Dropbox does it for me.  You have files that are important to you and Dropbox is dependable, enough said.

Dropbox logo

Now email apps.  I personally like online email, mainly Gmail; however, you as well as a large percentage of people like an app to take care of email.  Thunderbird ( from Mozilla, the Firefox browser people is excellent.  It is reliable, high quality and easy to set up if you pay attention to the instructions.  I would also say the built in email program in Windows 10 is a good basic email app but there are not many advanced features.  Also, with the Windows app you will be on your own setting up your email. 

Thunderbird logo

Next week a few more. 

August 30, 2016

Now You Can Delete That File

It hit me the other day that I have been remiss in sharing a great application with you.  I have been using it for well over five years and have never mentioned it.  So here we go today.

If you have used a Windows PC regularly for more than a few weeks you have run into this issue.  You know the frustrating feeling you get when you go to delete a file, group of files or a folder and you cannot.  You will get some type of notification telling you that it cannot be deleted.  You can right click, delete or try selecting it and pressing your delete key or even dragging it directly to the recycle bin, but it just does not matter.

Sometimes the notice will inform you that another program is using it, there is a sharing violation, etcetera.  You can try my old standby trick to delete them.  Wait for a few minutes and try to delete them again.  Sometimes, but rarely, this will work.

This is usually caused by some other program using the file for some known or unknown reason.  For instance, I have had the issue when working on a Word file typing a document.  I did not need the file and went to delete it from my computer.  It gave the notification that it was being used by another application.  I searched and found, yes, I left it open in Word and did not close the file.  In that case it makes sense and once I close the Word program, the file is released and then can be deleted.

However, way too often for me, I cannot figure out what has the file under its control.  I can look and search and cannot find why the stinking file will not go away!

Now for the application I mentioned earlier.  It is appropriately enough named “Unlocker.” It does just that.  If you have a file/folder that needs to be removed and you cannot delete it, Unlocker will.    After it is installed you will have a new command available when you right click on a file that says, “Unlocker.”  Click it and choose between “No Action,” “Delete,” “Rename” or “Move.”  Choose the one you want to use, usually Delete, and click OK.  It will work for a few seconds and either delete it or ask you if you would like it deleted the next time you start your computer.

You can download it from MajorGeeks here, “”  Oh, did I mention that it is free?  So it will not delete any money from you.

image          image






August 23, 2016

What’s in Your Backpack?

You may or may not have a backpack. I (like most geeks) do. I have no idea why they became so popular over the years other than the advent of the notebook computer. When I was a kid in middle school I carried one to hold my books and paper notebooks in and could not wait for the day I would be rid of the stupid thing. Now, here I am, quite a few years later and I have one slung over my back most of the time I am out and about.

Targus Port BackpackLike I said before, you may not have one but according to sales figures most people do. In 2014 it was recorded that 58% of the US population owns a backpack. Many of us are not using them for work and school but many are.

Prices of backpacks go form the cheap little kid ones at $10 to hundreds of dollars for the cool people who need leather and/or a big name brand.

A couple of warnings here. There were about 14,000 injuries for kids related to backpacks in 2014. I am sure there are more this year. Mostly strains, pulled muscles and other pains in the back. The suggested weight of your backpack and the kids’ should be no more than 10-15% of your body weight, so be careful out there.

Pentel Classic Deluxe Mechanical PencilNot that you care but here is a list of the contents of my Targus Port Backpack: Android tablet, Windows 10 Notebook with 500 GB drive, a small paper notebook (yes, I still write occasionally), my favorite Pentel Classic Deluxe Mechanical Pencil, (my last one as they no longer make these) a pen, several wall chargers to plug in my multitude of cables, (some of unknown variety) 2-USB memory sticks, (one blank and one with programs to fix computer issues) small high-intensity flashlight, usually a couple of extra batteries, a loaded external hard drive just in case and a cheap set of earbuds to listen to music while writing an article.

And then there is some personal stuff. My darts, a traveling humidor, (yes, for a duo of fresh cigars) an old lighter, my faithful old Leatherman, a couple of candy-type snacks (I have to toss the current ones out, they look really old) and even some medical stuff for a Type-1 diabetic.

Go to or email me and let me know if you carry a backpack and what’s inside. Oh yes, I checked and mine is well below the 10-15% of weight rule. It still weighs in at a hefty 14+ pounds.

There is one final word of warning from the doctors in charge of back pain. Make sure you use both straps, one for each shoulder to keep the injuries down.

August 9, 2016

Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:18 am

If you have not heard, Microsoft has discontinued the free upgrade to Windows 10.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update

For those of you that waited due to, “Oops, I forgot” I am sorry for your loss.  Loss of $119 at least.  For those of you that will never give up because of all the issues with Windows 10 — I am also sorry.  Not for the $119 loss, since you knew that would come but sorry that you will not get to enjoy it…until you purchase a new PC.

Of course, you are not alone.  MS shoots to have everyone on Windows 10 but the reality is different.  Looking at all computers in use around the world, W10 is on 21.13% while Windows 7 is still in the lead with 47.01%.  If you care, the breakdown continues as W8.x at 9.17%, XP is 10.34% and finally Mac is in last place of the big boys at 4.69%.  The others that total to 100% are Linux and “Others” that are not used very often.  So basically about one out of every five PCs are running Windows 10 as of August 1st.

All that being said on August 2nd, Microsoft began rolling out the “Windows 10 Anniversary Update”, woohoo!  It is also known as the 1607 update (for the anniversary of 07/16).  It included many changes most of which are on the backend where you will not notice much.  There were some interface changes but minimal.

One change you will notice right off is that the Start Menu has changed.  The entire list of applications now starts directly under the Recently Added and Suggested apps.  From there you can scroll down or you may still click on one of the letter labels to choose the app you want.

The Action Center button has moved to the right side of the time in the Taskbar instead of being on the left as it was before…I have no idea why.  An interesting change which I entirely approve of is if you have set up your email and calendar in Windows 10, including Gmail, when you click the time on the taskbar you will see your scheduled agenda under the time, date and calendar.

Also, if you are an Edge browser user there has been a major change.  You can now add extensions like Google Chrome, Firefox and other browsers have had for a long time. Extensions allow you to do other things with your browser other than surf the net.  Like Adblock, Evernote, Pinterest and others.  Although, there are not many they are being created often now.  When Windows 10 started a year ago there were basically none.

You will be invited to download and install the Anniversary Update when you have your next Windows update.  Mine hit on August 4th so it installed it two days after the rollout.  It was flawless but I would plan on a couple of hours to complete the download and installation, which includes several reboots.  All of it is automatic once you start the first reboot.

Good luck for all you PC users out there whether XP, 7, 8.1 or 10. I hope no one is still dealing with Vista or Millennium!

August 2, 2016


Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:44 am

OK, last week I know I left you with a tease.  I mentioned Pokémon at the very end.  I do not know how you feel but personally I am tired of hearing about it…whatever it may be. 

Nevertheless, let us explore Pokémon.

The Pokémon started its illustrious career in 1995 and was created by Satoshi Tajiri.  It was a game made specifically for the Nintendo Game Boy. 

PokémonThe idea was that human players were called Pokémon trainers.  Their job was to train the little, chubby, yellow, long eared, soft looking "monsters" to fight each other for fun. "Pokémon" is a combination of two Japanese words, "Poketto" and "Monsut" which is "Pocket Monsters" in English.  That was the beginning and since these creatures were very popular they continued to grow.  Since their creation there have been movies, TV shows, card games, a Pokémon monopoly board game and some knuckleheads even started a Poké religion.

However, a few weeks ago (July 6, 2016) an electronic game "Pokémon Go" appeared on the market, created by a California company, Niantic. It was recently announced that Pokémon Go became the most popular download in the history of video games.  Within 10 days of its release it was downloaded over 21 million times in the U.S. alone. 

The game is a free Android and iPhone, "location-based, augmented reality" game.  To play you first download the app from your perspective game store.  It requires many permissions from your phone.  Some authorizations make sense like photos but others like access to all of your contacts…for me, NO!  This is the reason I have talked to game players and not installed it on my phone.  It seems too invasive for me.

Poké BallBasic gameplay is you walk/run around outdoors looking for Pokémon in the wild on your phone’s screen.  You capture them when you see them by throwing an imaginary Poké Ball at them.  Once you capture them they can battle other Pokémon in the game at Poké Gyms, etc.

The only part I find interesting is this takes place on a real screen with the things your camera sees in real time becoming part of the game.  You may see your Pokémon is running around in your yard, at the mall, in a parking lot, wherever.  If you hit them quickly enough you capture them.  After you capture them they will battle for you to win more Pokémons or lose some of yours.  The goal is to collect all 151 (at this time) types of the pocket monsters.

I have read that problems are abundant with the game.  There have been a few security issues alone with bad guys adding similar apps people download which collect your personal information.  There have been reports of Pokémon Trainers being chased off of other people’s personal real estate looking for the monsters.  There have been many reports of people walking into things, falling down, breaking bones from falling in ditches while chasing Pokémon, etc.

Unfortunately, there have been some car accidents caused by people trying to capture a Pokémon while they should have been watching traffic. 

What is wrong with people today anyway?  I always said computers were making people more ignorant all the time.  In my opinion this game helps prove it.  And this is coming from a computer nerd.

July 19, 2016

You ARE Being Watched

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:41 am

I have mentioned before that if you have an Android phone or use Google Maps on any device, your movements are being recorded.  Just browse to “” for a peek.  Once there, click the menu (hamburger, three horizontal bars) on the upper left and choose “Your timeline.”  Take a look around and see where you have been…unless you have stopped this feature.  More about that later.

Google recently came out with another tracking function that you may not have heard of yet.  It is called My Activity and you can find yours at

Basically this feature of Google follows you all over the web.  Pretty much anywhere you go online is recorded.  This activity page allows you to see when you visited websites (links are included so you can revisit them) along with everything you have searched for using Google.  It goes on to show you YouTube videos you have watched because Google owns that too.  All locations you have used in Google Maps are there.  Even the games you have looked for and played on your Android device have that history shown.  Finally, every app I use on my Google device is revealed.  I could see how many times I checked my Gmail and when I played a game of Hanging Free (the only online game I play).

By-the-time you read this who knows what else they may be finding out about you.  Well, Google is a search engine so what did you expect?

Now keep in mind that if you are not logged into your Google/Gmail account in your browser you are safe from being followed.  Keep in mind also that if you are using an Android phone, tablet or Chromebook, you must be logged into your Google account for everything to work.

Once you go to the “My Activity” site you will notice a declaration that states, “Only you can see this data. Google protects your privacy and security.”  You can click there and read all of the information Google has and how it is used.  I found it disquieting that their descriptions are done with little cartoons, since I personally do not like cartoons for important explanations.

My Activity MenuYou may ask, “Can I stop this!?”  Sure you can, I would not have tried to scare you like this unless I had a way out!  Go to your own My Activity page and to the right of each item you will see three vertical dots.  Click them and choose either details or delete and click the one you wish to perform. Next to the Day listing you can only delete.

Now if you just want to get rid of all of them try this.  Click the hamburger icon in the left corner next to “Google My Activity” and choose “Delete activity by.”  Once there use the controls at the top and choose what days you want to delete from your activity history.  Scroll to the bottom of the list and select “All time” and once deleted all of the information will vanish.

Finally, go back to hamburger “Google My Activity” but this time choose “Activity controls.”  When there you may select which particular types of information you want to stop by clicking the on/off buttons.  Do not panic! There are only six of them to adjust.  I cut them all off on my account with the exception of “Location history.”

July 5, 2016

Sorry No Column this Week due to July the 4th

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:40 am

The Daily News Record is not running the column this week so I will not be posting today. 

But you know what?  I already have one ready to go, so come back next week for the latest news.

I hope you had a great Fourth of July!

June 21, 2016

Need Your Password?

This column will presuppose you have your browser set up to automatically save your websites’ passwords.  Some people do not but many do save their passwords in their browser so they can very quickly log into websites.  I use it in Google Chrome but you can do the same thing in all of the major browsers. 

One day you may want to see what your password but you cannot due to the asterisks. You know, the, "********" that appears in the password text box.  If you want to see the password in full text you can download special software to do that but it is just as easy to use your browser. 

They are all similarly accessed expect for the newer Microsoft Edge browser.  However, from what I understand not many people us Edge in the real world. 

Manage PasswordsDo view your passwords using Chrome click the "hamburger" (three stacked horizontal lines) in the upper right corner.  Next, "Settings."  In the search box at the top type, "passwords" then scroll to the bottom and click, "Manage passwords."  From the Search Passwords box type the site you are looking for and as you type the site will appear.  Click on the site and then on the right then click, "Show."  You may have to enter your computer’s login password depending on your settings. There you go, you can see your password in Google Chrome.

Password reveal in Chrome

For Firefox it is similar.  Click the same, hamburger, then Options, next Security and finally click, "Saved logins" at the bottom.  Finally follow the similar search process, click the site in the list and at the bottom click, "Show Passwords."  After you say yes to the, "Are you sure…" question you have your password. 

The older versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer are very similar so I bet you can figure them out.  But the later versions and Edge are of course different to reveal passwords.  Thanks MS for that headache!

For newer versions of MSIE and EDGE, click on Start button, type "Control Panel", then User Accounts and select your account if you have more than one on the computer.  Once on your account page, on the left click, "Manage your credentials" and if not select click on the Web Credentials button.  On that page you will see a list of your Web Passwords.  Click the right edge of the one you want to see and you will see the word, "Show" at the bottom of the page.  Done.

This is an easy way to check your passwords. 

PLEASE KEEP IN MIND it is easy for you and it is easy for bad guys too.  Make sure you lock your computer with a complicated password, lock your computer when you are in a coffee shop and you walk away (use Windows key + L).  Always be very careful and extremely circumspect with your computer, phones, tablets, etc.   

June 14, 2016

Avast, me Hearties!

Although I have been and still am a fan of the Avast! antivirus application ( I recently stumbled onto something interesting. 

I have always used the free version of Avast and it has worked quite well.  Since it is free you do get popups occasionally suggesting you try to better clean up your computer.  If you click the link it takes you to the upgrade page.  This is fine with me too since the paid version is good and they deserve pay for their application.  I appreciate the great freeware version but if someone wishes to pay I say, go for it.


The paid versions of Avast run from approximately $35 to $50 annually.  They also have other products available but those are the ones you should look at to replace the free version. 

Now back to my story.  Avast regularly offers popups which encourage you to try the Premium version.  One day they had one that offered the Premium version for free for a specific period of time.  I clicked it since they are a very reputable company. I thought it would be good to try the best product…especially for free. 

When the time limit expired I thought it would go back to the free version; however, it did not.  It basically said if I wanted to keep using it I had to pay my annual fee.  Then it told me I was no longer protected and should re-up for the premium version.  I went online to see what others thought and many had the same issue. 

So I thought OK, this will be a pain but I will uninstall it and then reinstall the free version again.  And make sure that the next time I get it running I WILL NOT try out the temporary premium version.

After I did that and the free new shiny version was running it still told me I had to upgrade.  It kept the old information and, yes, wanted my money.  I hated to have to go to another antivirus application so I kept looking for a fix.

I found a solution online and it was actually on the Avast site.  I know that some of you have tried or will try the free premium version so here is the fix.  It is called, "avastclear."  This is a short link to get to the page,  If you follow the instructions on the page all will be well.  The final step is to restart your computer.  I suggest after that you download the free version and happily reinstall it and live happily ever after.

There is really only one thing to do that you may be unused to per step 2 from Avast’s instructions; you must start in "Safe Mode."  You may try to restart your computer and press F8 at the correct moment; however, I have an easier way.  Hold down the Shift key and click Restart at the login screen or while in Windows while clicking the star button, Power and Restart. You will get a new screen when it starts.  Choose the following menus on each screen as follows:  Troubleshoot, Advanced options, Startup Settings, Continue and finally choose "4." 

Then find the downloaded "avastclear" and continue following the instructions from Avast.

Safe Mode startup screenSafe Mode startup screen

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