DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

April 14, 2015

A Few Questions Answered

There are several things I have written about through the years which I get questioned about regularly.  I thought today we would look at a few that have evolved into something more as well as some that have vanished from the e-landscape.

Coffitivity pictureOne of them was a site with some fun, soothing sounds.  It is Coffitivity.com.  Go there and listen to murmuring, clinking, you know, regular coffee shop sounds.  Coffitivity now has been upgraded with an Android and Apple app for your phones.  The site promotes that, "Research shows it is pretty hard to be creative in a quiet space."

Rainy Mood logo

Another was RainyMood.com and you can probably guess how it is used.  However, there is a new one out there which does what the previous ones did plus more.  Go check out ASoftMurmur.com for many choices.  There is not only rain, but thunder, wind, birds, coffee shop sounds, crickets and more.  So if you like working with background sounds, go for it.  Just remember ear buds for those sitting around you – unless you want them to look around for the crickets!

I also have readers ask me quite often which browser is the best.  I am very impartial with regard to this question.  For no particular reason other than it is really the users’ opinion.  The top three, in my opinion, are Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer in that order from top to bottom.  This is illustrated with my website visitors.  Those are the top three used by those who visit DoubleClicks.info.  The bottom three are the BlackBerry browser followed by Amazon Silk (one I had never heard of but it is made specifically for some Amazon devices) and Opera tied for last place. 

Google Chrome logo                         Firefox logo                         MSIE logo

My personal preference for the past year or two is Google’s Chrome browser.  The reason is I like some of its features and add ins.   

As an aside, which is really funny to me, Apple is the number one Operating System used by folks visiting my site (49% followed by Windows at 33%).  Why, "funny?"  Because I only discuss Windows and hardly ever, if ever, Macs. 

One of the only graphics I could find of Eprint-StudioFinally, here’s one I get many, many questions regarding.  It was called Eprint-Studio.  To jog your memory this Android only app allowed you to download most any recent book on your device to read.  I had one book that was out in hardback one week and available on Eprint the next week.  These books were all free. 

It was advertisement supported, so you got to check out ads every few pages.  I have no idea why, (OK to be honest I can guess) but it no longer works.  I went to the site several months ago to get a new book and, "POOF!" it had vanished with no information.  My guess as to why; I imagine it was not quite legal or was discovered to not be on the up and up.

I have found nothing to free to replace it yet but there are many sites where you can purchase most any book in e-format. 

January 27, 2015

SSD Drive or Not

I have been told by other geeks for a couple of years I need to get SSD (solid-state drive) for my computer.  A SSD is a storage device which uses integrated circuitry to store data on your computer.  In recent years they were called hard drives using electro-magnetic media to store your data.  You know the traditional platter-based hard drives like stacked floppy disks.

The “old” hard drives had to spin rapidly to search for and store data.   SSDs store data electronically, so these processes are much faster.

“Wow!” the geeks said, “They are so much better.”   However, the prices were always a bit out of range for me and I am not the type to fix something if it ain’t broke.

Therein lies my story.  My notebook was running perfectly and gave me no issues for several years.  Several months ago my hard drive went bye-bye.  It did not go quietly into the night but slowly started a downward spiral to death.  This was good – giving me a warning time to prepare.

Over the last couple of years prices on SSDs started way past the $200 mark for small sizes.  However, when I looked this time I found that price had come down and size had gone up.  Before Christmas I discovered a nice one on sale for $69.  It had a good name and reviews so I threw the hammer down and got one.  By-the-way, it really was on sale and not a gimmick.  A friend checked into getting one recently and it was around $120.

OK, I installed it, reinstalled windows and all of the other applications that I needed and guess what?  It was faster, much faster starting up.  I used to have to wait a couple of minutes after powering it on before being able to use my computer.  With the SSD I have figured it goes from off to on in approximately 25-30 seconds.  To me that is amazing.  Also, files open faster, close faster, save faster and the computer shuts down far more quickly.  Basically most everything on the computer works more rapidly.  Windows 7 and 8 run speedier on this drive too.

All around a great investment; however, I need to say more.

Speed is not the most valuable commodity to many of us.  Storage size may be.  My old “platter” drive and the new one both had/have 240GB of storage space.  This was enough for me to use so I was happy.

But I could have paid about the same price and gotten a 1TB internal drive of the “old” type.  It would have been slower but it would have given me approximately 4 times the amount of storage space.

Speed or space, what is most valuable to you?

December 16, 2014

Tech Christmas, Part 2

Last week, I suggested a few techie Christmas gifts. Some readers requested a few more; so, they are as follow.

Let’s start on a slightly different foot. This is similar to the musical cards that play songs or prerecorded messages when opened, but it’s a little different. At spreengs.com, users can create their own video card.

Users create their own video, then upload it to the site, at which point it is completed and mailed to recipients. Or, the company can mail users the card, envelope and USB wire, so the video can be uploaded to the card and sent. The first option costs about $5 more. The few that I looked at ranged about $ 20- 40.

447_mifi5510lFor a gift that keeps on giving — for a monthly fee — try a personal Wi- Fi Hotspot. These small devices supply users with highspeed Internet connections. Speeds are fastest with 4G coverage. Sometimes, I use one for work and it usually gets from 7 to 12 mbps download speed, which is enough to watch movies.  Shown here is the Verizon Mi-Fi that I use which works very well with 4G.

Prices vary for the hardware to the monthly charges for the amount of data used. However, before buying one, check if your cellphone has a hotspot capability, as it may be less expensive.

Tablet sales are down about four percent this year; but tablet keyboard sales are up approximately 90 percent. Users can take an old tablet and, add a Bluetooth keyboard, which costs from $20- 50. Users have found that this is much more convenient than typing on a tablet without a keyboard. You can also get a new tablet with a keyboard included; however, the cost will likely be much higher.

Also available are Mighty Purses, a fusion between fashion and technology available at mighty- purse. com. These bags have a lightweight, built- in battery and a cable for phone charging. They are available in a variety of colors and designs. Prices on Amazon. com run approximately $80- 100.

The Shoulderpod S1 (shoulderpod.com) is a $ 34.90 gadget that attaches to most any cellphone, with or without a case, and has three functions. First, it has a camera grip mode that can be attached to the phone and a grip and strap for users’ hands and wrists, respectively. Second, it has a desk mount mode, which allows users to stabilize without a tripod. Third, it has a mount to attach the phone to the tripod.

image

September 30, 2014

Oops!

I have always been very careful when working on building a new computer.  There are certain things you must do; however, I missed one a couple of weeks ago.  (Geek confession coming up.)

Someone came to me and basically said since I am a geek and obviously quite knowledgeable with computers would I totally rebuild theirs.  I do not usually do things like this any longer.   Not that I do not enjoy building new computers; I actually very much enjoy doing so.  However, over years of being in the business I have found that if I do this, I end up owning all of the problems that arise with that system for evermore.  No matter what happens, no matter how many years down the road they come back to me for "free" help.  In one case it was so bad I got calls and emails for six months after the build.  If they were something that I caused…no problem I was more than happy to fix them.  However, the overwhelming number of times it was the user causing issues.

This was a person I know and trust and a good friend so I did it anyway.

He gave me a list of the applications he wanted installed, and original licensed discs for the programs that he still had.  Time for a warning to all of you who want to rebuild a computer or get a new one:  Make sure you have the original discs for licensed programs or it could be costly.  For instance, your Windows installation disc, Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, etc. 

He also included all of his email account usernames and passwords, so that I could set up his accounts.  Another warning here, I do not recommend you do this unless you absolutely, positively, totally trust the installer.

As always you start with the operating system, Windows 8.1, a full reformat of the hard drive, etc. 

For Microsoft Office versions there has always been a small issue when you perform a reinstall.  In the olden days you had to speak with a live customer service rep for 30 – 45 minutes to get an approval.  They had to make sure that you did not have an illegal copy.  Today you call an 800 number and punch buttons for several minutes and get an OK.  Then you type in more numbers in your computer and you are approved.

Next, the multitude of upgrades.

After about five or six hours I was almost done.  For a while I tested, updating some more apps as necessary.  Another Windows update or so and done.  He was going to install his only data files when I got it back to him so I did not have to upload those.  I was finally finished, no big deal…until…

Strange things started happening in the browser.  Homepages changing, popups flying and then my brain finally kicked in; I had not installed any antivirus.  I now had several viruses running on a brand new computer.  One was trying to take over the system entirely.

I could have resolved them one-by-one; however, on a brand new system that is not the way I would do it.  So the rebuild began.

Guess what I installed before I got online this time?  You better have guessed right – his antivirus software and all was right with the world… another five to six hours later.

What a jerk I am; however, I hope you learned something from my mistake!

September 16, 2014

Good News and a Warning

A few weeks back I wrote about an application you could use to retrieve deleted files from a computer’s drive, SD Card, etc.  This was really highlighted when I got an email from Tom in Harrisonburg, about his adventure with that application, Recuva

It began with, "I took a deep breath, downloaded, installed and ran Recuva on my wife’s defunct mini-SDHC card from her phone…"  Tom went on to tell me that Recuva fully recovered about 90%, over 600 photographs and eight videos.  These had been taken on her phone and then the card failed.  Now the grandkid photos were back.

He was so impressed he bought the Pro version.  I like hearing good news from all of you, so let me know if you read something that helps you out. 

Now a warning for all of you Android phone users.  If you sell, give away or toss your phone/tablet in the trash there are two things you should do first.  Number one is to remove your SD card if you have one installed.  It may contain many things about your system, possibly pictures you have taken, downloaded files, sites you visit, etc.  Next, you must perform a "factory reset" of your device.   

FYI, here is the way to do a factory reset.  Note: devices may vary slightly.  Go to Settings, select Privacy and then "Factory data reset."  You will get a big warning about setting your phone back to the way you got it out of the box when you bought it.  It may give you the choice to also wipe your SD card.  Choose, "OK" and it will be wiped clean. 

Until recently I would say you are now safe to get rid of the phone/tablet.  But new information has come to my attention.  It is now known that some disreputable people have been known to get old phones and recover information.  They run software like Recuva or other similar "rescue" apps and get a lot of information back from the erased system. 

You think,"That is fine, my pictures are of me fully clothed unlike some recent celebrities."  But what about your email username and password?  Or you bank account login, a personal letter you wrote, your Dropbox account and on-and-on?  Your personal data could be retrieved.

Locked filesThere is a safe way to get around this problem many geeks suggest implementing.  You add one new procedure to your Android device before you execute the factory reset.  Encrypt your device.  Encryption basically scrambles your device’s data with a cryptographic key so that only you can access it with a great password.  That way it cannot be accessed without that encryption key.  You can do this on your device at any time; however, it has a couple of drawbacks.  It can cause battery drain, it can also slow down your device and if you decide you do not like your phone encrypted it cannot be undone without a factory reset.  That causes a loss of all data.

Look under Settings and then Security to encrypt your phone/tablet.  Once encrypted you may then run a factory reset and if someone looks into recovering your data they end up with a recovered scrambled mess.  Your information will be safe.  

January 14, 2014

2013 Sites in Review, Part 2

This week I will continue with the second half of the links we talked about last year at DoubleClicks.info.

Remember, if the site addresses are too long to type I have shortened them with bit.ly.  Here they are in their order of appearance with short descriptions of each.

  • Dropboxbit.ly/aszzao.   A very good cloud storage app.  Use the supplied link to sign up and get more space.
  • Kill Diskkilldisk.com.  This application will totally wipe your drive clean so that it is almost impossible to retrieve deleted data.
  • Nexus 7 2013bit.ly/1esugJz.  My current favorite Android tablet. 
  • Hulu.com and Hulu.com/plus.  The very popular free and paid TV movie streaming apps. 
  • Google Musicplay.google.com/music.  Google’s free/paid (depending on what you want) music streaming plus you can upload your own music to it and listen anywhere you have internet connectivity.
  • BGCallwww.vieas.com/en.  A wallpaper changer which was less than adequate at the time I wrote about it.
  • Google Keepgoogle.com/keep.  A very good note taking app where you can add pictures, lists, texts and be alerted by them using the time or location of your mobile device.  I just hope Google does keep this one.
  • Recuvapiriform.com/recuva.  Did you accidentally empty the Recycle Bin and need a file back?  If so try this app which is one of the better ones for recovering deleted files.
  • Facebook.com and Twitter.com.  Two popular social web sites.
  • PayPal.com. A safe place to pay for online purchases.
  • Device ManagerAndroid.com/devicemanager.  How to locate, send an alert or wipe your data from your Android device(s).
  • Ubuntuubuntu.com.  Operating system which operates as well as Windows; however, this one is free. 
  • Join Mejoin.me.  A free application for individuals, which will allow you to log onto someone else’s computer, while they are there.  Great to use for helping and training.
  • Should I Remove Itshouldiremoveit.com.  A free app that will locate and remove unwanted programs including adware, toolbars, bloat-ware, crap-ware and other junk.
  • AniPet Aquariumbit.ly/anifree. A nice live wallpaper for Android devices. Also similar for Windows and OSX is Serene Screen at serenescreen.com. 
  • Glympseglympse.com and Waze.com.  A good and much better GPS navigation app for your mobile devices. 
  • Chromegoogle.com/chrome, Firefoxfirefox.com, Internet Explorer – search at Microsoft.com, Operaopera.com and Safariapple.com/safari.  The five most popular web browsers.
  • OpenOffice (openoffice.org) and LibreOffice (libreoffice.org) are two similar but excellent free replacements for Microsoft Office. 

I look forward to continuing the discussions about software, computers, the internet and all sorts of technology this year.  I hope that you, your families and friends have a great 2013 and continue to join me in the newspaper, on the radio and on the web! 

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