About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

June 2, 2015

My Chrome Extensions

I have spoken about my favorite current browser before: Google Chrome.  It is still my number one.  I get questions about Chrome Extensions often.  First is usually, "What extensions are available for Chrome?" followed by, "Which ones do you use?" 

An extension is an addition to a browser which gives it more functionality to perform other tasks.  The word extension may be referred to as a plug-in, add-in or add-on, etcetera, depending on the browser you are referring to.   Microsoft has even called them, "helper objects."

The first question cannot really be answered since there are millions of them doing millions of different things.  Some useful – some playful.  Here is a list of the ones I use most often, with a short description of each.  To find new extensions open your Chrome browser and type, "" (shortened link with Caps.)  Next on the upper left of the Chrome Web Store that opens, type the extensions in the "Search the store" box and press Enter.  Be sure to spell them as I did in quotes below.

"Chrome Remote Desktop" is a great extension which allows you to log into your computers, if you have more than one or to log onto another person’s computer to help them, if they allow it.

Chrome Remote Desktop

"Clearly" is another good one which basically takes a webpage and removes all the graphics. It makes it much easier to read page information without being distracted by ads and graphics when you do not need them. 

Clearly by Evenote

"Google Cast" is used to cast, or broadcast your browser screen to your TV if you have a Chromecast device on your TV.  That way if you can watch something in your browser you can also easily watch it on TV.

Google Cast

"Google Keep" is my favorite note taking online app, and gives you direct access to your Keep notes.

Google Keep

"IE Tab" allows specific sites you enter in IE Tab to only open in Microsoft Internet Explorer windows.  Some sites are only viewable in MSIE (mostly work oriented) so this extension allows you to make sure you see those pages without having to open MSIE. 

IE Tab 

"Office Apps" Google Docs is a great natural for Chrome (both owned by Google) but people use MS Office.  Office Apps gives you free Office online and you can save regular office files to Microsoft’s "One Drive."

Office Apps

"Spell Checker for Chrome" is a spell checker for your browser.  If you are posting to Facebook, Twitter or typing on any web page, this will help you correct it with suggestions just like your word processor.  It says it supports 12 languages but I have no idea since I only almost speak one fluently. 

Spell Checker

"Weather" (Weather Unground or Wunderground) gives you a small icon at the top of the browser showing you the temp with a picture of what it is like outside.  Click it once and you get details for several days.  Click a day and get more detail. 


November 6, 2012

Another Windows 8 Article…

Windows 8 BoxWindows 8 is out and according to Microsoft it is, "Vibrant and beautiful."  Well the colors are very nice and it is faster.  It will work with a computer that previously ran Windows 7 and even run better and faster with less hardware requirements which is unusual for a new Operating System.  It also boots much more quickly.  The advertised boot time is about six seconds, but I found that mine was less than 10 seconds. That is still fantastic. 

Let’s take a look at some of the new features. 

Touchscreen is the latest tech feature to come along since the first iPhone rolled and now Windows 8 has it.  This is slick – on a touchscreen enabled computer which you will most likely have to buy since until now very few computers had it.  On the desktop "Tiles" are in and "Icons" are out.  Tiles are larger and are sometimes active. The weather tile updates continuously so you can see it without opening it unless you want to.

Windows 8 has exceptional cloud integration out of the box, meaning you can immediately open and save all of your files on your Microsoft "Sky Drive" off site and not on your hard drive.  This includes all of your Office files and various other types of files.

One thing I believe Microsoft should have done in several past Windows iterations is to include an anti-virus application in the operating system.  Windows 8 now has Windows Defender included in the default installation.  This includes anti-virus, anti-malware and other good features, at no additional charge.

Speaking about the charge…at this time MS is offering a special deal if you purchase Windows 8 before January 31, 2013.  The cost is $39.99 to download it or $69.99 to order the disks.  There are basically only two versions of Windows 8.  They are Windows 8 and the Pro version. Prices quoted are for Windows 8 Pro.  If you are going to buy it I recommend that you go for the Pro and forget the standard version.

You get Internet Explorer 10 with Windows 8 which seems to be quicker and "prettier" than the previous varieties.  When you open it, as with all of the new Windows 8 enabled GUI programs it takes the entire screen and most of your menu items disappear until you right click to bring them up.  This is a good thing; however, it may take some time to get used to the difference.

So if you have heard how horrible it is…well, it really is not.  However, for all the good it has it has several, in my opinion, major problems. 

The learning curve on it is huge.  The normal user will be lost as soon as it is installed. 

Ron's Windows 8 StartThe new GUI is nice.  However, when you use a program that was not designed for that GUI (Firefox for one) you get kicked back to a regular looking Windows 7 desktop…WHAT!?  Yes, Windows 8 has the Windows 7 desktop, which you can get to fairly easily but one major thing is missing, the START button, so you have to finagle your way into programs that used to be right on the start menu.

Some Windows 8 programs can only open in the Windows 7 desktop.  For instance, if you need to use Windows Explorer to copy files from one folder to another you get kicked over to the Windows 7 desktop to open Explorer to copy your files.  Why not stay in the Windows 8 environment?  It almost looks to me as though they did not quite finish developing part of the system. 

imageI think it would make an excellent operating system for a tablet or a PC with touchscreen capabilities; however, if you are not ready to purchase a new computer I do not recommend switching.  I will not but I will run it in a virtual environment to watch for changes and to be able to answer questions from some of you brave souls who do switch.  

November 9, 2010

Good Questions, Short Answers – Part 2

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:34 am

Last week’s column generated more questions so today I will hit a few of those.

First, “Why did you say Dell is the best computer maker? I think (fill-in-the-blank) is much better.”  Well, I understand your comment; however, that is not exactly what I said.  I believe when you reread the column you will see that I said, “At this point in time I always suggest Dell.”  I stand by that statement, but they have not always been at the top of my list.  In the past they have been close to the bottom.  My recommendation takes into account quality, price and service.  Many manufacturers have fallen down on customer service.  In my opinion, while Dell is not the best in customer service, they are not the worst.

An AIO Computer (All In One)Many of you appreciated me bringing the AIO computers to the forefront.  Some of you “googled” about them and found that they are quite an interesting concept.  Also, they are currently more expensive than most of us would like to experiment with.  So, thanks!

imageNow the one where I guess I drew most of the “attacks”…iPad!  I did not include iPads in my comments about computer types, i.e. netbook, notebook, desktop and even AIOs.  The reason being that although it is technically a computer it does not have all of the abilities and features of a standard computer.

The iPad is a computer whose main calling in life is to allow the user to view prepared things online. It is not used much for creation.  For instance, you can view any website, e-book, picture, movie, etc. you wish.  However, it is hard to contribute to those same things from the iPad.  Yes, I could have written this column on an iPad but from what I hear and have experienced it isn’t the most comfortable keyboard to use for longer typing.  Emails yes, documents no.  I could also purchase a keyboard that would connect to the iPad and make typing easier.  If that’s the case why wouldn’t I have just bought a netbook at half the price or less?

They are neat and I think that over time they will affect the e-book readers like Kindle and imageNook more than the notebook/netbook markets.  They are perfect for reading books (once they come out with a version that has an antiglare screen) and magazines with much better quality than the e-readers and the page size is a great deal nicer.  Even an Apple lover told me that they are basically an overgrown iTouch.

I would love to own one but not at such a high price for a feature-poor computer.  One of the major drawbacks is the iPad’s small storage space.  The highest end iPad has 64 GB of storage, which is probably OK if you do not want to add many programs and save files. I personally am not for putting all of my files on the cloud as of yet.

I like the concept of the iPad but it needs some increases in functionality before it can fairly be compared to a computer.

March 31, 2010

To iPad or not to iPad

Filed under: Tech Info — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 8:16 am

I say, “Not”!  And this article from TechRepublic writer, Debra Littlejohn Shinder gives my reasoning exactly.  I am especially in agreement with the even numbered items in the list.

image I would add an 11th reason to the mix and that is I never want the first version of anything.  That includes tech stuff, cars, phones, etc.

The engineers and developers never consider every option and everything you and I can do with the device.  I have found that the 1st of anything is usually the poorest of the versions with more issues.

I would like to add that even though I have been reading the TechRepublic site for years to great techie benefit, I will have one of my articles appearing there within the next month or so.  It does require a membership to read all of the information and articles there.  However, it is free and I have never gotten spammed from them.

They send me updates on the specific parts of the site that I want to receive them for.

March 16, 2010

Slideshow Wallpaper

Many of you had questions and suggestions about Windows 7 after last week’s column.  Thanks for asking them!  And no, that is not all I will be writing about now.  Since it is the newest and one of the most popular Windows operating systems I will talk about it from time-to-time.  I do realize that not everyone has W7 or plans on upgrading to it so I will continue with other various computer/internet topics too.

Having said that, today we will look at another W7 feature…themes.

For years people have said that you should be able to change your wallpaper automatically (the picture on your desktop).  Windows 7 allows this through the use of themes.  First, we need a definition of themes.  A theme is a collection of digital images, possibly related sounds, coloring and shading to make your desktop environment more personal.  Interestingly enough Microsoft calls it “Personalization”.

Microsoft estimates that one of the first things that imageapproximately 90% of windows users do is to personalize their desktops.  You know you have a picture of your kids, grandkids, dogs, cats, etc. on the desktop in XP.  Windows 7 allows you to use a themed group of graphics that change at a predetermined interval.  You can also personalize your themes even more by including your own collection of pictures in a theme.  That way you can cycle through your own pictures throughout the workday.

To change your computer’s theme simply right click on an empty space on the desktop and click on “Personalize”.  Next, click on one of the available themes, close the personalization window and you are done.  The new set of graphics will start cycling through at a predefined rate which you can speed up or slow down if you wish.

Now I have a secret for you.  There are several themes loaded in to W7 when it is new; however, there are some hidden ones too.

Getting to them is a multi-step process.  Step one is to click the “Orb” (Start button) and type “Show hidden files and folders” (always without the quotes) and press enter when it appears in the menu area.  Next, under the “Hidden files and folders” section select the radio button labeled, “Show hidden files, folders, and drives” and then remove the checkmark from the “Hide extensions for known file types” checkbox and also from “Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)”.  The only warning here is that you will now be able to see “secret” windows files that you should never try to edit or delete.  If you do you WILL have major issues.

The final step is much quicker.  Navigate to “C:\Windows\Globalization\MCT” and you will see several other themes.  Once you double click them they will each load into the themes window and be ready for use.

You may also create your own themes if you have artistic abilities…or, if you’re like me, Google or Bing for them.

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 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:

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.

Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: