About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

February 17, 2015

Google Tricks, Part 1

Looking over my articles, I realized I’ve never written about a few fun — but widely unnecessary — tricks available through Google.

Keep in mind, to use each of these tricks, you must start with a fresh page, not one from a previous search. You can also use the, “I’m Feeling Lucky” search button, if available; however, it does not usually show once you start typing.

Also, leave out the quotation marks when following the directions for searches below, or they will not work properly.

First, a few silly tricks: Try typing either “tilt” or “askew” and search, watching your Google window carefully. To undo it, type “untilt” and hit enter.

For a real trip, type “do a barrel roll” and press enter.

Do a Barrel Roll now!

Make a bet with a friend and type “flip a coin” in the search bar to see what you get.

Are you one of the many, “Six Degrees of Separation” players out there? If you’ve not heard of it before, people name a celebrity and if their opponent is wise enough, they can come up with no more than six other people to connect that celebrity with Kevin Bacon. Type, “Frank Sinatra bacon number” and see that how Frank and Kevin are related. Yes, in less than six steps: Frank Sinatra and John Lithgow appeared with Johnny Carson; then, John Lithgow and Kevin Bacon appeared in Footloose.

Sinatra's Bacon #

In the mood for a game? Try typing, “Google Pacman,” search and then click the graphic with, “Click to play” in yellow.

For all of you Doctor Who fans out there type, “Google Who” search and click the “Doctor Who 50th Anniversary — Google Doodles” link to play.

Both of these should pop up first in the search results.

Maybe you are dieting and wish to compare foods? Try typing, “banana vs green beans” in to Google (or any other two foods). Omit the period after “vs,” or it will not work.  You will see a graphic of the two foods with some dietary information for each. Directly below that small area, you will see a down arrow which will provide more information for each food when clicked.

If you need to know the weather for most anywhere in the world, try, “forecast Castelsardo” or use a zip code, if you know it.

Try, “sunrise” or “sunset” for any location in the world. Zip codes will work for this, too. If you found this information useful or interesting, let me know via email and I will share a few more for next time. 

Sunrise or Sunset anywhere

January 13, 2015

2014 in Review, Part 2

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

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

  • CNet and Download (both part of CBS Interactive), great reviews, “how tos”, etc. of most everything tech at the first site and good downloads on the other.  
  • Gmail, Outlook or Yahoo, three popular free email and information providers.
  • Thunderbird – a very good email application for computer that can incorporate all of the above emails on your desktop.
  • – One of the most popular internet browsers.
  • Coffitivity and Rainy Mood  – fun sites which make soothing noises while you work.  
  • Barnes & Noble Nook – the B&N ereader, Nook.
  • 10,000+ Free eBooks – a place to get free ebooks including the most recent of many for Android only.
  • CCleaner, Defraggler, Recuva and Speccy – four great computer utilities from Piriform.
  • iTunes – media player and controller for all Apple products.
  • Mighty Text – enables you to send and receive text messages from your phone in your browser.  You may also dial your phone from this add-on.  
  • SnagIt  and Screenshot Captor – the first is a paid screen shot application with many features. The captor is a free app that is similar but does not have as many abilities.
  • Livescribe – the home of the Livescribe pen that records your meeting’s audio and syncs the audio to your written text. Not free.
  • Cogi – a phone application which allows you to capture, review & share the highlights of meetings and lectures.
  • Burger King, Chipotle, Domino’s, Five Guys, McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, Starbuck’s, Wendy’s are just a few of the many fast-food shops having apps so you can order on your phone. 
  • Calorie King – a site for your computer or phone to get dietary information on all the stuff you order from the aforementioned sites.
  • and – two excellent sites to use if you are buying or selling your home. 
  • Fitbit and Ringly and Water Dancing Droplet Speakers, Spreengs and Shoulderpod are several interesting gadgets you can buy for presents for yourself or others.
  • Ninite – a site that lets you get many applications to quickly install them all at one time without stopping all along the way to ask you questions.
  • AVG or Avast! – two of the better free antivirus applications. 
  • Malwarebytes – the best free app which checks your computer for nasty malware.
  • SpeedTest – you may check the speed you are receiving from your service provider at any time. 
  • Typing Web – if you need typing lessons or a refresher course here is the place to get help.
  • Steam Powered – a few free and many for a cost game site. 
  • PayPal – a very secure site for making online purchases.  

Stay tuned for 2015 and have a very Happy New Year!

November 18, 2014

Call in Your Order, Not Any More

A friend of mine, Tyler, told me a couple of weeks ago he had the new Taco Bell app for his phone.  I thought, "Well isn’t that nice?  But he could use his actual phone to call it in."  Of course, that was an old school thought.  So I checked out the app for my Samsung S5. 

I tried it out and ordered a Burrito from the list of categories.  Then it got interesting.  Since it was my first time it asked me to pick a location.  The app gave me a local map; I moved it with my finger about 30 miles to where I would be for dinner and refreshed the map.  It listed the two stores I knew about and I clicked the one I wanted to get my order from.

Next I added items to the order.  I choose extra beef, sour cream (I could have chosen low fat but hey, this was an experiment) and nacho cheese sauce.  The only bad part is that it gave me the calorie count for each item I added.

When I clicked complete it gave me the sub-total (without tax) I owed and offered to let me get a drink.  Then it allowed me to enter my credit/debit card info, use a Taco Bell card (a new one or existing) or use Facebook to log in.  I have no idea what the Facebook part did and stayed away from that one.  I entered the card I wanted to pay with, got the entire total and hit the submit button. 

It gave me a screen telling me that when I arrive at the store I can pick from the app if I want to walk in and get it or go through the drive-thru.  Remember: Do not text and drive.  The order will be "cooked" when you hit the button, so maybe you should do that part while at a light near the store or get your passenger to do it.  I used the drive-thru and all was well. 

You could even hit a link for a map with live directions on how to get to the store.

Pretty slick, so then I started to look around for more fast-food joint apps.  Here are just a few familiar ones.  They are in alphabetical order and I have not tested them all.  Burger King, Chipotle, Domino’s, Five Guys, McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, Starbuck’s, and Wendy’s.

Some of them have recently rolled out to the public so they may not be perfect; however, if you are hungry and interested give them a spin.

There are also many coupon apps out there too. I have had, "Fast Food Coupons Pizza & More" recommended to me although I have not tried it out…yet. Type it in the Google Play store and see what else they have to offer.

Of course you will now need a calorie counter app.  There are many, although I use "Calorie King" myself.  There is no app for it but the site is  Trust me, after eating at all of these places you will need it.

September 27, 2011

Online Receipts

Cyril from Northern Virginia wrote me with a great question a few weeks ago. He wanted to know how to save a little paper and ink when he orders items online. He figured there must be some ways to save some money with receipt printing.

You know the drill if you have ordered online from Ebay, Kohl’s or just about any other business you can think of. You first go step-by-step. You pick out your item, the size, color, material, capacity, USB size, etc. Then you need to check out. So you go to “entering your payment information”, have that verified and finally “Print Receipt for your records” or some such advice pops up. I personally always print a copy of my receipts at least until I receive the item since things can occasionally fall through the cracks…even with an online purchase. Can you believe that?

If you order online, you often have quite a stack of paper once you are done. As Cyril pointed out… gas, food, medical costs, printer ink and everything else is going up all the time. Our paychecks do not seem to be heading up nearly as quickly. He wants to save anywhere he can so cutting out using his printer unless he “needs to” is an advantage. Since most people who order “trash” their paper receipts after they receive and are satisfied with their purchase, this is a waste which we can easily overcome technologically.

When you are in your browser and you complete your order, simply click the “Print” statement as you normally would. Your windows print window will open. Look at the first drop-down menu titled, “Name”. The names are a list of all of the printers that you have available to your computer. Your default printer will be selected and should be the one you always use. Most likely you will see others and you may have no idea what they are or what they do. If you search online for them you can find out about them. Some applications install their own print drivers which could appear in your printer list. Do not worry about them and do not delete them.

The one you should select to print to is titled, “Microsoft XPS Document Writer” or something very similar with the “XPS” in the name. This should be installed on all windows computers in current use. Using the XPS format you will be asked to save the file on your computer after you click “OK” to print the file. Save it anywhere you wish and later all you need to do is double click that file to open it up to read. You can print, email or do most anything else you would normally do with a file. One word of warning: you will not be able to edit the document.

If you have Microsoft Office installed on your system you could also choose the “Microsoft Office Document Image Writer.” This functions almost identically to the XPS document.

You will be able to use these in any program you would normally be able to print from. Not just your browser but most everything else, too. The choice is yours but the big deal is no more wasted paper or ink for some “throw away” item.

September 20, 2011

Thanks and some Tech

Last month I finally went to Dr. Shawn Lepley (many heartfelt thanks to you doc) about what I thought was asthma.  He sent me to RMH for a stress test and a few days later I went in to have four heart stents installed via two separate procedures.  Also, many thanks to Dr. Stewart Pollock and his fantastic team and all of the great people at RMH for the care I received.  By the time you read this I should be back in the saddle at work having a great time.  

So now you wonder, "OK, Ron where is the tech stuff I’m used to here?"  If you have had heart issues before you know that there are at least two areas you may be advised to work on in your lifestyle.  One is cholesterol, which I lucked out on since my cholesterol is always good.  However, that being said I am a Type 1 diabetic and use the site I am going to share with you several times a day.  The other is exercise which up until last month, for me, consisted of typing, walking to the car and bending my elbows as I ate.   

imageThe first website I would like to recommend is called Calorie King. Once you arrive at Calorie King you will see that they have a plethora of information and "helps" available to you all dealing with food and eating.  The function I live on is the "Food Search" link.  Once there you can enter most any food you can think of and get the important nutritional information you may need.  My experience has shown that you get the numbers on Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium, Total Carbohydrates, Fiber, Sugars, Protein, Calcium and Potassium.

I know that some of my readers do not have "smart phones" but for those of you who do this site works very well in my phone’s browser.  That way even when I am on the road I can check out the carbs, etc. of most any meal.  Calorie King includes many chain restaurants so I can even check my cheese pastry at Panera’s.

For keeping track of my exercise I installed an application on my Android phone called, "Endomondo Sports Tracker." You can find it at  Once there you can install it on all of the current smart phone systems.

imageThe program uses your GPS and tracks where you walk, run, bike, etc.  It records many things such as your average speed, altitude, length of workout, distance, and other related numbers.  One of the things I really like about it is that if you get an account at the site you can go back there to view maps of your workouts.  Since I only walk a few miles at most that is not a big deal but it is interesting.

Check out the site download and the free app to see all of the other features it offers since I have only scratched the surface.

Good health to you all!

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