About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

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.

September 10, 2013

Nexus 7 (Revisited or the New 2013)

Time and technology march on.  A couple of months ago I wrote about the Nexus 7 and how it compared to my first tablet which was a Toshiba Thrive.  Since then they have come out with a new Nexus 7, called…are you ready for this snazzy name? "Nexus 7 (2013)" Yeah, they even use the parenthesis.  I think that is really forward thinking naming; not.  I have also heard non-official references to the Nexus 7.2.

As luck would have it my wife’s Thrive of many years stopped functioning properly and she had used my Nexus 7 some while we were on vacation.  I told her about the new Nexus that just came out and being the wonderful wife she is, she had an idea.  A great idea in my opinion.  She thought I should let her have my old Nexus 7 (about 5 weeks old) and I should get the 2013 version, since geeks should always check out the new equipment.  What a fantastic and brilliant wife!

Image from Google.comSo I got one a couple of weeks ago.  It really is nice, not a tremendous amount better than version one, but nice none-the-less.

The original 7 had the same 7 inch screen and weights 0.75 of a pound. The newer one is, by comparison a light weight at 0.64 lbs.  The screen resolution is higher than the retina display you have heard about in other tablets.  It has a LED-backlit IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 and 323 pixels per inch.  To those of us who are half-way normal people that just means that it has a very sharp, clear screen.  Movies run on it very well and it advertises a nine hour Hi-Def video playback.  The most I have run it so far was to watch about four hours of HD videos, including some on Netflix.  That took it down to about 50% battery life left.  I had also played a few games and checked email throughout that time.  That makes me believe in their advertised battery length.

It comes with the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean operating system which is the latest one out there.  Google is constantly fixing and updating as I have had two updates since I got mine.

The 2013 model also has a camera on the front (1.2MP) and back (5 MP auto focus camera with face detection; 1080p video recording @ 30fps), unlike the original which only had the front facing camera.  One problem I had with the original is that it would not work with Skype which I had planned on using.  The new one works fine and I have had a decent video conversation using it. 

I will not get into the processor speed here but it is faster, much quicker than the original which was very good, too.  There is a noticeable difference.  The last thing I would mention is that it has two speakers on the back now instead of one so it is advertised as stereo.  In my opinion, it is like all tablets.  The sound system leaves a lot to be desired if you want to listen to high quality music with the tablet speakers but I think that is the same with any tablet.  However, when using a nice headset or ear buds it is very good indeed.

My opinion is that if you are in the market for a good seven-inch tablet this is the one you should take a serious look at. 

August 20, 2013

Android Factory Reset

Last time we talked about what to do if you could not remember your Android phone’s passcode or pattern.  An email this week stated, "OK, I don’t really use Gmail for much and never log into it."  They then went on to explain that they could not provide adequate information to Google to get their password for a Gmail reset. 

Keep in mind that if you cannot get into email it affects all of your Google account information, from your phone, contacts, Google blogs, etc.  So this is the ultimate "fix" in several ways.

Here are the desperation moves when you cannot in any way gain access to your Android phone.  Hold tight!

First you need to set up a new Google account on your computer.  You can also do this as one of the last steps in resetting your phone but it is easier to complete first online.  Go to and click the upper right link that says, "Create a new account."  Finish it all up and move on to your phone; however, do not forget to add your cell phone number in the security section, see last week for more detail.

Turn off your Android phone (it does not matter that it is still locked).  Do not just put it to sleep but cut it off by holding the power button down for 30 seconds or so.  Depending on the age, version of the OS, and manufacturer it will either ask if you want to turn the power off or it may just shutdown.

Next, and PLEASE listen to this part!  The following steps will wipe out your phone, i.e., all of your email, your apps, your high scores on games, your vacation pictures, etc.  So this is a desperation move ONLY.  You could also use it if you are going to give your phone to someone else and want to get all of your info off of it.  This will not reset the SD Card in the phone.  I would recommend you remove that and reformat it too; however, you may have pictures on it that you can get later.  This depends on your phone and how it was set up.

These following steps will vary by manufacturer so I suggest you contact your phone provider, tell them what has happened and ask how to perform a "Hard Factory Reset" via your phone’s buttons. 

Here is the standard way to "boot" your phone this way.  Hold down the Volume Up and Power buttons simultaneously.  After a few minutes or so your phone’s logo screen will display. (Again your manufacturer will have details for your phone so this is generic).  When it does, release the power button but continue holding the Volume button until the Android System Recovery menu appears.

Android System Recovery Menu (yours may vary)Once at the Android System Recovery menu, select the “wipe data/factory reset” option using the volume keys to move up and down them.  Once it is selected press the power button to start the "wipe."  You will get a confirmation screen.  Choose "Yes" and proceed to strip your phone of all but the essentials which allow it to work.

Reboot System Now screenAfter a few seconds it will finish and you will be presented with the Android System Recovery menu. Again this time choose, "Reboot System Now."

You phone will now reboot back into normal mode and be set up the same way it was when you purchased it and took it out of the box.  Set it up with your new Gmail account which was created earlier and you are on your way again. 

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.

October 2, 2012

Angry Birds Now Bad Piggies…What Is This World Coming To?

imageBack in December, 2009 a Finnish company appeared on the scene named, "Rovio Entertainment."  Almost 23 seconds after that, a new game made by Rovio called, "Angry Birds" appeared.  Of course, the only thing I disliked about the game was that it came out only on Apple iPhones.  But that was "corrected" about a year later, after somewhere around 12 million copies had been sold or given away for the Apple version alone. 

If you have not at least heard of the "birds" game you must have been on an island somewhere with Gilligan.  It was touted in the news, entertainment, on shows, at water cooler conversations and most anywhere else mouths and ears were present.

At one time I read it was a great game for teaching Physics. Now come on, maybe physics in a psychedelic-1960s sort of way.  The game involves using a slingshot to launch different types of birds into impossible situations and locations in order to destroy all of the evil pigs who have stolen your eggs.  Yes, you are a bird.  As you move through the game you get new types of birds with special powers for aiding you in your murderous quest.

Now for the squeamish of you out there, it is really, really non-violent. (Yeah, figure that one out.)  I will have to admit it was just plain fun when I tried it out originally.  It remained fun for the first few weeks…like most games do for me.  Rovio must have figured out the boredom pattern and released several other related games in a timely manner.

Next appeared Angry Birds Rio, where you basically are in (you guessed it) somewhere resembling Rio de Janeiro.  You have a few different birds and many, many different locations as well as many angry monkeys but not many pigs.  I guess the pigs needed some recovery time.  I found this one to be interesting too and harder to finish than the original. 

After Rio, "Angry Birds Seasons" came out.  There is basically a game for most every holiday and "special" time in the world.  I found this one to be particularly boring.  I only played it for a very short time. 

The last for the birds was "Angry Birds Space" and you guessed it, the birds are in space.  In this game they not only deal with the physics mentioned before but also gravity or the lack thereof.  This one was fun.  I suggest you try all of them if you wish.

Prices range from free to less than $5 depending on the system for which you are getting the games.

imageNow, let’s get back to the pigs.  In just the past week or so the pigs have appeared in, "Mad Piggies!"  This game supposedly wants to explain the story from the point of view of the poor picked on pigs.  I have played it so far for maybe an hour or so.  I am not a fan yet.  This game takes more thought since you have to design a vehicle which is sort of like an advanced wagon.  This is then used for traveling over different terrains in order to get to each finish line.  As with all of the Rovio games the graphics are great.  I am just not a fan of having to think of ways to design a cart. You need to use a fan, wooden and rubber wheels, a bellows and a box of TNT for racing to a finish line.

All of these products have updates and additions from time to time so more levels are always coming.  Enjoy and let me know if you have tried any of these great "time-wasters."

(These games and more can be found at the
Google Play store for your Android devices.)

July 18, 2011

2011-07-18 WSVA Show Notes

Here are the sites/news mentioned this morning on the show.  As always your comments are appreciated.See you next month!


Tech News
LulzSec Hackers Gone, but not without a parting shot
Jim and Ron’s discussion, Last month we talked about them hitting the Senate, game and FBI sites…this month they are gone."A LulzSec member told the Associated Press that the group was “bored” and denied that it was stopping its public attacks because of pressure from law enforcement. He did, however, say that some of the chat logs and information about hackers’ identities was correct."

They did pop data into the world at the end which included documents from the game Battlefield Heroes, plus internal documents from AOL and AT&T. According to the Next Web site, the release also has evidence that the group hacked the U.S. Navy, the NATO online bookshop and the FBI’s Web site. The files also include a hodgepodge of corporate and other IP addresses, usernames, passwords and other log-ins from and other, unnamed sites.

Google’s self-driving car gets a green light from Nevada
The New York Times did some digging last month and discovered that the company had been lobbying the Nevada state legislature to allow for autonomous cars to be driven on public streets. The proposal was slated to be introduced as two separate bills that would not only make them street legal, but also exempt the vehicles from a law prohibiting texting while driving.Nevada passed a bill for the Department of Motor Vehicles to create guidelines for “autonomous vehicles” that rely on artificial intelligence to get around on state roads. Come March of next year, state officials will start to iron out car certification standards, insurance requirements and other regulations for robotic cars. Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles will also determine which areas the cars can be driven.

It most likely will not occur next year or so, but not far off.

Airline Pilots Ditch Paper for iPads and Save Millions in Fuel
Doling out gadgets may seem more like a recruiting perk than a sustainability decision, but pilots have to carry up to 35 pounds of paper with them in the cockpit on each flight. Swapping out those manuals, maps, and other documents to lighten the load could add up to $1.2 million in fuel savings, according to American Airlines.

So far American Airlines and Alaska Airlines are the only ones doing this.

It has fairly accurate play and no one can scream at you, etc. You can only respond with safe messages to each other, i.e. Nice shot, Well played, Oops, Good Game, etc.

And beside all of that it is just fun!

  • Text4Baby
    Get FREE messages each week on your cell phone to help you through your pregnancy and your baby’s first year.Text4baby is an educational program of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition.
  • Microsoft Fix It
    Sometimes something just doesn’t work correctly on your MS computer. MS Fix it will help you find many issues and then offer a fix for them. I ran a couple of them and they don’t install anything on your system so when you are done just delete the original file you downloaded.

March 22, 2011

Protection from the Internet, Part 2

Last time I told you about where you can set up ways to restrict website access from your home computers.  Microsoft also adds a similar feature in Windows Vista and 7, titled, "Parental Controls."

"Parental Controls" are useful to help manage how and when your children use a computer.  You can set up games they can play, programs they are allowed to run and time limits on computer use.

You need to be an Administrator on the computer in order to perform the following actions.  To access "Parental Controls" in Windows 7 go to the Start button / Control Panel.  Next, select User Accounts.  You will need to set up an account for each child you wish to restrict if one does not already exist.  If your children are equal in age, ability, trustworthiness, etc. you may only need one account with a password.  You will see the settings for the account you are currently using. Make sure it says the account is password protected. You may not want your children accessing your account.

Make sure when you set up the account for your kids, or before setting up Parental Controls on an existing account, you set the account to a Standard user account.  If your child is an Admin on the computer they will have all rights.

Next, click the Set up Parental Controls link at the bottom of the screen.  From the Parental Control screen, select the child’s account you wish to restrict.   Change "Parental Controls" to "On, enforce current settings." You will see links for Time Limits and Games and Program controls.

Using the "Time Limits" link, you can set limits on when the computer can be used. For example, you can have the computer log on from 7 PM to 9 PM every day and then block all access to the user account.

Click the Games link to control what games can be run. You can filter by rating, content or title. This setting only applies to games in Windows 7’s Game Explorer area. If they aren’t there they cannot be affected.

The last link is, "Allow or block specific programs".  Here you can stop access to any programs installed on the computer.  This will take a couple of minutes to set up since it will search your system for all programs which can be affected.  Once the list loads you can check the applications you want to enable that user to run.  Be cautious since some of them are not labeled well and you may allow access to the wrong application.

Windows Live EssentialsNext week we will look at a few more things you can control on your computer using Windows Live Essentials.

April 27, 2010

Have Some Fun

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , — Ron @ 5:06 am

First today I would like to thank all of you who read and applied what you learned from last week’s column.  It was regarding the cloud storage platform  Because some of you used the link I mentioned, I gained an additional 2 GB of storage.  They have a maximum of 8 GB allowed free so if you still wish to sign up and haven’t yet, this is still a good link,

No, I don’t really need that much cloud storage but it is a fun experiment…so thanks again to those of you who registered!

I gave you all a link several weeks ago that generated a lot of email,  It is a scrabble-like game site called, “SSCrabble”.  I am sure the naming is due to copyright issues.  Many of you wanted to know other games or gaming sites I regularly visit.  Well, I hate to sound like an old curmudgeon but I don’t game as much as I used to in the last century.

I stopped buying gaming consoles when they changed too often to the latest and greatest and my old games were no longer playable.  So, “No” I don’t have an Xbox or any of the latest.  I gave up somewhere after the Atari 5200, Nintendo (NES) and the Sega Genesis.  I finally put them in a garage sale with all the Mario games and stopped trying to keep up. 

For a while I bought a few PC games but found that unless you upgraded your computer to the fastest and best, the newest games were unplayable.  I think my favorite PC games were the Myst series and Morrowwind.  I still have both and occasionally fire one up.

I play a couple of other online games now.  I wrote about last year, which too time-consuming so I quit that one.  Today I wanted to mention a couple I occasionally play, just to relax sometimes.

One that I like is called, “Defense” at (shortened link for space).  You set up an arrangement of armament to defend your area from attack by land and air.  There are many games at the main site and when you get there and see the link, chop off all but the “.com” part to see them.  The main site is  I will shorten the others here too. image

Next is, “Dogfight”, think WWI.  

Last but not least (my favorite actually) is, “Double Wires” at, which plays best in MSIE.  Once you get there you should get a gangly Spiderman type guy who jumps around a lot.  If you get to the main ‘’ page you may need to go to and type in the actual link which I will post here  (  You can find a mass of games are at too.

Have fun gaming!  Let me know if you like any of these and tell me your favorites.

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