About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

March 19, 2013

Google, Are You Kidding Me?

I have always been a big fan, supporter, promoter, etc. of Google.  That is until recently and here is why they are starting to work their way off of my radar. 

Google is performing what is termed "Spring Cleaning" on several of their products.  They shut down services/apps which they do not believe are being supported by users.  Two that were announced last year were Google Calendar Sync which basically ended December 14, 2012 and iGoogle which is scheduled to shut down on November 1, 2013.

Google Calendar Sync Option ScreenPersonally, I used those two extensively, especially Calendar Sync.  Calendar Sync performed an extremely important function for me.  It matched up my Outlook calendar at work to my personal Google calendar online.  Using this syncing process then allowed me to share my Google calendar with my wife so she could keep up with when I was going on trips, meetings after work, etc.  I could also choose to share it with anyone else I chose. 

It was a painless process since you set it up once and never look back.  It automatically "synced" the two calendars immediately when changes were made.  Since the Google calendar is online you can get to it anywhere you have a computer.

It was a very good application for the seven or eight years I had it Google.  Of course, they do say if you are currently using it you may continue…on that computer.  I conclude that means, "Once you have a new computer Calendar Sync is kaput!"

iGoogle was bad news to many people, too.  This was basically a Google home page you could use on your browser.  You could arrange "widgets" to show weather, local movie listings, news articles from specific sites, maps/directions, games, etc.  It essentially served as a geek’s morning paper where you could get the news you really wanted to read. 

Now this week Google made another announcement concerning spring cleaning.  Another of my beloved apps and many other peoples’… (According to the uproar online) Google Reader bites the dust.  Google Reader will be gone as of July 1, 2013.  Gee, Google, thanks for the big advance notice!  If you want to sign a petition to keep GR around visit: and cast your vote.  You may join the other over 114, 500 people who had signed up within four days after the announcement was made.

Google Reader is and was in my opinion one of the best RSS Feed readers around.  We have talked before about RSS (Real Simple Syndication) so I will not belabor it.  Nevertheless, here it is in a nutshell.  It allows you to link to sites which offer RSS feeds (most sties) and get updates whenever they add comments or any content to the site. 

Google Reader logoGoogle Reader is simple to set up, is easy to use and has a very clean and user friendly interface.  I just recommended it to a group I spoke to a couple of weeks ago because it is so easy to use.

There are many other readers out there which have been recommended to be good replacements for Reader.  I have tried numerous quantities of them.  I will not mention those which failed my examination totally; however, there are two which are OK.  I need to state: they are still not as clean as Google Reader.  I would say the first runner-up is "feedly" ( and at this point in my research, the closest one is "Newsblur" (  Let me know as you continue the hunt for the best replacement.

Thanks, Google.

February 24, 2011

Google does it again with Cloud Connect!

If you know me or read my articles and columns you know that I am a Google Lover and so I have to share another one with you.

Read their blog but basically now Microsoft Office (at least Word, Excel and PowerPoint) all work in conjunction with Google Docs.  You can create, store, edit and share them all on Google Docs directly from inside the MS apps.

Give it a try.  I have and so far it has worked great, if that opinion changes either the good or the bad I will let you know here.

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.

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