DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

August 8, 2017

Read to Me

Over several of the past weeks we have talked about talking to your devices.  Whether asking for them to give you directions, the temperature, local movies playing, the time, etc.  We also spoke about dictating to some of your devices and word processors.  For some it could, and does, make it much easier to type documents.  Those articles generated many emails, which I appreciate so keep them coming.  So today we move on to something similar but different.  

Today we look at the other side of the spectrum…getting them to "start" and complete the conversation, sort of.

Microsoft Office online and Office 365 (online) have both come out with a recent addition, "Immersive Reader."  It is also available for the local office clients if you have joined the Office Insider program and have the Windows 10 operating system.  Personally, I have not joined because you get software that is not ready for primetime and may have some issues.  Since I use my computer for day-to-day work I do not want to take any chances.  Although, thinking about it does sound interesting!?

Immersive Reader is part of Microsoft’s Learning Tools for Education.  They are looking for ways to help students who need help in particular areas to get it.  So far it is all free too, thanks MS!  

Immersive Reader has several fascinating features built in. 

You must first get into your Office online account, which is also free.  If you have not created an account it is quite easy.  You can get there via several different URLs but to keep it simple I would use "office.com."  You can use a new or existing MS free email account (outlook.com or live.com) or create one with any email address you already have.  I use an Outlook.com account to keep things straight between MS and my Google accounts. 

Once there open an existing Word (or OneNote so far at this time) and click the "View" button in the ribbon.  A new ribbon will open and one of the first few on the left is the "Immersive Reader" button, so click it.  It will open the file in a different view.  The letters will be larger, to assist people who are vision impaired and they are spaced farther apart than you may be used to which is for those who are dyslexic. 

Immersive Reader button

At the bottom of the screen you will have a Play/Pause button with very short instructions and three icons in the upper right corner, see below.  They are letters, books and a face.  Once you click the play button a pleasant slightly computerized sounding lady will start reading the document and highlighting the words read as it proceeds.  This can help significantly improve many peoples’ reading skills in various areas. 

View of Immersive Reader screen

The icon with letters allows you to increase or decrease the size of fonts and spacing between letters or lines.  The icon of books will let you look at syllables and highlight different parts of speech as it reads…I need this one.  The last icon, the face allows the reader to control the speed of the voice reading back the words.

If you wish to start reading at a different location in the document click the word with your mouse and start it playing again.  The reader will start there and continue. 

Neat addition to office and they will be improving it as time goes by.

July 18, 2017

Dictation

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:18 am

From a column a few weeks ago regarding speaking to voice activated devices, Microsoft came to mind.  You are in all likelihood aware of Cortana the voice search that comes built into Windows 10 but there is more.

It all started many versions ago in Microsoft Word where you had the ability to speak to Word and it would type what you said.  Well sort of.  You had to first train it to recognize your voice.  I remember testing it and having to read several sample texts to your computer for it to learn.  If memory serves me correctly I had to read paragraph excerpts from Shakespeare, a couple of well-known novels and even a paragraph or two from The Wizard of Oz.  Once that was completed it could clearly understand your speech patterns, accent, etc.

Then you could start it up in Word and start dictating your work.  It would do a poor job nowhere near what it should be.  You would get quite a few errors with grammar, punctuation, misunderstood words, with plurality always a mess.  The last time I checked it, several years ago, it was not very good.

Microsoft recently announced a new foray into the dictation arena which is a free add in that works with Word, Outlook and PowerPoint.  Other than a microphone and speaker on your computer you need a couple of other things.  A minimum of Windows 8.1, Office 2013 and .Net Framework 4.5.0 (.Net will be automatically installed if needed).

You can easily install this add in and get much more information at “Dictate.ms.”  You no longer have to read sample text for “Dictate” to understand you.  It uses data pulled from speech recognition in Cortana to convert speech to text on all Windows 10 devices.  All the millions of Cortana users are contributing in all languages, dialects, accents, etc.

Dictate.ms

Now to my testing for accuracy.  I read several paragraphs from the old Bard and from The Wizard of Oz.  I tested the first time by reading aloud at my normal pace, not over enunciating or adding commas, question marks, etc.  I got an accuracy rating, which includes all of the missed items from years ago, mentioned a few paragraphs earlier, of about 65%.  Again, not fantastic.

The next way I tested was to speak more slowly, clearly and properly, especially when I used the word, “but” which it missed every time it was used in the first test.  This time I got a better score at 87%.  Much better; however, still not what I feel like it should be.  However, I can see usages where it could be very helpful.

If you are not a great typist you could use Dictate to more quickly put the words on the “paper” and then carefully correct it.  Or if you we unable to type it could be useful.  But in my opinion for day-to-day work I do not believe it is up to speed…yet.

I dictated the above paragraph which you can see below and has about 88% accuracy.

“You are not a great typist. You could use dictate more quickly put the words on the paper and then carefully corrected. Or if you are unable to type that could be useful. But in my opinion for day to day work. I do not believe it is up to speed dot, dot, dot yet.”

I could have said, “period” three times and the ellipsis above would have worked.

May 16, 2017

Stalking Your Friends in a Good Way

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

Google has been letting their developers develop and I am glad.  They have come out with some great apps since 1998 when Google was founded.  Stop and think about that for a minute.  A company less than 20 years old and most everyone knows of it.  Did you realize that in 2002, the American Dialect Society chose it as the most useful word of the year?  In 2006 the Oxford English Dictionary as well as the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary added it as a verb.  "Have you googled that?" is an actual, correctly structured question.  I think that is pretty significant.  But enough of my fan-boy infatuation – back to the story. 

They recently took an excellent app that most of us have used and added a feature that made it even better.  That app is Google Maps which is available in every platform.  It has apps for all of the smart phones made; Android, iPhone, Windows Phone even Blackberries have the app.  Along with the apps any platform that can access the internet can use maps.google.com and get the features too. 

The feature that has been added is called "Share Location" and has the "New" icon next to it, since it has just recently became available to the public.  Clicking on this feature will give you information; however, to set it up you must have a mobile device.  Go to this link (rd.dblclx.com/2q6A0pi) to see how to set it up on your device.  Before you start you need to check several things.  You both need a Gmail account, also they must be in your Google Contacts and of course, you must both have Google Maps installed on your device. 

Menu ItemsHow long to shareClick the Menu button in the map application then "Share Location" and click "Add People."  Now, select how long you want to share your location with them.  You get to choose from one hour, other increments and finally, "Until you turn this off."  That last one is for my family.  Once you have selected everyone you wish click, Share.

They will get a message that you want to share your location with them.  If they accept they can then choose to share their location with you if they wish.

After everyone has accepted once they log into Google Maps on their device or computer, click the menu button, Location Sharing and see a map with those that are sharing their location with you.   You can click on their name to get an update and a more localized map location on them.

Shared People with Ron

You may think that is a little creepy.  I told my friends about how my wife and I share our locations with each other and that is what they said.  But we like it.  That way she can check and see how close I am to home when coming in from work.  No calls need to be made to find out when I will be there.

Think too if you have a teenager, or the other end of the spectrum, an older grandparent.  If you want to keep up with their whereabouts this is an easy unobtrusive way to do so.  

If you are going to visit someone who may live far away you can share your location with them during your trip by using the "Share trip progress" feature. 

Creepy or not I think it is a great new feature from Google.

May 9, 2017

Web Page Saver and More

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 6:38 am

For years now I have not had enough time to read all of the interesting things I run into online.  And also, years ago, I wrote about a new app called Pocket (getpocket.com).  Pocket allows you to save webpages from your Chrome browser to view later.  To read them you return to the GetPocket.com site, open the website and read on.

However, over the past couple of years, others have taken the Pocket offering and improved on it.  One of those I have successfully started using is called Annotary. 

Before you install the extension in Chrome go to Annotary.com and sign up for a free account.  This site is where your webpages will be stored and you can come back to visit them at any time.  Then, just as with Pocket, go to the Chrome browser store and look up "Annotary," then finally install the extension like any other.

You will now have a new icon on your Chrome’s extension bar with an "a" in a yellow box.  This is your Annotary icon. Annotary icon

Now surf the web and work, read or research away.  You find an incredibly long, detailed discussion you would like to read but you do not have the time.  You can then click your Annotary icon and save the page to read later at Annotary.com.

However, there is much more you can do with that page.  You can use an electronic highlighter which comes built in.  You can highlight most anything on the page and then add a note regarding your thoughts on the article.   I really appreciate and enjoy using this note taking feature.  When I am reviewing articles for items to write about I use it to add my thoughts about the things I read and want to share with you. 

I make "Collections" for each topic I am researching.  Collections are what Annotary calls a group you create in your site where you can place what you are reading.  The default is Miscellaneous; however, you can create as many as you wish, they are almost like folders. 

Ron's Annotary Public Page

One thing that is not spelled out very clearly in their information is that the default collection setting is public, not private.   So, anyone can read you pages saved, when they visit the main Annotary site.  However, you can easily open a collection and mark them private so no one but you can see them.  Be aware that the default setting is Public so unless you change that setting everyone can see your saved pages. 

You can also share your pages with others and they can add comments to your pages too.  There are many good uses for this app for me for research.  There are also others that are similar to it but this is the one I have settled on.

Give Annotary a try.  Now I have to get back to Pocket and review all those articles I forgot about over the years and maybe move some of them to Annotary. 

May 2, 2017

April 18, 2017

Schemes, Part 4

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:09 am

There is another scam that you may have heard of floating around the internet.  It is not a joke and is not to be ignored if it happens to you.

You may be working on your computer and get a phone call.  The caller may tell you they are from Microsoft, or some other tech entity, and see that you have a virus infecting your computer.  This virus could cause you the loss of all of your important information.  This scheme may not only come to you in the form of a phone call but also via email or a popup on a website. 

They will say they can send you a link so they can run the "fix" on your computer and you will not have any problems.  They may instead ask that you give them permission to log onto your computer to fix the problem.  It is free of charge and guaranteed to work providing you and your files with needed security.  They will sound so sincere that it is hard to believe later when the trap is sprung. 

It is not true.  Neither Microsoft nor any other big company watches your computer for viruses or problems of any sort.  Hang up immediately!  If not, you will be granting them permission to log into your computer from some other country (most likely) and install their "fix." 

The fix will actually install a virus that will activate days or weeks later.  It will infect your files and lock them down so that you cannot open them.  Think of it, your financial data, tax returns, photographs, etc. all no longer useable.  It could do more than this but that is the standard operation.  You will be informed to call the original "Microsoft" company back to have this corrected.  This time it is still not the reputable company you expect.  It will not be free either.  It will cost you several hundred dollars to gain back control of your own files.  Be careful.    

Next, one that really is not tech related but I feel I should mention. (CBS did as well, a month or so ago.)  You get a call from an unknown number.  You answer it and they say something to you that provides them with you saying, "Yes."  You think you are not that silly.  How about this?  You answer your phone and someone says, "Can you hear me?"  You reply, "Yes."  Then they have you.  They will use that as you agreeing to sign up for magazines, a loan, or a five-year supply of whatever. 

Watch out for phone scams

When you shop at real stores by phone they will many times tell you they will record your approval of what they offer as a legally binding agreement.  This is what the scammers do too; however, you have no idea what you said, “yes” to – until you get the bill. 

Next week we will look at some scams which are not always committed by technology or in normal ways.  However, they are always directed at only one specific part of the population.

March 21, 2017

Secret Surfing, Part 2

Last week we looked at private browser settings.  If you have any setup questions, go back to last week on DoubleClicks.info and check it out.

Internet Explorer InPrivate Mode

This week a few more good things you can do with the Private Mode on your browser.

If you have ever needed to browse to the same site but different accounts, you can do it with the private mode.  For instance, say you want to look in two different bank accounts at the same bank. You cannot do this in the regular browser.  You could open another browser and do this; however, open a private window in the same browser and you can check in to the other account at the same time.  Or different email accounts, two Netflix accounts, Amazon and on it goes.  Open the account in a regular browser’s tab then open a private window and open the other.  Easy and works since it is totally separated from your system.  When you log off it and close the browser it goes away with no trace of your access.

The same thing will work for some of us on work sites.  If you have a regular account and an Admin account, you can visit both the same way.  It is a very convenient solution.

Now here is a biggie you may have experienced and not realized what was happening.  This seems to happen especially when you go shopping for vacation travel and plane tickets.  You look them up and do not buy them. Then later you come back to purchase and the price is up…I have shopped for web site addresses and found the same thing. Always shop in a private window and go back to find the prices are the same or better.  They are not keeping your browser’s cookies so they do not know that you have been there before.  Now not all sites do this but some do.  I do not like to shop in regular mode on my browser.  Reputable sites like Amazon and other well know sites do not do this.  Just be cautious.

Another thing that cookies perform in your browser in the normal mode is track you online. This is not quite as nefarious as it sounds; however, most sites do know where you were before you came to their site and what you looked at.  Just like the vacation prices, it could be that some site you looked at “Thingamajig 123” at the xyz.com store and saw it for $29.00 so they could (though not likely) reduce theirs to $27.50 and then up your shipping by $5 to cover it.  Again, I imagine that is rare but it has been done. There is no way for you to know or prove it.  However, in private mode no one knows where you came from before you got to them.

Also, think of logging into your bank from a computer that is not yours.  In normal mode your username and password could be easily recorded.  Then someone else “could” access your account.  In Incognito mode (Google Chrome’s name) they could not do this since nothing is left behind.

Note that you are not totally invisible in a private mode.  The internet service provider can make available all of your computer’s activities if it was required of them.  Private Mode only keeps your history off of your local computer and does not allow cookies for tracking.

Chrome Incognito logo

March 14, 2017

Secret Surfing, Part 1

What is “Private Browsing?” is a question I receive from time-to-time.  People write that they were looking around in their browser and saw it.  In Google Chrome the same thing is named “Incognito Mode.”  In Internet Explorer, it is “InPrivate Browsing” and others have slightly different names.

The Private browser settings are sometimes referred to as “Porn Browser Mode.”

What does Private Mode/Browsing do that normal browsing does not?

Incognito Mode SpyIt does not keep any trace of you on your computer or any website.  When you surf in normal mode everywhere you go is recorded in your browser’s history.  That way you can go back to your history and look where you have been.  This is good if you know you went to a site last week but cannot remember its name.  Search your history and you can go right back to the same page.

Cookies are not stored in private either, so your search information and sites visited are not stored for other sites to pull from your computer to send back info on which news sites you read, where you do all of your online shopping, etc.  When using private mode, it is as if you were never online.  Well, up to a point but more on that next week.

However, there are many other useful reasons you may want to practice it at times.

Setting Google Chrome for IncognitoIn the majority of browsers to open a window in “Private” look to the upper right of the browser and click the gear or three-dot icon.  This is where you get to all of the settings in your browser.  Then look for the private mode.  For instance, in Chrome click the three dots in upper right then choose “New incognito windows.”  You may also utilize the shortcut keys of “Ctrl + Shift + N.”  Once in the private/incognito window you will see some sort of label showing you that your browsing is secret.  In Chrome an icon of a man in a hat with glasses will be in the upper left corner.  All browsers are slightly different so search online for how to set it up and what is displayed on yours.
What other more respectable reasons should you want to use it?  First, pretend you are shopping online for a gift for your significant other, or someone else who may use your computer occasionally.  You search for a “Thingamajig 123” in the regular browsing window.  You find it and read all about it.  Well, cookies from that site will be saved to your browser.  When the other person opens that browser minutes, hours or days later and searches in Google, guess what?  Ads for a “Thingamajig 123” will appear in Google so you are given away.  Cookies are shared from site to site so that is why you see advertisements for things you have been looking for.  It seems spooky until you realize why.

Next week more reasons you may want to consider Secret Surfing.

January 31, 2017

Facebook Safety, Part 2

A long time ago (on the “feels like index”) last year we looked at some Facebook security settings you should check on your account.  If you need a refresher on what I said go here, rd.dblclx.com/2hVbumC, to take a look again.

Today we will take a look at some of the personal things you need to think about before sharing.  First, I will mention your kids, grandkids, you know those little people in your family.  I cannot encourage you enough to not post many pictures of your kids.  You may think they are innocuous and cute but you may be giving away a lot of information. Especially over time.  Take the family whose young son was kidnapped.  They had only posted pictures about him on FB and other sites for his first few years of growing up.  The first day to school.  Many little league shots.  They mentioned a couple of his great teachers in elementary school.  Mom talked about how Wednesdays she had worked out at the local gym with pics of her friends and herself. Over time the kidnapper found out, even though it was never specifically mentioned, the boy’s school, his grade level, what position he played on the team, what days/times he practiced, his friends, his mom and her friends and where he was supposed to go on Wednesdays after school.  Put it together and you know how that worked.  Be very, very careful what you are posting.

Next, do not accept friends you do not know.  Many people are just selling you stuff on FB and will blanket as many people as they can for friend requests.  When you accept, you and all of your friends can be blasted with offers.  Use common sense, if you do not know or remember their names they are not quite up to being a "friend" anyway.  If the guy is from Gondwanaland and you do not know anyone there – ignore him, you will not hurt his feelings.

Keep in mind that if you secure your Facebook site to not allow anyone but friends to see your posts that is good.  However, their friends can see their comments on your posts and their friends can see theirs and on-and-on.  Your posts can end up anywhere.

Now time for one of the biggest no-nos.  Never, never post pictures or talk about your vacation until you are back.  Why?  Because there are sites out there that just look for people talking about  being away from home so that the nefarious bunch out there can remove your TVs, motorcycles or anything else in your home while you are away.  At one time, there was a site, "PleaseRobMe" that had a search going on Twitter and Yelp, letting burglars know what houses were empty.

The last concern is not just limited to what you post on FB, Twitter and Yelp.  Think about when you are out and publicly post about a great restaurant you are at, or how you are meeting some old friends for bowling…or whatever.  You are letting the world know you are out and where you are.  Be safe out there, would you? 

January 24, 2017

2016 Sites in Review, Part 3

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:42 am

This will be the last week of our look back at the links we talked about in 2016.  After that we get back on track with more good tech news and information.  So here we go with the October through the end of the year columns. 

  • OneNote.com, one of the best (secondary) applications that Microsoft has ever come up with.  If you are researching, planning or taking any type of notes you should check it out.  Online and downloadable versions are available and it comes pre-installed on Windows 10. 
  • Google Keep, keep.google.com – This is a great note-taker for short notes where you can set alarms for times and locations if you also use it with your phone and PC. 
  • iTunes.com, Apple’s music player app and you know it well if you have an iPhone or most any of the other Apple products.  You can also use it on a PC for your music.
  • Amazon.com, Hulu.com, and Netflix.com, three of the most popular video streaming apps/sites for TV shows and movies…current ones, some in the past and some only produced at those sites.  
  • RevoUninstaller.com, a much better program uninstaller for your PC than has ever come built into Windows.  It has extras, too, and I have actually bought this one (you know how I do not like to spend $.) 
  • WinDirStat.net, a program that searches and tracks your hard drive usage helping you decide what you may be able to remove.  Sorts your files by size, number and type.
  • Microsoft Games, rd.dblclx.com/2evl0en – Yes, they make games also and not just for Xbox.
  • Steam, steampowered.com – Probably one of the largest gaming sites out there, some free, some not so shop around.
  • Duolingo.com, a site where they say you can learn a language (choose from over 20) in just a few minutes a day. 
  • MultCloud, multcloud.com – First make sure you spell it correctly, there it is no "I."  This site allows you to combine all of your online cloud storage areas in one site.  Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc. All there.
  • The following are silly, unimportant, and relaxing sites. (I posted these after the 2016 Presidential Election).  Take a look at them and see what they do or look back at the November columns and read about them first. Akinator – en.akinator.com, MyFridgeFood.com, Rock-Paper-Scissors-Game.com, WeirdorConfusing.com, PointerPointer.com, ThisIsSand.com, TheInternetFireplace.com, GeoGuessr.com, YouTube.com and hmpg.net.
  • Here is a list of some reputable online sites for purchasing… well just about anything.  I am sure you have heard of them all before.  Audible.com, Ebay.com, Overstock.com, NewEgg.com, PayPal.com, VistaPrint.com, Blinq.com and ShopGoodwill.com.
  • Facebook.com, you know the site and basically what it does.  Last year we looked at some of the security settings you should check on your account.  Next week we continue looking at that topic.  Go here to review with that column, rd.dblclx.com/2hVbumC.  
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