DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

December 12, 2017

Tunnels on the Internet

At a recent speaking engagement, I was talking to the group about security.  This discussion was centered on Virtual Private Networks or VPNs.  Since 1996 when a Microsoft employee created a secure tunneling system for computers, VPNs have been around.  It was not as we know a VPN today; however, it certainly set the process in motion.

Basically, a VPN is a “tunnel” through the internet that connects a specific group of computers.  This network keeps out anyone who does not have the proper keys to work with the others.  Businesses first started using VPNs to connect their data networks between different locations around the globe.

A VPN keeps out the bad guys, or not even bad but just people you do not want looking at your data.  In more recent times VPN usage has been encouraged for individuals too.  This statement may lead you to ask, “Why?”

The reason is security.

If you go into a local coffee shop and check your spam email you may be fine.  But if you have private email which you are sending and you do not want others to see, a VPN may be needed.

When you are in a coffee shop, or any public Wi-Fi for that matter, it is most likely an open connection.  That means anyone walking by can access the internet through that business’s network without a username or password.  They may even require usernames and passwords but you do not own that connection.  You do not know who else is there in the background.  You consider that a nice feature, which it is; however, there could be nefarious people nearby lurking about seeking your information.

If you have a VPN connection on your device, you log in with your own username and password to a server at another location.  It is similar to “drilling” a tunnel through the local internet Wi-Fi connection you are on.  That stops anyone from seeing what you are sending or receiving, keeping your information private.   This includes your login and all transactions on your bank account if you use it while there.  All banks use “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure,” you know the URL that starts with “https.”  That “S” means that it is secure but again someone may be digitally looking at your keystrokes while in the open and recording them for their use.  If you use a VPN they should be stopped dead in their tracks from getting your info.

The VPN encrypts the information you send to be unencrypted only by the person/organization to whom it is meant to be delivered.

Check the short video below to see how a VPN works. 
Sometimes pictures are worth a thousand words.

Also, many people use VPN for a location setting.  If they were to want to watch a TV show in a foreign country but it was not allowed out of that country, you could use VPN.  It would camouflage their actual location and appear to be in that country.  But they could actually be on the other side of the earth.  What if someone is in a county that will not allow free speech but wants to blog about the injustices or issues there?  With VPN they could do so and not be discovered by their governments.

This is only a high-altitude flyover of what a VPN is and how it can be used.  If you are interested look for more information online.  Remember, a VPN that you pay nothing for may be exactly what it is worth.  Shop around and read reviews as a good one will cost a little.

November 21, 2017

October 17, 2017

Chrome Extensions, Part 7

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , — Ron @ 4:46 am

This is the last week of our Chrome Extension tour and I have three of them left.  I have also saved the very best for last and you will not believe what it does, it is a miracle!  I am sure you will get my meaning at the end.

First up is, “LastPass: Free Password Manager.”  This is an app that will manage your password collection online.  It works very well as I have been experimenting with it for over a year now.  You can record your site passwords as you create, use or edit them on an online account.  This online LastPass account should have a good password (more about those next week).

If you add a username and password for a site to LastPass the next time you go to the site, you can autofill the answers with the extension.  Very quick and easy.

I do have one concern which has not been confirmed yet and may never be.  I cannot help but think what happens if someone hacks my LastPass password.  LastPass says that they have superior security for your safety and there has never been a major issue…but only time will tell.

Next is “Save to Pocket.”  I have written about GetPocket.com in the past and it is still an excellent site/app.  It is a site which allows you to save interesting sites for later viewing.  With the “Save to Pocket” extension all you need to do while viewing an attention-grabbing site is to click the button then that site will be saved to Pocket.  Later you can log into the Pocket site and view all of those older sites.  It allows you to tag them so that all of your recipes, art, technology, etc. sites can be easily found.

Of course, be careful or you will have more than you have time to read.  I try to keep my list trimmed down and I still have over 60 sites to catch up on.

Now the one you have all been waiting for.  This one is not perfect but it does a lot of good things for you if you are tired of the way Facebook works.  “Social Fixer for Facebook” was created by an individual, Matt Kruse, who was tired of how Facebook worked for him.  It was a personal project that has now significantly evolved.   Read more about him and it at socialfixer.com.Social Fixer logo There are many things you can adjust using this extension for Facebook; however, it will only work on that browser.  So, if you go to another browser or another computer without Social Fixer installed you will get the same old FB.

Here you go, the number one thing this app does well…drumroll please…it allows you to filter out many, many political posts so you do not have to see them.  There are many other “filters” that you can apply to remove other types of posts and make FB perform in different ways but the first one I mentioned is the winner for me!

October 10, 2017

Chrome Extensions, Part 6

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , — Ron @ 4:39 am

This week we will continue examining Chrome Extensions.  They will all be related to one item…Google.  Since I have gotten emails thanking me for this series of articles I have bad news for those who liked it, we only have one more to go after this one.  For those of you that were bored that could be good news.

Google Docs, Google Keep, Google Sheets and Google Slides are the group of extensions we will look at first.  Here I must be honest – they are not that helpful to me.  Basically, they allow you to add a desktop icon to your desktop or menu item and when clicked they will open up the particular app.  I have found the same thing can work by creating a shortcut in your browser for any of them that do the same thing.  So I cannot whole heartedly recommend them.

Google Docs Offline is a good workable extension.  It will allow you to open, edit, review and save Google files while you are not online; hence the name.  If you create or edit a document while offline the next time you get back online, they will sync up and your new/edited files will be put on Google Drive in the cloud.  Using this extension, you will always have the latest copy while online or off.  This is a neat feature and one that I do recommend.

Next is Google Voice which in my opinion is one of the best applications supplied by Google second only to Google Search itself.  I use this extension often.  It does take a bit of setup so I suggest you go here, support.google.com/voice, and get instructions.

Google Voice Sample

There are many features of Google Voice (GV for short).  First it gives you a free phone number for GV use.  You match it to your phone and the fun begins.  One great feature is that it allows you to read any voicemails you receive on GV.   Yes, Google translates it, almost immediately, into an email and sends it to your Gmail account.  The translation is not always perfect but it is usually very close.

Voice & Email Spam Stopping Power

List of recent calls which can be blockedIt will also allow you to text from your computer and/or mobile phone.  Another neat trick is that you can personalize your voicemail greetings.  You may have separate ones for individuals or groups in your Google Contacts as well as a different one for strangers.

It offers good protection from spam calls which I mentioned several weeks ago.  Another of my favorites is that you can use several phones for the account.  This means that you could take the original call on your cell, go into your home and continue the call on your landline, or office phone, or spouses phone and on-and-on.

One last feature about the app before I finally get to the extension.  It will let you to listen to people leaving you a voice message.  You can listen without them hearing you and decide if you would like to interrupt and speak with them or let them go straight through to voice mail.

The extension allows you to see a list of calls received, text other phones, go to your inbox for GV or change options.  I use my GV number for all incoming calls.  In my greeting I tell everyone that if you do not leave a message I will block your number and no longer receive calls from them.  That way if I get a hang up or a message that I am under investigation by the IRS (which is happening way to often now that people are scamming phone numbers) I block and delete the offending number with GV.  It is a bit of a cumbersome process which I hope Google simplifies soon but it works great.

October 3, 2017

Chrome Extensions, Part 5

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , — Ron @ 5:23 am

Thanks to the emails I have received I will continue this week with many of the Google Chrome browser extensions that I like and/or find useful.

First this week is the "Email this page (by Google)" extension.  If you use Gmail, which you are since you are using Chrome or you would not be reading this, this extension could be beneficial for you.  Have you been online before surfing the web and see a neat site you want to send to someone?  I have many times, sometimes wanting to send it to myself for later use.  I always had to copy the link, open Gmail, paste it in the email, type in the email address to send it to and then hit Send. 

To use, "Email this page" click the extension while you are on the page you want to send.  Gmail will open with the title of the site in the Subject line and the link in the email both automatically.  All you need to do it enter who it is going to and hit Send.  Many steps shorter and much quicker. 

Image of a new email from Email this Page-by Google

I am going to step away from the extensions for a paragraph or so for something related to the above.  If you are a Gmail user as I am, this is a neat trick.  While in Chrome and on your Gmail account, click the menu button, (three dots on the upper right corner) then "More tools" and finally "Add to desktop."  A box will pop up asking you to rename it (if you wish) and a checkbox to "Open as window."  Check the box, or leave it checked if already done and click "Add."  You will now find an icon on your desktop and when opened Gmail will open in its own window, not in your browser. 

Larger View

All emails will be viewed in that window but all links you click in those emails will open in Chrome. You can minimize it and leave it open on your computer while you continue using Chrome.    

image

I take it a step further and right click the newly created desktop icon and choose either or both "Pin to Start" and/or "Pin to taskbar."  Then you can delete the desktop icon if you would like to free up some room on your desktop.  You now have an interesting new way to use Gmail.  This will work with any webpage you view on Chrome.  So, if you like to regularly visit the DNR or the Double Click site, create icons for them too!

The last extension today is "Feedly checker."  I wrote about Feedly two months ago so check that article if you need a refresher.  I get many news and tech stories from Feedly.  With this extension, the small Feedly icon on the extension bar will show how many unread articles you have in your account.  You can right click it after you install it and set the button to either; dropdown and show you the latest posted article or go to the Feedly site and you can view them all.  I use the second.  That way I do not have to check the site for news if I need some and nothing has been added to the feeds.  Great time saver and convenient too.

Feedly checker icon on my Chrome browser

September 26, 2017

Chrome Extensions, Part 4

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , — Ron @ 4:55 am

As I start off this week many of you have written me asking about other extensions.  A friend who reads the articles, knowing how I use my computer, suggested I put in more extensions than I had originally planned.  So, today I will continue by showing you the Chrome Browser Extensions I intended to.  However, I will add some more that I had not initially planned.   This also means that although I started listing them in alphabetical order that is no longer the case.  Enjoy!

First today is “Annotary” which allows you to click the icon and save the page to read later online at Annotary.com.  There is also much more.  You can use an electronic highlighter which comes built in to highlight anything on the page.  You can 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. There is more so check it out.

Next, “Boomerang for Gmail” has several interesting features.  The main is that once you give it permission to access your Gmail account it will let you send the email at a later time.  You can choose a time limit, i.e. hours, minutes or a future date/time to send an email.   Programs like Outlook and Thunderbird already have this built in; however, Gmail does not.  This is a free add in but there is a limit of 10 messages per month.  If you have more than that you can choose to pay a monthly fee.

Boomerang for Gmail

This one is for very specific users, the ones who use KeePass as their password keeper called, “CKP – KeePass integration for Chrome.”  This basically allows users of KeePass to add the password capability into Chrome for quicker access.  That way you do not have to open the stand-alone program to get to your site passwords but only use the link for CKP.  I have written about KeePass several times over the years so check for it on DoubleClicks.info.

This next one may be very useful for some yet useless to others.  Pretend you have a webpage you are reading with several valuable (to you) links on the page.  You would like to keep a list of the links only.  You do not need the graphics, write up or ads that are also on the page.  Enter, “Copy Links” which does just what it says.   After you install the extension, go to a page you want the links from, click the “Copy Links” icon. It gives you several choices of what to copy, you click and nothing happens.  At least nothing that you can see.  But if you use the paste controls on your computer it will paste all the links that were on the page.  No additional text just the plain “http” address without graphics, etcetera.

Keep those emails coming and I will see you for the next few weeks with some more Google Chrome Extensions.

September 19, 2017

Chrome Extensions, Part 3

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:12 am

For several weeks, we have been looking at some of my favorite Chrome browser extensions. Last week we ended with a couple that could save you money while shopping online. Today we will start with one that makes your startup window better looking and functional too.

Leoh New Tab” is the next extension I will bring to your attention. As with all the others go to the Chrome Web Store and type the name quoted above. When installed it will set up a very picturesque useful page when you open a new tab. Last year I wrote an article entirely related to Leoh so check the site for many details.

Leoh New Tab

Leoh New Tab

Next one of my favorite and most useful Chrome extensions, “Mighty Text” which was one that made my list of favs from years ago. Mighty Text” allows you to send and receive SMS and MMS using your computer. The only prerequisites are that you use Chrome and have an Android phone.

Mighty Text syncs with your phone and actually uses your phone to send and receive the messages, pictures, etc. It pulls in your contacts list from your Gmail account so that you can send messages to people from your list using only their name. It allows you to text message, send pictures, etc. from your phone while at your computer. I do not have to pull my phone out while working to read or answer a message…very convenient.

Mighty Text

Mighty Text

Another valuable extension is “Office Online.” It is so good there are many imitators out there. Make sure you add the one that states, “Office Online Microsoft Corporation.” Basically, it is a free Office cloud version. This is almost as good as the full-blown version. As I have said before it will handle most anything that Office users would ever have a need to perform in Office. (Yes, I know, Google Docs is good too, but my preference is Office.) You can run One Drive, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Once you install OneNote Clipper I wrote about several weeks ago, all the features OneNote are immediately available. This is truly a very useful and productive addition to Chrome.

Office Online

Next up is, “Print Friendly & Pdf.” This extension does a great job of taking any webpage that you want to read, email, save for informational purposes or as one of my friends puts it allows him to read the NY Times without all the “junk” included. When you are on a page click the extension’s button and the magic begins. It will generate another view of the page without ads and other distracting, non-related junk on the page. It will then allow you to print it, create a PDF or email the file to someone. I personally like to save it as a PDF file then email if from my own email account.

Print Friendly & Pdf

September 5, 2017

Chrome Extensions, Part 1

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:29 am

Before I get started on Chrome extensions, one thing about last week’s article, titled, “Read a Book”.  I received emails from several readers regarding the article on places you can get eBooks, audiobooks, etc.  There were several others that were suggested to me.  They were all good but I just picked a few of the ones that I was familiar with.  There are many others out there including all of the large bookstores; however, I can only afford to try a few.  I do not get free samples from companies like some of the big boys out there (hint, hint to the big companies).  I only mention the ones I have experience with (unless I state otherwise).  I test them before I tell you about them.  Oh yeah, one other thing: I do not get paid to mention them so you get my actual opinion on all that I write to you about.

Now onto Chrome extensions.

image

An extension or plugin for any browser is small software that adds on or extends the capabilities of the “out of the box” browser.  It adds some sort of additional functionality to a browser that was not originally present.  Browser extensions can change a webpage in some way, add a new feature to the browser and give the browser more, “skills”.

I have read many articles over the years, and even written one regarding computer nerds’ favorite extensions.  I figured it is time to give it a go again as mine have changed over the years and some have been replaced.  This week I will start a multipart series listing some I use with a short explanation of each…in alphabetical order so I will not upset anyone.  To hurt a few feelings those I list are for Google’s Chrome browser; however, many are available for the other browsers too.

To get to your extension setting in Chrome, click the menu button (the three dots in the upper right corner of Chrome), then “More tools,” and finally “Extensions.”  Once on that page, scroll to the bottom and click “Get more extensions.”  Or Ron’s quick way – type “chrome://extensions/” in the address bar without the quotes.  When you arrive type the name of the extension given and you will get to the page to install them.

How to get to your Extensions

The first I will share is “Behind the Overlay.”  (Remove the spaces between the words to find it in the store, “BehindtheOverlay)  I have just started using this one.  For advertisements on sties we used to get a popup, then a pop under, next those that pop up when you get to a specific point on the page.  This new advertisement “getter” is the one you have seen recently which pops up a window and greys out the page you were viewing with a clickable ad.  If you search very carefully you may be able to find the “x” that will close it and return you to the original page.  The “x” is not usually very easy to see and next to another clickable link you may not want to use.  Beyond the Overlay ads is a button to Chrome at the top right side, where all of the extension controls will be.  Click the button and the ad page vanishes easily.

image

I have run out of room today so, next week we start with an extension to help secure your browsing security.

August 29, 2017

Read a Book

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:55 am

I wrote a year or so ago about a couple of ways to get eBooks for your reading.  Things change and move on so today I would like to talk about them again.  Today we will discuss three them I have tested.

Just Read!

The first is a freebie with only one easy caveat, you must have an active library card.  The site is Overdrive (overdrive.com).  At Overdrive, you can “Borrow eBooks, audiobooks, and more from your local public library – anywhere, anytime. All you need is a library card.”  So, you must have a library card and your library must participate with them…which most do.  For instance, I have a library card with the Augusta County Library and they do participate.  Go to Overdrive to see if your library takes part.  If so you can check out eBooks or audiobooks for a fixed period of time for free.  The application is available for most platforms.  Do not forget about your physical library as they have a lot to offer.  The pro of Overdrive is “free” the con is that if the library book is not available at your library, either not there or checked out by someone else, you cannot get it until it is there.

Next is one that I am sure you have heard of, Amazon.com.  Amazon has many, many books that are easily read on the Kindle application.  Their application has its own name, “Kindle”, which I am also sure you have heard of before now. This app is available on most platforms too.  You can even get real, paperback or hardback books here including audible books on CDs.  They are offered in every format; however, there is a minimal cost for many eBooks.  Another very interesting fact is that Amazon bought Audible.com several years ago.  Audible.com is the major audiobook provider online at this time.  You can get a book a month there for $14.95 and listen to it forever as you have purchased it for your account.  With the combination of the two companies there is now “Whispersync for voice.”

Whispersync allows you to purchase an eBook from Amazon and then get the same book in audio format from Audible (much less expensively than the monthly charge).  The neat thing is that you can either read or listen to the book when you would like.  When you “open” the book next time, it will be at the same place in the book.  So, whether listening or reading you will always be up-to-date.  Their slogan is, “Add narration to your Kindle books and switch seamlessly between reading and listening. Best of all, you’ll never lose your place.”

If you are an Amazon Prime member you can even pick up a book for free on occasion.

One that I have not tried yet is called, “Scribd” (Scribd.com).  Their pitch is slightly different from others.  It is “…a reading subscription that is available anytime and on any device. Enjoy access to 3 books and 1 audiobook each month – plus unlimited access to magazines and documents – for $8.99 / month.”

There is one other I will give a short remarks about that we have used.  Hoopla (at hoopladigital.com) is another “hooked” to the library system.  You can “Instantly borrow digital movies, music, eBooks and more, 24/7 with your library card.”  You log in with some information, including your library card number, and you have access to many books.  Again, like Overdrive if your library is out, so are you and you cannot get the book (both have the ability to add you to a waiting list.)  This one is useful; however, it has been my experience that the application, though available in most platforms, is not as trustworthy as some of the others.

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.

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