About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

January 27, 2015

SSD Drive or Not

I have been told by other geeks for a couple of years I need to get SSD (solid-state drive) for my computer.  A SSD is a storage device which uses integrated circuitry to store data on your computer.  In recent years they were called hard drives using electro-magnetic media to store your data.  You know the traditional platter-based hard drives like stacked floppy disks.

The “old” hard drives had to spin rapidly to search for and store data.   SSDs store data electronically, so these processes are much faster.

“Wow!” the geeks said, “They are so much better.”   However, the prices were always a bit out of range for me and I am not the type to fix something if it ain’t broke.

Therein lies my story.  My notebook was running perfectly and gave me no issues for several years.  Several months ago my hard drive went bye-bye.  It did not go quietly into the night but slowly started a downward spiral to death.  This was good – giving me a warning time to prepare.

Over the last couple of years prices on SSDs started way past the $200 mark for small sizes.  However, when I looked this time I found that price had come down and size had gone up.  Before Christmas I discovered a nice one on sale for $69.  It had a good name and reviews so I threw the hammer down and got one.  By-the-way, it really was on sale and not a gimmick.  A friend checked into getting one recently and it was around $120.

OK, I installed it, reinstalled windows and all of the other applications that I needed and guess what?  It was faster, much faster starting up.  I used to have to wait a couple of minutes after powering it on before being able to use my computer.  With the SSD I have figured it goes from off to on in approximately 25-30 seconds.  To me that is amazing.  Also, files open faster, close faster, save faster and the computer shuts down far more quickly.  Basically most everything on the computer works more rapidly.  Windows 7 and 8 run speedier on this drive too.

All around a great investment; however, I need to say more.

Speed is not the most valuable commodity to many of us.  Storage size may be.  My old “platter” drive and the new one both had/have 240GB of storage space.  This was enough for me to use so I was happy.

But I could have paid about the same price and gotten a 1TB internal drive of the “old” type.  It would have been slower but it would have given me approximately 4 times the amount of storage space.

Speed or space, what is most valuable to you?

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!

May 20, 2014

Google, What are you Telling Me?

As you regular readers know, I like Google.  Google is not perfect but they have many great apps.  In the past I have been disappointed in their corporate decisions to do away with some of their more desirable apps.  For instance iGoogle homepage, Calendar Sync and Google Reader to name a few.

I learned something else disappointing this week.

Over the past year or so I have become a fan of Google’s Chrome browser.  Before any of you run out and switch to Chrome from Firefox, (my old favorite) remember the most important thing when deciding on a browser is, "How do you like it?"  You do not have to change but you could always try various browsers from time-to-time and find out what you may like.  It is easy to change back at any time.

I use a Google tablet, the Nexus 7 2013 I also use the Chrome browser as my default browser on the Nexus.  In recent months I have purchased Google’s Chromecast which basically allows you to turn your almost Smart TV into a full fledge Smart TV for $35.  As I originally wrote this past January, it is an excellent device at an excellent price.

Basically, if you are using the Chrome browser on your computer you can play a video in your browser, or music or slideshow which you already know.  If you have a Chromecast device hooked up to your TV you can "send" that media to your TV to enjoy it on a full screen and hear it through better speakers.  This makes it a much more pleasurable experience than watching or listening on a smaller screen. 

Chromecast buttonWhen you have something playing, or getting ready to play, in your computer’s browser you click the Chromecast button and it automatically appears on your TV.  It is a very easy to use and it shows quite a good picture and sound.

So I have three Google products running, their tablet, their browser and their Chromecast.  They are all in excellent working order.  This week my wife and I missed one of our favorite TV shows, "Castle."  If you go to you can view their shows shortly after they air on the site.  This is true for most of the networks. 

I started up my tablet, went to, got "Castle" running and guess what?  No Chromecast button so I could not send this show to the TV.  Please note:  I could, once I hooked up my notebook computer, but that was not my intention. 

I Googled for what I was doing wrong and there was not a tremendous amount of information about it online.  So I called Google support and guess what?  Even though I am running all Google products in working order they do not yet have a way to "Cast a Tab" with an Android tablet or phone.  I asked if it was being worked on and they "thought so" but there is no expected completion date. 

What are they thinking?  But who am I?  What are your thoughts?

February 11, 2014

February 16, 2010

Media Database – Data Crow

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:24 am

Over five years ago I wrote to you about an application that you could use to keep track of your books and DVDs.  I had many of you write back to me and tell me how much you liked it. Over the past year or so I have had several of you write back saying that you could no longer find "Libra" or any updates for it.  I searched the net for it and emailed all of you back telling you what I found, which was that it was no longer in production and I could not even find a forwarding address.  I did find the last version made, but I personally do not like using applications that are no longer in production.

I also told the writers that I could not really find a free replacement anywhere as good and easy to use as Libra was.  Well, now that has all changed…enter Data Crow.

I found this site from a friend who has been using it for the past several months.  Data Crow’s site says, "Data Crow is the ultimate media cataloger and media organiser." (No, that isn’t a typo, the site is registered in the Netherlands and they spell properly.)  I agree with their statement.

Say you have some DVDs or Blue-Ray discs you wish to inventory.  Whether you want this cataloging for insurance, your own personal lists or you are just hyper-organized you should give this software a try.  Data Crow is also free which makes it even easier to try.  By-the-way, the friend who uses it told me that he has over 1,200 music CDs and over 800 DVD movies he has cataloged so it will handle a bunch of data.

Some of you may be thinking, "Well I can just type in my CDs on Word or a spreadsheet program to keep track of them."  That is correct; however, Data Crow can do it much better and supply more information.

For instance, when you start it up you can use the Item Wizard and choose what you want to put in the database.  For instance, I chose DVD then I typed in the movie title I wanted to add to the database.  I entered a movie and in about 5-10 seconds it listed out several that I could choose from.  The items are from different versions of the same movie.   If you type (like I did) the TV show "Alias" it finds each season of that title.  Next, you select the correct version and it enters it into Data Crow.

But not just the name is displayed.  It adds the DVD’s case picture, all of the actors, the date of release, playing time, director, a full description of the title, and a lot more.

I haven’t tried CDs yet since I don’t have that many so I will leave that up to you to test.  If you use this Libra replacement let me know what you think. If you have a bunch of movies to keep track of it may import them from other programs, but I wouldn’t depend on that.  You may just have a lot of typing in titles ahead of you.  But don’t worry, I’m sure it will snow again and you will need something to do after shoveling.

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