DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

December 19, 2017

Meetings in Email

Before I start today’s topic I will answer emails I have received this from a couple of readers.  “Are you going to write about which computer I should purchase for Christmas?”  Sorry, but no for a couple of reasons.

First, I stopped doing this several years ago because they always sounded the same.  Next, it is fairly easy; purchase a good brand with the biggest numbers you can afford.  By, “numbers” I mean hard drive size, amount of RAM, number of ports, most pixels on the monitor, etc.   Third, due to the dates of the holidays this year, this is my last column until the second week of 2018 so there is no time.

I will answer this, to the outrage of many, “If money were no object what computer would you buy right now?”  If the first part of that statement were true, I would get the latest Microsoft Surface Pro version available.  I have used older versions (two years old) and they are very good.  That being said, some of them have a higher price tag than an Apple system which started out too high to begin with.

Now onto my last article of 2017.  I use calendars much of the time.  I, as many, use Outlook’s calendar at work.  For my personal use I am dependent on Google’s Calendar which is excellent.

No matter the calendar you use I have a recommendation which you may not have tried yet.  That is meeting invites.  Say you are having a party, meeting, lunch, whatever where you would like to invite other people.  We will also pretend you know all of their email addresses.  You can pretty easily set up an appointment with those individuals.  The following is for Google’s Calendar app but they all work much the same way.

Click in the date on your calendar and a new appointment will open.  A small window will open where you may add the title, edit the date, begin and end times for the meeting, but then click “More.”  Here you get to the details which are all optional.  The required information you have already entered so you could have hit “Save” before “More.”

New Appointment Start

You can set the new screen to repeat if it is weekly, monthly, etc.  Next you can add the location.  If you input an address in the location it is helpful for people who accept the invite if they use Google Maps or Waze for their travels.  It will pop up in those apps to warn them when they need to leave to get there on time.  Conferencing will allow you to use Google Hangouts to chat with people at the appointed time.  Add a note to the invite.

On the right is the really vital add in “Guests.”  Here you can enter the people’s names, if they are in your contacts list or email addresses if not.  Then when you Save the invite it will ask you to send the guests the invitation.  When they receive the emailed invite they can Accept, Decline or Tentatively accept the meeting.  You will be notified of their response which will be kept in the meeting information in your calendar.  That way you can check their intentions at any time.

 

Also, if you set notifications everyone who accepts an invite will be notified at the appointed time you have set.

Reviewing your appointments is easy too.  Open your calendar and click on the date to see all of the information.

Reviewing your meeting

December 5, 2017

Syncing Outlook & Google Calendars

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:08 am

I wrote about one of Google’s great apps called, “Google Calendar Sync” in 2012.  Then in 2013 they did away with it.  It was an easy to use add-on for Google that made it easy to sync between your Outlook (usually work related) and Google calendars.  That way you could have your business appointments in Outlook sent down to your private Google calendar to have everything available in one place.  Then you would not have your doctor’s appointment in your work calendar, etc.  You could also sync in the other direction or both at the same time.  Great app!  Check here “rd.dblclx.com/2AhTpJ8” (caps count in all of these shortened URLs) for a list of the many Discontinued Google Products.

In 2015 I wrote about a good replacement, “Calendar Sync +” which did the same thing but was sometimes quite difficult to coordinate.  I used it until about a year ago.  It is still available and you can read about it at “rd.dblclx.com/1MlSy85” from my old article.

At that time a friend referred me to “GO Contact Sync Mod” at “rd.dblclx.com/GOSyncMod” which I liked better.  As a matter of fact, I still use that application.  From the title you would think it would only sync your Contacts but not so.  However, it also syncs your calendars.

Once installed it will sit quietly in your taskbar’s notification area unless you have not set it to “Run Program at Startup.”  That setting only starts the program but not the actual process of syncing.  There are several items needed to successfully set up GCSM.  First, set up your Gmail address which you have to also enter the password.  Next, set “Sync Profile” to my computer.  The next checkboxes are whatever you choose and are self-explanatory. I check both “Sync” and “Prompt Deletion” settings so that all deleted items are matched up.  That way I get a warning in case something is being incorrectly deleted (has not happened yet).  Now decide if I want to also “Sync Contacts” which will pull all of your Google Contacts into Outlook for you, or visa-versa.  I personally do not use that at work, but I do at home.

GO Contact Sync Mod screen

Yes, last week I said I no longer use Outlook which is true.  However, there is also a version of GCSM for Thunderbird which also works well.

The final step is to decide how you want it to sync.  In other words, sync both ways between Outlook and Google or only in one direction so that one of them has everything.  You can also decide which app wins if GCSM cannot figure it out (rarely after the first couple of runs).

There are more setup details on the Go Contact Sync Mod site at “rd.dblclx.com/GoSyncSetUp” if you care to check.

There are other alternatives on the web but for now this is the one that works best for me.  Of course, in another couple of years I may be writing about a better option as I have done this time.

November 28, 2017

Thunderbird

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:26 am

Nope, I am not referring to a car, a new superhero movie or a cheap wine.  I am however talking about one of the better applications out there.  It is cross platform meaning it is available for Linux, Windows and Mac computer operating systems. However, at this time it is not available for iPhones or Android devices but we never know what the future holds.

OK, what is it for?  It is an exceptional email program. Thunderbird (rd.dblclx.com/1ejd3ax) was created by the people behind Mozilla’s Firefox browser.  Both of which are under constant development now.  Thunderbird developers took a break for a while but they are now back at it.

Visit Thunderbird

The current version, v.52.x has most of what Outlook has but one large difference, it is free.  One caveat to mention here.  If you are using Outlook for business with and Exchange Server do not consider using Thunderbird.  At this point it will not work.  But for users that have not bought Outlook or Office (in any of its many versions) I think Thunderbird will satisfy your email needs.

In my initial testing I found that it easily performed most of Outlook’s functions.  It has many plugins which are also free to add and you do not need the Windows Store to them.  The plugins give you added abilities you may not have, "out of the box."  Plugins have various uses, from different dictionaries, change colors of backgrounds, add different scrollbars and one of my favorites, "Provider for Google Calendar."  That addon/extension allows syncing between Google calendars and the calendar now built into Thunderbird.  So, you are always up-to-date on your appointments.  In older versions of Thunderbird is was much harder to make that happen.   

Thunderbird has options that I prefer over other email applications.  One of them is a view setting. It is called, "Unread Folders – Compact view."  This gives you a one-line view of each email account (if you have multiple accounts as I do) but only the accounts that have email you have not read.  To get it all you need to do is click the dropdown menu above your mail folders and choose it, easy.  

Even though it uses more memory than Outlook it has run well for me.  Thunderbird has also not slowed down my systems or locked up/frozen from time-to-time.  This has occurred in Outlook for me…sometimes often.  It also has an excellent spam filter that can learn as you go.  It allowed me to install all of my email addresses including free Outlook.com, Hotmail (Hotmail has been replaced by Outlook.com), Gmail, personal domains and a friend tells me that iCloud addresses will also work. Consequently, I believe that most any email should work – other than some work accounts due to security. 

I now enjoy Thunderbird on all of my personal systems.  The only issue I have had is that I cannot us it on my work PC.  The antivirus on that PC marks it as some sort of problem file and wipes out my passwords in Thunderbird.  Not a biggie if you only have one account.  To overcome the issue, you need to enter the account’s password when Thunderbird starts. However, when you have many email accounts it becomes unwieldy. 

All around a great application!  You should give Mozilla’s other application, the Firefox browser a shot too as it is also a cut above (rd.dblclx.com/2iHBvaX).

Firefox Browser

October 31, 2017

Temporary Gmail Access

Rick emailed an interesting question about Gmail this week. His company uses Google’s product, “G Suite Business” for their email. With G Suite all email and cloud storage is handled by Google in the cloud. This can allow big savings in money, time and equipment for the company. I have used it before in the corporate environment and although different it works quite well.

Rick’s question was that he was going to be out of town for vacation. He wanted to turn over control of his email to a coworker. However, (smartly so) he did not want to give them his password. NEVER give passwords to anyone.

I found that Google has a Gmail delegation feature. A Gmail delegate is someone you give access to your email account without supplying your password. Once a delegate has access to your email they have limits as to what they may and may not do on your account. They can read, send, delete and reply to emails that were sent to your account. If Rick were a delegate of mine his address would show as the sender in any email he sent on my behalf. The sender would show “sent by rickwhatever@gmail.com.” Delegates also have the ability to add, edit and remove people from your Gmail contacts.

There are also several things that are not allowed. One of the main ones is that the delegate cannot change your password. So if your delegate turned out to be an evil individual they could not block you out of your account. They also cannot chat with anyone as you while in your account. Last, they could not change your Gmail account settings.

A person may be a delegate for any number of accounts. However, a personal Gmail account can only have up to 10 delegates (corporate G Suite accounts are limited to 25).

It is fairly easy to add a delegate to Gmail; though, it must be done online as you cannot add one from your phone’s Gmail app. Log into Gmail and click the Settings button that looks like a gear in the upper right corner. Next, select the “Accounts and Import,” scroll to the bottom and click “Add another account” under the “Grant access to your account” section. Enter the email address of your delegate (it must be a “gmail.com” address) then, “Next Step.” You will now be instructed to send them an email, by clicking a link to grant them access to your account.

Grant access

Grant access to another account

The person you add will get an email from you asking them to confirm that they will take access for a while. If they do not respond within a week the request will be withdrawn and they will not be your delegate. Also note when your delegate accepts your access they may not have access to your account for up to 24 hours.

Notification email to delegate

Notification email to delegate

If you are a delegate it is easy to access that account. Sign into your own Gmail account, click your account photo (upper right corner), then from the dropdown menu select the delegated account. A new window or tab will open with their email displayed. Have at it.

When you are ready to remove their access go to the same “Grant access to your account” area and click “delete” by your delegate’s information.

August 15, 2017

OneNote & Clipper

In 2014, I wrote about a newer Microsoft application called OneNote.  It was and is still an excellent free program.  Even if you do not have Office you can still get OneNote for free.  Go to OneNote.com to read all about it.  Also note that OneNote comes with a preinstalled version in Windows 10.  It is not quite the full version but you can get the entire thing by going to this much shortened link, rd.dblclx.com/onenote-ron.  It is also available for most smartphones, PCs, Macs and most any device that can connect to the internet.  Yes, both OneNote (also most of the Office apps) and Clipper are available on the cloud at Office.com.

Visit Office online

If you gather information for any reason, i.e. article research, recipes, sports, or simply thoughts, OneNote is something at which you should take a serious look.

OneNote uses an organizational process you may be familiar with – a paper notebook, like you used in school…no matter when you graduated.  Your OneNote notebooks consist of Sections and Pages.  I research columns and put related ideas, files, pictures, links and entire webpages in a section for each specific article idea.  Over time I have built up a lot of information.

I can copy and paste most anything into OneNote, including pictures of any kind.  Something interesting to mention is that most graphics you put in OneNote which have text on them are searchable.  It takes a while converting the graphic text to actual text in the background.  Think how helpful that could be.  You can paste the link to YouTube and most any other video site into a page and the video will be added to the page in OneNote and be fully playable on that page, with a link back to the original.

You can get much more detail on OneNote online, Google for it.  But now onto OneNote Clipper (also easy to find more about online).

Clipper is a browser add-on that started out about three years ago which makes OneNote even more productive.  Add it to your browser which is a very simple process in Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer, which are the ones I tested it on.  It can also be installed on Edge but in my opinion, it was too convoluted to mess with.  It does not work on all browsers.  Next, you must have a free Microsoft account.  If you do not have one, go to Office.com and signup for an email account. Then you get all of Office online.

OneNote for Chrome page

Clipper allows you to “clip” anything you see on a website and add it automatically to a notebook.  You see a site you want to include in your research, click the Clipper icon in your favorites bar then choose either “Full Page“, “Region“, “Article” or “Bookmark.”   Full Page gives you a screen shot of the entire web page, however links do not work. A link to the original page is provided. Region allows you to convert a selected area of the page to a graphic.  Article grabs the textual information making all links active in the page.  Finally, Bookmark, which will add a link to the original page and a few words from the site.

Screenshot of OneNote Clipper in use

Your choice is then added to a notebook you select. Go check it out and enjoy!

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 25, 2017

A Flashback and the Future

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

Before I start on today’s column I have a little flashback to last week.  I mentioned other voice recognition apps like Office’s new Dictate.ms last week.  I received an email from a couple of readers last week chatting about Google Docs.  Yes, Google Docs has speech-to-text capabilities also.   However, I have never tested it.  I would imagine it is no better or worse than the others.

If you wish to try it go to your Google Docs online, choose Add-ons and click, “Speech recognition SoundWriter.”  Then go for it.  Let me know how it works for you…better or worse than any others you have tried?  And thanks for keeping me on my toes with the emails…keep them coming.

Google SoundWriter setup

Today I want talk to you a bit about something that many of my readers can be encouraged by.  I have lost count of the number of emails and conversations I have gotten into regarding how someone can get broadband coverage in rural areas.  Yes, they can get satellite TV, yes, rural areas can get internet through phone lines (slow speeds) … but what about real fairly reliable high-speed internet?

Within the past month Microsoft came up with a plan.  Around the first of this month MS talked about an idea to bring broadband internet connectivity to rural areas of the U.S.A.  The Microsoft Rural Broadband Initiative involves using the portion of UHV television bands that allow wireless signals to make it around blockages like buildings, hills and even travel longer distances.  With that and some other technologies they can get high speed to most all areas in the US.

This graphic shows current connection areas.This graphic shows current connection areas, click for detail.

At this point in time they are talking relative high speeds of 25Mbps.  The FCC states that 25 megabits per second is the definition of high speed broadband.  I have also read that means that approximately 23 million people in rural areas cannot get that speed.  For comparison, it has been said that you have to have a minimum of 8Mbps to stream video decently.  So, folks can easily watch Hulu, Netflix and all the other streaming services and broadcast channels that stream if they get this service.

OK, how long will you have to wait?  Currently they say that it should start rolling out in 2018 and be finished in 2022.  Is that true? Well only time will tell but I imagine they are a little overly aggressive at first.

Even the politicos are getting onboard thinking about the necessity of localities for emergency services, doctors, businesses and more that could benefit from this.   President Trump has put some money into the latest infrastructure budget to include funding to enhance Broadband access in rural communities. The politicians on Capitol Hill are also calling on federal agencies to help reduce costs on both sides of the aisles.

The reality is that it will most likely be here in the not too distant future.  It will cost a bundle to set up.  Even then not everyone will be able to access it.  However, it will be much better than the alternatives we currently have.

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.

February 20, 2017

2017-02-20 Show Notes @ WSVA

Welcome back, do to holidays, job changing and a variety of other things I have not had the show for a couple of months.

But today you may relax, we are back. Listen in at WSVA’s podcast and enjoy the show now.

Enjoy!

Tech News

February 20, 2016

FORBES: Google’s Chrome Browser Crushes The Desktop Competition In 2016 and keeps crushingA seismic shift occurred in the way the world browses the web in 2016. Google’s Chrome browser supplanted Microsoft’s Internet Explorer as the world market-share leader in desktop browsers. That’s a genteel way of putting it. “Google crushed Microsoft as Chrome dominates the desktop browser field” gives a clearer picture of what happened.

The market share numbers reported in this article come from Net Applications’ Net Market Share Report which measures unique visitors from approximately 40,000 global websites. Net Applications weights their results using the CIA’s internet traffic by country data. This reduces distortions caused by differences in a country’s percentage of global internet use and the percentage of its users captured by the websites Net Applications monitors.

IE remained the global market share leader until it fell into a virtual tie with Chrome in March 2016 when IE held 39.1% and Chrome had 39.09% market share. After that it’s been all Chrome. IE began 2016 with a 43.82% share and ended the year with 20.84%. In January, Chrome held a 35.05% share and it rose to 56.43% in December. The pattern continued in January of this year with IE falling to 19.71% share and Chrome rising to 57.94%. Game over.

Edge usage grew in 2016 but not nearly enough to offset IE’s loss. Edge began the year with 3.07% share and ended it at 5.33%. Almost all of the people who abandoned IE moved to Chrome.


Google Search a Specific site
Search for specific words or phrases on only one site and any site you know the URL to. Just type in Google like this –
“potatoes” site:wsvaonline.com
– with the quotes.


See you next month on March 20, 2017. Listen up!

November 22, 2016

Malware Strikes

Before I start today I will tell you that I run all the security software you normally would on a computer.  I also only run software that I recommend to you when you ask or when I write.  That way I know what you can do for free and how well it works. I have always been satisfied with this arrangement.

Now, back to the story.  I was on my desktop computer and up pops an alert from my antivirus application.  I will not mention the name of it since it is an app that I have been testing for several weeks.  BANG, I had malware!!!

I told it to take care of it by removing the offending malware files as I have done only a couple of times over the years.  Then predictably the warning went away.

After anywhere from 10 seconds to five minutes I get another warning and another and another, etc.  After a dozen or two of them I just let them go to watch what would happen.  I figured my computer was probably already ruined so why worry about it further.

After a hundred or so alerts I ran Malwarebytes to take care of the problem.  That application (which still does a good job in most areas) found them but it could not remove them either.  At this point, I am starting to perspire.

You should turn this on if you have no other antivirus softwareI then shutdown my “now proven worthless” antivirus app and uninstalled it.  I then install a more proven, reputable antivirus app.  After it finished its set up it also found the malware but could do nothing with it either.  I now shutdown this antivirus application and ran Windows Defender.  Always keep in mind that you should run only one antivirus app on your computer at a time.  Also, Windows Defender switches itself off automatically when you install a third party anti-virus app.

Windows Defender is the antivirus application that comes built into Windows 10 and has been available since Windows XP.  For the past years, most geeks say to run a third-party antivirus app in its place since Windows Defender (WD to save space) is not as good as the others.  I trusted the pros as I had never proven it to be good or bad for me.

Windows Defender on Windows 10

The second I started up WD it found the malware and asked if it should remove it.  I responded, “Heck yeah, kill it my new little friend!”  Well not exactly but you know what I mean.

About five minutes later all of the malware was apparently gone and my computer was running smoothly once again. I rebooted it, ran the “dependable” antivirus software again and it said that everything was safe.  I ran Malwarebytes again and it too reported everything as being safe and secure.

Now I have uninstalled all of the antivirus apps and let Windows Defender take over the heavy lifting.  As far as I am concerned that is all I need now along with Malwarebytes.

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