DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

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.

November 1, 2016

Why Revo?

So, after the series of articles on applications I think are good additions to Windows, I received several questions.  A couple of which I will answer today.

The first, and my favorite, was regarding my choice of Revo Uninstaller (RevoUninstaller.com).  John wrote and wanted to know why I do not like Microsoft’s “Programs and Features.”  He wondered why he should not use that built in Windows application which is found in the Control Panel?

I have a really good reason, at least in my opinion.  First, they are both made to remove or uninstall applications that have been placed on your computer.  You know the drill.  You have heard from a friend or someone like me that you should try the XYZ program.  You install it and find that it is worthless and you no longer want it on your computer taking up space.  So, you need to uninstall it as soon as you can.

Revo Uninstaller Logo

I have found that when you use the built-in Programs and Features the program is indeed uninstalled; however, nowhere near completely.  When you use that program to do an uninstall it can, and most times does, leave behind many unneeded folders and files.  It may also leave many worthless pieces of information in your Windows Registry.  The last part may never give you any issues and you may be unaware of it altogether but it could cause problems over time.

With Revo Uninstaller you direct it as to how deeply to probe for leftover unnecessary files.  I always get it to run in the Advanced mode.  That way it will first run the regular uninstall process that Windows does normally.  However, it will then do a deep scan for any files left over from that procedure and offer to remove them too.  I always take Revo’s suggestions and delete everything.

This makes for a much more thorough and professional cleaning which gives you back free disk space once it is completed.  I have found some uninstalls where there are thousands of left over files to delete.  I have found very few where it does not delete any files but it has happened to me on rare occasions.

I feel that Microsoft should be ashamed of the sloppy junk they leave behind on your system after a regular uninstall.  And before you ask, Revo is free with a “Pro” version that does a few more things.  I have used the free version for years without any issues and some fine cleaning.

Do you love or hate MS?The last question from another reader was, “Why did I slam Windows built in programs in those last articles?”  I really did not slam them but I do believe you can sometimes get better apps to do the same thing from elsewhere.  The MS programs are actually fine; however, if I can increase my gas mileage a little by using a different gas brand why not do it?

October 25, 2016

Ron’s Favorite Add-on Apps, Part 4

Well I need to start with an “Oops” this week.  Last week’s article included an incorrect statement and if you looked for the software in the link provided you would not find Revo Uninstaller.  I stated incorrectly that Revo was by the same company as CCleaner.  This is not correct and I even knew better but my fingers were out of control as I typed.  Of course, I could have been checking to see if you were reading closely…some of you were.

Revo Uninstaller can be found at RevoUninstaller.com; whereas, CCleaner is still found at Piriform.com.  I apologize.

One more useful utility is WinDirStat (windirstat.net).  We will all one day read a message on our PC that says something like, “You are running out of disk space.”  You have cleaned out all the files you can find and still need more space.  Run WinDirStat and it will give you a colorful graphical interface letting you know where your files are located all by size.  So with some clicking and determination you can hunt down and remove worthless files you no longer need.  PLEASE be careful as you could also delete something quite important too.

Below is a WinDirStat representation of all the files on my computer. I can hover my mouse over an area to see information about those files down to an individual file.

WinDirStat Representation of Ron's Files

This will be the last article in this series regarding apps you may want/need to add to a Windows PC.  That being the case I will close with a look at a couple of fun applications.

Windows 10 Games...these are FREE

There are many games made by Microsoft for Windows 10.  But of course, Solitaire which Microsoft came out with over 26 years ago, is the original with the Windows Operating System.  It was originally created to make people more comfortable with two new things that were spreading across the world.  The PC and the Mouse.  It went on fairly unchanged until Windows 8 changed it by requiring you to purchase it to remove ads.  It has become bigger, brighter, and has more versions of the game.  Microsoft has many, many games that you can try out in Windows 10 by going to rd.dblclx.com/2evl0en.

 

SteamNext up, if you like video games you already know about Steam but if not here you go.  Visit Steampowered.com to see the hundreds of games available.  Many of them you have never heard of and many you may have played in the past (Counter Strike, Half-Life, Far Cry) on a game system or PC.  There are all types of games available too, adventure, roleplaying, racing, sports strategy and more.  Prices of games range from free to $25.  There are also a few game creation tools available if you are the inventive type.  New games roll out from Steam too.  Maybe you can meet me online sometime playing, “Star Trek Online” (a freebie of course). To play Steam games you must download a large application to run the games and then each individual game so make sure you have time to wait when you first set it up.

duolingo.comIf games are not your “thing” how about learning a new language with Duolingo?  You can use it either online at Duolingo.com or download it as an application to Windows (Android and iPhones too).  To be honest I have tried it out but do not use it regularly since I do not have the time or want to take the effort to learn a new language now.  But when I do I will definitely use Duolingo to do so.

October 18, 2016

Ron’s Favorite Add-on Apps, Part 3

For the last two weeks I have shared with you what I believe are some of the best applications you could add on to a Windows 10 computer.  That goes for Windows 7 back up to and including Windows XP.  By-the-way, just in case you have not heard anyone mention it lately you should not be using Windows XP any longer since it is no longer supported by Microsoft.

This week my favorite note taking app(s):  I have two in this category.  The first is already included on Windows 10 and is for detailed notes, OneNote.  OneNote is the app you should use if you are writing a book or important document with a large amount of research.  OneNote is also found online (onenote.com) and is one of the best of the Microsoft programs though often overlooked.  The second one is for quick notes, voice reminders, lists and more from Google.  Google Keep (keep.google.com) is available for most mobile platforms too.  A quick and convenient way to make simple or not so simple notes.

OK, a very good utility I use to uninstall programs I no longer want or need is called Revo Uninstaller.  This application will remove everything necessary from your computer when uninstalling applications.  You can use the regular Windows uninstall program but it may, and usually does, leave a lot of leftover junk behind.  This takes up space on your hard drive and could slow down your system.  Revo will wipe all of the old program off.

Last week I said to use VLC for your audio/visual needs.  For music and videos, it is a great app.  Then I had a reader write and chastise me regarding iTunes (itunes.com).  I know it is hard for many of you who have listened to me over the years to believe but I like iTunes.  Yes, I know it is an Apple product but it is good; however, you really only “need” it if you have other Apple products to connect to.  So in good conscience I suggest you use iTunes if you have an iPhone, etc.

Next for all of you photo bugs out there:  A very good photo editing software which is easy to use and free is Adobe Photoshop Express.  You can download this one from the Windows Store.  It will allow you to make standard contrast, brightness, etc. settings on a picture or automatically correct it for you.  Go to the DoubleClicks.info site and check out a picture I edited.  You may also use it on your iPhone, Android or Windows phones.

Take a look below at the same picture, before and after
a one button click edit with Adobe Photoshop Express.

Original Photo

Edited Photo

Now for watching TV and movies online if you are so inclined:  Netflix.com is the one I go to.  I have tried Hulu.com (with advertisements even though you pay) and Amazon.com (where you may still pay additional per individual shows/movies).  For those reasons I am sticking with Netflix.  Do not forget they all offer specific applications to download and install which offer a better experience than watching on your browser.  Also, you can get quite a few shows from the stations’ websites, most free but some of them (CBS) charge you to watch their shows.

See you next week!

October 4, 2016

Ron’s Favorite Add-on Apps, Part 1

I am asked quite often what programs I would set up on a new computer.  I usually answer these email inquiries individually.  However, today I thought I would start a series of articles regarding the apps I get quizzed on most often.

This is in reference to applications I like better than those supplied with Windows computers.  They are not necessarily the best programs to accomplish their assigned tasks but the ones I like best.  You may certainly go to DoubleClicks.info or email me and share your opinions.  Also, these are all free…you know me.

Ninite logo

When you get a new computer go straight to Ninite.com. Ninite offers almost 90 applications that you can add to Windows in one visit.  You click check box next to the program you want to install and when finished download the resulting executable file.  Run it and all of the programs you chose will be installed to your computer.  It will take a while depending on how many you choose but it is quicker than going to each site, downloading a file and then installing each individually.  Most of the programs I will talk about here may be found at Ninite.  It has always worked flawlessly for me.

Next on my list is a browser since both of the versions of MSIE (Edge included as one) are OK browsers but not the best.  I choose Google Chrome for my favorite and run it as my default browser (google.com/chrome).  My second vote would be for Firefox. (firefox.com

Google Chrome Browser logo                             Mozilla Firefox Browser logo

Now the biggie?!  Do I recommend Microsoft Office? If so which version and if not what office application do I use?  Tough question as I use Microsoft Office 2016 on my main computer.  It is an excellent office suite.  However, when that license expires, and another charge is levied by MS for its continuation (i.e., cloud versions) or whatever else may financially "get" me, I will switch.  I will happily switch to Libre Office (libreoffice.org) which is an Open Source application. (translation = free) 

LibreOffice logo                            Microsoft Office 2016/365 logo

Libre Office is equal to the MS Office Suite is most respects for the largest majority of users.  The main difference between the two is that LO uses a menu driven system like MS Office did up until version 2007 where it switched to the Ribbon.  By-the-way, after almost 10 years of using the Ribbon in Office I still think the menu system was better.  But back to Libre Office as a great replacement for the best known office suite.   For a very detailed comparison between LO and MO go here

The last one for this week is what PDF viewer do I favor?  The most well-known is Adobe Acrobat (get.adobe.com/reader); however, you basically may only view PDF files using that application.  If you need to create or edit them, you need to pay for the application.  Guess what?  Libre Office, as well as Microsoft Office, can view, edit and create PDF files.  So if you have one of them you have no need for another application that does less.

Adobe Acrobat logo

Next we will look at some utilities, a great video player, video chat and more!

August 16, 2016

Live Writer by Any Other Name

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:47 am

Several years ago I wrote an article about a specific piece of software which was for a specific group of people.  I did not think it would be very popular; however, I received a large number of emails regarding that software. 

There have been some major changes regarding "Windows Live Writer" so I thought it was time to revisit this great app…or the lack thereof.

Windows Live Writer was part of a Microsoft Suite of products called "Windows Live Essentials" and all components could be installed with one file.  Microsoft created Live Writer for posting to your own blog many years ago.  If you are a blog owner who uses a WordPress site I highly recommended this for you.  It is much easier to create pages, posts, etc. for your WordPress site using Live Writer.

However, just like Google, in 2012 Microsoft decided to no longer support any of the Essentials programs.  So I guess they were not so essential.

You can still find it on the Microsoft site for download; but it is exactly the same as it was in 2012.  The web changes a lot and so should the way you maintain your site.  Other than possible security issues with old software you may not be able to perform some new functions. 

WordPress is a content management system for building websites.  I use it on all of mine, including DoubleClicks.info.  It is so popular that as of a few months ago it was found that WP is used by 59.5% of all the websites who use content management systems.  This is 26.6% of all websites.  That is a lot of websites!

So you can still get Live Writer but it is outdated, what to do? 

This post in Open Live WriterEnter the new kid on the block "Open Live Writer."  Open LW was created from the original LW code.  Several Microsoft employees who loved LW got together.  They asked for, got permission from MS to proceed and took over development for LW.  They then changed the name to Open Live Writer.  Since December, 2015, you can now get this free application from OpenLiveWriter.org.

It is every bit as good as the original which seems obvious since it started life as the same application.  It is actually getting much better than the original since the developers really care about improving it.  They have added several new features but to be honest the one I like the best is a Spell Checker which MS put off for years.

So if you do not have your own WordPress site you can skip through this article pretty quickly.  But if you do you should definitely use Open Live Writer as, IMHO it is much better than the default editor in WordPress.

Happy posting!

August 15, 2016

2016-08-15 Show Notes with WSVA

Filed under: WSVA Show Notes — Tags: , , , , , , — Ron @ 11:17 am

Welcome back to the site for the podcast and show notes from today’s show.

Tech News

OK, Google: 160 valuable voice commands for Android

Android has actually had a robust voice command system in place for ages — and the number of things it can do for you is expanding all the time.

In fact, Google may be preparing to unveil a newly rebranded and even more conversational version of its virtual assistant later this year, but you don’t have to wait to start making the most of your mobile device’s listening smarts.

  • Enable/disable [battery saver mode] (and other system features, such as mute)
  • Take a photo/selfie
  • Record a video
  • What time zone is [most any city] in?
  • Do I need an umbrella today?
  • Where’s the closest [bowling alley]? (or most any other business)
  • When’s the sunrise in [anywhere]?
  • Set a timer for [10 minutes]
  • Call [anyone in your Google address book], mobile/home/work
  • When is the sunset tonight?

Nintendo’s NES Classic Targets Gaming Geezers

Nintendo ..recently.. unveiled its latest gaming console: the NES Classic Edition, a mini replica of the original home console that can connect directly to a TV via an HDMI cable.

The system features 30 built-in games from the 8-bit era, including fan favorites such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, PAC-MAN and Kirby’s Adventure.

“We wanted to give fans of all ages the opportunity to revisit Nintendo’s original system and rediscover why they fell in love with Nintendo in the first place,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America.

“The Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition is ideal for anyone who remembers playing the NES, or who wants to pass on those nostalgic memories to the next generation of gamers,” he added.

The system, which will be available this fall for US$59.99, will ship with a newly designed NES Classic Controller patterned after the original NES controller. It will include an HDMI cable and an AC adapter.


Historical Software
Did you have an old Atari game console or one of the many others from back in the day? Go to this site and play them again, just like when you were a kid.

This collection contains selected historically important software packages from the Internet Archive’s software archives. Through the use of in-browser emulators, it is possible to try out these items and experiment with using them, without the additional burdens of installing emulator software or tracking down the programs. Many of these software products were the first of their kind, or utilized features and approaches that have been copied or recreated on many programs since.


Ron’s Android App Recommendation
(This app can be found on Google Play from your Android phone,
tablet or viewed on your PC from the link below.)

Google Opinion Rewards

Answer quick surveys and earn Google Play credits with Google Opinion Rewards.

Getting started is easy. Download the app and answer basic questions about yourself. We’ll then send you surveys around once a week, although it may be more or less frequent. You’ll get a notification on your phone when a short and relevant survey is ready for you, and can receive up to $1.00 in Play credits for completing it. Questions can range from, “Which logo is best?” and “Which promotion is most compelling?” to “When do you plan on traveling next?”

Availalbe for Android devices only.


I hope you enjoyed this month’s show. Come back the third Monday of September to find out what is going on in Tech then!

Ron

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