DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

January 6, 2015

2014 Sites in Review, Part 1

Welcome to the beginning of our fourteenth year together with the Double Click column.  Every January we review the sites that we visited in the previous year.  Today is no different.  So as always, if the site addresses are too long to type I have shortened them using the "bit.ly" app so the links may not look quite right.  Without further ado…here they are in their order of appearance with short descriptions of each.

Thanks for reading the column and emailing me with your great questions.  I love writing it and hearing from you! 

  • Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and ABC – add ".com" to any of those to view TV shows, movies, video clips, etc.
  • Chromecast.com – this Google device allows you to broadcast anything from your Android, iPhone or Windows phones and computers to your TV.
  • Chromebook.com – Computers that run the Chrome OS (Google) and have everything you need in the Cloud. 
  • Google Drive/Docs,  – Google’s Office substitute and a good one it is, with this you may not need to purchase Microsoft Office.
  • McAfee – one of the many antivirus applications available for your computer’s protection.
  • Libre Office and Open Office – the two leaders in the free Microsoft Office replacements.  Both are good; however, fall short in some areas. 
  • Google, Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, IxQuick and StartPage – add ".com" to any of these for search engines, the last three do not track your searches but the first three do.
  • Google Location History – this site will show you where you have been in the recent past on Google Maps. 
  • Copy, bit.ly/roncopy – free online cloud storage, use the link shown and get 20 GB instead of 15 at Copy.com.
  • Dropbox, bit.ly/use-DropBox, same as above; however, you get 2 GB, many people prefer this to all the other online storage options since it was one of the first.
  • Google Drive and OneDrive, (by Microsoft) – Google’s and Microsoft’s cloud storage sites both at 15GB free. 
  • OneNote, Microsoft’s great note taking application, free online.
  • MultCloud, put all of your cloud storage on one site (notice spelling, no "i").

Tune in next week for the last half of the sites we visited in 2014.

September 23, 2014

February 4, 2014

Adobe

Adobe makes many products which are used on Windows computers today. Every now and then you are reminded to update Adobe Flash. If you are the normal computer user you probably just click the “Install” button and continue on.

First, let me provide a quick history of Adobe Flash. It started out in the 1990s and was originally called SmartSketch, later turning into FutureSplash. In 1996 it was purchased by Macromedia and became “Macromedia Flash.” In 2005 it was purchased by Adobe. As a side note; Adobe was approached about purchasing the software when known as “FutureSplash” but turned it down. It was rumored that Adobe purchased Macromedia for $3.4 billion in 2005…what a deal they got a few years later.

So what is Adobe Flash /Player? Flash is the code working on your computer and Player is the part that plays the flash files. They are two separate apps but they are basically inseparable. An easy definition of Flash would be that it is coding which allows videos, games and many other types of animations to work on your browser. A large percentage of websites use Flash. Some you may have heard of are YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, Plex, most all of the Cable and Broadcast TV streaming sites, a large number of gaming sites, and many actual games which run separate from a browser.

It is rumored that the new version of Web sites, HTML 5, will someday negate the need for Flash but it is not near that point at the current time.

One thing to know about Adobe is that it is a big well-known company in the software market. Look at Adobe.com and check out their product list. You will find over 50 individual products. You have heard of some of them. You know those PDF (Portable Document Format) files you find everywhere on the internet and need to read? Most likely you are using Adobe Reader to open and view them.

See Boggie change...right before your eyes, but not in real life.Another very popular application you may have heard of is Adobe PhotoShop. If you have not heard of it I guarantee you have seen the end products produced by this application. Look at almost any picture of most of the celebrities and models around the world. You know the ones in the magazines with the perfect skin color and texture, the perfect white teeth, no moles anywhere on their skin… you know, the beautiful people. They have been PhotoShopped. Sorry but they are just not that perfect, even the bone structure can be changed with this application. Look at this video (bit.ly/L2WzFI) and be amazed as PhotoShop total “remakes” Boggie, a singer with whom I am not familiar, into an almost unrecognizable version of herself as one of her songs plays. After you watch it tell me what you think. Think too, you just watched it using Adobe Flash through YouTube and created via Adobe PhotoShop.

Installation screenBack to the updates. When you are asked to update Flash, Reader and maybe others, you will either be directed to their site or it will start downloading automatically. Either way, be cautious since it will try to add McAfee Antivirus software to your computer in the background. I have never understood why a strong mainstream company would do that, but they do. If you install from the website, uncheck McAfee on the main page before you download the app. If you run it automatically you will get a “custom” or “standard” setup, choose the custom and “uncheck” McAfee.

Understand that there is nothing wrong with McAfee, it is an excellent antivirus software; however, you should only run one antivirus program on a computer at one time. Hopefully, you already are running something for that purpose.

January 21, 2014

Chromecast

This is a very popular way to convert your "almost" smart TV into a fairly intelligent one…at a very low cost.

If you have not heard about it yet the item is called Chromecast which was developed by Google. It is a dongle…STOP!  Some of you may need to know what a dongle is so let me explain.  

A dongle is a relatively small device which plugs into a computer and can take on different jobs depending on what the dongle was created to do.  For instance, it could be used as an adapter to allow a specific device to be used like an external hard drive or a game controller.  A dongle could also be utilized to allow you to plug one sized cable into another size, like converting an USB plug to a micro USB plug. 

The Chromecast is a small device measuring roughly 2.8" x 1.4" x 0.5" and looks a lot like a thumb-drive (another dongle type device).  It is very light weight, too at about 1.2 oz.

Chromecast is a digital media device which you plug into an HDMI port on your computer.  HDMI is the larger USB plug present on many newer digital televisions.  It allows you to transfer uncompressed video data and compressed/uncompressed digital audio data from one device to a compatible computer monitor, digital television, or audio device. In other words, instead of plugging your new Chromecast into your TV you could plug in your notebook computer and do about the same thing.  However, you would be putting wear and tear on your much more expensive computer to watch streaming shows on your TV.

Once plugged in and the easy five minute setup is done, you can stream (watch from the internet using your home’s wi-fi) movies and your favorite TV shows to your large screen television.  This is much better than watching from your small computer monitors like many people do now.  There are many other devices out there which already do this; however, the prices range from $70 to close to $200 and some have a recurring fee.  Chromecast costs only $35 and has no future expense.  It is very inexpensive and Google updates it with new features regularly which allow it to do more.  Now for you Apple folks out there it does not work with Apple TV, sorry.

Once you plug your Chromecast into your TV it has a small port on the other end to plug in the power cable.  Most televisions will have a power port on the back, if not you can plug it directly into a wall socket. 

If you have accounts (some requiring a fee) with Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus and/or Google Play Movies or another you can watch them on your TV now.  If you listen to music on a site like Pandora you can run that through your TV speakers too.  Even better, if you can play something in your Google Chrome browsers on the computer or phone you are broadcasting from, you can watch it on your TV using Chromecast. 

One example of this is what happened with a buddy of mine and his wife who are big "Castle" fans.  They do not have cable TV so every week a few days after the original broadcast of the show they would watch it at ABC.com on their notebook.  Now they start it up on the same computer at the same site and it is then sent to their big screen TV.  This is much more comfortable and easier to see.

Here is the bad (or good) news.  In my opinion you will not have to use Chromecast in the future. It and devices like it will become obsolete.  I believe that in the very near future you will only be able to purchase Smart TVs and they will already have wi-fi capabilities already built into them.  A large number of new sets today are already set up that way.  But until you buy your new TV, $35 is an easy way into the future.

July 30, 2013

A Little Nexus and a Lot of Numbers

I got a couple of questions about my Nexus usage from last week so here is a short look at the answers.  I do watch videos on occasion especially when traveling for work, etc.  I have accounts with Netflix and Comcast so I can watch their offerings.  There are many of the major cable/broadcast networks have sites that will stream videos.  The videos look and play great.  You cannot stream videos from Hulu; however, you can from Hulu Plus thanks to the Hulu marketing department ($).  For music Pandora (easy to use) and Google Music (more geeky at Google Music) are my favorites.  There are many other great music streaming services.

OK, enough about the Nexus 7 for a while.

I will now tackle one question that I seem to get every now and then and have not tried to explain in many years.

It is all about sizes of computer “stuff.”  Every now and again I get the question, “How many floppy disks will a CD hold?”, “What is a bit or a byte?” or “How much does a GB hold?”  So here we go with a short discussion.

The smallest measurement where it all starts is the “bit”.  The word bit comes from what it is a “Binary digIT“.  It is pronounced the way you normally pronounce bit like, “A mosquito just bit me!”  Bits are either a one (1) or a zero (0).

The next one may sound a little more familiar; the “byte”.  Byte is pronounced as in “I will bite the mosquito back.”  There are eight bits to a byte.  A byte is approximately the space required to hold the data contained in one character on your computer.  This sentence is 42 characters counting spaces.  Therefore the previous sentence contains about 42 bytes or 328 bits, including the period.

Next we have the “kilobyte” which is 1,024 bytes.   Yes, kilo should indicate 1,000 even but this comes from computers using binary (base two- 1 or 0) math, instead of a decimal (base ten) system.  From here on out the measurements will be using binary math so they don’t quite match.  However, using the KISS principal and the numbers become so humongous, most computer people would refer to 10 kilobytes as being 10,000 bits.  That isn’t true, it’s actually 10,240 but we will keep it simple from here on.  For a size reference, 20 kilobytes is the approximate size of a one-page double-spaced document.

Next, the megabyte.  A floppy disk holds 1.44 megabytes (Mb) of data.  Most everyone knows what the old floppy disks hold.

Now the “Gigabyte” which is approximately 1,000 Megabytes (that isn’t precisely true, remember “binary math.”  I have read that one gigabyte of data would hold the contents of about 20,000 pages or about 60 paperback books.

The next storage sizes are (ascending order, referenced comparisons are estimates):

  • 1 Terabyte = 1000 Gigabytes about 4.5 million, 200+ page books.
  • 1 Petabyte = 1000 Terabytes, 4.7 billion books or 239,000 DVDs.
  • 1 Exabyte = 1000 Petabytes, 245 million DVDs or the average amount on data put on the internet every day.
  • 1 Zettabyte = 1000 Exabytes, 250 billion DVDs.
  • 1 Yottabyte (overtones of Star Wars) = 1000 Zettabytes, approximately 257,054,773,252,000 DVDs.
  • 1 Brontobyte (unofficial name but used by many geeks) = 1000 Yottabytes, let me think it is hard to come up with a comparison but basically more Blue Rays than you could watch in your lifetime.

March 21, 2011

2011-03-21 Show Notes

Here are the links from today’s show.  Take time, sit back and enjoy reading here or listening to the podcast here.

Ron


Tech News

    Mozilla Firefox 4

  • http://firefox.com
  • Supposedly March 22…tomorrow. Then going to continual updates as Google Chrome has been doing.

For the First Time, More People Get News Online Than From Newspapers
End of 2010, "In surveys conducted by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, 34% of respondents said they read news online within the past 24 hours (as opposed to 31% who favored newspapers); and a full 41% said they get most of their news online, 10% more than those who said they got most of their news from a newspaper."

All text-based news audiences are dwindling. "Only 40% of people in the study said they read the news in an online or print newspaper, a 12% drop from five years ago."


Netflix announced that it bought "House of Cards", "… a political thriller drama series from executive producer/director David Fincher starring Kevin Spacey, which will be distributed exclusively via the company’s Internet subscription service. This marks Netflix’s first foray into original programming."

Netflix, currently has more than 20 million subscribers, (they say they will have 28 million by the end of the year — currently HBO has 28 million) things are changing in broadcast as well as paper.

Virtual Bubble Wrap
http://www.virtual-bubblewrap.com
The name pretty much says it all. Go to Virtual Bubble Wrap and pop bubble wrap online. On the left side click on "Pop Now!!!" and have at it.

Total time waster but I know some of you love to do it in real life, now you can go virtual.


The Daily Puppy
http://www.dailypuppy.com/
Kim Komando mentioned this one a couple of weeks ago. It was SO SPECIAL that I knew Jim would have to tell the world. Basically a newspaper about Puppies!


Virtual Router
http://virtualrouter.codeplex.com/
This tip came from Tammy in Charlottesville. Thanks and keep them coming.
You have a connection to the net on one computer and want someone else to use it. Like if you have an Air Card and want you wife to get on the net too.

Virtual Router is a free, open source software based router for PCs running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 ONLY. Using Virtual Router, users can wirelessly share any internet connection (Wifi, LAN, Cable Modem, Dial-up, Cellular, etc.) with any other Wifi device. These devices connect to Virtual Router just like any other access point, and the connection is completely secured using WPA2 (the most secure wireless encryption.)


Sonic the Hedgehog
http://www.giddgames.com/games/supersonic.swf
OK all of you old-time gamers from 1991 when Sonic hit the world, play it online here.


MAME Games
I mentioned MAMEs on the air this morning and others have already told you all you need to know…and more.  I chose the info below from random from the many out there, but the info is good.  It is a Google Group. (http://groups.google.com/group/alt.games.mame/topics)

The easiest way is to download MAME32:
http://mamedev.org/release.html

Put some ROMs in the roms folder, and fire it up. Also, check out the MAME FAQ for more details on everything MAME:
http://mamedev.org/roms/

And MAMEWorld has more links to great MAME stuff:
http://mamedev.org/

I totally agree with the a closing remark I read, “Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it seems at first…”


Have a great time until next month, Monday, April 18, 2011.

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