DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

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

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.

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!

March 29, 2016

Windows 10, Ready or Not

Over the past few weeks I have received some emails from people saying they are getting warnings on their computers regarding the Windows 10 upgrade.  No, this is not a new virus, a Trojan or any sort of malware hitting the scene.  Our friend – Microsoft.

Many of you who have not converted to Windows 10 yet are getting popups from time-to-time from Microsoft.  It has already been downloaded to most Windows 7 and 8.x computers.  Yes, there is a very high probability that it is lurking in a hidden location waiting to get its command to run.  If you choose to install it by clicking the popup, then you will have it after a couple of restarts.  But what if you choose to never click the OK button?

When MS released W10 for general consumption in July, 2015, they said it would be free for all users of Windows 7 and 8.x.  It was and so far, according to one statistics site I read, about 14.8% of all desktop and notebook computers are running W10.  For comparison it also stated Windows 7 is 46.8%, Windows 8.1 is 11.4% and OS X (Apple) is 9.33%.  They also stated at release time that after one year you would have to pay for W10 if you wanted it on your computer.

One of many Windows 10 Upgrade "Reminders"Now things have apparently changed.  I have read of some people who woke up to find Windows 10 on their computers.  The issue is that when they went to bed the night before they had Windows 7.  I do not know how true that is but I do know that people are getting continual “warnings” about having to install W10.

So it sounds like sooner or later you will get Windows 10.  I do not know if they will auto-install it without your input or allow you to choose “OK,” but I believe you will have it sooner or later.  Oh and MS says the update to W10 is for our own safety.  Yeah right, that was what all the new versions were supposedly for.

One of many Windows 10 Upgrade "Reminders"On to one other related issue.  I received an email from a reader who choose to bite the bullet and install Windows 10 recently.  They immediately had issues connecting to their Wi-Fi and asked me what they could do.  I had not heard this before and looked online…there were many out there with this issue along with a plethora of fixes.  Since I had no experience with this I suggested he go to a local computer shop.  He did and found out that many W10 upgraded computers had this issue.  I found online where it could be related to older drivers on computers but sometimes updating them did not work either.

I am surprised that my computers have had no issue with this.  I have a 2009 desktop, a 2006 and a 2010 notebook and none of them have experienced this issue.  But be warned if you have an older system you could lose Wi-Fi.  I have read on a few sites which say your best bet if that happens and a computer repair shop cannot get you fixed is to toss it and buy a new computer.

Thanks, Microsoft, for the mandatory Windows 10 upgrades, especially if it stops us from getting online.  Very useful feature…not!

One of many Windows 10 Upgrade "Reminders"

One of many Windows 10 Upgrade "Reminders"

March 22, 2016

Another Two Bite the Dust

Google told the world on February 12 it will no longer support, wait are ready for it? 

If you said, "Picasa" you got it right (picasa.google.com).  Now I will not yell too loudly about this one since I was not a big Picasa lover.  It seemed a little convoluted to me; however, many people love(d) Picasa and are very upset to see it go. 

Picasa logoPicasa is/was an image viewer for organizing and editing digital photos.  And yes, it was named after Pablo Picasso and blended with "mi casa" ("my house" in Spanish) and "pic" for pictures.  It was also linked to the cloud so that you could share your photos online with the world…if you wished. It was originally created by a company named Lifescape in 2002.  Google purchased it in mid-2004. 

As of March 16, 2016 it was removed from the web and is no longer "downloadable."  If you downloaded the file before then, you may keep the installation file and install it at any other time. In addition, Google will be archiving Picasa Web Albums data at a later date while encouraging those users to convert to Google Photos instead.  That means that if you still have Picasa you will not be able to upload to the Web Albums in the future since they will be gone.  It also means that Google will not continue to update it for security and other features.  

So, goodbye Picasa, I knew you well… a little bit.  Google is providing a new application called, "Google Photos" (photos.google.com) which rolled out early last summer.  This is the replacement which is lacking a few of Picasa’s features.  One big plus is that if you keep your uploaded photos to HD quality of 16 megapixels (MP) or less per photo, you have unlimited storage.  With higher quality it will use your Google Drive storage limits as did Picasa. 

Copy.com logoNow here is a discontinuation that really bugs me.  A great application that I have supported willingly over the past several years is Copy (copy.com) by Barracuda.  It is similar to Dropbox for storing any files on your computer in the cloud.  It is a great backup solution which would allow a user to start with 15 GB of space (13 GB more that Dropbox).

Well guess what Barracuda announced February 1st?  You guess correctly, it will be shut down as of May 1, 2016.  They commented, "…our business focus has shifted, we had to make the difficult decision to discontinue the Copy and CudaDrive services and allocate those resources elsewhere."  

There is no replacement with that much free space.  Basically Barracuda says put your files somewhere else.  Right this minute I am still a big Dropbox supporter ("rd.dblclx.com/use-Dropbox" for extra start up storage).  Of course, who knows what the future holds?

February 16, 2015

2015-02-16 Show Notes

Here are the Monday morning links and podcast if you missed it live.

Have a great day and see you next time.

Tech News
Windows 10 is a free upgrade for all 7 and 8.1 users
Engadget.com

Wondering how much Windows 10 will set you back? In most cases, nothing. Microsoft has announced that the new operating system will be a free upgrade in the first year for everyone using Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8.1. The company sees Windows as a service rather than a product, Terry Myerson explains. Yes, Microsoft is partly following in Apple’s footsteps (OS X upgrades have been free since Maverick), but it’s hard to complain about getting a big update for free.


This sounds too good to be true and I’ve read where this is only for OEM (short for original equipment manufacturer, which is a misleading term for a company that has a special relationship with computer producers. OEMs are manufacturers who resell another company’s product under their own name and branding.) or for everyone.  Only time will tell for sure.
 
Worst passwords of 2014… …are just as awful as you can imagine

Please sit down. We need to have a talk. It seems some important points about computer safety and security have completely gone over the heads of a certain portion of the population. If you’re one of those people whose passwords look like "9$RxkU#55zx!%winning1," you can go ahead and leave. If your password looks like "1234567890" or "qwerty," it’s time to repent and change your ways.

    Here are the top 10 worst:

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345
  4. 12345678
  5. qwerty
  6. 1234567890
  7. 1234
  8. baseball
  9. dragon
  10. football

 
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.)
WPS Office
VIEW ANY FILE TYPE
WPS Office can open almost any document including PDF, TXT and Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel. This means when you use WPS Office to open a document from email or your favorite cloud service, you can be sure it will look exactly the way it would on your PC.

CREATE AMAZING DOCUMENTS
WPS Office comes loaded with features similar to what you’d find on a PC office solution. This includes advanced text and paragraph formatting options as well as the ability to add and edit images, shapes, tables and charts directly into your presentation or document.

EASY FILE SHARING
With WPS Office you can share your files through email, Evernote and more. You can also share presentations with others over WIFI or directly to other DLNA compatible devices.

CONNECT TO YOUR CLOUD
Using WPS Office you can access and edit documents from your favorite cloud drive. When you are done editing, WPS Office will automatically save them back online.


Quad Core Android PC in a Keyboard Computer in a Keyboard
An entire Android computer in a keyboard?!

Hook up your monitor and a mouse, if needed, and you have a computer. $299 is a bit high but if you think you need one, wait a few months.


See you next month, listen online on WSVA, March 16, Monday from 9-10 am.  If you miss the live broadcast come back here and listen a little later in the day…or next depending on my workload.

Ron

January 20, 2015

Updating Your Apps

I know you are all running Windows Update on your PCs.  Well, let me back off a bit on that.  If you have Windows 7 or before you should be running it manually or setting it to run automatically.  Windows 8 on comes with the default for Windows Update to automatically run so you do not have to worry about it.  What it does is check for and install updates to Microsoft Windows and possibly Office (depending on your version and configuration).  That way you are always operating at greatest efficiency and more securely in Windows.

Five years ago someone wrote asking me for ways to make sure all of their non-Microsoft applications were running the latest versions.  I told you about, “Secunia PSI“.  This application scans many of your applications in the background and recommends when updates are available.  It does a pretty good job; however, in my opinion, it is a bit clunky and more difficult to use than one I discovered several months ago.  Search for the old article on DoubleClicks.info if you are interested.

The one I use now is called “FileHippo App Manager” and is smoother and easier to operate. There are a couple of things you should be aware of on the installation.  First is that when you go to the link above there are two green “Download” links.  Use the one in the upper right side of the page which says, “Download latest version.”  As it installs it will ask you some general questions.  I would uncheck, “Run at startup.”  Many programs want to do this but it will slow your computer down.

FileHippo Scan Screen

FileHippo Scan Screen

When it is complete double click the blue icon on your desktop for FileHippo.  A small box will pop up showing it is running.  After a few moments your browser will open with (I’m guessing here) a long list of applications needing updates.  You can click on them one at a time, download them and install their updates.  Once finished you may close your browser and the FileHippo box will still be on your screen.  Click the “X” in the upper right hand corner and it will close.

Sample screen from FileHippo App Manager

Sample screen from FileHippo App Manager

Not every program on your computer is checked by this program.  However, neither Secunia nor the others I have tested in the past get them all.  There are just too many programs for one app to catch every one.

Have fun updating some apps and look forward to getting the final, “Congratulations!  Your computer is up-to-date!” message from FileHippo App Manager.

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.

December 30, 2014

New Computer, Part 2

Last week I told you about Ninite.com for your new computer.  I received several emails asking what other applications I would install on a new Windows computer. 

My first "have to have" application is anti-virus software.  I suggest initially what probably comes free with your new computer. However, after the free six or twelve month trial ends, get a free app.  The one you get with your computer usually goes for a high annual fee.  Download only one of these first: AVG or Avast!. These are the two many other geeks and I use.  Search the sites for the free versions and only get them from those sites.  Viruses may be included in them when they are downloaded elsewhere.   

Do not install more than one antivirus app on your computer at a time or it could cause issues. 

Next, I have a new recommendation, Malwarebytes.  This will help your antivirus software keep you even safer.  The free version is good.  You need to remember to run it yourself every few days.  Malware stands for malicious software that may not destroy things but can really mess with your computer.  I almost guarantee if you install and run this on your old computer you will find you have hundreds of malware items present.  

Now, go to Speed Test and see what actual speeds you are getting from your internet service provider.  If you get less than you should call your provider and get their assistance to correct the issue.  The speed can vary from hour-to-hour but should be close most of the time. 

The next thing I suggest is something you used to have to pay a bundle for, Microsoft Office.  Not any longer.  For the average Office user you can create a new Outlook.com account or use your Hotmail.com account and use Office Online – for free.  There are several ways to get to your office apps but I suggest onedrive.live.com to set up or login to your office products. 

After typing like you did in your new free online Word application you notice that your typing could be improved if you used more than two fingers.  To work on your typing skills and speed take a look at Typing Web and practice.  You can improve your typing for free and maybe have some fun doing so.  

Finally, you should just have some fun.  If you like computer games login for free at Steam Powered.  An account is free as are some of the games; however, some may have a onetime cost or possibly a monthly fee.  I like the free, "Star Trek Online" where I am a commander of a Federation vessel. 

If you want to pay for a game, set up a PayPal account.  It is a very secure online payment system.  I have used it for years and have never had a problem.  I suggest anytime you tie your checking/savings account to anything online you create a separate account from your "home" account.  This is just in case there is ever a security hack.  They can only get a minimal amount of money and it will not affect paying your "real" bills.

Have a Happy 2015!

September 30, 2014

Oops!

I have always been very careful when working on building a new computer.  There are certain things you must do; however, I missed one a couple of weeks ago.  (Geek confession coming up.)

Someone came to me and basically said since I am a geek and obviously quite knowledgeable with computers would I totally rebuild theirs.  I do not usually do things like this any longer.   Not that I do not enjoy building new computers; I actually very much enjoy doing so.  However, over years of being in the business I have found that if I do this, I end up owning all of the problems that arise with that system for evermore.  No matter what happens, no matter how many years down the road they come back to me for "free" help.  In one case it was so bad I got calls and emails for six months after the build.  If they were something that I caused…no problem I was more than happy to fix them.  However, the overwhelming number of times it was the user causing issues.

This was a person I know and trust and a good friend so I did it anyway.

He gave me a list of the applications he wanted installed, and original licensed discs for the programs that he still had.  Time for a warning to all of you who want to rebuild a computer or get a new one:  Make sure you have the original discs for licensed programs or it could be costly.  For instance, your Windows installation disc, Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, etc. 

He also included all of his email account usernames and passwords, so that I could set up his accounts.  Another warning here, I do not recommend you do this unless you absolutely, positively, totally trust the installer.

As always you start with the operating system, Windows 8.1, a full reformat of the hard drive, etc. 

For Microsoft Office versions there has always been a small issue when you perform a reinstall.  In the olden days you had to speak with a live customer service rep for 30 – 45 minutes to get an approval.  They had to make sure that you did not have an illegal copy.  Today you call an 800 number and punch buttons for several minutes and get an OK.  Then you type in more numbers in your computer and you are approved.

Next, the multitude of upgrades.

After about five or six hours I was almost done.  For a while I tested, updating some more apps as necessary.  Another Windows update or so and done.  He was going to install his only data files when I got it back to him so I did not have to upload those.  I was finally finished, no big deal…until…

Strange things started happening in the browser.  Homepages changing, popups flying and then my brain finally kicked in; I had not installed any antivirus.  I now had several viruses running on a brand new computer.  One was trying to take over the system entirely.

I could have resolved them one-by-one; however, on a brand new system that is not the way I would do it.  So the rebuild began.

Guess what I installed before I got online this time?  You better have guessed right – his antivirus software and all was right with the world… another five to six hours later.

What a jerk I am; however, I hope you learned something from my mistake!

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: