DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

January 7, 2014

2013 Sites in Review, Part 1

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year since we last talked.  I wanted to say, "Thanks!" to all of you readers who support the "Double Click" column by reading and writing over the past 12 years.  It is very much appreciated.  Please keep it up.  I always enjoy hearing from you.

It is the time of year when I review all of the sites mentioned during the previous year.  As always, have fun remembering, discovering, or rediscovering all the info! 

If the site addresses are too long to type I have shortened them using "bit.ly" for print, so the links may not look quite right.  Without further ado…here they are in their order of appearance with short descriptions of each.

  • Online music streaming sites;  "Slacker Radio" (slacker.com), "Spotify" (spotify.com), "Maestro" (maestro.fm), Last.fm and the one I like best…Pandora (pandora.com).   These are accounts for listening to most any type of music imaginable. 
  • Google Musicmusic.google.com.   Google’s music site is similar to above; however, you can also upload up to 20,000 of your own songs and listen to them online from any device.
  • Daily News-RecordDNROnline.com.  My flagship newspaper, read it often! 
  • Double Clicksdoubleclicks.info.  This column’s site, read it often, too!
  • Portable Appsportableapps.com.  A site where you can get apps that are… well, that’s obvious.  
  • Microsoft Officebit.ly/1kJ3oK4.  You know this one, "The" most popular office suite of programs.
  • Libre Officelibreoffice.org.  One of the two most popular free office suites.
  • Solutosoluto.com.  One of many ways to speed up your computer and keep all of your applications up to date, not just the Microsoft ones. 
  • Lynda.com. A paid online training site for many different applications used today.
  • Microsoft Office Trainingbit.ly/1cBOoM9.  Good free office training.
  • YouTube.com – among millions of other videos you can find excellent Office training videos created by people like you and me.
  • Google.com – the most popular search engine.
  • Gmailgmail.com.  Google’s branded email.
  • A Toy Train in Spacebit.ly/1bHdbc3.  A dad uses a Raspberry Pi computer to take his son’s toy train into space and return with some great video of the ride.
  • Newsblur.com, Feedly.com, TheOldReader.com, Pulse.me and Flipboard.com.  Several of the many popular RSS feed readers to replace the dead and gone Google Reader.  They vary for mobile platforms and web viewing.

Well that takes us through the middle of 2013.  Check out part two of the year in review next week.

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.

January 29, 2013

Music on the Go

I receive questions every now-and-then about listening to music online.  Questions like whether you can listen on a computer or a phone, free or paid music, rock or classical, etc.

There are many, many streaming music options out there so you can listen to your favorite group or genre of music.  Some of the more popular ones are, "Slacker Radio", "Spotify", "Maestro", Last.fm and the one I like best…Pandora.

I would check each site individually to see the slight differences.  Some are more "social," meaning that they have built-in designs which allow you to more easily share your music and/or playlists with others. They all have free streaming; however, you can get paid versions which give you more options and features.  They also have options for use on smartphones, tablets and of course computers. 

imageI have had a free Pandora account for several years.  You start off by adding a couple of favorite songs or artists, rate a few of the songs you hear and then Pandora will find you "similar" music.  Sometimes the choices are good and sometimes not so good but you can always grade the songs with a thumbs up or down.  Thumbs up will allow the song to play more often; a down vote will remove the song from your Pandora account so you won’t have to hear it again. 

You can then create your own "stations" from your music choices.  I have Country, Christian, Classic Rock and Celtic Music (yes, including the Celtic Women). 

Again, Pandora is my personal favorite but all of the ones I have mentioned are good.  Try a couple and see which one you like best.  You will be able to discover new artists and have the ability to purchase songs if you wish.

Now the question comes up: How can I store my music online if I already own many MP3s?  If you do not want to use streaming since you already have a lot of music you enjoy, how can you listen to them online when you do not have your MP3 player? 

Musical notesThe answer is Google once again.  Google Play/Google Music helps you bring your iTunes library or any music specifically to your Android devices.  There are also applications out there that will allow you to use Google Play with your iPhones, too. 

A side note here.  I prefer to call it Google Music since Google Play is the Android App store name and it gets confusing, so excuse my relabeling.  Also, the site is found at music.google.com and the original name of this feature was Google Music.     

Google Music has a neat feature.  You install it on the computer that has your music and show the application where your music is located.  It then uploads your music to the site over time; lots of time.  I had about 2,500 songs in my library and it took over a day to upload it all to Google Music.  Since you can upload up to 20,000 of your songs to Google for free it could take much longer.

Once you have uploaded your music, it is instantly available at music.google.com on the web and your Android phone or tablet.

You have many options.  Pick a couple and enjoy them whenever you want to hear some good music.  Or new music since most of these sites will give you “unpublished” musicians that you can help discover.

August 16, 2011

Security in the Cloud

I was talking to my friend and realtor, Chris Rooker of Kline May Realty, about security of documents in the "Cloud".  I presented him with a thought that I voice often and that is, at this point in time, I do not put anything confidential online; including in my emails and online storage.  Never do I have my social security number, debit card number, bank usernames or passwords online anywhere.

A very basic definition of the cloud is (when talking computers and technology) the place where companies deliver many services online..  In other words the service is on a server somewhere in cyberspace and not on your local hard drive.  You can access these services from your computer. 

Some of the services include fully developed applications like Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo mail and even fun things like Pandora.  There are also many cloud storage services, for instance, DropBox (my favorite http://bit.ly/use-DropBox), Windows Life Mesh, Amazon S3, etc. 

There are a tremendous number of cloud services to choose from.  The list grows daily – probably by the minute.  Some of these services are free while others are not.  

One concern I have is where your information stored. I mean where geographically, as in what country?  What if your important data is stored on a junk (not one of the best available) server somewhere in a war-torn country where the costs are much less expensive?  Then what if that country has a military coup or is destroyed by some other country?  How do you get your data and/or what are the new guys doing with your information?

Next, what if the company that has your information goes bankrupt or is sold to someone else?  You would hope that proper provision has been made for continuous service, but what if it hasn’t?

Here is one last thought for you to lay awake at night and consider.  Where is one of the weakest links in any security?  It would be people, plain and simple.  More than likely your password is safe and won’t be compromised by people in the company servicing your online data but that isn’t my people concern.  Think about the "uncrackable safe" scenario for a bank.  Banks want to advertise their vault as one that no one, not even the locksmith can get into.  This gives their customers a great feeling of security.  But think about this…if even a locksmith can’t get into it, what happens during an emergency or some foul-up?   How can they get their money out?   It could be locked up forever.  So there has to be someone with the ability to get into that safe through a "back door".

The same thing is true for cloud storage.  Even though it may be ultimately and inscrutably secure, someone has to be able to get to the data on the servers in case of an emergency. This could quite possibly be their most dissatisfied and disgruntled employee.  Think about that for a minute.

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