DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

March 7, 2017

Surface Pro

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:54 am

I am testing a new type of computer, at least for me.  They first came into the public view in early to mid-2013 depending on where on the globe you are located.  You know the one as the marketing for this “new” computer was worldwide and abundant.  You know all the happy people dancing around to a “snappy” tune, and flipping/closing their small computers in rhythm like they were in a euphoric trance.  Yeah, you have it now, the Microsoft Windows based, “Surface Pro.”

First was the Surface, next the Surface Pro, then a 2, and 3 which has progressed into the current Surface Pro 4.  Of course, that is not all Microsoft now has. The Surface Book, Hub and in December, 2016 the Surface Studio rolled out.

First what is different about it?  It is smaller than a usual notebook, more the size of a tablet with a very thin keyboard.  Approximately 11″ x 7″ x 0.6″.  When the keyboard is attached, it is closer to an inch thick.  There is a foldout section on the back to provide a stand to keep it upright with a couple of positions.  You need that “wedge” to support the actual screen/computer as the keyboard is only a hinge with no support like you may be used to with a regular notebook.

Surface Pro 2

Surface Pro 2

The keyboard is slightly smaller than some other brands of notebooks but not significantly.  It also includes a touchpad – similar to all the others.  I choose to use a wireless USB mouse with this one which functions well.  I have been typing on it regularly for a couple of days.  I am having no problem hitting the correct keys – other than caused by my regularly average typing.  (Hallelujah, for auto-spell checking in word processors!)

You have three keyboard options.  First, you can use the keyboard like any other notebook and type on it.  Next, you can fold the keyboard over to become the back surface of the notebook. It then becomes a tablet.  When in tablet mode your screen rotates when tilted like any other tablet and you can use the touchscreen.  Finally, you may choose to detach the keyboard all-the-way and have a Windows tablet.

It has good response and speed although nowhere near as quick as some larger notebooks I have used.  I have been using spreadsheets, word processing, web browsing, email, a very few online games (no pc games or Steam) and everything works as it should.

I cannot really find a lot to nitpick about with this nice little notebook/tablet combo.

Well, OK, there is one major issue for me, the price.  For the top of the line Surface Pro 4 today you may figure about $1,400.  Oh wait, that does not include a keyboard which may be had for an additional $55 – $130.  I am currently testing an older (2014) Surface Pro 2 which again I find to be a very decent system.  The price on one of these is around $550 and again that is without a keyboard.  I pulled these prices off of Amazon so you may be able to find others elsewhere.

Surface Pro 4

Surface Pro 4

My problem is at that price I can find two equally decent regular notebooks or tablets (with Bluetooth keyboards included.  If money were no object, sure, I would not mind owning one.  However, not currently for me.

 

 

February 9, 2016

I Took One for the Team and Lost

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:56 am

Last week I told you about my situation after installation of a program I was testing to possibly recommend to you.  After the test it failed to perform as advertised.  I then uninstalled the app, went on about my business and realized it had put malware into my computer.
 
This week…the aftershock. 

I dug into Google to search for a fix for this particular problem.  The problem was that after the uninstallation each browser I used had a new Yahoo search tab open.  The page did not appear to be an actual Yahoo page.  If you use Yahoo you will see that the URL will be, "www.yahoo.com."  The one in the new tab had an additional ten – fifteen characters which is wrong.

I found several different suggestions on how to resolve this issue.  I tried several solutions that had registry edits, folder removals, and other suggestions – none were effective. 

After an hour or so I decided to run a System Restore which has been built into the Windows OS since Windows ME came out in 2000.  System Restore will basically roll back your entire computer to a previous time in history.  It will not affect files you created such as Word documents or spreadsheets but it will remove any software that was installed since that date.  This means that usually after the restore process is finished and your computer reboots any problems you had will be gone.  Well, not so with this issue.

After the system restore my computer would not restart.  I got the new blue screen of death for Windows 10 which has a large “frowny” face.  Cute but disgusting none-the-less.

Your PC ran into a problem, warning graphic

I was not too discouraged with this latest non-starting situation since I had already decided to rebuild this computer.  My feeling has always been once you have a virus or malware you have one choice.  That is to set aside several hours to wipe your computer clean and rebuild it from scratch.

So I reformatted the hard drive, installed Windows 10, and added all of my programs as if it were a new computer.  Unlike you, when I get a new computer I wipe it clean and rebuild it myself.  Call me a geek but that way I know exactly what is on my system.  So this was not a big deal to me.  I sort of enjoyed it.  If you ever have to do this you must make sure you have all of your serial numbers for your applications so that you can reinstall them.

As I have said before I use Dropbox.  So I simply downloaded all of my personal files, like articles I have written over the past 15 years, and all was well.  A pain to do but it was a little like spring cleaning for me. 

I have had emails this past week from people wanting to know what the program was that caused all the problems.  If you are interested shoot me an email and ask.

November 17, 2015

What Happens to My Files – backup?

Hard Drive graphic from online - Google.com

I had a reader give me upsetting news last week.  They said that their computer failed to boot when they started it a few days before and they had a lot of personal and semi-business files there.  What could they do to get them backup?

They had taken it to a computer repair shop in the area who said the hard drive was shot.  Drives usually fail in one of two ways.  The first is that the drive will still be recognized by the computer but cannot be read or written to.  In many cases you may be able to recover data on your own.  The other is if there is actual mechanical damage to the drive which means your only choice is to send it to the pros to retrieve your files or toss it and start over.

I will not get into the ways that you may be able to get your data back as there are a million articles on the internet with almost as many software applications available to help you.  If you want to try it yourself the first thing I would do is to figure out who produced your drive, go to their site and see what they recommend. 

Keep in mind to try and recover the data yourself you must have a working computer and attach the failed drive to that computer.  You will need to purchase an external hard drive enclosed case for around $25 or more to access the drive.  However, that is much less than the possibly many hundreds of dollars you will spend sending it to the drive recovery companies to get your information. 

I will give you Ron’s inexpensive to free way to safeguard your files.  I checked today and I have 32 GB of data which I backup regularly.  This includes columns for the past 15 years, tax returns, songs, a few videos and other types of files.  I have over 70,000 of these files in my collection.  This is a significant number of files when compared to the average user. I back it all up in a couple of locations. 

My two favorite places online to back up my files, with the exception to financial files are Dropbox and Copy.com.  Using those two links to sign up will earn you extra storage space.  The standard space of Dropbox is 2 GB and with Copy.com you get 15 GB.  They are both similar.  I believe Dropbox is slightly easier to use but Copy provides much more space and offers more options. 

The next place I back up my 32 GB is on a thumb drive.  I found 16 GB USB thumb drives on sale in town the other day for $9.99 and up to 128 GB drive for $35 online.  So the expense is minimal for what it could save you if you lost your files. 

Karenware Replicator main screen

How to back them up comes next and again there are a million ways. I use one very simple backup app called Karenware Replicator.  Karen Kenworthy was a developer who I met online years ago.  She made all of her software available free to all and simple to use.  Karen passed away in 2011 due to complications of diabetes.   I highly recommend Replicator as one of the simplest and effective backup utilities online today.  Download it and try it out.

Here is your warning – backup your files since ALL hard drives will fail at some point, maybe in years, maybe in minutes!

November 3, 2015

OK Google, the All Hearing iEar?

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 4:32 am

There were a couple of interesting electronic add-ons to our world a few years ago.  One called Siri for iPhones/Apple devices and “OK Google” for Google devices.

Google The All Hearing iEar?For my Android phone I simply say, “OK Google” and tell it whatever I am looking for.  If I need help finding a store I say, “OK Google,” adding a slight pause then, “Where is the closest florist?”  It will usually give me a list of florists in my immediate area.

In recent months I have heard about people wondering if Google ever stops listening.  And if not, what is it finding out?  Some think we are being spied on by nefarious eavesdroppers.  Can Google and Apple be gathering everything we say?  Like your morning conversations, your private spoken out loud thoughts, singing in the car on the way to work ad infinitum.

I will say that yes, Google collects a lot of data about you that you may not appreciate; however, listening to your voice all the time…highly unlikely.  It does listen for the beat, tone, intonation for the words, “OK Google” which starts it working.

That being said, what does Google collect about you from your audio commands and questions?  Not only that, but how about your Chrome browsing history, (if you are logged in with your Google account) emails, travel and more.  Sounds a little “big brotherish” does it not?

To check on this information, edit and or stop it all, first log into your Google or Gmail account.  Then go to, “history.google.com” and look around.

On the left side there is a dropdown menu with three short vertical lines for you to click.  There are six areas where Google collects information.  They are, “Web & App Activity,” “Voice & Audio Activity,” “Device Information,” “Location History,” “YouTube Watch History” and “YouTube Search History.”  If you did not realize it, Google purchased YouTube in October of 2006, which is why you see that specific item.

Google Web & App Activity screen

Once you have looked around and either laughed or cringed click on, “Voice & Audio Activity.”  I am sure you have already checked it out but it is fun to listen to yourself speak to Google and read how it may have sometimes been improperly interpreted.

If you want them gone you may delete them by checking them and hitting the Delete button.  You may also head to any of the six areas you want to delete and click the three dots in a vertical column on the upper right and choose “Delete Options.”  From there you can choose either Today, Yesterday or Advanced.  Advanced allows you to choose “All time” to remove all of them.

What if you what to get rid of OK Google’s ability to remember what you say, where you go, or what you have watched on YouTube?  First make sure you have deleted all activity as we discussed above.  Now click the three dots in the upper right for the “Menu,” “Settings,” and “Show More” controls.  You will now be presented with a listing of the six items.  Start flipping the switches for each setting to off (changes the buttons to gray).

The only ones I keep on are Places you go and Information from your devices.  All the others are off for me.  But for you conspiracy theorists out there…could they still be listening?

Six ON/OFF Choices with Ron's two selected

June 16, 2015

Decrapify Your Computer

Last week I mentioned a friend whose computer was struggling through a major malware and viral infection.  I had several readers write to ask, what was done to resolve it and even more importantly how to stop a reoccurrence of the same problems. 

To resolve it I installed Avast! for antivirus protection and Malwarebytes to remove the malware.  I had to run each several times to get rid of all but a couple of nasty ones. 
For those last two or three I had to search the net to find solutions since I had never heard of them.  I found the solutions, ran them and those problems were gone, too.  This was not a quick process.  The first run of Avast! took several hours and Malwarebytes took a couple of overnight runs.  But finally all was well.

I will also say that a huge majority of their problems came from trial antivirus expiring and nothing replacing it, plus many coupon saving apps which were putting on all the malware to get usernames and passwords along with surfing habits.  Fortunately they did not do any banking online or they would have been broke, too.

Next, on a new computer the first thing you should do is to install the two applications mentioned above or pay for the free/trial antivirus provided by the manufacturer and add  Malwarebytes. 

Next, you need to remove the PUPs from your new computer.  (Potentially Unwanted Programs, and yes that is an actual term.)  These are the "junk" programs on new computers that you do not use and will likely never have a need for. 

For the past many years I have built my own computers so I only install what I need; however, in the olden days I used an application called, "PCDecrapifier."  I reinstalled it today to test it out and it still works well. It will remove the majority of your PUPs and bloatware / crapware; however, you may still have some left. For those remaining you should uninstall them upon discovery as you would any application. 

PC Decrapifier logo

PCDecrapifier is a standalone app, which means no installation other than running the downloaded executable.  When you are done all you do is remove the Decrapifier file you downloaded and ran earlier.  It will request if you would like to create a restore point.  I doubt you will need to worry about it but I suggest that you do this.  I recommend you create a restore point anytime you install any new application.

Last today I have several steps for installing new software from day one on.  Start by reviewing the program you are looking to install on your favorite search engine.  See if anyone mentions any "security" issues about it.  Throw out the top 10% of lovers and haters of the application and you will have realistic opinions.  Next, when you install it, if there is a "Custom" install choose that over the default which asks you no questions.  The reason is even some reputable programs have "add on" programs that go with them.  For instance some install Google Chrome along with the real app you mean to install.  In my opinion that is not bad since I am a big supporter of Chrome; however, some apps install PUPs.  A custom install will allow you to choose exactly what is installed so you can "uncheck" any PUPs you see. 

May 5, 2015

PC Spring Cleaning, Part 1

I realized several weeks ago that I had never provided you with a Spring Cleaning plan for your computer.  So guess what?  Today we start cleaning your system for better performance.

The first thing you want to do is to unplug your computer.  This includes the power, speakers, keyboard, printer, thumb drive, wireless mouse connectors and anything else plugged into your system.  Get a can of compressed air or three.  The following information is for desktop computers.  For notebooks you can perform pretty much the same steps but DO NOT take it apart unless you are a pro or daring.

Take your keyboard, turn it upside down and give it a good shake to dislodge stubborn food particles.  (Yes, I know you eat and drink over your keyboard.)  If you have a long, thin brush, use it between the keys. Whether you have a brush or not use the compressed air to blow everything out as much as possible.  Just use compressed air for the notebook keyboards.

Dirt on KeyboardSome people remove the keys and wash them.  Although I have never done this, you may try if you wish. Pry them up carefully (DO NOT do this on a notebook!).  After they are removed you may wash them anyway you deem feasible even using a nonabrasive soap and warm water.  Make sure they are thoroughly rinsed and dried before putting them back…in the correct order of course.

For the mouse you may just use a damp cloth and wipe it down, drying thoroughly again before using.  If you have an old "ball" mouse, go buy a new laser mouse for $15.   

Look around the sides and back of your desktop for thumb screws or regular screws.  Usually there are two, which when unscrewed allow you to slide the side off of your computer.  Unscrew them and remove the side.  If you have questions search online for how to open your computer for cleaning by make and model. 

For this step take your computer outside of your house.  Make absolutely sure you discharge all static electricity before touching anything on the inside of the computer.  A static "pop" inside your computer could be a costly mistake.  I still recommend keeping touching to a minimum.  Although, barring static electricity, you can touch anything in there lightly without damage. 

Dirty ComputerIf you have not done this before you may find a tremendous amount of dust, pet fur, hair, etc. in your computer.  (Check the DoubleClicks.info site for photos.)  It needs to be cleaned out very well.  Dirt causes overheating by blocking vents and sticking to components which makes everything thing run hot and slow and causes repairs.  Get out your can(s) of air and blow as much of this dirt out as you can.  Get every bit of it out it will help significantly.

For notebooks, just use compressed air anywhere you can reach, even in the vents.  In a notebook blow in the intake vents and it will come out the other vents.  If you cannot determine which is which search online for your notebook’s make and model. This is not as thorough as taking it apart but it is much safer and is better than nothing. 

April 27, 2015

Windows 10 build 10061 under the microscope: Can Microsoft hit its summer launch deadline? | ZDNet

The launch deadline for Windows 10 is approaching fast, perhaps only 90 days away. Yesterday’s release of Technical Preview Build 10061 deserves extra scrutiny. Does it inspire confidence in a solid upgrade this summer?

Source: Windows 10 build 10061 under the microscope: Can Microsoft hit its summer launch deadline? | ZDNet

April 29, 2014

Online Docs May Be the Answer

Last week we looked at the confusion regarding the many choices with Microsoft Office.  I said I would have another solution for Lindsey and you this week.   

imageHere are two more good options.  Office Live or OneDrive (formerly known as SkyDrive) depending on where you read about it or Google Drive (drive.google.com or just get there from any Google product you are logged into.)  Either of these are very good online solutions.  There are many ways to get Office Live.  I suggest using Live.com.  There you can sign up for a free Outlook.com email account which gives you access to everything you need.  You can also sign up with Yahoo! or Gmail accounts; although I have not experimented with those.  If you already signed in to other MS devices like a Windows PC, tablet, phone, Xbox Live, Outlook.com, or OneDrive, use that account to sign in.  Once there you can view and use your email, address book, calendar, online drive Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. To get to these click the labeled down arrow in the upper-left corner of the window.  Any of the files created can be stored in OneDrive so that you can retrieve them from any online computer.  They are all saved in the default MS Office formats so you can easily share them via email, etc.

imageVery similar products are available with a Google/Gmail account.  Setup a free account or you can use one you already have. Once logged in click the "Apps" button in the upper-right corner that looks like a small tic-tac-toe pattern, and then select "Drive."  You have a create button on this screen where you may choose from Document, Presentation, Spreadsheet, Form and several others depending on what you normally use with Google.  The files you create here are saved on your Google Drive for later retrieval just as in Live.com.

Even though I am a Google fan boy, Google is not quite friendly to Microsoft Office file types.  That being said they work with MS products; they just take an extra step or two.  There are several ways to do this but they all require you to download the file to your local computer.  I suggest finding your file in the file list, right click on it and choose download.  You will be presented with a choice of what file type you want to use, so choose "Microsoft Word. (.docx) You will then have it in your downloaded files to share as a standard Word doc.

Another note regarding Google docs.  When right clicked you may also choose to "Share" the file.  If you choose email as an attachment you once again can choose the file format and MS Word is one of the choices.

Now the final note.  OneNote is a terrific app available only with the Microsoft suite.  If you are interested let me know via email and I will share that with you in the future.

There are many other options and features in both Microsoft and Google online offerings.  Lindsey chose to try both and make a final decision later.  How about you?

January 21, 2013

2013-01-21 WSVA Show Notes

Today we covered the technology news of the days, sites you can visit and use along with HGTV shows, the Kardashians and even…yes, Paris Hilton.  What those last ones you may wonder.  To find out check out the podcast from today.

Tech News
Structural Shift in PC Market
Worldwide PC shipments dropped 4.9% in the fourth quarter pointing to a structural shift rather than just a weak economy, according to new data from technology research firm Gartner Inc. (IT)

"Tablets have dramatically changed the device landscape for PCs, not so much by "cannibalizing" PC sales, but by causing PC users to shift consumption to tablets rather than replacing older PCs," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "Whereas as once we imagined a world in which individual users would have both a PC and a tablet as personal devices, we increasingly suspect that most individuals will shift consumption activity to a personal tablet, and perform creative and administrative tasks on a shared PC."


Apple Rumored to be developing a new "Have to Have" Gadget
The idea of a smartwatch is nothing new; we’ve seen plenty of wrist-borne accessories designed to work alongside smartphones, and even some running smartphone platforms themselves. Pebble, with its e-ink screen, looks like it will be quite nice (if it ever actually ships), especially for iOS users. What about an official Apple smartwatch, though? You can wear an iPod on a wrist strap, but that’s not quite the same thing. Well, Apple might just have a full-blown smartwatch project in the works, at least according to some new rumors out of Asia.

Supposedly, Apple and Intel have been working together on this smartwatch, which would feature a 1.5-inch OLED display. The watch would talk to your iPhone over a low-power Bluetooth connection.

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.)
Pitfall

Remember 1981 and Indiana Jones? Do you also remember Activision’s Atari 2600? Finally, how about Pitfall and Pitfall Harry? I remember it well as I spent many hours trying to avoid the jaws of the alligators on my Atari system.

The graphics are significantly better that the old sprites and game play from the last century and now you can play it on your phone!

Escape the wrath of an angry volcano while collecting ancient treasures in PITFALL!, an adrenaline-fueled, free-running adventure set in a deadly jungle with twists and turns that will always keep you on your toes.

Interesting article about the original.

USB Pet Rock
USB Pet Rock!
It’s back, it’s bold it’s beautiful! Just like the original up updated for the current times.


About.Me
about.me
About.me is a free service that lets you create a beautiful one-page website that’s all about you and your interests. Upload a photo, write a short bio, and add your favorite social networks to show the world the big picture of you. We’ve focused on enabling you to:

Quickly build a personal web page that points visitors to your content from around the web. It is like an online business card.

Check out mine at About.me/rondoyle or my personal one I made myself.


Futuristic A-Frame Glasses Will Adjust to Fit Any Face
gizmodo.com
For some, the task of finding a pair of glasses or sunglasses is an epic task. Not only do you have to find a pair that compliments the shape of your face, but they also have to fit your face. With that in mind, designer Ron Arad designed the A-Frame line of glasses that can expand and contract to sit comfortably on any face address the latter issue.


Wonder Page
www.wonderpage.com
Wonderpage is a new visual, private & social bookmarking tool, it also serves perfectly as browser start-up page with super sweet bookmark grid display.

It gives you a thumbnail of each webpage you "bookmark" so that you can make this your home page on your browser and get to the places you visit regularly online very quickly.


WakerUpper
wakerupper.com
At this site enter the date, time, phone number and message; then your phone will…

  • Set a wake-up call at a specific time.
  • Remind yourself of important events.
  • Remember to take medication on time.
  • Escape from a boring date or meeting.
  • Remind child or spouse to do chores.
  • Set reminders for tasks and follow-ups.

My Space
myspace.com
Justin Timberlake is the one that is bringing back MySpace.

Will it succeed this time around? Who knows, but Justin is making a stab at it. It is very different, check it out and see if you think it will make it against Twitter, Facebook and all the other social networks.

That is all for this month. Take a look around, let me know your thoughts about all the links and info today.


Have a great month until Jim and I see you next month on February 18th.

Thanks,

Ron

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