DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

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?

November 4, 2014

Cogi

Livescribe.comThe article last week regarding Livescribe generated many emails from readers, for which I thank you.  I really enjoy reading about your technology thoughts and discoveries, as well as tips like the one I got from Lisa this week.  She told me about an application she uses on her phone and tablet which helps take notes too.  It is a free app named "Cogi – Notes & Voice Recorder." 

I had to find out what Cogi stood for — "cogent idea."  So it is an app that helps you keep track of thoughts and information you gain, usually when attending a lecture or meeting.  It is similar in that respect to Livescribe.

After you install Cogi, just start the app when your lecture begins.  It buffers the audio portion of the talk.  OK, what does buffering mean?  When you buffer audio it means the application actually records the voices but does not save it to the memory card on the device/phone.  It keeps a good portion of the audio in your phone/table’s RAM (temporary) memory.

If you hear someone say something really vital and important to remember or follow-up on, click the "Tap to highlight" button.  It then records the audio portion to a file and continues until you click the, "Tap to stop" button.  You can set it to go back from 15 to 45 seconds.

Visit Cogi.comOnce the lecture is over and you have "highlighted" the important parts tap and hold the button and it stops.  It names the session for the date you recorded.  You can rename the file to something more familiar to you if you wish.

During the recording you can also add photos you take during the lecture.  Say someone draws a diagram on a whiteboard.  You can photograph it and add that into the recorded session.  That way you have any visual information with the audio so you have it all.

You also may add any photo to the recording session if you would like.  In their demo they show that you can even photograph a page of notes to add to the audio lecture. 

At this point Cogi is only available for Android or iPhones.  I imagine they are writing code for Windows phones too, but this remains to be seen.  

They advertise that the concept is simple and I agree. When you hear things that are significant, many times you cannot remember or capture them.  So this makes it easy to remain focused on all that is going on and grab the information you need.

I gave Cogi a spin a few times and found that the WAV sound of the voice recording was nearly 5MB per minute.  A little large but it played very well when I played it back on my phone.  It also gives you the options of emailing the files (pictures included) to someone or saving them to your computer, Copy.com, Dropbox, etc.  The pictures I took looked great too, they were large files; however, that is dependent on your camera not Cogi.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.  

October 21, 2014

What To Do With That Screenshot

Last week I told you about several applications which would enable you to take screenshots from your computer.  They were SnagIt, Snipping Tool and Screenshot Captor.  Those reviews led to several emails I received from readers so we will take a look at a couple of their questions.

Someone asked why they would need a screenshot.  Well, many people may not; however, many others would desire this ability.  It basically allows you to take a picture of anything you see on your computer.

I will pretend that you are looking at a new piece of furniture online that you would like to show your spouse.  You could email them the link to the site but you could also just send a picture (that way the price is hidden…you sneak).  Once you take the "picture" of the chair or whatever you can save it or edit it in your screenshot program.  When you are ready you can insert it into an email and send it on its way.

Say you are going to do a presentation using a paper handout.  You can include screenshots of anything which appears on your computer and is related to what you are promoting.  You can add text, pointers and other graphics to make it more professional.  Also, the same can be done with any slideshow software like Microsoft PowerPoint.  You can make some very good looking and professional "shows." 

Next, I received an email asking about which file type should be used for saving pictures. In many cases it is not vital to the average presentation.  That being said there are a basic few to pick from.  Basically today the standard is JPG which is a lossy format.  This means that it cuts some of the pixels out when edited or losses resolution to some extent.  A lossy format is not as clear and sharp the more you enlarge them.  For finer resolution you can use a lossless format type. 

The most common lossless formats are PNG or TIF which have better resolution but larger file sizes.  You may see GIF occasionally but this is a very lossy format and not good except when you need a small graphic.  Since GIFs have such a small file size they are often used on websites so the sites will load faster…less information to download to your computer.

My opinion is that if I plan to print it or enlarge it I prefer JPG or PNG.  Yes, JPG is lossy but unless you make them very large or edit them a lot they will look very good.  For emailing to friends and presentations go with any format; however, JPG is usually the winner for me.  With a JPG containing up to 16.7 million individual colors it looks pretty good most of the time.

It is different for photography as RAW and TIF (or TIFF) are the highest color quality and resolution.  But we are not looking at that.

According to research, January, 2014 marked the first time that mobile internet usage exceeded PC usage by approximately five percent.  So friends you send screenshots and photos to, could very likely be looking at them on their phones or tablets, and resolution may not matter at all.

October 14, 2014

Need Screenshots?

Amy wrote recently and asked what tool I use for screenshots on my site and in training manuals I have written.  I told her I wrote about that five or so years ago, but it may be time to review.

First, what is a screenshot?  A screenshot is pretty much defined by its name.  It is what you make when you get a picture of your computer screen to use in a document, email or whatever else you may need one for. 

For the past many years I have used an application by Tech Smith (techsmith.com) called, "SnagIt" which is an excellent screenshot tool.  However, it currently costs $49.95.  Those of you who have followed my columns know that money is something I do not easily part with.  So that tells you what I think of SnagIt…great application worth the money if you often need a tool like this. 

SnagIt has many features not always found in similar programs.  You can add watermarks, callouts, create transparent backgrounds, text, draw on graphics, edit photos from other places and more.  This is an excellent application, especially for business.

Next, on my list is "Snipping Tool" which is automatically built into Windows 7 and 8.  This is a great application for getting a screenshot then saving it and emailing or using it in a document. 

To get it running click your start button, type "Snipping" without the quotes and then click "Snipping Tool" which is your first choice.    

Snipping Tool menuDo not be alarmed as most likely everything on your screen will go gray.  Also, a small "tool" will open.  Click on the "New" button to make the colors come back.  The graying is what happens when you are getting ready to copy a screenshot or snip it.

To create a screenshot I recommend first clicking on the down arrow by "New" and choosing what shaped area you wish to copy.  Your choices are self-explanatory with the possible exception of "Free-form Snip" which means you draw the scissors icon around the screen and it copies what you surround. 

Once you snip something the tool box opens with the area you copied.  You can save it, copy it to your clipboard, email it, draw or highlight the graphic etc.  This is not a full featured screenshot program; however, it does give you the basics.  

If you need to keep a screenshot save it to your computer.  Make sure when using the snipping tool you first save a shot before you create another.  If you do not save it when you grab the next one the first will vanish.

One last item to mention if you want more features that the snipping tool has.  It is called "Screenshot Captor" (screenshot-captor.en.softonic.com) and is very positively rated by users. 

Screenshot CaptorI will warn you that you need to watch each screen while installing the application.  It will try to change your search engine and other things.  Make sure you choose "Custom Install" and uncheck everything you see.  Nothing there is nefarious but it is pain to change back to the way it was.  This application has most of the features SnagIt does but it is free.  You must register it during the first 10 days with an email address or it will stop working as it should. 

Good luck in your new screenshot career. 

September 16, 2014

Good News and a Warning

A few weeks back I wrote about an application you could use to retrieve deleted files from a computer’s drive, SD Card, etc.  This was really highlighted when I got an email from Tom in Harrisonburg, about his adventure with that application, Recuva

It began with, "I took a deep breath, downloaded, installed and ran Recuva on my wife’s defunct mini-SDHC card from her phone…"  Tom went on to tell me that Recuva fully recovered about 90%, over 600 photographs and eight videos.  These had been taken on her phone and then the card failed.  Now the grandkid photos were back.

He was so impressed he bought the Pro version.  I like hearing good news from all of you, so let me know if you read something that helps you out. 

Now a warning for all of you Android phone users.  If you sell, give away or toss your phone/tablet in the trash there are two things you should do first.  Number one is to remove your SD card if you have one installed.  It may contain many things about your system, possibly pictures you have taken, downloaded files, sites you visit, etc.  Next, you must perform a "factory reset" of your device.   

FYI, here is the way to do a factory reset.  Note: devices may vary slightly.  Go to Settings, select Privacy and then "Factory data reset."  You will get a big warning about setting your phone back to the way you got it out of the box when you bought it.  It may give you the choice to also wipe your SD card.  Choose, "OK" and it will be wiped clean. 

Until recently I would say you are now safe to get rid of the phone/tablet.  But new information has come to my attention.  It is now known that some disreputable people have been known to get old phones and recover information.  They run software like Recuva or other similar "rescue" apps and get a lot of information back from the erased system. 

You think,"That is fine, my pictures are of me fully clothed unlike some recent celebrities."  But what about your email username and password?  Or you bank account login, a personal letter you wrote, your Dropbox account and on-and-on?  Your personal data could be retrieved.

Locked filesThere is a safe way to get around this problem many geeks suggest implementing.  You add one new procedure to your Android device before you execute the factory reset.  Encrypt your device.  Encryption basically scrambles your device’s data with a cryptographic key so that only you can access it with a great password.  That way it cannot be accessed without that encryption key.  You can do this on your device at any time; however, it has a couple of drawbacks.  It can cause battery drain, it can also slow down your device and if you decide you do not like your phone encrypted it cannot be undone without a factory reset.  That causes a loss of all data.

Look under Settings and then Security to encrypt your phone/tablet.  Once encrypted you may then run a factory reset and if someone looks into recovering your data they end up with a recovered scrambled mess.  Your information will be safe.  

September 2, 2014

Piriform Tools, Part 2

Last week I talked about two of Piriform’s excellent tools for keeping your computer in good shape. CCleaner and Defraggler. Today we will look at two others.

imageSpeccy is a very good application from Piriform; however, it is one I rarely use. You should download it and run it anyway just so you can have a list of exactly what your computer is made of. It will give you what you may need to know and way more. Say you want to buy some more RAM for your computer but you are not sure what type to get. If you run Speccy it will show you then name, the type, the size, etc. about the RAM that is currently running so you can accurately match it up. It gives you the temperature your computer’s motherboard is running. Do not panic if you check the temps and they are above 150ºF but less than 200 ºF which is pretty normal. Check out what you have under the hood with Speccy.

imageRecuva is the last Piriform app that we will take a look at again. I mentioned it several weeks ago but I have received many questions regarding this great app. Recuva actually stands for Recover, of course thanks to the Web our youth can no longer spell. What Recuva does is pretty much what its name stands for. It will recover deleted files.

Pretend for instance, that you have just gotten back from your vacation to Gondwanaland. While there you took over 2,000 pictures on your digital camera. You are now back home and put your SD card in your computer to move them to your computer and print a few. Oops, you accidentally delete all the files on the card. Your wife yells at you, you feel bad, there is no way you can go back and take all of the pictures over again.

In steps Recuva to save you from this predicament. Once you install and start it up you will be asked what file types are you trying to recover. All Files is the default but you can specify pictures, music and others. Next it will get you to input where the files are located. Here the default is “I’m not sure,” which is fine; however, it will take much longer if you cannot narrow it down some. You are now ready to begin your search, which depending on the parameters you set up, could take a few seconds to an hour or so.

It is quite good at finding those missing files. Once it is finished you can restore all or some to your computer. It will usually rename to files so you may have to restore them before you can determine which file is which.

As I always mention when using this program, the longer you wait to search for the deleted file the less likely you are to be successful in is recovery. The file can be partially or fully destroyed if the space it occupies is written over by another file. Recuva will “rate” the files found as how successful you may be in recovering it. If you recover a partially recoverable photo you may be missing part of the picture or it could be scrambled.

I hope this detailed look at Recuva helped those of you who wrote.

August 19, 2014

Things Wanted, Part 4

I never realized the past three articles would provide me with so much email from readers.  So today I will close out the series with one final shot at discussing things people want to know most from me. 

Ron's Tablet, Google Nexus 7 (2013)One follow up to last week.  I did not recommend the $49 version of various tablets and I listed the reasons.  One person wrote to tell me they had one and it was fantastic.  I am happy for them and for anyone who would like to use one of the more inexpensive tablets.  However, I stand by what I said as far as features, speed, available apps and capabilities.  If it is your first tablet and you are enjoying it please continue.  If you compared it to one of the more expensive models you would be astounded at the difference.  I was also asked for prices of tablets.  In regard to Android only the better ones start around $150 and top out around $600 depending on brand and capabilities.

Wendy and several others have written recently saying something similar to, "I accidentally deleted 1,000 pictures from my SD Card from vacation…can I get them back?"  Well the answer is usually, but not always, no.  Here is how you can try.

The company Piriform has several utilities I have recommended in the past.  First and foremost is CCleaner followed up closely by Defraggler.  The third is Recuva (piriform.com/recuva).  One warning: there are many "fake" Piriform products out there so make sure you always download them from Piriform.com to get the real things. 

Recuva logoRecuva is quite easy to use.  Download it.  Install it.  Run it. It will ask you first what type of files you are looking for; All file types?  Photos?  Music?   Select what you need.  Next it will ask where to look for them.  This is where you can choose your SD card (if plugged into your computer), a specific folder on your computer or my favorite, the Recycle Bin.  Next it will ask where you would like to restore the files.  If you are searching an SD Card I would select somewhere on your computer’s hard drive for the restored files.  Then start it and let it run.  The number of files it has to search for determines how long it will take.  I have found it to be very successful in recovering deleted files for me.

There is an essential caveat that you should be aware of for "undeleting" files.  This is that you do it soon after deleting the file. 

The way windows computers work when you delete a file, it really doesn’t delete it, even when you empty the recycle bin.  The operating system actually puts a mark on the file which tells the system that if this space is needed to store another file, it can be used. 

So the file is there but it will be overwritten if/when needed.  The longer you wait the more chance there is that it will be partially or fully destroyed.  Think of an old cassette tape.  You can record something and then rerecord over it, making the first recording useless.

So if you know you have deleted a file on your SD card, pull that card out of your camera and use another one…now.  Then your chances of getting those beautiful vacation pictures back are greatly increased.  

May 19, 2014

2014-05-19 WSVA Show Notes

Welcome to today’s Show Notes and Podcast. I hope you enjoy listening and reading what went on today. Not many items covered but many interesting discussions.

Tech News
SA police to verify identities with Android fingerprint scanner
A fleet of 150 Android-powered mobile fingerprint biometric scanners from NEC will be deployed to allow the South Australian police verify identities of suspects on the spot.

Developed, implemented, and managed by NEC Australia’s security and public safety team, the application, which has been on trial since late 2013, consists of a single fingerprint scanner that is paired via Bluetooth to an Android smartphone device. It has been designed to allow police officers to verify a suspect’s identity on the spot in less than 40 seconds.

Police officers scan up to four fingerprints of a suspect and cross-reference the information — via a secure network and 3G/4G mobile data networks — against Australia’s Crimtrac national police reference database, which contains 5.6 million sets of sets of finger and palm records for 3.3 million people.

If the system returns with a ‘hit’, it will show the person’s details, including name, ID, any bail conditions, any outstanding warrants, a current photo, any behaviour characteristics like ‘tendency to be violent’, so that the member can make the appropriate decision on the spot," he said.

It was also said that the technology was designed to reduce the amount of inaccurate identity claims — a frequent challenge that police officers face.


 
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.)
GrooPic

Ever noticed your group photos are always missing the photographer? Groopic solves this age-old problem by seamlessly including your photographer friend in every group photo. No more asking for help from a stranger or setting up a tripod. With Groopic, your pictures have every friend, every time!

The usage is real simple: Take two pictures, mark the photographers and groopic does the magic.


PhotoEnforced
photoenforced.com
If you would like to know where the stop lights are located check out this site. They have them on the map and what type of camera that is located there, whether Red Light Cameras, Right Turn Cameras, Speed Cameras, Toll Road Cameras all the information is there for you.


As always thanks for paying attention and tuning in! I hope to see you back here next month on June 17th.

Ron

April 21, 2014

2014-04-21 WSVA Show Notes

Today we had the April show on WSVA, 550AM.  If you have 40 minutes to learn some new tech info and listen to Jim Britt and I having fun…take a listen here.  A few calls, a few issues, a few news items and a lot more.  Enjoy the links we talked about below.

Tech News
Heartbleed Explained
If you’re an IT professional, gadget blogger or token geek in your circle of friends, chances are, you’ve been hounded relentlessly over the past couple of days about "this Heartbleed thing."

"Do I need to update my antivirus?"

"Can I login to my bank account now?"

"Google already fixed it, right?"

We’ve heard them all, but the answers aren’t all that clear or simple. In an attempt to take the pressure off — it is the weekend after all — we’ve put together a primer that should answer all of those questions and a few more. Next time someone asks you about that "Heartbleed thing," just shoot them in our direction.


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.)
SnapSeed

Snapseed is the only photo app you’ll want to use every day. It makes any photograph extraordinary with a fun, high-quality photo experience right at your fingertips. Anyone can enhance, transform, and share their photos with ease using incredibly advanced features from the leader in digital photography software. Built-in Google+ capabilities make it even more powerful to share your images with your friends and family.


Links mentioned:
"Play Some Music"
EndGadget
Sometimes, having your entire music collection in your pocket can be a bit overwhelming. When there are hundreds (or in our case, thousands) of tracks at your disposal, where do you even begin to listen? To help thwart that paralysis of choice, Google is going to do the guessing for you with its latest tweak to Search. From Google Now or the search bar, simply say the magic words "play some music" and your Android device will start playing a random Play Music "I’m feeling lucky" mix that’s based on recent listening habits.


  • Rent an MBA abcnews.go.com
    The best business brains can now be hired on the cheap and by the hour. Two new websites make it possible for companies and individuals to get consulting help from young MBAs newly minted from such top business schools as Harvard and Wharton.

    The same 35-hour consulting job for which a traditional, blue chip firm might charge $20,000 might cost as little as $1,500 on these sites. That’s, in part, because the participating MBAs typically are ones still in school or just starting out on their careers; it’s also because the websites don’t carry the same overhead as traditional consulting firms.


    Have a great afternoon and let me know what you would like to hear about on the show next month, Monday, May 18th.

    Ron

  • December 18, 2012

    Backing Up

    I have mentioned the importance of backing up your important electronic files before.  It really is important if you intend to use those files in the future.  Whether it is your previous tax returns, (done on your computer or the scanned version of your paper copies) emails or documents of any type you need to keep an extra copy.  Today two of the most talked about file types are music and of course all those digital Christmas photos.

    The reason to keep copies may be obvious to many of us, but not to others.  The biggest reason you may need a backup is to guarantee that one day, sooner or later, your hard drive will fail.  Hopefully it will survive long enough to grab your files but many times they are totally trashed; nada.  Occasionally you may be able to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars and send your hard drive to professionals to restore some or all of your files.  However, for individuals like you and me it will be very cost prohibitive. 

    Recently I received an email from Alicia.  She asked, "I have a new 1 TB external drive.  Do I use the backup software that comes with the drive, or the Windows back up application?"  That is a great question and highlights one great alternative for backing up files.

    What can a 1 TB drive hold?  Toshiba, one of my favorite companies, says approximately 17,000 hours of music which is just less than two years of music, non-stop 24 hours a day, 320,000 HD digital photos or about 457 holiday’s worth of photos, 1,000 hours/41 days of home videos (again without sleep) or 250 DVDs of about two hours each.

    The price of external drives, like all other electronics is always coming down.  I found an external 1 TB drive for $80 and then a 2 TB drive for less than $120 so the cost is not horrible if you are serious about backups.

    Now, let’s go back to Alicia’s question.  I would always use the software that comes with the drive.  It has been tested and proven with the drive you have.  It is most likely made to do just that one thing and do it well, so I say stick with it.  If you prefer the Windows application or any other you are used to, feel free to use that one.  However, it could invalidate your warranty on the drive so you need to check that out first. 

    Keep in mind that there are also some great "cloud" storage applications out there.  I heartily recommend Dropbox (bit.ly/use-DropBox), Google Drive (drive.google.com), SkyDrive (skydrive.live.com), Carbonite (carbonite.com) and many others.  I feel that DropBox and Carbonite are the best to use for automatic backups; however, DropBox has a free version. 

    Make sure you backup no matter where you choose to do it. Just do it!

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