About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

January 13, 2015

2014 in Review, Part 2

This week I will continue with the second half of the links we talked about last year at

Remember, if the site addresses are too long to type I have shortened them with  Here they are in their order of appearance with short descriptions of each.

  • CNet and Download (both part of CBS Interactive), great reviews, “how tos”, etc. of most everything tech at the first site and good downloads on the other.  
  • Gmail, Outlook or Yahoo, three popular free email and information providers.
  • Thunderbird – a very good email application for computer that can incorporate all of the above emails on your desktop.
  • – One of the most popular internet browsers.
  • Coffitivity and Rainy Mood  – fun sites which make soothing noises while you work.  
  • Barnes & Noble Nook – the B&N ereader, Nook.
  • 10,000+ Free eBooks – a place to get free ebooks including the most recent of many for Android only.
  • CCleaner, Defraggler, Recuva and Speccy – four great computer utilities from Piriform.
  • iTunes – media player and controller for all Apple products.
  • Mighty Text – enables you to send and receive text messages from your phone in your browser.  You may also dial your phone from this add-on.  
  • SnagIt  and Screenshot Captor – the first is a paid screen shot application with many features. The captor is a free app that is similar but does not have as many abilities.
  • Livescribe – the home of the Livescribe pen that records your meeting’s audio and syncs the audio to your written text. Not free.
  • Cogi – a phone application which allows you to capture, review & share the highlights of meetings and lectures.
  • Burger King, Chipotle, Domino’s, Five Guys, McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, Starbuck’s, Wendy’s are just a few of the many fast-food shops having apps so you can order on your phone. 
  • Calorie King – a site for your computer or phone to get dietary information on all the stuff you order from the aforementioned sites.
  • and – two excellent sites to use if you are buying or selling your home. 
  • Fitbit and Ringly and Water Dancing Droplet Speakers, Spreengs and Shoulderpod are several interesting gadgets you can buy for presents for yourself or others.
  • Ninite – a site that lets you get many applications to quickly install them all at one time without stopping all along the way to ask you questions.
  • AVG or Avast! – two of the better free antivirus applications. 
  • Malwarebytes – the best free app which checks your computer for nasty malware.
  • SpeedTest – you may check the speed you are receiving from your service provider at any time. 
  • Typing Web – if you need typing lessons or a refresher course here is the place to get help.
  • Steam Powered – a few free and many for a cost game site. 
  • PayPal – a very secure site for making online purchases.  

Stay tuned for 2015 and have a very Happy New Year!

November 25, 2014

Real Estate Today

As many of you know in past lives I have been a mortgage loan officer and a residential real estate appraiser.  I have also been a buyer and seller of my own homes.  I have quite a bit of knowledge about the topic; however, it is not current since I have been out of that world for the past 16 years.

Well, I got into it again recently by buying a home.  For the past several years we have been renters.  I discovered some very interesting things involving, for me anyway, technology and the purchasing process.  I thought I would share some of that with you today.

First off we talked to our agent, Phillip Updike, and got the ball rolling.  He suggested a few houses and also a website for finding homes. was the site and fortunately for me they had an Android app of the same name.  We also found another one called, also with an app.

My wife and I used them both on our phones (she has an iPhone) and tablets.  They provided a huge amount of information in a very convenient format.  It stopped the numerous phone calls that would have been done in the past asking us about houses in which we may be interested.  Also it prevented us from calling our realtor with nagging questions like, "Is there anything new on the market today?" 

Both of these programs are very similar.  You can filter the house you may be looking for by location, price range, number of bedrooms and/or baths, etc.  The results are usually very close to what you are seeking.  I will warn you that if you filter by price be careful.  We found that the house we eventually bought was not on our list until I increased the price range by just a little bit.  If I had not done this I would never have found the house; although, I know Phillip would have.

They gave you photos of the house and property in the majority of examples I viewed.  It will also give you a map, places of interest in the surrounding area, the listing agent contact information, area schools, many things you would like to know and some that you never may have considered.  Excellent tool for house finding.

The other thing that surprised me that really should not have is the use of email.  I have sent and received emails regarding the mortgage loan, title insurance, questions from and about all areas, informational emails and the list goes on.  Now in reality I was planning on writing about this after all was said and done, so I have kept almost every email regarding our purchase.  When all was said and done I had about 210 emails, also included Zillow’s pictures of the house, loan documents, closing documents and Title Insurance.

I do not know if it was due to the excellent work done by everyone concerned or the capacity to have everything I could possibly need at hand in email.  But I will say this was the smoothest home purchase I have ever dealt with.  That is as a buyer, seller or banker. Thanks to all who helped!

October 11, 2011

Help–I’ve Been Scammed!

Last month I became involved in an internet scam with Craigslist.  You know, for some unknown reason I have never been a fan of Craigslist ( for buying or selling things online.  I have never used it…just a bad feeling; although, I have bought and sold items online before at other sites having no real worries about it.  No, I have my own personal reasons for continuing to avoid using that particular site.

We listed our home for sale recently and have had the normal amount of showings for the current economic climate.  (Yes, it is still for sale.)

One Sunday afternoon my family and I were standing outside the house in the front yard.  A very nice man drove up ,walked up to the house and said that he thought he would like to rent our home.  We told him that was nice but it was not for rent… only for sale.  He told us he saw it advertised online and that the “owner” told them she left as a missionary to Africa and before he could rent/sell the house he had to leave the country.  We told him that he was being scammed and he gave us the info on how he found it on Craigslist.  We checked… guess what?  There was our house represented by actual photographs, square footage and many other facts.

The FBI has been releasing warnings about this particular type of scam since 2009.  They reported that this scam is being run out of…are you ready for this… Nigeria.  Probably the same bands of Nigerians who have all the money and need your help to get the millions from a bad dictator for them and for you.

The basic scam runs like this:  A homeowner actually lists their home with a reputable realtor who then proceeds to place the home on the Multiple Listing Service and public websites.  The Nigerian ne’er-do-wells grab whatever information they want to use for the “rental” advertisement from the legitimate sites.

They then list it on Craigslist as if it is an actual rental offer from the homeowner.  Then people looking for a good deal on a rental house start coming to your house to rent it at a below market rate.  Ours was advertised at about half of what it would actually rent for in today’s marketplace.  If the people get as far as seeing the house and contacting the fake owner he sends them a contract and asks for the renters to return it signed along with a check for the first month’s rent and a security deposit.  After he receives the money they will be mailed the keys and can move in.

The scammer in our situation told the people that they could look around the house if they wished.  The Nigerian probably just took a chance that we wouldn’t be there.

Avoid scams and fraud by dealing locally! Beware of any provisions involving Western Union, Money grams, wire transfers, or a landlord/owner who is out of the country and cannot meet you in person.  We had three people come to see our “rental property” before Craigslist removed the ad.  This they did after I tried to contact them (I say “tried” since I never heard back from anyone) but it took a little too long for my taste.

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, 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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