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February 19, 2018

2018-02-19 WSVA Show Notes & Podcast

Filed under: WSVA Show Notes — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 10:30 am

Welcome back for this month and thanks to the listeners/readers that caught my, “2017” date from last time, oops.

Here is today’s podcast so if you could not listen this morning, enjoy!   The following are a few of the items we mentioned. 

Tech News

February 19, 2018

Report: Average business user must keep track of 191 passwords
techrepublic.com/article/report-average-business-user-must-keep-track-of-191-passwords/

The average business employee must keep track of 191 passwords, according to a report from password management firm LastPass, released Wednesday. That’s seven times higher than standard industry reports, which report the average is 27 passwords. It’s also a potential security concern, as 81% of all confirmed data breaches are due to weak, reused, or stolen passwords, a recent Verizon report found.

People often underestimate the number of accounts they actually have, according to the report. For example, marketing professionals use several advertising and analytics platforms, while systems administrators manage different services, and sales representatives set up demo accounts on a regular basis.

The average 250-employee company has 47,750 total passwords in use, the report found.


We talked about other items but some dealt with website construction which does not relate to many of you all, so I skipped them.

Enjoy your month and see you back in March!

Ron

February 13, 2018

How Fast Are You Surfing?

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:52 am

You know the feeling, you are at home and all of a sudden, the sites load very slowly.  You may be at the local coffee shop where they provide free Wi-Fi and it is unbelievably sluggish.  YouTube videos either stop and start while buffering multiple times in a couple of minutes or do not load.  Before you reboot…and find that nothing has changed check the internet connection speed where you are.

This service allows you to check your speeds through either a website, application and/or your mobile phone.

The site name is “Speedtest,” is found online at speedtest.net and is owned by Ookla.  Ookla began in 2006 with their home base in Seattle.  The parent company is Ziff Davis so that gives you the knowledge that it has a good pedigree.

Speedtext logo

This site does only three things but does them all well.  When you go to the site you will see a large circle with “Go” in the center.  Click “Go.”

It will test the ping rate and your download and upload speeds in just a few seconds.

First, some definitions.  Ping is the reaction time of your connection to the web servers.  It shows how fast you get a response after your browser has sent out a request. A fast ping (lower number) means a quicker reply back from the site.  This is especially useful in gaming.  The ping rate is measured in ms (milliseconds).

Download speed is simply how fast you get files back on your browser.  For instance, if you are downloading a picture or video you get them quicker, the higher the number.  Upload speed is how quickly you are sending your information up to the internet.  For example, when you are copying something up to Dropbox or emailing a picture.  High numbers are good for uploads too.  These last two are measured in Mbps (Megabits per second).

The website works fine; however, you can install the Speedtest application on PC, Mac or phones.  That way if the connection is slow the apps will get your numbers more quickly.  For your computer, go to, “speedtest.net/apps/desktop” to download the application.  I prefer these over the site.

imageFor your phones you can either go to the phone’s app store or directly to Speedtest, speedtest.net/mobile.

I highly recommend you use this site or app if you are wondering why your speed is lagging.  One slight difference is that with the phone apps you do not (at this time) get “GO” but a “Begin Test” button.  Also, the apps give you some information the site does not.

Keep the following in mind.  When you are at the coffee shop everyone there with a phone or computer is also sharing your connection.  They are notoriously slow if many people are present which includes the employees’ phones.

At home, you may be paying for 50 Mbps download speed and find you are only getting 25 or so.  This is normal as your Wi-Fi is sending your signal across the house through walls and may be further away from your device.  Or someone at home may be watching a movie on Netflix.  You will not get full speed as promised unless you are connected directly into your router by cable.  So, you do not call and complain to the service provider unless it is significantly slower than it should be.

January 15, 2018

2017-01-15 WSVA Show Notes & Podcast

The 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was last week.

Today Jim and I look at a few of the items that we enjoyed – hearing and seeing about.  No we were not there but the internet is a wonderful thing to use.

The Podcast is available here, listen and enjoy. You can also visit all of the WSVA Podcasts.


 

Samsung has come to CES 2018 with an enormous 4K TV it’s calling The Wall — and it’s also claiming The Wall to be “the world’s first modular TV.” The Wall measures 146 inches and uses MicroLED technology to produce its picture.

MicroLED shares many benefits with OLED; each microscopic LED can emit its own light — no backlight is required — and that creates the deep blacks and lush colors normally reserved for OLED sets. It also gets incredibly bright.


Just one day into CES 2018 and the future of technology is already pretty spooky.

Convention Center on Tuesday, it was hard to miss the crowd gathered around around the “PsychaSec” display. Hosts draped in all-white were showing off two artificial bodies that, “in a few years,” humans could pay to trade their own crappy body for. At the same time, the host touted the company’s ability to plant chips into a person’s head and download every experience and memory they’ve had.

Sounds pretty trippy, right? Unfortunately, PsychaSec isn’t real. But even the CIA would’ve had a hard time getting the booth hosts to admit it.


Toyota outlined its e-Palette platform, which mixes mobility, commerce, and autonomous driving in a customizable package, and the idea could be used by multiple enterprises.

CES showcases the tech trends that will shape the year ahead. See the most important products that will impact businesses and professionals.

At CES 2018, Toyota President Akio Toyoda outlined the e-Palette concept vehicle. This vehicle is meant to be a blank slate that combines connected and automated driving with commerce.

Initial launch partners for this e-Palette platform, which uses Toyota’s mobility services technology, include Amazon, Mazda, and Pizza Hut. If you take the everything-as-a-service theme and extend it, you can get to Toyota’s Automated Mobility as a Service.


Samsung has come to CES 2018 with an enormous 4K TV it’s calling The Wall — and it’s also claiming The Wall to be “the world’s first modular TV.” The Wall measures 146 inches and uses MicroLED technology to produce its picture.

MicroLED shares many benefits with OLED; each microscopic LED can emit its own light — no backlight is required — and that creates the deep blacks and lush colors normally reserved for OLED sets. It also gets incredibly bright.


The Somnox sleep robot helps you fall asleep effortlessly, get back asleep when you wake up and helps you sleep feeling safe. Making it the ultimate sleep companion that induces sleep.

Nowadays we track our sleep. Knowing about sleep is nice. But isn’t it time to actually do something to get you to sleep? That’s exactly what the Somnox sleep robot does. When spooning the sleep robot during the night you will be soothed to sleep by the following functions, tickling the senses to relax body and mind.


A team of college hackers was disappointed with the selection of secure purses available. Nearly every purse on the market is attractive, secure, or neither so they are designing their own security purse with some style. Instead of just brass or leather clasps keeping unwanted hands out, they are upgrading to automation and steel.

Everything starts with a fingerprint reader connected to an Arduino. Once an acceptable finger is recognized, a motor opens a coffin lock, also known as a butt-joint fastener, which can be completely hidden inside the purse and provides a lot of holding force. That is enough to keep quick fingers from reaching into an unattended purse.


See you on February 19, 2018 for the next Tech Show on WSVA!

Ron

December 19, 2017

Meetings in Email

Before I start today’s topic I will answer emails I have received this from a couple of readers.  “Are you going to write about which computer I should purchase for Christmas?”  Sorry, but no for a couple of reasons.

First, I stopped doing this several years ago because they always sounded the same.  Next, it is fairly easy; purchase a good brand with the biggest numbers you can afford.  By, “numbers” I mean hard drive size, amount of RAM, number of ports, most pixels on the monitor, etc.   Third, due to the dates of the holidays this year, this is my last column until the second week of 2018 so there is no time.

I will answer this, to the outrage of many, “If money were no object what computer would you buy right now?”  If the first part of that statement were true, I would get the latest Microsoft Surface Pro version available.  I have used older versions (two years old) and they are very good.  That being said, some of them have a higher price tag than an Apple system which started out too high to begin with.

Now onto my last article of 2017.  I use calendars much of the time.  I, as many, use Outlook’s calendar at work.  For my personal use I am dependent on Google’s Calendar which is excellent.

No matter the calendar you use I have a recommendation which you may not have tried yet.  That is meeting invites.  Say you are having a party, meeting, lunch, whatever where you would like to invite other people.  We will also pretend you know all of their email addresses.  You can pretty easily set up an appointment with those individuals.  The following is for Google’s Calendar app but they all work much the same way.

Click in the date on your calendar and a new appointment will open.  A small window will open where you may add the title, edit the date, begin and end times for the meeting, but then click “More.”  Here you get to the details which are all optional.  The required information you have already entered so you could have hit “Save” before “More.”

New Appointment Start

You can set the new screen to repeat if it is weekly, monthly, etc.  Next you can add the location.  If you input an address in the location it is helpful for people who accept the invite if they use Google Maps or Waze for their travels.  It will pop up in those apps to warn them when they need to leave to get there on time.  Conferencing will allow you to use Google Hangouts to chat with people at the appointed time.  Add a note to the invite.

On the right is the really vital add in “Guests.”  Here you can enter the people’s names, if they are in your contacts list or email addresses if not.  Then when you Save the invite it will ask you to send the guests the invitation.  When they receive the emailed invite they can Accept, Decline or Tentatively accept the meeting.  You will be notified of their response which will be kept in the meeting information in your calendar.  That way you can check their intentions at any time.

 

Also, if you set notifications everyone who accepts an invite will be notified at the appointed time you have set.

Reviewing your appointments is easy too.  Open your calendar and click on the date to see all of the information.

Reviewing your meeting

December 12, 2017

Tunnels on the Internet

At a recent speaking engagement, I was talking to the group about security.  This discussion was centered on Virtual Private Networks or VPNs.  Since 1996 when a Microsoft employee created a secure tunneling system for computers, VPNs have been around.  It was not as we know a VPN today; however, it certainly set the process in motion.

Basically, a VPN is a “tunnel” through the internet that connects a specific group of computers.  This network keeps out anyone who does not have the proper keys to work with the others.  Businesses first started using VPNs to connect their data networks between different locations around the globe.

A VPN keeps out the bad guys, or not even bad but just people you do not want looking at your data.  In more recent times VPN usage has been encouraged for individuals too.  This statement may lead you to ask, “Why?”

The reason is security.

If you go into a local coffee shop and check your spam email you may be fine.  But if you have private email which you are sending and you do not want others to see, a VPN may be needed.

When you are in a coffee shop, or any public Wi-Fi for that matter, it is most likely an open connection.  That means anyone walking by can access the internet through that business’s network without a username or password.  They may even require usernames and passwords but you do not own that connection.  You do not know who else is there in the background.  You consider that a nice feature, which it is; however, there could be nefarious people nearby lurking about seeking your information.

If you have a VPN connection on your device, you log in with your own username and password to a server at another location.  It is similar to “drilling” a tunnel through the local internet Wi-Fi connection you are on.  That stops anyone from seeing what you are sending or receiving, keeping your information private.   This includes your login and all transactions on your bank account if you use it while there.  All banks use “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure,” you know the URL that starts with “https.”  That “S” means that it is secure but again someone may be digitally looking at your keystrokes while in the open and recording them for their use.  If you use a VPN they should be stopped dead in their tracks from getting your info.

The VPN encrypts the information you send to be unencrypted only by the person/organization to whom it is meant to be delivered.

Check the short video below to see how a VPN works. 
Sometimes pictures are worth a thousand words.

Also, many people use VPN for a location setting.  If they were to want to watch a TV show in a foreign country but it was not allowed out of that country, you could use VPN.  It would camouflage their actual location and appear to be in that country.  But they could actually be on the other side of the earth.  What if someone is in a county that will not allow free speech but wants to blog about the injustices or issues there?  With VPN they could do so and not be discovered by their governments.

This is only a high-altitude flyover of what a VPN is and how it can be used.  If you are interested look for more information online.  Remember, a VPN that you pay nothing for may be exactly what it is worth.  Shop around and read reviews as a good one will cost a little.

December 5, 2017

Syncing Outlook & Google Calendars

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:08 am

I wrote about one of Google’s great apps called, “Google Calendar Sync” in 2012.  Then in 2013 they did away with it.  It was an easy to use add-on for Google that made it easy to sync between your Outlook (usually work related) and Google calendars.  That way you could have your business appointments in Outlook sent down to your private Google calendar to have everything available in one place.  Then you would not have your doctor’s appointment in your work calendar, etc.  You could also sync in the other direction or both at the same time.  Great app!  Check here “rd.dblclx.com/2AhTpJ8” (caps count in all of these shortened URLs) for a list of the many Discontinued Google Products.

In 2015 I wrote about a good replacement, “Calendar Sync +” which did the same thing but was sometimes quite difficult to coordinate.  I used it until about a year ago.  It is still available and you can read about it at “rd.dblclx.com/1MlSy85” from my old article.

At that time a friend referred me to “GO Contact Sync Mod” at “rd.dblclx.com/GOSyncMod” which I liked better.  As a matter of fact, I still use that application.  From the title you would think it would only sync your Contacts but not so.  However, it also syncs your calendars.

Once installed it will sit quietly in your taskbar’s notification area unless you have not set it to “Run Program at Startup.”  That setting only starts the program but not the actual process of syncing.  There are several items needed to successfully set up GCSM.  First, set up your Gmail address which you have to also enter the password.  Next, set “Sync Profile” to my computer.  The next checkboxes are whatever you choose and are self-explanatory. I check both “Sync” and “Prompt Deletion” settings so that all deleted items are matched up.  That way I get a warning in case something is being incorrectly deleted (has not happened yet).  Now decide if I want to also “Sync Contacts” which will pull all of your Google Contacts into Outlook for you, or visa-versa.  I personally do not use that at work, but I do at home.

GO Contact Sync Mod screen

Yes, last week I said I no longer use Outlook which is true.  However, there is also a version of GCSM for Thunderbird which also works well.

The final step is to decide how you want it to sync.  In other words, sync both ways between Outlook and Google or only in one direction so that one of them has everything.  You can also decide which app wins if GCSM cannot figure it out (rarely after the first couple of runs).

There are more setup details on the Go Contact Sync Mod site at “rd.dblclx.com/GoSyncSetUp” if you care to check.

There are other alternatives on the web but for now this is the one that works best for me.  Of course, in another couple of years I may be writing about a better option as I have done this time.

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

November 21, 2017

October 31, 2017

Temporary Gmail Access

Rick emailed an interesting question about Gmail this week. His company uses Google’s product, “G Suite Business” for their email. With G Suite all email and cloud storage is handled by Google in the cloud. This can allow big savings in money, time and equipment for the company. I have used it before in the corporate environment and although different it works quite well.

Rick’s question was that he was going to be out of town for vacation. He wanted to turn over control of his email to a coworker. However, (smartly so) he did not want to give them his password. NEVER give passwords to anyone.

I found that Google has a Gmail delegation feature. A Gmail delegate is someone you give access to your email account without supplying your password. Once a delegate has access to your email they have limits as to what they may and may not do on your account. They can read, send, delete and reply to emails that were sent to your account. If Rick were a delegate of mine his address would show as the sender in any email he sent on my behalf. The sender would show “sent by rickwhatever@gmail.com.” Delegates also have the ability to add, edit and remove people from your Gmail contacts.

There are also several things that are not allowed. One of the main ones is that the delegate cannot change your password. So if your delegate turned out to be an evil individual they could not block you out of your account. They also cannot chat with anyone as you while in your account. Last, they could not change your Gmail account settings.

A person may be a delegate for any number of accounts. However, a personal Gmail account can only have up to 10 delegates (corporate G Suite accounts are limited to 25).

It is fairly easy to add a delegate to Gmail; though, it must be done online as you cannot add one from your phone’s Gmail app. Log into Gmail and click the Settings button that looks like a gear in the upper right corner. Next, select the “Accounts and Import,” scroll to the bottom and click “Add another account” under the “Grant access to your account” section. Enter the email address of your delegate (it must be a “gmail.com” address) then, “Next Step.” You will now be instructed to send them an email, by clicking a link to grant them access to your account.

Grant access

Grant access to another account

The person you add will get an email from you asking them to confirm that they will take access for a while. If they do not respond within a week the request will be withdrawn and they will not be your delegate. Also note when your delegate accepts your access they may not have access to your account for up to 24 hours.

Notification email to delegate

Notification email to delegate

If you are a delegate it is easy to access that account. Sign into your own Gmail account, click your account photo (upper right corner), then from the dropdown menu select the delegated account. A new window or tab will open with their email displayed. Have at it.

When you are ready to remove their access go to the same “Grant access to your account” area and click “delete” by your delegate’s information.

September 12, 2017

Chrome Extensions, Part 2

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:48 am

Last week I started a look at some of my favorite Chrome browser extensions.  We started with "Behind the Overlay."  To learn how to install them check out last week’s column.

Today we will start with one for your security.  We all keep reading about protecting your privacy while online and I agree that is important.  When you are in a coffee shop, fast food joint, airport, basically anywhere that offers free Wi-Fi you could be giving away information.  If you are at one of those places and visit your bank’s site to check your balance, etc. you could be giving away your username and password.  A VPN protects your data while on that Wi-Fi connection.  For more info search Google for, "What is VPN?"  However, many of the VPN applications cost money and some of the free ones are questionable.  One of the many solutions is to install "Hotspot Shield."  It is free with an upgradable premium version and it easily adds the extension to your browser. 

Hotspot Shield

Like all the other VPN apps it basically provides a "pipeline" to reroute everything from your computer to a secure server where no one else can see what goes on.  It can also show you in a different location.  That way you could watch a TV show in England that you may not get in the U.S.  They also provide an application for your computer if you wish.  I am using it now in a coffee shop and it shows my computer as being in the Netherlands.  I am actually in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  You can use it without signing up for anything; however, you will get ads and requests to rate it, etc. 

Next one of the few that is still in my favorite extension list is, "IE Tab."  I wrote a separate article about this in February of this year, so go check that out for lots of details.  But here is a quick review.  "IE Tab" allows you to view those pesky websites that will only allow you to use the Microsoft Internet Explorer or EDGE browsers to view their sites.  This is fairly old-school developing but it is still around.  Use "IE Tab" and you can enter the sites you want to view correctly in Chrome.  It works well.

IE Tab

The final ones for today are "Invisible Hand" and "Honey."  (Yes, I said I would list these extensions alphabetically last week but these are similar and I like IH most so it is first.)  They are both shopping extensions that work well to save you money online.  Invisible Hand works by popping up when you are looking at buying something on a site.  It will be searching the web in the background for the same item at a better price.  When/if it finds it, you can click the suggested link and go to the other site.  Be careful as I have noticed that it does not always include shipping or free shipping in its calculations. 

Invisible Hand

"Honey" works a differently.  When you are on the checkout screen on the site you are purchasing your product from Honey goes to work.   It quickly scans the web looking for discount coupons that may help you out.  It has worked sometimes for me and occasionally it does not; however, it is worth installing it to save some money. 

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