DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

March 15, 2016

Updates

Picture of new Waze mapHere is one update to the last two columns I wrote about Google Maps and Waze for Android devices.  Guess what?  Waze released a new version of its excellent product.  It has a couple of nice new features but mostly it was cosmetic with a few navigational changes.  I believe it looks better, is quicker and well worth the time for the upgrade.  Try it out and let me know what you think.

Another update that took place toward the end of 2015 was the Google Chromecast.  This device allows you to view most anything you can watch on your computer on your TV.  Of course, you have to plug it in and do a quick setup.  I had the first version of Chromecast and all was well.  They rolled out the second one and all continued to be well.  Then early this year they did another update which was to work with either the older or newer devices.  It may have been well for some but not me. 

I used an older broken Android phone to "act" as my remote control for our Chromecast.  The phone had not been able to make calls for years.  However, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth features functioned perfectly so for those it remained useful. 

After the update the Chromecast app failed.  I could no longer control, start or even make the application run with the old phone.  When I started the application it looked good then a message came up saying it had to restart, over and over again.

I uninstalled it, reinstalled it, rebooted the phone, etc.  You know, all the techie things you should do.  Nothing worked.  I then Googled and found other people with the same or a similar issue.  They suggested downloading the previous version from a now-defunct site.  I did and it all worked well again but within a week or so the new version was pushed back on my phone automatically and it started all over again.

To make all things good once more I installed the new version of Chromecast on my current Android phone and now all is well.  I just do not care for using my phone as my TV remote.

CCleaner main screenNow the Windows 10’s update:  I was basically and still am a W10 supporter with a few caveats you have read from me before now. Here is one more.  

After a recent update Microsoft decided that CCleaner (one of my favorite third party apps) could be a danger to my computer.  So instead of warning me about it and letting me make a decision as to what should be done, guess what?  The programming brains behind W10 decided it should automatically be uninstalled from my system!  All I had to do was reinstall it but what if I had not seen the small warning message when it rebooted?  I would have spent a long time trying to figure out what happened.  W10 can do this to you for a multitude of programs, so be cautious and read all the pop ups.  

February 2, 2016

I Took One for the Team

It finally happened to me, the tech "professional."  After years of reading, writing, researching, testing and reporting on technology and applications I got in trouble.

When I suggest software to you I have always tested the applications or sites that I recommended before telling you about them.  In testing software applications I test them in a "sandbox."  No, not that kind of sandbox.  

A sandbox for a geek is a place created on a computer which has no or very limited access to other parts of your computer.  The sandbox is like a computer running within your regular computer system but it cannot touch anything on the main system unless you allow it to do so.  Once you are finished with the sandbox you can easily delete the entire thing and be done.  That way you can run untested applications and if they work without any issues you can feel safe about installing it on your main system.  If they negatively affect your sandbox after testing you can delete the entire sandbox and it is all gone.  Safe and sound.  After testing I tell you about the app.

You may then ask, "Why don’t you tell us the bad ones, Ron?"  The reason I do not tell you about the bad apps goes something like this:  I mentioned a popular app one time that tracked when you go on the internet for advertising purposes.  I mentioned the name of the product.  A week later I was contacted by the company’s lawyers "requesting" me to retract my statement. 

I am one little techie who writes part time and I have no legal reps.  So I presented my facts to the attorney with lines of code and proof.  I asked if he wanted me to post the entire findings online and in the next column.  I received an email back stating that was only in the free version; the paid version was clean.  They sent me the paid version to test.  I never heard back from them.  I do not want to play that game again.  

Back to the present.  I installed a new application on my PC…no sandbox, oops.  

After the installation finished I ran the program testing whether it did what it was supposed to do.  It worked pretty well but not well enough for me to recommend.  So I uninstalled it from my PC, not the sandbox. 

I immediately noticed that all of my browsers now opened my homepage tab and a fake Yahoo page.  The page was not related to the real Yahoo but it sure looked good.  I tried all of the known fixes for a browser highjack and it would not go away.  I then searched online and yes, it was a known malware from installation of the program I had tested.  It gave some suggestions on how to possibly resolve it.  I tried them, rebooted and now that computer will no longer start.  Shoot me an email if you wish to know the application that I believe caused the issue. 

I will be working on it this week and give you any results I have next time.  Stay tuned as the adventure continues.  

January 12, 2016

2015 Sites in Review, Part 2

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:21 am

If you have been keeping up you know that last week we looked at all the sites I wrote about for the first half of 2015.  Today we continue by starting with July. 

Thanks for the many emails I received about the article and please keep them coming.  Enjoy!

  • VLC Player, rd.dblclx.com/1LTJDOH – in my opinion this is one of the best video and audio players available. It plays any version of video and audio with no issues.
  • 8GadgetPack, 8gadgetpack.net – if you miss the old Windows gadgets like time, stock prices, etc. on your desktop this brings back these features and more. 
  • Dropbox, rd.dblclx.com/use-Dropbox and Copy.com, rd.dblclx.com/freeCopy – again, in my opinion some of the best free "cloud" storage available (use the links above and get some extra space).
  • CCleaner & Defraggler, piriform.com – two of my must have utilities for a windows PC one cleans old files and junk files the other is a better "defragger" application that the one that comes with Windows.
  • Malwarebytes, malwarebytes.org – great app that fights to protect your computer.
  • FileHippo App Manager, filehippo.com – this app updates many of your applications to make sure you have the latest secure versions.
  • 7-Zip, 7-zip.org – a good zipping application used to unzip downloaded files and also zip your files to save storage and password protect them if needed.  
  • Thunderbird, rd.dblclx.com/1ejd3ax – an email application where you can use multiple email accounts all in one organized place.
  • Microsoft.com – everything Microsoft.
  • Cortana, rd.dblclx.com/cortana-faq – many questions answered about the new Windows 10 search/voice interface.
  • Wi-Fi Sense, rd.dblclx.com/wifi-sense – Wi Fi Sense automatically connects you to Wi Fi, so you can get online quickly in more places.   However, it may have some drawbacks, check this FAQ for details.
  • Start Menu 8, rd.dblclx.com/1LShmDO – put the Windows 7 start menu back on Windows 8.1 and 10; however, for W10 I stick with its default menu and it works well. 
  • Google Products, rd.dblclx.com/1ReLX2G – a listing of all current and deceased Google products, some I really miss.
  • Calendar Sync +, rd.dblclx.com/22TOsim – an excellent replacement for Google Calendar Sync that many of the Double Click readers really miss.
  • Karenware Replicator, rd.dblclx.com/KWReplicator – an excellent manual backup application.  You simply choose the files you want to backup and where you want them placed and let it run.
  • Kmashi 15000mAh, rd.dblclx.com/1PG9nRf – an exceptional external battery power supply which when fully charged can then recharge your phones, tablets or any other device to full power.  I have had it charge over five devices on one charge. 

And there is the list of sites we visited in 2015. 

Please keep all of those emails coming.  I enjoy helping you with computer problems and also appreciate your suggestions for new columns.  Have a great 2016!

January 5, 2016

2015 Sites in Review, Part 1

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 10:54 am

Welcome to the 15th year of "Double Click."  It has been a pleasure giving you computer and tech information each week since January, 2002.

Each January I review the sites I wrote about during the previous year.  If the site addresses are too long for print I have shortened them using a branded short domain from Bitly.  Read more about it from the following link if you are interested. The links will be preceded by "rd.dblclx.com" followed by various letters and numbers.  Copy them, then paste them in your browser’s address bar to visit the sites.  They are case sensitive so be careful.

Here they are in their order of appearance with short descriptions of each.

  • Secunia, secunia.com – an application updater similar to Windows Update but this is for your individual applications.
  • FileHippo App Manager, rd.dblclx.com/1R6077Y – similar to Secunia but much easier to use.
  • Chrome 54% (rd.dblclx.com/1Uf9jX0), Firefox 15% (firefox.com), Microsoft Internet Explorer 15% (included with all versions of Windows) – these are the three most popular web browsers.
  • Google.com, no explanation needed.
  • Ninite.com, an easy way to build a new computer and get many programs set up with one download and one installation.
  • Internet Crime Complaint Center, ic3.gov/complaint – here is where to go when you need to notify the government about "bad" sites and scams.
  • YouTube for Kids at the Google Play Store, rd.dblclx.com/kidsoutube – where you get all of your Android applications.
  • Avast.com – my favorite antivirus for the current time.
  • Malwarebytes.org – a vital add-on app to go with your antivirus.
  • Facebook.com – you probably are already using this site, if not, do not so you can keep your life.
  • Coffitivity.com, RainyMood.com – two programs that add background noise on your computer which may (or may not) help you concentrate on what you are doing.  I like a real coffee shop myself. 
  • DoubleClicks.info – probably one of the most overlooked but most informative sites on the web for computer questions and answers.  
  • Amazon.com – you know this one but for Christmas alone the Seattle-based company added 3 million new Amazon Prime subscribers only in the third week of December. (A gross income of almost $300 million.)
  • Class-Central.com and Coursera.org (MOOC – Massive Open Online Course
  • Game Oldies, game-oldies.com – you may be able to find your old favorites here whether, GameBoy, Nintendo NES, Atari, etc. Arkanoid was my favorite.
  • Flux, justgetflux.com – this uses your computer’s location and system time to adapt the colors to warmer colors at night and sunlight-like colors during the day (the normal setting). Supposedly better for your brain and eyes.  
  • Kaspersky Software Updater (kaspersky.com/free-tools) SUMo (kcsoftwares.com) Update Notifier (rd.dblclx.com/1O6gKMq) – all good software "updaters" like FileHippo mentioned at the beginning however, I believe FileHippo is the easiest to use and finds many apps.
  • Google Chrome Browser Extensions, rd.dblclx.com/ChromeExtens – this is where you can find many good extensions for the Chrome Browser so it can do more for you.  I listed many in the article from June, 2015.
  • PCDecrapifier, pcdecrapifier.com– this standalone app removes junk programs and PUPs from your system.

This gets us through June of 2015, next week the last six months of 2015 links. Thanks for reading the column and emailing me with your great questions.  I love writing it and hearing from you! 

December 29, 2015

New Computer Suggestions

Now that Christmas is over and you have a new Windows 10 computer, what should you do?

I suggest the first thing you do out of the box is run a windows update.  It may be running a second after you boot up the computer; however, check to make sure.

Windows KeyIt is quite easy to run an update.  You can click the start menu button (or press the Windows key) and type, "windows update." Next, click the "Check for updates" link.  It has a gear icon to identify the correct link.  Yes, there are other ways to get to that point; however, this is the easiest way.

 

Now, if it is there, click the "Check for Updates" box.  If it is not showing, it means that the system is already running an update.  Then you can relax and go back to what you were doing.

Check for Updates screenshot

I do have one word of advice.  I just experienced the update titled, "Windows 10 Version 1511."  This was a very large update and you may get it with a new computer or your existing Windows 10 computer if you have not already.  This one will take possibly an hour or more to complete.  Once it completed on my system it told me that several applications had been removed by Microsoft as they are not needed. 

Now wait just a minute, MS!  This is my computer and you need to calm down a bit.  I hope they stop this foolishness…soon.  The main one it removed is one of the ones I use regularly, the CCleaner utility.  After researching a bit I found that many people have been bothered by this.  To correct it you must reinstall the applications removed.  Then it will be fine until possibly the next update.

Next, as I have advised you in the past, be cautious of the "free" antivirus that came with your computer.  No, nothing is bad about the software at all but you need to be aware that "free" may not really be free.

Your antivirus software is probably excellent; however, you only get somewhere from a month to 90 days or so before it expires.  At that time you will get notices to renew your license. This means you have to pay to keep it active.  You would be surprised at the number of emails I get where people ignore those warnings and let their antivirus expire.  Then they email me with all sorts of problems, i.e., viruses running loose on their systems. 

I personally uninstall the "free" antivirus and get a free one that does not expire and leave me exposed.  However, you may want to keep your freebie until the point it notifies you of its expiration.  At that point either pay their fees or uninstall it and get a real free antivirus application.

Personally, I don’t advise paying because I hate giving money for things I can get free.  Currently I am using the Avast! Software but there are others out there that are also good.

May 19, 2015

PC Spring Cleaning, Part 3

The last two weeks we looked at some of the ways you need to physically clean your computer for spring or any other time of the year.

Today we will clean your computer’s software.

First, make sure that you are regularly checking your Operating Systems upgrades, i.e. HaWindows 7, 8.1, etc.  Yes, you may have it set to automatically run updates; however, you need to make sure you have the latest every now and then.  Check your update settings by going to Start and typing, "Windows Update," then clicking the "Change Settings."  Check the appropriate choices.  They will make sense to you.  If not, Google for a description.  Mine is set to check for important updates, but let me choose to download and install, give me recommended updates and finally, give me updates for other MS updates.  I am comfortable with those choices but you may not be. Change them and nothing will hurt you, unless you never update.

Windows Update

The funny thing is there is no choice to download and install optional updates.  To get all offered updates for your devices, occasionally check Windows Update for all available updates, including optional updates. I always install those too; however, that is your choice.  This is why you should manually run Windows Updates monthly.  I also suggest you do this after the second week of the month due to, "Patch Tuesday."  Patch Tuesday occurs on the second, and sometimes fourth, Tuesday of each month in North America.  This is when Microsoft sends out all of the items for download to your system for updates.  Wait until after that time and you will get them all.

All of your other software is harder to update but you should take a stab at it on occasion.  You could check most every application you have on your computer by opening the app, going to "Help" then either "Check for Updates" or "About" which is where they are usually found.  Then run the recommended update.

There are also several applications you can get to check your other applications’ updates.  However, none of them are perfect.  I regularly compare several of the main ones and usually get varying results.

  • FileHippo App Manager (filehippo.com) – the one I use most often and is quick and easy. Use the "Download our free app manager" link only.Kaspersky Software Updater (kaspersky.com/free-tools) – good and can be set to run on a schedule of your choosing.
  • Secunia PSI (secunia.com/psi) – I have used this the longest, if you run the scan manually it takes a good while. It also appears to search more apps than the others.
  • SUMo (kcsoftwares.com) – finds many apps; however is the hardest to use of all I have tested.
  • Update Notifier (cleansofts.org) – a simple one but still finds many. Check settings to not get beta updates. 

I ran all of these as well as a couple of others today.  I got varying results and none of them match.  So I guess you could run all of them for better coverage.  I alternate between FileHippo (quick and thorough) and Secunia (slow but very thorough) but they both find apps the other one misses…go figure.

FileHippo

Secunia-PSI

March 31, 2015

What Should I Install?

I regularly receive questions concerning readers buying new computers.  They will usually ask what antivirus software they should install to keep everything protected.  I usually suggest one or two good antivirus applications.  Keep in mind I am only referencing Windows machines and, due to my frugal nature, free applications. 

Microsoft Windows logoIf you have a Windows 7 system, I recommend going to Microsoft.com and searching for "Microsoft Security Essentials."  Go to the download page, download it and install it.  It may already be on your new computer if the manufacturer made a deal with MS to preinstall it.  However, do not worry if it is, it will harm nothing to reinstall.

Windows Defender screenFor a Windows 8.1 (or 8 if you have not upgraded yet…which you should ASAP) you have "Windows Defender" already installed on your computer.  It comes automatically with all versions of W8.  It is an upgraded version of "Security Essentials" for W8.  These are both good antivirus apps and really all you need unless you go to disreputable places that may possibly be able to defeat them.  They are good in that they will be updated with Windows Update so you do not have to do anything additional to get them updated as you do with all other third party apps. 

Avast! logoSome people do not trust MS and want another antivirus software so I recommend, "Avast!"  If you choose to install Avast go to, "Avast.com" only.  The reason is, if you search for it online you may be directed to a disreputable site.  It may be listed as a free download but you may be getting something that could harm your system. 

One other major application I would install on all computers today is Malwarebytes (download the free version at Malwarebytes.org).  I mentioned it toward the end of last year but many people have asked about it, so I feel I need to remind you. 

Malwarebytes logoI personally had not installed Malwarebytes on my computer figuring my antivirus software took care of everything.  A year or more ago I noticed my system running slower than it should be and I found a toolbar installed on Internet Explorer I had not installed.  I had not noticed it before since I do not regularly use MSIE as my browser so I had no idea how long it was on my computer.  Anytime you have a toolbar on your browser that you know nothing about is not a good sign.  It most likely means that you have some malware running and you need to remove it…now!  So I knew my computer had been had. 

Malware is software inserted when you download something, either intentionally or not, that is designed to do damage or some sort to your system.  It can totally or partially disable your computer.

The first time you run Malwarebytes you may get tens to hundreds of files recognized.  Delete them all!  I would encourage you to run it on some sort of regular schedule.  A weekly, monthly or quarterly time frame is good depending on how much you are online.

I almost guarantee if you install and run this on your old computer you will find many malware items present.  

What Should I Install?

I regularly receive questions concerning readers buying new computers.  They will usually ask what antivirus software they should install to keep everything protected.  I usually suggest one or two good antivirus applications.  Keep in mind I am only referencing Windows machines and, due to my frugal nature, free applications. 

imageIf you have a Windows 7 system, I recommend going to Microsoft.com and searching for "Microsoft Security Essentials."  Go to the download page, download it and install it.  It may already be on your new computer if the manufacturer made a deal with MS to preinstall it.  However, do not worry if it is, it will harm nothing to reinstall.

Picture of Windows DefenderFor a Windows 8.1 (or 8 if you have not upgraded yet…which you should ASAP) you have "Windows Defender" already installed on your computer.  It comes automatically with all versions of W8.  It is an upgraded version of "Security Essentials" for W8.  These are both good antivirus apps and really all you need unless you go to disreputable places that may possibly be able to defeat them.  They are good in that they will be updated with Windows Update so you do not have to do anything additional to get them updated as you do with all other third party apps. 

imageSome people do not trust MS and want another antivirus software so I recommend, "Avast!"  If you choose to install Avast go to, "avast.com" only.  The reason is, if you search for it online you may be directed to a disreputable site.  It may be listed as a free download but you may be getting something that could harm your system. 

One other major application I would install on all computers today is Malwarebytes (download the free version at malwarebytes.org).  I mentioned it toward the end of last year but many people have asked about it, so I feel I need to remind you. 

imageI personally had not installed Malwarebytes on my computer figuring my antivirus software took care of everything.  A year or more ago I noticed my system running slower than it should be and I found a toolbar installed on Internet Explorer I had not installed.  I had not noticed it before since I do not regularly use MSIE as my browser so I had no idea how long it was on my computer.  Anytime you have a toolbar on your browser that you know nothing about is not a good sign.  It most likely means that you have some malware running and you need to remove it…now!  So I knew my computer had been had. 

Malware is software inserted when you download something, either intentionally or not, that is designed to do damage or some sort to your system.  It can totally or partially disable your computer.

The first time you run Malwarebytes you may get tens to hundreds of files recognized.  Delete them all!  I would encourage you to run it on some sort of regular schedule.  A weekly, monthly or quarterly time frame is good depending on how much you are online.

I almost guarantee if you install and run this on your old computer you will find many malware items present.  

December 30, 2014

New Computer, Part 2

Last week I told you about Ninite.com for your new computer.  I received several emails asking what other applications I would install on a new Windows computer. 

My first "have to have" application is anti-virus software.  I suggest initially what probably comes free with your new computer. However, after the free six or twelve month trial ends, get a free app.  The one you get with your computer usually goes for a high annual fee.  Download only one of these first: AVG or Avast!. These are the two many other geeks and I use.  Search the sites for the free versions and only get them from those sites.  Viruses may be included in them when they are downloaded elsewhere.   

Do not install more than one antivirus app on your computer at a time or it could cause issues. 

Next, I have a new recommendation, Malwarebytes.  This will help your antivirus software keep you even safer.  The free version is good.  You need to remember to run it yourself every few days.  Malware stands for malicious software that may not destroy things but can really mess with your computer.  I almost guarantee if you install and run this on your old computer you will find you have hundreds of malware items present.  

Now, go to Speed Test and see what actual speeds you are getting from your internet service provider.  If you get less than you should call your provider and get their assistance to correct the issue.  The speed can vary from hour-to-hour but should be close most of the time. 

The next thing I suggest is something you used to have to pay a bundle for, Microsoft Office.  Not any longer.  For the average Office user you can create a new Outlook.com account or use your Hotmail.com account and use Office Online – for free.  There are several ways to get to your office apps but I suggest onedrive.live.com to set up or login to your office products. 

After typing like you did in your new free online Word application you notice that your typing could be improved if you used more than two fingers.  To work on your typing skills and speed take a look at Typing Web and practice.  You can improve your typing for free and maybe have some fun doing so.  

Finally, you should just have some fun.  If you like computer games login for free at Steam Powered.  An account is free as are some of the games; however, some may have a onetime cost or possibly a monthly fee.  I like the free, "Star Trek Online" where I am a commander of a Federation vessel. 

If you want to pay for a game, set up a PayPal account.  It is a very secure online payment system.  I have used it for years and have never had a problem.  I suggest anytime you tie your checking/savings account to anything online you create a separate account from your "home" account.  This is just in case there is ever a security hack.  They can only get a minimal amount of money and it will not affect paying your "real" bills.

Have a Happy 2015!

July 8, 2014

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