About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

January 14, 2014

2013 Sites 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.

  •   A very good cloud storage app.  Use the supplied link to sign up and get more space.
  • Kill  This application will totally wipe your drive clean so that it is almost impossible to retrieve deleted data.
  • Nexus 7  My current favorite Android tablet. 
  • and  The very popular free and paid TV movie streaming apps. 
  • Google  Google’s free/paid (depending on what you want) music streaming plus you can upload your own music to it and listen anywhere you have internet connectivity.
  •  A wallpaper changer which was less than adequate at the time I wrote about it.
  • Google  A very good note taking app where you can add pictures, lists, texts and be alerted by them using the time or location of your mobile device.  I just hope Google does keep this one.
  •  Did you accidentally empty the Recycle Bin and need a file back?  If so try this app which is one of the better ones for recovering deleted files.
  • and  Two popular social web sites.
  • A safe place to pay for online purchases.
  • Device  How to locate, send an alert or wipe your data from your Android device(s).
  •  Operating system which operates as well as Windows; however, this one is free. 
  • Join  A free application for individuals, which will allow you to log onto someone else’s computer, while they are there.  Great to use for helping and training.
  • Should I Remove  A free app that will locate and remove unwanted programs including adware, toolbars, bloat-ware, crap-ware and other junk.
  • AniPet A nice live wallpaper for Android devices. Also similar for Windows and OSX is Serene Screen at 
  • and  A good and much better GPS navigation app for your mobile devices. 
  •,, Internet Explorer – search at, and  The five most popular web browsers.
  • OpenOffice ( and LibreOffice ( are two similar but excellent free replacements for Microsoft Office. 

I look forward to continuing the discussions about software, computers, the internet and all sorts of technology this year.  I hope that you, your families and friends have a great 2013 and continue to join me in the newspaper, on the radio and on the web! 

March 8, 2011

Virtual Box

Several weeks ago I mentioned a application when talking about Ubuntu called, VirtualBox.  I had a couple of people writing asking if there was a program like VirtualBox they could use to run Ubuntu, Windows XP or another operating system on their Windows 7 computer.

imageGuess what?  There is and it is called, "VirtualBox", ( the exact same program.  There are different downloads for Windows, Mac, Linux (Ubuntu) and Solaris (another free operating system) depending on which operating system your uses as its base system.

What VirtualBox does is really simple; however, how it does it is quite complicated.   This article may be for more advanced user so if you feel you are more advanced (not sure what the definition is) then read on.  If you do not feel you are a more advanced user, then come back next week for a more "universal" discussion.

Let us pretend that you run Microsoft Windows XP on your computer.  Over the past month or so you read my articles concerning Ubuntu and you would like to try it out.  You have run it off of a CD and found that it was a little too slow for you.  You would like to run it off of your actual computer to really find out how good/bad it is.  The other, currently more likely scenario is that you use Windows 7 on your system and you would like to run XP for some "trust issue".  Either way, VirtualBox,, is where you need to look.

As long as you have a licensed (if a license is needed although one is not needed for Ubuntu) installation disc of that additional operating system you can install it on your computer.  It will allow you to run that operating system on your computer while your original OS is also running.

Windows 7 running Ubuntu 10.10 in VirtualBoxAt present, VirtualBox runs on Linux (Ubuntu), Windows, , Macintosh and OpenSolaris hosts and supports the ability to run Windows (NT 4.0, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista, Windows 7), DOS/Windows 3.x, Linux (2.4, 2.6 and all Ubuntu like OS), Solaris, OpenSolaris, and OpenBSD.  If you have never heard or do not care about any of the items mention in this paragraph re-read the last sentence in the third paragraph above.

Basically you start your computer as you normally would.  Next, you start VirtualBox and choose to run the OS you previously installed.  It will open a window that starts what looks like another computer running.  However, this window will be running the "other" OS.  If you go to I have posted a picture showing what it looks like when you are running Windows 7 as your host (native OS) and Ubuntu 10.10. The graphic is provided by with a couple of edits by me.

If you are looking for something like this, give VirtualBox a try.  There are several other free applications out there that offer almost identical features; however, this one is the easiest to set up and use…in my opinion.

[Screenshots are from]

February 15, 2011

Power of the Broom, Part 4


did not think we would be talking about Ubuntu for yet another week but here we are. I suppose this will be the last one but you folks are the drivers, I am just the tour guide. Keep those emails coming!

Several readers have been reading about Ubuntu and doing some studying. Great job! They have read about being able to install Ubuntu on a USB Thumb Drive and run the system from that drive. Roger wanted to know how it worked and asked if it would be worth getting a thumb drive to try.

imageFirst off, I could not survive in the IT/Tech world without a good portable drive so yes, get one. I have seen them online for about $20 for a 16 GB drive. To give you an idea, the first one I bought years ago was $40 for 512 MB so you currently get much more storage for half the price.

Next, there is a program available for Pen Drives, (same thing- different wording) that says it will enable you to install any Linux operating system on a pen/thumb drive. You are supposed to be able to fully run the “portable” operating system off of the drive, even without a hard drive.

Not to be a party-pooper but I tried installing two different Linux systems on my thumb drive twice and they both failed to function as advertised. I also tried them on different computers and neither would work. Both had different errors. Could it have been my install, possibly? That could be the case, but twice in a row? Tom from Harrisonburg tried, too, and he was only successful when he installed the 64-bit version, which my computer can’t use. Hmm, this apparently needs more research and development.

Now how about booting Ubuntu from a CD? I have done this many times without any problems. So for a CD driven Operating System I say, “Success!” Keep in mind that you cannot write any data to the CD. This means that you will have to save any files you create to your hard drive or a thumb drive. Also, be forewarned, if you make any changes to the OS, like setting your homepage on the Ubuntu Firefox browser it will disappear the next time you start it up.

OK, I believe I am now finished with writing about Ubuntu for a while; however, I will continue using it on my notebook.

SNAGHTML5fafb0One final thought. I have had many readers over the years ask me to create some training videos. I have always put it off with, “Good idea, I will do that one day.” Well that day arrived. I have added a couple of simple, “How to” videos on YouTube. Go to “” and let me know what you think. These are just experimental at this point as I am still learning how it is done.

February 8, 2011

Power of the Broom, Part 3

In review, Ubuntu is a free Linux based operating system that you could use to replace Windows on your computer.  I will hit a few more Ubuntu specialties today and move on next week.

Since Ubuntu is free you would think that getting help about how to use things would be impossible.  However, since there are a lot of Linux "geeks" out there who want to have converts to Linux software, you have surprisingly good support.  If you have a question, go to, "" for help.  If you cannot find the answers you are looking for feel free to ask the people in their forums.  All the needed links are found on that page.

imageNext, Ubuntu gives users 2 GB of online "cloud" storage.  Once you finish installing Ubuntu you will be asked to sign up for "Ubuntu One" which is your free storage area.  You can choose to store your documents, music, presentations, etc. there.  What if you fill up your free 2 GB and want more?  You just add more storage in 20 GB increments at a very affordable price when compared to other alternatives.

Ubuntu offers a free streaming app at Ubuntu One for music; however, even though it is free you must purchase the music from the Ubuntu store.  So depending on how much music you already have that may not be a good thing.  The music can be played on your Ubuntu system using, "Rhythmbox" which is a pretty good audio player for streaming, podcasts, internet radio and your music library.

What about software that you used in Windows?  This will probably be the biggest difficulty for switching over to a Linux system if you are a heavy duty Windows person.  There are several options.

First, I found many of the same programs I used in Windows redesigned by the developers for Linux and they work fine.

Next, many programs not available for Ubuntu have substitutes that are better, just as good, or maybe not quite as nice but still get the job done.

After this there is Wine.  Wine is not a beverage to drown your Windows-related depression in. It is a free application that will allow many Windows programs to run on Linux systems.  I have used it to run iTunes (which isn’t made for Linux) and it works OK; however, you cannot get to the iTunes Store using it.  Not a good solution, but you can experiment.

imageFinally, for Windows apps running on Ubuntu you could consider, "VirtualBox".  VirtualBox allows you to install a Windows operating system on an Ubuntu machine.  This allows you to run any Windows program.  It creates a "virtual" computer for your use after logging into Ubuntu.  This works well but be aware that you will have to have a licensed copy of the Windows OS to install.

Several of you have written over the past few weeks telling me you tried Ubuntu on an older computer, and like it a lot.  Keep in mind, I do not regularly answer Linux questions so if you have one check with Ubuntu Support and Google.  Do keep me posted if/when you try it out!

February 1, 2011

Power of the Broom, Part 2

Last week I introduced you to Ubuntu which is a free operating system, but I asked you to wait until today before installing and running it on your computer.

Ubuntu is licensed as Open Source software, which means that it can be used, distributed, shared and edited by anyone, at no cost. Here are some of the other neat things that Ubuntu offers.

Let us pretend that you would like to try out Ubuntu but are a little apprehensive about installing it on your computer and then finding out that you hate it. Ubuntu has that situation well in hand.

Once you have downloaded it for free from “” and burned it to a CD (or ordered a free CD, they request a $10 donation) you can run it on your computer without installing it. That way you can see if you like it before it is installed. There are instructions on how to do all of this on the site. However, to run it from the CD, without touching your computer’s current system, get your computer to boot to the CD and choose to try it directly from the CD. This will give you the opportunity to see what it will look like and exactly how it will run – all from the CD. Once you remove the CD from your PC and restart your system it will run just like it did before you ever heard about Ubuntu.

imageI will tell you that it works great from the CD but it will be much faster and more efficient once it is installed. There is another option you can choose for installing this operating system. You can set it up to run alongside your Windows system. It will walk you through the set up, which takes about 15 minutes. When you reboot you will be asked if you want to start Windows or Ubuntu. This will allow you to use either system at your discretion.

I also mentioned last week that you get Firefox automatically installed. If you currently use Firefox you will see very little difference. If you don’t currently use FF…Why not? In my opinion it is far superior to any other browser software out there today. I have used it on windows for years and you can get it free at

The last thing I will mention today is that OpenOffice ( comes preinstalled with Ubuntu also. That means you get a word processor, electronic spreadsheet app and a presentation software that all mix seamlessly with Microsoft Office products. Not only do they blend with MS Office, you have almost the same functionality. This is also free!

This column was written and emailed to the DNR using Ubuntu. Did I mention it is free?

January 25, 2011

Power of the Broom, Part 1

According to the Internet, "Ubuntu" is an African word from the Bantu language "which has imageno direct translation into English, but is used to describe a particular African world-view in which people can only find fulfillment through interacting with other people…" Desmond Tutu has a good definition of it if you wish to take a quick read, He says, "A single straw of a broom can be broken easily, but the straws together are not easily broken."

However, for us geeks Ubuntu is something a little different.  Ubuntu ( is an operating system based off of Linux.   It was created as a hobby by a young college student named Linus Torvalds while attending the University of Helsinki in Finland in 1991.  The operating system that you are most likely acquainted with is Microsoft Windows.  Windows operating systems are found on the majority of computers today.  Linux is found on…well, not many but it is gaining presence worldwide.

Ubuntu, differs from Linux in that it is much more user-friendly and windows-like.  This means that it has a nice user interface (looks good), is easy to use and closely resembles Microsoft Windows.

Oh, one very significant thing I forgot to mention; Ubuntu is free.  Yes, absolutely no cost.  Ubuntu also comes with many other free items that you must pay significant amounts for with other systems.  Ubuntu is sponsored by Mark Shuttleworth, a South African billionaire.

imageWhen you install Ubuntu you also get the Firefox browser, a quite useful email program named "Evolution."  It works quite well and has many games for free.  Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention you also get Open Office ( which is free.  Open Office, in my opinion, compares very favorably with Microsoft Office (  That was hard for me to say since I am a staunch supporter of Microsoft but this works very well – for free.

Ubuntu gained one new user and supporter about a month ago when I installed it on an old notebook. It is now all I run on that computer.  Ubuntu will run on new computers and old low-end computers alike.  I tried it on a very old computer several years ago that wouldn’t run Windows XP but ran Ubuntu like it was brand new.

Ubuntu doesn’t need all the power of the newer Windows machines.  If you have an older computer and aren’t totally tied to the MS systems you may want to try Ubuntu before you toss it out. 

Before you run out and install it make sure you read my next column where I will cover a few more interesting things about Ubuntu.  By-the-way, this column was written entirely on my Ubuntu system using OpenOffice and worked wonderfully.

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