DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

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.

June 27, 2017

Voice Assistants

Some of the big technology devices to hit in recent years are Voice Assistants. The idea first came about on TV with Star Trek in the ‘60s. This was when you could communicate by voice instructions with the computers. In the real world, “Siri” started on the iPhone 4S at its release in October 2011. And then, “Ok, Google” began in July 2012, and was first supported on the Galaxy Nexus smartphone. So yes, as always Apple created it first (like phones) and then others improve on it. Most will agree that OK, Google surpasses the Siri app at this point in time. Then there came Cortana from Microsoft, which was announced in January 2015 for Windows 10 desktops and mobile devices.

With those assistants you can look up weather, call people in your address book, get a phone number, get your map to plan a drive, etc. Be careful on that mapping part as I keep seeing articles about people getting lost using them. However, for us, Waze and Google Maps have always been spot on.

Google vs Amazon

Starting last year Amazon and Google started rolling out their devices, with Alexa, (the Echo and Dot seem to be the most popular) and Home respectively. There are other devices available but they are bought in insignificant numbers by comparison.

image

Now the Voice Assistants are standalone devices and are selling like, well actually better than, hot cakes. According to the 2017 report from VoiceLabs, “Amazon Echo and Google Home…will sell more than 24 million units combined through the end of 2017.”

Amazon Alexa vs Google Home

They are devices that connect to your Wi-Fi and you speak to them. You can verbally ask questions, set alarms, get news, check the weather, get directions, find phone numbers, perform conversions, do math, find how long it takes to get somewhere (using local traffic conditions) and many more things.

I have been testing a Google Home and it is very, very accurate in both translating your voice and giving accurate responses. In the morning I asked it to tell me about my day. It proceeded to first give me the weather predictions for the day followed by my calendar’s agenda. Then it started telling me the news from various news stations. You can set the news channels you prefer if you wish.

To use the Google device you must have Wi-Fi, either an Android or iPhone device, the application Google Home installed and you are ready to go. The setup process took about five minutes including Google Home updating itself. It was quite easy.

It will also integrate with some other devices; although, at this time the Alexa mixes with many more. That means it can possibly run your TV, cut off your lights, communicate between you and some of your appliances, etc. The only other system I have that it works with is Google Chromecast hooked to my TV. So I can play items there automatically and control them by voice.

Amazon’s devices work pretty much the same; however, as usual, people debate over which is better online all the time. For me, since I am a Google/Android fan I would go for the GH, but either is good. Are these devices a need? No, but I am going to predict that we are going to see a lot more of them in the future.

If you get one do not forget to play with it. Ask it to tell you a joke, ask it how tall you are, ask it if the other device is any good, etc. It made me laugh when I asked it what the fox says…give it a shot if you get the chance.

June 20, 2017

Email Negatives, Part 2

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:25 am

Last week I wrote regarding some of the good of email, see “Email Positives, Part 1” if you missed it. This week I will voice some of my concerns regarding this great feature of the computer age. Email has been around forever. Well not quite, as Ray Tomlinson is attributed with devising email in 1972 or 1971 depending on where you find that fact. Forms of it existed as far back as 1965 but not by the masses.

Email, Angel or Devil

First up, email forces employees to often multitask. Now, at this point in time multitasking is considered by the “authorities” to be costing employers a lot of time and money. One researcher said that he found about 82 percent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task. My thought has always been that task switching was nuts from the beginning. Yay me, I got one right! I can even prove it if you take one of my classes on technology. So, jumping in and out of email costs corporations money today. There is also a personal stress factor with multitasking that we will not go into today.

Read this one of many articles on Multitasking - Lifehack

Check this article on Lifehack about the good/bad of Multitasking

Another issue for business is that email can be easily abused by many as workers jump in and out of worthless emails whether personal (yes, at work) or company produced. Some companies have found that without specific boundaries their employees may send many emails to family and friends instead of doing their jobs. Think about all of those emails you are “Courtesy Copied” (you know, the CC on your email app) on daily which are no concern of yours. You still need to review them to make sure you are not responsible for something mentioned.

Next, many people change email addresses – often. This means that if you sent email to them yesterday it may never be read. If they do not respond it does not necessarily mean they are avoiding you.

As of March, 2017, statistics indicate that 57 percent of all worldwide email is spam. Another time waster. And BIG money waster. In January, 2017, it was estimated that worldwide a little over $2 billion dollars was spent in time wasted in corporations from spam.

Catching up on Email after Vacation?!Another email time killer…email catch-up. For instance, in my first days of business with email I would go on vacation for a week. When I returned to work I would spend most of a day going through them to see what I needed to act on, save for the future, ignore, or delete. That took a lot of my time. Even though I was paid at work I felt horrible having to waste time going through this process.

Now, I, like most other employees nowadays, check it once daily or at least every other day while vacationing to keep the load down when I return. So now email is messing up your, and my off time.

Next, one of the major issues with email. Viruses, scams, phishing, frauds, deceit, etc. See the amount of money mentioned above? That does not include the individuals who continue to fall for scams from email all the time or the money they throw away.

OK, I am now done ranting about email, even though I do not consider it all bad. Do you consider it a good thing or bad for you and/or your business?

May 16, 2017

Stalking Your Friends in a Good Way

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:06 am

Google has been letting their developers develop and I am glad.  They have come out with some great apps since 1998 when Google was founded.  Stop and think about that for a minute.  A company less than 20 years old and most everyone knows of it.  Did you realize that in 2002, the American Dialect Society chose it as the most useful word of the year?  In 2006 the Oxford English Dictionary as well as the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary added it as a verb.  "Have you googled that?" is an actual, correctly structured question.  I think that is pretty significant.  But enough of my fan-boy infatuation – back to the story. 

They recently took an excellent app that most of us have used and added a feature that made it even better.  That app is Google Maps which is available in every platform.  It has apps for all of the smart phones made; Android, iPhone, Windows Phone even Blackberries have the app.  Along with the apps any platform that can access the internet can use maps.google.com and get the features too. 

The feature that has been added is called "Share Location" and has the "New" icon next to it, since it has just recently became available to the public.  Clicking on this feature will give you information; however, to set it up you must have a mobile device.  Go to this link (rd.dblclx.com/2q6A0pi) to see how to set it up on your device.  Before you start you need to check several things.  You both need a Gmail account, also they must be in your Google Contacts and of course, you must both have Google Maps installed on your device. 

Menu ItemsHow long to shareClick the Menu button in the map application then "Share Location" and click "Add People."  Now, select how long you want to share your location with them.  You get to choose from one hour, other increments and finally, "Until you turn this off."  That last one is for my family.  Once you have selected everyone you wish click, Share.

They will get a message that you want to share your location with them.  If they accept they can then choose to share their location with you if they wish.

After everyone has accepted once they log into Google Maps on their device or computer, click the menu button, Location Sharing and see a map with those that are sharing their location with you.   You can click on their name to get an update and a more localized map location on them.

Shared People with Ron

You may think that is a little creepy.  I told my friends about how my wife and I share our locations with each other and that is what they said.  But we like it.  That way she can check and see how close I am to home when coming in from work.  No calls need to be made to find out when I will be there.

Think too if you have a teenager, or the other end of the spectrum, an older grandparent.  If you want to keep up with their whereabouts this is an easy unobtrusive way to do so.  

If you are going to visit someone who may live far away you can share your location with them during your trip by using the "Share trip progress" feature. 

Creepy or not I think it is a great new feature from Google.

March 21, 2017

Secret Surfing, Part 2

Last week we looked at private browser settings.  If you have any setup questions, go back to last week on DoubleClicks.info and check it out.

Internet Explorer InPrivate Mode

This week a few more good things you can do with the Private Mode on your browser.

If you have ever needed to browse to the same site but different accounts, you can do it with the private mode.  For instance, say you want to look in two different bank accounts at the same bank. You cannot do this in the regular browser.  You could open another browser and do this; however, open a private window in the same browser and you can check in to the other account at the same time.  Or different email accounts, two Netflix accounts, Amazon and on it goes.  Open the account in a regular browser’s tab then open a private window and open the other.  Easy and works since it is totally separated from your system.  When you log off it and close the browser it goes away with no trace of your access.

The same thing will work for some of us on work sites.  If you have a regular account and an Admin account, you can visit both the same way.  It is a very convenient solution.

Now here is a biggie you may have experienced and not realized what was happening.  This seems to happen especially when you go shopping for vacation travel and plane tickets.  You look them up and do not buy them. Then later you come back to purchase and the price is up…I have shopped for web site addresses and found the same thing. Always shop in a private window and go back to find the prices are the same or better.  They are not keeping your browser’s cookies so they do not know that you have been there before.  Now not all sites do this but some do.  I do not like to shop in regular mode on my browser.  Reputable sites like Amazon and other well know sites do not do this.  Just be cautious.

Another thing that cookies perform in your browser in the normal mode is track you online. This is not quite as nefarious as it sounds; however, most sites do know where you were before you came to their site and what you looked at.  Just like the vacation prices, it could be that some site you looked at “Thingamajig 123” at the xyz.com store and saw it for $29.00 so they could (though not likely) reduce theirs to $27.50 and then up your shipping by $5 to cover it.  Again, I imagine that is rare but it has been done. There is no way for you to know or prove it.  However, in private mode no one knows where you came from before you got to them.

Also, think of logging into your bank from a computer that is not yours.  In normal mode your username and password could be easily recorded.  Then someone else “could” access your account.  In Incognito mode (Google Chrome’s name) they could not do this since nothing is left behind.

Note that you are not totally invisible in a private mode.  The internet service provider can make available all of your computer’s activities if it was required of them.  Private Mode only keeps your history off of your local computer and does not allow cookies for tracking.

Chrome Incognito logo

March 20, 2017

2017-03-20 Show Notes @ WSVA

Welcome back for another month of the WSVA radio talk show!  I hope you enjoyed it if you were able to listen this morning at 9:00 am ET.  If not you can listen to the show here.

These are a couple of the major things we mentioned today.

Have at ‘em.

Tech News

March 20, 2016

5 Technologies That are Making Farms Smarter and More Efficient Than Ever Before

  • Wi-Fi-connected crops
    A modern farm typically has electronic sensors distributed throughout the field that can monitor for different conditions; in some cases the gadgets send data to an on-the-farm server or to the cloud
  • “Liveware” gene editing
    Gene/DNA edits can make some plants more resilient to climate change, consume less water and increase yields, etc.
  • Robot farmers
    The rapid pace of development in self-driving cars is also happening on the farm. Self-driving tractors and robots are becoming more common as a way to control payroll costs by automating time-consuming tasks done by humans. This doesn’t include even more harvesting which has been done mechanically for years.
  • Eyes in the sky
    Mapping technology (along with other uses) is a vital part of data-driven agriculture, and getting those maps is easier and more cost-effective than ever before thanks to the explosive growth in drone technology.
  • Wavelength management
    Urban and vertical indoor farming is becoming more popular, giving growers of specialty crops ways to produce year-round regardless of outdoor weather conditions. But one challenge has been helped by now being able to provide the ideal wavelengths of sunlight that optimize growth in cramped indoor spaces.

Surprising Number Of Americans Would Chop Off A Finger To Stay Online Ouch

Americans love the Internet. Some love it so much that they’d rather chop off a finger than stay offline forever, according to a new survey.

In March, 2016, researchers at AT&T asked over 2,000 Americans what they’d give up to stay connected, and people admitted that they’d part with some pretty essential things. Their answers, which are meant to be more fun than scientific, illustrate the extent to which the Internet has become a nearly indispensable feature of modern life.

A full third of respondents said they would sacrifice a digit. Another third said they’d ditch their sense of taste. More than 15 percent of the people surveyed said they’d forgo human interaction before ditching the Internet, and nearly 20 percent said they’d give up love.

Over half said they would allow a stranger to die if it meant holding onto their Internet connection. And a measly 35 percent said they would give up the Internet if doing so would allow them to cure cancer.


EU authorities demand changes from Facebook, Google, Twitter

Social media companies Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc and Twitter Inc will have to amend their terms of service for European users within a month or face the risk of fines, a European Commission official said on Friday.

Germany, the most populous EU state, said this week it planned a new law calling for social networks such as Facebook to remove slanderous or threatening online postings quickly or face fines of up to 50 million euros ($53 million).


That is all for today see you next month at 9:00 am on WSVA, April 17!

Ron

February 21, 2017

Had Enough of Facebook? Part 2

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:31 am

Last week I let you know how to download a backup copy of most everything you have posted to Facebook.  This was in preparation for permanently removing you FB account.  Of course, you could do it for fun to see what they have on you.

Bear in mind that even though you will remove all of your photos, posts, etc. they may still be out there somewhere, where you have no knowledge of their existence.  Also, remember that in the fine print when you signed up for FB, they have your permission to use anything you post to their system anywhere they choose.  Your “stuff” may reappear somewhere else – maybe as an advertisement.  Your deleted information may not be found in the public domain by searching; however, it is still there.

So, after your backup copy is done and saved to your computer, here is how to entirely delete your Facebook account.  By-the-way deleting Facebook is a popular search on Google, take a look below at the sixth choice, where I started typing, “delete.

dele search - enlarged

First you should go to the settings area by clicking the lock or down arrow icon in the upper right corner.  On the lower left side of the Settings menu select “Apps” and remove all of them.  Keep in mind if it is an app that requires Facebook to play you may not be able to play the game, etc. again.  If you want to get more information about the app click its name or icon and read what it does and what information they collect about you.  Some apps may not be deleted so you have to deal with those few.

Delete Apps - enlarged

Next you can clear your past searches.  Again, under Settings click “Activity logs.”  On the left menu scroll down to the first “More” you see and select it.  When the screen opens look to the upper area and next to “Search” you will see “Clear searches.” Click and your past searches will be deleted.  Now the bad part of this is if you wish to delete all of the other things there you will have to delete them individually.  You would have to go to each photo, video, comment, etc. and delete each one.  This is not worth it to me and you have covered many of the bases up to this point.  I have heard some browsers have add-ins that will do this for you, but I have not tried them so Google for them if you wish.

In the past, you could delete your entire Activity Log but at this writing I could not find a way to do this.  Facebook changes this quite often so it may reappear in the future or it could be buried deeply somewhere I could not locate.

Finally, you need to go to this URL, “www.facebook.com/help/delete_account” and click the “Delete my account” button.  (That link is not found on Facebook as a link so you must type it in.) But first you may want to read “Learn more about account deletion.”  After an alert or two, respond appropriately and it will be gone.  You will get a verification email to your registered account letting you know what you did.

Delete May Account- enlarged

However, they say do not login to Facebook again for a minimum of 14 days.  I would wait longer.  If you do login before that time has passed it will be fully restored.  Aren’t they nice thinking you made a mistake after all of this hassle?

Now go read a book or a newspaper and maybe even talk to your friends and relatives who are really your friends.

February 14, 2017

Had Enough of Facebook? Part 1

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:51 am

Particularly with today’s political climate some people are getting tired of all the rhetoric on Facebook.  Some laugh and ignore it others get off of Facebook temporarily while still others deactivate their accounts, get off of the app and never come back…or so they plan.

There are several ways to get off of FB.  Yes, the easy way is to stop using it for a while.  I have a relative or two who have done this.  They just stop using it for a while and wait for the insanity to pass.  That way you have the ability to log back into the system and see pictures of old friends and hear what people had for breakfast; whatever.

Another way is to deactivate your account.  To do this, open log into your Facebook account.  In the upper right corner click the down arrow in and choose “Settings.”  On the left of this screen select “Security” then at the bottom of that screen click on “Deactivate Your Account.”  Now choose it once again.

image                    image

Facebook now tells you that your photos will vanish in most areas of Facebook and that people will see some of your posts if others have shared them, etc.  They also try to make you sad by showing some of your friends on FB who will miss you.

Next, you will need to answer a few questions, like your reason for leaving.  By-the-way, if you want to deactivate for a period of time you can choose that here also.  Your account will then become active again at the time you choose.  Then there is a little more information and warnings.  For instance, do you wish to opt out of receiving invites, notices of being tagged in photos, etcetera?  You will also need to decide if you want to also shutdown Messenger.  You can still use it if you like the app, which in my opinion is the best part of FB.  Then you hit the last Deactivate button and finish it off.

If you choose to deactivate your Facebook account, you can start it back up again later.  As long as you keep your email address or phone number you used for the account when you deactivated, you can start back right where you left off.

If you really want to shut down and delete your Facebook forever, proceed.  Get ready as this is made harder to do than deactivating.  If you want to keep copies of your posts, photos, videos, messages, and chats you have posted to FB download them first.  Go to the settings again and at the bottom of the General tab click “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”  All of the data will be in your downloads as a zipped file once it completes.

image

We are going to stop here this week. Next week we will cover a few more actions required to permanently eradicate your Facebook account.

November 15, 2016

Take a Chill Pill Folks

I have decided to not mention you know…that which has been going on in our country lately that shall not be named.  To relieve some of the stress out there I have decided to give you a few fun sites to visit on the web that may put a smile on your face.

Visit the AkinatorFirst off is one of my favorites, “Akinator” found at en.akinator.com.  To use the site, think of a character, alive, dead, fictional historical, etc.  The only requirement is that they are known to the general public.  Fill in your age, why I have no idea, think about your character and start answering questions.  Today I tried Abraham Lincoln and Peter Pan.  Akinator got them both in (a guess here) less than 15 answers. Give it a try and do not worry.  Although it may seem like it, it is not magic or mindreading but a really well done algorithm   and database combination.  Just the miracle of computing quickly.

Next is one that may be useful for some of you but I think funny, MyFridgeFood.com.  Go to the site and check off the items you have in your refrigerator.  Now click the, “Find Recipes” button and you have a list of dinners to make.  To be honest I tried it and occasionally it will add a general item I did not list, but still interesting.

How about Rock-Paper-Scissors-Game.com.  The name says it all, click the one you want and keep a running total.

How about a handy app that will clean the inside of your computer’s monitor?  Try sanger.dk.

Do you like to shop on Amazon.com and sometimes run out of ideas for gifts?  Go to WeirdOrConfusing.com.  Every click of the. “Please” button will take you to Amazon to show you something – you guessed it, weird or confusing.  How about trying to bounce a few cats at cat-bounce.com.

SNAGHTML1c00a3ef

Try PointerPointer.com and no matter where you hold your mouse pointer someone will find it and point at it.  Now that everyone is pointing your way show them some art. Go to ThisIsSand.com and make some sand art.  It will give you a few easy instructions when you enter the site, make sure to read them on your first visit.  Now create!

image

Would you like to watch a movie by a cozy fire but you do not have a fireplace, try TheInternetFireplace.com.  How about seeing if you can tell where a picture was taken?  Go to GeoGuessr.com and with Google Maps try the single player mode.  The closest I got was about 700 miles.

There are always funny cat videos on YouTube.com, but I am sure many of you have already seen them all.

Finally, and only try hmpg.net last.  Warning only use this site if you are absolutely finished.  Now I bet for a little while you have forgotten all of that stress.

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