Sunday, December 18, 2011

Automatic Updates - Things I ... Dislike

Ever wonder why your PC or laptop takes longer & longer to boot, seems a bit sluggish?  You may have a bunch of applications starting up automatically.  Worse, most remain active.  I have chosen Java as my application for this complaint.

Java's default setting, upon install is to automatically check for updates. 
So, after I installed Java the last time, I unchecked this option.  However, Java did not remove the app in the System Configuration's Startup list:
So, I had to reset that option, as well.

Now I have installed the latest update, the settings have returned.  And Java is one of those PESKY program installations that offer a toolbar for Internet Explorer.  Once upon a time, toolbars had some functionality that was useful and downright desirable.  Not anymore.

The only program I permit to update automatically is Norton.  Actually, Norton no longer puts items in the Startup list.  For real-time anti-malware protection, I strongly recommend permitting automatic updates.

I've disabled Windows Updates as well.  I do not need it to run every time I boot my computer.  I don't recommend this to others - as annoying as they are, they are worth installing.

Now, I know everyone screams when they see the Adobe Flash update notice when it appears.  But at least Adobe runs the install, cleans up after itself, doesn't change any user-defined settings, and does not try to upgrade you to a paid version or sneak a toolbar or home page change in with the installation process. 

And they've set it up to only run when booting your system.  You won't be interrupted while streaming a movie or writing in a document where you might accidentally trigger an action from an unexpected pop-up.  That's one thing I like about Flash;  and that's all I have to say about that.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Ads are Gone from Facebook and Gmail

I hear Jimmy Fallon saying, "Thank you, AdBlock Plus, for removing those annoying, unnerving ads that read my emails before I do."  So have you ever noticed the advertising in Gmail or Facebook that "know" the keywords in the message?

Firefox was the first browser that had an extension (think, "App") that would prevent virtually all advertising as you surf the Web.  Chrome has had it since 2010 and similar AdBlock add-ons for Internet Explorer & Safari are available. 

I highly recommend adding AdBlock Plus to your browser.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chromebooks are Available, Prices are Dropping

The Google Chromebook has been available to consumers since late spring this year.  While the initial feedback was mixed, the improvements have been flowing steadily.  On Nov. 21st, the prices on Acer and Samsung offerings were cut.  

Sounds like early adopters will be party to the growing pains - but it appears that Google and its partners are not just idly standing by this novel Web appliance. 

And I mean "appliance," as the Chromebook looks and operates alot like what I've long imagined a laptop as a toaster.  No, not to make toast, but to grab it and it starts working in the time it takes your toaster to start heating up. 
Now, let me add that the Chromebook is a laptop-like device with a keyboard, two USB 2.0 ports, a slot for SD flash memory cards and a 16 GB SSD hard drive installed.  The operating system is Google's ChromeOS, which gets updates automatically.  All sorts of Web apps are available online, like Netflix & Facebook.  The Chromebook will connect to the Internet via WiFi for free or the optional 3G upgrade (along with a contract with a 3G wireless provider like Verizon).

No antivirus software required.  Now do I have your attention?

The Chromebook boots fully in under ten seconds, and wakes up from sleep mode in under two seconds.  Do I still have your attention?  Oh, I had you at "no antivirus software required." 

Just to be sure, check Samsung's realtime video clip for evidence here (at 0:22 & 0:39, respectively - Samsung's clip found on

Need just a keyboard and the Web?  Here's what the world is saying about the Web-only laptop called the Chromebook.  Click on each image to go to the article or review.

1st, from Jason Gilbert at the Huffington Post online:

Dana Wollman at Engaget seems to like it:

For ZDNet, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols blogs about some key areas for improvement:

Joe Wilcox used a Chromebook exclusively for a month - August - "I shacked up with Chromebook":

Richard Lawler wrote, also for Engadget, Netflix Watch Instantly streaming now works on ChromeOS, when it's working.  His article illustrates how exciting when an anticipated feature becomes available, and how frustrating when it still needs a few tweaks.

Then Joe Wilcox announces I'm giving up Google Chromebook  where he succinctly states, "It's a bittersweet goodbye, but some journeys end so others can begin."

Safe to say that the current crop of Chromebooks are not the instant sensation & polished product that the first iPod was.  A fast enough and reliable wireless connection will make the Chromebook more pleasing to the user.

But the question remains - how much better can improve the overall Chromebook experience get by (a) upgrades to ChromeOS and (b) new and improved apps without having to replace the hardware.  You too?  Who isn't!   

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Done with Facebook? Click below....

Facebook has a waiting period after you request that your account be deleted.  But you need to request it, first.  Ready?  Click the image to shut down your Facebook profile.

Opens the Facebook "Delete Account" page

Your profile will not be visible during the waiting period.  You'll probably get a note as the time draws nigh from the wistful programmers at Facebook begging you to relent and maintain your presence in their universe. 

Have you developed any Facebook pages?  Something to think about before deleting that profile.  Confused by page/profile terminology?  Probably haven't created a page.  E-mail me at if you're not sure - before deleting your profile.

The millions of Facebook users will be sad to see you go...    :^(

Monday, November 21, 2011

Flash! No, Seriously, Flash! Time to Reboot!

Have you rebooted your PC or laptop recently?  With Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000 & even XP, it made sense to reboot the PC every day or every week if you were a light PC user.  Sometimes a crash (BSOD - Blue Screen of Death) would force a reboot.

Nowadays, with XP or Win7, a PC can easily go weeks without rebooting.  Sleep & hibernate modes allow shortcuts to powering down and starting up again.

However, some critical programs use rebooting as the method to trigger an update.  Specifically, Adobe Flash does this.  If you surf the Web much, you will likely visit pages that require Flash to be installed.

The good news is that Flash does updates right.  It lets you know that an update is needed;  the update does not try or even offer to install any extra toolbars or software;  it cleans up after itself. 

However, many users ignore the Flash update when they boot up.  Perhaps they don't want to bother or are in a hurry to do something else.  Others "shut down" their laptops or Windows 7 PCs but are actually hibernating or putting the computer in a low power sleep mode - and not actually rebooting when starting up. 

For me, Sleep is the default on my Win7 PC;  I need to press the little > button to choose Shut Down or Restart.

If you see the Adobe Flash update message, go ahead and follow the prompts.  If you never see them, reboot your PC, you might have one long overdue. 

Oh, and if your PC takes a long time to boot up, call me (443-451-5230) and I'll help you clean out the startup clutter - even remotely, I can help.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Safe Surfing Starts with Anti-Malware

It's now called "Anti-Malware," as anti-virus and anti-spyware have long since crossed their borders.

I've recommended Norton's Anti-Virus ever since Symantec, Norton's parent company, bought into the IBM Anti-Virus technologies in the mid-1990's and took it over in 1998.  In 2009, Norton Anti-Virus - which resides under Norton Internet Security and Norton 360 as well - was revamped.  It now installs quickly and easily, removes previous versions with virtually no fuss, has a minimal impact on bootup as well as program & definition updates.

For free anti-malware software, AVG Anti-Virus Free 201x gets the nod.  Note that if you're a Comcast Hi-Speed Internet (Xfinity) customer, Norton Security Suite (N360) is available for free.  Install it from your Comcast connection, though. 

Click for Neil J. Rubenking's comparison at PC Magazine:
The Best Antivirus for 2012

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Something Borrowed

I borrow the Commencement Address for Stanford University's Class of 2005 by Steve Jobs.

Enjoy the inspiration presented by TED - Technology, Entertainment, Design - a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.  This speech is also available on YouTube, with an introduction by Stanford President John Hennessy.  TED has many more good & great video presentations worth viewing.

Nothing wrong with borrowing.  Or listening.  Or sharing.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

*!Grr@$%* Disk is FULL AGAIN!

TreeSize shows you the roots of your hoarding ways.  What's on your hard drive?

Check out Jerry Smith's report in Tech Republic on TreeSize.  I found it very intuitive - especially when I saw the size increasing before my eyes.  It was reading my hard drive as I browsed some folders.  And it shows the files when a folder is selected.  EASY!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blast from the Past

For those nostalgic folk, here is another modern take on an old (old???) product - the Commodore 64:

Today's Commodore 64 with DVD;  DVI, VGA, HDMI, LAN & USB ports
Yep, I printed my resumes from an original C64 connected to a Brother typewriter.  Ok, for those of you who do not know what a typewriter is, go Google it.

Click here or on the pic to go to Commodore's site.  No, it won't do Windows; or Android.  It runs a flavor of Ubuntu.  Did I mention, "nostalgia"?


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

No Excuse to be Lonely

If there's no Meetup group in your area for your interests, start one:'s Home Page

The Internet can be a friendly place!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Free Classes - Online from HP

So you want to do more with your PC?  Consider an online, free class or two or six.  HP also wants you to get more from your laptop or PC and printer. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Beating the Censors

I'm not saying that our US Government is providing Internet & cell phone access to censored populations abroad.  I'm not saying that they should.  Or that they shouldn't.  Although freedom of speech should allow us to talk about it, debate it, politicize it, and get mad at our neighbors because we disagree about something neither of us really understand.

What I am saying is that it sounds cool that we can go to Radio Shack and cobble together a telecommunication system.  Ok, so who wants to pitch in the $2 M USD?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Macs are not Immune

Tsk-tsk, Apple.  Taking the road of many a cele-tician recently outed in scandal, Apple denies any malware attack.  Industry blogger Mike Murphy covers the story as Apple changes course midstream and offers support to defeat the MacDefender virus.

So are you a Mac or a PC?  Tell me why. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Here's the drill:
  1. An email or even a link on a website shouts some attention-getting headline  
  2. If the source is not both obvious & trustworthy, don't click on it
  3. If you are still curious - verify the content - first - before clicking! 
Whether the news is true or false, always consider the author or the provider of the information before clicking on it.  I often use if I cannot identify the author or the publisher.
A friend sent me an email about a virus behind a link to a video about Osama bin Laden being captured & hung.  Snopes says it's real risk but could be a hoax.  This particular warning was first identified in 2004.
Makes sense?  I'm trying to say, "Look before you leap."  So go to my Facebook page and "Like" me!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Office Beyond Windows - in the Clouds

Is anyone interested in a world with free Microsoft Office?
I've logged onto my account (called "Windows Live") and created my first Excel spreadsheet.  And I haven't paid a dime toward an Office license fee, nor am I breaking any license agreements or stealing or co-opting any software.
See "Office" there?  Go to - sponsored by Microsoft - and sign up for a free account.  You can use any email address for your account. 
I use
So buy that new PC or netbook - or dare I say tablet - without Office, but continue to work with Microsoft Office - online!  You can save files on local drives, if you like.  I recommend that, of course.  Feel free to use the convenience of online storage, though.  But you're responsible for your own backups!

** Update**
Windows Live has changed the Office link to SkyDrive. Hover over it, a drop-down box appears, and there's Word, Excel, PowerPoint:

Click SkyDrive, and you're in the cloud version of Office. 

Call me if you have any questions about setting up a Live profile.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Android's Opposable Thumbs

Pardon me in advance if I don't explain all the cultural references.  That's what Google is for, right?  
 Google's Android is the heart & soul of the iPhone's competition.  Android, I will explain, is the operating system behind all of the Droid-based smartphones that attempt to do or better what Apple provides with its industry-leading and iconic touch phone.  And Google has given us the Android character (available for sale, too).
I happened to watch five minutes of the Sony Ericsson Open match between Nadal and Djokovic, when I saw the Android is Ready to Play ad:  youtube Android commercial

The basic premise - having opposable thumbs provides superior facility - is clever, smug, even funny.  It's a great metaphor to imply that Android has evolved to the next level.

However, Sony's ad is darkly funny - to the point where it will probably be pulled.  The implicit theme, that someone lost their thumbs for Android's gain, is made explicit with a follow-up ad, The Donoryoutube Android commercial The Donor

It reminded me of a Nike ad for its new soccer ball (of which I cannot find a picture - yet).  Imagine, a soccer goal - post, net, green grass and white lines - punctuated with two arms firmly grasping a Nike ball, but sitting inside the goal.  Add that the arms have been dismembered from the owner, as the ball could be hit hard enough to rip the arms off the goalie.

Incredibly creative, artistically executed, devastatingly & daringly funny, and ... not really fit for public, G-rated consumption. 

Anyhow, Android may be a bigger monster with its thumbs.  Did I mention the operating system behind virtually every iPad competitor is Android?  See a threat to any other operating systems?  If only there were apps to replace Microsoft Office....

Friday, March 18, 2011

Just Say, "No Way, Jose!"

Got an email that isn't quite what it says it is.  Is Comcast really alerting me to unlock my account?  No!  A screen shot of this email appears below.  This is a phishing scam and it's also known as spoofing - it looks official, but it is truly fraudulent at least and possibly malicious as well.

The highlighted link does not go to my Comcast account.  It does not go to Comcast at all.  Here's the link (with a big red X inserted to disable it):

So - anyone care to go there, test it out?  Be prepared for a virus or some sort of malware at the least, and perhaps the need to reformat your hard drive.

The email sure looks official, including the sender's address:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Facebook - Surfing Securely

I can't help but hear Andy Rooney's voice from 60 Minutes as I begin....

Do you ever notice the address for  If it doesn't begin with "https://" then you're not getting all the protection that facebook has to offer.  If it begins as "http://" then your connection is more vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves.

This issue is much more critical when you're on a public or semi-public network, like connecting at Starbucks, or your hotel room or lobby, or even the library.  When you're at home, you only have to worry about your kids hacking your facebook surfing - and maybe your neighbors, if you have a good wireless signal.

The remedy is simple.  Login to your facebook profile, and click on the Account menu link, then scroll down to Account Settings.  You'll see something like this:

So click on change for Account Security, then click the check box under Secure Browsing (https), so the green check mark appears, and then click the Save button.

Pretty easy, huh?  Be careful, though;  you start telling people that you know how to do this and they'll anoint you as the computer expert!

The fine print: 
Note that facebook changes its interface occasionally, so if you're reading this in the year 2013, the settings and options might be different.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Never Thought Apple Would Win on Lower Price!

I never, ever thought I'd say this.  Apple is cheaper than the competition.  But I'm saying it now, at least in the iPad/Slate/tablet arena.

I've been a PC guy from Day 1.  Even though my first PC experience on an Apple II was successful, and one of my old neighborhood buddies owned one of the first Macs (what's that worth now, Steve?), I became a PC because that's what was at work.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Curious about the Future of PCs?

What's coming? Faster. More wireless. For the Future as of today, scroll down toward the bottom of this post.

The Future, as of 1992
Back in the early 90's, I quietly spoke of an email service that would mimic standard mail service - pay as you send (PAYS). Would it reduce or eliminate spam? Well, maybe the phishing scams. But if you look at the world of junk mail, you'll see it is an industry unto itself. I didn't call that one right - people would rather have free email. And junk mail will arrive, free or at a cost.
Now, This Year - What We Saw
At CES 2011 - that's the Consumer Electronics Show monstrosity in Las Vegas every January, which showcases new technology that's mostly cutting edge - Motorola showed off a cell phone that would connect to a laptop shell.

Here's the Atrix, with it's optional LapDock;  so you'd carry your cell phone and then plug it into this laptop-like docking station with keyboard and large screen. No more PC. Or, your phone is your PC.

Let the bleeding edge go out and buy it now. You can find it at Best Buy - I saw it online today for $199.99 with a 2-year contract with AT&T. The Laptop Dock is also at BB for $399.99.
I wonder if Windows Live SkyDrive and Microsoft Office Web Apps will work seamlessly on these Android based phones. Well, I'm not a beta tester, nor will I go out and buy one just to see if it works. There may be some compatibility issues and that's my caveat emptor.
The Future of the PC
How many of you want to get rid of the cables? The good folks that write the standards for our handy computer technology have been working toward a new, fast, wireless standard. No cables for:
  • keyboard
  • mouse
  • monitor!!
  • backup hard drive
  • speakers
Coming Soon - Like, Next Week
Apple & Intel have introduced Thunderbold, a new port that is 10Gbps fast - twice as fast as Wireless USB - but it has cables.
Now, USB 3.0 has been around for a year, but PCs and devices are only now showing up in in retail outlets. SATA2, SATA3? It should be around for some years to come, but don't expect ESATA to make a big dent, just like FireWire never delivered in volume. My money is on USB. For now.
So - faster & wireless? Or, even faster yet, but with cables? That is the ques...; no, that is the future.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How Important is Email?

Do you need to save emails?

Are you stymied or just plain frustrated by spam?

Do you want - are you willing to pay for - email protection from spam and malware?

Do you demand 100% absolute certainty that your emails - sent and received - are safe, secure, delivered & received?

For my humble opinions on email, read on....

If you answered "Yes!" to the first three, I can help. If you answered, "But, of course YES!!!" to the last one, well, sorry. No one can guarantee that.

The good news is that most email programs and webmail offer some form of spam blocking and gives protection through anti-virus software. Let's look at the two types of email.

Web-based Email
My personal email is a Gmail address free from the good folks at Google. They do a fantastic job of filtering out spam and storing it in a spam folder for me. I have seen only one spam mail in the past four months. And that's genuine spam, not something that I got because I bought something somewhere or registered on a website.

Just the other day, I noticed Gmail decided that one of my subscriptions was spam and began filing these in the Spam folder. I noticed the lack of these emails, went looking for them in the Spam folder and found them there. I was able to identify them as "Not spam" and now they show up again in my Inbox. I really should look at 'em once in a while, though - no wonder Gmail thought they were spam!

I also hold a Yahoo email account, their basic free email. It is similar to Gmail with similar spam blocking protection.

Email Clients
I also use Thunderbird, which is similar to Outlook and Outlook Express. Email clients that save emails on the local hard drive. Emails that you've already downloaded can be viewed even after disconnecting from the Internet. Since my emails from Thunderbird are saved on my hard drive, I can back 'em up. And I save all of my HFTPC emails. All of 'em, incoming and outgoing. And, yes, I do back my email folders up.

Another Option
Tom Merritt and his guests at Tech News Today, as well as Leo Laporte at This Week in Tech promote MailRoute.Info for spam and virus filtering.The key benefit of MailRoute, as I see it, is a virtually invisible layer of protection and spam filtering for any email account.

No protection you choose, however, can or will stop you from clicking on a link to a scam, or going to a bad website, uploading a virus from a flash drive, or opening an attachment that turns out to be a Trojan. There is no substitute for common sense and a healthy amount of skepticism when facing unknown entities.

If you're not sure, ask around. Feel free to email me with your questions.

The only 100% certainty, however, is that there are no 100% guarantees! Have you backed up your important files today?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Comcast Adopts Norton, Drops MacAfee

If you're a Comcast Internet customer, you can now download the Norton Security Suite - free of charge.

All of Norton's anti-malware offerings include Norton AntiVirus, the heart of Internet security. In 2009, Symantec completely rebuilt the Norton AntiVirus program lineup. They now install (and uninstall) much faster, boot faster, and run faster than ever before, as well as faster than the competition.

The retail version of Comcast's Norton is called Norton 360. It has an excellent Backup utility. Have you backed up your data, your photos, your music, your financials recently?

Go to - or contact me. I can install it remotely for you and help with a handful of critical settings. Of course, I'm always happy to schedule onsite appointments for you.

If you're a Verizon customer, you can buy Norton. Note that Verizon will provide MacAfee for you, but there is a monthly charge for it. Not a very good deal, in my book.