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Cookies, New Systems, Chromebooks, and Vacations

Clearing browser history and data manually or automatically can help reduce tracking cookies. Of course, each browser has its own method and to save space, I suggest that you Google or search the internet for “clear browser history” and the name of your browser (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Edge, Chrome – or another browser you use).

I like to use the metaphor of getting used to a new car whenever someone says they cannot get used to an updated program or operating system. When you really want to use a new tool, you might complain but you still learn how to use it, as you know it will help you accomplish a given task more quickly or better.


Microsoft has improved app-specific battery usage in Windows 10. Go to Settings > System > Battery > Battery Usage by App, where you can find how much battery specific apps are using. This also is where, per app, you can (counter-intuitively) uncheck the box that lets Windows decide when the app can still run in the background.


Chromebooks are wonderful and often inexpensive laptops, but two common software packages don’t run on them. But now one of them, Office, is finally available for an increasing number of Chromebooks on the Google Play Store. Just beware, if your screen size is larger than 10.1 inches, you will need an active Office 365 subscription.


Vacations often lead to overflowing inboxes when you get back – that is, if you are actually doing what you are supposed to do on a vacation and not working. However, you might be able to manage it better by first telling people via an email autoresponder that you will be back a few days later than you really plan on. Do not start new projects a few days before you leave. If you can swing it, at least check in a few minutes every other day to weed out spam and forward emails to those who can handle your tasks while you are gone. And if you can set filters for certain very important people, learn how to implement that to avoid missing things that should not be missed.

Upgrade Now, Go Gray, Blast Off & More

Microsoft is ending their last way to get a free Windows 10 upgrade, the one where you could claim you needed their “assistive technologies” built into Windows. This free upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 ends December 31. If you’ve been holding off but wish to upgrade, do it this month.

There is a cute brain hack that might make it easier to take time away from your smart phone. Go gray, turn off color. Both Android and iOS have features, usually in accessibility, to turn the screen to grayscale and it is amazing how that alone can dampen interest in always looking at the screen.

Google Maps has moved into outer space. There are five planets and nine moons you can explore without suffering the heavy Gs of a space launch. Simply go to Google Maps on a computer (not on a phone), make sure you are in satellite mode, zoom out until you see the planet Earth and a list of the planets and moons listed on the side.

A thousand (and maybe one) fonts can be sorted and previewed, with some interesting results, at The Anatomy of a Thousand Typefaces (getflourish.github.io/anatomy-of-typefaces). It could be more productive than staying on Facebook.

It might be time to discover different music or to find out what people are listening to outside the U.S. Both Spotify and SoundCloud offer ways to find the top 50 songs in different countries, as do other services like indie artist favorite bandcamp.com. And even services like Tunein.com and Shazam.com have ways to find and filter music popular in other countries.

If you’re using a Mac and a PC and miss being able to copy and paste between the two, you can now make that happen. With a Google account and a login and app downloaded from 1clipboard.io, you can have your clipboard and history of previous clips shared and used between all your computers. Of course, some might ask why you use so many different computers, but that’s a different column.

When using Google Docs and your fingers are getting tired, turn to its built-in Voice Typing. You must have the latest version of the Chrome browser on Mac or Windows and, of course, a microphone (something all laptops have built-in, as do all-in-one computers). Open a Google doc, click on the Tools menu and then click on Voice Typing. Activate the microphone icon, and be aware of ambient noise. You can turn off the mic icon when you don’t want your voice transcribed. Somewhat similar features are available in the smartphone versions of Chrome.

Encrypting your hard drive is a great security trick and may even be “required” in some industries. But don’t forget to encrypt those backup drives and USB sticks also.

Top Computer Tips for November

If you still use Windows Vista or XP and have been relying on Firefox as your up-to-date web browser, Mozilla has announced that Firefox will no longer be supported and fixed, as Microsoft stopped supporting Vista this past April.

Small Scanner

Using your smartphone as a scanner is rather easy now with free apps available from Microsoft, Evernote, Adobe, and others. If you are tied in with Microsoft Office, find Office Lens in your phone’s app store and learn how you can scan business cards, receipts, and even whiteboards, and save them to your OneDrive so you can access them on your other devices. Evernote has Scannable for iOS, while Adobe has Adobe Scan. Other products that people like include Genius Scan and Scanbot. And look at Scanner Pro if you need to scan text in other languages.

Separate Worlds

If you would like to keep your online personas separate in Firefox when you have multiple accounts on a particular website, such as different Amazon accounts, download Firefox’s add-on called “Firefox Multi-Account Containers.” Translated into English, this means you can have a container for “play,” for example, whose cookies won’t be available to your “work” container. This way you don’t have to rely on using a handful of different web browsers to keep your play separate from your work.

Don’t Play

Chrome, Google’s web browser, will finally start preventing sites from auto-starting videos. Google engineers promise this as a feature by the beginning of 2018. In the meantime, see if a quick tap on the space bar halts the video.

Chrome: Speed and Secrecy

Tab-heavy Chrome users sometimes find that, if one of their tabs stops responding, it slows down the whole browser. If you can click on those three vertical dots in the upper right corner of the browser, then highlight More Tools, then highlight and click on Task Manager, you will see a list of your open tabs, extensions, etc. Click on the offending site’s tab, then click on the End Process button in the lower right of this window. This lets you avoid force-quitting all of Chrome.

Private or incognito mode can be a helpful way to, among other things, check for website price differences based on your browsing. You can start a private or incognito window using the File menu or the three bars or three dots icon in the upper right of your browser. Just remember, private browsing does not hide your web traffic from your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Windows, Google, Siri and More

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update now has a release date of October 17. And why would you care? If you have one of a few supported virtual reality headsets, then you will find support with its Mixed Reality platform. Honestly, there is not much new for most of us. I see changes in some Settings panes and better OneDrive integration if you use Office 365; otherwise, it is just a big download in the background.

Google Drive app is going away to be replaced by Backup and Sync. Like many things Google, you get used to one thing and they change it. Backup and Sync adds more to Google Drive, most importantly better control of backing up files and folders from any place on your computer, including photos, into the Google “cloud.” March 12, 2018 marks the closing of Google Drive, and starting this October you will likely see prompts to “upgrade.” There are more specifics at google.com/drive

You may already know how Siri can help with reading and writing on your iPhone but if you turn on some (or all) of the Accessibility features you can control even more of your iPhone with just your voice. Explore under Settings, General, Accessibility, Speech. And while you are in Accessibility, look at other options in case you find other ones that might also help you.

Recovering data from corrupted memory card or USB drives includes first trying them on other ports and card readers on your computer, then on other computers. If that fails, you may want to try software
like EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Free, with the free version limited to 2 GB of recovered content, (https://www.easeus.com/datarecoverywizard/free-data-
recovery-software.htm) with both Mac and PC versions available); Recuva (https://www.piriform.com/recuva) from Piriform (makers of CCleaner); or TestDisk/PhotoRec from http://www.cgsecurity.org/

Preventing PCs (and Macs also) from sleeping can be useful when you are trying to finish tasks running while you are away from the computer and plugged into AC power. In Windows 10, open the Start menu and go to the Settings, the gear icon, then click on System. Click on Power and Sleep in the left-hand column, scroll down to the Sleep, and click on the dropdown menu under “When plugged in, PC goes to sleep after,” and click it to Never. There is no extra Save button to click now. And remember to change this back to restore the Sleep function. On a Mac, get into System Preferences, then find and click on Energy Saver. Click on the Power Adapter and slide the Computer sleep slider all the way to the right, to Never. When you close this preference pane, the changes are saved.

Edge, Word, Gmail and iPhone News

Resetting web browsers is often a great way to fix issues with your web browsing, resetting takes things back to original conditions. Soon Edge users in Windows 10 will be able to reset that web browser without much difficulty. If you have the recent “Fall Creators” update, one of the most recent big updates to Windows 10, reset Edge: First quit Edge, then open Settings, Apps and Features; find Microsoft Edge, select it, then Advanced Options, then Reset. Note that resetting Edge does get rid of cookies, history and saved passwords. At least your Favorites won’t be cleared out.

Related to resetting Edge is just clearing out history and cookies without going through the whole reset process. In Edge, click on the Settings menu, the three horizontal dots in the upper right corner just a bit below the X to close Edge. At the bottom of this menu, click Settings, then find and click on Clear Browsing Data. Check what you wanted cleared and click the Clear button. You don’t yet get to say how far back in time things will be cleared — it just clears all.

The word out on Edge, Microsoft’s replacement for Internet Explorer, is that it finally might be decent and not too limited. It might be time to mix it in for those only using Chrome and/or Firefox.

Soon the latest version of Word, as part of coming updates to Office 365, will be able to read your documents out loud. I know you might say that you can already do this with other accessibility features built into Windows 10 and Apple’s OS X, but this won’t force you to turn those on, if all you want is for Word to read to you. This feature will be under the Review tab, in an update coming sometime in late fall.

Gmail can store a lot of email, but if you get many large attachments, those can eat up quite a bit of the free 15 GB you get for email and Google Drive. Google can search your emails not just for topics and senders but also for size of email. When you are logged into gmail.com, click in the search box, on the right side of that search box there is a drop down triangle you want to click on. That reveals many search options, including the ability to search for emails with attachment or emails larger than a particular size. Once you find those emails you can delete them, maybe after you have downloaded the needed attachments.

iPhone users may be excited to learn that iOS 11, due out this fall, will have a one-hand keyboard, potentially useful with the larger iPhones when you have smaller hands.

Resist, Reroute, Renew, Restrict

Devious Tactics

As you are cleaning up email, trying to cut down the amount of spam you get, you may decide to unsubscribe from mailing lists. Unless you really trust that company, the unsubscribe link at the bottom of junk email may do nothing more than confirm you actually read email, thus raising the value of your email address to be spammed.

Go With the Flow

Sometimes a flowchart is the best, perhaps even the only way, to visualize how to work through complicated tasks and decisions.

However, you don’t need flowchart software very often so take advantage of free software. Dia at http://dia-installer.de/ is one of the granddaddies here, often compared to Microsoft’s Visio. Another one to consider is ThinkComposer at http://thinkcomposer.com/ which can handle more complex charting needs than just visualizing flows.

Try a Change of Scene

Changing out the wallpaper on your desktop can make your day more beautiful. But manually doing it is such a hassle, so make use of some of the wallpaper managers like Splashy https://splashy.art/, Wallcat https://beta.wall.cat/, or Irvue http://irvue.tumblr.com/. Sometimes, the little daily changes make it all feel new again.

Encrypt a Little

Many of us use USB flash drives to copy or back up our data, but we need to be careful, as it’s very easy to lose these small, portable drives. So, encrypt those drives by using a whole drive tool like VeraCrypt https://portableapps.com/apps/security/veracrypt-portable or Rohos Mini Drive http://www.rohos.com/products/rohos-mini-drive/ if you need something that does not require Windows administrator rights to run.