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Avoid being phished by emails from your “bank” or “credit card company” to change your password by hovering your mouse or pointer over the big button you are being tempted with and looking at the web address that your browser or email program will show right there or in the lower left part of your web browser. Look very carefully at this web address and if, for example, Chase is trying to get you to view problems with your account and the link the mouse hover reveals some website with nothing Chase.com related, then don’t go there. Or, you could just call the bank, credit card company, business or whomever, and double check the alerts legitimacy.

Consider making your computer more distraction free by: disabling notifications in Windows and OS X; removing clutter on your desktop; blocking distracting websites like Facebook during hours you want to be productive; using distraction free modes in Word; stopping auto-play of videos in YouTube and Netflix; and using a password manager to quickly fill in forms without a lapse in security.

Protect your eyes in this digital age by: avoiding glare on or behind the screen; keeping your eyes from drying out; and exercising them by rolling them around and changing the focus every 20 minutes or so. Remember the 20/20/20 rule, every 20 minutes look away 20 feet for 20 seconds or more.

Create your own web browser start page with www.start.me where you can combine information from many different sites into one customized for you web page.

Another top ten list of passwords to avoid include: x, Zz, St@rt123, 1, P@ssw0rd, bl4ck4ndwhite, admin, alex, qwertyuiop, 1qaz2wsx.

Zero day exploits refer to software exploits found by hackers before others in the security field find and fix them, so by definition they are usually undetectable. Things you can do to help avoid them include: keeping your operating system up-to-date and do the same for all applications (don’t forget to uninstall software not currently in use and review this every few months); use the latest version of web browsers; make sure your firewall is working and test with Gibson Research Corporation’s Shields Up; and use a password manager so you can use distinct and complex passwords without fear of not remembering them.

Configure Windows 10 privacy settings while upgrading to Windows 10 and you will be ahead of the game. Using the Express Settings screen, though a few minutes quicker, turns on a lot of information sharing to Microsoft’s benefit. So, instead, click on the Customize settings choice as you are welcomed in the “Get going fast” window and you should click off all of the suggested choices, only leaving on the SmartScreen filter if you are planning on using Internet Explorer or the new Microsoft Edge web browser. These settings can always be modified later by going into Settings then clicking on Privacy.

Enable Windows 10 guest account to provide a basic account for friends to use on your computer without messing up your own space or letting them install software you don’t want. Use that one line search box just to the right of the Windows button, lower left of the screen. Click into that search box, and type the word guest and look for the search result Turn guest account on or off. Click on the Guest account name and when prompted to turn it on, click Yes. Repeat this when you want to turn back off the guest account. The guest account will be another user name available when you turn on your computer, or when you switch accounts.

Things to NOT share on social media, common sense but don’t post the dates you will be “on vacation”, don’t post insider business information or pending announcements, don’t complain about your boss or co-workers, bragging about activities that might be illegal might haunt you later, and consider if it is wise to brag about some new expensive purchase. Just remember, once it is on the web, it will never be private again.

Change your mood in Windows 10 by playing with Themes in Settings, Personalization, and click on Themes, then Theme Settings. Click Get more themes online and prepare to spend the next hour or so downloading all the different themes you want to use when changing your mood.

IFTTT (IF This Then That) at ifttt.com is something to look at when you want to speed up or automate how you use different services and websites, especially if you have to act on information from one site and put it in another. Using recipes you can trigger things to happen on one website based on what is happening on a different site. Look through their list of public recipes to see what others are doing. And, you just might realize you are now a programmer.

New printer, Google targeted ads, Windows 10 fixes

Choosing a new printer? It might be time to ask some questions. Is a true photo printer what you really need when taking a thumb drive of photos to a local photo printer or drug store is cheaper than buying special paper and all those color ink cartridges? Or, maybe you can make do with black and white using a monochrome laser printer (now often less then $100) that does not have all the extra parts for scanning that you never do. Any kind of printer you get now should have networking built-in, ideally Ethernet cable and WiFi, and support for AirPrint for printing from iPads and iPhones.

Consider opting out of Google’s targeted ads, especially if you stay logged into your Google account all the time. Google likes to target ads, but you may not want Google marketing to you based on what you watch on YouTube or which terms you search on. Go to google.com/settings/ads and you can change the slider to off for ads delivered while logged in or for other sites that use Google ads. While checking your ad settings, take a little time to poke around your other personal information settings, just be curious what you can control.

There are times with the iOS App Store just hangs and won’t show new updates. You can force it to refresh by tapping ten times any of the five buttons along the bottom of the store screen. After the screen blanks for a few panicking seconds the store should reload correctly and show updates.

Older versions of IE, Internet Explorer versions 8, 9, and 10, have been “killed” off by Microsoft as of mid-January. This means that Windows Vista users pretty much have to use Firefox or Chrome to get an up-to-date and more secure web browser, Microsoft won’t be helping you out with security fixes.

Just a few more fixes in Windows 10 you should consider doing, (that is until next month). You can stop Windows 10 from automatically restarting after updates, click the Windows button (lower left of screen), Settings, Windows Update, Advanced Options, then click on the drop down at the top to see and then click on “Notify to schedule restart”. And, if you feel that Windows 10 may be uninstalling software behind your back, you may not be crazy. There have been reports of legitimate software being removed during some Windows updates, including quite a few popular free antivirus programs. The only notice you will get is upon the next restart of your computer, Microsoft will present a list of “incompatible” or removed software. Miss that list and you will only notice it when you go looking.

Notifications on your smartphone and within OS X and Windows 10 can become annoying. So, take some time to dig into adjusting which apps or programs will actually pop up those notifications. Although each operating system handles notifications slightly differently, look for settings that pertain to specific apps and how those apps get to attract your attention when you are doing something else. You will become less annoyed, more peaceful, and the world will look sunny again.

It is important to monitor and cap data usage in Windows 10 if you use a cellular hotspot to connect to the Internet. Click the Windows logo button, then Settings, Network & Internet, Wi-Fi, Advanced Options and slide “Set as metered connection” to the On side. This way large updates and apps won’t download. Then, set Windows Updates to share updates out over your local network (important if you have multiple Windows 10 computers using that hotspot) by going to Settings, Update & Security, Windows Update, Advanced Options, Choose how updates are delivered, and set the slider to On and make sure that you are sending updates to PCs on my local network. If you have a laptop that you can take to someone else’s network and use their shared Internet connection, check for Microsoft updates by going to Settings, Update & Security, Windows Update and click on Check for updates to force Windows 10 to check and download updates right then.

Make Amazon, Gmail, and other online accounts safer with two-factor authentication. If you have a cell phone with you all the time and free incoming texts, you should turn on this extra layer of security, in effect giving you two passwords, your regular one and then a one-time or temporary password that is texted to you to enter as a second password. Once you get used to it, you drastically decrease the chance of someone breaking into your account by guessing your password. More and more sites are making two-factor authentication available, look into how to set it up with your preferred sites.

Windows 10 and its latest big November update, the one that some call Windows 10 Fall update, leaves its 24 GB installer laying around, a hefty amount of data for those with small solid state hard drives. Disk Cleanup can find and let you delete that system updater. The only down side is that after removing it, you cannot go back to the earlier version of Windows 10. Click the Windows icon, then go to All apps, scroll down to Windows Administrative Tools and click on it, then click on Disk Cleanup. Once it loads, click on Clean up system files in the lower left corner and wait for the results to show up. Then look for Previous Windows installation(s) and if there is a large GB number listed next to it, check the box and click OK, then one more button to click, Delete Files. One more warning about not being able to go back and then you have more space.

Windows 10 running on large monitors just begs you to change the font scaling to make text large enough to read. But, fonts can start getting fuzzy, so here is some advice while Microsoft figures out a true fix. It depends on a fix published by xpexplorer.com under their XPE Extras section to side step a registry fix that won’t stay there. The full web address to their tool is http://windows10_dpi_blurry_fix.xpexplorer.com/ and notice the underscores that separate those words in the URL.

A new site, tacoapp.com, is up to help you create your own custom task list as a web page to pull together all those different services and sites, like yahoo, google, evernote, salesforce, todoist, trello and more, and present them in one list that you can manage and reorganize.

Dates affecting old stuff: Google will stop offering the latest version of their Chrome web browser for Windows XP and Vista, and OS X 10.8 in April of next year, 2016, it is unclear what Firefox’s policy will be on this; and computer makers will no longer be able to sell Windows 7 computers after the end of October next year, 2016. If you want or need a Windows 7 computer, the clock is ticking.

Getting the serial number of you computer is not always easier, especially for desktops. You can find your serial number on any PC running Windows 7 through 10 by holding down the Windows key (the one with the flag on it) and type the letter “r” to get a one line box. In that box type the three-letter abbreviation “cmd” and click the OK button. In the old fashioned looking black screen that comes up, type “wmic bios get serialnumber” (without the quotes) and press the enter or return key. There you will see your computer’s serial number. When you have written it down you can close that window.

To help avoid extra junk software being installed, unchecky.com has a tool to help uncheck those boxes that are pre-checked to install other software when you are downloading desired software. It does not catch everything, so still look for pre-checked boxes before clicking through the install buttons.

Is it time to upgrade to Windows 10? Microsoft has released its first major update, fixing a variety of bugs. This might be the time to finally try it, especially if your friends already upgraded and find it fine. Or, maybe you just like free things and enjoy learning something new, remember you still have thirty days after installing the upgrade to uninstall it.

Filehippo.com, a site for finding free and trial software, has a tool to help you check for updated versions of your installed software. Their update checker <http://filehippo.com/updatechecker+> scans your computer to match your versions against their database of updates to let you know if you need updates and where to get them.

Firefox lovers can finally install it on their iPhones and iPads, check for it through Apple’s App Store.

Now that you have been using the latest iOS for a bit, (iOS 9.1 for many iPhone and iPads), look for some of these added features, like just pulling up a contact by using Search (pull down from the top of the screen or swipe right to pull up Search). You can mass delete photos by swiping or running your finger across the photos you want to delete (assuming they are all together) to select them, no longer do you have to tap each one. And, if you use Mail, don’t be surprised when appointments and dates show up in Calendar, a new feature to ease your life.

Is Microsoft Edge the safest or least useful web browser? In Windows 10, Microsoft has a new web browser, Edge, which replaces the tried and true Internet Explorer, with somewhat rewritten innards. Microsoft hopes to have a much safer web browser. However, it is so new that it does not yet support extensions, plug-ins, or add-ons of any sort. This means that plugins like Java, used by Buncombe County Register of Deeds for example, don’t work. You will just have to “resort” to installing and using Firefox or Chrome if you have needed plugins or extensions, until Microsoft finishes touching up Edge. Or, you can find Internet Explorer 11 under Start, All apps, scroll down to Windows Accessories and click, and there you will find Internet Explorer.

There are a few smartphone myths worth noting: most of the time killing all those background apps does not usually help memory (unless some of those apps have their own problems); running the lithium battery down all the way is not needed (although doing a full discharge every three months helps to recalibrate the battery); using automatic dimming of the screen won’t save energy, it uses as much power to run the sensor and calculate the time to dim (it does make your phone less obnoxious in dark rooms though); and though shutting off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth may not save very much on your battery, it does make security sense. However, all batteries degrade more quickly when hot, so keep your phones and laptops cool and out of hot cars.

There are various sites for royalty-free photos, meaning you don’t have to pay for permission to use their photos although you still have to follow their copyright attribution policies. In no particular order see what you find at: freeimages.com, splitshire.com, unsplash.com, pexels.com, jeshoots.com, stocksnap.io, skitterphoto.com, and commons.wikimedia.com.

Sometimes you have to convert a file from one format to another, zamzar.com will let you convert over 1200 formats, but does limit the size to 100 MB. If you need to pull text from something scanned as an image or PDF, you should try Google Drive and its ability to perform OCR. Use your Google Drive, click the gear icon, click “Settings”, and check the box for “Convert Uploads.”

If you are a Facebook user you might be curious how you look to advertisers. Researchers at University of Cambridge have created applymagicsauce.com to help you predict “your psycho-demographic profile based on your Facebook Likes.”