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.

Cap Windows 10 data use, use two-factor authentication, consolidate task lists

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.

Google going off XP, find your serial number, Firefox for iOS

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.

Edge the safest browser?, smartphone myths, royalty-free photos, online file conversion, what Facebook see you as

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.”

Windows 10 undo, Microsoft Edge the new IE, Malwarebytes for Mac, data redundancy over date backup

If you thought Windows 10 was going to be a great thing but just don’t get it or like it, you can undo it! To avoid reinstalling Windows 8.1 or 7, you just have to undo it within 30 days of the upgrade. Here’s how: click on the Start icon, click Settings, click Update & Security, click on Recovery in the left column. Then click on Go back to Windows 8.1 (or 7 if that is what you had), fill in the reason you are going back, make sure your computer is plugged in if it is a laptop, click another next button and wait. When your computer restarts, you should be back where you were, minus any software you installed in Windows 10. There is the slight possibility you might have to reinstall or reactivate some programs.

Here are some tips for using Windows 10: if you can not get used to Microsoft’s new web browser, called Edge, you can always install Firefox, www.firefox.com, or Chrome, www.chrome.com (click on the download link at the top of this page) and then you can ease into playing with Microsoft Edge, rather than being frustrated with something new that does not work the same as Internet Explorer. And, you can still get that Windows 7 feel by installing Classic Shell from <www.classicshell.net>.

If you are worried about malware on your Mac, Malwarebytes has software for you at <https://www.malwarebytes.org/antimalware/mac/>. Currently this is a free application, but you have to run it manually each time you want to scan your computer. Expect a paid version at some point, for it to be always on and running in the background.

Microsoft has a new update delivery method; it will now use other computers on your network and the Internet to deliver parts of updates to your computer, to spread the load around the Internet. If you have a limited data connection, like a cellular hotspot, then you will want to turn this off. Click on Start, then Settings, Update & Security, Windows Update, and then Advanced options. Select Choose how updates are delivered, and then slide the toggle to turn Delivery Optimization off. When turned off, you’ll still get updates and apps from Windows Update and from the Windows Store. If you’d just like to stop downloading updates and apps from PCs on the Internet, select the option for PCs on my local network.

Data backup and redundancy sound similar in how they protect you but a backup is no good if it is the only copy of your data and it sits on a hard drive right next to your laptop, all scooped up by that enterprising thief. Redundancy means that you would have had another copy in another location; either using a cloud-based backup service or physically taking backup drives off-site. You should avoid having any single point of failure. Similarly, if your Internet connection must always be there, then you should think of having an alternative, maybe setting up your cell phone as a hotspot.

Browser settings backup, USB eject, email fields

Backing up your web browser settings can save time and help you recover from browser infections. If you have spent a lot of time tricking out your browser with custom start pages, particular extensions, extensive bookmarks and carefully configured privacy and forms settings, then you can use your browser’s ability to sync its settings as a way to back up and then recover all, in case you have some malware infection that blows up your browser. This works both in Windows and OS X. In Chrome, you have to sign in to your Google account (you will have to make one if you don’t have one already), and in Firefox you have to similarly sign into a Firefox account. If you use Internet Explorer and are using Windows 8 or 8.1, you can sync all sorts of settings if you use the same Microsoft account to log in. For all of these, there is the usual tradeoff between your sense of privacy and your need for convenience. Remember: keep that sync password someplace safe! And, if someone wants to use your browser to quick check something, have them use one you don’t use; that is another good reason to have multiple web browsers.

Should you always eject a USB drive, or just pull it out? The short answer is: eject. Computers don’t always expect data sources to suddenly disappear, yet that it commonly possible with a flash drive, with it being pulled out when you are in a rush. Although Windows tries to make sure that changes are written back to the drive as soon as possible, it takes only a few more seconds to safely “eject” any USB drive, whether it is on a Mac or PC. It will only take one time of corrupting your data by pulling out the USB too soon for you to realize why safely ejecting is much wiser.

Some email mistakes can lead to more, not less, spam. Often spam has a very “helpful” unsubscribe link at the bottom of a message, clicking it just will confirm that your email address is actually read by a human. Replying does a similar thing, but also “tells” your email program to trust more that email address. Get your friends to not put your email address in the CC field where all the other recipients will see your address, but rather use and teach others to use the BCC (blind carbon copy) field for those “important” mass mailings. And, when you sign up at any site for email alerts, pay attention to what they might do in “renting” out your email address and see if there is any opt out box to avoid having your information shared with other “like-minded” organizations or company affiliates.

Remember listening to radio while you worked but not liking all the ads and fillers? Recast.fm lets you listen to your favorite online radio station, but strips out ads and such, to leave just music. You do have to have a spotify or rdio account, maybe a small price to pay for ad-free listening.

Bitdefender has a free web browser add-on or plug-in to help prevent malicious websites from installing malware or trying to phish site login credentials. See Traffic Light at <http://www.bitdefender.com/solutions/trafficlight.html>.