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.

Disable, Reveal, Summarize… and Turn it Off!

By now, you might have an extra computer or laptop lying around the house. Put it to use as your guests’ or grandkids’ computer so you don’t have to worry about changes made to your computer behind your back. It will lessen your stress, as will turning on the guest network feature in your Wi-Fi router, if you have that capability.

Use the Windows Task manager in Windows 10 to disable programs that start up automatically from slowing down the boot-up process. Right-click on the Task Bar along the bottom of the screen, then select Task Manager. When the Task Manager opens, you might have to click on More Details in the lower left. Then click on the tab across the top, labeled Startup. Here you can disable things that automatically load while Windows starts up. Things you disable are not uninstalled, making it easy to re-enable them if you get over-zealous. You will have to restart the computer for these changes to take effect.

Shortened URLs, like those from bit.ly, are increasingly common, especially in scam emails. But you have no way of revealing where they go without clicking on them. However, you could copy that shortened URL into the website https://unshorten.it/ and you will see a preview of the site, along with an assessment of its safety as provided by Web of Trust.

On the Mac, there is a hidden feature to summarize long blocks of text, Go into System Preferences, then Keyboard. Click on the Shortcuts tab, then click on Services in the left column window. Scroll down the right column, looking for Summarize under the section for Text. Check it and close out of System Preferences. Now, you should be able to highlight a block of text, click on the name of your application (up by the black Apple logo) and look under Services for Summarize. It may not be perfect but it is worth a try.

If you find you are running out of space for photos on your iPhone and you don’t really want to pay for iCloud storage, then consider the Google Photos app. It will upload your iPhone photos to your Google account, and Google offers free unlimited space for photos up to 16 megapixels each. Read more at https://www.google.com/photos/about/.

When nothing else turns off your computer, you can always press the power button for five seconds until all lights go off, then turn it back on. It may take a bit longer to boot up, since it’s checking files and such. If this becomes a regular occurrence, though, there is likely something else wrong and you should have it checked out.

Travel privacy, Sleeping better, Used or stolen cell phones

Protecting data while travelling can be done in a variety of ways. First, learn how to use your phone as a hotspot, rather than relying on public hotspots. Don’t use those public computers in places you don’t know. Find out what countries will search or demand from your devices and consider not bringing sensitive data with you. Make sure that you use https type connections when you connect to any websites and learn if your email program uses encrypted server connections. This means that you should also use a VPN while traveling.

Falling asleep with podcasts is one of those contradictory pieces of advice. You are told to stay away from your devices for at least half an hour before you go to bed and yet, there are podcasts that might help you fall asleep. So, try some and then figure out if on balance they help you more than they drive your partner crazy. In other words, they probably work best if you sleep alone. No particular order to this incomplete list: http://www.sleepwithmepodcast.com/ ; http://classictales.libsyn.com/; http://thedailymeditationpodcast.libsyn.com/; http://meditationminis.com/; https://www.sleepandrelaxasmr.com/; and a podcast without a website called “Deep Energy 2.0”

Make sure if buying a used cell phone to check if it is stolen. Get the device’s ESN or IMEI number from the seller so you can check it at <https://stolenphonechecker.org>, a site set up by the industry trade group CITA. And, if the seller won’t give you that device number, beware.

Is that priority really important enough to carry it forward? I thought my grandmother had a great idea, start making your to-do list at noon with all the things you had already done, so that you could cross them out. But, Tim Ferris, one of those noted business people with a wide podcast following with his “The Time Ferris Show,” has another trick for prioritizing tasks. Ask yourself, for each item on your to-do list, “if this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?” Then prioritize the yeses.

Joys of joy, talking to myself while working on a computer is supposed to be making me smarter. Ulrich Boser, in an article in the Harvard Business Review titled “Talking to Yourself (Out Loud) Can Help You Learn”, lays out why asking yourself questions, out loud, helps solidify new knowledge. Now, I will never shut up, I can just say, “I am learning all the time.”

Some wonderful advice from Apple for shooting photos and video on iPhone, geared toward iPhone 7 is at <https://www.apple.com/iphone/photography-how-to/>