Colors, Updates, Backups and Privacy

Turn Up the Color

Noises have colors? They seem to when you are trying to use noise (sounds) to cover up distracting sounds while working. After disabling social media and email alerts, if you find you are still not focusing, try other colors of noise. You know white noise (a combination of all frequencies), but there is pink and brown (emphasizing lower frequencies), blue and purple (the inverse of pink and brown) and others. Research is showing that different work or focusing situations benefit from different colors of noise. And you shouldn’t be surprised that there are YouTube videos for productivity (

Face to Facebook

You may have noticed that Facebook is expanding its facial recognition features. If you don’t want your face automatically tagged with your name (this is not anywhere near 100% accurate), you might want to turn this feature off. You will need to go into Facebook settings and find Face or Facial Recognition. For extra help, you can always Google “turn off Facebook facial recognition.”

Office Update

Office 2019, coming out this fall, is the 17th version of what most of us use for writing and calculating. Most of us will see this upgrade through Office 365 subscriptions but only if you have Windows 10. There is no announced equivalent new version for Macs. Promised are new Excel formulas and charts (no specifics, though) and animation features in PowerPoint. And if you are still running Windows 7 or 8.1, just continue enjoying Office 2016.

Google Backup

Google data backup is not something most think about. However, what if your account is hijacked or stolen and you lose all your data? You can get a full download of all your Google data straight from Log into your Google account, select which data types you want a copy of and wait until you get the email letting you know it is ready to download. Those archives will only stay around in Google land for seven days. Remember to add an alert or reminder on your phone or paper calendar.

Twitter Privacy

If you have a Twitter account, you might want to turn off many of their tracking settings, under their Privacy and Safety settings. You should look for turning off “Personalize ads” and “Track where you see Twitter …” And you should “Delete location information.” Again, for more help, search for something like “disable twitter tracking.”

Ad Blockers, Security Questions, Spam and SEO

The ad blockers are coming! Google will activate its built-in ad blocker for its Chrome web browser on February 15. This is great news if you use Chrome – yet I would pay attention to what might happen with third-party ad blockers like Ad Block Plus or ublock Origin. There may be issues.

One small but potentially useful trick for all those extra security questions you have to set up with many online services is to make up answers to questions such as “What is your mother’s maiden name?” Those services don’t check that your answer is correct for you, just that you type in the same thing. You could set up the answer to all those questions with something like “purple,” if you want.

If you are feeling a little annoyed about spam and have wondered how to “punish” those who send it, try wasting their time by replying through the services of Spamnesty. All you need to do is forward a spam email to Their service strips out your email address before their bot tries to engage the spammer in a time-wasting back-and-forth exchange. Read more at They do remind you to strip out personal information from any email you forward to them.

There are so many different places on your computer and on the Internet for you to hear security advice, but not all may apply to you. You might find it useful to look at the Security Planner put out by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab at It is comforting to see that they continue to update their advice as best practices change.

Email tracking can be made more difficult by turning off loading of tracking images and resources. Many email senders use the display of tracking images or even a one-pixel dot with a custom file name to determine if you have looked at an email. Most email programs let you turn off that display of tracking images, which are images loaded off the web. My credit card company keeps telling me that they need me to update my email address even though their emails are getting to me. That’s because they don’t “see” me reading their emails as I don’t allow the “loading” of tracking images.

I may have mentioned Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide before. It’s finally beed updated, and has wonderful info. Google that name or visit: You’ll still need to keep interesting content frequently updated.

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 ( 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 And even services like and 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, 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

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, (
recovery-software.htm) with both Mac and PC versions available); Recuva ( from Piriform (makers of CCleaner); or TestDisk/PhotoRec from

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.