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December 23, 2011

Xmarks for Saving and Syncing Bookmarks

Due to the recent acquisition of by LastPass, Xmarks will continue on.  It is a great tool for backing up your favorites/bookmarks as well as for syncing them across browsers and other computers. You can sync your bookmarks currently among Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Safari browsers.  

You need to decide which computer and browser is where you will make initial changes to your bookmarks. Usually this will be the browser that you use most often on your main computer.  From here, you can sync across your other browsers and any other computers you have.  Xmarks allows you to merge bookmarks on Xmarks server with your browser, keep bookmarks on your browser discarding those on the server (main bookmark), keep the bookmarks on the server while discarding those on your browser.  You also can integrate passwords (not recommended), and open tabs as well as enabling automatic synchronization. This is a great timesaver that eliminates the need to do this manually. A feature of Xmarks is also that you can be away from your computers but can retrieve that necessary site that you wish to access but cannot remember the name by accessing the website and logging into it. I found the instructions easy to follow and the program is user friendly.

A paid version of Xmarks ($12 annually) allows you to sync between your smartphone and track and backup all changes to your bookmarks. My personal opinion is that this is not needed.  

While there are ways to save your bookmarks on your computer and sync using your saved bookmarks on your computer, Xmarks is a free way to do this saving time and aggravation.

I also want to extend my best wishes to those celebrating a very Merry Christmas and to all a very Happy and prosperous 2011.

December 14, 2011

A Good Product Review Site for Tech Products and More

Want to know if you should purchase that camera you have in mind?  Need a good place for downloads? Or just want a good place for Tech News.  Then CNET is a good site for you to go to and explore.

The top of their webpage offers 4 selections in addition to a search bar and a "Home" icon.  They are "Reviews" "News" "Downloads" and "Videos".

For "Reviews", all sorts of tech products from computers, cameras to mp3 players are reviewed here.  You can see how the product you are interested in compares to similar products. Many have a video review by one of CNET's experts.  It is the largest part of the site generating per Wikipedia over 4,300 product and software reviews annually.  Most of the traffic generated to the site is for its reviews.

The "News" section has headlines and more details of Tech related news.  The information can be very useful for your own technology.  It includes articles about tech related business, wireless, green tech, blogs among other subjects.

"Downloads" consists of about 500,000 software titles for download  with both freeware and non freeware titles.  You can download based upon operating system, type of software and price.  There is probably some good software for your computer here and it certainly is worthwhile checking out.

The "Video" section includes product videos and how to instructional videos.  As a visual person, I have gotten some good tips here.

One of the other features of this site is the ability to compare prices for a product you may be thinking of buying.

All in all this is a good site for tech information particularly the reviews and downloads.  There are discussion forums for asking questions and exchanging information as well. Like most forum sections you need to set up an account. Why not check it out and if it meets your needs include it as one of  your bookmarks/favorites.

November 30, 2011

ICE - In Case of Emergency on Your Cellphone

While this blog is a posting of computer related items, cell phones are in fact a computer and this is a potential life saving issue. I am doing this post that indirectly relates .

In case of emergency (ICE) is a program that enables 1st responders to identify victims and contact next of kin in case of an emergency.  Hence the acronym ICE.  All cellphones should have one or more ICE listings should the unfortunate happen.

That said, cellphones and particularly smart phones have password protection mechanism where your phone, ICE and all other information cannot be accessed without keying a password or drawing a pattern to unlock all of this.  What I am trying to get at here is if your phone is password protected, ICE is not able to be accessed.  Please have an alternate form of identification that lists an emergency contact(s).  Don't feel a false sense of security having ICE on your phone where there is password protection enabled.

November 18, 2011

The Wiki Family

The Wiki site describes Wiki as follows, "A wiki is a database of pages which visitors can edit live." While many people associate Wiki with Wikipedia, there is more to the Wiki family.  To name a few, there are Wikianswers (post a question you would like answered), Wikitravel (a travel guide), Wikihow (a how to site), and Wikibooks (textbooks).    

Wiki is open editing which means anyone can add and edit information freely. There is a staff that checks these for accuracy. Where there is no support for an entry it is noted. Nonetheless the Wiki sites are a good source of free information from the trivial to the important. For those who remember the "Dallas" television series of the 80s did you know that Patrick Duffy's nephew is former Cy Young award winner Barry Zito of the San Francisco Giants? It's out there on Wikipedia along with other trivial facts.   

Wikipedia also was likely the final nail in the coffin for all those encyclopedias that took up much bookcase space.  Yes they still sell those encyclopedias just like they still sell vinyl records,cameras that use film and accounting ledger paper but they have been replaced for the most part by improvements in technology. 

In closing, a lot of good and useful information can be accessed by going to the Wiki sites.  From learning how to fit in while in London to planning your London visit a lot of good information is available just by logging in.

November 9, 2011

Take College Courses Online for Free

On the web there are many good sites for learning to put it mildly. 

But did you know you can take college courses online for free? For some of these you can listen online to prerecorded lectures/discussions. has a listing of courses online.  MIT has courses there as well on . Another good site is The latter has mainly courses on audio. Among other colleges having open courseware are Tufts, Notre Dame and Yale a pretty good selection to say the least.  Just do a google search for "opencourseware".  Best of all they are free! A lot also have downloadable handouts as well. You also can search on for lectures and courses.  Type the name of the college or university followed by lectures or courses and see the selection available. 

A good way to continue your lifelong learning with no admissions application, tuition, fees or other costs.

November 8, 2011

Make that Disk Sooner Rather than Later

It used to be when you bought a PC, a system repair disk was also included.  This was useful in the event you needed to rebuild your system.

During this holiday season, many will be getting a new PC as a gift. What you will not receive is a system repair disk. This can be used to boot your computer in the event you are unable to from your hard drive, need to recover windows from a system error.  You will need to make a system repair disk.  This should be done as soon as possible after purchasing your new computer.  It could end up being invaluable in the event of a system failure.

To create a system repair disk, click the "Start' button.  In the address bar type "Backup" .  Under "Programs"  select "Backup and Restore".  In the left pane is an option "Create a System Repair Disk".  Select this.  Insert a CD to create a system repair disk.  When you are done creating your system repair disk make sure to put it in a safe place but not so safe a place you forget where.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

October 23, 2011

Yahoo's New Email

Yahoo recently released its new version of Yahoo Mail to its over 280 million users worldwide. At present, it is the most widely used email in the United States. While there are some issues that have not been resolved, the new interface is faster and cleaner. Over 6 months ago I did a post on Yahoo Mail that included discussing their beta email system that was then being developed. Well they have made the changes they considered necessary and released the new Yahoo Mail.

One of the things I like most about Yahoo Mail is the ability to drag an email from one folder to another with the mouse. Simply left click on the message and move it to the folder you wish to move it to. Even the widely heralded Gmail does not have this feature. There you move an email message from one folder to another by selecting the message(s) you wish to move and then select the "Move To" tab and from the drop down menu select the folder you wish to move it to. This is certainly more time consuming.

Yahoo Mail has also integrated certain applications with its new email to facilitate communicating with friends and family. For example if you are planning a family reunion you can send an Evite invitation directly from your own email page. You choose a design for your invitation and create it just like a hard copy invitation you send in the mail. The difference is that this is a computer generated invitation that is emailed and resembles the paper one. You also save on postage. For those who use Flickr to store and share their pictures, you can email your Flickr pictures from your Yahoo account.

Further, I like the interface between contacts and email. With Gmail unless you are using keyboard shortcuts you need to click on "Contacts" or "Mail" in the upper left hand corner of your Gmail interface to go from one to the other. With Yahoo Mail, to go from one to the other you click on the "Inbox" or "Contacts" tabs that are easy to find above your inbox or contacts respectively. You also have the ability to preview your messages at the bottom without opening them which is also a good feature.  

This email is not perfect by any means. I mentioned in my previous post about Yahoo Mail that in order to delete spam messages you are prompted if you are sure. Other mail services realize if you are deleting a spam message there is no need to prompt to confirm you are sure about deleting them. However when deleting a message from your inbox or another folder, you are not prompted to see if you are sure about deleting. I do not understand why Yahoo is so concerned about you possibly deleting a spam message in error while not as concerned about you deleting a message from your inbox, sent or other folders. I hope this is simply a glitch that Yahoo will correct in the near future.

While Yahoo Mail is improved, there are still some unresolved issues. You are limited to 100 email filters whereas other email services do not limit the number of filters. You are limited to blocking 500 email addresses. If you wish to view your Yahoo Mail in an email client such as Outlook or Windows Live Email you must upgrade to Yahoo Plus for $20.00 annually. Upgrading also gives you such features as a limit of 200 email filters and no ads.  Another knock on Yahoo Mail is that the spam filter leaves a bit to be desired.  Yahoo has said that this issue has been addressed with their new release.  Time will tell if this is so.

In all Yahoo is one of the better email services.  With its good and not so good features, you have to decide for yourself if it is the one for you.

October 20, 2011

Capturing What You See on Your Screen

Ever want to grab part or all of what you see on your screen? Want to email some or all of what you see on your screen? The Snipping Tool is for you.  This tool is included in the Windows7 and Vista operating systems. To access it go to the "Start" tab and in the search bar type in "snipping tool". You will then see the icon to click for the Snipping tool at the top left of the start menu .

Note that you are limited to what you are able to see on the screen view.  You can select all of what you see or some of it. You have the choice of a rectangular snip, free form snip, window snip or full screen snip. You select this by selecting the down arrow in the drop down menu next to "New".  With the rectangular snip, you are able to snip in a rectangular form  what you see on your screen.  The free form snip is just that.  You can snip whatever shape of your screen view to capture whether it be a triangle, circle, etc.  With the window snip you select a window that you have opened that you wish to capture.   The full screen snip is just that.  What you see on your screen is what is captured.

Once you have captured your screenshot, you can make your own notes and/or highlight selected areas on what you just captured in the captured file.  You also have the ability to email your finished product.  You also have the ability to save your capture.

The Snipping Tool is a handy tool and can make your computer life a bit easier.  Give it a try sometime.

October 13, 2011

Preventive Maintenance for Your Computer

Just like we all or at least should do an oil change every 3,000 miles to keep our cars running properly and go for an annual physical exam so that we are healthy and stay that way, we also need to do preventive maintenance on our computers.  We need to be proactive with our computers, cars, ourselves, etc.  Here are a few computer maintenance tips that will help increase the life of your computer:

  1. Defragmenting your hard drive - This reorganizes the files on your hard drive that allows them to be accessed more efficiently. This should be done on a weekly basis.  If it is not done, your computer will operate at a notably slower  pace.  Go into your "Start" tab select "All Programs" then "Accessories", "System Tools", "Disk Defragmenter".  This can be set to run automatically.  "My Defrag" and "Defraggler" are free programs that will also defrag your computer.  Norton Systemworks is a security suite that offers defragging and can be purchased online and at stores. 
  2. Your computer also accumulates files that you no longer need. These are files such as temporary internet files, deleted files in your recycle bin and windows temporary files.  To clean up unneeded files, go to your start menu.  In the search bar type in ""Disk cleanup" and select  the Disk Cleanup program shown on top.  The program will scan for files that can be safely deleted.  Select those files you wish to delete and select OK to delete.  This should be done on a weekly basis as well.  A free program CCleaner can be downloaded that will perform this and I recommend this program. 
  3. Backup, Backup, Backup.  I cannot say this enough.  I recently did a blog about backing up data.  80% of computer users do not have backup software installed on their computer.  This is a cheap insurance policy against data loss.  Recovering data on your hard drive from a data recovery service will run about $500 minimum up to a few thousand. Recovery is not guaranteed. One service also prices out by emergency service which is 24 hours; priority service which is 3 days; and standard service which is 2 weeks turnaround time. If you want 24 hour turnaround you will pay for that level of service.  As I noted in my last blog, Dropbox can be used to back up your data as well in the cloud as well as to other computers.  Up to 2GB is free.  You can also back up up to 50GB for 9.99 monthly.  I discussed other backup sites in my blog on backing up.  
  4. Make sure your security and anti virus, anti spyware software are current and up to date.  If not, your computer is an open target for new viruses, malware, etc.
  5. You also want to check your hard drive about monthly to fix file system errors and recover bad sectors on your hard drive.  This may take several hours so make sure you will not need your computer for a while.  Select "Computer" or "My Computer" Select "C:" and right click on and select "Properties" and then select the "Tools" tab. You then select Error Checking. Select automatically fix file system errors and scan and attempt recovery of bad sectors.  When you get the prompt asking if you want to run this the next time you start your computer, select yes.  Then restart your computer. Again, it may take a while to run.  
By following these steps you will help to extend the useful life of your computer.  

October 12, 2011

Password Protection Revisited

A few months back I did a post on password protection.   As a follow up there are additional items to consider regarding password protection.  My previous post mentioned that a secure password should have a minimum of 8 characters.  The thinking regarding this minimum number is changing to where a minimum of 12 and up to 14 characters should be used for a secure password.  Microsoft has a website where you can check your password strength as shown.  They recommend a minimum of 14 characters.

An important thing to consider is when you set up a user name and password on a site, you may have to answer at least 1 security question.  This is in the event you forget your password, the site will ask you a question that you need to answer correctly in order to regain access to your account.  Perhaps the most common is asking for your mother's maiden name.  As I am noting in the next paragraph, be careful of how you answer these questions.  You do not have to give a correct answer but remember the answer you give.

A while back I wrote on how your future employer gets to know you before they meet you.  In it I mentioned why you need to be careful about what you post online.  Here is another reason.  What you post can directly and indirectly be used to obtain information that can answer those security questions and not necessarily posted by you.  For example the question of your mother's maiden name.  If your mother is a Facebook friend of yours and uses her maiden name as part of her name, there is the answer to the question of your mother's maiden name.  For the question of your mother's maiden name, you may want to use something else like a neighbor's last name, a friend's maiden name, etc.   Discover Card asks the question "What city were you married in?"  If you have been married more than once, you can use the city of your first marriage.  I think you get what I am saying here.  During the 2008 presidential election, Sarah Palin's personal email account was hacked because a lot of her personal information was out there and the hacker knew the information needed to answer her security question.

In closing, be careful again of what you post online.  This information can be used to access online accounts that you would not want others to access.

October 5, 2011

Thoughts on Transferring Photos Taken On Vacation To A Computer

The Wall of Quebec 

Bar Harbor, Maine

Historic Quebec City
Stephen King Home in Bangor Maine
Some of you who are readers of my blog know that I enjoy photography. I recently decided to try a different way of uploading pictures from my recent trip to Maine and Quebec to my home computer. When I travel, I take my laptop with me and use it to transfer pictures from my memory card to it. Should my memory card fail, a backup of my pictures is on my laptop. When I get home, I transfer the pictures over to my home computer from any memory cards that I used. Note that I take my pictures using a Raw format which can be as much as three times larger than pictures taken in a more conventional .jpg format. I also took about 750 pictures on this vacation and used almost 5GB of memory.
Lower Town of Quebec City 

Lower Town of Quebec City at Night
What I decided to do this time was set up a SugarSync account since you are allowed 5GB of free storage. I set up a folder on both my laptop and home desktop to sync pictures from my laptop to desktop. While my desktop was off while I was away, any pictures transferred to my computer would sync with my SugarSync account and be in the cloud if need be. When I returned home, I turned on my desktop and my files were synced from my laptop to desktop over several hours. It took this long as the total size of pictures transferred approached my maximum limit of 5GB. If I am not in a rush to transfer my pictures this is a very worthwhile idea. If I am in a rush, I could have transferred my pictures as I have previous while having a copy in the cloud. Using memory cards to transfer pictures is quite a bit quicker. Should you not be taking pictures using a Raw format (I recommend you do if your camera allows you to), the time required to transfer your pictures will be quite a bit quicker. This is especially so if you do not take as many pictures as I do on a trip. For those who edit their pictures using Photoshop or any other editing software, I highly recommend the following: Create an additional folder for unedited pictures. Copy your pictures prior to editing them to this folder. This is a record copy of your unedited pictures and you will not do any editing of pictures that are in this folder. You should always keep a set of your pictures that are unedited should you ever need to go back to them later.

One other thought here. If you do not upload pictures from your memory cards while you are on vacation, carry extra memory cards and alternate using them daily. Should a memory card stop working for whatever reason, you will have pictures on another memory card and not all of your pictures taken on your vacation will be lost.

Enjoy your vacations and go get some good pictures.

Thunder Hole at Acadia National Park in Maine
Acadia National Park

August 11, 2011

Online Petitions

While people still go door to door or are in crowded places trying to get signatures on a petition for a cause, there is another way to get signatures on a petition. Online petitions are now a thing. Site like Ipetitions and Petitiononline are changing how petitions are done. There are pros and cons to an online petition. It is good that anyone with internet access can create a petition online. This also can lead to petitions for frivolous causes. Another issue  are people using false names that could make a petition invalid.  People using false names is also an issue for non online petitions as well. I would also guess that some petitions you see people trying to get signatures for in crowded places some consider frivolous as well.

You can create a petition for your cause. You also can sign a petition for or against a cause. One thing to keep in mind is that unless you wish to make yourself anonymous, your name may come up as signing the petition in question.

So go ahead while at home sign your name to a cause at 3 in the morning if you desire.

August 9, 2011

The Library on the Web

Libraries are not only good for books, DVDs and reading magazines.  These days they also have a web presence.  While you can get local information by going to your local library's web site, the web sites mentioned offer a vast amount of information and you do not need to leave your home.

Our own Library of Congress (America's library) has a website that is also a good source of learning. On their site is a vast amount of information.  You can easily spend a day going through it and still have a lot to see all that is on it. You also can download and play podcasts and webcasts as well as viewing and downloading photographs from various collections. Informative transcripts and collections can be viewed. There are dedicated sections for kids, librarians publishers and teachers. Certain old newspapers are also available for viewing. There is a lot here related to American History. You also can order at a charge certain videos of historical significance.  Simply put there is more than I can ever say in a post of what is here.  By going to which is a part of the Library of Congress you can find legislative information.  Status of bills, current activity of the House and Senate, searching the Congressional Record are just some of the things available here. is largely a reference site. It also is a good gateway through links to other informative sites.  It is worth checking out.  Again, so much information is at your fingertips.  Links to dictionaries, almanacs, calculators, etc, are on this site.

My local library  Queens Library has a web site that for starters allows me to reserve books, movies and see the availability of these items at the various branches.  My library card allows me to research various databases online including encyclopedias. For example one can get information on companies that they are researching for a job interview or other reason by going to the Business and Company Resource Center available through NOVEL NY which my library is part of. Community information is also available on the Queens Library website.

So if it is 3AM and you cannot get back to sleep and want to do some research head out to the library.  The online library.

July 28, 2011

Flickr - A Different Type of Photo Sharing Site

If you not only enjoy sharing photos but also being able to learn about photography as well, then you may wish to check out Flickr. Flickr is owned by Yahoo and a Yahoo account is required but worth it if you wish to have a Flickr account. As of a year ago, Flickr had over 26 million users.

A free account allows you to only see the last 200 pictures you have posted and you can only post a picture to 10 groups. Groups relate to a topic which can be related to camera gear used, locations, types of photos, etc.  You can discuss in these groups not only photography but also topics relevant to the group. If you are travelling, there is probably a group for the places you are visiting that you can check out for pictures posted in the group and even post questions or comments about the area.  For $24.94 a year you can get a Pro account. This enables you to have stats on your account, unlimited uploads and storage, ad free browsing and other benefits. No matter what type of account you have, you can tag your photos which enables pictures to be found easier when doing a search by topic.

This is such a popular site for photography that in May of 2009 the official White House photographer Peter Souza started to use Flickr as a way to release White House photos.

If you have even a passing interest in photography this is a site worth checking out. You do not need to have an account to go through the site and check out the pictures and groups. You may decide to stay awhile.  Click to see pictures in my Flickr account.

July 21, 2011

Impressions of Google Plus Part II

Last week I posted some of my thoughts of Google+. After using it some more, I have a few others particularly what other social media sites may or may not fall to the new kid on the block in social media.

While Google+ has been by invite only to date, being able to get a Google+ account has been enabled and disabled on various occasions. While Google has said it had to do with not allowing too many people to sign up at once and Google is better able to develop Google+ by limiting sign ups this is a great way of marketing. By doing this, Google is creating a demand for this new way of sharing. Ever see a long line to get in a club or restaurant? When you do go in, you may note it is not as busy inside as it appears outside. I know how I felt having an invitation but not able to get a Google+ account. Google+ has gotten a lot of attention on blogs such as Mashable and on other social media sites like Twitter and even Facebook.

A lot of people are saying that Google+ will adversely affect Facebook. Facebook has shown their concern and made it more difficult to export Facebook friends. Facebook has also hired some key people from Google the past few months. These people are certainly aware of the workings of Google and have probably communicated this to their colleagues at Facebook. If Facebook were a country it would be the third largest in the world with over 500 million subscribers. I do not see an en mass defection from Facebook of your friends and family despite having a low customer satisfaction rate per a July 19 article in PC Magazine. There will be those who leave Facebook for Google+. This already is happening. There are also security concerns about Facebook that have been noted by many.

The 140 character limit of Twitter is both a blessing and a curse for Google+. A challenge of Google+ is to become less bloated in my opinion. On one side you have a 140 character limit that you can include links in order to share additional information. On the other hand, there are quite a few times when 140 characters are not enough. When using your smartphone which has a small screen, Twitter has an advantage. If using hashtags (#)  in Google+ were to catch on, this could change the playing field here somewhat. While you also can have lists in Twitter, Circles are easier to manage.  Further Twitter is considered to be an information network (news has been known to break out here) while Google+ is considered a social network. I do not see people using Google+ to report on a national crisis like they used Twitter in Egypt a few months ago.

LinkedIn is where I feel Google+ can do the most damage. For starters, LinkedIn is providing more subscription services. Google+ is a networking device where no definition as to whether it is used for personal as opposed to business use. Once businesses are in Google+, I believe the playing field will change. As a whole, LinkedIn users tend to be more tech savvy than Facebook users (how many 70 year old grandmothers are on LinkedIn?). Dell is thinking of allowing their tech support to use Google+.  They can have a video chat in Hangouts where you can see a face and make their job more of a personal interaction. Hangouts can change how customer service is handled.

There are those who also consider other sites like Skype and Flickr at risk. I definitely can see Skype being at risk due to the Huddles feature of Google+. Huddles allows you to have a video conference with as many as 10 people and at no charge. At present, you need a subscription plan to have a group video conference using Skype. Skype will need to change this.
Flickr is another matter. As someone having a Flickr account, it is largely a niche site for photographers.  Without purchasing a pro account for $25 annually, you can only show and access 200 of your pictures on your account. It also is easy in Flickr to tag multiple pictures at once and relatively easy to manage your pictures. Flickr has good discussion groups to discuss about photography related issues and those who participate are always willing to help with photography tips of their own. From what I am seeing, quite a few who have pro accounts are not renewing or debating whether or not to renew their account. Google+ will for one need to make it easier to issue the same tags to multiple pictures.

As I mentioned in my previous post, it will be interesting to see how Google+ is integrated with Google's other programs such as their calendar and mail applications. No matter what happens I have learned this: What is the hot thing now will not be the hot thing tomorrow. Google is hot now but they will have the day when they are not the hot thing.

July 14, 2011

Impressions of Google Plus

Google launched its new social media site (though they refer to it as a sharing site) Google+ this past June 28 as an invite only. You also need to have a Google account as well. There are now over 10,000,000 users and growing quickly. It is considered to be a rival of Facebook.

A big way it differs from Facebook is you can add someone as a contact to any of your Circles without them adding you as a contact. Circles are a way of organizing your contacts. You can choose Circles like Friends, Family, Business, etc. When you post items, you can determine which Circles are able to see your posts. People that are in a Circle of yours can see they are in one of your Circles. They will not know which one or who is in that Circle. If you have someone in your Circle but they do not have you in one of theirs, you can see what they post subject to their sharing restrictions. For those using Facebook, think of Circles as the Lists you may have for Facebook friends. Your Facebook friends do not know what list if any you have them on. You also may share or not share posts with Lists. Circles are considered a strong selling point of Google+. They are easier and more user friendly to use then than Facebook Lists. Further, there are those who use Facebook and do not realize that Facebook has a similar feature as well.

Another feature of Google+ is Hangouts. Hangouts are where up to 10 people can have a group video chat. For this you will need to download and install the free Google Voice and Video Chat plugin for your computer.

Sparks is another feature. Your Sparks are only visible to you. This is where you identify subjects of interest to you. You get to see streams based upon your interests. Without you putting your interests in your profile, there is not a way for others to see what your interests may be. Facebook allows you to share pages, groups that you belong to. There currently is not an option like this in Google+. This link may be of help in getting a further understanding of Sparks.

Perhaps the biggest selling point is privacy. Not only is Google+ more private, it is a lot easier to manage privacy on Google+ than Facebook. It is easy to determine who you wish to see your posts and personal information.

Will items in Google+ get rated better in a Google search?  That is for Google to decide.  I would hope that the protocols used in a Google search ranking continue to be used here so as to be consistent.

Keep in mind that Google+ is a work in process. Improvements and enhancements are being made on an ongoing basis and as I mentioned it is easier to share interests using Facebook. It is expected that Google+ will be opened to all by the end of July. You are able to share photos and video just like Facebook. The quality of pictures shared in Google+ is better. It will be interesting to see how Google will integrate Google+ with its other products as well. Right now Google is by and large discouraging business use of its new program. When it is ready for business use what will it be like? The jury is out and Facebook may have some heavy competition to contend with. Then again with LinkedIn moving more toward subscription services maybe the niche of Google+ will be a professional networking site. My personal opinion is LinkedIn should worry more than Facebook.  Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for that matter have not gotten where they are by standing still. I would expect them to make changes to their product as well.  Time will tell how it all plays out.

July 7, 2011

Making Your Computer Personal: Bayside NY and the Internet

Making Your Computer Personal: Bayside NY and the Internet: "Throgs Neck Bridge This post could be adopted for almost any city, town, area etc. I live in Bayside,NY and most of my customers also li..."

June 30, 2011

How I Backup My Files

Possibly due to my posts about the importance of backing up files as well as being the owner of Computer Concierge NY LLC, I have been asked how do I back up my files. Let me first say that for any of the products I mention, I have not received any compensation or assurances, hints, discounts, etc of compensation as of June 30, 2011 for mentioning the products in question by anyone.

I use an external Western Digital Hardrive Model #WDBAAA6400ABK-NESN that I purchased from Amazon. It provides for automatic and continuous backups. If any file of mine is changed it is backed up when I close the file. When I have had to rebuild my system, it has worked fine and I was able to restore all my files. Further if I need to go back to a previous version of a file I am able to do that as well. My personal setting is where I can go back up to 5 file versions prior to the current one. I also have backups on several DVDs I keep offsite that I update about monthly. One of these is constantly updated while for the other DVDs it is a 1 time deal once the DVD is filled. Should there ever be some sort of catastrophe at home or if the external hard drive fails, I have a way of going offsite and getting back the contents of my files. It is recommended that you have another backup away from your computer should this instance occur.

I also am a Dropbox user.  I have blogged about Dropbox in the past.   I recommend it for all. You can sync up to 2 gb for free to your Dropbox account. However there are ways to get even more storage free. The most common is suggesting it to someone and when they become a Dropbox user from your suggestion both of you get an extra 250mg of storage.

This is the backup system that works for me. What type of backup system you need depends on various factors. For those living in Queens and Nassau County, NY call me at 917.572.3468. I can determine the backup plan that is best for you. Many people think a hard drive failure cannot happen to them. Nothing is farther from the truth. You need to have a backup plan and follow it before it is too late.

June 24, 2011

Why I Am Not Following You On Twitter

Twitter is a very prominent social networking and microblogging service. Those using Twitter have people they follow and people who follow them.

There are those people who I will follow when I see that they are following me. There are those I will tend not to follow. The reasons I do not follow someone are entirely not personal.  The person could be a very good person. These reasons are not absolute as I have made exceptions. Some reasons for not following someone are:
  1. They have less then 10 tweets. I like to get a feel for what the person is like before following. With few or none tweets of their own, I am unable to grasp what they are about. Do their tweets align with their profile? 
  2. Someone not having a profile or the profile does not tell me about them. Who are you? What are you about? I would like to know about you if I am to follow you.
  3. A person seems to be tweeting on an almost ongoing basis. There are those who it seems are constantly on Twitter tweeting what appears 200 times daily or so. Twitter is about conversation and in a conversation there is an exchange of ideas.
  4. Tweets consistently showing the same link. The person is spamming on Twitter. 
  5. Their interests do not match what I am interested in. Let's say a person constantly tweets about Newton's 3 Laws of Motion. This is a subject that would make me not inclined to follow. That said, I did once make an exception for a follower who I had no intent of following. They did however list me and mentioned me on a Tweet.  I must admit they charmed me into following them and I am glad to follow as whoever tweets for this Twitter handle is a really nice person.
  6. Their tweets are all about them and trying to plug their product and/or themselves. Similar to #4.  
  7. "Tips on making money" is in their bio. Again it is about them. We all want to make money but at least be subtle about it. 
  8. Someone who follows many people and hardly anyone follows them. A lot of times this ties in to having few or no tweets.  
  9. They do not have a link to their website or blog in their profile or just as bad the website link in their profile does not work.  
  10. They seem to argue rather than discuss. Twitter is about an exchange of ideas and not I am right and you are wrong. Further 2 people can have different approaches to an issue and both be right.  
While there are other reasons, these are the main ones.  For those not having many tweets and/or no profile, I want to know more about you before I follow.  

June 23, 2011

Maps Online Part II - Google Maps

In a previous blog, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps and Mapquest were discussed.  Google Maps is probably the most used online mapping service and understandably so because of the features and speed.

One of the great feature of Google Maps is when you type the name of a location, Google predicts the results of your search as you are typing in a manner similar to doing a Google search.  Type your search in the search bar and you will see what Google thinks you are searching for.  This can speed up your search since if your result shows you can just click on it and the map will show the location you are seeking. The ease of zooming in and out using your mouse's scroll wheel is just another reason this a good map.

Google Maps allows you to get directions by car, mass transit, walking or bicycling. Of the 4 maps that have been discussed it is the only one where you can get directions by all of the choices mentioned.  Bing Maps allows directions for all but bicycling.  Whether getting directions for a trip or navigating to an address, you can get both live traffic and the expected traffic based upon date and time of your expected travel.  The expected traffic is based upon past traffic patterns.  You will sometimes get more than 1 route when searching for directions.  On a long trip, the difference can be a matter of a few minutes but the longer route could be more scenic.  The choice is yours.

Google Street view is much improved but the picture quality still trails Bing Maps. That said, it is quite a bit easier to go to/from Google Street than going to/from Bing Maps Streetside view. What I personally like is the ease of navigation.  I was showing a friend of mine great vantage points NW of San Francisco to get great views of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Using the street view enabled me to give him a preview of what he would see in person on his trip.

As you zoom in an area, you can see the location of points of interest.  Further to the right of the search bar is an option, "What's Around Here"? You will see letter codes that correspond to the listing on the left side of the map.

The others have their features (the quality of pictures when using Bing Streetside, the turn by turn directions using Mapquest).  The features of Google Maps such as its speed and ease of use  are why it is the preferred mapping site to use.

June 11, 2011

Cloud Computing AKA the Internet

These days a lot is mentioned about Cloud Computing. In a nutshell cloud computing is another term for the internet.  When services like mention online backup what they also mean is that your data is backed up in the cloud. When you are on vacation and check your email, that email is stored in the cloud. If you are using a spreadsheet program in Google Docs and calculations are made to that file, the calculation is done in the cloud.  These are just a few applications that are done in the cloud.  Google has been designing a new operating system Google Chrome OS that will work exclusively with web applications. It is expected to be released later this year.

The beauty of the cloud is that you are able to access your files anywhere there is an internet connection.  If you are halfway around the world and need to know where that Tuesday meeting after you get back is and with who, you can go to an online product like Google Calendar to find out. Items in the cloud do not take up space on your hard drive.

Needless to say it isn't perfect and there are issues and concerns the biggest being privacy and security.  Since you are trusting your data to a third party you want your information to be secure and not easily accessible to those you wish to keep it away from. You also want to be assured that the provider will not lose your data.  As we know Facebook has had security and privacy issues.  I believe that as we move more into the cloud, these issues will resolve themselves. Security and privacy will be much improved because of competition and technological advances. Another issue is the accessibility of the data.  What if the internet goes down or either you or your provider lose internet access?  The quick and short answer to this is unless you have backed up your data locally you have to wait until access is restored. That said, web services are continually improving as to access and security.  Like any service providers there are good and bad.  Keep in mind if your hard drive crashes or you cannot get on your computer for some other reason, having backups is important. Cloud applications do guarantee the safety of your data.  Any reputable company storing your data online will have backups of their own.  I will say this in closing for those of you who do online banking and/or get credit card statements online. The bank statements you see in your account where you do your online banking that saves you space(you do not need a hard copy of them) is in the cloud as are the credit card statements you see in your online account.  Businesses are starting to move their data into the cloud accessing and storing it there.

Google Docs - 1 thing I Forgot to Mention

In my previous post of Google Docs I forgot to mention another key feature. You have the ability to revert back to a previous saved version of a file. This can be useful if a major error is noticed or for whatever reason you desire to revert to a previous saved version. Under the top menu select "File" and under "File" select "See Revision History". The revision history will appear in the right hand side. Select the date and time of the saved version you wish to revert to. Then select "Restore this Version"

Another good feature of Google Docs.

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June 10, 2011

Use the Internet to Save Your Trip

What would happen on a trip if you were to lose your passport, credit cards, driver's license, etc?  I find it to be a good idea to scan all except the credit cards and then save it as a word file using Microsoft Word (MS Word).  As for the credit cards, I make a list of that using MS Excel. I have the name of the card in one column and the card number in another column. You can also do a list in MS Word.  Using MS Excel is a personal preference.

In saving these files I make sure to password protect them. Since the method to password protect a file differs by program used and version of that program you need to go to the help section to determine how to password protect the file. I then email the file to myself. What I am doing here is adding an extra layer of security to information that if it fell into the wrong hands would make me more susceptible to identity theft. One would need to know both my email password as well as the password I am using to protect the respective files that contain this sensitive data. I would suggest making the passwords for your email and files different.

One does not have to limit to just credit cards, passport and drivers license. Scanning current drug prescriptions you are using and saving them to a word type file is another good idea where you have a copy of the prescription. This way if you were to lose the prescription drugs you had packed, you should have an easier time refilling it. You can also put the numbers of your travelers checks in a file as well. I also keep my phonebook in my Google contacts list so should I need a number I can get it wherever I have an internet connection which would include my smartphone.

Doing all of these is not a magic bullet should you have a loss. It will however make it easier to travel and in the case of a passport get a replacement more easily in the event of losing any important documents. I would also suggest that you avoid using an unsecured public wireless network to obtain any of this. If you have a smartphone, you can likely access this information using it. That said another way to store your files is if you are using a syncing program like Dropbox or Sugarsync. You can log onto the one you are using to access the information in question. I will suggest here that you do not save this information on the hard drive of any computers you may be travelling with. Better that it is in the cloud where the data and you are not in the same place. Also should your computer get lost or stolen, you can still access it from another computer. If anyone is interested in opening a Dropbox account let me know before setting up your account. I will send you an invite to join Dropbox and both of us will get an extra 250mb of free storage. A win/win for both of us. Note: as I mentioned in my blog last week, you cannot upload or save a password protected file in Google Docs.

Hopefully you will never need to access these files in an emergency.  However, having them in an emergency can make your life easier when it occurs.

June 9, 2011

Google Docs

There are some very good uses of Google Docs. It is a word processor, spreadsheet, or presentation program and can be an alternative to Microsoft Office. Some use it is a way to backup selected files online. It also is a way to share selected files among users where these users have the ability to make changes to the files or view only. You can backup files (up to 1GB free) here and share any files. Google Docs is a cloud application. All files are stored on Google's servers. You access them on the internet therefore in the cloud. You can set up folders on your Google Docs site and treat it as another drive but this one is in the clouds.  For $59 you can purchase an app that makes Google Docs your "G:" drive on your computer. On Google's page regarding this I see nothing about being able to sync files on your hard drive with Google Docs and vice versa.

Let's start with the backup feature. You do have the ability to backup selected files on your Google Docs account. You can drag the files you select to the indicated box or clicking on the "Select Files to Upload" link.  Note that at this time you have to upload individual files. You cannot upload by folder. You need to select all the individual files in that folder. Personally I find this to be a disadvantage and why I would not use this to backup files per se. Further if you are password protecting a file, Google Docs will not allow you to upload it to its site. Currently Google allows up to 1GB to be stored free of charge. However files saved in a Google Docs format are not subject to the 1GB limitation. There is no automatic backup. You need to upload the updated file(s) manually. Note that you can purchase additional storage. 20GB is $5 per year and 80GB is $20 per year. You also can purchase additional amounts.

Like Libreoffice, Microsoft Office, Google Docs also is an office software suite. Google's suite includes a word processor, spreadsheet editor and presentation program. Like most office software suites, it supports the basic Microsoft (MS) Office programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint). A big advantage of the Google Docs software suite is it can be shared, edited and opened by multiple users at the same time. This is a good feature when you are working on a team project for work, school or otherwise that involves a file(s) that all need to access and edit. When my wife and I are preparing for a trip, we will put a "To See" list on Google Docs for that trip that both of us can add to and edit . This sharing capability is a factor in why usage of Google Docs has increased. There are templates available for your use as well.

I personally like the sharing option the best. I talked a little about this in the previous paragraph. There are 3 sharing options. One is only where you and only people with permission can sign in to access the file. The second is where anyone with a link to the file can access it without signing in. The third sharing option is where the file is public on the web. Anyone on the internet can find and access it. You also have the ability to decide whether or not those with access to the file can also make changes. This is for any of the 3 sharing options. With a smartphone, files can be edited on your phone by you and others you allow to edit. For those who do presentations, this is a great way to email attendees notes from your presentation. You give those views view access and email the link.

Google Docs is a good application of Google especially when sharing files between users.  Try it for your next team project.

June 7, 2011

Your Future Employer – How They Get to Know You Before They Meet You

Over the past few years, the term online identity has grown in importance. Reputations have been ruined due to a poor online profile. Potential employers have always gone to references that you did not include on your job application when possible. We all know of Six Degrees of Separation and the expression “It’s A Small World.” The small world has gotten smaller.

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, about 57% of adult internet users in the US admitted to putting their name into an online search engine such as Google or Bing. In 2006, the figure was 47%.

As the internet has evolved, so have ways to find out more about you. As mentioned,57% of internet users in the US say they have done an internet search on themselves. Per a recent Microsoft commissioned study,78% of potential employers have used an internet search engine to find out about potential employees. Social networking sites (Facebook, linkedin) and photo and video sharing sites (utube, flickr, etc) account for 63% and 57% respectively of how potential employers try to find out about you. I will note here that there are other ways as well but those just listed are the top 3. Personal websites, blogs, and online forums are some of the others.

What does this all mean? In today’s world, many employers record your at work computer activity. People have been fired from their jobs for going to porn, game, shopping, etc. sites deemed inappropriate. The keystrokes you do while on a computer at work can be tracked by your employer with the right keylogging software. Postings on Facebook where you complain about your job can get you fired. When you go for that new job, your online profile can and will be used against you if there is anything negative.

Just like you need to check your credit report before applying for a mortgage, you need to check your online reputation especially when searching for a job. If there is anything negative when you check, you need to clear it up. Although there are privacy settings in Facebook, you should treat anything that you post there as public information. This is due to the fact that Facebook has changed their online privacy policies where something once private is now public. What are your political beliefs? Your potential employer may have other political beliefs and may hold yours against you. There are various services that for a fee will improve your online reputation. The bad things may not be able to be cleared but they can be pushed further down on the search engine. As they say, do not post anything that you would not want your parents, spouse, children, etc. to find out about you. As an aside here, divorce attorneys are now using the internet (especially Facebook) to get information to assist their clients.

Anthony Weiner and Twitter

This is not going to be a political post. I do not get political on this blog. However there are times where politics and tech related issues intertwine and this is one of these times. This blog is from a tech perspective and I will not issue an opinion of Congressman Weiner one way or another politically.

Congressman Weiner admitted yesterday that he had tweeted lewd pictures of himself. He supposedly is one of the more tech savvy members of Congress. I have made mention both on this blog and on Twitter the need to be careful of what you put out on the internet especially social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. A lot of what you put out there in cyberspace is out in the open for all to see. Congressman Weiner who again is tech savvy should have known this. Unless your tweets are protected or you are sending a direct message to someone, any tweet you make is there and cannot be considered a secret in any way, shape or form. When I tweet, I realize this. If I make a grammatical error or another error guess what? It can be seen by anyone and does not put me in the best light. Anyone with internet access can see them by simply doing a search on Twitter. A lot of my tweets can also be found by doing a search on Google or another search engine. Since he admitted that he sent it, I cannot understand how Anthony Weiner as a user of Twitter could not think that somehow the Tweet of him in his underwear would be hush hush. If he intended to send a direct message, he should have been extra careful knowing the implications of the tweet in question. Also keep in mind that anyone using Twitter has the ability to retweet a tweet to their followers and of course that is there for all to see. So for argument's sake, if Charlie Sheen who has over 4 million followers was to retweet Weiner's infamous tweet all 4 million plus of his followers will see it. Sheen's followers can then retweet it to their followers and you can see this all spiraling.

Let me respond about hacked passwords here as Weiner initially said his account was hacked. You need to have a safe password. I have blogged about the need for a safe password in previous posts. Please see the link which also has links to related posts. You also need to be careful of phishing schemes.

In this day of social media, Google, Facebook, etc., we need to be careful of what we put online. Anything you do online in a public forum can be obtained by others. A few years ago I signed an online petition that photography in New York City subways not be banned. One time when doing an online search of myself, it came up. Anything I put on my website is not between friends but for the whole world to see. This means that not only what you put on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter do you need to be careful about. You need to be careful about EVERYTHING you put online that is not an email or text message. Yes the recipient of an email or text can share that with others. But that also holds true for what you tell someone verbally or in writing.

June 2, 2011

CCleaner A Good Free Software Product for Your Computer

CCleaner is a product developed by Piroform. It is used to clean unwanted files and invalid Windows registry entries from a computer. It is an application for Windows and not for Macs. However the Piroform webite which is responsible for CCleaner notes on its website that it soon will be making CCleaner for Macs as well.  It is free and a valuable program to have. One of its applications is the removal of cookies. For those who may be unfamiliar with cookies per Wikipedia they are "a piece of text stored on a user's computer by their web browser". What this piece of text does is that it stores various information on it. This information can be site preferences, shopping cart contents and an identifier.

Yes you can use the Disk Cleanup program in the System Tools of your PC. However CCleaner does a better job. As mentioned it can be used to delete invalid registry entries from your computer. It is not a sophisticated program for doing this but for those unfamiliar with registry files, it will do the job without harming your computer. It also is very good for cleaner your internet browser's cookies, history, temporary files and form history and download history.

Having said all this I will add that you can customize the settings. For example should you not wish to delete anything related to MS Office you can. This is important because if you select MS Office your history of recently opened documents will be deleted.

CCleaner also removes from your PC temporary files, listing of recent documents opened and clears your recycle bin. In addition it also removes unnecessary information from various third party programs. These include MS Office and Adobe Acrobat. If you like your computer to save your passwords (not recommended) or browsing history you have that option. Should you wish not to delete selected cookies, there is an option for that as well.

You also can uninstall programs using CCleaner instead of going into your computer's Control Panel.  The ability to wipe your hard drive also exists by going into the Tools option and selecting "Drive Wiper" then selecting "Entire Drive"  in the drop down menu to the right of "Wipe" so you do need to exercise some caution.

In all this is a desirable program to have on your hard drive. It is free and is a good way to get rid of unneeded files as well as being user friendly. I have found the settings to be easy to use.

UPDATE:  CCleaner is now available to Mac users as a free beta download.

I would like to add here that if anyone has a suggestion for a subject, please let me know. Also please feel free to comment.  All comments are welcomed.

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June 1, 2011

Maps Online - Part I

Some may remember the days of going to the neighborhood gas station and getting a free map to plan your trip or if it was a trip farther away, writing and getting directions from the oil companies such as Sinclair, Esso, etc.  Well those days are long gone.  They have been replaced by online maps, GPSes and even smartphones.

For online mapping there are 4 primary websites: Bing Maps, Google Maps, MapQuest and Yahoo Maps.  Bing Maps, MapQuest and Yahoo Maps will be covered in this blog.  Google Maps will be covered in a future blog.

Bing Maps is the new map on the block comparatively speaking.  The map allows you to get directions for driving, walking or public transportation.  It also is easy to send the directions to your email or cell phone.  You can get directions based upon current real time traffic conditions though this is generally limited to the major thoroughfares. Directions do note at the end of the route if you have reached a certain location that you have gone too far which is a nice touch.  The "What's Nearby" feature is also useful.  I found it easy to zoom in and out using the road view and arial view.  Where it has already been photographed, the Streetside view has clear pictures an certainly clearer than the heralded Google Maps. However when moving along the street in Streetside view there is not an indication of about where you are.  I do like the 3D views with which you can rotate/pan and zoom functions. That said, it is relatively slow to open and also to go from view to view as well as going to the location you choose.  There is certainly room for improvement here.  Also if you wish to reverse your route after you have gotten directions, you need to go back to the search page. This is not a good thing.

MapQuest has a lot of the features that the others have with 1 notable exception. You cannot use your scroll wheel to zoom in and out on the map. You can only get directions by car.  No walking, public transit, etc. directions can be obtained using MapQuest.  It has a street view known as 360 view but the areas available are relatively few and slower than expected.  I did not find 360 view to be user friendly. Like the others, there is a way to search for businesses in the area.  MapQuest has a drop down menu of choices or you type your own in the search bar under "Find a Business".  A real good feature of MapQuest when searching for directions is you can get turn by turn directions if you wish.  This and Google Maps are the only ones of the 4 maps where you can do this.  Bing Maps allow you to go to the text indicating the turns and click to go to the location on the map but MapQuest's turn by turn directions is preferred.

Yahoo Maps offers live traffic and a points of interest finder.  It also computes a route rather quickly.  Yahoo Maps is better used to computing a route by car. There is not a way to determine a route by other means.  Yahoo Maps is also the only map that I am reviewing that does not have any drop down menu for locating businesses. Google Maps does have a very limited one which is stretching it a bit and will be covered in a future blog as noted earlier. You also can use it to find a business along the map that is showing on the screen.  This is done by typing the category in the search bar under "Find a Business on a Map".  It is more of a no frills map to mainly be used for directions by auto and finding a business.  There is no street view like in Bing Maps or Google Maps.  Further you cannot get a map for turn by turn directions or click on the text directions to go to that part on the map.

One final note here.  All 4 maps allow you to click to change a route by dragging any part of the route.

Also for those subscribing by email to my blogs, please check your spam settings if you are not receiving them.  Some have noted that the email of this blog has gone to their spam folder.  It should be marked as "not Spam".

Dropbox – A Real Good Program for File Sharing and Accessing Files Away From Your Computer

Have you ever wanted to share files with someone without emailing them? Have you ever needed to access a file and you are not by your computer? Then Dropbox is for you. Per Wikipedia, “The Dropbox client enables users to drop any file into a designated folder that is then synced to the cloud and to any other of the user's computers and devices with the Dropbox client.”

While Google Docs is a way to share and store files offline, it is not as good as Dropbox. 3 reasons:
1. Using Dropbox allows you to upload by folder which at this point in time you cannot do using Google Docs. With Google Docs, you can only upload files. You have to set up a folder in Google Docs and move the files to that folder after you upload. With Dropbox, you can drag the folder into Dropbox and the folder and contents are uploaded.
2. You can set up more than 1 computer to have access to selected files. When you use the files and update, they are automatically uploaded on any other computer linked to your Dropbox account. You do not need to use a USB drive to transfer files or email a file to yourself.
3. Dropbox offers up to 2GB free storage. With Google Docs you are limited to 1GB of free storage.

Let’s discuss the 1st advantage. When you use Google Docs you can only upload files. You cannot upload a folder but rather the files in a folder. In Google Docs you upload the files in the folder, individually or collectively. What this means is that in Google Docs you need to create a folder name. Then in Google Docs you move the files to the folder selected. In Dropbox you simply upload the folder which would include all the files in the folder. A step saved.

I also like the time saver of the 2nd advantage. My wife and I have both a laptop and a desktop. When we travel, frequently our travel notes are written on the desktop. Prior to our trip we use a USB drive to transfer our travel notes to our laptop. Now that we have Dropbox and both computers are linked to the Dropbox account this is automatic. No USB drive needed here. That said, in order for the file to sync in Dropbox the file cannot be opened. While you are using the file, it cannot be synced to the Dropbox website or any other computer. Only files in the Dropbox folder are synced. If you do not want to share a file and/or folder you don't put it in the Dropbox folder. You save time in that you do not have to email files to yourself. You also do not need a USB drive to transfer files from 1 computer to another. This also has the advantage of backing up files on both another computer and on the Dropbox website. Don’t have another computer? Well like Google Docs, you can access the file from another computer by going to Dropbox on the web. If you want to share a file with others, you send an email allowing access to the file you wish to share.

The last advantage is academic. 2GB of free storage vs 1GB of free storage.

All in all, Dropbox is not only a good way of storing and accessing files online. It is also a better way of doing it than using Google Docs. Try it. You will find that you have some extra time on your hands for other things to do.

May 19, 2011

How Far Is That?

Before I blog about the subject at hand, I wanted to mention that you can subscribe to this blog by email or RSS feed.  On the right side towards the upper part is a "Subscribe Via Email" link.  On the bottom of the page is a "Subscribe to Blog" tag.  By clicking on Posts, you can select the RSS service you wish to link this blog to.

Recently I went running out of town and could not get my GPS to work for me to know how far I ran. By using Google Maps, I later was able to map out the route and determine how far I actually ran instead of guessing the distance. The days of driving your car  to determine that distance of the route is in the past.  Further it does not work well where there are one way streets involved.   Note a few weeks ago I did a post about Google Maps.  I did not include this feature as it deserves its own space.

First you need to set up a Google account if you already do not have one.  Once that is done, go to Google Maps.  In the top right there is in red "New!".  Select this option. Find the option "Distance Measurement Tool" and select "Enable".  On the lower left of the map itself is an icon that looks like a small ruler. Once you have zoomed in on the map to your desired starting point click on this small ruler with your mouse. Then go to your starting point and click here with your mouse.  Click at the first turn and all subsequent turns.  If you make an error select the option on the left side to "Delete last point". While you are mapping your route the total distance to this point shows on the left side.  When you are done, the distance I just mentioned is now the total distance of that run, walk, or bicycling that you have done.

I used this to measure the distance of a run I already did.  You can of course it to plan a path for running, bicycling, walking, etc.  It is a tool that can come in handy. However the next time you tell someone that it is a short walk to wherever you want to walk with them to, they can check if it really is a short walk later on.

Using the Internet to Expedite a Claim in the Event of a Disaster

A good friend of mine recently lost her home to a fire that destroyed her house and personal belongings. While old keepsakes like pictures, family heirlooms, etc are priceless and can never be replaced there are items that can be replaced in the event of a loss.

We have taken pictures of our home and belongings to document what we have in the event we are ever unfortunate to have a loss whether it be a fire or otherwise. Not only are these pictures stored on our computer they are also stored on an online photo site. You can set the privacy settings where only you can see them. You can store the pictures on a photo sharing site such as Google Picasa. This way we will be able to get access to them on a timely basis without having to depend on being able to get to where our backups are stored offsite.

When dealing with insurance companies documentation is important. Receipts for purchases can be destroyed in a fire. We have scanned receipts which are backed up and also saved as picture files like other pictures. These are also put on our online photo site should we ever need them. It is also a good idea to have a written list of major purchases such as furniture and televisions in the event of a loss. A good site for this is Know Your Stuff. Your data is stored on their site so in the event of a loss, your data is not on your computer which could be lost when disaster strikes. While this is not a blog on how to handle insurance claims, insurance adjusters have told me to also take pictures after the damage before you begin to cleanup.

Hopefully you will never need these pictures but if you do and also do what my wife and I do, your documentation will help to more favorably expedite your insurance claim.

Windows Live Hotmail

To paraphrase, this is the web based email service formerly known as Hotmail and Windows Hotmail. With approximately 360 million subscribers, it is one of the larger email services and is owned by Microsoft.  While I was not able to locate the maximum amount of storage using Windows Live Hotmail (Hotmail) they advertise as "ever increasing storage." Last year the website showed a maximum storage amount of 500gb which these days might be considered unlimited. You can attach up to 25mg to an email message which is currently the standard for most email providers.

One of the advantages of Hotmail is the ability to change the interface and look of the webmail page very easily.  You can set up your reading pane to preview messages before opening it. A lot of people like this ability as you can see the message and delete it without opening it.  The preview pane can be on the right side or bottom. Another feature is the "Sweep" function.  This can be a great function for cleaning up a cluttered mailbox and is a very useful tool. With this function you can select a message or message group to clean up.  You can delete all or move to a folder.  There are more options and the choice is yours. Further if doing a sweep by email address, you can easily set up a filter for all future emails from that address.

Like Gmail, you can also view messages by conversation which keeps all messages on the same subject together in an email stream. 

There are concerns mainly with the contacts list which is used with many an email message.  Using the contact list is not the most user friendly.  When importing to Hotmail, I found that I needed to go to each email address and edit the address so it appears like it did prior to importing.  You also cannot delete all of your contacts at 1 time.  At most, you can delete 25 contacts at a time.  While your Gmail contacts cannot be deleted all at once, you can delete up to 100 contacts at a time.  I did not find the import feature too friendly when importing your contacts file.  I needed to search for the way to do this.  Same goes for importing Yahoo contacts.  You may be better exporting your Yahoo contacts as a .csv file then importing that file into your Hotmail contacts.

In addition to what has been noted, having a Hotmail account gives you access to other features of Windows Live. It may work for you. 

May 18, 2011

Facebook Privacy Settings

As you likely are aware, Facebook has had privacy issues that seem to pop up from time to time. You always need to keep on top of privacy issues that come out through the media or otherwise. Below are some security settings you may or may not be aware of.  By using these you will further be able to have your Facebook profile and activity seen only by those you want to.

If you wish that a particular person not be able to access your profile or even see that you have a Facebook account, there is a "Block Lists" in the privacy section (note that all unless otherwise noted require going into the privacy section). Just enter the name of the person you wish to block. Note that for this that the person can log on under another ID that would enable him or her to access your profile according to your privacy settings.

Under "Customize Settings" in the privacy section there is a section "Things Others Share". This is what others can share about you. Make sure to edit these to your choosing.  In particular "Friends Can Check Me Into Places".  This is one that you will likely want to disable.  For "Photos and Videos I'm Tagged In" you will likely want "Friends Only" or "Only Me" which is under "Customize". For "Suggest Photos of me to Friends" I would suggest you disable this. Friends can tag you without suggestions.

Be very careful about sharing contact information. I would not share phone numbers and addresses with anyone within Facebook. Those settings should be set to "Only Me". Personally I did not enter any information for them. For email addresses if I was to share I would only share with friends. Unless there is a business reason I would not share beyond. If you have a website, you can share that with everyone. Anyone can see the address of this blog as well as my Twitter account. For Twitter the privacy setting is under "IM Screen Names".

You also want to be careful about what Apps and websites share about you. In the "Apps and Websites" section under "Info accessible through your friends" I would suggest under "Edit Settings" you keep all unchecked. For Public Search, you need to determine whether you want your profile to be found when a search engine is used. Select as you see fit.

Facebook is a great site for social connections and for reconnecting with old friends. With the privacy issues that Facebook has had and will likely continue to have, you need to keep on top of your privacy settings.  As always, be careful of what you put out there. You never know who will see it. For starters divorce attorneys have been known to go through Facebook profiles to aid in their cases. I heard a story of a divorce attorney friending their clients estranged spouse in an attempt to get incriminating information. Now of course the estrange spouse should never have friended the attorney but that is another story.

May 8, 2011

What the Internet Has Made Free

Since the internet, there are things that are now free that you used to pay for.  Some of these include items where a savings has made it free. An example is writing a letter that costs $0.44 to mail but sending an email is free as you have no postage.  So here are just a few things that used to cost but are now free online:
  1. Skype - you can videochat with anyone who also has a Skype account anytime, anywhere for free.  No more tracking message units, long distance phone calls, etc.  Yes there are other videochat sites.  I am using Skype since it is so well known.
  2. Newspapers-  yes more and more newspapers are moving to a paid service online.  That said, there are still many that you can access for free.  
  3. Directory assistance - at one time this was entirely free then for local calls a charge was added.  You can access sites like and to get phone numbers for free.
  4. Paying bills - most banks allow to to pay checks online for free.  No postage costs or paying for checks.  Plus you can set up automatic payments that save you time.  The checks are automatically written at a time interval you specify.
  5. News, weather, sports - no more calling a 900 number or other number for which you were charged.  This up to date information can be obtained on the internet.
  6. Dictionary and Thesaurus - this also saves on space.  You can access definitions and synonyns at sites like or
  7. Your personal phonebook - can be put on sites like Gmail, Yahoo, etc.  No need to buy a phone book.  Further, you do not need to worry about losing your phonebook and losing all contacts.  You can access it anywhere you have internet access.
  8. Trip planning - Get routes on google maps.  Purchase and print tickets and boarding passes. Flight status is online. You used to need to be a member of AAA to get their triptik online.  Now you can go to their site and download a triptik at no charge which you can print even if you are not a member of AAA. Further you can get quite a bit of travel information online that you used to have to pay for.
  9. Photo sharing - no longer need to pay for extra pictures for friends and relatives.  You can send pictures via email or photo sharing sites like or  
  10. Historic weather data from the Farmers Almanac
  11. Encyclopedia - and have made that encyclopedia collection your parents had just about obsolete and a lot less expensive.  Plus they free up space around the house for other things.
  12. is a great source of reference for which a lot you previously had to pay for. 
  13. Sales tax - although this is changing, depending on where you live you may save sales tax by ordering something online.
  14. Shipping & handling - see sales tax above.  Due to online price comparisons, companies may waive shipping charges on certain items or if an order is greater than a certain amount.
  15. Movie showtimes - the cost was either a newspaper or a phone call.  Now free online along with reviews.
  16. Accounting software - GnuCash is a free accounting software program for small business usage. QuickBooks has a basic program that is also free.
  17. Money management - 
  18. Ecards - rather than buying and mailing birthday cards, anniversary cards, etc you can now send someone an ecard.  There are still those that are free plus you also save postage.  I would not send a sympathy card as an ecard but this post is about things that are now free not how to do a card on the cheap.  
I am sure there are other things that the internet has made free that you at one time paid for.  Any additions to this list are welcomed and if I get enough will publish them in a future blog giving you credit.