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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