Posted on November 26th, 2013 by Bob and Joy Schwabach
Running a malware (bad stuff) program on our test computer picked up over 950 “PUP” files. “PUP,” is short for “Potentially Unwanted Programs.” This triggered the computer to go wild, filling out web addresses with bizarre characters and slowing everything to a crawl.
Malwarebytes, a very nice free program from Malwarebytes.org, found them all. But unfortunately, they were listed with a check box next to each. Checking off each one was really tedious, so we stopped at 20 and planned to come back later. Wrong! When we stopped, the list vanished.
We got the solution by emailing their tech support: Use your right mouse button to click the first piece of malware. That gives you the option to “remove all.” Who knew?
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Posted on November 25th, 2013 by Bob and Joy Schwabach
Quora.com is our favorite question and answer site. It recently had some great tips for using Google in little-known ways. Like these:
- Type “movies” to get a list of all the movies in your city, and with links to trailers. Click on a movie title and you get show times at local theaters.
- Type in “Books by Elmore Leonard” — or any author — to see all of his books on a shelf. Clicking on a book gives you more information. (They show you all the covers in color; very nice display. We typed in “Books by Dr. Seuss” just to see the cheery covers.)
- Type “Songs by (name of artist)” to see a list of all their songs. Clicking on a song plays it in some instances. We listened to Sheryl Crow’s “All I Want to Do.”
- Type “Tip Calculator” into the Google search box and you’ll get a form with three fields. Fill in the number of people in your group, the percentage tip you want to pay, and the bill total, and it figures out how much each person should pay. No more lengthy discussions on who had what.
- Type “puppy etymology” to find out the origin of the word “puppy.” (It’s from the 15th century French word “poupee,” for “doll or plaything.”) Type any word you’re curious about.
- Type in a special day like “Chinese New Year” or “Mother’s Day” to find out what day it’s on, and click “remind me” to get a reminder on your phone or tablet.
Find more tips at quora.com by typing “What are some lesser known Google search tips?”
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Posted on November 22nd, 2013 by Bob and Joy Schwabach
“3D Game Programming for Kids,” by Chris Strom; $36 from oreilly.com. Here’s a great system for teaching you to program, no matter what your age.
All you need is a computer and preferably the Chrome web browser, though anything except Internet Explorer will do. The author explains things so well that in literally a few minutes, Joy had created a colorful ball and cube on her screen and was able to animate them.
– “Super Scratch Programming Adventure!” is from the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups; $25 from NoStarch.com.
This is a 159-page, full-color comic book for teaching programming to anyone from age 8 on up. A cat named Scratchy challenges you to save the planet from a tornado and worse. As you go, you’ll create classic arcade games (our favorite kind because there’s no learning curve). This kind of programming uses colorful blocks of code that you drag into place, like building blocks. This way, there’s no danger of the kind of typos that keep programmers tearing their hair out and burning the midnight oil.
There’s a good intro to this book at Scratch.MIT.edu, a site run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a couple of minutes, our cartoon cat was stepping across the screen to a drum beat and meowing at the same time.
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Posted on November 21st, 2013 by Bob and Joy Schwabach
“Why the U.S. STEM Initiative Shouldn’t Ignore Computer Science,” is a fascinating “infographic,” (a pictorial presentation of statistics) from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. We’ve shortened the long web address to just tinyurl.com/USlag. The chart shows that 150,000 new computing jobs will need to be filled every year for the next ten years. In five years, there will be three times as many computer science jobs as applicants, yet nine out of ten elementary and high schools offer no programming classes. Ironically, computer science is one of the top five highest paid college degrees.
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Posted on November 19th, 2013 by Bob and Joy Schwabach
What prompted all this examination of password protection, (see next post) is trying out a program called “Dashlane.” It has received lots of publicity, all of it full of praise. Our experience: not so good.
Dashlane saves passwords and has an automatic log-in and form filler. Go to a password-protected website you have signed into before, and boom, you’re logged in and any required forms are filled out. It also keeps track of your credit cards and online purchases. This is what it promises to do, even though we don’t think we want someone to have all our credit card information— even if it’s protected by a master password that only we know.
Dashlane promised to be uncrackable by any bad guys. That turned out to be the problem. The security feature is what messed us up. It goes like this: Tap the “security” button and up comes a list of insecure and over-used passwords. Most of ours fell into this category. So we complied and changed a whole bunch of them. That’s where everything went wrong. The next time we wanted to check email on our Android phone away from home, we couldn’t log on. We couldn’t remember our new password and Dashlane wasn’t installed on the phone. So we went to the app store to get Dashlane, but we couldn’t install any new apps without a password. It was a classic Catch 22. The program didn’t tell us to install the Dashlane app on all our devices before changing any passwords, so we were up some kind of creek without a paddle.
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Posted on November 18th, 2013 by Bob and Joy Schwabach
Did you ever forget a password? We forget them all the time.
There are several programs that will save your passwords and other critical private information — and they promise to be uncrackable too. We dutifully try as many as come in, and have come to the conclusion that you can do just as well on your own.
There’s no such thing as a password that can’t be cracked; there’s harder and easier, but not invulnerable. Then there’s the matter of trust. If you send all your passwords and financial data to a supposedly secure service, how do you know they won’t use them? We’re not really paranoid, but we do like to question things.
For instance cyber theft, as it’s called, meaning using a computer to steal, is estimated at anywhere from $100 billion to $1 trillion a year, and growing faster than any other type of crime. That’s a really wide range. What does it mean? It means nobody knows. And nobody knows how to count it. If someone steals a new design for a computer chip, an aircraft, a weapon system, a chemical formula, what is the dollar value of that? How do you calculate it?
The number on money and financial thefts is hugely understated. Whatever number you read for that, just automatically multiply it by two to 10. Why? Because banks and other financial institutions hardly ever report such thefts. After all, displaying your vulnerability is never good for business. Read more »
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Posted on November 15th, 2013 by Bob and Joy Schwabach
We recently wrote about the free programs, Avast and Bitdefender, just days before the new Avast 2014 came out. The new version is free and instructs you to burn a boot-disk on a CD or DVD. After all, it’s all well and good to have anti-virus protection, but what if your computer won’t start at all? Then you better have a boot disk ready. If you Google “create boot disk,” you can get instructions to burn one to CD or flash drive, but it’s nice that Avast prompts you to do it.
Avast 2014 now comes with a “hardened mode” that blocks files from executing if you’re not sure whether they’re infected or not. And, there’s a plug-in for your browser, whether that’s Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari or whatever, that stops companies from tracking your online behavior. They also ask you if you want to download a free trial of a password manager. We tried it and liked it.
We see no reason to switch from your current anti-virus if your computer isn’t giving you any problems. But sometimes your anti-virus program slows down your computer and you need a lighter, faster one. Avast is a great product with 200 million users.
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Posted on November 14th, 2013 by Bob and Joy Schwabach
Ebates.com, the website, is now available as an app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It offers rebates from over 1600 stores and opens up with the “hot deals” of the day. If you wish, your phone or iPod will alert you when a good deal comes in from your favorite store.
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Posted on November 13th, 2013 by Bob and Joy Schwabach
PC Magazine recently listed the 100 best iPad apps in a multitude of categories. We like the ones listed under “entertainment.” You can find it on their web site: PCMag.com.
Among them is “Crackle,” “Fanhattan” and “IntoNow.” Crackle has free movies from Sony. “Fanhattan” emails you when any movie or show on your watch list becomes available on one of the services you indicate, such as Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Crackle and others. Unfortunately, due to licensing restrictions, some programs are blocked. “IntoNow,” which also works on Android phones and tablets, listens to what you’re watching on TV and takes note of it. The name of the show pops up on your phone and you can join a discussion about it.
For music, “Shazam” identifies the song you’re listening to. We pointed our iPod Touch toward our computer, which was playing Kreisler’s Praeludium and Allegro in the style of Pugnani and it was instantly identified. “Vevo” streams music videos, and adds trivia, interviews and the ability to build playlists of your favorites.
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Posted on November 12th, 2013 by Bob and Joy Schwabach
Buncee.com is a free site for making digital scrapbooks and greetings. What makes it different from a lot of other greeting card or scrapbook programs is the ability to drop in YouTube videos as well as photos from Instagram, Google and Flickr.
Buncee was created when the founder, a woman who lost her first child to a rare disease, wanted to thank 250 people who had attended a medical research conference. She wanted to include conference photos with a thank you message, but she didn’t want to use Microsoft’s Powerpoint or an online greeting card service. So she created Buncee.
It takes some fiddling to get used to Buncee. When you add text, there’s a tiny “edit” tab to click and it’s hard to see. And moving pictures around is awkward at first.
The only other downside occurred when we created two-page scrapbooks instead of one-page greetings. (Two pages are free; adding more requires a paid account.) Only one of our recipients guessed that there was a page two. The others stayed on page one. The Buncee pages don’t automatically turn the way a Powerpoint slideshow does. That meant our friends didn’t see the hilarious YouTube video of a woman who wanted all “Deer Crossing” signs moved away from high traffic locations, where the signs told them to cross.
When you’re finished with a Buncee, you get a link to your creation to share in an email. You can also turn it into an online invitation, complete with RSVPs and a list of respondents. If you make your Buncees public, others can comment on them. The paid version, $7 a month, adds the ability to save your creations as PDFs, so you can print them out and snail-mail them. Paid users can also add voiceovers. For teachers, there’s a $10 a month version for keeping track of 30 student accounts and posting assignments.
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