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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Upgrade to Mountain Lion

I have  heard that the Mac has a new Operating System called Mountain Lion.  Should I upgrade?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

1244. Fax online

Diane asks: Although I don't use faxes as much as I used to, I still need to send the occasional fax. I don't even have a fax machine any more. Is there some way to send a fax online?

Boy, talk about your technology from the last century! Fax machines have certainly fallen by the wayside. Wouldn't it be easier if you could just scan a document and then email it to someone? Isn't that the normal way to do things in this century?

That is what we try to do, and any vendor that doesn't allow us to do that often gets the boot. But if you find that you can't avoid faxing, you can easily scan the document and email it to one of the many online fax services, and have them fax it to the receiving party.

In other words, the fax service takes the document and faxes it behind the scenes to a fax machine somewhere else. All you have to do is provide the service with a scanned document (or even a text document, in most cases--the services can generally handle plain old text as well as scanned documents).

Once upon a time, there were many free faxing services--eFax was one of these, and we both used their service for years. They have since made the "free" service virtually undiscoverable, and if you do, you won't like the restrictions placed on the free faxing service. A recent search for a faxing service revealed a lot of web sites that looked vaguely illegal, and no free services that anyone should be willing to trust.

Ken's favorite current service is . gives you 5 free fax pages outbound and if you recommend the service to a friend who then signs up, you get 5 more free outgoing pages.

Check out, as they make it easy to scan, email, and fax to people that won't accept documents any other way.

Receiving faxes is, unfortunately, a little more complicated. You need an incoming fax number to make that happen. Hellofax will be happy to supply you with an incoming fax number (and they'll email received faxes to you as email attachments), but they will change you for that privilege. Check out their site for more information.

1245. Extra charges on ATT bills

Marge sent in this question: I recently noticed a monthly $10 fee on my AT&T phone bill. I think I've been paying this forever. What is it and how can I get rid of it?

There actually is no Marge. Ken made the question up: he heard the story recently on the radio about people who had been leasing their phones from AT&T inadvertently for the past 30 years.

Those of us who are of a certain age will recall paying the phone company monthly fees to rent a phone. Ken recalls very clearly the first time he was able to buy a phone and connect it up to the phone line. Anyone under 50 probably won't recall the previous situation, in which renting your phone was the only option.

It was a big deal, but a lot of people never did that, and continue to pay AT&T terrible, usurious fees of $10.00 or more per month, month after month, to cover that rental.

If you find an undisclosed fee on your bill that you don't understand, make sure and ask the phone company about it. If it is a rental fee, get rid of that phone and purchase a $10.00 phone yourself and be done with those monthly fees on your phone bill.

This issue only only applies to land lines, and many people no longer even have a land line. If you do, take a moment and check for the fee: You don't want to be Marge.

1246. iPhone apps for kids

Dawn asked: I have an extra iPhone, and as much as I hate to admit it, there are times when I need to entertain my four-year-old with it so I can get things done. Can you recommend any apps that are appropriate for children his age?

This question actually came about when I was left entertaining a 4-year-old one night for several hours and I pulled out my phone, showed the child Angry Birds and he was happy for hours.

So, clearly, Angry Birds is a game that a 4-year-old will have fun with.

We also found others that kids like including Tesla Toy, Art of Glow, various Tick-Tac-Toe games, Glow Doodle, Water Slide Extreme and many more. (These were actual recommendations from a friend with two small children. Obviously, there are hundreds, if not thousands, more that other parents would recommend.)

In any case, make sure you try out the apps before you unleash them on your child to make sure they are appropriate for his or her age group. We haven't found any good listings in the App store to tell you which ones are appropriate, so check them out before you use them.

If you find some good apps for children, leave a comment on our web site with a name (and perhaps a link) along with the appropriate age group, so we will be able to pass that information on to others who need to entertain young ones using electronic gadgets.

1247. Password tools

Tom asks: I know everyone needs to handle and keep track of lots of passwords. And I know that lots of people use the same password on every site. Is there some way to generate and recall secure passwords without having to write them all down?

Yes, this surely is an issue. My father keeps a very neat Rolodex with all of his passwords sitting next to his computer. Not what I would call secure, since anyone who happens to sit down at his desk has access to all his private information! Other folks keep yellow sticky notes all over their monitors with passwords. Even less secure!

Some people actually do use the same password on every site. The problem is that anyone that wants to break into your account and steal information from you is aware that lots of people do this, and so once they find a password on one site are likely to try it on others. If you're using a "popular" password, it's even worse--these are the first passwords a thief will try to use. (For a list of the current 25-most-popular passwords, check out the article here:

There are many products that you can use that will help you both generate and store secure passwords.

Ken's current favorite is a free one called LastPass . It works as a browser add-in, and you can install it both on Windows and Mac OS X. There's an iOS version for iPhone, and an Android version. It will generate secure passwords for you and store them in encrypted format. Then, when you need to log into a site, you just need to remember your master password to log into LastPass and have it supply passwords for all your saved sites.

Imagine being able to sit down at your computer (or ANY computer), start working with your internet browser and not have to think about entering each individual password for each site. can do that for you. Check it out--it's a great service. It's free, unless you want premium services (like the ability to use it with a smart phone, and even that service is extremely reasonably priced).

In addition, LastPass can fill out online forms (such as payment information when you make purchases online), storing your address, credit card, and other personal information safely. That's another issue altogether, but it's tied into the same product.

LastPass does store your information on its servers, remotely, which can be both a good thing (your data is always available, no matter what computer you sit down at) and a bad thing (although the data is heavily encrypted, there is a very, very slight chance that some evil-doer could break in and compromise the data). If this bothers you, there are other similar applications that keep all the data locally unless you instruct them to do otherwise. KeePass, RoboForm, and 1Password all do an excellent job; we just happen to like LastPass more. Try them out and find one that works, but whatever you do, don't use the same password on every site!

1248. Using computer to send text messages

Tyler asks: I often need to text friends when I'm working at my computer, where I can type so much faster than I can on the phone keyboard. Is there some way to send texts to friends' phones from the computer?

This question has lots of answers but only one good one that we're aware of.

It is possible, with some phone carriers, to send an email to a phone address like (that is, phonenumber@carrier) and it will appear on the phone as a text--this specific format But that means you need to find out the specific email address format for each carrier. Each carrier that supports this technique uses a different format, and there's no easy way to guess. The format works for AT&T--that is, sending an email to an address formatted in this way arrives as a text message on the corresponding phone--but it won't work for any other carrier.

There is a better answer. WE mentioned it in other tips but it works in this one as well. Google Voice--a free service available from Google allows you to send an SMS (that is, a text message) to any phone. You just supply the phone number and the text message and they will deliver it to that phone.

Google Voice is a wonderful, free service. Sign up a and once you do, you can send text messages from your computer to anyone's cell phone. We don't know why everyone that sends text messages wouldn't want to sign up for this service; and we didn't even mention all the other useful features supplied by Google Voice!

It's also worth reminding you that receiving text messages may have a charge on the phone to which you send your messages. Sending won't cost anything, but receiving certainly might.

Monday, July 16, 2012

1216. Making text larger/smaller while Browsing

Make Text Larger or Smaller While Browsing

I find that often, when I’m browsing the Web, I can’t easily read the text on the screen. Is there some way to easily make the text larger? The same thing often happens when reading emails, or viewing PDF files, as well!

On a PC, most applications support the following keyboard shortcuts: Hold the CTRL key down and tap the plus sign (+) key to make the text larger, and CTRL key and the minus sign (-) to make it smaller.  If you have a mouse with a roller button you may find that you can hold the CTRL key and roll up for larger and down for smaller text. (On a Mac, press the Command (Apple) key and the plus sign to enlarge text or the minus sign to make text smaller.

This technique doesn't work the same in all document readers; it works in most and it can help you manage the size of fonts in your documents.