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Sunday, December 8, 2013

1429. Closing a running app in iOS 7

I upgraded to iOS 7 on my iPhone, and I can't figure out how to quit a running application. I used to be able to hold down the Start button and then click a little X to close an app, but that doesn't seem to work. What's the trick?

Well there certainly are a lot of user interface changes in iOS 7 and this is one of them. 

In general you really shouldn't need to shut down the running application but sometimes it helps to restart the application if it isn't working quite right. The trick here is to note you need to double click the start button and then once you do that you get a display of all the running applications. You can zoom through them to switch to another running application or ...  here's the trick!  Just flick with your finger to remove a running application.

So you double-click and then flick. And if you're really coordinated you conflict with multiple fingers to quit multiple running applications.

User interface features that require  you to double click before you can use them aren't terribly discoverable.  So just think on your iPhone to quit a running application or to multitask double-click that start button i

Double-click start button, flick an app to close it. Use multiple fingers to close multiple apps at once!

1428.Dual-head USB Cables

Jerry asked: I have an external DVD drive for my computer, and it uses a weird USB cable with two plugs on one end. Why does it have two plugs, and do I need them both?

The answer to that do you need them both question is actually "It Depends".  Let's step back a second. External DVD drives may require more power than a single USB port provides.  

On top of that although USB ports are supposed to provide a standard amount of power. On some computers they don't supply enough power to provide power to your DVD drive. The manufacturers have created these dual head USB cables that hook up to two USB ports so they get double the amount of power. 

On those weird cables you'll see a full straight through cable that provides data and power for the USB drive and there is a little nubby one hanging off of that to plug in and get extra power.  I would try it without the little nubby one and if it works you don't need the extra power. 

On the other hand if it doesn't you can then plug in the second head on the USB cable and get enough power for your external drive. If one side of the cable works you can replace that funny cable with a standard USB cable so you don't have to keep track of an extra dangling bit hanging off the cable.

1427.Adding an External DVD Drive

Kate asked: I bought a thin and light laptop, but I sometimes need to read and write DVDs and CDs. What am I supposed to do? This laptop doesn't have anything like that.

When Doug and I received this question we sort of chuckled thinking what  is she going to want next an Eight track player attached to her computer.

No really people actually do still use CDs and DVDs at this point attached to their computer.  I often have to create CDs to give people music that I've created for them. And for that I use an external DVD drive.

These external DVD drives could also read and write CDs so they are perfect for creating content. You can buy one on Amazon or any local vendor. They are relatively inexpensive and they connect to your computer using the USB port that's on every computer. 

If you need to create DVDs or CDs then you'll need to get an external DVD drive. On our website I've added a link to both a standard DVD and a BlueRay external drive that I found useful. 

External USB DVD: Ken's favorite is (Samsung). If you want Blueray, check this one:

1426.Hide the WIndows 8 Charms Bar

In WIndows 8, every time I move my mouse to the corner, a bunch of icons appear. What are these, and how can I get rid of them?

You asked some good questions but the answer to "should you remove them"  is probably no.

These charms provided by Microsoft make it easy to get to very settings on your computer and then make it easy to do things like power off your computer. So no I'd leave the charms there.  If you ask me.

But if you really do want to get rid of them it's actually pretty easy. Just in the Windows desktop right-click on the taskbar and then select properties from the menu that appears. In the corner navigation area choose the option that turns off the charms that appear when you move your mouse to the upper right hand corner. Once you do that though they no longer appear.  You can still get to them using the window shortcut (Windows Key + C)  but you won't see them when you just move your mouse to the upper right-hand corner.

This is one of those things that I suggest leaving on until you just can't stand it as the charms actually are quite useful for searching and modifying settings in Windows 8.  

1425. Revert to Windows 7 Start Menu in Windows 8

I've set up Windows 8, and upgraded to Windows 8.1, and I really miss the Windows 7 Start menu. Yes, Windows 8.1 has a Start button, but all it does is take me to the full-screen apps. I want a Start menu like I had in Windows 7. Is there some way to get that back?
We generally try to use the newest, “shiniest” features of every operating system, but to be honest, at least one of us (Ken) really misses the Windows 7 Start menu as well. Doug has reconciled himself to liking the new tiled interface, but some habits die hard, and Ken agrees with you—we miss the Start menu.
If you search online, you’ll find a number of different products that promise to return you to Windows 7 happiness and comfort by providing the old standby, the Windows Start menu.
Ken uses a product from Stardock, called Start 8 ( Currently, it costs $4.99 (we think that’s an incredible deal for a really useful product). This application replaces the Windows Start menu and gives you a ton of options for customizing the behavior of the menu, as well. If you miss the Windows start menu, we highly recommend Start8.
Doug, on the other hand, has grown accustomed to the new technology, and likes pressing the Windows key and then just typing the name of the application he wants to run. For example, to start Word, he press the Windows key, then types “Wo” and Enter. That’s enough of the name to help Windows find the right application and start it up.

You know, in the long run, it may be best to take the time to get used to the new paradigm. Ken still thinks that in Windows 8.2, or Windows 9, or whatever, you’ll see the old-style Start menu, or something like, make a re-emergence. That’s all just speculation, of course. If you just want things back the way they used to be, check out Start8. It works well!


1424. Skip the Windows Start Screen

I'm using WIndows 8, but have no use for the big tile-like start screen. Can I get it to start up just like WIndows 7, showing the windows desktop?

It's funny when Microsoft released Windows 8 the original  version they sort of assumed that everyone would like that tiled  start screen and it made at the only option.

There were tools that let you skip it but you had to pay or get something extra to make that happen.  

In Windows 8.1 which we strongly suggest everyone using Windows 8 gets, there's an option that allows you to skip directly to the Windows desktop. To do that you want right click on the Windows 8.1 task bar when you are in the desktop then choose properties and click on the navigation tab and under the start screen section check the checkbox next to "when I sign in or close all apps on the screen go to the desktop instead of start". 

We will have a link to instructions on how to do this on our website but it's easy to do and only requires a single checkbox to start windows up on the desktop instead of the tiled start screen. 

1430. WWW what is it in the URL and do I need it.

The other day I was trying to get to a Web site and I typed the address without the leading “www”. Weird, but I didn’t get to the Web site I was looking for. I retyped it and included the “www,” and it worked fine. I didn’t realize you had to actually include the “www.” What’s going on here?
We guess you may have come across one of the few web sites in the world that don’t behave the same whether you type the “www” or not, but normally, whether you type “” or “”, you should end up at Google’s Web site. The trick here is that the domain name (in this case) is, and the prefix (www) indicates to the “great traffic computer in the sky” exactly which part of Google’s Web site you want to visit. The “www” is an arbitrary name (originally used as an abbreviation for World Wide Web), and there’s nothing special about that set of letters, except that every Web site uses it, by convention. As you may know, in order to browse the Web, your computer must communicate with a server (and there are many of these) that converts domain names to Web addresses. For example, when you browse to, a Domain Name Service (DNS) server converts the request for to an address like, and your browser communicates with the server at that particular Web address. Anyone who manages domain settings can configure any prefix and associate it with any Internet Protocol (IP) address. For example, we tend to use webmail as a prefix for our online e-mail access, so we can browse to something like to retrieve our mail.

Now, back to the original question: Just as www and webmail are valid domain name prefixes, so is nothing at all. Normally, companies configure their domains so that resolves to the same IP address as, but that isn’t a requirement. If you find a site where the two don’t take you to the same place, or where (without www) doesn’t work at all, you might want to let the owners of the Web site know! You, as an end user, shouldn’t have to concern yourself with the difference—in a perfect world, typing or should take you to the same place!

1431. Misspelled web addresses.

Yesterday I was wanting to go to and I typed Amazon wrong. I entered 2 N's at the end. But I still got to Is there some Web magic going on? How did that happen?

Web magic, No. Lot's of money, Yes.  There is a feature in the web domain world that allows you to route your domain name to another name and the person that entered the name would not even know it was re-routed. This feature is probably what was used. Amazon most likely has many if not all of the similar domain names that they can control and route to their web site.

As a business your Brand is very important to you and you must protect it. If you were a competitor to Amazon wouldn't you want people like Ken who can't type to come to your web site? So companies that can afford it will purchase all of the names that people could type that were similar to your name.

I am sure if you happen to have the domain name you could offer it to Amazon and they would pay you much more that the $12 you paid for it.  

For those lucky people that grabbed up any variations of a popular web domain name they can either offer the name to the original company or a competitor that would be happy to get the traffic or you could create your own web site and offer links to companies including the original company. You could make a lot of money from people like Ken who can't type and people like me who can't spell.

1432. Old disk drives. Should I care about the old data on it?

I was think of getting rid of an old computer I had in the office. But I was worried about the contents of the hard drive. Do I need to do anything special with that? Should I format it? Or run some utility to clean it off before I give it away or throw it out?

Yes Ken I strongly recommend you destroy your disk drive before throwing it out or giving it away. Unless I see the drive being destroyed I will personally take a hammer and physically break the drive.  

If I am giving it to a friend I will not only format the drive I will use a utility to physically overwrite the entire drive with binary zeros. Use your favorite search engine to locate a utily to do this. This will insure that whatever data that was on the drive is no longer readable.  

It is not like your friend would use the information, but when they got rid of the drive they may not destroy it and some information could remain on the drive forever. I am paranoid about this. Make sure you safeguard your data.

1433. Losing registration on your web site

Another web mystery for you. I went to a friends web site and had been there many times in the past. But all of a sudden I went there it took me to a site that I didn't all. How is that possible?

The first idea that comes to mind is your friend has changed his business and now is doing this new business. Ken you really need to talk to your friends more often.  

But the more likely the case is your friend didn't update his domain registration and someone else has purchased it. There is a big business out there in "pouching" domain names. This is especially true if the domain has any significant traffic.  

The pouchers will buy up an expiring domain name and then try to sell it back to you or if it has a good traffic count sell it to someone else.  

Be aware of your domain name expiration. Most registrar's like Network Solutions GoDaddy and others allow you to automatically renew your registration and they will bother you month's in advance to re-purchase your expiring domain name.  

Pay attention to this. Your domain name is an asset, treat it as such.

1434. Old computers - any value?

Recently I had a friend hand me an old Dell Netbook that she bought a few years ago that doesn't seem to have much value and she asked if I could sell it for her. Well if I checked online the best price I say was for $12.00. Is there anything else she could do with that computer other than just trashing it?

Old computers can be useful for many things. But sometimes you should just consider it a boat anchor, but don't just through it overboardt, give it to a local charity when they sponsor the electronic waste pickup drive.  Remember to clean off your hard drive securely as we have discuss in another tech tip.

For no additional money you could use the computer as a file or print server, Or an extra backup of your critical applications.  

If you have an iPhone or iPad and your printer does not support direct printing use Apples AirPrint, and connect the printer the the old computer.

I also have one of my old computers that I use for guests. I do not want to share my computer with anyone. This way they can use my spare computer and I don't have to worry about them seeing something I don't want them to see or accidentally deleting something important. 

I know of many people complain that they lent their computer to a friend and now they have some terrible virus.

1435. What is a browser?

I see lots of different browsers on my friends’ computers. I see Safari on the Mac, and Internet Explorer on Windows. I’ve seen friends using Chrome, Firefox, and others on both platforms. What exactly is a browser and why does it exist? And what browser am I using? I don’t know how to tell.
Stop right now, and start up whatever application you use to browse the Web. Where you type the Web address, enter This useful site can tell you which browser you’re currently using, and if your copy is up to date. This is useful information!
To quote from “Internet Explorer is a browser. It’s a piece of software on your computer. It lets you visit webpages and use web applications. It’s important to have the latest version of your browser. Newer browsers save you time, keep you safer, and let you do more online.” Putting it as simply as possible, a Web browser is a piece of software that allows you to view Web pages.
In its simplest format, the World Wide Web consists of millions/billions of documents, created using a text-based language called HTML. In order to view these documents, you need some software that can make a request for a specific page to a specific address: Your request for a page turns into a response, which displays the requested page. It’s (obviously) a lot more complex than that, but you can think of your browser as a means of viewing web pages.
People often confuse their browsers with the content displayed in the browser; That is, they equate their browser with Google or Bing. Others confuse the browser with their computer: A browser is not the Windows PC or Mac. As we said before, a browser is nothing more than a piece of software that runs on your computer that allows you to view and interact with Web pages.
Some browsers are platform-specific (current versions of Internet Explorer run solely on Windows computers, and current versions of Safari run only on Mac computers). Others, like Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and more, run on both platforms, plus Linux. In addition, you’ll find Web browsers on all smart phones and tablets—iPhones and iPads run Safari (although you can install Google Chrome on these devices), and Android phones and tablets run Google Chrome. Each different browser supports browsing the Web, of course, and each provides its own set of unique features and capabilities.
Some folks like the features in one browser, others prefer another. Each browser maintains its own settings, history, bookmarks, cache, and add-ins; if you have trouble with one browser, you can experiment with another. (To find alternate browsers, search the Web for Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox). Ken is partial to Chrome, because it easily synchronizes bookmarks and settings across his Mac, PCs, iPhone and iPad. Chrome maintains all these settings across all the platforms on which he browses. Other browsers can do the same thing (Safari uses iCloud, Internet Explorer can use SkyDrive), but Chrome makes it all truly easy.
Which ever browser you choose, make sure you keep it up to date. New security risks find their way to the public weekly, and it’s important to maintain the most secure browser you can—update regularly!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

1417. Custom music - your own radio station.

I know there are lots of ways to listen to music online, but I’d love to be able to create something like a radio station that played only songs I like. What are my options?
Doug’s never been into purchasing CDs, but Ken used to purchase a lot of them—he’s got a huge collection of them in boxes. Of course, he rarely plays any of them; they’re all ripped and stored on a network-attached storage (NAS) device, and he can enjoy any of his music anywhere in his house, or on the road, by simply streaming it from the NAS. When Ken stops buying CDs, you know the world has really changed; that time has come. Just as cassette and 8-track tapes finally disappeared (although there are still folks using cassette tapes to listen to music, they’re few and far between), CDs are at the end of their life cycle, and we couldn’t be happier. At this point, the discs and their packaging are an environmental nightmare; and, since you cannot recycle the unwanted discs, they simply end up eating space in landfills.
Clearly, unless you’re a serious audiophile who requires the highest fidelity reproduction, digitized music (which is almost always compressed in some way, and therefore loses some of its fidelity to the original source) stored on a hard drive (local or cloud-based) is the way to go at this point. The question is, however: Where do you find the music you want to listen to, in a continuous stream? You can purchase tracks from any of several different sources, but then it’s up to you to create your own playlists. The question here is how to create something like a personalized radio station that can play music you like, continuously. (You may note that we’re not even discussing “illegal” sources of online music—we have no interest in contemplating how you can find copyrighted music for free.)
Although music services come and go, and you may have your own favorite, Ken strongly favors, which allows you to easily create your own “stations” by supplying search keywords. Pandora provides both a free and a paid service: If you opt for the free service, you get a lot of ads and restrictions on how many songs you can skip; the paid service allows for fewer restrictions and no ads.
To try it out, Ken browsed to, and when asked, entered the name Debussy (to hear music of the classical composer Claude Debussy). Music started playing immediately, and soon other music like that of Debussy’s filled the room (as did ads, unfortunately, without a paid account). If you’re a fan of Johnny Cash, for example, you could enter that name and create a Johnny Cash station. You can create as many different stations as you like, and switch between them as the mood suggests.
We suggest trying out Pandora to see if it fits your needs. You can use it for free, but you’ll be happier with a paid account.

You might also want to investigate other options: Spotify ( and the new Beats Music ( also provide large catalogs of music, for a fee. (Spotify has a free service, like Pandora, with somewhat irritating ads.) No matter which option you choose, you’ll be able to play just the music you like, in a continuous stream.

1416. Getting the skinny on techy products. How?

I often try to purchase techie products online, but never know which one is best. Is there some unbiased place I can look for information?

It Is funny - I used to subscribe to the Consumer Reports website but it's not free and to be honest the reviews seem a little outdated to me on technical products.

I found a website that has truly helped me in a lot of recent purchases and that is the They do in-depth technical reviews of technical products. They bring in technical experts in the field of that particular product and it's really helpful for picking up things like flat screen TVs or computers or other technical products.

They have a alternate site a sister site as it were witch is the which does the same thing for home products. So if you need to find the best fruit peeler or turkey fryer I cannot recommend this site highly enough. 

On the other end were talking about technical products here so check out the It's free and full of good information.

1415. Wireless speakers - are there any good ones?

I’d like to have music available in several rooms in my house, but I really don’t want to install wired speakers in multiple rooms. Is there some wireless sounds system that works well?
Kens’ house came wired for sound in most of the rooms, and the wiring connects up to an antiquated system of wall plates that allows you to change volume and sound source, but nothing else. In a modern world, you should be able to change the content easily without having to trudge back to the audio source. In addition, adding wired speakers to an existing home is difficult and expensive, normally, because it involves invasive work inside walls. We suggest you avoid this if at all possible!
If you’re just sitting in one place, or if you want a portable speaker you can move from room to room, and if you’re interested in playing music you have stored on a portable device, almost any Bluetooth speaker will do. There are a ton of battery-powered Bluetooth speakers available, and each of these uses the short-range (up to 30 ft) Bluetooth standard to connect to almost any portable device. If you’re interested in this sort of arrangement, you might find this article useful in making a shopping choice:
If, on the other hand, you would like a whole-home audio system that you can control from a handheld device (or a computer), we highly recommend the Sonos system ( It isn’t cheap, but it doesn’t sound cheap either.  Sonos speakers use their own wireless mesh network to communicate, and only one of the Sonos devices in your home needs to connect to a network in order to retrieve music from the Web and to be controlled by your devices.
Ken got turned onto these speakers a few years back, and has three Sonos devices in his home. The nice part is that not only are the speakers small, somewhat portable, and easy to set up, they sound great. In addition, you can control all aspects of the sound system from a phone, tablet, or computer, using the Sonos software. You can easily have different music in three different rooms, or group all three rooms together so that the same music is playing in all three simultaneously. You can stop and start any room’s music from your device or computer, and you can stream music from a large number of sources, including online radio stations (most radio stations stream their content online, including our local stations), Spotify, Pandora, Sirius/XM satellite radio, and more. If you have local MP3 files (or any other type of digitized music), the Sonos software can find it and play it, as well. All in all, we’re very pleased with the Sonos system, and highly recommend it.

Sonos isn’t the only option—Bose and other companies make comparable systems, using slightly different technology. We haven’t tried them, however—that doesn’t mean they’re not great, but we can vouch for the Sonos system.

1414. Extra Battery or Case to Extend Phone Life

I have a friend whose phone battery never lasts past 2PM. She’s done all the standard things to help extend battery life (turning off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when they’re not needed, turning off location services for most apps, turning down the screen brightness, and so on) but she still can’t get a full day’s use from the device. What are her options now?
We certainly know the feeling—we have all these settings configured appropriately, yet our batteries run dry midday sometimes as well! If you’re travelling in an area with poor cell coverage, for example, your phone spends far too much effort trying to connect to the cell network, and this effort can run your battery down.
To extend your battery life, assuming you’ve made all the appropriate software settings, your next best bet is to invest in some sort of external battery. The simplest option is to examine the various battery cases that are available for your device. A battery case is a combination of a standard phone case with an external battery, and clearly, this sort of case must be designed specifically for your phone. For popular phones, you’ll find a plethora of different manufacturers providing these cases. For the iPhone 5/5s, the WireCutter web site recommends the Lenmar Meridian so far (the options grow daily): Popular manufacturers include Belkin and Mophie ( and
If you’d prefer a more generalized solution, you can pick up one of the many different external battery packs. These small devices are available in various sizes; the power of the battery is measured in milliamp hours (mAH) and in general, the larger the number of mAH that the battery provides, the better. Most of these battery packs work the same way: You charge the battery at home, and then carry it with you to charge your device while away from a power source. The larger the battery, of course, the less convenient you’ll find it to carry the battery with you. The iPhone 5, for example, includes a 1445 mAH battery. An external battery pack that supplies 5000 mAH can charge this phone at least three times when it’s fully charged. The new iPad Air has an 8820 mAH battery, so the same battery pack wouldn’t be able to completely charge the iPad Air. There are so many of these batteries available, it’s hard to recommend the right one for you. You can check out the review on The Wirecutter (, although the field of options changes daily. The nice part about using an external battery pack is that it can work with any device, and isn’t tied to any specific form factor. Ken has this highly recommended model: Your best bet is to search online for “external battery pack review” and see what turns up.

1413. iPhone 5C and 5S. Which one?

I don’t understand why Apple released both the iPhone 5C and the iPhone 5S. What’s the difference? Which one is right for me?
It’s true: If you want a new iPhone at this point, you must choose between the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S. The iPhone 5C is the colorful one—it’s available in green, blue, yellow, pink, and white. Apparently, there are folks who need a phone of a particular color (Doug and Ken don’t fall into that category.) The iPhone 5S is the one with the fingerprint reader, the better camera, and the faster processor. In other words, it’s way more advanced than the iPhone 5C. They’re both available with multiple storage options; both are available with 16 or 32GB of storage, and the 5S offers a 64GB option, as well. These sizes have nothing to do with the speed or power of the phone—they simply indicate how much “stuff” you can store on the phone. If you use your phone to watch videos (Ken does this for hours every day at the gym), you’ll have to consider how much space you need: If you stream your video from iTunes, Netflix, Amazon or Hulu+, then you won’t need much storage space. If you tend to download videos from iTunes to keep with you, you’ll need as much storage space as you can afford.
Doug and Ken both sprung for the iPhone 5S, which is $100 more than the 5C in every configuration. Not only is its camera and processor better, but the fingerprint reader provides quick access to the phone when it’s locked (and it should be, whenever you’re not using it).
There’s no “right” phone for everyone, and we can’t recommend the right one for you, as well. Apple’s web site allows you to compare the phones:  It’s useful to note that you can still get the iPhone 4S for free on a new contract. You can only get the 8GB model, but note that it’s quite a step down from the 5S or 5C—but it is free. Also note that if you already have an iPhone 5, it’s hard to justify the upgrade to a 5C, because they’re essentially the same phone except for the colors. The upgrade from an iPhone 5 to a 5S is a little less hard to justify, but it’s probably worth waiting for the inevitable iPhone 6.

If you need a new phone now, and if you’re sold on the Apple/iOS world, you can’t go wrong with either the iPhone 5C or 5S. We suggest looking at the 5S if you can afford the $100 premium, and think carefully about how much space you’ll need. We both went with the smallest size, since neither of us tends to carry a lot of music and video content around with us.

1412. Remove a Wireless connection in Windows 8.1 missing?

I can't find the option to "forget" the settings for an existing wireless Internet connection in Windows 8.1. Where did that option go, and how do I remove a network's settings in Windows 8.1?

If you listen to us you have to understand that these questions don't just come out of nowhere. This one came about because Doug and I were sitting in a room trying to get some work done and we couldn't figure out how to remove the settings for existing network connection. 

We knew we have done this in Windows 7 and Windows 8.0 but we just couldn't find it in Windows 8.1.   And the reason we couldn't find it is because it's gone.  There is no user interface to remove an existing wireless Internet connections in Windows 8.1.  

You can do it. You have to go to the command line and type some arcane command using the net command and no one knows how to do it offhand, But we do have a tip on the website which will lead it will link that shows how to remove an Internet connection setting with Windows 8.1. Give it a look if that's something you need to do.

1421. Make sure you are in the right Google account

I have multiple Google accounts and I can't tell which account I am logged into. Is there some way I can be logged into multiple and switch between them?

This has been an irritation to me lately. I have a number of Google identities. One for my Google Analytics, one for Google Voice, my Google Gmail account, and my Google Business account. Sadly you could actually be logged into two accounts at the same time. This caused a major problem when the password was changed. It turned out I didn't know which account got the new password. Confusing to say the least.

Since then Google has fixed this issue and you can only be logged into one at a time. To check which account you are in check the Account profile in the upper right area of the web page. I need to do this often.

Google has provided a way to switch between the multiple account easily. From he Account profile click the drop down and select Add Account. Once signed into multiple accounts the same dialog allows you to switch between accounts. Having differnt pictures for each account can help.

Some Google applications do not support this feature.

Google is also striving to combine accounts to minimize these issues.

But be aware of which account you are in so you don't send emails from the wrong account.  It could prove embarrassing.

1420. Considering the Surface 2

I remember seeing commercials on TV for Microsoft’s Surface tablet, and now I hear that the Surface 2 has been released. What’s up? I assume the Surface 2 is bigger/better/shinier, but what’s the scoop? Is this model worth the money? Should I consider this as a Windows 8 upgrade computer?
You could say it’s definitely bigger, better, and faster than the original Surface. OK, maybe not bigger—it’s exactly the same size—but it is significantly faster and better. First of all, what is the Surface? Think back to Apple’s introduction of the iPad in 2010. This enormously successful tablet computer changed the way people interact with computers, and since 2010, Microsoft has been struggling to keep up. With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft added significant support for touch computing, and the Surface tablet was Microsoft’s entry into the huge array of Windows 8 tablet computers.
Microsoft created two versions of the Surface tablet: The Surface tablet runs Windows 8 RT, which runs only Microsoft’s “Modern UI” applications (the full-screen touch-centric applications that you see in their commercials). The Surface Pro runs these applications, plus any application written for the Windows desktop (including most, if not all, applications that ran under Windows 7)—in other words, it’s a full-featured, portable computer that also works as a tablet in touch mode.
The Surface 2 is a faster, more powerful version of the Surface. Again, it’s available in two versions (RT and Pro), and if you’re considering using it as your only computer, you should only investigate the Surface 2 Pro (because the Surface 2 won’t run legacy Windows applications).
Doug purchased a Surface 2 Pro and is quite happy with it, as his only day-to-day computer. He admits that the screen real estate can be somewhat cramped, but if he needs more room, it’s easy to add an external monitor and expand the size of the screen. That doesn’t work when traveling, of course, and the screen is just fine for most casual users, as is. (Note that using the Surface 2 Pro as a tablet, touching the screen, really only works well when running Modern UI applications—standard Windows desktop applications, like Microsoft Word, really require a keyboard. Luckily, Microsoft will be happy to sell you an excellently engineered keyboard that attaches to the Surface 2—Doug likes his a lot.)

The bottom line? If you’re considering getting a Windows 8 tablet-based computer, the Surface 2 Pro is an excellent choice. We strongly recommend against purchasing a previous version at this point, as the newer one is so much more powerful (and faster)!

1418. How do I save battery power on my phone?

I try not to be that guy that stands around all day looking at his phone every 10 seconds, but sometimes it happens, and my phone runs out of juice by 2PM. What can I do to preserve battery power when I know I’m going to be out and about all day?
One option, of course, is to travel with an external battery, either as a separate device or as a battery case for your phone—that’s a topic for a different tip, however. The first step to increasing battery power shouldn’t be throwing money at it, but instead, trying to find ways to optimize the battery you’ve got.
Basically, preserving battery power boils down to turning off everything you can—the screen, and each individual radio in your device consume battery power. Reducing the screen brightness can help a great deal, as will turning off WiFi and/or Bluetooth when you’re not using them. Location Services (in other words, using the GPS) can consume a lot of battery power, as well, so turn off these services for any application that doesn’t absolutely require them.
Another thing to consider is your use of applications that receive data while in the background. This feature is new for iOS 7 (assuming you’re an Apple user), but it allows applications like your calendar to wake up and retrieve data even when you’re not using your phone. You can control this feature on an app-by-app basis, so take the time to configure the settings for each app if you want to maximize your battery life.
In addition, your phone constantly attempts to connect to the cellular network. If you’re in a rural area with low coverage, yet have your phone set to use LTE or even 4G, it’s possible that it will expend a lot of energy attempting to connect to the selected high-speed network. If you know you won’t be in a covered area all day, turn off the high-speed setting for your phone’s cellular radio. This can also save you a lot of battery life.
You can find many articles about preserving your device’s battery life online, but we found simple, helpful articles for both iOS and Android users. You might start by trying the things described in these articles. For iOS users, try this link: For Android users, try this link:

1419. iPhone profile configuratiion for setting up your phone.

I have a friend with a small company and wants to provide iPhones to their employee's. Is there some way to help setup and control the iPhone settings on your PC or Mac? 

How does this work?

There is a Utility you can get for your PC as well as your Mac to help you setup your iPhone or group of iPhones. It is commonly used in an Enterprise environment to control the use of phones, but with the smartphones becoming more complicated you can use this utility to help you maintain your own personal phone.

It lets you create and maintain most of your settings on the phone including your applications, WiFi settings, email accounts and security certificates.

You should always backup your iPhone settings but this utility allows more control up front and if you need to reset things it becomes easy to do things over with changes where needed.

Look into the iPhone Configuration Utility at your Apple web site.

1422. Backup, backup, backup, then test the restore

I know we are not the norm but I think it is important to have backups of my computers. And I know you do. What kind of backups should we have? Online, archive, offsite?  How can people set this up?

Ken we are not the norm. But I do know that there are people that have done backups and needed them and there are people that wish they had done backups and will need them.

I recommend two kinds of backups. An ongoing image backup that can be used to completely restore your disk drive in case of total failure. Then there are the backups that will backup your day to day files that you create and change.

For PC's I don't really like the built in Windows backups. There are a number of companies that have very good backup software that provides Image backup as well as file backups.

I started using a product called Reflect from Macrium Software. They have a free version that does provide excellant Image backups. Their pay for products have more features and I found it to be the best product available. They do not integrate offsite backup at this time.

Other companies include Paragon Software and Acronis Software. I have run into some support issues with Acronis so I would consider other products. Although there current product True Image 2014 provide Image Backup and offsite file backup of 5GB in the same product.

The local image backup requires a hard drive and I recommend a USB portable drive. You can find them for $50-$150 depending on the size. Get something that is at least twice as big as your backup storage requirements.

Mac users have Time Machine. This is built into the Operating System. It gives your the image backup as well as files. It does not provide for offsite backup.

Sadly most people only do the day to day files if they do any backups. This is fine but consider the time and money it will take to recreate your computer status to how it looks today from when you bought it. In my case it would take me at least 8 hours. If I had an image backup I could restore my computer to it's current state in less than 30 minutes. I would bet it would be the same for most people.

The day to day file backup is critical as well and I recommend looking into backing up those files offsite in case of a complete disaster like fire. There are many ways to do this with companies like,, and there are websites providing free offsite storage like and 

The other important factor is even if you are doing your backups, if you haven't tested the procedure to restore your files you might as well not be doing the backup. I can't emphasize this enough. Get technical help testing the restore so you don't cause problems, like overlaying good data. I always use an extra disk drive to test my image restore.

Backup, backup, backup, and TEST the RESTORE.

1423. What is Mavericks and should I upgrade?

As a Mac user, I’ve heard a bunch about this new upgrade called Mavericks. The last time I did an upgrade it was all about Lion or something like that. Is it worth upgrading again?
After a long series of operating systems named after big cats (Leopard, Snow Leopard, Mountain Lion, and just plain Lion), Apple apparently ran out of species and went for a new naming scheme, this time named after surfing beaches (Mavericks). The operating systems are actually named with user-friendly names (like Lion, and Mavericks) in addition to having a geek-friendly number (Mavericks is the same as OS X 10.9, Mountain Lion was OS X 10.8). Each version of the operating system Mac OS X, starting with Cheetah/OS X 10.0 in 2001, has added new functionality, user protections, and usability features.
Should you upgrade? Most likely, if your hardware will support the new operating system. You’ll find a list of requirements here: You can find a list of new end-user features in Mavericks here: In addition to the changes listed on this site, there are many, many more changes “under the covers” that fix problems and add protection. It runs faster, and more efficiently, than the previous operating system. Mavericks is a free upgrade from the previous version of the operating system.

Before you attempt this, or any other operating system, you must ensure that your computer is completely backed up, and preferably, more than once. Ken uses both Super Duper ( and Carbon Copy Cloner  ( to make two backups of his computer’s hard drive before he attempts any system upgrade, and you should consider this, as well. All it takes is the easy-to-use software, plus an external drive or two to hold the disk images. Once you have your backups (and Ken always boots from each of the backups to confirm that they’re complete and accurate), feel free to start the upgrade. As with any operating system upgrade, there are changes that may affect the way your computer operates, and how it interacts with you, but all in all, Mavericks is a solid, helpful upgrade, adding new features like iBooks and Maps support, as well as far superior support for multiple monitors and improved battery life in laptops.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

1411. Android issues?

You know I have always been an iPhone bigot, at least for the past 4-5 years. And I really enjoy my iPhone. But I am intrigued by the Android mystique and its popularity. Recently you got one but you returned it. What made you do that? 

Size, battery, and security of Android. I liked the idea of the freedom of the Android, so I wanted to give it a chance.  The physical size of the Android just didn't fit my hands. The battery did ot last very long and I didn't use it much. But the main reason was the security. I found that any application can be installed and there is really no good security checking.

I also tried the Windows phone for a couple of weeks. I liked the idea of the changing information in the Window's tiles and how they are working to make the UI of your phone desktop and tablet the same.  

I remember when we first worked together we had Blackberry email devices. Sadly Blackberry seems to be giving up.  

But for now I am getting another iPhone and will give it another try. If only I could utilize all of the apps.

1410. Loose contacts on my phone. Backups?

You know Doug I am totally retentive that my contacts on my phone are in sync with the web. So if I loose my phone I wouldn't loose my contacts. I use Google contacts to make sure that doesn't happen. On the other hand I hear of so many people that loose their phone that they have to re-enter all of their contacts. What are they doing wrong? Why aren't they syncing their contacts with some web based service.

Well I want to blame the carriers for this. Yes I will.  

When you buy your phone they do not point out the options you have. At most they may help you set up email.  
On your iPhone and similar options are on Androids, your contacts get stored in the Default location "On My iPhone", or in some cases if you use iCloud in your iCloud account.  

Even though this is not where you keep all of your email contacts. You want your contact to use the same location for your email and your phone, and keep them in sync on your phone as well as on your email system on your phone and on your computer.  

In most cases you can do this. Google email and Microsoft Office 365 email allow you to do this easily.So if you have a, outlook, msn, live or hotmail email account this will work.  

BTW you can do this for your calendar as well. Other email service may not do this for you. I would consider changing my service if they don't. You still need to set this up correctly and always test things when you are done to make sure it is working. There are places and companies in the area that will help you do this. These devices and computers are supposed to make your life easier, not more complicated.

1409. Twitter emails that look like you sent them.

So call me the grumpy old man but I just don't get twitter. I know the world relies on twitter for news and other information and personally I have managed to avoid it. But last week Doug you got involved and I was testing and suddenly I go an email from you from twitter that looks like you sent it but clearly you didn't. What's going on here? Are you just trying to give me trouble?

Well yes you are the gumpy old man but twitter is not the reason.  

As it turns out both my followers on twitter (what does that say about me) got this "Direct Message" from my account. I had not used my twitter in months.  

I received a message from twitter explaining that their system was hacked by a "website". This site cause direct messages to be sent out to many twitter users . The message was a scam and should not be opened. There are links that take you to bad places.  

Twitter then advised me to change my password and to remove any "extensions" I had set up - Like to Facebook and Microsoft. Since it seemed to be Twitters fault that they were hacked why are they telling us to change things. They didn't indicate that the hackers used my password. In any case it is a good idea to change your passwords often and make them complex.  

If you have heard of a problem go to the site and look for the security section for help to resolve these problems.

1408. Browser add-ins - what are they?

You know we are spending more and more time in web browser now a day than using applications. And I have added a bunch of add-ins to my browser and sometimes one or more of them just doesn't seem to be working. Is there some way to start the browser without the add-ins working so I can find out what is going on?

It is a problem and some security consious web sites will not allow you to access them with add-ins installed. These extensions allow for additional features that the original browser did not support.  

Some of them can cause security issues.  

For Internet Explorer go to start Run and type iexplore -extoff.  

Firefox type firefox -safe -mode.  

Chrome and other browsers have similar commands.  

If this is something you find you need to do often, you can set up a shortcut with these values so you can easily start your favorite browser with the extensions turned off. If you are concerned that you have an extension installed that is a problem, you can go into the browser settings and find the Extensions area. You have the option to turn one or more of them off. This may not only help with security it may speed up your computer.  

If unsure call for technical help.

1407. HTTPS and lockls what do they mean?

I recently signed up for a service and at some point they just asked me for my credit card number on the web page. I went up to the top and noticed the page didn't have a little lock or a HTTPS in its address which I normally look for when supplying my credit card information. Can you explain what the HTTP is and what the lock tells me?

This is an important question, especially in todays world of security. First a quick definition. HTTP is an acronym for HyperText Transport Protocol which is the language foundation for the Internet. HTTPS adds Secure to that protocol.  

Think of HTTP as a loudspeaker and everything you send and receive can be seen and heard by everyone wanting to see or hear. When you add the S think of a tunnel and everything that goes through the tunnel cannot be seen or heard unless you are at the beginning or end of the tunnel.  

It is encrypted and without the key you cannot understand the messages. The little lock you see in your browser window insures that the current message is being encrypted. You can get information from that lock that tells you who you are talking to at the other end of the tunnel and who (SSL Security company that created the tunnel like Geo Trust).  

Bottom line is when you are sending any sensitive information make sure you see the HTTPS at the beginning of the address and the lock is present in the address. I often double check on the lock certificate to make sure it is who I expect it to be. 

Scammers are trying to make you think you are connected to Amazon when you are not. If not I do not use the service. I will at least look into things further. Like in Hill Street Blues let's be careful out there.

1406. Blackberries - what happened?

So Doug you'll recall that 10 years ago we carried around our little Blackberry devices and we were happy to do it.and I remember discussing at the time wouldn't it be cool if there was a phone attached to this thing as well and of course Blackberry took our idea and paid us nothing and then built phones. But it seems like they are in decline at the moment. Can you tell me what's really wrong with Blackberry and where is going to end up?

Ken if I could answer that question I would play the stock market.  

Back then Blackberry took the pager device (you remember them don't you Ken) and made email work with that type of device. For many reasons this was limited to corporate type of email systems.  

And cell phones only made phone calls. I am sure somebody at RIM(Research in Motion) had already been thinking about combining the two devices so I am not holding my breath for those royalty checks.  

When the phones and email started to be available on the same device Blackberry still stuck with the corporate business. They finally saw the light but were too late to be able to compete with Apple and Google's Android in the consumer market.  

They tried as did Microsoft and their Windows phone. Microsoft is increasing more of the market but still only have about 4%. Blackberry is much less and it seems like RIM is going back to the corporate market. Sadly I think they are too late. They had the advantage 15 years ago. They just didn't pursue the right course.

Friday, September 27, 2013

1400. POP vs. IMAP Why?

When I set up a new email account, I see options to use IMAP or POP3. What are these? How do I know which one to use? And where do I find the email settings I need to configure the account?

IMAP versus POP3. It is the age-old question and there are so many acronyms involved in using computers it just seems like these are two more. 

But in choosing what email server to use your always better off if possible using IMAP.  It's a more modern protocol for receiving e-mail. There  is another protocol you might read about "SMTP" which is for sending e-mail. But no matter which you choose IMAP or POP3 you use SMTP to send.

Every e-mail service you might subscribe to needs to give you the names of two servers one for receiving mail and one for sending mail. Luckily most e-mail clients you might want to use can automatically detect the correct settings to use. 

If on the other hand you're setting up your own custom domain you might have to supply the information yourself. A simple solution is to search the Internet for the name of your e-mail client. whether it's Outlook or iPhone or Android,and the e-mail provider like Google, Gmail, Outlook or whatever it happens to be, and word IMAP.  

Whatever it happens to be you're almost guaranteed to quickly find the settings you'll need and it will be in the form of something like or something like that indicating where you would indicate to your e-mail client to go look to receive this e-mail.  

You'll need to the same sort of thing for the outgoing e-mail with the server generally called something like In any case a quick search on the Internet should help you find the settings you need to manually configure your IMAP e-mail. If you don't have the option of using IMAP then POP3 is fine. It is just an older standard that limits how you can interact with your e-mail.

1401. Transfer money over the internet?

I have had a need to transfer money quickly to a friend. Is there a safe, easy way to do this over the internet? I have an intrinsic fear of Western Union.

As well you should after all this online scams asking you to send money via Western Union. I'd stay as faraway from them as possible. But there are a number of different ways to send money over the Internet and these are becoming more and more popular overtime.

PayPal's offered this service for a long time. They charge a little bit of money to send the money but it's not much. 

Another newcomer is Google Wallet.  The big company Google now has an easy way to send money from your phone Providing you have an android or an iPhone you can send money to anyone who has an e-mail account. This is safe but it doesn't cost very much.  

I look into it if you need to send money to a friend and you want to do it over the Internet.

1402.Remotely record DVR?

I was at a party recently, and a friend recommended a TV show I wanted to watch. Is there some way to program my DVR remotely to record the show?

Funny this actually happened the other day when a friend was out of town asked me to go next store to her house and set up for DVR to record a football game for her. Of course that meant I had to get out of my chair and walk 200 yards to her house to go in and program the DVR for her. And she could've done that herself had she had her DVR connected to the Internet.

Both Dish and DirecTV make this possible and I'm sure other providers do as well and once your DVR is connected to the Internet each provider provides an application that you can run on your tablet or phone or in a web browser to remotely set up recordings.

When I hear about a nice TV show that I want to watch and I'm at a party for example, not to go to parties very often, but when it does happen I can take out my iPhone run the DirecTV application and set up a remote recording for that show.

Jjust two things are required,  your DVR has to be connected to the Internet and you need to be able to get to a web browser or have the appropriate app on your tablet or phone to be able to remotely set up a recording.

1403. IOS6 to IOS7 upgrade problems.

A friend recently had trouble updating from IOS 6 to IOS 7 on her iPhone. What did she do wrong?

It's really not very much to go and I've heard very good success stories from many people in the millions of people that have performed this upgrade without failure. On the other hand it's pretty easy to mess this up especially if you don't know your Apple ID or password or you don't follow the directions.

Here are the steps I would follow. It is pretty clearly documented. You plug your phone into your computer, connect up with iTunes,  back it up first, then install IOS 7, then restore from your backup. 

That puts all your data back as well as all your applications. That way you're pretty safe and with that back up before you start the upgrade then you know should something go wrong you could put it back the way was.  

On the other hand be aware that it is difficult if not possible to go from IOS 7 back to IOS 6. It does take some serious effort to make that translation. 

Make sure you back up your phone first and then follow the directions carefully to avoid bricking your phone. That's the term we used affectionately referring to turn your iPhone into a brick it You want to avoid that so follow the instructions.