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Monday, May 26, 2014

1495. Distinct Passwords Required

It seems that I have a ton of sites I visit that require passwords, and it may be that I’ve been lazy about selecting passwords for those sites, using the same password on a lot of them. I’ve heard that this isn’t a good idea, and the recent Heartbleed scare really made me rethink my policies. I’d like to create unique passwords for each site, honestly, but I don’t have the time or patience to both create and remember all the unique passwords. Surely there must be a tool or web site that can make this easier?
We could not possibly stress enough how important it is for you to maintain unique passwords, different for every Web site that you visit, and we’re certainly glad you’ve asked this vital question. We’ve written previously about password manager applications, that is, applications that can maintain all your passwords and fill them in on sites, as necessary. Using one of these applications, you need only remember a single password to log into the password manager—it does the rest of the work, maintaining the passwords and logging you into each site you visit for which you’ve stored a password using the application. The four most popular password-managing applications are LastPass (, 1Password (, Dashlane (, and PasswordBox ( You can find a comparative review of these products from Wall Street Journal here: Another favorite, although not rated as highly, is RoboForm ( We’ve tried all these applications over the past few years. Specifically, Ken recently spent a month with Dashlane after several months with LastPass. His opinion? Dashlane is certainly more attractive and easier to manage, but LastPass seems less intrusive and (once you get the hang of living with it), more reliable. All these products are available for Windows, Mac, and mobile platforms, although Windows Phone isn’t supported by all the products.
All the password managers provide browser add-ins, so they can intercede when you create a new password, or need to log into a site. Each application provides a means of storing passwords, and each provides a means of filling online forms with information such as your name, email address, credit card information, and so on. Once you set up the information in these tools, you should (in theory) never need to drag out your credit card when making an online purchase; you shouldn’t even have to type your address when purchasing from a new vendor.
But the question at hand was aimed at creating new, safe passwords. All these tools, of course, include functionality to help you create and manage unique passwords for every site. Having tried them both, Ken can verify that both LastPass and Dashlane provide a means of analyzing your existing passwords, and can tell you how many sites you have set up that share the same password. They can also indicate the strength of your passwords (the longer and more complex the password, the stronger it is). All the password manager applications provide a means of creating a new, randomly generated password for any site, and once you let the application create the new password, it can store it and supply it the next time you log into the site.
Ken recently embarked on a quest to replace all his existing “simple” passwords with new, random, complex passwords. He started the quest using Dashlane, and for the most part, the process worked reasonably well. Problems occurred at times when DashLane attempted to replace an existing password with a new one in its own storage—many times, Ken ended up with duplicate entries for the same site, leading to some serious confusion. He continues the task currently with LastPass, and is finding the number of misfires less than with DashLane. Your experiences may differ, of course.

In any case, if you find that you use the same password on multiple sites, it’s time to consider changing your ways. Most importantly, on your email and bank account(s), make sure that you use a unique password for each site. In other words, for email and banks, make sure you select a password that’s difficult to guess, and is significantly different for each site. (And never consider using one of the passwords listed on this description of the 25 most popular passwords: Check out LastPass, DashLane, 1Password, or one of the other available password managers. Plan time to grow accustomed to the way the application works—it will certainly be intrusive and bothersome at first, but it will save you time, and most likely, your online identity, if you use it correctly.

1494. Run Applications using Compatibility Mode

I have an application that runs just fine on Windows XP, but won't run at all on Windows 8. Is there anything I can do to make it run on Windows 8?

There are a number of things to try to get your older application to run on Windows 7 or Windows 8.  

The easiest option is to:

1. Right-Click, on the icon and select Properties, 
2. Then select the Compatibility Tab, 
3. Check Run this program in compatibility mode and in the pull down select what Operating System you know it will run under.  

You can select all systems back to Windows 95. Most applications will run under this option. If it doesn't there is the ability to install XP Mode on your system if you know the application runs on XP. This will also usually resolve any problems but it takes some expertise to set up your computer for this.  

Last resort is to install a Virtual machine. This is very technical and requires a 64 bit computer and operating system to set up. Then you actually install the Windows XP or other operating system and run that and your application under this Virtual system. Give this a try and usually one of the options will work.

1493. Syncing Old Email Folders

I neatly organize my emails into folders and subfolders. This works fine on my desktop computer and in the Web browser interface, but when I check my email on my phone or tablet, I don’t see all my emails. Why aren’t they synchronizing?
This is a common problem, but it’s not one for which we can recommend a guaranteed solution—there are tons of reasons why email doesn't work on devices, so you’ll need to do some digging. Obviously, your basic email settings are correct, or you wouldn't be getting any email at all. Each email provider supports many options in addition to the basic settings, however, so you may need to dig into the email options available on your device.
First of all, consider the “window” for which the device retrieves email. The default for your device may be small, like three days—if you have stored email older than that, it won’t be copied to the phone or tablet unless you change the setting that controls the email retention.
You’ll also find that some phones (such as the iPhone) and some email providers (like Apple) provide support for pushing email directly to the phone, rather than requiring you or the phone to fetch the mail. Using the Push option consumes more bandwidth and battery power than the Fetch option, but it does pre-load email onto the phone as soon as it arrives at the email server. Using the Fetch option allows you to fetch email on demand, or at regular intervals—this saves both bandwidth and battery life, and also allows you to (perhaps) feel less tethered to work, by retrieving email less often. You may be able to control these settings on a folder-by-folder basis, as well. Check these options to ensure you know how and when email should be synchronized with your device.

Finally, if you do modify settings that cause your device to suddenly pick up a large block of email content, you should consider doing this when you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network—retrieving lots of email over the cellular network could easily chew through your monthly allotment of data.

1492. Update BIOS, but only when necessary

I have a friend who wants to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 and we tried. The computer passed the Windows 7 compatibility tests, yet Windows 7 simply won't install, it fails on the first reboot each time we try. Am I missing something?

I always suggest to invest in a new disk drive when you upgrade to a new OS so if you have a problem you can always go back.  

But in this case there were some options.  

I searched for the specific make and model and found that there were certain BIOS settings that the new operating system required to be changed.

BIOS stands for Basic Input/Output Settings and is the low level interface between the computer hardware and the operating system,.  

To get into the BIOS of most computers you need to HOLD the F1, F2 or the Delete key when starting the computer.

I changed the BIOS setting and the system continued the install as it should. All it took was some extra searching to find a solution.  

I can't remember how we got through these problems before the Internet.

1491. Recovering from Android Safe Mode

A really scary thing happened to me recently: I was using my Android phone, and all of a sudden, when I looked at the phone, I noticed that it was in some sort of Safe Mode. I saw the words “Safe Mode” at the bottom of my screen, and I have no idea what this means, or why it happened. Is something wrong? How do I get out of Safe Mode?
You can boot a Windows computer or Mac in safe mode, and the computer will load a minimum of software it needs, just to get started. This is a great way to test what’s going on when your computer behaves in an unusual fashion. The same concept applies to Android phones—when you boot an Android phone in Safe Mode, it loads only the minimum required software, and allows developers to test the behavior of the phone and its operating system without any extra software loaded. If you’re experiencing crashes, freezes, or battery life issues, you can boot into Safe Mode and see if the issues still occur. From Safe Mode, you can uninstall misbehaving third-party apps.
To get into Safe Mode in Android 4.1 or later, long-press the power button until the power options menu appears. Long-press the power Off option and you’ll be asked if you want to reboot your Android device into Safe Mode. Tap the OK button.
On older versions of Android, things get more complicated. On some devices, you can follow these steps to get into Safe Mode: When powering up, long-press the power button and then tap Power Off to turn off your device. Turn on the phone or tablet by long-pressing the power button again. Release the power button and, when you see a logo appear during boot-up, hold down both the Volume Up and Volume Down buttons. Continue holding the two buttons until the device boots up with a safe mode indicator at the bottom-left corner of its screen. If this doesn’t work for your device, search the Web for information on getting your device into Safe Mode.
Applications that cause trouble can force a device into Safe Mode, as well—if you find that your device indicates that it’s in Safe Mode and you didn’t just take steps to get there, assume something is wrong. For more information, check out the discussion on this page:
How you accidently got into safe mode is still a mystery, but to answer the question: To get out of safe mode, power off your Android device, and while it’s off, hold the Volume Up button and simultaneously turn on the power. If this doesn’t work for your device, search the Web for more information on leaving Safe Mode for your particular Android device.

1490. Reinstall Windows without Installation Media

I have an old laptop, and I’d like to reinstall a fresh copy of Windows on the laptop. I don’t have the installation DVDs that came with the laptop, however. Is there some way to reset the computer back to its original state without those DVDs?
Most laptops that you can buy these days come to you without any installation media. So how are you supposed to refresh the system back to its original state?
Although the question refers to Windows, the same issues apply to Mac computers. The answer, generally, is to use the Recovery Partition that the manufacturer includes on the computer’s hard drive. Usually, the computer manufacturer sets aside a portion of the computer’s persistent storage (that is, its hard drive or solid state drive) to store an image of the operating system and all the hardware drivers the computer needs in order to operate. As your computer boots up, you should see a prompt indicating how to boot from the Recovery Partition—if not, check your computer’s documentation.
Beware (please pay attention here): Restoring from the Recovery Partition will certainly, and permanently, erase all the content you had on your computer’s hard drive. Therefore, it’s crucial that you back up your hard drive (and verify that the backup was correct and intact) before you use the Recovery Partition. In addition, restoring from the Recovery Partition won’t install any of the applications that you have installed, so you’ll need to manually re-install any applications that you use. You cannot simply restore these applications from your backup, as you can your data—you must find the original installation media, or download the applications, so you can reinstall them.
Finally, once you restore from the Recovery Partition, you’ll need to allow Windows Update to install all the latest updates. Most likely, the current version of your operating system has had a large number of updates, and the process of updating your copy of Windows could take some time (a few hours, given a fast connection). Be patient, and allow your newly refreshed computer to catch up with current software.
If you find that your computer does not include a Recover Partition, you’ll need to take other steps. Generally, these steps include purchasing a license for Windows and hiring a professional to perform the install for you. Before taking that solution, however, look on your computer to see if it includes a Recovery Partition, and then back everything up before proceeding

1489. Mac Starts Slowly

Mac Startup Getting Slower and Slower

My Mac seems to start up slower and slower over time. Have I done something wrong to slow down its startup process?
It’s a fact/feature of computers: They simply seem slower, the more you use them. Maybe it’s that you get used to the speed, or maybe it’s an actual slowdown, but it’s certainly a feature we’ve come to know and love.
But the fact is, it’s quite easy to end up in this situation (and not just on a Mac, but that’s where we’re focusing here). The problem is that it’s all too easy to agree to have applications start up automatically as you log in, and to solve the problem, you must manually clean up the log in startup list occasionally, weeding out applications that you really don’t need to have start each time you log in.
Some applications ask you if you want them to start each time you log in; others simply assume you do and add themselves to the startup list. To rectify the situation, launch the System Preferences application. In the icons that the application displays, select the Users & Groups icon. In the list on the left, find your own login information, and click on it. At the top of the pane, find the Login Items button and click that button. Then, in the list of login items, find applications that you know you don’t need to have running all the time, select each in turn, and click the minus button (“-“) below the list.  (You can use Command+Click to select multiple items, as well.) Don’t worry—even if you remove an application that you actually do want to have running as you log in, you can always add it back later by clicking the + button.

Removing items from the Login Items list may not make a huge difference, but it can make a measurable difference in startup time, if you have a large number of login items starting automatically. (For more information, check out this link:

1488, Reset Windows computer to default settings

I’d like to be able to reset my computer to its default settings, and have it work just like it did when I first got it. Is there an easy way to do this without reinstalling Windows from scratch?
Both of us reinstall Windows regularly (Ken does it more often—he seems to like that “new computer” smell), mostly to clean up the “gunk” that piles up as you use Windows for a while. Successfully wiping a drive, reinstalling Windows, and restoring all your settings and information isn’t easy, however—you should leave that task to a professional. With versions of Windows before Windows 8, however, that was your only option, and it can take some time to back things up, confirm that the backup works, reformat your drive, reinstall Windows, reinstall all your applications, reinstall all your settings, and copy over all your documents. And that assumes that you’re fastidious about how you store your documents, keeping them all in one central location.
Windows 8, however, provides a very nice mechanism for restoring your system to its original state. It gives you the option of restoring to the computer to its original state, as if you have never used it; or the option to keep all your Windows store applications, documents, and settings, and simply restore Windows to its default state. (There’s no magic to retain the Windows desktop applications that you have installed—you will need to reinstall those manually from their downloads or DVDs/CDs.) Recently, Ken needed to sell a Windows 8 computer, and the option to completely wipe the drive and reset everything to its default state was incredibly useful. But that doesn’t sound like what you need—instead, you want to preserve all your content, and just reset Windows back to its default state.

To take this action, first back up your computer. Confirm that the backup works by comparing the contents to your computer’s contents (all backup software should have an option to do this). Then, press Windows+I (that’s the Windows key, in the lower-left corner of the keyboard), and click Change PC Settings. Click Update and Recovery, and finally, click the option to refresh without affecting your files. Sit back for a while, and let Windows 8 do its work. When you’re done, you should have a clean Windows installation with your content intact—all your documents and settings will still be there, along with any Windows Store apps you had installed. You’ll need to reinstall any Windows desktop applications that you had installed before resetting. (Please, we beg of you: Do not attempt this action without first ensuring that you have a working backup. You will regret it, if you do not. Sure, the reset procedure should work: But what if it doesn’t?) For more information, check out this clear write up:

1487. Add identification to phone lock screen

I worry about losing my phone--there's nothing on the home screen that identifies me, or it. Is there some way to add text to a phone's home screen so that even while it's locked, someone who finds it would know who to contact, so I can get it back?
Although this situation is different for different phone types, we’ll focus on the iPhone here (because it’s the phone both Doug and Ken use daily). It’s true: Although you can select a photo to display on your phone’s lock screen, there’s no built-in mechanism for adding any identification to the screen, so that if you were to lose your locked phone (it IS locked, right? If not, shame on you!) no one would know to whom the phone belongs. (This actually happened to Ken once—he left his iPad in the seat pocket on a plane. Don’t do that! Luckily, his call to the airline ended with a happy resolution, and he was soon reunited with his lonely, otherwise unidentifiable iPad.) You really do need to identify your device on its lock screen, so an honest person could contact you and return the device.
Luckily, there are applications that can help you with this problem. Ken did some research on this problem recently, and found two likely iOS candidates: Both the apps, Lock Screen and Over, allow you to add text to an image, save it, and then select it to be your lock screen image. Once you’ve added your text (usually including your name, email address, and phone number) and set it up as your lock screen image, anyone who finds your device would know how to return it.
And although you could use these apps (or any of the others like them) to annotate and image and add it to your lock screen, Ken’s friend Sue suggested an easier solution: write your information on a piece of paper, take a picture of it, and use that as your lock screen image. Simple, free, and done. Sometimes, the low-tech solution really is easier.
Whether you use an application to generate an image with text, or you take a photo of a hand-written note; make sure you identify your device on its lock screen. If an honest person finds your device, you’re far more likely to get it back if you do!

1486. AOL still taking customers' money

I have a friend that is apparently still paying AOL for their internet service. Good grief, are they still even in business?

There's a question that has multiple layers to answer like the layers of an onion.  If people are paying AOL for service and they have high-speed Internet there's really no point in paying AOL because all they're getting is a fancy user interface that says "you've got mail"  when Mail appears.

To be honest my father-in-law uses this and we can't ween him off of it. He doesn't pay them however because it became free many years ago you just have to tell them you want to stop giving the money for it.

On the other hand there are people who used dial up services that AOL provides is pretty cheap and if that's your only way getting access to the Internet you need to pay someone for it. No one provides decent free dial up service. They are certainly not make much money on these sort of things these days but be careful if you don't need to be sending that money in every month don't do it make. Make sure and check your bills and tell AOL to stop billing you if you're not using their service.

1485. iGoogle has gone away

June asked: I used to have wonderful gadgets on my Google page: calendar, clock, appointments, news, weather, lists of birthdays, and so on. Then one day they were gone. I really miss them and can't believe that there isn't some other system out there that could provide those gizmos. I've tried looking for them but always run into a dead end. Can you help with this?

Yes it's true this feature was called IGoogle and your friends at Google tend to try things and then later kill them and this project got killed recently.

I really liked IGoogle it was a great way to consolidate lots of information on my homepage in any browser. It is gone. You can't get back but there are a bunch of replacements you can try.

My favorite is one called IgHome but we put a list of a bunch of them from an article we found online on our website so you can check out that link to see other replacements for IGoogle and try which one works best for you. In any case IGoogle is gone and you need to find something else if you want that functionality now.

1484. Remember your parking spot

I know it’s silly, but I have a problem remembering where I parked my car. Often. In any large venue, sometimes even at the grocery store. I’m carrying a computer more powerful than the computer we took to get people to the moon—surely it can remember where I parked my car for me? Any suggestions?
We laughed when we got this question, as the HBO TV series “Silicon Valley” (recommended watching for the geeky folks) ran a joke about a loser who was so proud of his app that (you got it) remembered where you parked. That’s all it did. None of the other software developers on the show gave him much notice, but the fact is that people do forget where they parked (Ken constantly loses his car).
Luckily, there are a bunch of mobile applications that can help you (or Ken) solve his lost car problem. As a matter of fact, we ran across a comparative review of such apps just recently, and the winner, at least for the iPhone, was an app named iParked ( The online reviews are decidedly mixed, so you’ll need to check it out yourself. There are several other similar apps available, as well. Ken’s suggestion (although he tends to forget to follow it) is to simply turn around, as you leave your car, and look at the surroundings. Find a landmark—not “it’s parked next to the black Explorer”, that won’t help—and use that as a guide to find the vehicle later. Or take a picture. Or write it down. Or, if you must, check out one of the many apps that purport to help you find your lost car.
By the way, we’ve written previously about the excellent hardware/software combination for your car called Automatic, which makes the whole process easier. Because the hardware is always in contact with your phone, and your phone has a GPS in it, the Automatic app always knows where you car is. Although this solution is a lot more expensive than a simple software-only app, it’s also a lot more reliable. Any software-only solution to the problem will require you to start the app, store information about your parking spot, and then go on about your business so you can retrieve the information later. That’s to hard for most folks.

1477. Dismissing iPhone Banner Notifications Quickly

Banner notifications on my iPhone make me nuts. They appear, and I do want to see what they're telling me, but they stick around seemingly forever. Is there some way to dismiss them as soon as I see them?
This really is Ken’s question, because this happens to him often: He’s looking at his email on his iPhone, and new email arrives. When the new email arrives (perhaps an email he’s been anticipating, and that he wants to read immediately), the phone displays an alert in Notification Center. The banner alert stays onscreen for what feels like a full minute (but is, in fact, just a few seconds). He was looking for a way to quickly dismiss the banner so he could get back to the business of reading his emails.
The solution to this problem is surprisingly easy: When a banner appears, if you’d like that banner to dismiss immediately, simply swipe down on the banner just a little bit, then swipe up to remove it. That’s it! Swipe down, and then up, and the banner is history.
On the other hand (and this is important), on the iPhone, and on almost any smart phone, you have the option to completely turn off notifications if you don't want to see them at all. On the iPhone, using iOS 7, go to the Settings app and select the Notifications Center option. In Notifications Center settings, you can select from None, Banners, and Alerts for notifications. You can also set other notifications options. You can set Notifications settings for each app individually, which means you can have the phone display notifications for the Mail app (with specific settings for each mail provider) distinctly from the way it displays notifications for other applications.

For more information on dismissing notifications quickly, check out this site:

1476. Charge your device faster

I often only have a short time in which to charge my smart phone, before having to head out again. Any tips for speeding up the charging process?

This is a fascinating problem. I often wonder why can't you just plug it in and BAM it would be charged.

The fact is the charging devices much like putting water in a water balloon that is you can still up most of it pretty quickly but that last little bit if you're not careful you explode. So there's circuitry to make sure you don't overcharge the phone and that causes it to slow down so things take longer than you'd like.

With a powerful enough charger things go pretty quick and that's actually one of the tip as soon as Doug asked this question I found an article online to describe a number of different ways to speed up charging it will put a link to that our website.

In short some things you can do are:

1. Turn the phone off because then it's not trying to use the radios and the screen to access the Internet while it's charging
2. Another important point is to make sure and use the charger that provides the correct amount of voltage and amperage  If you just plug your phone into a computer's USB port it probably doesn't have as much power as a little PowerBrick that came with your phone.
4. If you try to charge an iPad using an iPhone charger it'll charge but just really really slowly so make sure you use the right charger

I'll stop here but to look at the article on our website that explains a few more things you can do to speed up the charging of your device.

1475. The Eviction Notice Email Scam

Paul asked: I recently got an email indicating that I was being evicted from my apartment. Since I know my landlord well, I figured it was a scam. What's up with this?

What's up with this indead, actually this is a scam to score run the Internet.

A lot of people are getting e-mails from a landlord, not theirs, that they are goinmg to get evicted and they have to click a link or open a document to rectify the situation. The fact is when you don't click the link or open the document you're opening your computer up to all sorts of evil so do not do this. Assume that you're not been evicted and just treated as it is.

It is a scam like anything else that comes to you in your e-mail inbox you should treat it with a little bit of care.

1474. Upgrading from Windows XP to WIndows 7 or 8

I have friends who want to upgrade from Windows XP to WIndows 7 or Windows 8, but need some "hand-holding." Can you suggest one place to go where they can read about the steps they would need to follow to perform this upgrade?

I wish it were otherwise. I wish they could use Windows XP until they dropped dead or the computer does.  But the fact is you got to move on and it's time to do it now.

I also wish there was an easy upgrade path from Windows XP to something more modern but there isn't and the fact is the only way to do this is back up your data, install the new operating system and then replace your data and install your programs.  You may need to upgrade them.  

 It's something anyone can do but it's not something I'd recommend for most folks.

If you can get some help doing it you're better off. On the other hand there are lots of websites you can find that have a list of steps you should follow in order to perform this upgrade. 

We'll put a link to a few of these on our website.  but the fact is if you're moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 8 and we both like Windows 8 a lot. It's something that will take a little time and you might want to consider getting professional.

1473. Creating a Complex PIN on iPhone

I heard that you can use a more complex pass code on an iPhone--I'm using 4 digits, and it seems like it might be pretty easy to guess. How can I set up a more complex PIN code for my phone?

So I don't want to make paranoid but imagine this scenario. You have a four digit pass code on your phone and you repeatedly use that pass code with your normally dirty fingers. And then someone picks up your phone and they look at those four smudgy spots on your screen and now they have a pretty good guess of the four digits that are in your pass code.

On the other hand if you use a more complex pass code with  more than four digits not only did they not know how many digits you using but you're more likely to repeat a digit. So it makes it much more complicated.

On the iPhone you can change your pass code to be more complex by using the settings application. The exact option is different if you have an iPhone 5S as opposed to an earlier iPhone, but it's in the settings application.  On the 5S it is under the touch options on the earlier versions it's under the general options.  In any case look for it and you can choose a five or six or his many digit pass code as you like and that makes it a lot hard both for someone to guess the code for someone to look at your smudgy phone and know what keys you use. Not the fingers are dirty or anything.

1472. Making changes to the Mac user interface

I have a Mac, and would like to make changes to the user interface and the behavior that I know you can change, but I can't find any user interface to make the changes. For example, I'd like the dock to be semi-transparent, like it used to be. Am I missing something?

The Mac operating system is extremely flexible when you can make it kind of changes if you're willing to open up the terminal application and type in some commands. On the other hand I wouldn't recommend that for most folks.

You can find all listed online if you dig hard. But the fact is it's really too much trouble. There is a product that you can purchase however called Mac Pilot.  And there you'll find a way to, with the user interface, change just about any setting on the Mac that you could possibly want to change including making the doc semi transparent again .

1465. Creating online surveys

I need to gather information and need some sort of online survey that I can send out. Do you have any suggestions?

People who know me will laugh at this answer because they know me as the online survey king. I sing a committee chorus. I work with a theater community group. And all the time we need to gather information on who is available when or who is going to bring what to the dinner and we need some way to go to the information.

I abhor sign-up sheets in the back of the room and instead I send out online surveys to people and have them fill them in and then I aggregate the data using an Excel spreadsheet.

There are a number of different free options here. My favorite is one WuFoo. You will find them online and they make it really easy to create forms that you can send the link out to people. They fill in the data you can then download the results and analyze to your heart's content.

Another really useful one is Survey Monkey - funny name. But they also provide a free level of service that allows you to send out links to online surveys. I've used them both, I love them both, and actually give them both money at this point for a higher level of service. Check them both out. WuFoo and Survey Monkey, if you need to gather information from a group of people online.

1464. Maxing out an SD card

My Microsoft Surface Pro computer uses a MicroSD card to store data. The largest one I can find contains 64GB. I'd love to find a bigger one. Is there a limit to the size?

One things for certain there's never enough storage in any computer. That's for sure.

What is amazing however is that these micro SD cards are about the size of a fingernail and they seem to be about a tenth of a centimeter thick. Really really thin and yet they manage to cram 64 GB of storage on this tini minnie size card and yet you want one larger.

And the fact was until recently their wasn't anything larger. There's a limit to how much stuff you can cram into a card that size but recently I saw an advertisement for one that is 128 GB.  Which is as you might guess twice as big. It's not twice as big physically but it's stores twice as much stuff.

You might search for this on The list price was around $200 when it was released but at this point it was on sale for far less than that. So if you need more memory take a look at it using a larger micro SD card. Any machine that can support 64 GB card should be able to support 1.8 GB card as well.

New 128GB card:

1463. Scam calls from Verizon support

I recently got a telephone call that seemed to have come from Verizon support (or so the Caller ID on my phone indicated). When I answered the call, the caller told me he was from Verizon Support, and asked me to browse to a particular Web site. The call didn’t seem valid so I just hung up. Was I being overly cautious? 
It’s sad that we have to continually reiterate the same response to questions like this, with the details changing from month to month: You will never receive a call offering tech support that is valid. In every case, hang up. The first wave of these calls had offshore scamsters posing as Microsoft employees, and now some clever jerks have decided to try the same sort of trick posing as Verizon Support. A similar scam involving Verizon has the called excitedly offering you the prize of $54 that you have won, if you just browse to Don’t do it! Just say “NO.”
These sorts of scams will continue as long as people are gullible enough to believe that a software/technical company cares enough about them to reach out in times of trouble. Believe this: Any call offering a solicitation of help, asking for your credit card or telling you browse to a certain site is definitely a scam. Just hang up. Or, as many others have tried, keep them on the phone as long as possible, simply to waste their time as they have wasted yours.

1462. Using External Keyboard with iPad or phone

Can I use an external keyboard with my iPad? How about with my phone?

An external keyboard is the way to be if you're using an iPad and trying to create content and the same techniques will work with an iPhone.  I actually have a Bluetooth keyboard a little case that connects to my iPad and props up the iPad making it feel like a laptop when I want to carry just the iPad to work or on the road.

So basically any Bluetooth keyboard will work. You can get it from Apple or from any number of other vendors. The one I have is from a vendor called ZAGG.  But they're also made by Belkin and by Kensington and by any number of other vendors as well. Read the reviews online and see the one that meets your needs most and then try it out. You can use the same keyboard with an iPad, with your phone, or even as an external keyboard for laptop or main computer.  Bluetooth is the key. It's a standard that supports of all those devices.

1461. Use iPad with External Monitor

Sue asked: I would like to use an iPad as my main computer. Can I use my old computer monitor to expand the display size, so I can view the screen on a larger display?

It's very rewarding to see people scaling their computer needs based on what they actually do with their computer. There's no reason have a full-size desktop or laptop if your needs don't require it. For basic e-mail checking, texting, browsing the we, and creating documents a tablet does a great job. And iPad is a great tablet so it's a good choice.

On the other hand you may decide you want to display the contents of your iPad screen on the larger monitor and there are issues here. First of all if your main goal was just doing a presentation you can hook up a hardware connector. A cable to Apple provides for connecting your iPad to an external monitor. Not every application supports this hardware cable so won't really work for daily use but it works great for presentations with applications that support.

If you want to mirror your screen on to a monitor you have two options. One of them involves jail-breaking your iPad and for casual users my answer is do not consider doing this. On the other hand technique that will work for anyone is to purchase an Apple TV. It's a little box you connect up to your monitor using an HDMI cable, and note that not every mother does not supports HDMI, and then you can use Ait Display which is a wireless means of displaying what's on your iPad screen through the Apple TV to the monitor.

The problem is going to be that since the iPad doesn't support a mouse you will have to touch the iPad screen to affect any changes on your monitor screen and this can be inconvenient. In other words I don't really recommend this for daily use either. But if you need to do it an Apple TV and Air Display will certainly work .

1460. Texting without a cell phone

I may be the only adult left in the country without a cell phone, but I don’t have one, don’t want one, and will not be getting one. On the other hand, there are times when I need to communicate with people who don’t regularly check their email (like most young people), and I’d like to be able to send and receive text messages from my computer. Is there any way to do this?
This question applies both to the small portion of the population that doesn’t have a cell phone, and to those who do but are too cheap to pay for texting. (Unless you get unlimited texting as part of your cellular plan, you’re paying way too much for it.) One solution for sending texts (it doesn’t help for receiving, however) is to send an email to a specially formatted email address, specific for each individual cell phone providers (for example,, for AT&T Wireless customers; or, for Verizon Wireless customers). The problems with this solution include the fact that you must know which carrier your recipient uses, and there’s no simple way for the recipient to reply. Although this technique works, it’s hardly optimal. (To use this solution, search the web for “Send email as text to <xxx>”, where <xxx> is the name of the provider, like AT&T or Verizon.)
There is a better universal and free solution, of course: Google Voice. This is a free service that allows you to text to any phone number that can receive texts. When you use Google Voice to text someone, the response comes back to you as email. You can respond to the email response, and it goes back to the recipient as a text—in other words, you can carry on texting conversations with someone using a phone, and they really won’t know that you don’t also have a texting-capable phone.
Of course, the Google Voice service can do far more for you than provide a free email-to-text service, but given your needs to text without a phone, this functionality provides a great place to start with Google Voice. You’ll need a Google account to set up Google Voice, and you’ll need to select a telephone number to use as your Google Voice number. For more information, visit out Google Voice for more information on creating and using text message without having to use a cell phone.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

1466. Uverse vs. DSL

U-Verse vs DSL

I am currently an AT&T customer, and they provide my DSL. I’m generally happy with my DSL service, but AT&T representatives keep contacting me and pushing me to switch to their U-Verse service. What’s the deal? What is U-Verse and should I switch?

It would be easy to suggest that you simply do everything that any vendor who calls you on the phone suggests, but of course, that would be the wrong answer. In this case, as in most such cases, the answer is complicated.
First, please understand that U-Verse is simply a newer version of DSL—it’s not a new technology. Switching to U-Verse will require you to have AT&T supply a new modem (the device that connects your phone line to your computer), because the technology U-Verse uses isn’t supported by the older modems. Theoretically, U-Verse can support faster speeds than plain ol’ DSL, although the actual speeds you can receive depend on many factors, including your distance from the phone company central office. AT&T will have to help you determine that information.
Next, understand that it’s in AT&T’s interest to switch you to U-Verse, as this technology also supports digital television and land-line phones. In other words, once you have U-Verse, AT&T can upsell you on other services that they couldn’t if you stuck with DSL.
Should you switch? It’s hard to say. AT&T offers special deals on setting up U-Verse service, and you may find that you can get faster connections at a lower price than DSL, at least for the first year or so. Make sure you investigate the “after promotional” price, to ensure that you don’t get ripped off. In addition, if you do agree to switch to U-Verse, after it’s installed, make sure to verify your connection speed (we recommend as an easy way to verify your speed—it should be at least 80% of what you’re paying for). If you’re finding substandard speeds, make sure and contact AT&T support to get the speed issues handled. (This is true of any new connection, not just U-Verse).

In addition, you may find the bundling of Internet, phone, and television that AT&T provides to be enticing. If so, go for it. You will need to upgrade to U-Verse to take advantage of these features—if that’s the goal, it’s certainly a good plan to switch to U-Verse. 

1467. What about Outlook Express?

It’s finally time to upgrade my computer from Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 8. I’ve been using Outlook Express for years, and I have a ton of email stored in that application. Will I be able to use Outlook Express, and access all my saved email, once I upgrade?
There is a very simple answer to this question: no. Outlook Express simply will not run on Windows 7 or Windows 8. That’s the end of the story. Nothing you can do will make it work. As far as upgrading, we strongly suggest just “biting the bullet” and upgrading to Windows 8.1 Upgrade (the latest version). Although Windows 8 had its share of issues, Windows 8.1 Upgrade is stable, and we think it’s a great operating system, if you’re a Windows user. It may still be missing some important features (OK, we’d like to see a built-in Start menu) but besides its very shallow learning curve for existing Windows users, it’s a simple, stable, robust operating system.
Back to email, however: Because you cannot run Outlook Express, you’ll need an alternative. One simple alternative is to migrate your email and contacts to, Microsoft’s free online email client. You can read more about the process here: If you require a computer-based email client (so that you can read your email when offline), check out Microsoft Live Mail, part of the Windows Essentials pack ( It doesn’t work exactly the same as Outlook Express, but it’s close, and it’s the simplest free replacement available for the Windows 7 or Windows 8 desktop.
You can also take advantage of the Windows 8 Modern UI mail client, on the Windows 8 Start screen. This application is geared for a touch environment, and it works quite well with fingers or with a mouse. If you’re up for some experimentation, you can also try out a new email client for the Modern UI, TouchMail (available from the Windows Store).

Finally, if you would prefer to use the Windows desktop, you can try out Windows-based email clients as well. Mozilla Thunderbird is popular (, as is PostBox ( These applications have the added benefit of being available on both Windows, and on Mac OS X. If you’re willing to put some money into it, you can also use the excellent Outlook 2013 client application, part of the Office 365 suite ( You can find many more options, if you search the Web—these are the ones we’ve tried out personally.

1468. Is AOL still really in business?

Is AOL alive?

Yes and many people still use it. But I bet there is a group that doesn't know what AOL stands for. America On Line. And the next question what is AIM? AOL Instant Messenger. Think of all of the products that AOL and AIM started.

It seems like AOL is finally making money and is focussing their business on digital media.

I sure hope that if you use AOL you are not paying the $24.00 per month for the service.

I have a very close high school friend that still uses AOL and loves it. In spite of his use of AOL I still consider him my friend. I did help him set up a free Gmail account and there are easy utilities available to move your mail, contacts, and calender information from AOL to other mail accounts.  

If you are happy with AOL stay with it, if not it is easy to change.

1471. Migrating to Windows 8.1

Since XP has not been dropped from support at Microsoft, many people want to migrate from Windows XP to WIndows 7 or Windows 8. Does Microsoft have a tool to make this easier? They don't want to lose all of their files and settings. Is there an easy way to do this?

It has always been a concern when upgrading from one version of the operating system to another. Frankly just changing from one computer to another with the same OS has been a concern.

The change from XP to Windows 8 is a major change. Microsoft has come up with a product that helps you with this task. And it is FREE. It is called PCmover Express for Windows XP.

MS says “This tool will copy your files, music, videos, email and user profiles and settings from your old PC to your new device, transferring across your home or work network, and even enables Windows XP users to customize exactly what they want to bring over to their new device,” .

Before you get too excited notice that they have not included the "programs".  You will have to install your old programs.  Some may not work so check out each of them so you know what you may need to do to run your programs on Win 8.

Go to and get a summary of information changing from Windows XP.

Read more:;

1470. Malware safety

I am so tired about the way that some jerks want to mess up my computer. When running Windows I have to worry about Malware, antiviris, rootkits, and flybyinstalls. I want to find 1 tool that protects me from all of those problems but I can't seem to find one. Can you help untangle the web of bad stuff?

Well I wish I had a simple suggestion. I haven't found 1 product that protects you from all of these problems.

For a Windows system you have many choices. When you first buy the computer usually there is at least 1 free product installed that may be free forever or it is just a free trial.

There are similiar products on the Mac.

All of the products seem to say they protect from virus, malware, and more. See our web site for a good article explaining the difference and providing a good review of all of the major players.

All of them say the more you pay for the product the more they protect. I find this sad. How do you know what risk you should pay for. I read articles that say virus are part of malware and inclusde protection for worms and all of these types of

I have found that unless you are visiting high risk web sites and you probably know who you are, the product I use is free and is part of Windows.

It is called Windows Defender. You usually have to turn it on because the OEM products disable it so you give the free trail a try. It is not on by default but it is easy to turn on. If you feel you need better protection you will know and there are products and prices that give you many options.

Monday, May 19, 2014

1469. Don’t Track web

I recently needed to browse the Web from a friend’s computer, and really didn’t want to leave traces of where I’d been and what I’d done on his system. I know that normally, Web browsers keep cookies and history and do all sorts of tracking when I browse. Is there some way to temporarily disable this?
We know that some readers will be making assumptions about exactly what it is you were doing with your friend’s computer, but the fact is that there are many reasons that you might want to be able to browse without being tracked. Perhaps you need to purchase an item and not have that item appear in the browser’s cookies, or you want to log into a site and not have the browser save the password.
First of all, be assured that, by default, all modern browsers track and transmit information about every site you visit, and everything you type in the browser. Normally, this is benign behavior, but there are certainly times when you’d like to be able to browse without having the browser maintain information about the session.
Luckily, all modern browsers provide a means of browsing “incognito”, so that all information tracked during the session is discarded at the end of the session. The technique for launching one of these sessions is different in each browser. For example, in Internet Explorer, You can start InPrivate Browsing from the Safety menu, by pressing Ctrl+Shift+P, or from the New Tab page. Learn more about Internet Explorer’s InPrivate browsing here: In FireFox, there are several ways to open a new private browsing window; check out the information here: Chrome calls this mode “incognito browsing”. For information on starting a new incognito session in Chrome, check out the information here:
Doug also points out that there are reasons to use private browsing other than hiding information: We both often need to try Web features using different user accounts.  Most browsers cache information about your current logged-in credentials, making it difficult to see what happens when you’re not logged in with your own account. To make this simple, you can start a private browsing session, and the browser won’t carry over your cached credentials. You’ll have to log in again, and therefore emulate what others will see when visiting the page.

Beware (this information is lifted directly from the FireFox page): Private Browsing doesn't make you anonymous on the Internet. Your Internet service provider, employer, or the sites themselves can still track what pages you visit. Private Browsing also doesn't protect you from keyloggers or spyware that may be installed on your computer.