5/25/20 - Fake Wells Fargo email
I just received a fake email pretending to be from Wells Fargo. It came in my spam folder. Notice the webpage link at the bottom I've marked with an arrow. That showed when I rested the mouse over one of the links in the email. (Not clicked just rested over it) Clearly that link is not from Wells Fargo. As with any email NEVER click links, open attachments, or even click in a white open space unless you are absolutely sure who it is from. Best just to delete them and call the company if you like.
5/13/20 - You should save everything
There is a problem that I ran into again just the other day with a client, but preventing it is sooooo easy. (much like writing down your passwords and noting the capitalization)
Here's the situation. The client called about a letter she just typed. Before printing or saving the letter she accidentally clicked the "X" to close the word processor. There was a prompt asking if she wanted to save the document, Yes, No, Cancel. She told me she thought she clicked Cancel, but must have clicked No by mistake. The program closed and the letter was gone. Of course there is no way I know of to get that back if it wasn't saved or printed at some point. She will have to type the letter again.
So what can we do? What I'm suggesting is saving all your documents even if you don't need to keep it. Just use the file name "Tmp" over and over again. You'll be prompted each time whether to replace the file, which you want to do. This way you'll only have one extra file in your documents folder, and that file will be around for awhile until you temporarily save something the next time. Also Ctrl-S on the keyboard is the shortcut for saving in every word processing and spreadsheet program I know of. And don't wait till the end to save, do it every 5 mins or so.
5/6/20 - Backing up is so important
Most people have at least some documents and pictures on their computers that if lost would be devastating. That's why it's so important that you periodically back up your important files to a flash drive or external hard drive. I can't tell you how many times client's have lost files. Sometimes they have a backup that's years old, and sometimes they have nothing.
For example I had one client who was writing a book and lost 6 months worth of work just because she overwrote the document with a blank file by mistake. Recently I had a client who was trying a backup program included with a new flash drive, but then decided to abort it half way thru and lost half of her documents. Never use the backup or security programs included with new flash drives. Just format them.
Backing up is not hard to do. For most people it just requires a couple of 32gb flash drives or an external hard drive in the case of a large amount of pictures and videos. For steps on how to do this scroll to the very bottom of this webpage and you'll find links to two PDF files I made with steps for backing up Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7.
If you would prefer me to help you with this in person, just give me a call and we'll set an appointment.
Call me anytime at 763-689-5912
4/30/20 - Damaged laptop screen makes mouse and cursor go crazy
I've seen this problem now with two laptops. What's happening is periodically a couple of spots will show on the screen and start flashing. They are the size of finger prints. When this happens the mouse pointer and cursor go crazy, jumping all over the place and making the laptop unusable. In both cases the laptops had touch screens which the client's were using. The cause seems to be a damaged screen maybe from someone pressing it too hard. But there is good news. I was able to fix the problem by disabling the touch screen feature with a behind the scenes registry change. You can't use the touch screen feature any more, but at least the laptop is functional again. If you have this problem, don't throw out your laptop, there is an easy fix. Give me a call and we'll set an appointment. :)
4/29/20 - New computer class for Winter
I just finished the outline for a new computer class I want to offer this Winter.
The class is called "Something Fun and Different". It's a collection of interesting topics I've always
wanted to teach but just couldn't fit into other classes without taking away some of their material.
My plan is to periodically change the topics so it will continue to be fresh.
It will be a 2 day class scheduled March 4th and 5th from 10am to 1 pm for $49 dollars.
Below is a list of topics. To sign up give me a call 763-689-5912
Installing the Firefox browser
Downloading YouTube videos
AdBlock Plus popup blocker
Disabling AdBlock Plus for some webpages
Popup after an add-on update
Firefox Reader View
Picture in Picture for Firefox
Picture in Picture for Chrome and Edge
Free VPN thru Windows 10
Free VPN thru the "Brocsec" add-on
Google Drive in the cloud
Paint - the little program that could
Forward slash vs Backslash
4/20/20 - Can't sign into Outlook email
I just got an interesting call from a client who could not get into her email. Normally it comes up right away, but this time she saw the screen below about creating a new account. It is common for webpages to prompt you for a new account, but if you look closely in the upper right corner there is a "Sign in" button. Some webpages may say "Log in" instead. This happened to the client because somehow she signed out of her email the last time she used it. So with any webpage if you don't see what you expect, look around a bit. The makers of these webpages do change them from time to time.
4/12/20 - Forward slash vs Backslash
While typing things like a webpage address, sometimes you see a forward slash (/) and sometimes you see a backslash (\). When to use which slash can be really confusing, even for me and I've been working with computers since the caveman days! Even their names are confusing, forward slash has a space and backslash does not.
So in this article I've tried to come up with some ways to remember all this. First off to remember which way the slash leans think of the slash standing at the beginning of a sentence. The forward slash leans toward the sentence (/), the backslash leans away (\). On the keyboard you'll find the forward slash in the bottom right on the question mark key. The back slash is usually above the Enter key, but not always.
So how are the slashes used? Each in two places.
The forward slash is used in webpages addresses such as:
It's also used in command line switches or options such as:
The back slash is used in folder paths such as:
C:\Program Files\DVD Maker
And in registry entries such as:
But how can a person remember this? That's a bit tricky.
Besides carrying a printout of this tip in your pocket :)
I came up with two abbreviations that might help.
FOW = Forward, Options, Webpages
That is to say the forward slash is used with command line options and in webpage addresses.
BRP = Back, Registry, Path
That is to say the back slash is used in registry entries and folder paths.
Even if you can remember one of them, like FOW, then you know the other is the opposite.
4/10/20 - Desktop computers at Walmart
I was at Walmart in Cambridge MN the other day to price out the desktop computers. They have three good ones in the store and also available from Walmart.com Any of these would work for the average computer user. If you are gaming, have a large amount of pictures, and just want extra speed, then the last two would be the best choice. But for most people even the first computer would likely be better than what you have. Click the links below to see a picture of the computers on Walmart's webpage.
A couple of nice features. All three have an SVGA video output for the monitor, so that means you can still use your old one if you like. Also the 2nd and 3rd computers have a special SSD drive called "Optane" which greatly speeds up the larger mechanical hard drive. This means the computer will boot faster and so will the programs. Remember with any new computer they don't come with speakers any more, but you can use your old ones. Setting up a new computer typically takes between 4 to 6 hours to make it easy to use and get all your old programs and data working. If you want help give me a call.
HP Slim Desktop 290-p0043w $299
Intel Celeron 3.1 ghz processor
500 gb hard drive DVD-RW drive
HDMI and SVGA video output
HP Pavilion Desktop 590-p0033w $499
i3 3.6 ghz processor
4 gb memory
1 tb hard drive DVD-RW drive
Optane SSD drive
HDMI and SVGA video output
HP Pavilion Desktop 590-p0053w $579
i5 2.8 ghz processor
8 gb memory
1 tb hard drive DVD-RW drive
Optane SSD drive
HDMI and SVGA video output
3/29/20 - Exciting new feature of the Firefox browser
Firefox has a feature called "Picture in Picture". While watching YouTube videos, you can click on the blue button and it makes the video show in the lower right corner ON TOP OF all other programs. This allows you to watch a video while doing other things. You can drag the video window around on the screen, resize, pause, or close it as needed. Note - the video must be playing before the blue button will show on the screen.
3/27/20 - Easy way to track your packages
If you have a package tracking number from a major service like the post office or UPS, you can go to their webpages to check the status (see my links webpage), OR you can just type your tracking number into the Google.com search field. I did this with a recent package I was expecting. See the pictures below. Tracking numbers are printed on your receipt from the post office, or you may get them in an email from whatever company or person you purchased from (like Amazon or ebay).
3/3/20 - I can help you thru the internet
With all this virus scare in the news, it may still be possible for me to help you with your computer thru the internet if you are trying to avoid having anyone in your house. It's easy to do if you have Windows 10 and a fairly good internet connection. Give me a call to talk about your problems.
3/11/20 - Fake email for a job at Walgreens
I just received this email in my spam folder. It's ok to open an email to look at it, but never click any attachments or any buttons like the one we see below. Even clicking in an open white space can install something you don't want. If you are not 100% sure about it email it's always best to just delete it.
3/5/20 - Windows S mode
I setup a new Dell laptop computer yesterday. Everything went very well, but I ran into something at the beginning I've never see before. When I tried to run a program from my flash drive, or tried to install any program from the web, I would get the following message on the screen. After some research I found this laptop came with a special version of Windows configured in the "S Mode". I suspect "S" stands for schools. This is normally not sold to the public and is used in schools to protect the computer from students making unsafe changes to the machine. I didn't confirm this but the client must have bought the computer thru some school source. The good news is this was easy to fix for the client. I just had to click on the words "See how" in the message, which walked me thru installing a free app from the Microsoft store to make things normal.
2/23/20 - Example of a bad popup
I was doing some research online the other day and suddenly got a popup offering to download Windows repair tool. Windows will never offer updates and utilities like this when you are browsing the web. Who knows what this would have installed, but I'm sure I would not be happy. I just closed down the browser and did not return to that webpage. This is a good example of how viruses and other unwanted programs get into our computers.
2/6/20 - List of keyboard shortcuts
Click the link below to see and print out a list of keyboard shortcuts.
The list is for Microsoft Word, but many of them will work in other programs as well.
Avast caught selling user data
According to several news stories, Avast free antivirus admitted to selling user data and browsing history. Avast owns AVG antivirus as well. If you have Windows 10, I would recommend uninstalling any free or paid antivirus program and using only Windows Security, which is part of Windows 10. No antivirus program stops everything, so us being careful what we click on is far more important. Also everyone should have recent backups of their important files, such as documents and pictures.
1/18/20 - The new Edge browser based on Chromium source code
This week Microsoft made available a new browser we can download for free. If you have Windows 10 it will replaces the old Edge browser and automatically import your favorites and home page setting.
And now for the BIG surprise, this new browser can also be downloaded for Windows 8 AND (drum roll) Windows 7. Yes that's right, the same week Microsoft scared us about still using Windows 7, they issue a major update that will still work on it. However I read 1/3 of the computers in the world are still using Windows 7 so it's not too surprising. Also the word is Microsoft will continue to update the new Edge browser even if you install it on Windows 7.
Also this new browser is based on the "Chromium source code" which just so happens to be the same programming code used by...... Google Chrome! What's the deal on that? If you can't beat em join em?
Today I installed the new Edge on one of my Windows 10 desktops. I have a link below you can use if you like. Note - the website is busy, so if the correct webpage doesn't open, just refresh the page and try again, or close it down and reopen it.
The installation went smooth with several prompts along the way I that just closed down and ignored. After looking around for about 5 minutes I didn't really see anything that looked changed. Other than a fancy new desktop icon, and multiple splash screens telling me how great it is, nothing much seemed to be new. Maybe in a month or year I'll feel differently.
It's supposed to be more secure, faster, and have better privacy settings, but ALL browsers tell us that. The only benefit I see so far is the compatibility with browser extensions used by Google Chrome. Because they share the same source code, extensions that work in Chrome should work in the new Edge browser. Extensions (or add-ons) are just small programs that give a browser extra abilities, like blocking popups, or downloading YouTube videos.
So should you download this browser for yourself? Well if you have Windows 10 I've heard it will come in automatically as an update at some point in the future. If you have Windows 7 or 8, I don't think you're missing much, unless you're still using the old Internet Explorer, which some webpages just refuse to open in. I feel it's important to stop using the Internet Explorer, and Edge would be a good alternative. If you have a testing computer like I do or you are just curious, then download it and try it out for yourself. It won't hurt anything.
1/18/20 - Unwanted program advertised on MSN.com webpage
People often wonder how viruses and other unwanted programs get installed on their computer. I see this all the time with clients. The ad in the screen shot below is a perfect example. It suggests you need to click that ad to update your computer's drivers. I can't say for sure what the program would do if installed since I did not click it, but I can say it is nothing you need. Drivers are small programs that make your computer work correctly with all the hardware parts of your computer, like your printer, mouse, keyboard, and monitor. For the most part they are handled automatically by Windows. Sometimes we have to download drivers manually from the manufacturer's website, like when setting up a new printer. But we would never want an outside program to help us with that. Often these programs just want to sell us something we don't need. Any ads like this on the internet should be ignored.
So why do ads like this show up on trusted webpages like MSN.com? Advertising on most big webpages come from outside companies that they are contracted with. If an ad ends up being a virus it will eventually be removed but it takes time for MSN and the outside company to figure that out.
If you ever see something on the screen you are concerned about give me a call and we'll talk about it.
I can likely tell you right away if it's safe or not.
1/18/20 - Getting an old program to work with Windows 10
Sometimes you want to install an old program or game and it just won't work with Windows 10. Perhaps it won't start, or gives you errors, or just locks up periodically. You may have to buy an updated version of that program if it's important, BUT there is something simple you can try first.
If you are having trouble installing it at all, try right clicking on the install or setup exe file and run the installation routine as an administrator. You'll have to browse to that file on the disk.
If you've installed the program, but are having trouble running it, try right clicking the desktop icon, or the program listed in the start menu, choose Properties, then click the Compatibility tab.
On that screen of settings you'll find options you can adjust that may solve your problem. For example, just yesterday I was trying to get Visual Basic 5 to work with Windows 10. This is a program from 1995 that I've used forever to make all the programs for myself and my clients. The program would run, but not always, and sometimes gave me error messages like "Access denied". I was able to fix that by checking the option "Run this program as an administrator". That just gives the program full control over accessing the computer. However with that option checked, Windows will likely ask permission to run the program each time you start it up.
Other options you can try are 3 "Disable" options that affect how programs, especially games, work with the video display. I checked the "scaling" option once to get an old game to work for a client that didn't display correctly on the screen.
Lastly if you check the box at the top "Run this program", you can tell Windows to treat the program as if you are using an older version of Windows.
I would try these settings one at a time to see if they solve your problem. As with all settings, if it doesn't work be sure to change it back the way it was. This is very important. If you need help with an old program give me a call for an appointment.
1/4/20 - Problem signing into AOL email
If you have Windows 10 and are trying to sign into your AOL email with the Edge browser, you may see the following webpage instead. I first found out about this problem with a client about two weeks ago. As of today I've seen it on four computers. If you research it on the web a number of sites are calling this a virus, but they all offer some antivirus for you to buy. I am sure this is not a virus.
What it seems to be is a conflict between AOL and Microsoft. The edge browser is blocking a webpage from "Guce.advertising.com" which AOL must be using to generate advertising on their webpages. This problem has been reported with other browsers like Google Chrome, but so far I've only see it with Edge. Sooner or later AOL or Microsoft will have to correct this problem, but for now the work around is simple. You just have to use a different browser for your AOL email. For my client's I made a desktop icon for the Internet Explorer, which is part of Windows 10. That way another browser doesn't have to be downloaded. You can still use Edge for all other webpages like Google searching, and some day AOL will start to work again. If this happens to you and you need help getting things working again just give me a call 763-689-5912
1/6/20 update - looks like as of this morning AOL has fixed the problem.
Give it a try but the Edge browser should be working again!
12/28/19 - I'll take your old computers
If you have computers or laptops you don't want anymore I'll take them for parts and testing even if they are very old and don't work any more. I will make sure any personal files are erased. Give me a call and we can make some arrangement, or you can drop them off at the Joy Lutheran Church two miles south of Cambridge in the Goldenwood area. Just let them know it's for me. The only thing I can't use is old printers or monitors.
12/20/19 - New internet and phone, the final chapter (hopefully)
Today the Midco technician came out and installed my new phone and internet service. As you know from previous articles I was forced into changing because Talk America (Windstream) is discontinuing service in all of Minnesota.
I was worried about a lot of things, but in the end everything turned out great. The technician was a friendly guy named Luke. He was helpful and answered all my questions. Overall it was a good experience.
The internet ping test was great, no interruptions in the internet signal.
Speed test was usually what I purchased, 100 download, but sometimes tested as low as 35 mbps.
The technician put on shoe covers each time he came in the house.
He put a nice cover plate in the wall for the cable to attach to. See the picture below.
He ran the new cable wiring around my office furniture and cabinets.
The appointment time took maybe an hour in total, and he didn't leave until everything was working.
I was able to keep my phone number without any problems :)
Minor point - The technician didn't clean up the floor where he drilled into the outside wall, but this is not a big deal and I can certainly vacuum that up myself.
My wireless internet worked but the SSID (network name) did not show correctly in the wifi lists on my devices until I went into the modem settings, changed the SSID to something else, then changed it back. I don't know why I had this trouble because the technician had set it correctly to "Dad's Wireless". This was important because otherwise I would have needed to reconnect all my wireless devices. By using the same SSID and password, I didn't need to do that.
Most important - He stacked the modem on top of the phone device. Later I separated them as you see in the picture below. The problem here is both devices generate heat. So the modem on top would be blocking the vents of the phone device, and the heat from the phone device would be going up into the modem. If a person thinks this is not important, just try putting your modem an the oven. I'm sure it wouldn't last very long, so it's just a matter of how much heat and how long it lasts. This too however was easily corrected later. Please never stack your equipment.
12/18/19 - Windows 7 popup will be showing soon
On January 15th 2020 the popup you see below is scheduled to show on your screen if you have Windows 7 on your computer. Fortunately you'll be able to click a button in the lower left to prevent it from showing again.
The world is making a big deal out of this and insisting you should upgrade to Windows 10 (which is still free), or buy a new computer. Either way it's a big project. As I've said before in articles, I think if your computer is working ok and meeting your needs, just keep using it. After all if you have Windows 7 the computer won't be lasting much longer anyway, so sooner or later you'll be buying that new computer.
However as with all computers make sure you have a recent backup of anything that's important to you such as documents and pictures. As far as I know the Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus will continue to work, there just won't be any more updates to it. There are ways around this however. I don't have any antivirus program installed on my Windows 7 desktop, but at least once a week I do virus scans with free programs such as Malware Bytes. Note - they will install the paid version for a trial period which does run in the background, but eventually if you decline that you'll have the free version, which is just a scanner you run when you want.
If you feel lucky you can upgrade your computer to Windows 10 using the link below. However just know your computer will likely run a bit slower, and there will be at least one program that won't be compatible with Windows 10. An example of this is the free Microsoft Office Starter, that was included with most Windows 7 computers.
As always if you have questions or need help upgrading to Windows 10, give me a call - 763-689-5912
12/12/19 - Plot twist with CenturyLink
On 11/7/19 I wrote about having to change over my phone and internet because my current company (Talk America) is stopping service in January for the state of Minnesota. I was deciding between CenturyLink and Midco. In the end I decided to go with CenturyLink for several reasons.
The cost was a bit less.
I have several CenturyLink modems so I would not have to buy or rent one.
CenturyLink comes in on a phone line, so it would hook up easier with my home wiring.
I'm more familiar with CenturyLink due to working with hundreds of clients over the years.
So what happened? Why did I cancel my order with CenturyLink a couple days ago and go with Midco?
Well it all started with a confirmation letter in the mail. The letter stated my internet speed would only be 1.5 mbps, while I was told twice on the phone weeks before it would be 12-15 mbps. 1.5 is acceptable for light internet use, like email and webpages, BUT I use the internet heavily, including online gaming, testing, and large downloads. My current download speed with the old company is 7 mbps. Going down to 1.5 is just not acceptable. I called CenturyLink and asked the lady twice if this was for sure. Even though I live in the city of Cambridge, my house apparently just doesn't have access to the wiring needed for a higher speed. So I had to cancel the order :( I still think this has to be some kind of mistake however.
After hanging up with CenturyLink I was upset. I only have 1 month to get my service switched over or I may lose my phone number, and then how would you call me? After 63 years I've learned one thing, if you are worried about something (and I was), the best thing to do is take immediate action. So I did and called Midco. I got a very helpful lady named Becky and placed the order. They will be out on December 20th at 9am. The cost is going to be about $111 per month, but there is a discount during the first year. Also there is a one time installation fee of $50.
I found out Walmart sells a couple of modems that are compatible with Midco, so eventually I'll buy one to have on hand for troubleshooting internet problems. And with any company there will be internet problems at some point. On the plus side I'll get close to 100 mbps download (likely around 90), which is more than 10 times faster than I have now. After this is all done I'll write again and let you know how it all went. Wish me luck!
11/27/19 - Black Friday laptops
(See the picture below)
Here are some laptops I just saw in the Walmart Black Friday ad. However the information I'm going to talk about would apply to any laptop at any time at any store. I like Walmart for computers, and it's certainly the first place I would look if I were buying one. In fact the last 2 or 3 laptops I've bought have been at Walmart during Black Friday.
DVD drive: Notice none of the laptops mention having a DVD drive. This might not be a big deal if you don't need one, but if you have older software to install, or want to watch DVD movies, it's nice to have it. You can always buy an external DVD drive however that connects to a USB port.
Operating system: Only the $299 laptop mentions what operating system it comes with and that's from Google Chrome because it's a "Chromebook". Might not be a problem if you've used that before or like trying something new, but it's not Windows 10 if you are expecting that.
Storage: This is a key point. "Storage" means how big the hard drive is for storing files and installing programs. The first computer at $149 only comes with 64 gb of storage, which is basically a flash drive. That tells me the computer is only designed for online access and not installing new programs. On the plus side it does come with Microsoft Office 365 built in so you can access Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. However "365" is a subscription service, which means after the trial period you have to continually pay for it.
SSD drive: Notice the 3rd laptop at $239 comes with a 128 gb solid state hard drive. Now 128 gb is on the small side, but might be perfectly fine because the average user might only need half that space, depending on what they install. "SSD" or solid state drive is great because that will make the computer faster and you won't kill the computer by moving it around (be careful anyway). A computer with the older style mechanical hard drive should never be picked up or moved suddenly while turned on.
1 or 2 hard drives: The 4th laptop at $399 has the fastest processor of the group and the largest hard drive. In fact it has two drives, a 128 gb SSD and a much larger 1 tb mechanical drive (the type you don't want to move suddenly). So what does that mean? Windows will be stored on the SSD drive and you can use that to install your programs and save your data files as well, but you may run out of space. The idea of the larger 2nd drive is for room if you have very large program or data files, like lots of music, pictures, and video files. The computer will generally have a fast boot time and program access because of the SSD drive, and that's why they included it. I'm not a fan of two hard drives because I think it's inconvenient to manage. I'd much rather see only the single larger 1 tb drive with everything on it, or better yet one SSD drive about 512 gb in size. A person could always replace the drives with one larger SSD, or clone the smaller SSD to the 1 tb drive and pull the SSD drive, but that's extra work and expense.
So what would I buy ? If a person only wants internet access and money is a problem, then the cheapest $149 laptop should do the job. But for me I would want to be able to install programs, so I like the 3rd laptop at $239 the most. It should work fine for normal computer use and I like the idea of having one SSD drive. BUT if speed and gaming is very important then the 4th laptop with the two hard drives is the best choice. If I bought that I would clone the smaller SSD to the 1 tb drive and pull the SSD out. Or better yet keep shopping for a laptop with a larger SSD drive by itself about 512 gb in size.
As always if you have questions, want to talk about this more, or need help setting up a new computer, give me a call at 763-689-5912
11/25/19 - Lost your job ?
Nothing to do with computers, but here's a great video on steps to take if you lost your job.
11/23/19 - Surprise twist for a bad printer
I had a job the other day for a printer that was in trouble. The model was "HP Deskjet F3632". I found it would print color just fine, but almost nothing in black, just bits and pieces. Now my first thought was it needs a new black ink cartridge, but the client assured me they just tried that, and not the refilled ones, but new ink cartridges. I tried several other things like cleaning the end of the black cartridge, running HP's cleaning routines, checking all the printer settings, and even uninstalling and reinstalling the printer driver. Nothing worked.
At that point I felt we just needed a new printer. I did one last check online for possible solutions and someone suggested pulling the bad cartridge and just printing everything off the color. I tried that and to my surprise it worked. The printer did complain however, and there was a popup with every print job that had to be closed down, BUT the printer seemed to be working fine with only one cartridge. You might be asking yourself about now how is this possible? What about printing in black? When black ink is needed, the printer just mixes the 3 colors together to simulate it. I know this trick won't work with every printer, especially if you have four cartridges, but it's worth a try.
And now for a plot twist - I have a couple of printers in my office, and the color printer is an "HP Deskjet 4180" with only two cartridges, similar to the client's printer. Yesterday I ran out of black ink. I had a spare cartridge, but just for fun I pulled the empty black cartridge and sure enough my printer works great on just the one color cartridge. I plan on using that until the color starts to look bad. If nothing else I'm getting more life out of that color cartridge, when normally I've just been replacing both cartridges when either runs out. Maybe, just maybe, I might even try just replacing the color cartridge only and leaving out the black permanently. That way it cuts the cost in half to buy replacements, and I'm guaranteed to get the most use out of each cartridge.
Other tips - click to open