9/13/20 - Good deal at Walmart

I just finished setting up a new HP desktop computer a client bought from Walmart for $300 dollars.

Even though this was the cheapest of the desktops I was impressed with the specifications, which have improved since the last time I ran into one of these.  Unless you are doing heavy online gaming or advanced video editing, this computer will exceed the needs of most people and will certainly be better than the older computer you have now.  Note - like with any new computer there is cleanup to do to make it run the best that involves removing unnecessary preinstalled programs and adjusting Windows settings. 

A typical new computer takes me about 5 hours to do everything right.

Computer details:

  • HP Desktop 501-pf1013w

  • SVGA and HDMI monitor ports

  • 8 USB ports, 4 in the front and 4 in the back

  • SD camera card slot in the front

  • 1 TB SATA hard drive

  • DVD-RW drive

  • Nice looking mouse and keyboard

  • Windows 10 home version

  • 3.4 GHz dual processor

  • 4 GB memory

  • Trial version of MS Office 365

  • Windows 10 Security antivirus

  • Smaller mini-tower case

9/6/20 - It's not your fault

A few weeks ago I started having internet trouble consistently.  First I would lose the internet connection and anything I was doing on the web would stop.  About 10 seconds later my modem would reboot itself.  All the lights would go out except the top power light.  Then slowly over the next 5 minutes the lights would come back on and the internet would start working again.  I monitored it with a program and it would happen three to seven times a day.  I had Midco come out three times during which they replaced my modem, my phone device, and some of the connections between the cables.  Nothing helped.

 

I had a 4th appointment time set up in which they were going to replace all the cable from the modem out to the pole.  Then suddenly after about a week of this the disconnects stopped and the internet worked perfectly like before.  I kept my 4th appointment which was about 4 days away just in case I started having trouble again, which never happened.  On that last visit with the Midco tech I asked him if there was any possible explanation for this.  He told me a few days prior they found a problem with some service box in the area that affected the neighborhood and could have been the cause.  I got the feeling as always I'm the only person that seems to have these problems.  What's frustrating about this is all that worry and first three appointments were unnecessary if I had just known there was trouble with the line down the road.

I've seen this once before years ago with a client using CenturyLink.  This was back in the days of dialup.  She was having trouble with disconnects for about a month before they finally fixed some problem with the line about a mile down the road.

So what should we do about this?  If you're having internet trouble it's still a good idea to call me or your service company for help.  Most of the time the cause can be fixed right away.  If nothing else you're letting your internet company know you're having trouble and there's a history.  But if it goes on and on like mine did maybe just don't worry so much about it.  After all given enough time all problems get fixed  :)

Cambridge Recycling Day

Saturday, September 19, 2020   9:00 a.m. to noon
Cambridge City Hall at 300 3rd Avenue Northeast

Cash or check only - NO CREDIT CARDS

Computer Towers (CPU)   No Charge
Notebook Computers   No Charge
All flat Computer Monitor   $10
Glass Computer Monitors, TVs 20" and smaller   $20
Tube TVs 21" - 30"   $30
Tube Tvs 30" and larger, console TV, rear projection   $40
Flat screen TVs   $25
Printer, scanner, fax, typewriter, VCR, DVD player   $5
Satellite receiver, stereo components (each), boom box   $5
Computer keyboards, computer speakers, home phones   No charge
Wires, cords & cables, cell phones   No charge
All appliances   $10
 
Fluorescent Bulbs
Straight 4' and under, $1
Straight over 4', $2
Round, u-tubes, plug-ins, screw-ins, $2

 

Batteries
Lead acid, LI-Ion, Ni-Cad, Ni-Mh, No charge

 

Mattress or Box Springs, $20 per item
 

8/31/20 - Password tips

I was helping a client the other day with their email password.  Their email webpage was unexpectedly asking them to sign into the account.  The password they have used forever was not working.  I later found out they had been working with this problem for some time and had tried to reset their password but it didn't seem to work.  In reality I think the reset option did work and that made the original password no longer valid.

If any user name, email address, or password suddenly stops working do not try to reset it to something else until you double check for a much simpler solution.  The most common cause of a failed sign in is you've typed in the wrong account information or password.  BUT if you are sure you have the right information then you need to have someone else type it in or even try it on a different computer.  I've seen situations that fixed this problem just by having a fresh set of eyes try it again.  One time a client had their caps lock on by mistake.  Another time a client's keyboard had a sticky "N" key that caused the password to be wrong.  Once you use the reset password option all bets are off and who knows what you'll end up with.

Here are more password tips

  • Write down all your user names, email addresses, passwords, and secret questions.

  • Be sure to note any capitalization.

  • Do not use recognizable words or personal information like pets names and dates of birth.

  • If you can pronounce your password, then it's a bad password.  Use random letters and numbers.

  • Use a different password for each online account, not the same two passwords over and over again.

  • Do not change your passwords unless they are poor choices or someone else knows them.

  • Do not reset your password until you have someone else try again on a different computer.

  • A prompt for a "Security key" or "Passphrase" just means your password.  They're the same thing.

8/25/20 - Amazon and Kohl's join forces

I buy a lot of stuff on Amazon, but once in a great while I have to return something.  That's what happened with two solar outdoor lights I bought, one worked and one did not.  As I went thru the return process on the Amazon webpage there was a new option I've never seen before, and that was to return the light at a Kohl's department store.  Here were my three return choices:

  • Kohl's' Dropoff - no box or label needed

  • UPS Dropoff

  • Amazon Locker

Next to the Kohl's option there was a link to "Find a participating Kohl's store" so I suspect not all stores allow Amazon returns.  I didn't click the link, but instead called the Cambridge, MN Kohl's store and in the recorded message it mentioned Amazon returns, so I knew I was in business and continued on the Amazon webpage.  The last screen I came to was entitled "Your Return Instructions".  Next to that was a button labeled "Print label & Instructions".  I clicked on that a couple of times to print out pages for the return and pages for me to file.

So armed with the solar light in the original box and the return pages I just printed I went to Kohl's.  Way in the back of the store was a blocked off area and a desk with a sign saying Amazon Returns.  The person at the desk used his phone to scan something on the papers I brought with.  He took the light and gave me a receipt and I was done, super easy.  On the top half of the receipt was a 25% off coupon at Kohl's which was good for a week.  I gave that to my daughter.  All in all I really like this Amazon return option.  Especially since I didn't have to box up the solar light and try to mail it someplace.  And the 25% off coupon was a nice surprise.

8/9/20 - Class schedule changed

I changed the class schedule to offer two free classes starting in January.  The church where I hold the classes should be opened by then.  The classes do not require equipment so we will be able to keep our social distance.

Weight loss and health
3 hours    Thursday   Jan 7 and May 6   10 am - 1 pm
After a life time of weight problems the instructor finally lost over 80 lbs and got healthy by eating real food and without counting calories.  As a group we'll discuss past experiences and an exciting new way to look at food and eating habits.

Overview of Computers
3 hours    Thursday   Jan 14   10 am - 1 pm
* Common computer terms and the parts of  the computer
* Tips for buying a new computer
* Tips for passwords and an easy way to make one
* Lots of questions and answers plus a fun surprise at the end

7/21/20 - New program for remote picture viewing

 

I've just finished making a new computer program to view family pictures remotely.  I got the idea from my wife's mother who is staying in a nursing home under lock down.  Since my wife works there she can still go in and bring family pictures for her mother to see, but they have to be printed out on paper.  My idea is to set up a computer in her mother's room and have pictures rotate throughout the day on the screen.  The trick was how to add new pictures to the list without having to go out there in person.  Here's how this would work:

 

  1. A computer is placed at some location, like in a family member's home or a room at the nursing home.  This could be a desktop computer with a nice big screen, or a smaller laptop.  It could be an older computer too, it just has to have Windows 7 or newer and access to the internet.  My special program would be running continually on this computer.

  2. This computer would access a list of pictures that would be displayed randomly throughout the day, say every 30 seconds.

  3. Now for the fun part.Other family members on any computer in the world could add JPG pictures to the list with a simple upload procedure I would show them.  My program on the first computer would automatically see those new pictures within a minute and add them to the list.  Newer pictures are given priority so they would be displayed more often.  Overnight my program would go into a "Sleepy time" mode so the light from the screen would not disturb their sleep.

 

If this is something you would be interested in give me a call and we'll talk about what's possible.  763-689-5912

7/3/20 - A fake email from Norton

Clicking any of the links including "Unsubscribe" would be dangerous.  Just delete it.

7/3/20 - Edge may install automatically

If you have Windows 7 or 8 the new Edge browser may prompt you to install or even install automatically when you turn on your computer one day.  Windows updates are supposed to be stopped for Windows 7, but Microsoft continues with some including an update for their new Edge browser.  There is nothing wrong with this browser and you can use it if you like, but if you have another browser you are happy with you can uninstall Edge.

6/17/20 - Picture in Picture for the Edge browser

Picture in Picture is a browser feature that lets you view a YouTube video in the lower right corner of your screen while you have other webpages or programs opened.  This lets you watch a video while doing other things.  Until recently only Firefox had this feature built right into the browser.  But the new Edge browser by Microsoft recently added the feature as well.  If you have Windows 7, 8, or 10 you can download and install the new edge browser so you can use this feature.

Download webpage for the new Edge browser:   https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/edge

Enable the feature just once:
1.  Open the edge browser.

     Type this webpage at the top on the address bar:  edge://flags


2.  On the next page search for the word  "global"  at the top of the screen.

3.  Enable these 2 settings:
     "Global Media Controls"
     "Global Media Controls Picture-in-Picture"

4.  Click  RESTART  button in lower right corner

 


To use it:
1.  Open any YouTube video.

 

2.  Click the new button that will show in the upper right.

     It looks like 3 lines by a musical note.
     Mouse over says "Control your music, videos, and more"

 

3.  In the menu click "Enter picture-in-picture"
 

6/4/20 - Free annual credit report

Once a year you can get a free credit report from the official government approved webpage below.  Right now you can get it once a week due to the virus scare.  I just finished getting mine.  It's easy to do and only takes about 10 mins.  I have a clickable link below which will take you to the webpage in the picture.

Once on the webpage click "Request your free credit reports" and follow the prompts.

There are 3 companies that offer the free credit report.  I would suggestion using only Equifax.  They are easier to work with, give more information, and allow you to save the report as a PDF for later.

As you continue you'll be asked personal information like your name, address, date of birth and SS number.  They will also ask you several credit related questions to make sure it is you.  Some of the questions may not apply to you at all (this happened to me today), but there is a choice  for "None of the above".

In the end the report will show on the screen, but there is a prompt to save it as a PDF,  which I believe that was in the upper right of the screen.  Note - along the way you may see advertising for other stuff like free credit scores, you should ignore all that.  I was able to get my credit score free from the Minnco Credit Union just by asking.

Click here for the free credit report webpage

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:

https://mail.aol.com/webmail-std/en-us/suite

It's also used in command line switches or options such as:

DIR /W

The back slash is used in folder paths such as:

C:\Program Files\DVD Maker

And in registry entries such as:

HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG\Software\Fonts

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

4gb memory

500 gb hard drive   DVD-RW drive

HDMI and SVGA video output

Click here to see on Walmart's webpage

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

Click here to see on Walmart's webpage

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

Click here to see on Walmart's webpage

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.

Click here for the list in PDF format

1/31/20

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.

Click here to download the new Edge browser

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.

Dave Larson    763-689-5912