Friday, April 27, 2012

Faster Copying to USB Drives

Would you like to make copying files to your USB drives go a little faster? Then you might try enabling something called “write caching” which enables the file dialogs to close up sooner. Here is how to do it: Open the Start menu and right-click “Computer” Select “Properties” Click “Device Manager” in the left pane Double-click “Disk Drives” Right-click the entry for the particular USB drive of interest Select “Properties” Click the “Policies” tab The dialog shown in the screenshot below will appear Select the radio button “Better Performance” Click “OK” and close Device Manager

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Protecting Your Smart Device

All smartphones and tablets have either built-in or available as downloadable app a "Find My Device" feature. Should your device be lost, you will be able to find it on a map. Some such apps have additional features such as playing a sound to help locate it. Should you not be able to find your device, be sure to de-register it as as cancel any automatic subscriptions. Also, Apple and Samsung let you initiate a remote swipe to restore the device to its factory settings.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Keep Track of Your Downloaded Apps

There might come a time when you need or want to do a factory reset on your smart phone. The good news is that doing so is much easier than doing a computer reformat. But, a factory reset will erase all your downloaded apps. Don't worry about those you paid for because when you go to re-install them you will be "remembered" and not have to pay again. The other good news is that a list of all your installed apps are kept automatically in Play for Android phones and I would guess the same is true for iPhone apps at the App Store.

Easier and Faster Way to Type on Smart Phones and Tablets

If in your texting and emailing you are hitting one letter at a time, stop it. Instead, activate Swype (which may exist in your keyboard setup settings or is available as a downloadable app for Androids, iPhones and iPads), which is free, on your smartphone or tablet. Then, you can enter entire words at a time just by swiping the letters in one stroke that make up the word you want to enter. And Swype will build a customized vocabulary based on your usage history so your swiping will produce words faster and faster as time goes on.

Google Drive

Google Drive is a way to store things in the cloud. You can store data, images, video files, PDFs and other kinds of files. Google Drive offers 5 gigabytes of free storage in the cloud, with an option to pay for more. Gmail users will get a free upgrade from 7.5 gigabytes to 10 gigabytes as Google celebrates the Google Drive rollout. Google Drive has apps for desktops (Windows and Macs), and an Android app. iPad and iPhone apps are coming soon according to the Google Drive home page, though there will likely be a delay as the app makes its way through Apple's app vetting process. You'll need a Google account to use Google Drive (kinda obvious but worth mentioning). Google Drive Home Page:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Microsoft SkyDrive

Until now, the main difference between the way that you use Dropbox and Microsoft's SkyDrive is that the latter is only available via a web site. There's no officially supported way to mount your SkyDrive as a virtual drive in Windows 7, to which you can copy and save files. As of today, that's changed. Microsoft has finally released a Windows app that integrates your SkyDrive into the operating system. So now you have a drive which you can use just like any other, but which is held in the cloud and automatically synced to your other computers too. Safe, secure, and reliable. Well, as much as any cloud-based service can be. And be aware that Microsoft has cut the storage allowance for new accounts, so you only get 7 gig for free instead of 25 but it's still more than the 2 GB which you get for free with Dropbox.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Protecting Yourself From Wrong Medical Bills

In the past several weeks, I have received three bills for various medical services ranging from about $500 to over $1,200, each stating the amount shown was the patient's responsibility and each requesting immediate payment. In each instance, one could not tell from the bill the status of any insurance claim. On one, the insurance company said it denied the claim because the provider was out-of-network. As it turned out, spending a few minutes on the phone with the provider's billing agent and with the insurer, none of these bills had been processed correctly and all of them, in reality, were covered charges and the providers were all in-network. In one instance, the group number had been submitted incorrectly; in another, the member id number had been submitted incorrectly. The bottom-line is this: Before paying any medical bill, unless you are sure the insurance claim was completed properly and the proper benefit paid or denied properly, phone the provider and the insurer to confirm that the bill is correct and that all the insurance stuff was actually done and done right. Also, it is good practice when you find any such mistake, and are told you do not have to pay the bill yet, to follow up with a confirming letter. Note also, these experiences of the past few weeks unfortunately are not new. Over the past decade, I have found that more medical bills are processed wrong than right, and medical bills suffer a higher fault-rate than the fault-rate of any other industry.

Looming Internet Outage: DNS Changer Malware

The FBI's safety net that has protected computers against DNS Changer Malware will be shut down in July. Infected computers then no longer will be able to access the internet. A computer can be infected now without the user knowing. This website explains the issue, and gives instructions to determine if one's computer is infected and how to fix it if it is.

Best Simple Photo Editor

There are quite a few excellent web-based photo editors around, which claim to be able to make even the dullest picture look much improved. So when I heard about this new site, I was dubious it had much to offer. It turns out, it's terrific. The key to this site's success is that it's easy and simple to use, and you can see your results instantly. Just click on each of the icons in turn, and adjust the sliders to see the results in real time. I was impressed with the ease of use. I reckon that this site might just become my photo touch-up tool of choice.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Personalized Stationary

In its heyday, personalized stationery was reserved only for big shots. Now all you need to make your own beautiful letterhead is a printer and Free Printable Stationery. It's an online database of more than 250 downloadable, printable stationery designs. Browse them by category, then download and personalize your favorites. All stationery pages are in .doc format, so your word processor will need to be compatible in order to open and modify them. If you don't have Microsoft Office, the free LibreOffice will work. Link:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

For Phoenix People: Good Reason to Shun Karsha's Bakery

I tried phoning Karsha's retail number and when no one picked up after 30 rings, I gave up. I then phoned it's wholesale number. I mentioned the retail number issue, and the guy said sternly, "They're busy." I said I wanted to order a very large assortment of sweets as a gift for someone within 2 miles of their store, but was told they would not deliver it and that they deliver nothing except wedding cakes and wholesale. I would have been happy to pay for any delivery service charge and there are countless delivery service companies in Phoenix, and I so advised them by way of feedback in an effort to be helpful. I further told them that their inability to timely answer their phones and their total refusal to allow for deliveries was not necessarily helping your business. I know as a result of what happened, I placed my order elsewhere.

HDR Photos on a Smartphone

Even the uninitiated can identify HDR photos--their striking appearance often pops with high contrast, saturated colors, and an unmistakable surreal look. These photos seem like a lot of work, but when you examine the process of creating HDR photos, you'll find that it's much easier than it looks.

HDR, or "high dynamic range," photography is simple: a photo is shot three times, at three different exposures--low, regular, and high--and then stacked to create one image. In doing so, you create a sharp image that looks closer to what the human eye sees, as the varying highlights and shadows are all accounted for.

HDR for iPhone

With your iPhone 4 or 4S, HDR photography is easy, as it's built in to the software. Head to the camera and tap Options > HDR On. Now, set up your shot, tap to focus (long-press to lock focus, if you like), and tap the shutter button. It's important that your shot is steady, so consider using the volume-up button, or use your headphones as a remote shutter release. Once you've captured the photo, you'll see two pictures in your photo album: the regular photo, and the HDR photo. Swipe back and forth between the photos and you'll likely see a difference in clarity, vividness, and exposure.

If you have an older iPhone (anything before the iPhone 4 does not have built-in HDR), or you want to increase the surreal HDR effect, you'll need an app like Pro HDR ($1.99).

When you launch the app, the camera will be prompted immediately. Set up your shot, and with a very steady hand, tap the screen. Alternatively, you can use the volume-up button or your headphones, as mentioned above. After a few seconds of holding your breath as the app captures and renders the image, you'll see the HDR photo. At this point, you can adjust the contrast, brightness, saturation, and other characteristics using the settings below.

HDR for Android

Android does not yet have built-in HDR, but with the help of Pro HDR, also available in the Play Store for $1.99, you can achieve striking images using the method outlined above.

When should I use HDR?

You'll find that the technique is mostly used when photographing nature, scenery, cityscapes, and wildlife, where a natural, wide range of colors can "pop" with the help of HDR. However, it's not uncommon to see exaggerated HDR photos of cars, people, graffiti, and other urban settings.

iPhone Keyboard

I generally do not feature non-free items, but this one can be very useful for iPhone users. It is the Omnio WOW-keys keyboard, which is a full-sized QWERTY keyboard that allows you to input text into your iPhone from it’s keys.


Works with PC and Mac.
Works with iPod and iPhone.
USB charging & iTunes synchronization.
Use an iPhone as a multi-touch pad for PC.
Button for direct switching between PC and iPhone mode.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I had been using Instapaper to clip and save web pages. But it turns out Evernote, which is free, is so much better and is simply an amazing program. It gives you amazing flexibility in how stuff is saved, will sync across all your devices, and has powerful search and organization features.

How to Tell If a File Is Malicious

These days the internet is awash with malware. You can never be certain that the file you just downloaded isn’t some malicious file pretending to be safe. In fact many malicious files are designed to do exactly this. They try to trick you into running them so that they can go about whatever nefarious purpose they were designed for. This article will explain how to tell the difference between a safe file and a dangerous one. Although this may seem like a very daunting task, I do promise that it’s not too difficult. These days there are many very sophisticated, and simple, online services that allow you to make sure a file is not malicious. One method is given in step 1. If you believe that the file is probably safe then make sure that you read that section first before you continue on to the second section. It may save you a lot of time. Here is the link to the article:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Locating a Lost Cellphone and More

All the services I'll cover below allow you to do these things:
Locate your phone on a map
Ring your phone remotely
Lock your phone remotely
Wipe your phone remotely

Locate brings up the location of your phone on a map, using a Web browser. It's a handy way to tell if your phone is still near you, which might cause you to relax about making use of the other lost-phone options.

Ring is useful for when you suspect your phone is very close to you. The service will make your phone ring loudly, even if the volume has been turned off. I've used this in the past to find a phone I'd misplaced somewhere in a room. Very handy.

Lock is helpful for when you think the phone might be found in the near term. Maybe you know it's been handed in to some lost-and-found for you to pick up. Maybe you're willing to wait a bit for it to turn up before wiping it. Lock allows you enable a passcode so that no one can access the device, if you don't already have a passcode on your phone.

Wipe is your option of last resort. Using this, you can erase all the information on your phone. That's helpful when you consider just how much information we store on our phones or how connected they are to things like social-media services or e-mail accounts.

Easy Phone to Computer Pic Transfer

Bump, an app normally associated with transferring contact info and photos by physically bumping devices together, is also capable of transferring photos between your Android device or iPhone with your computer. The process is simple, free, and only takes a few minutes to set up.

Super Fast Browser

If you want a super-fast browser optimized especially for 64-bit systems, then you should most definitely try Pale Moon, which is free.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Recovering a Lost Recycle Bin

If your recycle bin disappears, here is how to get it back: Right click on the Taskbar; out the cursor on Toolbars; put a check next to Desktop; click on the double-arrow next to where it now says Desktop on the Taskbar and double-click on Recycle Bin.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Windows 7 Shortcuts

There is a large collection of handy shortcuts tucked away in an obscure place on your Windows 7 computer. Here’s how to find it:

Open the Start menu
In the right-side pane, click “Help and Support”
In the Help search bar, enter “shortcuts” (without quotes)
A list of items will be displayed. Click “keyboard shortcuts”
The window shown in the figure below will open
Click the topic whose keyboard shortcuts interest you
A list of different shortcuts will appear

Monday, April 9, 2012

Kindle Hint

If you download (either wireless or by download to your computer and USB) to your Kindle and the book does not appear, rather than banging you head against the wall, trying again and again, looking for non-existent help, using bad language, or engaging in other such futile conduct, turn off your Kindle and turn it back on, and schzam, it's likely there.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Avoid Being Put on Hold

This app, available for both Androids and iPhones, will let you skip being put on hold, and will have the company call you.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Might Be the Best of the Best Free Android Apps

Lookout Security not only is an anti-malware program, but once you register, if you ever lose your phone, you can find it by GPS on a map and it will even let out a siren sound.

Best Free Android Apps

Here is a terrific collection of the best free apps for Android devices:

Friday, April 6, 2012


Just'a Reminder is a free, smart and reliable appointment reminder tool that is designed to be unusual and attractive as well as extremely easy to use. It features reminders shown immediately after PC startup, floats over other applications, freeform reminder display text, pop-up timer with alarm shows reminders when needed most, and reminder editing history retained.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Resetting Your Computer's Clock

You probably don’t pay a lot of attention to the date/time entry in the notification area. The time is supposed to be synchronized over the Internet once a week to keep it accurate. However, the default time server doesn’t always work very well and your time may not be as accurate as you think. I have usually changed the time server for my systems to one from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). There are a number of NIST servers around the US. There is also a pool of servers for international service.

Changing time servers in Windows is quite easy. The procedure for Windows XP is given at and here is how to do it in Windows 7.

Right-click the time/date entry in the notification area
Choose “Adjust date/time”
Click the tab “Internet Time”
The dialog shown in Figure 1 will open
Click the button “Change settings”
The dialog shown in Figure 2 will open
In the line “Server” enter the desired server or choose one from the drop-down menu
The server is one of the choices in the drop-down menu and is a good general choice for those in the US.
Click “OK’ and again “OK”

There are also free utilities for adjusting time and a selection of the best are given here:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Wake Up Call

There are many situations where a timely phone call can get you out of a jam. When you've overslept, or need a wake-up reminder, a well-timed call can be a godsend.
Now, you don't have to leave it to chance. Schedule your intervention in advance with Wakerupper.
This free website is very simple: Set a time, and Wakerupper will robo-call your phone at that exact moment. You can even type a message to yourself that will be recited when you pick up.
No personal info aside from your phone number is required and Wakerupper won't share your number with anyone. If you're worried about automated prank calls in the middle of the night, you can block your phone number from being dialed.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Multitasking isn't always the best way to get stuff done. In fact, many multitaskers end up not finishing anything!It's usually better to focus on one thing until it's finished and then move on to the next thing. That's what BringFocus helps you do.

It's an extremely simple program. Just decide what project you're going to work on, then select how long you're going to work on it. BringFocus pops up a countdown clock and a message telling you what you're supposed to be doing. Then, all you have to do is actually focus!