Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scaling the Universe

Here's a brilliant fun, educational site that can help you and your children to appreciate the sheer scale of our universe. The site is simple to operate, and takes the form of familiar images such as the Eiffel Tower, the Hoover Dam and the Washington Monument. Now imagine zooming out of the image so far that it shows entire planets. Or zooming in so far that it shows insects, molecules and atoms. And, in a set of beautifully created graphics and animations, everything in between. Not only can you zoom with the slider, you can also click on any object to find out more about it. The site, called The Scale Of The Universe, is web-based so you can access it from your browser with no need to install anything.

Comparison of Mini-Tablets

Walter Mossberg has provided a fairly detailed comparison of the iPad Mini, Nexus 7, and Kindle Fire (link appears below to today's WSJ). Walter (whom I've always found charming and gracious) and I have had our professional differences, but on this point we agree: The Kindle Fire is the worst of the three. If you haven't bought one, don't; and if you have, give it away to a deserving charity or person and get one of the others. As to the other two, it is meet to note in a related article (link appears below), that Apple has fallen behind in its mobile OS. It just fired its head of software because of the iPhone 5 problems and will be revamping its OS in the near future. It is the Android OS, which allows one's phone and tablet to look and act the same that leads me to conclude that the Nexus 7 is the better choice. Also, as Walter points out, if you have small hands, the iPad Mini is a bit large for holding to read a book. Finally, whatever advantages the iPad Mini might have, even Walter does not try to justify the huge price differential between the two devices ($199 for the Nexus 7 vs. $329 for the iPad mini).


Apple Changes:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Rootkits have gone from theoretical to everyday infections in a pretty short time. Tools like TDSSKiller, Sophos Antirootkit, Combofix, and others all help in the battle against these sophisticated infections but the best solution is to avoid getting one installed in the first place. To better understand the threat that rootkits pose, I recommend reading the threat report that the Microsoft Malware Protection Center just published today.
“The Microsoft Malware Protection Center (MMPC) has published a new threat report on Rootkits and how they work.  This threat report is recommended reading for those people looking to better understand how malware families use rootkits to avoid detection and how to protect themselves from this type of threat.”
The report covers the purpose of rootkits and their etymology, how attackers use rootkits, the scope of the rootkit problem, notable malware families that use rootkits, and protection against rootkits and malicious/potentially unwanted software.
A rootkit works by essentially inserting itself into a system to moderate – or filter – requests to the operating system. By moderating information requests, the rootkit can provide false data, or incomplete data, to utterly corrupt the integrity of the affected system. This is the key function of a rootkit and explains why rootkits are a serious threat – after a rootkit is installed, it is no longer possible to trust any information that is reported back from the affected computer

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fasting in the Medical World

1. If you have a blood test and are told to fast, not only is it OK to drink water, it is OK to drink black coffee. Also, I have it on good authority that not only CAN you drink water, but you SHOULD drink water before a blood test. Being hydrated makes it easier for the med tech to find your vein and keep the blood flowing.  Plus, being dehydrated can cause some of the blood test readings to be skewed. 

2. If you are going to have a surgical procedure and are going to be told to fast after dinner the night before, be sure when you schedule the surgery, you pick an early morning slot. The later the scheduled surgery, the more likely it will be delayed because of unforeseen events in earlier surgeries, but you will not be permitted to eat even as your surgery times gets pushed back.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Android Home Screen Customization Made Easy

Go Launcher EX lets you customize your home screen(s) in myriad ways. You increase the number of home screens, set the grid size and choose a screen transition effect. You can pinch a home screen to get a preview of all your home screens. From the preview, you can add or remove any home screens, re-order them, tap a home icon to set it as the default home screen, or quickly jump to a home screen by tapping its thumbnail.
At the bottom or by the side of a home screen, you can increase dock rows to 3 to accommodate more docked icons via the application settings.
Tap the docked app drawer, you can see your recent running apps, close all running programs with one touch, and  you can touch and hold an app icon in the list of all apps, then press the 'x' sign to uninstall an app, or drag an app icon over the other to place them in a folder.
These are just a small part of the many features that come with this superb app. Give it a spin to find out more user settings and many goodies including themes and widgets exclusively designed for this app launcher.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Best and Fastest Way to Access the NYT in Chrome

Experience the award-winning journalism of The New York Times through the Google Chrome browser.  The NYTimes app for the Chrome Web Store is a sophisticated HTML5 application that leverages advanced browser features to deliver a unique and compelling reading experience that can be read online or offline.   


• All major sections including top stories, business, technology,

Opinion, science, travel, fashion & style, most e-mailed and more

• Large, beautiful photos

• Fast and easy keyboard shortcuts and navigation

• Customizable views that allow you to change the look and feel

• Offline reading capabilities (text only)

• Breaking news alerts to keep you informed 

• Enlarge text in articles

If You Like Culture, You Will Love This Website

The Google Cultural Institute collects digital artifacts such as photos, videos and manuscripts from museums and collections from all over the globe. Featured are exhibits from the 1800s through the year 2000, such as the Anne Frank House, the Smithsonian, the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and the LIFE Photo Collection. With a design that reads like a book, the Google Cultural Institute allows you to search for an event by date, location, or person, which makes it easy to spend hours learning about things that might otherwise have gone forgotten. From a tragic love story in Auschwitz, digitizing the Dead Sea Scrolls, to the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, there is something for everyone.!home

Thursday, October 25, 2012

New Nexus 7 Case

The one (and actually the only) disadvantage of the Nexus 7 has been the absence of an aluminum case/keyboard combination. That long national nightmare now is over. Such cases just became available on eBay  and Amazon for about $25. Here is a picture of it:

Making Your Smartphone Secure

Some mobile apps send out your personal information and others are just poorly secured.
If your private info has been compromised by an app, you can find out using ZAP. Just search for installed apps to find info on their security status. You'll see whether your password and username are encrypted or whether your device ID has been shared with a third party.
If an app isn't listed, you can scan your own phone using decoy data to find out exactly what information is being sent. There's a helpful video under the "About" tab that will show you how to do this. When you scan your own phone, ZAP can provide more specific results, and it adds the scan to a searchable database. ZAP is also safe to use, and never needs any of your personal info to run.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How to Make a Fortune in Technology Investing

I've stayed away from anything to do with investing, and with this exception will continue to do so. But the key to making a fortune in technology investing hit me today as I saw the gaming companies (Electronic Arts) crater because of the democratization of gaming on smartphones and tablets. Looking back to the advent of the semiconductor and the shrinking of computing devices, here is what happened: Digital Equipment (DEC) and Data General revolutionized the tech world, zoomed and then cratered when the personal computer came along; Apple revolutionized the tech world, zoomed and then cratered when Microsoft came along; and DELL and HP revolutionized the tech world, zoomed and then cratered as smartphones and tablets came along. Netflix and Facebook revolutionized their worlds, zoomed and now look to be in real trouble, and Microsoft, Intel, and Cisco are way off their highs. So, here is the lesson: Unless a high-tech zoomer re-invents itself, like IBM and Apple did, the moment you think they own the market, sell them short.  

Getting Through to the NYTimes

If you need to talk to a NYTimes customer rep about their 2-week election home delivery promotion or any other issue, the phone tree will not give you an option to do so. They claim to be aware of the problem and are working on it. In the meantime, just keep hitting O and after about 8 times of telling you that is an invalid selection, it will connect you to a rep. Finally, do not believe them if they tell you that a supervisor will call you back within an hour (or at all).

Free Grand Pianos

I was shopping for a grand piano and could not find one I liked for under $25,000. Then I download a Piano  app to my tablet, and was stunned by the richness of the sound quality. On my train commute home, I was playing the melody from Polka and Fugue From Schwanda the Bagpiper, at the end of which, the car full of passengers gave me a standing ovation, with shouts of "bravo" and "encore," and some even threw money. The Piano app is free, and is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Pausing Your Email Inbox

Inbox Pause is a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that adds a handy Pause button to your Gmail account. Just click pause, and all emails will be put on hold until you click Unpause.
You'll still get every email sent to you during a pause break, but in the meantime, you'll get respite from the endless email tide.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Free Courses Online

Coursera is a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. They envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Their technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students. Through this, they hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. In short, they want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.

Classes offered on Coursera are designed to help you master the material. When you take one of their classes, you will watch lectures taught by world-class professors, learn at your own pace, test your knowledge, and reinforce concepts through interactive exercises. When you join one of their classes, you'll also join a global community of thousands of students learning alongside you. They know that your life is busy, and that you have many commitments on your time. Thus, their courses are designed based on sound pedagogical foundations, to help you master new concepts quickly and effectively. Key ideas include mastery learning, to make sure that you have multiple attempts to demonstrate your new knowledge; using interactivity, to ensure student engagement and to assist long-term retention; and providing frequent feedback, so that you can monitor your own progress, and know when you've really mastered the material.

Coursera offers courses in a wide range of topics, spanning the Humanities, Medicine, Biology, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Business, Computer Science, and many others. Whether you're looking to improve your resume, advance your career, or just learn more and expand your knowledge, the hope is that there will be multiple courses that you find interesting.

Monday, October 22, 2012

An Unknown and Fabulous Way to Get Around Company Phone Trees

Company phone trees can be annoying, frustrating, and even maddening when all you want to do is talk to a customer service rep. One way to get around some of them is just keep hitting O until a person is connected. Another way to get around some of them is to follow the instructions on this website: But here's a new one I just learned from American Express, which you won't be told about unless you know to ask or you give them really good feedback about flaws in their email alert system, shortcomings of their website, their customer support team's lack of knowledge of critical matters, their security support team's related lack of knowledge, and, lastly, their cumbersome phone tree: Any company can put a special "block" on their phone tree so that when a call comes in from a designated number (namely, yours), the call by-passes the phone tree and goes directly to a person in customer support. Unfortunately, doctor offices likely do not have this capability but, if any do, and they let you opt in, don't forget, if you are calling for a medical emergency, hang up and dial 911.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Three New Dangerous Email Scams

Last week, I warned you about a dangerous scam email with the subject line "CNN Breaking News -- Mitt Romney Almost President." Well, this week 3 new scam emails have appeared that are just as dangerous. Clicking on the links in these emails can take you to Canadian online pharmacy sites or sites that can take control of your computer.

Here are three subject lines of these convincing scam emails that are going around right now. If you see these in your inbox, delete them immediately.
  • "YouTube Service has sent you a message: Your video on the TOP of YouTube"
  • "Google Support has sent you a message: You are on the Top"
  • "You have 4 pending messages on LinkedIn"
If that's not bad enough, there is also a scam email claiming to be from Amazon that is starting to make the rounds. So watch out for that as well.
If you receive an email from any of these companies, don't click on any links or open any attachments! Instead, open your browser and visit the company's site manually.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Giving a Windows 8 Screen the Classic Look

Windows 8 will present an entirely different GUI (graphical user interface), which will look more like Microsoft's version of icons on a smartphone or tablet and will not have the Start Menu that has been around since Windows 95. And if you have a touch-screen, Windows 8 will let you interact with those icons by touch as with a smartphone or tablet. But here's the really good news: If you don't want your start screen to look like this:

or like this:

there are utilities from third-parties and even from some manufacturers (e.g., Samsung) to restore the Windows 7 Start Menu and GUI.

Free Backup Options

The free online backup services will save your files off-site to the cloud. If your hard drive crashes your files are not lost. Your first line of defense should be an external hard drive to back up your hard drive or a jump drive for your documents.
An online backup provides 24/7 access to your files from any Internet connected computer, smartphone, or tablet style device. Data storage in the cloud is one of the quickest means to data archiving and recovery.
The requirements to judge the online backup are listed below.
  • Storage Size: More free storage is obviously better. Our photo files are larger and we are taking more photos. This requires more storage.
  • Document Synchronization: Documents and files created or changed need to automatically be uploaded to the “Cloud.”
  • Long Term Reliability of the Site: Will your files be there available a year from now, five years from now? This is subjective. If I have heard of the service before I became editor of this category or one of our readers makes a compelling argument, the site will be considered reliable.
  • Security: It should be assumed that security is minimal for the free sites. If the files you upload will not be encrypted, there's nothing to stop someone from looking at your files. This includes law enforcement officials who can serve papers from a judge requesting copies of your files. The services I have checked do not have encryption on the fly. Spideroak has pre-egress or pre-internet security. Your files are encrypted before they are uploaded.
  • File Location: Ideally the files should be able to be located anyplace on your hard drive. Instead many online backup services require a special folder to be created. All your files will have to be stored in that folder. Also, the files will have to be stored on the local drive and copied to the online service.
  • Ease of Use: The service should be menu driven and intuitive when selecting the files and folders to be backed up. These are two primary ways to do this:
  1. The first way is the service creates a folder and all the files in the folder are backed up. Skydrive does it this way. It creates a Skydrive folder and everything in this folder is backed up.
  2. The second way is you select folders or files inside the program. Using Spideroak, a tree of your files and folders is displayed and you select the files/folders to back-up by clicking a check box.
One possible strategy is to use several free sites. Use one site for photos, a second for general documents and a third site with pre-upload and post-download encryption for your financial documents and other documents you want to keep private.

There are a number of products and vendors that promise you online data storage and backup. Here are my recommendations:
IDrive's parent company IBackup has been in business since 1999 and therefore meets the long term reliability requirement. The service has 5 GB of free storage. While not a lot by today's standard it is better than 2 GB. IDrive does provide pre file transfer encryption. You provide the private key which will be known only to you. This will secure your files from being read by others without your permission.
IDrive has both scheduled and continuous backup. The default is scheduled backup. IDrive also has versioning. In this way if you accidentally delete a file, it can be retrieved.
Your files can be stored in any place on your hard drive. This allows you to keep your current file structure. It will not be necessary to move your file to a special folder for backup.
Microsoft has changed Skydrive. It is now 7 GB if you are a new subscriber to the service. If you are an old subscriber and had 25 GB of storage you get to keep your 25 GB.
I dropped Skydrive's ranking from #1 to #2 because of its reduced storage space, no encryption and the annoying Skydrive folder you have to use. It is built into Windows 8 and the service is expected to be around for a long time as it's provided by Microsoft.
Skydrive's storage size is 7 GB. This is not very large by today standards. Skydrive originally was 25 GB. A new user can't get 25 GB free anymore. If you have an old Hotmail account you may have 25 GB.
Skydrive is easy to use. Once installed just move your files you want to backup to the special Skydrive folder.
One of the Skydrive's negatives is no security. Do not put files on Skydrive that care and other people could see. It is not open to every one on the Internet but law enforcement could obtain copies of your files without your knowledge.
Another annoying negative is that it will sync only your files in the Skydrive folder. All the files you need to backup will need to be moved to the Skydrive folder.
A combination of back-up solutions may be the best strategy. Use Skydrive for your photos and non critical documents like kids homework, your non-financial files, and family pictures. Then use Spideroak or IDrive for your taxes and financial files.
Spideroak has end-to-end encryption. If you have documents you do not want anyone else to have the ability to see them, this is the service for you. The files are encrypted before they are sent to the Spideroak server. Since you own the encryption key, only you can open them. The downside for this service is that it only offers 2 GB of online storage.
The files Spideroak saves to the cloud can be stored in any place on you computer. A separate folder does not need to be created.
If you need to securely backup more than 2 GB of files, a free service is not for you. If you have more than 2 GB of files you want to keep and make sure no one can read them without your permission then I would suggest a paid service. Also, it automatically synchronizes files.
I am using Spideroak because I was able to increase my storage by entering several limited time promotions.
SugarSync now offers 5 GB free. You could increase your storage amount by referring people and taking an online quiz.
SugarSync meets the long term reliability requirement as I have heard of SugarSync for several years.
It will automatically synchronize your documents and has the security features below.
* There is no encryption key stored on your computer.
* Files are transmitted encrypted (128 bit AES) via SSL using a once only key.
* At the SugarSync end they are stored encrypted on one server and the keys stored on another.
* The keys are random and not generated from email addresses.
* Keys are accessible to some SugarSync employees, hence also files could be provided by SugarSync in response to a court order or search warrant.
What sets SugarSync apart from other on-line storage is that it is not necessary to put files into a special folder (e.g. Dropbox & Skydrive), backup being managed through an Explorer-like file manager. You just select folders to be synced using check boxes and exclude sub folders not to be synced. For those wanting a special folder like Dropbox, SugarSync also provides one called Magic Briefcase and there is a non-synced Web Archive.
#5  Dropbox (
It offers 2GB free storage to start while multiple paid options are also available. Dropbox offers file syncing between the PC / Mac / Linux and the cloud. Load the desktop client or upload through the web interface and begin adding folders to the Dropbox folder. Once in the folder, Dropbox synchs the file between the PC and the cloud and any other devices that you have enabled with Dropbox including mobile and tablets. Quick, light and in the background, Dropbox is a must try and is my preferred Online Backup Solution. One drawback to Dropbox is a folder named "Dropbox" which has to be created, then all the folders and files have to be moved to the "Dropbox" folder.
Like most of the online backup providers, Mozy offers 2 GB for free and the option to add more through paid services. Mozy comes with PC and MAC clients, schedule backups and even file encryption. The encryption capabilities provide some peace of mind to those looking for an Online Backup Solution but concerned about privacy.
#7 (
This is a new site I have tested for the past month. It meets two of the three storage requirements. The storage size is large at 10 GB and your files will sync seamlessly. Longevity of the free service still needs to be proved.
#8  ADrive (
This site has been tested for the past month. It meets one of three off-line backup requirements. The storage size is very large at 50 GB. The down side is that it does not sync files. Longevity of the free service needs to be proven.
Other Thoughts
While 2 GB seems to be about the standard when this section first started. Now it is hardly enough. 2GB is roughly equivalent to 250,000 text emails, or 300 songs, or 250 pictures. We all have more the 250 pictures and will run out of space using only a 2 GB of storage.
Since this web site is all about free software, etc., I suggest using two online backup services. Use of the sites with pre file transfer encryption for your important documents such as tax returns, then use Skydrive for photos. Skydrive has 7 GB. If you were lucky enough to have have Skydrive before they changed their service, you may have 25 GB of storage.
Besides the storage capacity, the ability to quickly get your data and long term service are other key factors to consider. Some of the above recommendations do not have proven track records but well known companies are likely able to provide long term service for you. Your data should be available and controllable by you. Being able to move your data from one provider to another or even duplicate it amongst providers for redundant backups are also key considerations when choosing a cloud storage solution. The first four suggestions above offer quick accessibility and easy exporting of the data so that you can take to another provider should the need occur.
Finally, regardless of the method or type of backup, whether online, disk to disk, imaging, CD / DVD copying, or floppies (hopefully not!), having a recent backup of your data will ensure that you never have to face that dreaded split second after your data gets ruined.
Dropped From List:
  • Windows Live Mesh: Microsoft dropped it in favor of Skydrive exclusively.
  • Bee Cloud is ceasing operation in March 2012.
  • Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail have been dropped from the list. These are not really back up systems.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Three Great Mysteries of the Universe ... One Explained

1. Mystery One: No mortal can begin to fathom how GPS devices do what they do (knowing all the street names and speed limits and directions and traffic, etc. etc.) and how they can do it simultaneously to millions of drivers, and never snap no matter how rude or abusive the driver.

2. Mystery Two: The view has been offered that the greatest mystery of the universe is the thermos bottle. It keeps hot things hot, and cold things cold, and someone I know is stunned because he cannot figure out how the thermos bottle knows the difference. The vacuum of the thermos bottle explains both the phenomenon and this person's brain.

3. Mystery Three: The solitaire app. Not only does it do random deals, it will deal hands guaranteed to win unless the player makes a wrong move or a mistake. There are two likely explanations for how it can do so: (i) there are known losing configurations (e.g., an ace under a two) and the programmer has programmed the app not to include any of them; or (ii) the computing speed of the device is so fast that, between the time of the deal and the time it is displayed to the user, the tablet or computer or smartphone plays the game and, if it loses, does another deal (it is known that at least 1 and perhaps 2 of every 3 deals by chance is a winner, so this is not so far-fetched).

Have a nice weekend.

Exploring the Galaxy

Celestia lets you travel throughout the solar system and more than 100,000 stars! You can even travel beyond the Milky Way through seamless 3D renderings. Navigating this star map is easy. You can zoom in or out, or just click to go to another location. If hundreds of thousands of stars, galaxies, asteroids, moons, comets and spacecraft aren't enough, you can download dozens of add-ons with more objects. And it's all free.

Must-Have Fabulous Android App

Here's the simplest way to use your PC to access and interact with your mobile wirelessly over a local Wi-Fi. All you need is to download and install this great free app AirDroid to your Android device (smartphone or tablet). After installation, it's very easy to use—just run the app on your mobile, then enter into a web browser on your PC, and log in with the password given by the app for a session. Voila! the contents in your mobile now appear right in your PC browser. And what can you do with these icons in your PC browser? A lot. These are some good examples:
  • Click Messages to read, send or delete SMSes.
  • Click Apps to install and uninstall apps.
  • Click Files to transfer files between your PC and mobile.
  • Click Photos to browse and slideshow your mobile photos in a big screen of your PC.
  • Click Music to playback your music tracks in your mobile from your PC right away.
  • Click Videos to playback on a PC screen your videos stored in your mobile.
  • Click Contacts to edit contacts or add a new one to your mobile.
  • Click Clipboard to copy and share text between your PC and mobile without typing it all over again.
Enjoy your Android experience over-the-air using your PC with a large screen monitor, a full-size keyboard, a mouse and maybe a perfect surround sound system.

Finding Alternative Software

AlternativeTo is a new approach to finding good software. Tell iy what application you want to replace and it will give you great alternatives, based on user recommendations.
I head over to AlternativeTo when I'm using a piece of software and I start asking myself why isn't this feature or that feature in this software, or software does something that annoys me to the point I don't want to use it anymore but need software that is similar, minus the annoyance.
AlternativeTo has an extensive list of alternatives for Macs, Windows, Linux, iPhones, iPads, Android, Tablets, Blackberry and web apps and an impressive list of categories. AlternativeTo leans towards free programs but if there's a good commercial application you'll find it listed right along with the rest.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Very Inexpensive Screen Cleaner

You can make your own, effective screen-cleaning solution at home that's as good as anything you buy. Just fill a misting bottle half with 70 percent isopropryl alcohol (rubbing alchohol) and half with distilled water.The key to this homemade recipe is the use of distilled water. Other unpurified waters, like tap water or spring water, will leave an unwanted residue on your screens due to their mineral contents. Provided you like or at least do not mind its aroma, vinegar can be used instead of the rubbing alcohol.

Turning Wired Devices Into Wireless Devices

You might have many smart devices (TV, DVD player, TIVO, etc.) that has a hard-wired (Ethernet) connection capability but not a wireless capability. All you have to do to give it wireless capability is plug it into an old router you have hanging around or buy a new very inexpensive router for it.

Daily Wallpapers From NASA

Adhering to the philosophy of putting or leaving nothing on the computer that is not necessary to be there, I am not a fan of adding wallpapers. But, if you like wallpapers in general and draw-dropping pictures in particular, check out a free program called My Daily Space Wallpaper. The program automatically changes your wallpaper image each time you start up your PC, from a library of almost 300 superb NASA images.  The program itself is a tiny 0.1 MB download, though obviously there's an image download each day (or whenever you press the button to download a new one).

Monday, October 15, 2012

Salmon Leftovers

There are three very tasty ways to do salmon leftovers:

1. Just keep the salmon chilled and serve it on top of a salad for lunch.

2. Saute the salmon till it is crusty, and chill it again, and serve it on top of a salad for lunch.

3. Put butter on it, broil it, garnish with fresh herbs, and serve with side dishes for dinner.

Glitches Related to Do-Not-Track Utilities

Various browser add-ons (e.g., Do Not Track Plus, Ghostery, Select Out) have become very popular to block tracking cookies and keep your internet browsing more private, more secure, and safer. Unfortunately, with increasing frequency, these utilities are causing login problems on various websites and other website access difficulties. Each of them has a disable or whitelist option that can be designated on a site-by-site basis. Alternatively, Internet Explorer has its own built-in do-not-track utility and seems not to suffer the noted problems. Still, that would not seem a reason to use IE as your default browser. But it would counsel to add the IE Tab extension to Chrome, which allows you to convert any webpage to IE from inside and without ever leaving Chrome. Here is the URL to that extensions:

Happy Happy

Happy Happy is a 2010 Norwegian film. See for an inaccurate description. Better yet, Farbar Farbar.*

     * Farbar is Norwegian for skip.

Front Pages From Around the World

From here, you can see the front pages from over 800 newspapers around the world.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saving Money on eBay

Many eBay auctions contain typos in the listing title. For example, 'toshiba' may be spelt 'toshia'. This means that when someone searches for 'toshiba', the misspelled auction is not shown. Thus no bids are placed on it. TypoHound generates common misspellings of the keyword you enter. Few people can find these auctions to bid on, so you can bag incredible bargains!

Online Resume

If you're looking for a job, or you think you might be in the future, it's always a good to create and maintain an up-to-date resumé.  And it's important that the document doesn't just contain all the important information about you, but that it also looks great too. Which is where a web site called comes in.  It allows you to create and maintain your resumé online, using just a web browser to edit the required items of information.  When you're ready, download it as a beautifully formatted PDF file, in a choice of template styles, to print or email. You can even include your photo.
The service is free, and you can sign up for an account with Google, Twitter, Facebook, or using the old-fashioned method.  When you're ready to download your resume, which you can do at any time, just click on one of the 3 "download" buttons that appear, to select your chosen template.  You can even try all of them to see which you like the best.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Caution re a Dangerous New Malware Email

There's a dangerous phishing email going around with the subject line: "CNN Breaking News -- Mitt Romney Almost President." If you receive this email, I recommend you delete the email immediately!

Inside the email are legitimate-looking links that will take you to a malicious website. This site will put a virus on your computer that leaves it wide open for hackers. They can steal your information, including online passwords and financial data. This is a good reminder to be cautious when opening unsolicited email, especially one containing links. If you have doubts about an email, visit the site referenced in the email manually instead of clicking the links in the email.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New Privacy Add-On

If you are you concerned about all the tracking that goes on while you surf the Internet, users of the Chrome and Firefox browsers have a new weapon against the invasion of their privacy. It is an extension that makes it really easy to configure the privacy settings for Google, Facebook, and many other sites. It is called PrivacyFix and has just been released. When you run the extension, it provides an analysis of your privacy settings for Facebook and Google, and it lists all the cookies currently tracking you as you browse around the Internet. The extension takes you to each site to make fixes and provides a clear explanation of changes in privacy settings that can be made.

Ten Tricks to Make Your Android Easier

Are you getting the most out of Android? You may not know it, but some of the operating system's most useful features may not be in plain view.
This week, I gathered 10 tricks that could make using an Android device easier and more enjoyable. Since only a handful of devices currently run the latest Android operating system, known as Jelly Bean, I focused on features that work on the more prevalent version of Android known as Ice Cream Sandwich. Many of these tips work on devices that run Jelly Bean and some work on earlier versions of Android. Since there are so many Android phone models, names and wording may differ in some of these steps.
1. Easier Keyboarding
To avoid switching from Android's letter keyboard to its number and symbol keyboard, hold down the period key to see commonly used punctuation marks and symbols. Slide your finger to the menu that appears, lifting it to select the right key.
If you can't stand tapping on glass to type on a virtual keyboard, try not lifting your fingers as much. Many Android devices come preloaded with Swype, which lets you type by dragging your finger from one letter to the next; lift your finger up when the word ends. It's remarkably accurate. To see if Swype is running on your device, spell out a word without lifting your finger. If connecting lines don't appear between each letter, tap and hold the space bar to see the Select Input Method screen and choose Swype. You can still type the old way, tapping one key at a time.
2. Unlock With Your Face
Instead of tracing a pattern on a screen or typing in a PIN, hold your Android device up and stare into its front-facing camera for a second to unlock it. This isn't as secure as other methods and doesn't always work, but it can be fun to use. To set this up go to Settings, Security, Screen Lock and choose Face Unlock. Set a backup PIN or pattern to trace for those moments when face detection doesn't work.
3. Screen Shots Made Simple
Capture a still image of any screen you're looking at by simultaneously pressing the power button and the volume down button. Find your screen shot in your Gallery under Screenshots or in the Notifications shade, which pulls down from the top of the screen. This feature only works in Android devices running Ice Cream Sandwich or later.
4. Manage Screens
In Android, app icons and widgets are organized on several Home screens. There are two ways to rearrange or remove these screens. One way on certain phones is to swipe from right to left to get to the last screen on your phone, tap at the bottom of that last screen (an option may say Manage Pages) and then touch and hold a screen to rearrange its order or remove it. For a shortcut, tap and hold the phone's Home button for a second to jump directly to this.
5. Shortcut to Contacts
There's an easier way to get in touch with your favorite people: Pin their faces to a Home screen. Go to All Apps, Widgets, select the Contact widget, which will prompt you to choose a person's name from your contacts list. That person's photo and contact information will be pinned to Home, for faster texting, calling and social networking. A Favorite Contacts widget pins four together on the Home screen.
6. Save the Battery With a Widget
Stop digging through menus to quickly turn off features that suck up your battery. One tool will do the trick: the Power Control widget. Find this by opening the All Apps page and tapping Widgets at the top. You may have to flip through a few screens to find the Power Control widget, but when you do, tap and hold it to anchor it on any of your pages. Once this bar is on a page, it will let you tap once to turn five features on or off: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, automatic account syncing (for Google, FacebookFB -0.86% LinkedIn and others) and screen brightness (low, medium, high or auto).
7. Auto-Update Apps
Avoid the nagging update notices that appear in your drop-down Notifications shade and set your apps to automatically update as updates become available. If you're worried about conserving data, set this to update only over Wi-Fi. Open the Google Play store, Settings, Auto-Update Apps by Default and check the Wi-Fi option.
8. Sync Photos and Videos on the Go
If you've signed up for Google's social network, Google+, you can automatically save any photos or videos you capture on your device to a private (by default) folder in Google+ called Instant Upload. See these back at your desktop by accessing Google+ and looking at Photos, Instant Upload. (Videos are there, too.) Conserve data usage by adjusting when these photos and videos get uploaded, like only in Wi-Fi or only when the device is plugged in and charging. Adjust these settings from your mobile device in Google+, Settings, Instant Upload.
9. Smarter Web Browsing
Google's Chrome browser comes preloaded on Android devices and works on PC or Mac computers, iPads, iPhones and other devices. If you own a few devices and use Chrome on each, instantly access the tabs you left open on one from another device by tapping Menu, Other Devices and tapping on an opened website in another device's list of opened tabs. Browse in Chrome without leaving any history by using Incognito Mode on your Android mobile device. Turn this on in Menu, New Incognito Tab.
10. Back Up and Restore Settings, Apps
If you're upgrading from one Android device to another, you can start using your new device with your old settings and apps if you follow these steps.
First, on the old device, go to Settings, Privacy Settings (for devices running Android version 2) or Settings, Backup and Reset (for devices running Android version 4 or 5). Place a check mark beside the Back Up My Data option. Give it a few minutes to back up and then when you start the new Android device, a setup option will let you restore settings and apps from backup.

Monday, October 8, 2012

No-Cost Home Mortgage Refis

Mortgage rates are at near record lows, with the 30Y at about 3.5%. But you might not know how long you are going to stay in your current residence so, while the rate looks great, the cost of the refi (usually about $2,500) is deterring you from refinancing. In that event, consider a no-cost refi. You will not get the 3.5% rate but you will still get a very low rate--today it would be 3.875%. And it truly is no-cost, i.e., no points, no closing fees, no title fees, no appraisal fees, and those things are not wrapped into your mortgage either. If you have a 4.5% mortgage, lowering the rate to 3.875% would reduce your monthly P/I payment by about 10%.

See What Is Accessing Your Hard Drive

Every now and then you likely notice that your hard drive takes off and starts whirring. There are  various ways to check what is causing the activity, but none make it as simple as this utility. It is easy to read and tells you right off what is accessing your drive. And you get a lot of information on each process that is accessing the hard drive.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Face in the Crowd

Some might say it's a bit over-the-top, but there is no question that A Face in the Crowd is an amazing movie. If you like Elia Kazan's directing, Bud Schulberg's writing, and top-notch acting (Andy Griffith's performance will knock you out), you will thoroughly enjoy this 1957 movie. But what's most startling, indeed jarring, is that this movie captures in the most prescient way the same ideological divisions that permeate today's politics and the tactical decisions that underlie this election.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Touchscreen Gloves

With Fall here and Winter just around the corner, many people are filled with angst thinking about taking off their gloves and exposing their fingers to the frigid air to tap a smartphone icon or leaving their phones alone until they get inside. Although not free, for about $20, there are now touchscreen gloves that solve this dilemma with conductive material sensors woven into the fingertips. Is this a great country or what?

Binding PDF Documents

You likely have been in this situation: You've got several separate PDF documents kicking around your hard drive. You want to email them together, as one file, but you can't figure out a way to do it.
It should be simple! If you have multiple Word documents, you can copy and paste the extra pages into one file. But there's no intuitive way to merge PDF files. Fortunately, there is a PDF Binder.

It's a free, super-simple way to take any number of PDF files and bind them into one. Just install the program, select the files and click Bind!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Free Alternative to PhotoShop

Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard for graphic design, and for good reason. Of course, it's also mind-bogglingly expensive. For casual users or artists just starting out, you'll want something a bit less expensive. Fortunately, programs like Artweaver are free! This program has many of the same features and layouts as Photoshop. It even has a powerful brush system that's essential for digital artists.

You can work with layers, text, filters and more before you export your file in any of the most popular file formats.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bluetooth Retrofit for Any Car

If you are concerned about non-hands-free use of cellphones in your car(s), any car dealer or other car place can retrofit your car(s) to Bluetooth connect to your cellphone automatically when you get in the car and so you can talk hands-free through the radio, and it costs just a couple of hundred dollars. Of course, using a Bluetooth head-set can do the same thing much less expensively. Also, Garmin (and others) now make GPS devices that have Bluetooth capability so you can skip the built-in GPS navigation system and the Bluetooth retrofit with such a device.

How to Fix an Unresponsive iPhone Home Button

No matter how careful you are about keeping your iPhone safe and intact, there is still a chance your home button will eventually suffer the effects of normal wear and tear. The iPhone 5, which features a change to the anatomy of the home button, may solve this problem, but previous iPhone models are still susceptible to this common phenomenon. If you're still within the provided one-year warranty and your phone doesn't show signs of accidental damage, head on over to Apple. As long as you're covered by warranty, the company will replace your phone or perform any necessary repairs.
Those who got hit with the home button plague after their warranty period can give the following four fixes a try. Just be warned: if you improperly perform methods 2 and 3 and damage your phone, I cannot be held responsibile.
Method 1: Calibrate (and possibly restore)
If you're lucky, your slow-to-respond home button is due to a software glitch. To find out, you'll need to calibrate your home button. Here's how:
Open up a stock app, like the Clock. Hold down the sleep button until "Slide to power off" appears. When it does, let go of the sleep button and hold down the home button. After about 5-10 seconds, the app will close.
If this solved your problem, you are one lucky iPhone owner. If it didn't you may want to try restoring your iPhone before continuing to the second method.
Method 2: Realign the docking port
There is a chance that through normal wear and tear, your phone's docking port got misaligned, moving the home button along with it. Although a repair shop might suggest you replace the home button, this YouTuber offered a different solution.
Plug a USB cable into your iPhone. Then, gently push down on the 30-pin connector, so that it pushes up behind the home button. While you apply the pressure, click the home button. Remove the cable, and see if that fixed the problem.
Method 3: Clean the home button
A splash of soda, sticky hands, dirt in the bottom of your purse or pocket -- any of these things can damage your iPhone's home button.
For this fix, you'll need 98-99 percent isopropyl alcohol, which can be found at hardware stores. Using a cotton swab, eye dropper, or tissue, apply 2-3 drops of the isopropyl alcohol directly to the home button, avoiding the screen. Then, with a narrow, dull object (like the eraser on the back of a pencil), repeatedly tap the home button so that the alcohol seeps into the frame.
Wipe clean, and wait about 10-15 minutes before checking to see if that did the trick.
Method 4: Enable the on-screen home button
If the previous three methods did not work, it sounds like perhaps you have a completely defunct home button. In this case, your home button's connectors may have been misaligned and would require professional repair. (Or, if you're willing to brave it, iFixit shows you how to DIY.)
The good news is, you can still use your phone using its on-screen home button. Normally, this is used as an accessibility option, but it's also a common solution for those with non-functioning home buttons.
To enable the on-screen home button, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Assistive Touch. Turn Assistive Touch on, and you'll see a small circle appear on screen.
Tapping that circle gives you four options: Home, Siri, More (for things like multitasking and playback controls), and Favorites. In your case, ignore Favorites, but tap this on-screen button whenever you need to access your home screen, activate Siri, or get all the options you'd normally see when you double-tap the home button.
If the on-screen home button ever gets in the way, simply tap and hold to drag it anywhere else along the frame of your screen.
It's hardly an ideal solution, but it'll hold you over until you're ready to purchase a new phone or get your current one fixed.

Free Excel Add-In

More than a year ago, I wrote about a great collection of add-in utilities for Excel.  Since then, the program has continued to improve.  It now has more than 200,000 users in 90 countries, and boasts more than 300 new features which it adds to all versions of Excel from 2000 to 2010.  The most recent update to the system was just last week.
The program is called the ASAP Utilities.  As you can see from the screen shot below, all of its features are handily grouped together on a ribbon menu, and the dropdown shows just how feature-packed this program is.
If you use Excel, at whatever level, give this program a try.  It really does promise to make your life a whole lot easier.  It's an 8 MB download from .
ASAP Utilities costs $49 if you use it for commercial purposes.  But for home, student and charity use, it's free of charge.

Finding Your Stolen Laptop

Whether you've been robbed or you simply misplaced your precious computer, get it back using Prey. It's basically a secret agent that lives in your computer. In case of theft, you can send it a signal using the Web or even a text message. It will activate and triangulate your computer's location using GPS or nearby Wi-Fi hotspots. It can grab a screenshot of the thief's activity or snap a photo of his or her face using the webcam. Use Prey to lock down your data and hide your passwords too.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Caution Using Apple Maps

MAD Magazine NewYorker View 2012

ETFs That Mature Like Bonds

Mutual bond funds reduce the default risk but they never "mature" and thus are subject to interest-rate and return-of-principal risk. Individual bonds do "mature" but are subject to default risk. iShares and Guggenheim Investments are offering fixed-maturity bond ETFs. iShares has five funds (S&P AMT-Free Municipal Series) maturing each year from 2013 to 2017; Guggenheim has nine corporate bond funds (BulletShares Corporate) maturing from 2012 through 2020 and seven high-yield bond funds (BulletShares High Yield Corporate) maturing 2012 through 2018. I have NO CLUE if there are any catches or problems with these or what the risks are and I am making NO recommendation concerning them.

Best YouTube Downloader

The web is awash with programs that claim to be able to download Youtube videos and convert them to various formats for offline watching and viewing.  In my experience, though, most of them don't work too well, and aren't worth the trouble of downloading. So, for a change, here's one that's actually rather good. It's called Freemake Video Downloader.  You can get it from