Sunday, March 31, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

Definitely worth seeing. The story is compelling even if not accurate in many details and even though it suffers from unfortunate omissions. The main short-coming of the movie that in large part during the first 2 hours of this 2.5 hour movie, it is impossible to understand what is being said or who is who or what post the person holds, and it is a shame that virtually no consideration was paid to the amazing preparation that was done for the raid (e.g., months of planning and training including with a mock-up of the compound) [see, e.g., No Easy Day by Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer or even the 60 Minutes interview]. And in the last half-hour, it is inexplicable why the movie did not include scenes the President's deliberating the decision or, more pointedly, scenes from the Situation Room in the White House. In short, the movie did not lose out on the Best Picture award for political reasons. It lost out for cinematographic short-comings that fortunately cannot and do not in themselves otherwise unduly diminish compelling drama.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Getting More Out of a Lower Res Monitor

Most monitors now are 1900 x 1080 which produces a very sharp image. Unfortunately, they are all 16:9 aspect which many people do not like, and would prefer 4:3 aspect monitors. Unfortunately again, it is impossible to find 4:3 aspect monitors with resolutions over 1600 x 900. While not a perfect solution, if you use the DVI socket instead of the VGA socket on the 4:3 monitor, you will get a much sharper picture even if not as sharp as the hi-res monitors. And fear not if you do not have a DVI port, for under $5 you can find an HDMI-to-DVI cable or a USB-to-DVI adaptor for a modest amount more.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ruby Sparks

It is certain that Zoe Kazan's parents are VERY PROUD of their daughter for having written, starred in, and co-produced such a  major movie at such a young age. But unless you enjoy badly done scripts and miserable over-acting by every cast member, do not go near this movie. There were several intriguing ways the plot could have been developed to make for a though-provoking story, but Ms. Kazan eschewed all of them in favor of one that just served to numb the audience to the point of profound apathy.

IMDb Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1839492/?ref_=sr_1

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

E-Library Books

Sometimes it can be cumbersome to get a library book on a non-Kindle e-book reader. If you have a library card, just download the free OverDrive Media Console and get what library book you want (in print or audio) directly from your library. The link below is for Android devices. There also is a version for Apple devices.

Link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.overdrive.mobile.android.mediaconsole&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwyLDEsImNvbS5vdmVyZHJpdmUubW9iaWxlLmFuZHJvaWQubWVkaWFjb25zb2xlIl0.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Guide to Removing Programs

Removing unneeded and unused programs can greatly speed up and prolong the useful life of your computer. Should I Remove It? is a free small program that will give you useful information as to each installed program so that you can make an intelligent decision as to whether or not to remove it.

Link: http://www.shouldiremoveit.com/

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Peace, Love and Misunderstanding

If you grew up in the 1960s, but have moved on, watch the first hour--it's nice to go home again. If you are  of a later generation, watch the first hour--it's nice to see where you came from. But whatever reason you might have to watch the first hour, do not watch beyond that point. Otherwise, you will have the unfortunate experience of watching a mediocre movie (with some terrific music) go downhill into a cliche of a terrible movie and hate that you watched any of it at all. In sharp contrast to Hysteria that is the epitome of the celebration and glorification of happy endings, this movie leaves one ruing the fact that one did not have the common sense to hit the Stop button long before the director had the good sense to end it.

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1649780/?ref_=sr_1

Friday, March 22, 2013

Reducing Your Wireless Minutes While Enhancing Call Quality

Two Android apps came out (TalkaTone and GrooVe IP Lite) that allow one to have calls and texts handled by Google Voice and routed by wi-fi or by the data link (3G/4G). When that happens, no minutes are registered for the calls and the texts are free. So, you might find you can go to a less expensive phone plan and eliminate the texting charge. Also, these apps seem to enhance the call quality and provide a more stable call connection. If you decide to try one or the other, try the free version and then, only if you like it, go to the $4.99 paid version (which will eliminate the ads and provide additional features). The link below will take you to an article that gives a fuller explanation of these two apps, and a third one as well. Unfortunately, Apple has banned such apps from the  iTunes store.

Link: http://howto.cnet.com/8301-11310_39-57575244-285/3-android-apps-for-wi-fi-calling-with-google-voice/

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Google Keep

Google Keep is a nifty, simple note-keeping app for Android devices. What's nice is that the notes are stored in the cloud so they can accessed from any internet connection. I still prefer Evernote but if simplicity is what you want, Google Keep is a great choice.

Link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.keep&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwyLDEsImNvbS5nb29nbGUuYW5kcm9pZC5rZWVwIl0.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hysteria

I am not going to spoil what this movie is about. I would have put it down as a potential best movie of 2013, but it turns out, it was released in 2011. It's wonderful!!! Very funny!!! Great original screenplay/script about a story of happy endings. Terrific acting by a terrific cast. Beautifully shot. It takes place in England and is filled with English people, and they are all charming, and this comes from someone who usually will eschew English movies. Beyond the sheer entertainment value, the movie tells the history of a device and of a medical condition that many might not know ... the device has lived on while the medical condition apparently has been conquered. Two words of caution: (i) Do not watch the opening scenes while eating dinner; and (ii) watch the credits to the end or you will lose out on the visual of the serious history lesson being imparted.

imDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1435513/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

DropBox

DropBox has a new desktop client (Dropbox 2.0). It makes stuff easier right from the desktop.

Link: https://www.dropbox.com/

Monday, March 18, 2013

Russ & Daughters

It is said that the great autobiographers know that the story they are telling is not all about "me." And while there might be a little too much "me" in Russ & Daughters (e.g., twice he had to tell us not only that he was a Harvard-trained lawyer before taking over the family business, but that he was "a Harvard-trained lawyer with a prestigious Manhattan law firm"), and while Mark Russ Federman's prose never soars and often falls short even of the prosaic, there is plenty enough of "them" beyond the "me" and plenty enough of "that," i.e., good stories and points, to make for a most worthwhile read.

Russ & Daughters is the name of the Lower East Side appetizer establishment (call it a delicatessen if you wish because that's what it is now, but there is a difference) that is being run by the fourth generation of Federmans. The sub-title is "Reflections and Recipes from the House That Herring Built." The author was the third generation. It is chock-full of recipes and beautiful pictures of what those recipes produce when practiced by someone adept, it fundamentally is the story of migration, assimilation, and culturalization. For anyone growing up in the post-World War II era on the East Coast, you will meet many old friends and others whom you might not have enjoyed so much. More than that, it teaches well where one came from, which always helps when trying to figure out where one is and where one is going.

The book is a wonderful gift for Federman's off-spring and the generations that will follow them. It is a brocheh that we get to read it as well. But don't wait for any movie version: Even as good and sinful as the Super Heeber created by Federman's son to the father's great chagrin (until it was featured in the New York Times) might be, there is no "I'll have what she's having" moment around which a movie might be crafted.

The Establishment: http://www.russanddaughters.com/

The Book: http://www.amazon.com/Russ-Daughters-Reflections-Recipes-Herring/dp/0805242945/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363636023&sr=1-1&keywords=russ+and+daughters

PS: It is possible that the Seinfeld crepe-episode that used Dominicans instead of Cubans to roll the crepes was stolen from this establishment. It employed Dominicans and Puerto Ricans who turned out to be far better at fish-cutting than the Ashkenazis who claimed to be expert.

Microsoft Office Guides

Microsoft comes out with a new version of Office about every three years. When it does, each of the constituent programs (Word, Outlook, Excel, Power Point) has many differences (which Microsoft likes to call "improvements") over its predecessor. The link below gives you very useful guides that highlight those differences.

Link: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/support/office-2013-quick-start-guides-HA103673669.aspx

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Girl in Progress

If you're too old for coming-of-age stories, skip this movie. If you think you've seen all the coming-of-age stories, definitely see this movie. It is not perfect by any means, especially the too-predictable final scenes. But it is filled with fresh dialogue delivered by superlative acting, which are unspoiled by some unfortunate gimmicks, such as giving Matthew Modine a terrible hairdo so you hate him even more than you should and long for his role and look in Married to the Mob, which happens also to be Kim Bassnger's best movie, and if you haven't seen it, you're missing a wonderful movie. Lest anyone think I'm alone in liking Girl in Progress, it won three ALMA awards and three Imagen awards and was nominated for four others, and clearly with good reason.

IMDb Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1817676/?ref_=sr_1

Friday, March 15, 2013

Best Virtual Keyboard

SwiftKey is by all accounts the best keyboard for smartphones and tablets. It cost $3.99 but you can try it for free for 30 days. One word of caution: If you use LastPass on your device as a password manager (and if you don't you should), it will not show up on the SwiftKey keyboard although you can still use LastPass directly or switch back to your native keyboard.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Girl Walks Into a Bar

It's not for everyone. Many might be offended. It's an adult-rated movie. It has very snappy, simple declarative, staccato dialogue. It's not stupid dialogue except for one line. It's unpredictable. Actually, it's not predictable in the sense that it turns out there is no story. The people are very likable. The acting is good in the main although there is some over-acting. It's short. It has no point. But it's fun. And funny.

Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1682246/?ref_=sr_1

Tab Merger


The trouble with modern tabbed browsers is that, when you've been surfing for a while, you find yourself with dozens of tabs open in your browser.  There are so many tabs that it's difficult to read what each one is for, and it's almost impossible to remember their contents.  And each tab generally takes up RAM too, which can affect your PC's performance.
The solution, if you use Chrome as your browser, is a brilliant, free add-in called One Tab.  Once installed, just press the One Tab icon at any point and all your open tabs are condensed onto a single page of links.  You can now view, visit, or print the list of locations, and it frees up space for you to open yet more tabs.  Which you can then add to your One Tab screen with just a single click on the icon again.

Notice to Cox Communications Customers

Cox has increased its internet download and upload speed. At the same time, Cox is encouraging customers to upgrade from 2.0 modems to 3.0 modems, which is a good thing to do. Here are some cautionary points, however:

1. If you have a Cox modem already, which you likely do, Cox will do the upgrade for free. No additional product cost and no service charge cost. Some Cox telephone reps do not understand this and will seek to charge you $130 for the modem and $40 for the service charge or encourage you to buy the modem at a retail outlet and install it yourself. Ignore any such suggestion and ask for a supervisor.

2. Under Cox procedures, no credit inquiry is needed for this upgrade and Cox must seek your authorization for any credit inquiry. That said, before agreeing to the modem upgrade, be sure to say to the telephone rep: (i) "There is no credit inquiry required, right?"; and (ii) "Cox does not have my permission to do any credit inquiry in connection with this upgrade." The call will be recorded so if there is any issue, the Cox supervisor you will talk to later on will be able to confirm that the rep messed up.

3. If there is a mess up on Cox's part, once you straighten out the matter with Cox, which Cox understands how to do and will do, do not hesitate when thanking them for their courtesy to say that, while you are not asking for anything, you do hope Cox will do something for other customers should it mess up with them in a similar fashion.


Desktop Timer


Ever need to time your roast? Need an alarm after an hour to take a break? Or do you want your computer to shut down, hibernate or sleep after 30 minutes? Free Desktop Timer can do all that. Just download the .zip or the .exe version of the program - I recommend the .exe. Then install the program. 
Once you open the program, you'll be able to click up or down on the hour, minute and second counter to select your countdown length. Then click Start to begin, or you can click Reset to reset. To change any settings, right-click on the timer.  You can add an unlimited amount of timers to your desktop and run them at the same time. Or you can choose your favorite clock skin, change the sound effect, or set it to shut down your computer or put it to sleep.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hiding Apps on Apple Devices


From day one of iOS, users have looked for different ways to hide or get rid of the default Apple apps they will never use. Jailbreak users have been able to accomplish this task through tweaks for years, but users who don't jailbreak have been left with a lone folder tucked away somewhere full of apps that'll never be touched.
The menu in HiddenApps gives you the option to enter diagnostic menus, as well as disable iAds and hide apps.
(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET)
For some reason, Apple has approved HiddenApps, and it's currently available in the App Store, as first reported by 9to5Mac. It's unknown how long it will be available, so download it while you can.

Viewing Pictures in E-Readers

With the Google Nexus 7 (and I'm sure the Nexus 10 as well), you can expand any picture or chart to fill the page by just pressing on it and then tapping on "Zoom," and then tapping the little X to go back to the original page. This is much easier than attempting a "finger expansion" which also enlarges the type. I am certain that the iPads and the Samsung Galaxy Tabs and other tablets have the same function even if implemented in slightly different ways.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Two Movies: We Bought a Zoo and Bound

Okay, it's schmaltz. Schmaltz in its totality and schmaltz in its sub-plots. But unless you have a heart of stone,  and you hate beautifully photographed animals, and Matt Damon, and Scarlett Johannson, and Peter Reigert, and Leroy from Curb Your Enthusiasm, and movies rated PG, and stories that are true even if they came from England, and an amazing child actress, We Bought a Zoo will warm you.

Have nothing to say about Bound. Couldn't even make it through the opening credits. Looked a bit dark. Popped it out of the DVD player and inserted We Bought a Zoo instead, packed up Bound and sent it back. No regrets. See above.

Finding Flights Fas

While not elegant, Google Flights, which actually powers many flight-finding sites, will quickly give you a full list of flights with prices, stops, and flight duration.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Recovering Your Windows Product Key

If you need to reinstall Windows, but you have lost your Windows product key, fret not. Just go to the below link, download the free program, and it will find and tell you the product key.

Link: http://sourceforge.net/projects/ekeyfinder/

Friday, March 8, 2013

Searching for Sugar Man

If you don't like a refreshing story about coming home, if you don't like amazing music like you've heard before (if you ever listened to Dylan, James Taylor, or Tom Rush) but never heard before (because at the same time it's different), if you don't like spectacular photography and cinematography and landscape, if you do not like endearing people, and if you don't like learning about something you never heard about before, or if you just hate movies that won an Oscar for Best Documentary, then feel free to shun Searching for Sugar Man. Otherwise, you are in for a wonderful, heart-warming treat. Caution though: You will come away saying: "I want to hear all those songs in full." But the good news: They are available in full as a download of the soundtrack. Note of gratitude: Thank you Beth and Davey for cluing us in and your willingness to watch it a second time.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Temperature on the Desktop

To display the temperature of your city or any city you choose in your System Tray, go the link below and download the Desktop app. Then go to settings and choose AutoStart/Minimized.

Link: http://www.weather.com/services/winapp.html

Microsoft Support


If you're having a problem on your PC, you probably start by searching for the solution with The Google.  However, a better route (or something to try if Google isn't successful) might be to go straight to Microsoft's web site.  Here in one place you can start for all Microsoft products. Choose the product you need help with, and the specific version of Windows if relevant, and you'll find a friendly menu of common problems and solutions.  In many cases, you can even download a special fix file which will solve your problem with a single click.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Increasing Your Internet Speed

If you have a cable modem from your internet provider, and it was installed more than a year or so ago, here is a suggestion: Call your internet company and have it run upload and download speed tests (they are easy to do yourself as well as The Google can tell you, but you'll want your internet company to confirm for itself that you are not getting close to what you should be speed-wise). In all likelihood, and especially if you are using phone(s) or tablet(s) along with computer(s), you have a second-generation modem while you should have third-generation modem, which will give you dramatically noticeable increased speeds. Depending on your plan and mode of service, with a little smooth talking, you should be able to have your internet company install the new modem for no additional equipment charge and no installation fee, and then you can feel better about having taken that bridge to the 21st Century.

Windows 7 Gadgets

At least some Windows 7 gadgets, most notably the Weather gadget, has been disabled and discontinued by Windows 8. It likely is a result of a misguided Microsoft attempt to push users to Windows 7. The Weather gadget was simple and useful. I've looked for replacements and nothing comes close.

Apps That Cost a Bit More

Most apps are free or cost at most a few dollars. But if you are willing to pay a little more, there are some really special apps. For example, for $1,000, you can get a piano tuner app from Reyburn Piano Service or apps for prepping for the LSATs or the state and multi-state bar exams. But my favorite is iVIP Black, which enables users to receive special perks and discounts from various partners such as butlers, private jets, yachts, and body guards. If you don't feel like shelling out $1,000 for iVIP Black (or meeting its minimum net worth requirement), there are $150 versions (iVIP Black and iVIP Blue) and even a free version (iVIP Red) (note that the reviews on the Red are far from stellar). There are even versions specific to NYC (iVIP New York) and London (iVIP London).

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tesla

The Tesla is far less expensive than one might think--even without regard to gas savings. In person, it is a far more spectacular and sleeker looking car than its pictures would have you believe.

See  http://www.teslamotors.com/

Monday, March 4, 2013

Walmart.com

Many people are too stuck up to shop at Walmart. Others say they have no such objection to shopping at Walmart but claim to have difficulty with the parking, the ambiance, the crowds, and the checking-out. That said, none of those objections apply to shopping at http://www.walmart.com/. Indeed, no one ever has to know you did so. And if you haven't done so already, you are missing out on really good sundries, merchandise of all kinds, and basic apparel (from socks to t-shirts to underwear), all at fabulous prices and very low shipping costs.

Repairing Windows 7


An earlier posting showed how to obtain a full Windows 7 installation disc for use in repair. Questions have arisen as to how to use the installation disc to run System Recovery Options to fix problems.
Be sure that the DVD you are using is for the same edition of Windows 7 that you are trying to repair – for example, Windows 7 Home Premium, 64-bit or whatever specific version that you have. A full installation disc can be used for repair even if you have an OEM system. No product key is required in this process.
  1. Put the disc in your optical drive and restart to boot from the DVD. You may have to change the boot settings in your BIOS if booting from a CD/DVD is not enabled. Watch for the  “Press any key to boot from CD or DVD” message.
  2. On the "Install Windows" screen, make the appropriate selections for language, time, and keyboard, and then click “Next”.
  3. On the next screen, click “Repair Your Computer”. Do not click "Install now"
  4. In “System Recovery Options”. select which operating system you want to restore if any are listed. It will be blank in many systems with only one operating system.
  5. Click “Next”.
  6. The “System Recovery Options” screen shown below will open.
  7. Select “Startup Repair” or whichever option you wish to apply.
WIndows 7 System Recovery Options

Margaret

Giving up with more than a half-hour to go in this two-and-a-half hour2011 movie, I didn't see the end and don't care how it ended (or even if it ended). It's point--that all human beings are flawed--is told in such a slow-moving, ham-handed way that the real lesson of the movie is that the director and screenwriter are the most flawed characters of all. They manage to take terrific actors and terrific acting and what could have been one terrific story and fail miserably in trying to tell too many stories to count chocked-filled with untold scenes that have no connection to any of the stories or indeed any point of all. And even the main story is horribly flawed because it is based on a wrong view of the applicable law of negligence and causation. If Gerlad Manley Hopkins who wrote "Sping and Fall: To a Young Child" from whence the title comes, or  Shakespeare who wrote "As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods, They kill us for their sport," could see what was done to them by this movie,  they would be suing the producer for copyright misuse or idea mangulation.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0466893/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Saving on Your Cable Bill

If you have two or more cable boxes that each have DVR (recording) capability, you can save $5/month, and have increased functionality of your TV Guide and other remote functions, by going instead to "whole home dvr." While with whole home dvr only one box will record the shows, you can watch them on any other television. You can even start a show on one television and finish it on another. The only "catch" is that installation is $30, but if you watch for a promotion, the installation fee will be waived.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Checking Your Computer's Vulnerability to Hacking


Malware that can open up your PC to hackers and allow them remote access. Fortunately, there is a fast, free, simple way to be certain that someone who tried to connect remotely to your PC over the internet wouldn't find an open door waiting. If you haven't tried out the Shields Up service, from Gibson Research's web site, give it a try.  It does just that.  It attempts to "hack" your PC, by remotely connecting to your computer over a number of internet communication channels (known as ports).  Unless there's a good reason not to, your router's firewall should be configured to block incoming connections to these ports, and the Shields Up scan will verify that this is the case.
To start, head to http://www.grc.com/intro.htm and, from the Services menu, choose Shields Up.  Then click on the Proceed button. If you know what you're doing, choose a service or port to scan.  If you don't, clicking on the Common Ports button is probably the best place to start.  Ideally, the results should show that all ports scanned were uncontactable.