Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pointer Stick

Just in time for Thanksgiving, PointerStick is a portable tool that presents on the Windows Desktop a virtual pointer stick, for example for Presentations to highlight the current mouse position and the emphasis on presenting will be better. 

The use of the virtual pointer stick is ideal for projectors (Beamer) and larger LED/LCD screens. 

# Features:
# Very Small Program
# Low CPU usage
# Adjustable size of Pointer Stick
# Several Pointing-Stick textures (bitmaps)
# Optional alpha transparency
# Optional deactivation by mouse or keyboard input
# Optional translation feature
# Multilingual

You can try this freeware and if you not satisfied, you can delete it quickly. " Pointer Stick " does not have to be installed and can be executed easily from the desktop. 

Download Link:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (2012)

If you grew up in the late 1960s early 1970s wanting to be in the band, or being in the band, or if you liked the way they dressed on the Partridge Family, this documentary is for you. If not, you might have a bit of trouble understanding anything they say or who is saying what or why it was made. The second half might be unforgettable. The first half has already been forgotten. That said, depending on who else is watching it, it might stimulate one of those classic Elvis vs. The Beatles debate. In all events, the question posed by the film is why Big Star didn't make it. Unlike many movies, this movie makes the answer crystal and, for anyone who appreciates good music, most painfully clear.

IMDb Link:

[Cautionary Note: IMDb says it's 113 minutes. Actually, it's over 2 hours]

Xmas Lawn Programmable Light Show

Who doesn't like to turn their front yard into a Xmas light show miracle. Although not free, with LumenPlay, now you can do so in 16 million colors programmed with your smartphone. See the LumenPlay download and NYT explanatory links, which give other alternatives as well.

LumenPlayDownload Link:

NYT Explanatory Link:


HitmanPro.Alert is a free tool that checks web browser integrity and alerts you when secure online banking and shopping is no longer guaranteed. It also contains CryptoGuard technology that protects your documents and files against crypto-ransomware like CryptoLocker discussed in an earlier post. It runs silently in the background and alerts you if there is a threat. It is highly recommended that you install this.

Download and Explanatory Link:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Knowing Wait Times Ahead of Time

WhatsBusy is available as a Web app or an iPhone app, and it predicts the wait you'll encounter when you arrive at the airport. WhatsBusy states that its "forecasts are made with real data, not social media check-ins or tweets. We analyze things like things like weather, demographics, and events to predict crowdiness at your favorite places." WhatsBusy tracks only airports at the moment, but it states other places where lines frequently occur -- DMVs, museums, national parks, restaurants and bars, and parking -- are in the works. In fact, if you sign up for a free account with the Web app, you can view wait times at museums. 

Monday, November 25, 2013


If Boggle is not one of your favorite games from decades ago, you're too young to remember the good old days. That said, if you like word games at all, you will love boggle, and now it's available for free or spring for a dollar and get it without any ads for your Android or Apple device. It comes with its own dictionary for spell checking. Besides being great fun, it will hone your Scrabble skills by teaching you little words that are invaluable in becoming a Scrabble Master. Finally, Boggle addicts will find it a great relief not to have to carry around the physical Boggle play box, while you can continue to enjoy the glares of others in waiting rooms when you rattle the cubes for a new game because of the app's sound effects.

Cautionary Note: Several reviewers report that the app does not work, and there appears to be no fix for its crashing. The game's developer (EA) has nothing about this issue on its website and emailing EA gets only a promise of a reply within 14 days. The good news is that they actually might get back to you the same day, with some trouble-shooting suggestions. The bad news is that none of them (e.g., re-installing, clearing the cache, rebooting), all of which you probably tried, will work. They also will have asked you for some tech info, and then Rajnish will let you know the following: "We want to get you an effective resolution and for this I am going to escalate this issue to higher department. Our senior team is well equipped to handle such issues and I’m confident we’ll solve the issue or suggest alternatives. Due to a back log of contacts, it may take some time so we apologize for the lengthy response time, and we are working diligently to return to an acceptable level of response time." 

Android Link:

iTunes Link:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Frances Ha (2012)

Many have asked me to describe what it's like for a young adult trying to make it in New York. My answer has always been that it's indescribable and indescribably complicated. But finally a movie was made that captures it beautifully, with precise cinematography, first-rate acting, and a poignant script. Frances Ha is movie making at its finest.
IMDb Link:

Three Apps for a Better eReader Experience

Send to Kindle: This is a web browser plugin for Chrome and Firefox. With it, you can beam an entire web page, stripped of ads, to a Kindle or Kindle app for Android and Apple devices for your reading pleasure.

Pocket: Similar to Send to Kindle but it allows you to send stories by simply emailing a link to a web page. The same can be done by Send to Kindle but it's approach is much clunkier.

Scribd: Trying to read a PDF on an eReader can become quite a mess. This free app for Android and Apple devices gives PDF documents a graceful, intuitive interface that allows for search and zoom, as well as thumbnails, and in landscape mode, displays two open pages just like an old-fashioned book does.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

eBay Time Saver

Assume you buy something on eBay, you get an eBay order confirmation but no shipping confirmation. Then, two days later, you get a delivery from Amazon of the very product you ordered on eBay, marked as a gift from you and sent on a Prime account which you don't have and the product does not show up on your Amazon order list. You can spend 20 minutes on the phone with Amazon trying to understand what happened, and ask for a supervisor, and be told one will call you back in a half hour, and then call back Amazon when no supervised called, and then call eBay and email the eBay seller, and otherwise stew and fret. Or, you can sit back, enjoy yourself, and not worry about it. Many eBay sellers, when faced with an order that they cannot fulfill because they are out of stock, will fill it just this way through Amazon. So, skip the phone calls to Amazon and to eBay and emails to the eBay seller. Just relax and take life a little easier.

When Not to Give Advice

Here is a very short video that demonstrates with indescribable precision the importance of being able to listen to a problem without offering advice when what is sought is listening not advice:

UPS My Choice

UPS has a free service, called My Choice, which will alert you if a package addressed to you is on its way (even if it's a package someone else had sent to you without you knowing it was on the way) and when it will be delivered. It also gives you various preferences and delivery options.

My Choice Link:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lives of Others (2006)

In the tradition of Z, this is an amazingly rivoting movie about the GDR (East Germany) before (and a bit after) the tearing down of the wall and about the human character---good and bad. It's first-class, expertly-done movie in every respect, from the script to the acting to the cinematography to the moral to the tension. It's indescribably compelling. And once you see it, you will understand why Andrea Merkel, who grew up in the GDR, might be so upset with the NSA program and the eavesdropping on her.

IMDb Link:

Window Privacy

Assume you have a room with floor-to-ceiling glass window/sliders that are such where you can see people walking by and they can see in. Privacy can be a serious issue. Drapes are a poor solution for obvious reasons. One-way glass works great and one-way films work pretty good during the day but because of their physics they reverse at night so that one cannot see out while those outside can see in. Smart glass which changes from clear to opaque at the flip of an electric switch is a decent solution but it costs tens of thousands of dollars and cannot be split on one pane. Fortunately, all is not lost because there is a reasonable-cost terrific solution: Top-Down/Bottom-Up shades. With them, you can leave the bottom half closed on the bottom half of the glass as the default but open or close them entirely when wanted. And they can be motorized and done by remote and set on a timer. The HD link below explains them more fully.

Hunter Douglas Link: 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Getting the Best Price on eBooks

eBooks are available from many places besides Amazon. If you want to get the best price, just click on and it will tell you where the book is available and the cost from each place. The difference can be significant.

Luzme Link:

Spam Blocker for Android Phones

Call Control will automatically block active spammers and the reverse lookup allows you to track spammers to their source. You can even add numbers to the Community Blacklist and choose to block specific numbers that won't leave you alone.

Download LInk:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Excellent Free Online Backup/Storage

Tech Support Alert is an excellent unbiased (they don't sell anything) source of tech stuff. They have revised their rankings of free online backup and rated iDrive as the best. It gives you 5 GB free which is as much or more than anyone, is a snap to set-up (it takes a couple of minutes at most), and is fully automatic and customizable.  

iDrive Download Link:

Latest Serious Malware Threat: CryptoLocker

Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has issued an “urgent alert” to computer users about the threat posed by the CryptoLocker malware. Last week, US-CERT issued a similar warning to American computer users.
NCA alert on CryptoLocker
The NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit has warned that online criminals have launched a major internet attack designed to hold victims’ computer data hostage, and demand a ransom of hundreds of pounds be paid.
The cybercops’ alert warns that the CyberLocker ransomware – which encrypts computer files and demands a ransom be paid for the decryption key – has been distributed via spammed-out emails claiming to come from banks and financial institutions.
What types of computers does CryptoLocker target?
CryptoLocker targets computers running versions of Windows. Mac computers are not affected.
How is CryptoLocker spread?
CryptoLocker isn’t a virus or a worm, it’s a Trojan horse. That means – like most malware seen today – it can’t travel under its own steam, and doesn’t self-replicate.
Instead, CryptoLocker is typically distributed via spammed-out email messages, perhaps claiming to come from your bank or a delivery company. If you click on the attached file (which might pretend at first glance to be a PDF file, but actually use the .PDF.EXE double extension trick to hide its executable nature), your computer becomes infected.
Of course, it’s possible the criminals behind CryptoLocker could also distribute it in other ways. For instance, by compromising websites with malicious exploit kits that take advantage of software vulnerabilities to install CryptoLocker on visiting computers.
What files does CryptoLocker encrypt?
Once your computer is infected, CryptoLocker hunts for files to encrypt. It doesn’t just on your hard drive, but on any connected drives, including mapped network shares, and even folders that you might sync up with the Cloud – such as DropBox.
Filenames which match the following patterns are encrypted by CryptoLocker:
????????.jpe, ????????.jpg, *.3fr, *.accdb, *.ai, *.arw, *.bay, *.cdr, *.cer, *.cr2, *.crt, *.crw, *.dbf, *.dcr, *.der, *.dng, *.doc, *.docm, *.docx, *.dwg, *.dxf, *.dxg, *.eps, *.erf, *.indd, *.kdc, *.mdb, *.mdf, *.mef, *.mrw, *.nef, *.nrw, *.odb, *.odc, *.odm, *.odp, *.ods, *.odt, *.orf, *.p7b, *.p7c, *.p12, *.pdd, *.pef, *.pem, *.pfx, *.ppt, *.pptm, *.pptx, *.psd, *.pst, *.ptx, *.r3d, *.raf, *.raw, *.rtf, *.rw2, *.rwl, *.sr2, *.srf, *.srw, *.wb2, *.wpd, *.wps, *.x3f, *.xlk, *.xls, *.xlsb, *.xlsm, *.xlsx, img_*.jpg
So, you may well be saying goodbye to your documents, your databases, your photographs, your PowerPoint slides, your spreadsheets, and much else besides.
Will I see anything on my screen to tell me I’ve been hit?
Only when it’s too late.
After files have been encrypted, CryptoLocker displays a message that demands you electronically send the ransom payment (options may include Bitcoin, MoneyPak cashU, or UKash) in order to decrypt the files.
CryptoLocker message
Your personal files are encrypted!
Your important files encryption produced on this computer: photos, videos, documents, etc. Here is a complete list of encrypted files, and you can personally verify this.
Encryption was produced using a unique public key RSA-2048 generated for this computer. To decrypt files you need to obtain the private key.
The single copy of the private key, which will allow you to decrypt the files, located on a secret server on the Internet; the server will destroy the key after a time specified in this window. After that, nobody and never will be able to restore files…
To obtain the private key for this computer, which will automatically decrypt files, you need to pay 300 USD / 300 EUR / similar amount in another currency.
Click <<Next>> to select the method of payment and the currency.
Any attempt to remove or damage this software will lead to the immediate destruction of the private key by server.
CryptoLockerA 72 hour timer is displayed, which ticks down and explains that if you do not pay the ransom demand, your files will be permanently inaccessible and impossible to ever decrypt.
The clock is ticking…
MoneyPak? Bitcoins? Can’t I pay the CryptoLocker ransom with a credit card instead?
No, the criminals don’t give a credit card option.
One of the reasons is presumably because it would be easy for victims to “pay” the ransom using their credit card to have their files decrypted, and then use chargeback to claw back their money.
Of course, many people may not know how to send funds via Moneypak or Bitcoin – a possible stumbling block for the criminals.
So if I don’t pay the ransom in time, all of my data is lost?
Not quite. The first hope has to be that you have kept regular backups of your important data, separate from your computer, and that you can restore your system from them. If you weren’t keeping backups, then please learn something from this horrible experience.
Secondly, and I don’t recommend you take this this option, it has been reported that the criminals are now giving victims the ability to pay the ransom *after* the deadline has passed, and get their files decrypted that way.
This service allow you to purchase private key and decryptor for files encrypted by CryptoLocker.
If you already purchased private key using CryptoLocker, then you can download private key and decryptor for FREE.
Regardless of whether you approve of encouraging blackmailers by paying the ransom or not, the fact that this late decryption service is only accessible via TOR, and not the conventional web, probably puts it beyond the reach of typical computer users.
Can’t anti-virus software remove CryptoLocker and save my data?
Good anti-virus software should be able to detect and remove CryptoLocker – however, removing CryptoLocker isn’t the same as decrypting your data files. And anti-virus software cannot unscramble your data.
If you do remove a CryptoLocker infection you won’t be able to pay the ransom to have your files decrypted.
Fascinatingly, the criminals behind CryptoLocker anticipated this, and change the Windows wallpaper on infected computers to explain how users can download and reinstall CryptoLocker!
How do you protect against CryptoLocker?
Cryptolocker is a serious threat. If you’re unlucky enough to have your computer infected by it, and haven’t taken precautions, you may find yourself in the unpleasant situation of having to choose whether to pay the ransom, or never gain access to your data again.
That means you’re saying goodbye to your family photographs, and any other personal data you have amassed over the years. If you’re a business then the potential losses could be even more significant.
The answer is three-fold.
Firstly, protect your computer from becoming infected by keeping it up-to-date with anti-virus and security patches. Also be cautious of opening unsolicited email attachments or clicking on unknown links. If you are security savvy you can reduce the chances of being hit by a threat like CryptoLocker.
Secondly, consider setting a software restriction policy on your Windows PCs that prevents executables from running from certain locations on your hard drive.
Finally, make backups of your important data and keep them separate from your computer (to prevent malware like CryptoLocker from encrypting your backups as well) That way, if the worst does happen, you should be able to restore your valuable data and not pay up to the crooks.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Find File Names in Seconds

If you often find yourself wondering where a particular file has disappeared to on your PC, but you know at least some of the file's name, then a free utility called Ultra Search is what you need.  Because it finds only filenames, and doesn't actually search the contents of files, it's very quick to use and it doesn't need to waste time or disk space in maintaining an index file.  Just fire up the program, type some of the filename in the search box, and you'll have your results in a couple of seconds.  Even if there are tens of thousands of files on your PC.

Download Link:

Adobe Security Breach

There was a massive security breach of Adobe accounts, affecting as many as 150 million users. If you have or ever had any Adobe account (including Adobe Reader, Photoshop, Acrobat or Cold Fusion, you should change your password. Even if you don't remember ever opening an account, a password reset is a wise thing to do.

Explanatory Link:

Password Reset Link:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Best Dictionary App for Apple and Android Devices

Merriam-Webster Dictionary is a free dictionary apps that contains all the definitions from the renowned Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and allows you to view the definitions or thesaurus, even offline. When you don't have any Internet connection, you still can look up a word in a split second as this app comes complete with all entry words. You can tap any word on the screen to check out its synonyms and antonyms, and mark a word as one of your favorites too. When you need example sentences to see how the words are being used, this app also makes it available to you at no cost. This is a bonus as some other dictionary apps disable this feature unless you pay for them. What’s more, you can learn something new everyday with Word of the Day, showing its definitions, example usage and how this word comes from. You can also browse the entire dictionary if you run this app on a tablet, which has more screen real estate to accomodate a scrolling index. With this priceless dictionary, you can use voice search to check out a word without the need to type it, but using voice search, viewing illustrations and hearing audio pronunciations do require an Internet connection.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Powerful Free Microsoft Security Tool

Microsoft just released a new version 4.1 of "Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit" (EMET). EMET is designed to help prevent hackers from gaining access to your system. It hardens your system against various exploit techniques by making programs run in a restricted mode. Because EMET uses general security methods, it does not have to be updated with signatures for known viruses or for the characteristics of specific programs. EMET works with Windows XP SP3 and up, including Windows 8. It requires .NET Framework 4.0. The updated version can be installed over existing previous versions.

EMET Download Link:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Girl Most Likely (2012)

Not a great movie, and quite the stupid ending, BUT, very funny, very enjoyable, wonderful acting, delightful characters, cleverly written, and a stellar cast. Annette Benning and Kristen Wiig are fabulous.

IMDb Link:

Sending Greeting Cards From Your Phone

While Apple has pulled its Apple Cards app, there are others available for Apple and Android devices that actually are better: Here are three: Clever Cards, Ink Cards, and Just Wink Greeting Cards. Here is a description of each:

CleverCards: Designed to send both real and digital cards, CleverCards requires you to sign in via Facebook or create an account before you can even use it. If that's a turn-off, read on -- the other two apps don't force you through that hoop.
However, if you're willing to link CleverCards with your Facebook account, you'll find it clever indeed: The app shows your friends' upcoming birthdays, complete with profile photos of each person for easy perusal. Tap a person, choose a card, and you're off to the races.
Ink Cards.
Ink Cards.
(Credit: Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET)
You can also create a new card for any of the usual occasions (graduation, inspiration, and so on) and send cards to people who aren't Facebook friends. CleverCards charges $2.99 and up for printed, mailed cards, but also allows you to send unlimited digital versions free of charge.
Ink Cards: This app offers a fairly mammoth selection of cards across a wide range of categories, but they're not greeting cards in the traditional sense. Rather, they're customized postcards, with a message and/or photo on the front side and optional secondary message (and mailing address, natch) on the back.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, and indeed Ink Cards is the cheapskate's choice at just $1.99 per printed, mailed card. (I suppose it's also the environmentalist's choice, as there's no envelope headed to a landfill.) Each one comes on heavy, glossy, 5x7-inch stock. And after you send your first card, your second one is free.
JustWink Greeting Cards: Here's an app for customizing actual greeting cards from the folks at American Greetings. Interestingly, the selection is somewhat seasonal: right now you can order Thanksgiving and Hanukkah cards, but there's nothing yet for Christmas, Valentine's Day, etc.
JustWink Greeting Cards.
JustWink Greeting Cards.
(Credit: Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET)
JustWink also has traditional categories like Birthday, Thanks, and Congrats, along with some nontraditional ones: LGBT; Thnx, Soldier!; and Sh*t Got Real.
Whatever category you choose, browsing is admirably simple: Just tap a card, then swipe it open to read the inside. Once you've made your selection, you can add a photo, a personalized message, and even a handwritten signature -- a great touch. Physical cards cost $2.99 to print and mail. You can also send digital cards via e-mail, Facebook, or even text message if you're really trying to get in under the wire.

Restoring Google Navigation Bar

A couple of months ago, Google eliminated the black navigation bar that appeared under the bookmark bar and had links to many of the various Google services, and replaced it with a white button. The two main problems with the white button is that it takes two clicks to get to any service where it took only one with the navigation bar and has fewer options so often it takes three or more clicks. A free fix has just been made available called Proper Menu Bar. This extension not only restores the navigation bar, it makes it better than it was when Google ran it by making it very customizable. [Note: When you make option changes, they will not take effect until you close and re-open the browser]

Extension Link:

Here is a screenshot showing the black navigation bar at the top:

Monday, November 11, 2013

How to Help Save Airbnb is like but has many advantages as explained in the two links below. Unfortunately, it's under assault by several municipalities that want to shut it down, most immediately, New York City. The petition link below will lets you sign a petition to support the continuation of Airbnb.

Advantages of Airbnb Link 1:

Advantages of Airbnb Link 2:

Petition Link:

Whole Foods Not So Outrageous Any More

As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, "Whole Foods has been working to shed its reputation as an overpriced grocer, so that it can open stores in new markets and appeal to lower-income consumers. Whole Foods has started offering more discounts, adding value-oriented brands, and matching lower prices of its competitors." While one has to be careful, there are many items where Whole Foods beats not only notoriously high-priced markets, but even markets such as Trader Joe's who are known for very reasonable or even favorable pricing. And unlike Trader Joe's which let's you fill out just one raffle ticket no matter how many shopping bags you bring in, and you never win anyhow, Whole Foods gives you 10 cents back for each shopping bag you bring in and use.   

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Negotiating for Nearly-Free Shipping

Many websites offer free shipping where the order reaches a given threshold. By way of example, offers free shipping for orders over $99.99, but the bottom-sink grid you want is priced at $98.50, which carries a shipping charge of $14.99. Even if paying the shipping charge is worth it to you, before doing so, you might offer by way of the website's email to pay $100 instead of $98.50 to qualify for free shipping. It does not always work. But it never hurts to try.

As Cool as I Am

While not on the order of American Grafitti, this coming-of-age movie set in Belen, New Mexico is better and less predictable than most. Sara Bolger turns in a first-rate performance as the movie's central figure but Claire Danes' crying is of Oscar-quality and it alone makes seeing the movie worthwhile. This is Ms. Danes first movie in five yeas (since Me and Orson Welles), likely because she was in a witness protection program as a result of her heroics in Homeland.

IMDb Link:

Best App to Join MP3 Files

Often when recording audio onto PC, the finished result might occupy multiple separate MP3 files. Having separate files for each track or song can often be a good idea, of course, if you might want to listen to each one separately.  But in some cases, it's useful to be able to merge separate MP3 files into one, to simplify your listening and the storage of the file.  After trying a couple of programs I eventually opted for MP3 Album Maker, from MakeItOne.  It's a tiny download of less than half a megabyte, and does the job perfectly.  Just fire up the software, choose the MP3 tracks you want to merge, and the program does the rest.  You end up with a single track that you can simply play all the way through without having to repeatedly load up different files into your player.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Kudos to GE for Doing the Right Thing With a Bit of Urging

Email to GE: "When I opened the upper door while cooking last night, the lights did not go on. I tried several times and they still did not go on. Then they both started flashing on and off at the same time. I waited a while, and opened the door again and the lights came on. I tried several more times last night and again today and the lights are coming on and going off as they are supposed to. I bought the oven (which I LOVE) on 9/13/12, so I assume it is out of warranty. Is this issue something I should be concerned with and have checked, or is it something I can ignore unless it happens again. Thanks. for your attention to this matter."

GE's First Response: "This is a good question.  This is not what we would expect to hear about the wall oven.  Most consumers would not schedule a repair unless the problem occurred routinely.  Moreover, it is difficult for a service technician to diagnose and repair a problem if it is not happening at the time of service.
 The PT925SN4SS offers an initial, limited, 1-year entire appliance, parts and labor warranty.  You are correct, it is no longer under the initial warranty. Thanks for reaching out to us."

Riposte to GE's Response: 

"While I appreciate that GE responded, I must say I am both confused and disturbed by its substance, and EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED. Here is why:

1. I did not ask GE and do not really care as your response states what “most consumers” would do or not do. I brought the issue to GE’s attention because I wanted to know what GE would recommend concerning this issue with this product. Your response does not tell me anything in that regard. I really would like to know what GE recommends I should do.

2. While I am sure as your response states that “[t]his [issue] is not what [GE] would expect to hear about the wall oven,” again, that misses the point. What I would like to know is whether GE has EVER heard about this issue and if so, whether there is a possible danger (either to persons in the kitchen or to the electrical system of the house) such that fixing the issue would be imperative. If GE has never heard about this issue, that would be informative as well.

3. I am sure you are right as the response states that it is “difficult for a service technician to diagnose and repair a problem if it is not happening at the time of service.” That is precisely why I contacted GE before having a service technician come out, i.e., to see if there was something you might be able to tell me that I could tell the service technician based on your knowledge of the oven and its electronics to help him or her resolve the issue.

4. I realized I was 5 weeks past the warranty expiration date, which is what I stated in my email to you. I did not ask GE for any special consideration in that regard. All I asked for was the benefit of GE’s knowledge, which I think you will agree I did not get in the response.

I have bought many GE products over the years, including most recently for this house a gas stove top, a microwave, a range hood, and this wall oven. Up until this matter, I have been very pleased with the products and with GE’s customer service. But I think you now can see why I am SO DISAPPOINTED.  As important, I am no more informed now than I was before receiving your response as to whether I should have some technician look at the oven, some hint as to how he or she might diagnose the problem, or whether this issue poses a significant health or electrical hazard such that I should replace the unit or its electrical panel or do something else. In sum, PLEASE send me a meaningful response."

GE's Second Response: 

"Thank you for contacting us.  I just wanted to let you know that your e-mails were forwarded to GE Consumer Relations and that we appreciate the fact that you took the time to make us aware of your situation. My name is Anita.  I am with GE Consumer Relations and I am here to assist you with your concerns.

I do understand that you are concerned if what happened with the lights in your wall oven is something that you need to have looked at. Or if it may present some hazard to you & your home if not done.  GE does not offer  technical service from our service department for our consumers; we do have the GE Answer Center where our Product Specialists can answer very basic questions, mostly information that you might find in the troubleshooting section of your Use & Care manual. 

When consumers contact us with questions such as yours, we do recommend having a service call and since you are concerned about this event, that is what I recommend.  Even though your wall oven is no longer in-warranty with GE, I am happy to offer to you, this one-time, to cover the costs for the service call, if you use GE Factory Service.  GE Factory Service offers morning (8 a.m. - noon) or afternoon (1-5 p.m.) appointment times.  Our appointments are booked on a first come, first serve basis and someone at least 18 years of age must be home during the service call.  Please get back to me as soon as possible with several choices so that we can book your service call.

Let me know if you wish to accept my offer.  I can be reached best by replying to this e-mail.  I respond to any e-mail messages within 24 business hours.

Thank you for choosing GE.  Hope you have a wonderful weekend!"

*     *     *

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Adding Special Characters in Word, Outlook, and Macs

It is easy to add accents, tildes and many other foreign language symbols over letters as well as to add other stand-alone foreign characters. This brief summary explains how:

Summary Link:

Using New Google Search Features on Apple Devices

Google Now for iOS isn't quite on par with its Android counterpart, but it's getting very close -- especially after yesterday's release of the updated Google Search app. In case you're unfamiliar with it, Google Now integrates with the Search app to provide you custom, personalized information, everything from local weather to sports scores to traffic reports -- and now, reminders. This data appears on cards when you swipe up from the main Google-search screen. The update adds a few noteworthy new features to the mix, most of which Android users have already been enjoying. Here's how to make the most of the new Google Search for iOS:

Run a hands-free Web search

After you load the Google Search app, you can perform a hands-free search by saying, "OK, Google," pausing until you hear the beep, then saying whatever you want to search for. Unless you have a MotoX, the app must be running for this voice-powered search to work. Or maybe not! If you have an iPhone 4S or later (which is required for voice-powered searching), you can use Siri to run Google Search, and then operate the app with the "OK, Google" command. 

Google Search app lets you create reminders by voice.
The updated Google Search app lets you create reminders by voice.
(Credit: Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET)

Set a hands-free reminder

Once you have Google Search running (either manually or via Siri), you can perform other voice-powered tricks as well. To set a reminder, for example, you'd say, "OK, Google," then any of the following:
  • "Remind me to start a load of laundry when I get home."
  • "Remind me to call Dave Jones at 10 a.m. tomorrow."
  • "Remind me to rake the leaves this weekend."
Unfortunately, once the app creates the reminder for you, you'll still have to tap the screen to actually set it, so it's not an entirely hands-free operation. On the plus side, you can tweak "when" and "where" settings as needed before finalizing the reminder.
The good news is that those reminders will become push notifications, meaning your iPhone or iPad doesn't have to remain on, and you don't need to be actively using the Google Search app.
However, and this is no surprise, the app still doesn't integrate directly with iOS, so you can't do things like add appointments and have them appear in Calendar.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I Give It a Year (2013)

It doesn't make it as a great movie overall, but, even though Hugh Grant is not in it and it's movie made for him, scene after scene is a total riot, making it an extremely funny and enjoyable and refreshing movie. If you ever have been married, or divorced, or wanted to be married, or wanted to be divorced, or have dealt with a therapist or marriage/divorce counselor or wish you hadn't, or have played charades, or were afraid to play charades, or blurted out things or wanted to blurt out things, this is a must-see movie. It really is a hoot!

IMDb Link:


LastPass is a password manager and much more. Besides storing all your passwords and filling them in automatically on any site you want it to, it stores all kinds of information (indeed any kind of information), which also can be accessed for auto-form-filling and can be accessed from any computer you are on in the world. It's free for use on computers and cost $12/year for use on mobile devices. I've mentioned LastPass before, but am mentioning again only because it has come out with a new version (3.0) that makes everything even spiffier. It's one of those rare upgrades where the program actually was made better and easier.

Download Link:

Release Notes on V3.0 Link:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fixing a USB Port That Apparently Stopped Working

If you ever find that sometimes one of your USB ports won’t work, or you turn on your PC and your USB mouse or keyboard doesn’t seem to be connected, or you plug in a USB flash drive and nothing happens, you might have a bad USB port. But there is another possible cause of USB problems and here is an easy way to fix it. Since XP, the Windows operating system has come with a feature called USB Selective Suspend. This allows the system to turn off specific USB ports without affecting the other USB ports. This is supposed to save power by closing down ports that are only used intermittently. However, sometimes the port does not get turned back on when it is needed. On a desktop or other system where this type of power saving is not crucial, consider disabling this feature if you are experiencing USB connection problems.
The feature can be disabled or re-enabled in Control Panel.
  1. Open Control Panel
  2. Go to: Hardware and Sound->Power Options
  3. Find your preferred power plan and click “Change plan settings”
  4. Click “Change advanced power settings”
  5. A dialog box similar to the example in the graphic below will open
  6. Find the entry “USB settings” and expand it
  7. Expand the entry “USB selective suspend setting”
  8. Use the drop-down menu to disable or re-enable the setting as shown in the graphic below
  9. Click "OK"
USB settings
In Windows 8.1, the problem of a USB port being turned off can be even worse. See this MSDN post for details. 
Incidentally, the problem of an unresponsive USB port can also often be fixed by turning the computer off and back on.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Undefeated (2011)

Oscar winner for best documentary of 2012. Sure, it's sappy, but then it's a true story of turn-around underdog high school football program. For anyone who did not play a team sport, this captures what you missed. For anyone who did play a team sport, this captures why, if you loved, you loved it.

IMDb Link:

Freud's Mistress by Jennifer Kaufman (and someone else)

From Page 30 of the Sunday (11/3/13) New York Times Book Review:

By Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman
Amy Einhorn/Putnam, $25.95.
A liaison in fin-de-siècle Vienna inspires Mack and Kaufman’s novel. Did Sigmund Freud have an affair with his wife’s sister, Minna Bernays, who moved in with the family in the 1890s and helped care for their six children? No less an authority than Carl Jung said so — and added that it was Minna herself who told him. Mack and Kaufman accentuate the possible without sensationalism, placing Minna in the context of both her times and her family. After the death of her fiancé, 30-year-old Minna supports herself by working as a lady’s companion. When she loses her job, she accepts her older sister Martha’s offer and seeks refuge in the Freud household. She has no intention of betraying her sister or of falling for her brother-in-law, but once circumstance throws them together, sublimation quickly moves to seduction. Minna flees, but can’t stay away. As Freud’s attentions waver, she sulks (“His theories about women and their emotions are completely misguided”), and her selfless sister consoles her: “I’ve seen your disappointment when he ignores you. You must try to adopt a bit of my philosophy when it comes to Sigmund. Enjoy him when he’s civilized; pay no attention when he’s a lout.”

Toward Safer Browsing

This article gives a comprehensive step-by-step guide to setting your browser to maximize your safety against malware and your privacy.

Article Link:

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Secretariat (2010)

Although Diane Lane turns in one of the worst acting performances ever, and one has to endure the garb of the 1970s especially the hats, and a bit of sappiness, this movie is worthwhile. It's fundamentally a true story, and a fabulous story at that, about arguably the greatest athlete of the 20th Century.*

IMDb Link:

     *  Some might argue that a horse should not be considered an athlete viz human beings. But at least one commentator strongly disagrees as the following letter published in the Financial Times during the Summer Olympics 2008 confirms:

           "Sir, In equestrian events that draw the most spectators and interest (thoroughbred, quarter-horse and harness racing, and Arabian horse shows), while jockeys and trainers may achieve significant attention and notoriety it is the horse that (rightly) is designated the winner or champion and whose name is inscribed in the record books and in history. So why, when it comes to the Olympic horse events (dressage and jumping), is it the rider who gets all the glory, while the horse is scarcely recognized?"

The Company You Keep (2012)

If you like Robert Redford, Susan Sarandon, Julie Christie, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, and Sam Elliot, stay as far away from this movie as you can. They are all in it, which only proves that great actors cannot save a movie where the script and the story are terrible. In the height of irony, the movie focuses on a bank robbery, but if you want to see a fabulous bank robbery movie, your time is far better spent watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or even Quick Change.

IMDb Link:

The Swiss Army Knife for Androids

This free and excellent Swiss Army Knife app keeps many handy tools in one place. It’s lightweight and it works pretty efficiently with a simplistic design. You just need to install once and your mobile device is equipped with all 10 useful tools below, each of them is ready for use with a tap away.
  • Flashlight - turns your device into a flashlight with a simple on/off button.
  • Unit Converter - easy to use, select a category and choose a unit to get results.
  • Timer - gives you four individual timers with sound notifications.
  • Stop Watch - works with an onscreen or physical volume button.
  • Compass - simple and clean design.
  • Bubble Level - offers three views with calibration.
  • Calculator - a handy scientific calculator.
  • Magnifying Glass - complete with zooms and auto focus.
  • Mirror - ready with a slider for light exposure.
  • Ruler - a standard or diagonal onscreen ruler.
Undeniably it’s a remarkable set of tiny tools. Although each of them may not be as flashy as individual apps that you may find from somewhere else, this app is definitely a good choice if you want something simple that binds all basic tools together, just like an original Swiss Army knife.

Swiss Army Knife