Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Rescue Kit for Windows

Rescue Kit Free Edition gives you all the tools you need to recover in the event of a system crash. The software works well and is straightforward enough for beginners.

Pros

Great wizard: After you download the program, a wizard launches that walks you through the step-by-step process of setting up a USB key that you can boot from to repair your machine. The wizard is very straightforward, and works perfectly.
Range of recovery tools: Rescue Kit has a variety of features to help you recover from different problems. You can correct the Master Boot Record if it has become corrupted; you can transfer files off the system if it is non-recoverable; or you can recover a partition if you've erased it in error.
Password reset: If you've forgotten an essential password and gotten locked out of your system, you can boot from your Rescue Kit USB key and reset your password.

Cons

Slow operation: Use of the recovery tool was very effective, but operations performed from the boot key were quite slow.

Bottom Line

Rescue Kit Free Edition is an excellent recovery tool. Download it when you have a healthy computer and create a boot key in order to have the resources you need to restore your computer after a system failure.
[Courtesy of Download.com]
Rescue Kit Download Link

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Gone Girl --- The Book (2012)

Because this is a very favorable view, I feel compelled to disclose a bias: This is the first mystery story where I ever figured out how it would end, and did so about half-way through. So, I now think of the book as like a new best friend. I have not seen the movie, and certainly will have no trouble waiting for it to be streamable, but I suspect it's a good movie that should have been easy to transmutate from the written page to the big screen, especially given that Gillian Flynn wrote both the book and the screenplay. Reese Witherspoon was a producer and reportedly was to star in the movie but then declined after her unfortunate little "incident." The word is that Rosamund Pike turns in an excellent performance, but it is hard to believe that January Jones or Tilda Swinton would not have been the perfect pick to play the female lead (putting aside of course Marisa Tomei and Sandra Bullock who many think should star in every movie).

The book is well-written and is structured in a creative way. It is the story of a married couple, and in the main the story of marriages, told where the chapters alternate between his telling of his story and her telling of her story. The voices and thoughts are real, and often are presented in ways where you might say, yeah, I've had that thought but never was able to put it quite so pointedly. And it sometimes (but certainly not too often) does so with words many likely have never heard before (e.g., nitus), making one grateful for the built-in Kindle dictionary. Overall, the writing is clear, the pace is crisp, and the descriptions of people and scenes are quite well done. In fine, it is an ingenious work of high quality, even if it suffers a little bit from, well, how do I put it? There are simply too many words. Compare Similar Criticism of a Mozart Opus


Link to Gone Girl (2012) the Book in the Kindle Store

Link to Gone Girl (2014) the Movie at IMDB

Revo Uninstaller

Unless you never uninstall a program, which is like a metaphysical impossibility and certainly a computer abuse, Revo Uninstaller is an indispensable utility. Not only does it do a MUCH BETTER and far more thorough job than Add/Remove Programs built into Windows, it is MUCH SAFER to use. Best of all though, it's customer support is as good as it gets--actually it's far better than that. Even an involved question submitted by email will get a very prompt and very knowledgeable response, and so will any follow-up emails you might send.  

Link to Revo Uninstaller Download

Free Online File Converter

One often needs to convert files from one format to another. There are downloadable utility programs that can do this. But Convert.files is a robust converter that does the converting online so you need not download any additional program to do conversions.

Link to Convert.Files

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bogus Spotify Charges

Spotify, a streaming music service, has figured out a sneaky way to enrol people in its $9.99 monthly subscription service without them realizing it happened. The first and only way one can know this happened is by spotting the charge on one's credit card. Searching the Google will confirm this is happening with great frequency, and the credit card companies will confirm the same. If it happens to you, when you dispute the charge as unauthorized with your credit card company, be sure to ask that, in addition to getting a credit back on the displayed charge, all future monthly charges be blocked.

Yapta: Tracking for Price Rebates Even on Non-Refundable Tickets

Yapta is a travel site with many neat features. Besides helping you to find low prices on flights, hotels, and cars, it will track price changes on your existing reservations so that you might get the benefit if the price drops. Even if you bought a non-refundable ticket, if Yapa detects a price drop that is greater than the change-fee charged by the airline, you should be able to get an appropriate refund of the differential.

Link to Yapta

Poodle Bug

The Poodle Bug exploits a weakness in an obsolete version of SSL that is still supported by many browsers. SSL is the technology that encrypts data on confidential websites such as password entry screens and financial data. By exploiting the Poodle Bug, hackers can gain access to such private data although it is not easy to do and the attacks have not been widespread. The link below gives instructions on how to determine if your browser is vulnerable and, if so, what to do about it. The fix on IE is very easy, requiring unchecking one box in the Internet Options/Advanced listing. The suggested fix for Chrome did not seem to work, but Google is aware of the issue and is working to fix it, and perhaps already has.

Poodle Bug Explanation and Fix Link

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Google Camera

The Google Camera had not been available for phones until recently. Now it is. It is a very simple camera, it is free, and it is generally considered the best free Android camera. It also now is available for Apple devices.

Link to Google Camera in the Play Store

Alpha House (2013-2014)

Alpha House, created and written by Garry Trudeau, is a TV series that tells the story of four Republican senators who share the same D.C. house rental, and face re-election battles, looming indictments, and parties -- all with a sense of humor. Actually, it has many laugh-out-loud moments, with crisp fast-moving dialogue and totally engaging characters (except for Senator Laffer who is caricature to the point of annoyance a la Shestak in Welcome Back Kotter). And John Goodman is simply terrific, giving perhaps his best performance since he released himself on his own recognizance in Raising Arizona. This is must-see TV and, best of all, is available for free on Amazon Prime.

IMDb Link

Foxit Mobile PDF

It is often difficult to read a PDF document on a small mobile device screen. Foxit Mobile PDF, available free for both Android and Apple devices, lets you change the font size just as you do inside the Kindle App, i.e., by tapping A+ of A-.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Travel Tip re Hotel Bookings

Some hotels, including especially in Barcelona, will show their rooms for the Summer of 2015 as "unavailable" when in reality they have rooms but have not decided yet on rates or there is a website glitch. In either event, it is best to email the hotel. If the problem is a website glitch, it can might be fixed immediately; and if the problem is indecision as to rates, the email might spur a prompt decision.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Travel Insurance

Although often not featured, if you look closely at your credit card benefits, you might be pleased to see that, for no additional expense, travel charged to the card automatically gets you some travel insurance. For example, a Citi/AAdvantage Mastercard will reimburse you up to $1,500 for covered events leading to trip cancellation or interruption; and a Chase Visa card will reimburse you up to $5,000 or $10,000 depending on the type of card you have. I have not looked at whether or not there is an issue collecting both through the credit card's underwriter and a separate travel insurance policy, but assuming not, you might want to consider lowering the overall coverage amount on any separate travel insurance policy you get. In all events, unless I'm missing something, if using a credit card with such coverage, there never is a reason (if ever there was one) to buy one of the $20-$50 travel insurance packages offered by the airline when you do your online ticketing.

Best Times to Buy Airplane Tickets

Two major factors that can dramatically change the price of an airplane ticket are: (i) the day of the week the ticket is bought; and (ii) how far in advance the ticket is bought. As this WSJ article explains: (i) the same route bought on a Sunday can be 20% lower than if bought on a Tuesday ($400 vs. $500), likely because fewer business tickets are bought on Sundays; and (ii) as the graph below shows, international flights will start to rise dramatically as one gets 171 days to departure and domestic flights will start to rise dramatically as one gets 57 days to departure. WSJ Article Link


Android 5.0

Google has rolled out its latest Android OS, called Lollipop. It makes some substantial progress on battery life, security, camera, and performance, as explained here: Lollipop Article Link

Nexus 6 Smartphone

As this article explains, the Nexus 6 (made by Motorola), which is soon will be available with all the carriers, looks to be the best Android smartphone: Nexus 6 Review Link

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Some Apps for Healthier Living

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock for Android and Apple devices will analyze your sleep cycle for a better night's sleep. Given that a sleep study can cost $3,000, this app at $.99 is a bargain. Link to Sleep Cycle App

Fooducate, which is free for both Android and Apple devices, grades your foods, tracks your progress, and explains healthier alternatives. Link to Fooducate

Mealsnap, which costs $2.99, takes a picture of your food and then has it analyzed and tracked.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ikea

As terrific as Ikea has been for products and prices, it's website has been terrible particularly in terms of product selection. Finally, Ikea has come to realize that, if it wants to return to being a growth company, it needs to improve its on-line offerings and on-line experience. It has pledged to do so, and the site already seems better than it ever was, and is no longer plagued by the dreaded "available only in stores."

Link to Ikea Website

Google Flights

Google Flights is the easiest flight-finder to use and very flexible in terms of options. And when you find a flight you want, with one click you go to the airline reservation site so you never have the issue of buying the ticket through a third-party. Also, you do not need to sign up, there is no advertising, and Google seems to have no dog in your fight to find a flight.

Link to Google Flights

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Two Tips on Travel Insurance

Travel insurance, especially for trips far off, make real sense. Covering not only medical and dental and emergency travel costs, it can provide real of piece of mind for any non-refundable expenditures (e.g., airline tickets; house rentals) should the trip be canceled for a covered reason. That said, two tips:

1. If all you have no non-refundable expenditures other than your airline tickets, then buying travel insurance on your airline's website at the same time you buy your ticket can save you money and produce benefits in excess of those available online at the travel insurance site itself. BUT, if you have any other non-refundable expenditures you want to cover, then you are way better off buying the insurance from the insurer's website and not on the airline website. Specifically, when you buy the insurance when you buy the airline ticket, all you get in terms of non-refundable expense coverage is insurance for the ticket cost.

2. When you buy insurance online from the travel insurance site, "play" with the coverage amount. By putting in different "total coverage" amounts, you can change substantially the premium cost. For example, $5,000 coverage might cost $250 but anything above (including just by a dollar) could cost $100 more or, conversely, dropping the total coverage by just a dollar could save $100 or more.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Why the New iPad Is Truly Revolutionary

Although receiving scant attention in the noting of the enhanced features of the new iPad (e.g., being thinner, lighter, having the Apple pay system), the truly revolutionary feature is that it has a built-in SIM (subscriber identity module) card. With this enhancement, the iPad can be connected to any cellular network that permits it, which includes now AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile (Verizon has yet to participate). This means, these carriers will be competing on data plans for the new iPad because users can switch from one to another to another without having to get a new SIM card. By way of example of the benefits to consumers of such competition, T-Mobile is offering 5 GBs of tablet data that can be used over 5 months for $10. When (and if) this revolutionary built-in SIM card feature makes its way to cellphones, Katie bar the door: You might no longer will be stuck with your grandfather's cellphone plan.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Delicious Side Bread Dish to Serve With Pasta or Even a Main Course to Serve Alone Instead of Pizza

For each person: Take a ciabatta roll and cut in half (for a main dish, cut two ciabatta rolls in half) [note: if the top half of the ciabatta roll is rounded, slice off the very top so it will lay flat]; and then as to each half: slather with a bit of olive oil; add a row of thin cucumber slices; add a row of thin tomato slices; slather on some pesto; add a row of fresh basil leaves; and top with soft mozzarella cheese. Then bake at a high temperature taking care to melt the cheese but not burn the bread. Serve promptly when done with a knife and fork and napkin. Experiment with any number of variations.

Press Reader

Pressreader is a web site that provides an endless stream of news stories from the world's top resources.  Just start reading. As you press the cursor keys, or move your mouse wheel, the screen scrolls to reveal an ever-increasing number of stories. So whether you've got 2 spare minutes or 20, if you want to catch up on news you'll find everything you need.


Link to Press Reader

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cut, Copy, and Paste in Gmail on Smart Phones and Tablets

The process is the same as cut, copy, and paste on a computer. The only difference is how to select the text. To select the text, press on the first character you want to cut or copy, then blue bars will appear, and you slide the blue bar(s) to the last character you want to cut or copy. Then look at the top of the screen and you will see a cut image and a copy image (as well as a clipboard image). Tap on copy or cut (whichever you want), then press and hold where you want the selected text to appear, and the word "paste" will appear, and then just tap on it. Done!

7 Apps to Enrich Your iPad Experience

From the NYT: Article Link re 7 iPad Apps

Email Fail-Safe

This morning, my Outlook (which hooks into my Cox email) would not send or receive email. I tried accessing the Cox Webmail Server page and it would not load. My internet connection was otherwise fine (i.e., the Cox site was the only one I could not get to) and, upon checking the "Down for everyone or just me" site (referenced below), it was clear the Cox email site was down. But that is no reason to prevent one from getting one's email. Specifically, if one has Gmail (or some other web-based email), and Cox Email set to forward to Gmail (or that other web-based email), then, even though you cannot receive or send your email on through the Cox system, you will be able to receive and send through Gmail (or that other web-based email). Thus, even if you hate Gmail (and every other web-based email), if you think it ever might be important to receive or send email when your ISP system is down, then you might do well to consider opening a Gmail account (or an account with another web-based email) and setting your ISP email to forward emails to it (and keep them on the ISP server as well).

Link to Down for Everyone or Just Me Site 

PS: This post is not intended for anyone with whom I had a conversation about the issue. I totally respect and honor any decision to shun Gmail, and trust that no offense is taken by this post, which was done only because the Cox outage this morning spurred me to think people other than any person with whom I had such a conversation might not be aware of this matter.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Not Investment Advice--Just a Few Facts

The market has taken a serious beating in the past few weeks. Because they don't ring a bell at the top or bottom or anywhere else, most experts agree it is impossible to time the market and attempts to do so usually fail (e.g., too often people sell to avoid further losses because the market has declined and then wait too long to get back in and miss a large part of the market's recovery). Most hedging strategies also are doomed to fail for both individual and even institutional investors. All that said, you might take a look at the long-term charts of two things: The VIX and XIV.

The VIX is what is commonly referred to as the "fear gauge" or measure of volatility. You cannot buy or sell the VIX. XIV is an Exchange Traded Note (ETN) that, in effect, is a short on the VIX. You can buy XIV. During times of market stress, the VIX tends to rise and XIV tends to fall. During calm times and market growth, the VIX tends to fall and XIV tends to rise.

Here is a chart showing how the VIX "performed" over the past 5 years and you can see the substantial spike it had in recent weeks: VIX 5Y Chart

Here is a chart showing how XIV "performed" over the past 5 years and you can see the drop it had in recent weeks: XIV 5Y Chart

Here is a chart showing how the VIX and XIV "performed" in comparison to each other over the past 5 years: VIX vs. XIV 5Y Chart

Here is a 20+ year chart of the VIX: VIX Long-Term Chart

Based on these charts, one might conclude that the rate of gain of XIV when the market recovers is greater than the rate of gain of the market itself (e.g., than VTI which is Vanguard's Total Market ETF) or any cluster of assets (i.e., stocks or index funds or mutual funds one might be holding). And, if one were to find that conclusion compelling, then shifting some funds from stocks or index funds or mutual funds to XIV, perhaps in a laddered way, as the market continues to fall and volatility continues to rise, might not carry any substantially greater long-term additional risk to holding those assets--while at the same time producing a higher likelihood of recouping one's losses when (and if) the market were to calm down and turn back up. But do recognize that, in the short-term or far longer, the rate of decline of XIV during times of increased market volatility will be much greater than the rate of decline of the market itself or any cluster of asset holdings.

To be clear, this blog is NOT recommending or suggesting in any way that one buy, sell, or do anything viz. XIV. Rather, this blog is simply trying to set out some facts.

If Your Laptop Does Not Boot Up

Here is what to do:

1. If you made a bootable USB or DVD, insert it and it will rescue you. If not, make one for the next time your laptop does not boot up. Here are the basics: Boot Disk Info Link

2. Hold down the power button for at least a minute and the laptop just might boot.

3. Follow the steps suggested by my uncle which worked for him: take out the battery; remove the ac adaptor plug; remove the cmos battery and leave out for 5 minutes; reinstall the cmos battery (which resets the bios to the factory default); and press the power button and the laptop should boot up.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Gracepoint (2014)

Gracepoint is a new 10-part murder mystery. It features a Shakespearean actor renowned in Britain who is a master of one face with no change of expression ever. In the first episode, which lasts an hour, the body is discovered. Other than that, nothing happens. Nevertheless, during every scene where nothing happens, creepy movie plays as if this were a movie where ghosts or monsters or killer animals were about to attack whomever was in the scene at the time. Fear not, there are no ghosts or monsters or killer animals. There is just interminable boredom. Maybe the show will pick up in the next 9 episodes. Or maybe it won't. Either way, I will not know.

IMDb Link

Sending Texts From Email

If you have a wireless plan with limiting texting, or you have lost or don't have your phone, and want to send a SMS text (no attachments), you can do so from any computer using email, or you want to send a MMS text (with photos or other attachments). You just need to know the cellphone number and wireless carrier of the recipient. For SMS texts, in the "To" line, you type the wirelessnumber@txt.att.net if sending to an AT&T recipient or wirelessnumber@vtext.com if sending to Verizon recipient. For MMS messages (i.e., attaching photos etc.), same formats but change "txt" to "mms" for AT&T recipients and change "vtext" to "vzwpix" for Verizon recipients. For a complete list of the SMS and MMS addressing formats for all carriers, just click on the link below.

Link to SMS and MMS Gateway Listings

Bluetooth Speakerphone for Hands-Free Cellphone Use in Your Car

If your state bans hand-held use of cellphones for drivers, or even if it doesn’t, there now is a very inexpensive (about $50) way to dial, answer, talk, listen, and even have incoming texts read out loud or do outgoing texts by dictation: The Motorola – Roadster 2 Bluetooth Speakerphone. The sound is crystal clear and ever command can be done by voice. You can even stream music through it from your phone. It's available from BestBuy, Amazon, and likely many other places.

Amazon Link  

Google Express

Google's most significant competition is not any other search engine or advertising firm. It is Amazon Prime. Although in only a few places right now on the two coasts, Google Express is taking dead-aim on Amazon by providing same-day delivery from stores such as Costco, Staples, Walgreens, and many many more. You can sign up on the Google Express website to be notified when it is available in your zipcode.

Link to Google Express Website

Monday, October 13, 2014

Picasa Tool, CM Security and More

The Picasa website is a free and easy way to store and organize photos and make them available for others to see and much more. The Tool for Picasa app enables you to execute all the functions of your Picasa website from the comfort of your smartphone or tablet.

Link to Picasa Website

Link to Tool for Picasa

CM Security now looks to be the best free security app for your smartphone and tablet. And it does a whole lot more than just protect your devices: It has a built-in cleaner as well as a locator and locker in the event your device is lost.

Link to CM Security

For an excellent summary and collection of the best and newest free android apps, this link will provide it:

Link to Collection of Best Free Android Apps

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Glary Utilities Adviso

I have long advocated the use of Glary Utilities as a maintenance program (registry cleaner and much more) and startup manager. Unfortunately, I no longer can endorse it. With V5.8 and 5.9, at least on my computer, the startup manager does not work and, worse, has created other problems with my computer. I emailed customer support and received a response suggesting I do a total uninstall and re-install. When that did not solve the problem, I emailed customer support again and received the identical (apparently) form response suggestion to uninstall and re-install. When V6 comes out, I will try GU again, but for now, I am concerned about the efficacy of the product and the lack of meaningful customer support.

Link to Glary Utilities

Never on Sunday (1960)

Although it has English subtitles, much of the nuance and subtleties is lost for any viewer who does not speak Greek or at least spent the last couple of weeks learning to understand spoken Greek. The movie is a Greek tragedy morality story that is neither novel nor complex wrapped in a Greek comedy that is not as funny as it would like to be, facially attempting to answer the question of why the ancient Greek civilization collapsed, but instead addressing the struggle of the superego against the id, which the id always wins. Melina Mercuri was highly acclaimed for her performance and deservedly so, but a remake with Melissa Tormei in the lead would be most welcomed.

IMDb Link

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cruises of a Lifetime

Thailand: If you want the cruise of a lifetime in Thailand in late January 2015, this link will take you to it. You could not ask for better hosts. See Thailand Cruise Link

Greek Isles: If you want the cruise of a lifetime of the Greek isles in 2015 or thereafter, this link will take you to it. It is the same hosts as the Thailand cruise. They could not be more gracious, skilled, accommodating, professional, and just plain nice. If anything, the website understates and underplays just how wonderful the cruise is. See Greek Isle Cruise Link

PaperBoy

Not every paper publishes its own front page online, and visiting newspaper sites individually is a hassle. Plus, it might be nice sometimes to see the papers from another country or state instead of your own. PaperBoy is a gem of a site that fills this niche. Take a few minutes to explore the various options and menus, to find the layout that works best for you. You'll then have, at your fingertips, screen shots of all the front pages for your chosen city, country or state. Whether you're in the US, UK, Australia, or any one of dozens of other locations, this is like the longest set of newsagent shelves you've ever seen.

Link to PaperBoy

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Styptic Pencils

Good luck trying to find a styptic pencil these days at a supermarket or a drugstore. And it's not a local (Phoenix) shortage because you can't even find one in a pharmacy in Hydra (Greece). Do not despair, however. You can get them at excellent prices through Amazon Prime.

E-Book Subscription Services

This cnet article compares and contrasts the three (similar) eBook subscription services that are now on the market (one from Amazon and two that preceded Amazon). These services are attracting an increasing number of customers.

Link to cnet Article re eBook subscription services

The Pluses of 4K Televisions

If you think that 4K televisions are some kind of gimmick that will not last, you would be mistaken. As this excellent article explains, 4K TVs are a "gimmick worth having."

Link to NYT Article re the Pluses of 4K Televisions

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Must Have Travel Stuff

1. The Eagle Creek Duffle Bag can serve as a main travel bag as well as a secondary carry-on as well as a tiny-packable take-with for side-trips. It has more room than you will need to pack everything you want and more for a 7-day cruise.  At $30, it's an amazing bargain: Duffle Bag Link

2. Ex-Officio clothing (shirts and undergarments) is light, insect-repellant, and sun protective. Best of all, wash it in a sink and hang it over the wire-railing of a ship at night and it will be dry and clean and ready to be worn the next day. So, you can take much less clothing with you on a trip than otherwise.  Also, it is so light and stylish that you likely will find you will use it for everyday wear at home. Ex-Officio Link

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

End of Vacation, Cruising, Chef (2014), and Tammy (2014)

The staff could not be more grateful and overwhelmed by the Blog's treating it to a few days in Athens and an 8-day small sailboat cruise of some smaller Greek isles. They are still feeling the effect of sea legs (buildings that likely are stationary appear to be swaying under foot) and jet fatigue following 18 hours of flying from Athens to Istanbul to New York City to Phoenix, but are eager to get back to work.

1. For a description of the cruise, the owner's website describes it perfectly: See Anko Yachting Website

2. Although he focuses most of the year on the Greek Isles, each January/February he does a "busman's holiday" somewhere else, and this time he will be doing Thailand. It looks fabulous. There is still time to sign up and go: See Thailand Cruise

3. Chef: Not a perfect movie or even a great movie, but absolutely worth watching if you have any interest in food. The cinematography of the food and food preparation is masterful and will have you drooling, and overcomes the shortcomings of the casting, acting, and story. One word of caution: Do not watch this on an empty stomach or you will have to leave half way through to eat and certainly do not watch it on a flight that does not serve food. Relatedly, it is safe to watch it on Turkish Airways, where four course meals are served on a 1.5 hour flight and 3 such meals are served on a 10 hour flight, with real silverware, gracious service, hot fresh rolls, hot towels before the meals, and free wine and liquor. In sum, Turkish Airways has a great reputation and it is truly deserved. It has 40 free movies and TV shows to watch and a camera in the nose of the plane that's on all the time.

See IMDb Link

4. Tammy: Give good actors an implausible story and stupid situations, and they likely will overact their parts. This will not save the movie. Skip this one.

See IMDb Link