Monday, December 22, 2014

Happy Holidays

We have decided to give our staff the rest of the year off in thanks for the amazing dedication they showed and back-breaking work they did throughout the year. Happy holidays and best wishes for the new year to them and to each of you!

Friday, December 19, 2014


Evernote allows you to store stuff and, if you have it on multiple devices (e.g., computer, phone, tablet), you will see what you stored on any one on all of them. This is great for note-taking, saving webpages, and whole lot more. They just added a new feature which does not interest me particularly, but I can see where others might like it. In addition to using a keyboard for entering notes, you can "write" on the screen of your portable device and it will be saved. Evernote is available for Apple products, Android product, and Windows products.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Caution re Amazon's Splitting Orders

Let's say you buy 8 books for four grandchildren in one order on Amazon, all of which are to be sent to the same address. For reasons of efficiency, Amazon might split that order into 4 different shipments of 2 books each. When Amazon does so, it also will split the charges into 4 or even more than 4 separate charges. This can make it very difficult for you to double-check when the charges post to your credit card that the charges are correct. In addition, if you have concerns that one of the 4 or more separate charges is not correct, it is very likely that the first, second, third, and fourth Amazon reps you encounter likely will not understand the charges and will give you wrong information. And a $5 promotional certificate will hardly make up for the pain.

Belarc Advisor

One thing that many people overlook is the need to have a record of what is on their system. Belarc Advisor creates a file that lists a variety of information about your hardware and software, including the product codes.  I run it on every new computer and print the file it generates. I then periodically update it.  It downloads and installs and runs in a jiff, and it's amazing how much info it collects for you all in one place.

Link to Belarc Advisor Description and Download

RKill Anti-Malware

It is an increasingly common tactic to see a malware infection that made cleaning up your PC difficult because the malware blocked your security software from running,  One way to try to deal with this situation is with a live CD containing anti-malware applications. There is also a useful free application called RKill that can be useful in this type of situation.
RKill does not itself remove malware. It is to be used in conjunction with an anti-malware program. The purpose of RKill is to stop a malware infection from blocking or disabling your regular anti-malware program. It works by killing known malware processes and removing Windows Registry entries that stop a user from employing their normal security applications. Its use should be followed immediately by running a regular anti-malware application to actually clean out the malware.
RKill has been in continual development for a number of years and is now in version 2.65. It is a single, 1.9 MB portable executable that can be run from a USB flash drive. It works in all current versions of Windows. When you click the executable, it runs in a console window as illustrated in the graphic below. Because of its functions, it will trigger a UAC warning. Also, some anti-virus programs may flag it as a Trojan. A scan at VirusTotal with 50 different programs showed 1 warning. However, these warnings are false positives based on heuristics. 

Cool Things to Do With Gift Cards

If you get a gift card at a place you have no interest in buying stuff from, you can sell or trade it online for cash albeit at a discounted price. Conversely, you can buy gift cards online at a discount from face value for places you would like to shop at. To see the various options, and other creative ways of dealing with gift cards and credit cards, click on the explanatory link from CNET:

Link to CNET Article 

Translations On-The-Fly: A Glimpse Into the Future

[From Extreme Tech Weekly]

Remember the Babel Fish from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? The tiny organism that automatically translates any spoken word into your native tongue? While that continues to remain limited to the realm of snarky British science fiction, Microsoft is working hard to make on-the-fly translation feasible for everyone. The Skype Translator preview is currently available for download, and offers Windows users the ability to voice chat with each other using two different languages. It still has a long way to go before it’s ready for prime time, but this is a major step forward for worldwide communication.
Earlier this week, Microsoft released a preview version of Skype Translator to the public. While it can translate instant messages in any of over 40 languages, this early build can only translate voice chat in Spanish and English. On top of that, this preview program only works on Windows 8.x and the Windows 10 Technical Preview, so Skype fans on other platforms are currently left out in the cold. Thankfully, that’s bound to change when this feature is fully baked.

Stop Going to the Post Office

[Prefatory Note: This matter was covered in an earlier posting, and likely most know it, but I was surprised to learn many people still do not]

Unless you're shipping an humongous package, there is no need to go to the post office to mail anything. You can do it all on the USPS website, including: having flat-rate boxes and envelopes delivered to you for free; printing postage-paid mailing labels for them at a discount price; buying stamps and having them delivered; and more. It even has an address book so you don't have to type in addresses for anyone you've sent a package to before. One tip: Put in some amount for insurance ($.01 will do) or the process of creating a mailing label might might have a hiccup.

Link to USPS Website

Adding Color to Google Calendar and Gmail

Google calendars and Gmail default to all-white backgrounds. But both can be changed. In Gmail, go to Settings/Themes and you can see a myriad of background choices. It's a little trickier with the Google calendar, but still easy:

1. Find a background you want. Any photo or URL link will do, but solid colors give the cleanest appearance.

2. Type "solid colors" in Google/Images, right click on the one you want ans save it to the Desktop.

3. Open Google Calendar and click on Settings (under the gear in the upper-right).

4. Under General, scroll down near the bottom to Calendar Background and click on Image.

5. Drag the image you saved on the Desktop to the opened box, click on Save, Return to calendar.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Huge Money Making Opportunity

If you misaddress an email or otherwise send an email to a non-address, it will return to you as a Un-deliverable Email. You then have notice to correct the address and re-send it. BUT, if your email got picked up by the addressee's spam filter, and the addressee is one of those people who do not regularly check their spam folder, neither you nor the addressee will ever realize the email went un-read. The sender often-times is perplexed, but worse, might jump to a totally wrong conclusion as to the addressee (e.g., am i being ignored? did I say something offensive? am I not to email this person ever again? should I just jump off a bridge?). The solution is obvious: A program that can "track" one's emails and ping back to the sender if the email ended up in a spam filter (i.e., it's like a receipt-requested but the addressee need not do anything). Anyone who were to create that program would make a fortune. If our staff weren't so occupied with other things, it's something we would do for sure.

The Mysterious J

If you receive an email that seems to have a J in it for no apparent reason, fear not. The sender put a smiley face (i.e., an emoticon) in the email and either the sender's email client (e.g., Outlook) converted it to a J or your email client converted it to a J (Apple and Gmail seem to do this). So, if you see a J, remember, it's just a smile.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Two Liberating Year-End Fun Projects

Instead of watching bowl games, here are two wonderful year-end projects that not only can be fun to do either alone or with whomever is living with you, and will "pay" big rewards for the whole year. First, go through your residence, and give away or throw out anything you have not used during the year unless you are certain you will be using it. Second, take all the shelves and baskets and such out of your refrigerator and out of your freezer and clean the walls and bottoms of both  spaces (if you thought your refrigerator/freezer was clean, you will be in for quite the shock).

Monday, December 15, 2014

Gmail For Safety

It was a dark and stormy night. The star-crossed lovers were enjoying their remote hide-away. Suddenly, they had to make an emergency call. She reached for her cellphone only to discover with shocked chagrin, the callee. whose number was not listed anywhere, was not on her contact list. "No problem," hr lover said, "the callee is in mine." Head-slap, he left his phone at home. She had Gmail, but he did not--nor any other online email client. No happy ending.

Lesson: If you or yours have Gmail or some otherwise online accessible email client, then, with the password, you can access that Gmail's contact list from any other online-enable device. If you do not, stay at home on dark and stormy nights.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Wire (2002-08)

In all likelihood, everyone reading this post has seen The Wire, and considers it one of the greatest series ever or, if not, the greatest series ever. But, until now, the author of this post had not gotten past the first few minutes of the first episode of the first season. That has now changed, and a full-throttled binge is now well underway (for no additional cost with Amazon Prime complete with sub-titles). The Wire is nothing short of FABULOUS! And for anyone else that's waited, you might enjoy the special gloat that comes with waiting, to-wit, as a wise person has astutely pointed out: your friends who have seen The Wire will be very envious of you because you get to experience the unbridled pleasure of seeing The Wire for the first time, something they never will be able to do again.

IMDb Link to The Wire

Nine Kisses

Eight short films (very short, under 1 minute each) brought to you by the New York Times. Very well done. What any of them, or all of them collectively, mean, I have no clue. If you don't have 9 minutes to spare, but do have 1 minute, watch the John Lithgow/Julianne Moore clip, and you have 2 minutes, the Chadwick Boseman/Kristen Stewart clip. The only criticism that might be leveled is that Marissa Tomei, Kirsten Dunst, and Sandra Bullock are not in any of them, nor is Rick Moranis, Johnny Depp, or Steve Martin. But that's why we always look forward to next year.

Link to Great Performances by the NYTimes (Kisses)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Greektown (Phoenix Restaurant)

If you like Greek food, or even if you do not, you will love the food at Greektown. Some is done in traditional Greek ways and some is innovative (i.e., different than how it is done on the Saronic Islands on the Eastern side of the Greek mainland or in Athens). But all of it is delicious. One can only wish that the calamari and flaming cheese appetizers, which are about as delicious as food gets, were larger portions. One can also wish that not so many tables ordered the flaming cheese because a shout goes out every time the flame bursts open. The salad dressing is perfect---do not skip the salad. The prices are reasonable, the service is quite good, and the parking is excellent. The ambience inside and outside is quite unimposing--it probably used to be a pizza place. The owner, George, is very nice and very accommodating. He takes care of all the ordering. He's from New York. He's not bashful. He has unbridled energy. He very much likes to interact with the customers throughout their meals.

Link to Greektown Website

Getting Through to Tech Support Faster

Some tech support (including Cox) have a feature in their phone systems that recognizes customers who are calling for a second (or more) time within a 24-hour period. The voice mail greeting say something like, "We see you phoned in earlier--if you're calling on the same issue, push 1."  Such second-call-ins are given priority status and moved ahead of first-time callers. So, here's what one could do if one wanted to game the system: Call in, and when you are given some indication of a long wait-time or an indefinite wait-time, hang-up; then, after waiting a few moments, call in again, and when prompted, push 1 as a repeat caller. You likely then will be connected to a rep quite quickly.

KB 3004394 Problems and Fixes

If your computer is set to download and install Microsoft updates automatically, or you did so manually on December 9 or 10, you likely downloaded and installed Security Update KB 3004394. Unfortunately, KB 3004394 can cause a plethora of problems, including: preventing further updates, disabling programs, changing settings, slowing down programs, and more. Microsoft has recognized the problem, removed KB 3004394, and provided a fix if KB 3004394 was installed. Another fix is to do a system restore to roll-back the computer to before the installation of KB 3004394. For future reference, it might be prudent not to allow your computer to automatically download and install updates and, further, to wait some days after the updates are ready before installing them.

Link to Microsoft Discussion and Fix

Link to CNet Discussion

Cox (and Other ISPs) Combined Modem/Router

Cox has available a modem/router (the Cisco DPC 3212) that is combined into one unit. It has wireless functionality, one ethernet port (so you can connect it to a switch if you need multiple wired connections), and one USB port. It is free as long as you have Cox telephone service. It is a single band router (i.e., you cannot set up a separate guest gateway that most new routers let you do). My research team will not be doing on-hands study of its functionality, range, or other features until our current router bites the dust. But when that happens we will definitely try this Cox modem/router for two reasons: (i) it's free as long you have Cox telephone service; and (ii) it eliminates the issue when there is a connectivity problem of Cox's saying "it's your router issue"--"not our modem issue." Other ISPs likely offer a combined modem/router (e.g., Verizon does).

Scheduling an Emergency Room Appointment

Most emergency rooms now provide (online and by smart device apps) the approximate wait time at the ER. Now some hospitals, and likely others will start doing so, allow you to make an "appointment" for a specific time at the ER so you can wait at home instead of waiting in the ER. Obviously, this service makes sense only where you are going to the ER for a non-immediately life threatening event. Below the link to one such service in the Phoenix area. If you put "schedule ER appointment [your city]" into The Google, you'll quickly find any such service in your area.

Link to ER Scheduling in Phoenix

Friday, December 12, 2014

Another Reason to Buy From Costco

If you buy a computer (call it an HP Ultrabook) from Costco, and it blows up after the warranty expires, and you send it back to HP for repairs, and you find it impossible to get through to HP to determine what's happening on the repair and when it will be done or anything, call Costco Concierge or Member Services. They will get HP on the line and that HP rep, because it is Costco calling, will be very accommodating.

Repairing Chrome

Like any other file, Chrome can get corrupted. When this happens, you might at first panic when, for example, your Extensions are gone or appear as gibberish, including your password manager and your gmelius settings. If the problem is limited to an Extension or two, uninstall and re-install the extension. But, if more widespread, there are 10 easy ways to repair Chrome. They are clearly and succinctly set out here: Link to 10 Ways to Repair Chrome

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Caution at Safeway Self-Checkout

Safeway's self-checkout is terrific! Among other benefits, it lets one shop for just a few items and get out of the store quickly, instead of, even in the express lanes, having to wait while some customer and the check-out clerk finish their inane conversation without regard to how rude it is to keep you waiting. One caveat: When finishing up an paying, and having swiped your card through the card reader, BE SURE to click on the Finish and Pay button on the big screen even though it says "Thank You" and the little screen also says "Thank You." If you do not, the thing actually stays open and someone else can come along and start scanning items through that will get charged to your card. Kudos to Safeway for catching the mistake and telling an unsuspecting customer that he had made the awful mistake of not clicking on the Finish and Pay button and started walking out the store.

Fabulous Tip for Windows and Office Users

[Prefatory Note: To paraphrase Jim Nantz, this surely is a "tip for the ages." All you need to read to get the tip are the Background and Tip sections below, and you can skip the Story and Lesson sections. The story simply provides some context as to how this tip was discovered and the lesson simply provides a summary of the moral of the story]

Background: Microsoft has free telephone support for Windows and Office (Outlook, Excel, Power Point, etc.) and other products. It is free. You can get through to a live person quite quickly. Here is the number to call: 1- 877-696-7786.

Story: This is a story about Faith. Faith recently installed Outlook 2013 as part of her Office 365 Suite. It installed easily and worked fine. The only issue she had was she wanted to arrange the folders in other than alphabetic order and could not figure out how to do so. She called Microsoft (MS) support. The first rep changed a bunch of settings, but none worked. The second rep (a supervisor) explained that the order change could not be done with an IMAP setup which Faith had. The next day, when Faith opened Outlook, it did not immediately and automatically retrieve messages that had been sent, and she often had to wait 5-10 minutes for the first email to arrive. This started to irk Faith a bit. She did some research and saw where there were a plethora of settings and other things that might be the cause, but could not figure out which applied in this instance. She phoned MS support, and was told there were no settings to change. She hung up and called again to get another agent, and again was told there were no settings to change. She went back to do more research and became more convinced then ever that she was correct and MS support was wrong. She called back the next day, was again told no settings could be involved and that it must be a latency issue with the ISP webmail server. Faith called her ISP (Cox) and, while in fact she learned Cox has been experiencing some latency issues for a couple of months now, there was no latency issue to account for the problem at hand. By now, Faith, almost always the cheeriest and most-upbeat and laid-back and que sera sera person, was becoming irritable, testy, snappish, and heavy of heart, and distraught, and wasn't sleeping well and had a loss of appetite. She decided to give MS support one more chance. She phoned, got a rep who again said there were no settings to change and that he would send an explanatory email and then disconnected the call and never sent the email. As anyone would understand, Faith was apoplectic to the point of tears. She also was furious. She phoned MS support again. This time, the rep actually listened to Faith, and in fewer than three minutes, found the wrong setting, checked a box, and schzam, problem solved! Deeply relieved and with a renewed sense of the goodness and decency of the human race, and refreshed view of Karma, Faith lavished the rep with praise, and offered to send a laudatory email or letter to the rep's manager. The rep let Faith talk to the manager directly, which Faith did, but before doing so, gave Faith his direct phone number with extension and his email address, and a case number, and said: "If you have any issue of any kind related to this issue or not related to this issue, contact me directly." The manager likewise stressed doing the same.

Lesson: If you have faith, or even if you are of little faith, Faith has taught all of us two valuable lessons: Do not give up faith; and let Faith's perseverance remind us all that, during this holiday season, wishes can come true and the best presents can come when least expected.

Tip: If you found the rep to have solved your issue and you liked dealing with that rep, if the rep does not offer, ask the rep for his or her email address and direct phone number with extension. Also, at the very least, ask for a case number which will make getting through to any rep even faster, even if the new issue is totally unrelated to the earlier issue.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Deleted Emails Re-Appear and in Duplicates

You open your email inbox one day and, shzam, you are deluged with countless old emails, and duplicates thereof, that you had long ago deleted. Unfortunately, this is not as rare a phenomenon as you might think. Indeed, if you put "deleted emails reappear and in duplicate" into The Google, you might be stunned by how frequent the problem is and how many possible causes there might be (i.e., the different settings that might have gone awry and need re-setting). I wish I could give one simple solution, but there does not appear to be one. If you are using Outlook, you might try in the first instance calling Microsoft Support at 877-696-7786. You can get through fairly quickly, it's free, and some of the reps are total idiots but some of them, especially the supervisors, are excellent.

Notice to Cox Customers

If you have a desktop email client (like Outlook), and are experiencing latency (i.e., delays in emails coming through), it likely is a Cox mail server problem and Cox is aware of it and working on it.

Good News for 4K TV Owners

Amazon Prime members now will receive certain streams (including Alpha House which is a terrific show) in 4K. Soon it will sell individual 4K movies to anyone for about $20. A 4K picture on a supported TV will ook better than ever before, but your Ultra HD set is too small or if you sit too far back from its screen, you might not be able to tell the difference.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pardon My Rant

Here is the text of an email just sent to The Haggler at the New York Times.  There's nothing particularly informative in nor any significant reason to read it (put another way, there's nothing to see her folks, so just move along), and there is virtually no chance it will be published. Putting it here is just an easy way for me to keep a record of it. I apologize for burdening any one with this tale of woe:
Dear Haggler:

When my HP laptop would not boot, I phoned HP. HP diagnosed the problem as a failed hard disk drive and said the only remedy was to replace it. HP said it would take 5-7 days to do the repair and quoted the repair charge at $200. I could not wait that long so I just bought a new HP laptop. Once I had the new HP laptop up and running, I decided I would have the old one repaired to keep it as a back-up.

I phoned HP to set up the repair. HP quoted the price at $250 with no explanation for the difference, and again said the repair would take 5-7 days. I authorized the repair, HP took my credit card information, put through an authorization on my credit card, and sent me a FedEx box in which to ship them the laptop, which I did the day the box arrived. FedEx tracking confirmed delivery back to HP (together with HP’s confirming signature) the next day.

Four days later, I went to the HP website that gives the status of repairs. According to that web page, the laptop had not been received by HP and no estimated return of the laptop could be made until HP received the laptop. I then phoned the HP status repair line, and its automated system likewise had no record of HP’s having received the laptop. I spoke to an HP rep, who confirmed that the laptop in fact had been received in accordance with the FedEx tracking information, and that the website would show the status 48 hours later, and I would get an email confirmation of the new status.

I checked the website 48 hours later, and it still showed that the laptop had not been shipped back. Likewise, the automated phone system had no record of having received the laptop. I again spoke to a rep and to a supervisor, who confirmed that HP had received the laptop and that the website would show the updated status within 24 hours. The rep said the typical repair time was 12-14 days. The supervisor said the typical repair time was 7-10 days.

I checked the website 24 hours later, and it still showed that the laptop had not been shipped back. Likewise, the automated phone system had no record of having received the laptop. I spoke to a rep, and this time was told the laptop had not yet been delivered. I directed the rep to the FedEx tracking site and, while it confirmed delivery and even showed a copy of the signature confirming delivery, he continued to insist that the laptop had not been delivered. I asked to speak to a supervisor but was told the supervisor would just tell me the same thing. I asked again to speak to a supervisor, and, after being put on an extended hold, was told none was available and one would call me.

A few minutes later, I called and talked to another HP support person just to see what would be said. She said the laptop had been received but was transferred to some unspecified place. I told her I had  had it, and wanted to cancel the repair order and wanted my money back. She insisted that everything was on track and that within 48 hours I would get an update on the status of the repair.

Several hours later, a message was left in my voice mailbox saying it was HP calling. The message left simply said I should call HP back and gave only the same number I had called each time. In other words, I would have to start all over again with a low-level tech to try to get to a supervisor.

After all that (not to mention the difficulty getting through to reps on the phone, the numerous transfers from one department to another, to having a supervisor tell me to ask for tech support instead of repair status when phoning in, the numerous holds and extended hold-times I encountered, and the detailed email I sent to HP support to which I got no response), I decided the only way to get HP’s attention was to dispute the charge with my credit card company.

Before calling my credit card company, I pulled up my account to find the exact date and amount of the HP charge. As it turned out, to my shock, while HP had processed an authorization for the repair charge as well as a $1 authorization, it never actually processed the charge. While I would rather have the back-up computer, given that the computer was useless when I shipped it back,  and I did not have to pay any shipping charge, in a sense everything is “even” now—although I am out a repairable computer. But let’s suppose HP actually does the repair and ships back the computer, the issue arises as to whether or not I need to bring to HP’s attention that it failed to process the charge.

Your guidance on what I might do would be appreciated. Specifically: (i) do you see anything I might do to have HP give me an accurate status report on the repair; (ii) do you see anything I might to cancel the repair and get my repairable computer back; and (iii) if a repaired computer is delivered to me, is it your view that I must advise HP about its failure to process the charge?

Thank you for any help you might have on this.

[Note: I can see where the last question might be more appropriate for the NYT Ethicist]

Monday, December 8, 2014

Keeping Desktop Icons in Place

When you start-up or re-boot a computer, assuming everything else is fine, the last thing you want to see is your icons re-arranged. There are many causes of such scramble behavior and many possible fixes, some of which are simple and others more complicated. Here are some simple ones:

1. Press F5.

2. Right-click on Desktop, select View and un-check Auto-Arrange Icons.

3. Right-click on Desktop, select Personalize/Change desktop icons, and un-check box that says Allow themes to change desktop icons.

4. Install Desktop Restore or other such program. Desktop Restore, which is free although you might consider making a donation to the developer, is very useful if you have a laptop or notebook attached to an external monitor and also travel with that computer while leaving the monitor at home. Whenever screen resolution changes, the icons will re-arrange themselves (by way of an interesting factoid, the self-re-arranging of icons that led to this posting often is the result of a monitor's changing its resolution even for a nsec flicker). Desktop Restore will remember your icon settings for use with your external  monitor and your icon settings for use with your computer's built-in monitor. Its website also has some tips to minimize the frequency of desktop arrangement "memory lapses."

Link to Desktop Restore Download (at Midiox)

5. There are all kinds of possible changes to your Register Editor or Global Preferences as well as doing a Clean Boot or Account Profile changes to address the problem, but it might be said that such fixes are not worth the risk.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

New Color Scheme Helper

Whether you're working on a new web site or a new business card, or you're choosing your new kitchen or your new office, sometime or other you're going to need a colour scheme.  A set of colours which work well together.  Needless to say, the internet is full of free sites which claim to be able to produce a suitable collection of colour suggestions based on your initial choice, and I've been trying out a few of them recently. One of my favourites turned out to be the Colour Scheme Generator. It's free to use, and very simple too.  Choose a base colour and the colours in your chosen scheme will be displayed, along with their hex numbers for easy reference in just about any Windows program that allows entry of colour codes.  You also have 13 different modes to choose from, each of which will produce a set of colours which complement your base colour in a different way.  Try all of them and see which you prefer.
Of course, what I really like is the way they spell colour.

Two Caveats About Whole Foods

Everyone knows that the prices on certain items at Whole Foods are often such that it is better just to walk on by those products ("there's nothing here to see folks--just move along"). But, if one is careful to check prices, there are many items that are reasonably priced and the Whole Foods product is better than the same product found elsewhere. BUT, whether or not these problems are wider spread, at least the Whole Foods in Central Phoenix has two VERY SERIOUS issues with quality control. First, unless one carefully checks the expiration date, one can find that one has bought a half-gallon of a dairy product that expires the next day, including items (such as Lactaid) that if bought at Safeway would not expire until 6-8 weeks from date of purchase. The same goes for the salsa and th hummus. Second, unless one carefully checks the fresh produce, one can find that one has bought a totally rotten product (such as organic celery where the inside stalks are broken and discolored and essentially un-edible). Most disturbing, repeated efforts to bring these matters to the manager's attention have been unavailing. Indeed, there appears to be no one who actually is the manager who is willing to step forward to hear a customer on these matters. This blog post has been shared with Whole Foods. If Whole Foods responds in any way, the response will be shared.

Outlook 365

While it might take a life-time to master, Microsoft Outlook 365 takes just minutes to learn. If you don't like your email program, or even if you do, you likely will find that Outlook 365 is better than whatever you're using. It is an Email, Calendar and Contact program and part of the Office 365 suite which includes Word, Excel, Power Point, and more. A one-year license for 1 computer costs $84. A one-year license for 5 computers costs $99, and you can designate or un-designate those computers any time, and the programs are always up-to-date, so it is quite reasonably priced especially if you have multiple computers.  One word of caution: You likely will find Outlook 365 so rich in features you never knew existed that you might spend more hours and days and weeks than you thought possible trying to learn and incorporate them. But the good news, you will have great fun in doing so and each feature is well-covered and revealed by a search on The Google. You can try Office 365 for free for 30-days.

Link to Free Trial of Microsoft Outlook 365

HP Stream

Until now, a Chromebook was the only under $200 computer that made sense to buy. Unfortunately, it was neither a Windows nor an iOS machine (it runs on Chrome OS) and hence had some limitations on its functionality. HP has come out with a Windows-based notebook for under $200 called the HP Stream which has no such limitations, although like the Chromebook is "cloud-based" which means it might not have sufficient power to run some sophisticated programs/apps at the speed one might like them to run. But it even comes with a free first year of Microsoft Office 365 (which includes Outlook, Word, Excel and more) which makes the actual first year cost of the HP Stream $100. It even has an SD card slot so you can add 32GB of storage. So, it might be the perfect starter computer for young kids or others who do not need that much computing power or speed. You can find it all over the place online or at most stores carrying electronics products. And t's not bad looking.

Link to HP Stream Specifications

Friday, December 5, 2014

"command line argument is not valid. verify the switch you are using."

Often you will run one program that needs to start another. For example, you put a document in your scanner (call it a Brother MFC-7225N) and select that the document be emailed. In that instance, the scanner has to start your email program (call it Outlook 2013). But it doesn't. Instead you get the message: "command line argument is not valid. verify the switch you are using." You might be able to figure out a work-around in a nsec, to-wit: save to file and attach the file to the email. But the issue still might bug you. When you wait for 57 minutes to talk to Microsoft support, you might find it frustrating to be told that the scanner's drivers are incompatible with Outlook 2013, but you should still suggest that they install software that tells callers the approximate wait time. You might then double-check with Brother, and get through promptly, and your mind will be put to ease to learn that indeed what Microsoft said was correct. In the meantime, there is no shortage of fascinating stuff to read in The Google on the topic of "command line argument is not valid. verify the switch you are using." One piece of advice: Have a crossword puzzle, or a book, or The Google, or a TV, or lunch, or all of them around while you're waiting to talk to Microsoft.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

New Features in Android 5.0 (Lollipop)

1. Redesigned interface.
2. Notifications displayed on Lock Screen (consider not having a lock screen).
3. Longer battery life in battery-saver mode and overall improved performance.
4. Ability to screen out notifications you don't want to see.
5. Search option for Settings.
6. Guest Mode (letting someone else use your phone without seeing your stuff).
7. Ability to pin apps to the Home screen.
8. Improved access to Quick Settings.
9. More easily way to check data usage.
10. Easier to read high contrast text.
11. Inverting colors to make reading at night easier.
12. Provides estimated time of how long the battery charge will last.
13-21. More.

Enhancements to Google Play

If it's a rainy day, and you couldn't walk, and you have some extra time, and you haven't been on the Google Play website in a while, and you have an Android smartphone or tablet or both, there have been some dramatic improvements. Just open up My Android Apps and click on the gear in the upper right corner and check out Settings and Android Device Manager. If your device is lost, it will find it for you. Also, a good use of that time is to delete from your All MyApps list any apps you have uninstalled and know you will not want ever to re-install so that, if you have to do a factory reset, they will not automatically re-install.

Link to Google Play

How to Remove Unwanted Uninstalled Android Apps Link 

Double Ovens Under a Cook Top

Everyone knows about double wall ovens--where both ovens are regular size as well as where each is a bit smaller so that the double wall oven fits in the same space as a regular single wall oven. Likewise, most people are aware of various arrangements of double ovens that are under and part of a stove top--especially side-by-side ovens. But it is surprising how many people are unaware, or just became aware today, where the same shrinkage that allows a double wall oven to fit in the same space as a regular single wall oven also is available in under stove units as well. Indeed, as the below link shows, there are countless arrangements of double under stove ovens. And anyone who has a double oven will tell you, they are like the best thing to have in a kitchen ever.

Link to Photos of Under Stove Double Ovens

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Fabulous Shoes and Handbags

Amara Hark-Weber is an amazing person and a master shoe-maker. Amara has an MFA in design from the School  of the Art Institute of Chicago, and has past degrees from the London School of Economics and Bard College. She has worked around the world as a documentary writer and photographer, as well as taught classes in documentary photography, oral history, and storytelling. While working toward her MFA, she began making shoes, focusing on how footwear impacts the body. When she completed this degree, she worked with master bootmaker DW Frommer to learn more complex construction and fitting. Most recently, she studied with Janne Melkersson to learn men's shoes, and hand construction techniques. The shoes and hand bags she makes are absolutely fabulous.

Link to Amara's Website

Sample shoe
Sample shoe
Riding Boot
Being worn by me!
In Memory
Showing at Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Minneapolis, MN.
Anniversary Shoes
Being worn in Minneapolis, MN.
Yin Yang
Being worn in Inver Grove Heights, MN.
secret pocket boots
Being worn in South Korea
Cut Top Boots
Being worn in Inver Grove Heights, MN.
Being worn in Madison, WI.
Practice. Being worn by me!
My studio shoes!!
Being worn in New York, New York.
Being worn in St. Paul, MN
Being worn in Chicago, IL.
American Bison. Being worn in Chicago, IL.
Being worn in Chicago, IL
Being worn in Chicago, IL
Viking boot
Being worn in Wisconsin
Being worn in St Paul, MN
being worn in the Gambia
being worn by me
being carried in the twin cities
being worn in St Paul, MN
being worn in st. paul, mn
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