Thursday, April 30, 2015

Best Practices re SSDs

Solid State Drives (SSDs) are much faster than traditional hard drives and don't suffer the mechanical short-comings and failures of traditional hard drives. That does not mean that SSDs will not wear out and fail. They will. Generally speaking, it is a function of write-cycles ... the more write-cycles that are done, the more "wear and tear" on SSDs. So, if you have an SSD-computer, you will want to reduce the write cycles. Here are three ways to do so:

1. Do NOT defrag an SSD drive. Defragging involves write-cycles and is totally unnecessary anyhow for SSDs because they store data in a totally different way than to hard drives that do need defragging.

2. Disable Superfetch, which has no substantial purpose anyhow. Go to Run and type in Services.msg. Scroll down to Superfetch, click on Properties, and click on Disable.

3. Move the page file to another drive. This is actually somewhat complicated and controversial. So, I will not detail it here, and have not done so on my SSD-computers.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cellphone/Tablet: False Security

Smart devices let you set a swipe code to be able to access the device or let you set no swipe code. Many people think it is "safer" to set a swipe code. But, upon reflection, that sense of "safer" can be seen as a false sense of security. If your phone is lost and found by an honest person, the swipe code will prevent that person from figuring out whom to contact to return the phone. If you are incapacitated and with someone who needs emergency information stored on your phone, unless that person knows the swipe code, you will be out of luck. And if the concern is that the phone will be lost or stolen and end up in the hands of an unsavory person, if you have Lookout or some other like app on the phone, you can immediately disable it anyhow, swipe code or not.

Apple's Health App

Apple has a terrific Health App that looks like this:

 

The only shortcoming it has is that it is very difficult to share the data stored in it with a family members or others. However, it is possible to do so. The link below explains how.


Link to See How to Export Apple Health Data

Monday, April 27, 2015

Comparison of Some A/V Products

This article summarizes test results on some, but not all, antivirus products. You might be surprised to learn that products you thought were best fared poorly, and product you never heard of fared well.

Link to A/V Test Comparisons

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Receiving Duplicative Emails

Sometimes, you might receive two copies of every email. Sometimes, you might receive two copies of just some emails. The causes and solutions are different. Here is an excellent short article on the topic:

Link to Article re Duplicative Emails

Sound Dampening Garbage Disposal Baffles

If you would like to dampen the sound of your garbage disposal, it is very easy (it's a 15 second diy snap) and very inexpensive (under $5). Just go to any hardware or appliance store or website or Amazon, and look for a sound dampening garbage disposal baffle, buy it, pull out your current baffle, and replace it with the new baffle. In addition to deadening the sound by creating a water barrier, it also protects against food bits being ejected by the disposal and hitting you in the eye. Here is what a baffle looks like (it's the rubber piece you see when you look at the disposal from above the sink):

Image result for garbage disposal baffle

Slow-Closing Toilet Lid and Seat: An Absolute Must

If you are still lifting and closing your toilet(s) lid(s) and seat(s) manually, you are doing work you need not do, and risking a banging noise and perhaps the smashing of kids' fingers if the lid or seat slip out of your hand while closing. And the tragedy of all this is that for very little money (as low as $15 from Amazon) and just minutes to do a simple installation, you can retrofit your toilet with a self-closing lid and seat. Once you try a self-closing lid and seat, you will wonder how you ever survived in the world of manual lid/seat closings.

Link to Self-Closing Lids/Seats at Amazon

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Home Security/Alarm System

If you buy a new home security/alarm system, it likely will be a smart system, meaning that it is controlled by and through your home network (wi-fi) and operable from anywhere through any hand-held device or computer. If you have had a home security/alarm system for a while, and it has not been upgraded to be a smart system, there are compelling reasons to do so. Every alarm company now offers smart systems (in fact, it likely is the case that every new system that is installed is a smart system). The smart equipment is no more expensive and likely less so, is very user friendly, and makes everything easier and more convenient. Not only will it provide all the services you now have, you also will be able to control your thermostat, lights, and many other things not only from your home, but from anywhere in the world through your phone or tablet. You can even have cameras included where you can see inside your house from the other side of the world and those cameras can record any movement. In the instance of a false alarm, where the police or fire department have determined there is no problem before you can get home, and the police or fire department have left, you can turn off the alarm remotely. And with a smart system, you can decide whether or not to pay for central monitoring ... and some companies will let you do so on a monthly basis so you might do so only when traveling.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Note re Online Travel Services

When you look for seats on an airplane or a hotel room on an online travel website, you often will see a notation of how many seats or rooms are left (e.g., "just 2 seats left"; "just 3 rooms left"). This notation does NOT mean how many seats or rooms actually are left. Rather, it means how many seats or rooms are left from those bought by that particular travel website. Except  in the circumstance where the plane or hotel are completely booked, there always will be more seats or rooms available from other travel websites or from the airline or hotel.

Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.

If you have not seen Season 1 of the Wire yet, do not read any further. Those who have seen undoubtedly were distraught by the demise of Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. (D'Angelo Barksdale). But your mourning is over: Just watch Season 6 of the Good Wife where he's looking better and more fit than ever.

Image result for lawrence gilliard jr

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tip re US Airways Flight Change Policy

US Airways readily admits that it makes flight and equipment changes "all the time." Because of the frequency of such changes, they do not send out email notices unless the departure date is "close." So, if there is a mistake in the change such as routing with a connection where one's connecting flight takes off before the first flight arrives, you will not know this happened, if at all, until you are "close" to your departure date. Similarly, when there is an equipment change, your seat selection will be wiped out, but you will receive no notification of that. If you care not to be hung out to dry by US Airways, the only "protection" you have is to check your flight status and seat selection in My Trips section of their website.

Link to My Trips Section of US Airways Website


Caution re US Airways

If you are holding a US Airways reservation, even one you made months ago, you would be wise to call to see if the flights you reserved are still flying. Sometime between February and early April of this year, US Airways made a whole series of flight changes. Unfortunately, they do not send out emails or otherwise advise their customers until you are close to the departure date (as their rep explained, and I'm not kidding, "These changes affected 100 of thousands of customers, and we just cannot contact them all"), even though in effect they have canceled your flight. They will refund the ticket (but not the trip insurance you bought through them) and will try to get you on a different flight, but unless you speak to a supervisor, good luck getting a seat or two seats together even if you're flying to Spain. As explained in the PPPS below, if the new flight costs less than your initial flight, it's a 2-step process (you have to make a new reservation and then cancel your original reservation), again with a supervisor, to get refunded the differential (the reps will tell you there is no way US Airways has to just issue you a refund). They are long on apologies, but short on everything else or making any kind of serious accommodation. And while you might have laughed when you sawsuch on Seinfeld or in Joe vs. the Volcano, it's not easy to laugh when this happens to you.

Link to Seinfeld Car Rental Clip

Link to Joe vs. the Volcano Clip

PS: If you have American Airlines frequent flier miles, and want to use them to upgrade your US Airways flight, which perhaps is what prompted you to call US Airways only to discover your flights no longer existed, you need to ask for and talk to, and again I'm not kidding, a "Double Agent" at US Airways. They are the only ones trained on both the US Air and American frequent flier award programs.

PPS: Good luck trying to book an award flight one way at least on US Air. If you do, they "take away" all the non-refundable seats (which cost about $750 each way to Spain) and allow only refundable seats (which cost $3,000+ each way to Spain).

PPPS: If you try by phone to go down the 2-step process noted above to get the cost difference back, unless you go up at least two levels of escalation, you will be told: (i) it cannot be done; (ii) it won't be done where the refund is less than the change fee even though you did not make any change; and (iii) there will be a $25 charge per ticket to do it. What's most amazing of all is that if they would just issue the price differential (in this instance it was $65) as a refund, it would be a win/win for the airline and the customer. But the good news is: If you keep at it, after only a few hours on the phone and three escalations, there just might be, as happened here, a price change such that you will get in effect a $131 refund.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Most Economical Shredding Service in Phoenix

At least for non-commercial and residential,the Arizona Center for the Blind has the most economical shredding service in Phoenix. And for a nominal extra charge, they will come to your residence to do the shredding even when there's just such a small amount to be shredded that would be under the minimum charge. When you call for a quote, the nominal charge and the minimum charge might not be the same when you call back a second time and talk to someone else. So, you might want to call a couple of times and get an email confirmation of the price before proceeding. In all events, it sure beats schlepping your documents to some forsaken supposed free place where cars are lined up for more than a mile for the drop off.

Link to ACB Shredding Website

Self-Checkout Scanning Tip

Self-Checkout is one of the real bonuses of taking the bridge across to the 21st Century. If an item does not scan because the bar code is crinkled or in an awkard place, you can key in all the numbers under the bar code or asking the checkout aide for help. But, before going through that hassle or unduly burdening the checkout aid, tear off the bar code label (carefully so those numbers are preserved), and then scan the tear-off.

Worldwide Taxi Fare Calculator

The link below is very useful for finding taxi fares all over the world. It also has helpful tips.

Link to Worldwide Taxi Fare Calculator

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Yacht Club (Phoenix)

Ahoy mateys! You don't have to sail the Greek Isles to enjoy some delicious sea food in a pleasing ambiance where the noise level is bearable and the service is excellent and the prices are quite reasonable. Just paddle on over to The Yacht Club. You might just do the appetizers (the so-called Dive In section of the menu), especially the lobster rolls and calamari. But the entrees are excellent as well, especially the mussels which have the perfect broth and bread to go with it. There are plenty of good-looking non-seafood choices too. If you do visit the website, be sure to click on the Crew tab. Smooth sailing!

The Yacht Club Website and Menu

Friday, April 10, 2015

Insinkerator Disposal Deals

If you have an insinkerator garbage disposal, you could be in great luck. First, you might get an email with a promotion to get a new disposal. You might think it's a con, but if you call Insinkerator, they will confirm (after 2 days of study and escalating the issue) that, unbeknownst to Customer Service, the Marketing Department in fact is conducting such a promotion and its legitimate. The cost of the new disposal will be $100 less than its normal retail cost, AND, will include installation and a power cord at no extra charge, so your total savings will be in excess of $225. Second, if you do not get such an email promotion, and its time for a new disposal or you just want a better one (the newer ones are more powerful and much much quieter and more energy efficient), call Insinkerator and ask if you might qualify under its Replacement Program, and get essentially the same deal. All they can say is "no." In all events, if you do have an Insinkerator disposal, be sure to register it right now because that is how one can qualify for either of these discounts.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Meld: An Absolute Kitchen Must

If you don't have a smart thermostat (like a Nest), you are missing out on a great convenience and money saver. If you get a Meld, you will be rewarded every day in the kitchen. The video link below explains, and the Meld link will take you to the website where you can pre-order it.

Link to Meld Video

Link to Meld Website

Composing Emails and Texts: Best Practices

Inexplicably, the addressing box for emails and texts appears at the top of the page. It would be better if it appeared at the bottom. In that event, you would compose the email or text before addressing it. And by doing so, you avoid the all-too-common error of sending the message by mistake before you actually finished it. Fortunately, there is an easy work-around developed by our Best Practices Team: First compose the message and fill in the addresses second and then hit Send.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Paying for Medical Tests Upfront: An Adviso

Providers of expensive medical tests are very profit oriented. They will try to get payment from you before any such test is given. One technique they use is to say, "We called your insurance company and they said they you have not met your deductible yet so you need to pay us X hundreds of dollars before we will do the test." Maybe they called, maybe they didn't. Even if they called, maybe they were given correct information, maybe they were not. Maybe there's another charge out there that would meet your deductible but it won't be processed until the next day but before the testing lab would have presented its statement. In all events, if you say to them: "I am happy to sign anything that says I will be responsible for any proper bill after you have exhausted my insurance, but otherwise, I'm going to go elsewhere for this procedure," given the ferocious competition among testing labs, and their not wanting to lose any gig, they likely will accede to your request. On the other hand, if you just proceed to pay them, they will have no incentive to collect anything from your insurer and, Katie bar the door, you likely will find trying to collect from your insurer a painful experience. Finally, in this example, where you have not reached your deductible, once the lab is paid in full, it has no incentive even to advise your insurance company that you've paid so the insurance company will not know to "give you credit" against your deductible for having paid unless you then alert your insurance company--and when you do so, it is best to use email if you can so you have a written record and if phoning is the only option, be sure to follow up with a confirming email.


Clearing the Cache: An Elixir for All Seasons

Over time, tablets and smartphones will tend to slow down and get buggy. Before doing anything drastic, at least for all Android devices (and I would assume for all iOS devices as well), clearing the cache is simple, fast, and safe, and often will get your device humming again. How to clear the cache is different for each device. But, if you just put "Clearing the cache in X" without the quote marks and substitute the device name and model number for the variable X into The Google, you will get clear and clearing instructions.

Sudoku With Colors

Temple Run 2 icon

If you hate numbers and like colors, this is the game for you to spend some spare time. While Sudoku deals with numbers in a grid, Blendoku is a unique game that lets you solve puzzles only with colors for blending.
To start out the game, you have a grid of squares to fill in with colors from a palette. Drag a color from the palette and place it next to the colors so that they all blend well and create a smooth sequence of colors either horizontally or vertically in the grid.
The layout of the grid changes from simple to complex as you progress on to another level. You will never find the game boring as they are more than 500 levels of puzzles with a wide gamut of difficulty, grouped in several level packs including simple, medium, hard, master and more.
Follow the levels patiently if you need to hone your skill progressively, or otherwise, you can jump to any other levels to test your ability to arrange and distinguish colors as no levels are pre-locked.
You don’t need to be an artist or a graphic designer to play the game since the gameplay is simple. It is brilliantly designed and intuitive enough for everyone to distinguish color principals, yet it is absolutely challenging to solve puzzles at higher levels when more colors come into play and colors get closer.
You get a perfect star if you solve a level on the first try with no mistakes, or get a trophy if you beat the world average in complete time.
If you can't solve a puzzle in a level, touch the magnifier to get a solution, but unfortunately you will need to wait for time to lapse before you get more solvers unless you opt for in-app purchases.

Link to Sudoku With Colors

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Curse of the Double-Click: How to Spot It and Fix It

Many mice, after prolonged use, will start double-clicking when you think you are only single-clicking. You might not even notice it at first. But if look at a photo album and it starts skipping photos or you open a reply email and it opens behind instead of in front of your email client, your mouse is double clicking. The easiest thing to do now that you can get a great mouse for under $10, is get a new mouse. The more economical thing to do is repair the mouse. Here are an article and a video explaining how:

Link to Video

Link to Article

Keep Screen On for Android

Although Settings/Display allows you to set the time the screen will stay on, many Android devices suffer from a flaw, to-wit: This setting continually reverts to 1-minute. It is a known, pervasive, and ubiquitous issue with no apparent device-internal fix. There are many apps that address the issue but, unfortunately, most do so in a sideways or orthogonal fashion (e.g., requiring you to select each app you want the stay-on setting to apply to). Fortunately, there is one simple, free app that gives you three options: use system settings (which is kind of superfluous given that you are using this app because the system settings don't work); stay on until you turn off the device; or stay on for X minutes (where you choose the value for the variable X). It's called Keep Screen on Free.

Link to Keep Screen on Free in Play

Monday, April 6, 2015

Getting Rid of .OST Files ("This Computer Only") for Calendar and Contacts in Outlook

By default, Outlook keeps .ost files for the calendar and contacts. It will show up in the left pane of the calendar and contacts. This can cause confusion where creating a new contact or calendar event from the ribbon buttons will appear in the .ost file instead of in the .net file, which is the one you likely are using. To remedy this problem, go to File/Account Settings/Data Files and highlight the .net file (which should be the one NOT designated as the "default") and click on Open File Location. Then close Outlook, go back to that file location, and delete the .net file, and re-open Outlook. You then can click on Calendar and right-click on and remove the "This computer only" link and then click on Contacts and remove the "This computer only" link. Leave all your email settings as is.

Artichokes

Last year, or perhaps a few years ago, we shared our tip on using the microwave to easily and quickly (4 minutes per cob) prepare corn on the cob that would turn out delicious. While it's not corn season yet, it is artichoke season. Rest assured, the microwave is not a one-trick pony. This year you can see how to use the microwave to easily and quickly (10 minutes or less) to prepare steamed artichokes that will turn out delicious, which includes even the time to prepare the artichoke. The simplest way is to prepare the artichoke, stand on end, put in microwave dish, add some water, cover with clear wrap, and steam in the microwave for 9+ minutes. A slightly more elaborate way is shown in the second link below (the first link shows how to prepare an artichoke). The third link shows how to cook corn on the cob in the husk in the microwave.

Link to Preparing an Artichoke

Link to Microwaving Artichokes

LInk to Microwaving Corn on the Cob in the Husk

Coffee Maker for Rugged Places

If you're going to some forsaken place out in the middle of nowhere, like Moose Lake, Utah, where they don't even have coffee makers, and you would have to wait until 8 am to get real (i.e., non-instant) coffee, and, because you're flying to the closest airport which still is 3 hours away, it's not practicable to bring your Braun Aromaster (concededly the best and simplest coffee maker ever made and which you can still find on eBay (although now it will cost you about $50 while they used to cost $15 new)), the Bodum Travel French Press is easily packable and unbreakable, and available at Amazon (in black, red, and a very ugly green). PS: If you sail the Greek Isles on a small charter boat, they likely will serve coffee through a French Press.

Amazon Link to Bodum Travel French Press

Tiffany's Excellent Earring Replacement Policy

If you bought a set of earrings and lose one, if they came from Tiffany's, you can buy a replacement for the lost one. Others might have the same policy. Here's how it works at Tiffany's: Call Tiffany's, tell them the earring you want to buy, they will email you a repair order form, you send back in the one earring which they will polish and make look like new, and then they will send it back along with another new one. And the cost will be one-half the current cost of the earring set.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

George's Kitchen (Phoenix)

If you've bemoaning the departure of Cypress Pita Grill, your long national nightmare is over. George's Kitchen just opened and it's even closer (if you live near 16th Street and Bethany Home Road) and has better parking. It's basically Greek food with some Italian thrown in. The greens are very fresh and soup is delicious. The place is aesthetically pleasing and as long as too  many people don't find out about and show up, the noise level is tolerable even with the kind of indoor architecture that will amplify sounds. The website is beautiful and sleek like the restaurant. As of now, it takes multiple clicks to see the various components of the menu, but that should change soon as the owners were very grateful for the suggestion they received on that. The owners are very nice and speak Greek. They are not obnoxious showboats like the owner of Greektown and, so while the food is not as distinctive as Greektown's, one would much rather give them your money.

Link to George's Kitchen Website

Thursday, April 2, 2015

New Gmail Contact Presentation

If you use Gmail on your computer, and click on Contacts, you will see they are presented in an entirely new way. Some like it. Others don't. You can stay with it. Or go back to the old way. How to do so is explained in the link below along with other tips on the new presentation.

Link to Google Contacts Help

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Clipboard on Text App: A Great Time Saver

When composing a text, if you press on the message space, up will pop two boxes: Paste and Clipboard. Touching the Clipboard will bring up any text you saved to the clipboard. Just touch the text you want to paste and, shzam, it will be inserted into your text message. To store any text into the clipboard, just press on it and then touch Copy. What's the point you might ask? This can be a great time-saver--it's a collection of your own macros. For example, you can have your name and address and phone number then appear with one touch; or the word "thanks"; or "Are you kidding me?"; or anything else you don't want to actually type each time you want to include it in a text. I know this works on the standard Android texting app. I would guess iPhone apps have the same feature even if implemented in some different way.

Amazon Dash Button

Some people have very good systems for maintaining their inventory of household products. Others don't. For them, the Amazon Dash Button might be just the ticket. Dash Button comes with a reusable adhesive and a hook so you can hang, stick, or place it right where you need it. Keep Dash Button handy in the kitchen, bath, laundry, or anywhere you store your favorite products. When you're running low, simply press Dash Button, and Amazon quickly delivers household favorites so you can skip the last-minute trip to the store. It is available only by invitation to Amazon Prime members.

Link to Get Your Amazon Dash Button Invitation


Image result for amazon dash button

PacMan on Google Maps

Google has added a neat new feature to Google Maps.  Not only can you summon up a satellite view of whatever map you're currently looking at, but you can also turn that map into a playable Pacman game. Just open Google Maps and click on the PacMan box in the lower left.