Sunday, May 31, 2015

Website and Streaming Service Problem Detection

If you can't get on a website, or you are having a problem with your television reception, or any such other problem, calling the source is what alerts them to a problem and hastens a fix. Before doing that though, you often can determine on your own if the problem is at your end or it is a known problem with the source. These links will do precisely that for you:

Link to Down for Everyone or Just Me

Link to Down Detector

Link to Is It Down Right Now

Deleting an Account or Service Made Easy (or At Least Easier)

Have you ever wanted to drop some online newsletter or service but found it hard to figure out how to cancel and remove your account? It is very common for cancelling a service to be a lot more involved than signing up. Sometimes it takes a major hunt to find out how to remove your account.
Cancelling an account has been made much easier by a website called It lists hundreds of services with a link right to the proper cancellation page for each. It also offers a preview of the cancellation policy of many services. This is worth looking at before you sign up with somebody so you can get an idea of how hard it will be to cancel if you don’t like the service. Also, some services won’t let you delete an account entirely once it is set up – Pinterest and WordPress, for example - something worth knowing.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Simple Backup Programs

All computers will fail at some point. It's not a question of if, but when. Hence, backing up your data (documents, photos, etc.) will come be a life-saver on that day. Given the many options out there, it is inexcusable not to back up your data. Here are two, extremely simple programs that will allow you to back up any folder or file to an external drive, a USB drive, a network storage device, or just about anything else--and once set up, it's all done automatically and in real-time.

Link to AutoVer

Link to Yadis Backup

Rainy Sunday Afternoon Entertainment

It's Sunday. You have finished the New York Times, and it's raining. You don't feel like going to the movies or reading. Here is what to do: Click on the link below and have a blast touring one of the neatest websites ever and at the same see how you can automate virtually everything in your home. Be sure to take the Virtual Tour and click on everything you can click on. Talk about hours of fun! This is it! And a great glimpse at the future which is here now.

Link to Control4 Website

Friday, May 29, 2015

International Texting

[Prefatory Note: This relates to AT&T wireless service but Verizon and others likely are the same]

Putting aside short-term and long-term international "plans" and other ways to eliminate or reduce wireless charges when traveling internationally, while you cannot find it on the AT&T website because it is not there,* and at least one rep and one supervisor did not know this, there are no charges for incoming texts even if you're in, say, Spain, or any one of another 100+ countries. The only way you can get this confirmed in writing is if you nicely ask a supervisor to email you a confirmation of this fact or you do an on-line chat with a knowledgeable rep and print the chat or have it emailed to yourself. The really good news if you happen to deal with a rude and totally unhelpful rep (quoting three different charges--all of which were wrong) who refuses even to let you talk to a supervisor, is that, if you call back and then get through to a supervisor, you just might get a nice discount on your next month's bill.


      * The website references "messages sent" but never references "messages received." 

Amazon Prime Streaming Glitch on Samsung Smart Televisions

If you have done Amazon Prime streaming (which is excellent) on a Samsung smart television (which is an excellent choice) in the past couple of days, and you default to or otherwise opt for closed-captioning (which is a must when watching The Wire), you might have noticed that the closed-captioning and other tools are not working. As it turns out, Amazon is aware of the problem and is working feverishly to fix it. So, you need not call Amazon to report the problem. But, if you do, Amazon will grace you with an email announcing that, for your trouble, you will get a $5 credit on your next purchase and your Amazon Prime membership will be extended one month (which won't do you any good, but will be of benefit to your estate in the year of your demise if your personal representative moves quickly to terminate the subscription.

Coiling Your Charging Cords

For some unknown reason, unlike phone cords, smart device charging cords are not coiled. Coiled cords take up less space and are generally easier to handle. The link below will show you how to easily coil your cords yourself with a pencil, tape, and hair-dryer.

Link to Video re How to Coil Charging Cords

Fried Chicken in Phoenix

Southern Rail has some serious drawbacks. It can be too loud and parking can be difficult (there is no valet parking). But it had one draw: fried chicken on Wednesday nights. Starting June 1, fried chicken is available every night. If you like fried chicken, Bon Appetite!

Link to Southern Rail Website

If you're still reading, it means you probably like fried chicken. In that event, be assured that Lolo's fried chicken is fabulous, and (at least the Central Avenue location) is not too loud. The problem with Lolo's (at least with the Central Avenue location since it gentrified itself) is that, unless you go way early or way late, the wait to get seated can be interminable. And they absolutely will not seat you until your entire party is present.

Link to Lolo's Website

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Proper Menu Bar

If you use Chrome, Firefox, or Opera, and you visit Google sites (e.g., You Tube, Gmail, Contacts, Translate, Images, etc. etc.), Proper Menu Bar is a very convenient extension. It puts a bar under near the top of your web pages (you can decide to have it on all web pages or just Google webpages or other selected web pages) and it lists whichever Google sites you want it to, and then you can just get to any of them with just one click. It's free.

Proper Menu Bar Extension Download Link

Lowering Your Cable Bill

This does not always work, but it often does: Call your cable company and choose the billing department option. Tell the rep you have no complaints but, the bill is just so high that you would like to know if there are any discounts programs now in effect that you might qualify for. The answer very well could be yes, and you might immediately be offered a monthly reduction of $25 or more. If you get something good, say thanks and hang up. If not, ask to be transferred to the "loyalty department." They all have one under one name or another. Go through the same routine, but when the rep starts trying to upgrade your service, counter nicely saying, while you love and have been loyal to the cable company, you have started shopping VOIP for your phone and other alternatives for your TV and internet. Stress that you understand there is a great convenience for you in staying with the cable company and bundling everything together, but, again, the bill is just too high. Not that it's unfair or anything like that. But just more than you want to pay. There's nothing to lose, and as often as not, such approaches will pay off.

Help Is on the Way for iPhone Crashes

If your iPhone has been acting strangely lately, an iOS bug could be the problem. 
On Wednesday, a Reddit user posted that he'd received a seemingly nonsensical text message that turned his phone off. And while this drew attention to the problem, it also spread it, as it allowed other people to send the "effective power" text message to other iPhones, causing them to automatically restart. The message contains the words "effective power" followed by a string of non-English symbols. According to Mashable, Apple is working on an update that should stop the problem. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Automatically Forwarding Text (SMS) Messages

Some smartphones (including iPhones) have a setting under Messages to allow you to forward text messages to another device or another number. But if your Android phone does not, here are three neat Android Apps that allow you to do so. In this way, you can receive texts on your tablet that were sent to your phone. Each of these apps is a bit different, but one of them likely is just what you were looking for.

Link to SMS Forwarder

Link to SMS Text Messaging

Link to My SMS Texting

Updating Android Phones and Tablets

App updates become available with great frequency. When you open the Play Store and select My Apps, there will be a list of updates available for any apps on your device. You can choose Update All or Update just those you actually use. For the latter, you need not update just one at a time. Instead, it's must faster to start the update on one up, go back to the list and start the next app you want to update, go back to the list again and start the next app you want to update. They will then all update until they are all finished.

New Car Option

It has been the case when buying a new car of deciding whether to get an expensive in-dash GPS system or just rely on your phone or a stand-alone GPS unit. That's about to end. With Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay, you will soon see cars that will enable you to display your phone display (including Google Maps, music, etc.) on the car's dashboard display, and "talk with it" to give instructions (texting by voice) and get instructions (turn-by-turn directions) and other stuff (texts converted to voice). So, if you're considering a new car, you might want to hold off a bit until the car you want has this capability. The below link explains all this in detail, including the current short-comings and limitations.

Link to WSJ Article re the Smartphone and the Car

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Great Deal on Insinkerator Garbage Disposal

I took Insinkerator up on this promotion and could not be more pleased. It appears to be aimed at customers who have registered Insinkerator disposals but it might be anyone can accept the promotion. Insinkerator will provide its compact model (DM 75) or one of the larger models for $100 less than the retail price. But wait. There's more. The price includes installation, so that's like another $120 off. But wait. There's more. The price includes the power cord, so that's like another $35 off. In sum, you can get a $340 disposal (the DM 75) that would cost you nearly $500 installed with new power cord for $229 installed including a new power cord. It will be installed within a week or two of your buying it, and it's all done quite efficiently. And, if you don't have a sound-dampening disposal, you will love your new disposal.

Link to Insinkerator Promotion

How to Stop Receiving Duplicate Emails

If your email software suddenly starts downloading duplicate copies of the same emails, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that it is possible to remedy the problem. The bad news is that it can be time-consuming to do so. Here are the four most common causes and solutions to consider:

1. Your email software has more than one “Account” or “Profile” or “Personality” configured to download messages from the same email POP account.  As a result, your software downloads one copy for each Account/Profile/Personality.
  • Symptom: All email from all senders are downloaded two or more times; but only up to a certain number of copies, which remains the same… ie: two copies of every email or three copies of each.
  • Solution: Manually review each Account/Profile/Personality within your email software to make sure that the same POP account isn’t listed more than once.

2. The sender actually is mailing multiple copies, possibly due to a software problem on their system or server.
  • Symptom: You receive two or more copies of messages from some senders, but not others. The “Message ID” for each email (contained in the Internet Delivery Headers) is unique, even though the message itself is the same. Additionally, The “time stamp” on each message may be slightly different, but this is not always the case.
  • Solution: Contact either the sender or their ISP/Host and make them aware of the problem, providing as much information as possible, such as: Dates, Time, Subject Lines and the Message IDs.
3. Your email software may have corrupted files (most common with Outlook & Outlook Express) which prevents it from successfully downloading and deleting messages from the mail server.
  • Symptom: In this situation your software program loses track of the emails that it has already downloaded. The result is that every time you connect duplicate copies are retrieved of just certain emails, or of all emails older than some specific date, while newer emails are downloaded just once. In either case the original date and message ID contained in the email’s Internet Delivery Headers will be identical for each copy.
  • Solution: Log into the Web-mail interface (if one is available for your mail server) and manually move or delete any messages that are being downloaded repeatedly. If the condition re-occurs frequently you may need to uninstall and then re-install your email software application.
  • Solution: If the above does not work, then you’ll want to research other solutions. A few helpful links that will explain the issues (there are several) and how to correct them are located at:
4. Messages are matching more than one “Rule” or “Filter” within your software program.
  • Symptom: Specific emails are always duplicated (but most emails are not), and these messages usually have something in common, such as: coming from the same sender or list-server; containing similar “Subject” lines, or having identical “phrases” within the email body.
  • Solution: With some email programs this can result in your software making an additional copy of the message when the second rule/filter matches. Carefully review any such rules within your software and look for any instances where more than one might match the same message. When such an instance is found, remove or modify one of the rules.
5. Your email provider’s server is regenerating the “Message ID” or is moving your mail from one server to another server.
  • Symptom: Duplicates of all emails on the server are downloaded repetitively. This may occur every time your email software connects or might be based on a specific time interval, once per hour or once per 90 minutes or some other predictable interval. While the date/time stamp doesn’t change from copy to copy, the “Message ID” for each duplicate is different than the last.
  • Solution: While rare, if this condition exists, then you’ll have to contact your email provider as it means their servers are changing the “Message ID” for emails left on their server. This change causes your email client to believe each message is a new email that needs to be downloaded, and only your mail host will be able to diagnose and correct this condition.
While it can take some time, and patience, to diagnose and correct the problem, one of these five causes and solutions will turn out to be the cure in almost every case.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pizzeria Bianco (Town & Country) Phoenix

Pizzeria Bianco started at Town & Country and quickly earned a stellar reputation. Although it did not serve butter with its fabulous bread, and did not let you bring in butter, even though it did not take reservations, you could get in. Then, it closed that site and moved downtown. Its reputation remained intact but you could never get it. Then, the owner re-opened the original site under the The Italian Restaurant. It was sub-par and went through at least two iterations of menus and presentations. Then, it got re-dubbed Pizzeria Bianco, and schzam, while its lunch menu is limited and nothing to write home about or even a blog post about, the dinner menu is terrific. The food is delicious and almost everything has an usual twist to it. The bread is fabulous even though, still, no butter is served with it. If you bring in your own butter, memory tells me you will be ejected from the restaurant, so it might not be wise even to ask for butter. It has indoor and outdoor seating and the noise-level is perfect for real human beings as it not geared for being wanting to be in a supposed "happening place." The service is excellent. And the prices are quite reasonable. Because of the "small plate" options, for those who like the dining group's sharing, sharing works great so you can have the taste treat of many dishes.

Stopping a Sleeping Computer From Waking Up

We have been asked why a computer that has been put to sleep often awakes again for no apparent reason. A little research has ruled out sleep apnea and has revealed that this is not an uncommon problem and can have several possible sources. Malware infections are sometimes the cause but more often it is some device that is waking the machine up and that was the case for me. In this tip, I will describe several settings in your system that may keep waking up your PC. The discussion is for Windows Vista/7. You will generally need administrator privileges to make system changes.

Stop the mouse from waking up the PC

Mice, especially, wireless mice, can sometimes wake the PC up. In fact, there is a specific setting to allow this. If the mouse turns out to be a problem, you can change the setting with this procedure:
  1. Open the Start menu and type “mouse” (without quotes) in the Search bar
  2. Under the Control Panel list, click “Mouse” (or just press Enter in Vista)
  3. In the dialog box that opens, select the tab “Hardware”
  4. Highlight the entry for your mouse and click the button “Properties”
  5. A new dialog will open. Click the button “Change settings”
  6. In the new dialog that opens, click the tab “Power Management”
  7. Remove the check by “Allow this device to wake the computer”
  8. Click “OK” and close the dialogs.

Stop a network card from waking up the PC

From what I read, a network card is the most common source of wake-up problems and that was the cause of my own computer never staying asleep. Here is how to configure a network card:
  1. Open Device Manager. There are many ways to do this but a quick way is to enter “dev” (without quotes) in the Startsearch bar and click “Device Manager”
  2. Expand the list for “Network adapters”
  3. Right-click the adapter to be configured and choose “Properties”. There may be several adapters, one for Ethernet, one for wireless, and others like Bluetooth
  4. In the dialog that opens, click the tab “Power Management”
  5. Remove the check by “Allow this device to wake the computer”
  6. Click “OK” and close up Device Manager

Scheduled tasks , updates, and other causes

Sometimes a task or Windows Update is scheduled for a specific time and will wake up the computer. Dealing with these and other possibilities are discussed at this link.

Use the command line to find what causes the PC to wake up

One way to find out what is causing a wake-up problem is provided by the command line. Open a command prompt with elevated privileges and enter this command:
    powercfg –lastwake
The last device that woke up the system will be shown
To find out which devices are enabled to wake up the PC, enter this command
    powercfg -devicequery wake_armed

Logjam Security Vulnerability

A security hole in many major browsers called "logjam" is being reported. The attack makes use of a weakness in a cryptographic algorithm used to make connections secure. If you go to the site reporting the exploit, it will tell you if your browser is vulnerable to the attack. Browsers are supposedly preparing updates but as of this writing I found my Windows browsers Chrome version 43.0.2357.65 m (64-bit) and Firefox version 38.0.1 to be vulnerable. Both claim to be up to date. My iPad Safari browser and my Android 5.0 browser were also rated vulnerable. Internet Explorer update version 11.0.19 was rated as not vulnerable.
Keep checking to see if updates are available. In the meantime, be aware that your supposedly secure browsing may not be secure.

Link to Test Your Browser's Vulnerability

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Don't Be Dumb When It Comes to Grilling

In 1980, Thermal Engineering revolutionized outdoor grilling with its TEC Infrared Underfired Grill. This year, Lynx to infrared into the 21st Century with a smart grill. It responds to voice commands, provides cooking times and placement tips, and can send you text alerts when it's time to flip the food, and a smartphone app lets you turn off the grill remotely. It's a perfect father's day gift and a must-have for anyone serious about grilling.

Link to Lynx BBQs

Friday, May 22, 2015

Thank You David Letterman

Don't skip the into of what might be the greatest ensemble of soul musicians, turn your volume up, click on the link below, and just enjoy an amazingly wonderful duet by Cindi Lauper and the late Ben E King:

Link to: It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

And if you remember Ben E King with fondness, he would not begrudge your listening to this re-recording of his song:

Link to Playing Around the World

Pamper Yourself When Traveling

If you're going to New York, Los Angeles, London, or Paris, hotels can cost you a fortune and you never can be sure what you''ll get with Airbnb or VRBO. But with OneFineStay, you get an upscale home or town home at a very good price. It is hoped to see OFS in other cities soon.

Link to OneFineStay Website

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Refraction Tip

[Prefatory Note: This tip is strictly from a consumer's point of view. Do not take it as medical advice
of any kind. For proper medical advice, consult a licensed opthamologist]

It is wise to get an eye exam every year. If you say nothing, the opthamologist will do both a medical exam (checks for floaters, pressure, glaucoma, etc.) and a refraction (determining the prescription needed to get to 20/20 eyesight). Under Medicare, the medical exam has no co-pay but the refraction will cost you about $50. Other insurance policies might be the same and others might be different. You need not undergo the refraction if you don't want. In fact, before doing a refraction, you can do an eye exam with your glasses on which will tell you if your prescription needs changing, and, if not, you might then decide to save the $50 and the time and skip the refraction. Just remember that a refraction-based glasses prescription is good for only one year, i.e., if you take a prescription for glasses that is more than one-year old to a glasses place, they will not make you glasses pursuant to it.

Land-line Handsets Part 2

After you buy a used replacement as noted in the blog post of a few days ago, it's not too late to go to The Google and type in "handset not working." You will then find these suggestions, which worked in this case  Don't fret that you already spent $10 on a hand-set you don't now need. Think of it as having a spare in case one of the hand-sets really does stop working for good.

If you can still use the base and the cordless handset but the screen went blank or won't turn on, follow the procedure below:
For the base:
  1. Press [MENU] [#] [6] [1] [0] on the base.
  2. Select the adjustment by pressing [▲] or [▼].
  3. Press [ENTER].

For the handset: Remove the handset cover at the back of the cordless phone, remove the battery for a few seconds and insert the battery back and close the cover.
If procedure doesn't work, adjust the LCD contrast by following this procedure:
  1. On the handset press [MENU] [#] [6] [0] [3].
  2. Select the adjustment by pressing number 1-6.
  3. Press [SAVE].

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Spying on Another's Cellphone or Tablet

[Prefatory Note: This piece is written with respect to boyfriends suspected of cheating on their girlfriends. It also could apply to girlfriends suspected of cheating on their boyfriends or spouses suspected of cheating on their spouses. But wait, there's more: It also could apply to checking up on one's children's use of their cellphone or tablet]
There are various software applications that claim to be able to spy on text messages and track your boyfriend's phone activity. However, many phones and tablets have built in protections to safeguard the user's privacy. This means that in some cases you won't be able to install a mobile spy app without first jailbreaking / rooting the phone. The best way to get this done is to take the phone to a professional. For about $40 or less you can get the phone jailbroke. You can pay a little more and the same guy will likely install the spy app for you. The best cover to get this done is to break the screen and offer to take the phone in and get it fixed since you broke it. While the screen is getting repaired you can have the spy app installed too (often from the same guy).
If he is an Android user, you could try the "spy on your boyfriend" app or the "secret SMS" app. Just keep in mind that both apps won't work on all wireless services. Make sure the spy app you want to use for tracking your boyfriend is compatible with his mobile phone or Tablet before downloading and installing it.
If your boyfriend is using an iPhone, you can also download the BosSpy software. As an alternative, you can download My Spy (mSpy), which will give you access to his IMs on WhatsApp, Facebook, his SMS messages, and even his phone calls and email. 
Of course, it may be better for you to ask your boyfriend directly if you have any doubts. This way you can satisfy your desire to read his messages. Just ask him for his phone. If he doesn't let you look through it, then maybe he is conning you. In this case, you might want to start tracking his text messages.

Getting a Human to Call You Back

If you tried today to get through to US Airways, you would be placed on hold and then get a busy signal or a dial tone. If you actually got through to a human, and needed to be transferred, you would be disconnected. If you tried over and over and over again, you might get very frustrated. Here is where Get Human comes in. Not only will it tell you how to get through to a human without listening to phone tree option after option after option, it will make the call for you and then call you back when a human is on the line. It might not always work, but it sure is less frustrating and unnerving and irritating and maddening than dialing over and over and over again. And, knock on wood, sometimes it actually does work. It did today!

Link to Get Human Service

Land-line Handsets

True, land-line cordless phone sets are so yesterday, but many people find them more convenient than schlepping around their cellphones at home. The good news is that, if one of your cordless phones dies, you can usually find a replacement so you need not buy a new complete set. The bad news is that a new replacement will run you about $40, while a new set will run you just $10-20 more, so it makes no sense to buy a new replacement. The good news is you usually can find a single used replacement on The eBay for under $10. Given that your existing phone set no longer is new anyhow, buying a used replacement handset does not denigrate your system at all.

Testing Your Computer's Hardware

In the excitement of getting a new PC, most people often forget to check whether their future PC is working perfectly, and often regret afterwards when something malfunctions or doesn’t work as expected. Yes, PCs are usually covered by warranty but it’s a hassle to give them in for repair or replacement as it takes a lot of time. Plus, a used PC might not even have warranty. So it’s better to be safe than sorry.
This article lists the important applications and tools you can use to check some of the vital hardware components of your new/used PC.

1. Checking Screen for Dead Pixels

The screen on which you’re reading this text is made of very small pixels, which display three basic colors: Red, Green & Blue. Sometimes one or more of these pixels can malfunction, causing them to display only one color or not turn ON at all.
Image via Wikipedia
To check whether your PC’s screen has faulty pixels, you can use the online tools Dead Pixels Test or CheckPixels, or do the same test offline using this. These tests display various colorful pages that make it easy for you to spot a dead pixel. It is advisable to run these tests in full-screen, which can be done by pressing F11 in any browser.

2. Checking the Keyboard

Many people don’t think of the keyboard as a vital component of their PC, but it’s a very important part as it is used in almost all tasks. Checking the keyboard becomes even more important for laptop users since they have to send the whole laptop for repair.
You can check whether each key on your keyboard is working by using the online toolKeyboardTester or using an offline tool such as this.

3. Checking HDD/SSD Health

HDD or SSD contains the operating system and all those precious episodes of Breaking Bad, so it becomes absolutely important that the HDD/SSD is at 100 percent health. No, I am not making any video game reference; storage drive performance and reliability are indeed measured in ‘Health’ percentages.
This is also a topic of concern, especially for a used PC, as you are not initially aware about the condition of the drive. There are separate tools available to check health of both the HDD and SSD. For hard disks you can use HDSentitel.
All the drives connected to the PC are listed on the left. Here, the main parameter to look for is obviously Health. HDSenitel also explains the meaning of the health percentages and the probable steps that should be taken. So for just a few bad sectors and some IO errors you should not throw out your drive.
Each manufacturer decides what number of bad sectors qualifies a disk for replacement and they may ask you to check using their proprietary tool. Check your HDD manufacturer’s website to know about their policy and tools.
Image via SSDlife website
For SSD there is a dedicated application, aptly named SSDlife, which also shows health in percentage and the expected life of the SSD. Same as hard disks, bad sectors can occur in SSDs too and the replacement policy again depends on each manufacturer.

4. Checking the CPU and GPU

CPU and GPU are those main components that do all the main processing, which enables you to use MS office or play Candy Crush. So it is necessary that these two components should be in perfect condition. For testing both, we use Furmark.
For testing on low-end PCs with no dedicated GPU, set the resolution to 1280×720 and for medium to high-end PCs that have a dedicated graphics card, resolution from 1280×720 to1920×1080 (full HD) can be set. If while running the test your screen suddenly flickers or distorts then it’s probably a sign of problems in the GPU.
To test the CPU, open CPU burner and select Start to run the test. Here as well, a sudden shutdown, flickering, or the PC getting hung up completely indicates either a fault in hardware or inefficient cooling.
Note: Do take care not to run the above tests for a very long duration as it can cause thermal shutdown of the PC due to overheating.

5. Checking the RAM

RAM: the one component that is recommended to increase your PCs performance. If you visited after reading the previous line, you should probably not continue further with the test. Just kidding – anyways, errors in RAM can lead to the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) or booting problems. The test for checking RAM is called Memtest86+ (Linux users may already know this).
But this test is not as simple to perform as others. You will have to make a bootable media (USB or CD), as the test can be performed only during bootup and takes a minimum of 30 minutes to complete. Less tech-savvy users may skip the test if they prefer, as RAM is also one of the components that are less prone to failure. However if you want to perform it, head over to Memtest86+ to read the instructions.


Other than these tests, you should also check the USB ports, the headphone and microphone jacks, as well as any other ports like DVI, HDMI, and ethernet if you have the appropriate devices and cables.
The store personnel or the owner may sometimes refuse to let you install new applications on a PC before buying, but you should try to calmly explain to them that it’s better to be safe than sorry. A trip to the service center and having to deal with replacement procedures are more tiresome than performing a few tests.
[From GuidingTech]

Wash New Clothes Before Wearing

If you do not wash newly-bought clothes, you are taking a big, unwarranted risk. Specifically, anyone who thinks new clothes are lice free is not only wrong, but wrong-headed. As the adage goes, he who lies down with new clothes wakes up with lice. For a full explanation, see the link below.

Link to WSJ Article re Washing New Clothes

Monday, May 18, 2015

Maximizing Amazon Prime Savings

If you're an Amazon Prime customer, and buy a Prime Eligible item, you get the item in a couple of days for free. However, you often are given the option to have the shipment delayed a bit, about a week, in exchange for a $1 credit for your next digital (e-book or streamed movie) purchase. Now, here's the thing: If you buy 2 Prime Eligible items, and buy them together in one order, you will get that $1 credit option, BUT, if you buy those items in two separate orders, you will get two, count them two, $1 credit options. AND, if you buy 3 Prime Eligible items, well, I'm sure you see how your savings can multiply exponentially.*


     *  This matter has been brought to Amazon's attention, but so far, it has chosen not to respond or comment.

Avoid Amana Like the Plague

You can buy a top-of-the-line Amana 3-door below-freezer-mount refrigerator and two years after you buy it, Amana might stop making certain critical replacement parts for it. For example, although you've treated the refrigerator with great kindness, its stainless door handles can start to show wear long before the end of the refrigerator's useful life. Try getting a replacement door handle: Forget about it. Amana has none and does not make any more and none of the replacement outlets have them either. Try complaining to Amana: Forget about it. They will basically tell you, "tough, what do you expect?" The two lessons to learn: (i) When buying a stainless appliance with door handles, go with small round door handles where one's thumb(s) do not rub the front of the handle; and (ii) avoid Amana like the plague.

Worst Slogan in the World

Hennessy, a liquor, has a campaign and slogan, which it calls, "Never Stop. Never Settle."

 Image result for hennessy never stop never settle

Although their ads throw in the obligatory, "drink responsibly," it likely will be not understood by the binge-drinkers of Hennessy who minded the call to "never stop." The following comment was sent to Hennessy: "The phrase "Never Stop" in your slogan is an extremely poor choice for promoting a liquor. Although your ads also say "Drink Responsibly," the idea to "Never Stop" is a stated inducement to engage in binge-drinking. I'm sure you never intended this. but I'm equally sure your legal department would advice you to change your slogan."

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Oxo Soap Squirting Dishwand

The Oxo Good Grips Soap Squirting Dishwand (pictured below) is the best of breed and an absolute necessity for your kitchen. The only problem with it is the 2-part sponge end. Because the blue sponge is glued to the yellow sponge, over time, they start to separate, requiring you to replace the entire sponge head, which cost about $2@, before the sponge has reached the end of its useful life. The following comment/suggestion has been submitted to Oxo: "Please consider making the sponge head for the Oxo Good Grips Soap Squirting Wand a 1-piece sponge instead of a 2-piece sponge. In that way, the sponge would not separate before the end of the sponge's useful life. Thank you for your attention to this request." Feel free to copy (without the quotation marks) and paste this comment into Oxo's feedback form (per the below link) to increase the likelihood of Oxo's making the suggested change.

Link to Contact Oxo to Give Corrective Feedback

OXO Good Grips Soap Squirting Dish Wand Image

Three tips in using the wand: (i) when filling it up with detergent soap, you can fill both the wand and the handle for longer use before needing to refill; (ii) standing the wand up in the sink when not in use will avoid the problem of someone having to grasp a wet handle; and (iii) blue detergent soap is the most aesthetically pleasing.

Two Great Inventions

Note to Self: If a smart paint could be developed where, instead of having to apply a new coat to change the color, it could change its color on command, it would result in enormous savings for home owners and make a fortune for the inventor. If a smart wallpaper could be developed where, instead of having to tear it off and apply new wall paper to change its color or texture or design, it could make those changes on command, it would result in enormous savings for home owners and make a fortune for the inventor. When these products come to market, just remember where you heard about them first.*


     * The phrase "note to self" comes from Michael Keaton's character in Night Shift (1982), who also delivered one of the great movie lines: "Is this a great country or what?" Usually thought of as a family movie for the Christmas holidays, Night Shift is a fabulous movie for watching any time during any season. It is Michael Keaton's first movie, and you know from his first scene that he would become one of the best actors of our time. The script is tight, and while you might not like some of the actors in other roles they have played (e.g., the Fonz in Happy Days and Diane in Cheers), you will LOVE them in Night Shift.

Link to Quotes from Night Shift

Link to Is This a Great Country or What Clip

Link to Note to Self Clip

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Don't Be Dumb: Get Smart Luggage

There may be others but here is one smart suitcase: Bluesmart, a high-quality carry-on suitcase that you can control from your phone. From the app you can lock and unlock it, weigh it, track its location, be notified if you are leaving it behind and find out more about your travel habits. You can also charge your phone 6 times over with a built-in battery. 

After decades of no innovation in the luggage industry, the suitcase has now been reimagined to solve all the problems of the modern traveler. No more luggage nightmares to spoil your trips. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Windows 10 Editions

Microsoft has just announced which editions of the new Windows 10 will be offered.  As usual with Microsoft, the announcement is full of uninformative, gee-whiz marketing fluff hedged by the legal department but here is a summary of what I think they said.
Windows 10
The editions will have a common main core of features and share the same Windows Store but will have variations that depend on the device for which they are intended. The method of sale and pricing will depend on the intended market. Upgrades from previous versions of Windows will also depend on the nature of the user. Here are the various choices.

For Home and Small Business Users

There will be two editions for new PCs, Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro. Windows 10 Home will be cheaper but will lack certain features present in Windows 10 Pro. Windows 10 Pro will have additional features such as BitLocker encryption and the ability to join domain networks. This seems to be similar to the present differences between the two consumer versions of Windows 8.1.
There will also be two editions of Windows 10 that will be available as free online upgrades to existing licensed PCs. Consumers and small businesses that have PCs running Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 or Windows 8.1 will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 Home. Consumers and small businesses with Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, and Windows 8.1 Pro systems will be offered a free online upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. There is some kind of one year limitation on getting a free upgrade that I still find murky. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cleaning a Phone or Tablet's Screen

If you use a smartphone or tablet, you likely touch the screen with your fingers. In that event, the screen will become filled with smudges. The easiest, least expensive, and fastest (under 5 seconds) way to clean the screen is: (i) be sure the screen display is dark; (ii) lightly wet a microfiber cloth; (iii) gently rub the screen with the wetted cloth; and (iv) gently rub the screen again with a dry portion of the cloth. You can get microfiber cloths anywhere. Here is what they look like:

Image result for microfiber cloth

PS: Microfiber cloths can be washed in a washing machine. But they should not be put in the dryer to dry. Just hang them up. They dry quickly.

Sleeping With Your Smartphone: Not for Sexting--But for the Best Way to Sleep Better and Be Healthier

We spend about a third of our lives sleeping, yet most of us know very little about how we sleep. At best, we know "around" what time we need to go to bed in order to wake up feeling relatively refreshed the next morning, and we know how to many times we can hit the snooze button before we'll be unforgivably late to work.
But how long do we really sleep each night? And how efficient is that sleep? And when we lie down at 10 p.m., do we fall asleep immediately or does it take us an hour or two to truly pass out? (And is that related to the fact that we spend all our waking time staring at screens?)
Learning about your sleep habits can help you improve those them -- for example, if you find out that you're only getting 5 hours of sleep per night, maybe it's time to start heading to bed earlier or waking up later. Improving your sleep habits ultimately improves your life, so what are you waiting for? Here's how to start tracking your sleep schedule right now:

Use an app

Sleep-tracking apps have alarm clocks that wake you up during the "light" phase of your sleep cycle.Screenshot by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

You probably sleep next to your phone anyway, why not take it a step further and sleep with your phone? Apps like Sleep Cycle (Android and iOS), SleepBot (Android and iOS), and Sleep Time (Androidand iOS) track your sleep cycles through your phone's accelerometer -- all you have to do is place your phone on the mattress next to you. These apps also have sleep cycle-based alarm clocks -- you choose a window during which you want to wake up, and the app will analyze your sleep cycle and attempt to wake you up when you're not in deep sleep.
Though apps are a great way to get started with sleep-tracking, they're not a perfect solution. They can be thwarted by mattress movement (if you sleep with a partner), your phone can fall off the bed, and they can also cause your phone to overheat if it's under sheets and blankets.

Use a sleep-tracking device

If you're interested in finding out a little more about how you sleep - how long you're in REM cycle sleep, for example, or whether you move around a lot while you're snoozing - you can use a sleep-tracking device.
Your fitness tracker may already be equipped to track sleep, assuming you don't mind wearing it while you're taking a nap. The Fitbit SurgeJawbone UpWithings Pulse O2/Ox, and Misfit Shine all track sleep efficiency by measuring your movements throughout the night. Keep in mind, though, that because these devices aren't designed specifically for sleep, it's a good idea to double-check their accuracy. For example, according to a 2012 study (and a recent lawsuit), Fitbit's actigraph overestimates sleep by 67 minutes, which is pretty significant. To make sure your fitness tracker isn't over- or underestimating how long you were out, use an app to be safe or the good old-fashioned method of remembering when you went to sleep.
Instead of a fitness tracker, you can also use a dedicated sleep tracker, such as the Withings Aura. The Aura consists of two parts -- a sensor pad that tucks under your mattress, and a bedside light/speaker that slowly wakes you up using light and sound. Beddit is another dedicated sleep tracker that lives on your mattress (under your sheet -- it's thinner than the Aura) and tracks sleep time, time to fall asleep, heart rate, respiration, sleep cycles, and snoring. The main benefit here, aside from accuracy, is the no-contact sensor -- if you're a person who can't sleep with jewelry on, a fitness tracker is not for you.

Compile the data

Gathering data is only useful if you actually use it. If you use an app to track sleep, whether it's a standalone app or an app that links up to a sleep-tracking device, you'll probably have some data that you can use -- information on how much "deep" vs. "light" sleep you're getting, for example. But if you want to track your sleep schedule over a long period of time, such as months or even years, I've found that the best way to do that is to input your sleep data into MedHelp's sleep tracker.

Use MedHelp's trackers to see your sleep schedule over the course of several months.Screenshot by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

MedHelp's trackers are a free service (you can track everything from sleep to blood pressure and heart rhythm), and you can import data from a variety of sources (including Fitbit, Jawbone, Withings, and Misfit) as well as input data manually. The tracker can help you see how much sleep you're getting over a period of time, as well as how consistent your sleep schedule is.
[From cnet]