Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Repairing Programs on Windows Computers

It is not uncommon for any program to start acting goofy. For example, you might find when hit Save in Word Perfect, it says you don't have permission to do that. Or, you might in Outlook that it stop automatically receiving emails unless you restart it. You can spend hours on The Google looking for specific solutions and you will find no shortage of suggestions, and if you find one that works, great! But, if not, go to Control Panel/Programs and Features (or Add/Remove Programs)/ and right-click on the program you want to repair, and click on Change/Repair. This just might solve the problem. Given how easy this is to do, you might consider doing it first before spending hours on The Google looking for specific solutions and getting a huge headache and being quite frustrated in the process. Finally, just uninstalling and re-installing the program often will fix the problem, and generally is not difficult to do.

Ditch the Sub-Titles and Turn Down the Volume

You might have excellent hearing but still have problems with certain shows and movies on TV. While our Evaluation Team has not had an opportunity to personally test all the available alternatives, it is pleased to confirm that the highly-rated Sennheiser RS 175 digital wireless headphone system (with augmented bass and variable surround sound) will eliminate the need to turn on the sub-titles or turn up the volume to understand clearly what is being said (or sung). They are easy to set up and the headphones are comfortable, and you can pair two sets of headphones for simultaneous use. You also can use them to listen to music from any audio source (e.g., your cellphone) and the sound is fabulous and you can be at extended distances from the audio source. And with Halloween coming up, they are a great alternative to giving out candy or Brillo pads.

Image result for sennheiser rs 175

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why Your Computer Crashed

When Windows crashes, it creates various memory dump files and other diagnostics to help Microsoft and other interested parties discover the cause. As a user, it can be difficult to find that information and to decipher it, so you probably just press the restart button on your machine and then resume where you left off. But with a little detective work, you can piece together the details of what happened, and which piece of software has been causing blue-screen crashes on your computer.
"Who Crashed" is a free, clever Windows program which can do all of that detective work for you. It'll scan your PC in search of tell-tale signs, such as crash dump files and registry entries which programs and device drivers leave when they crash. You can then remove those programs or drivers, even temporarily, to see if your system becomes more stable.

Five Android Apps to Prolong Battery Life

[From cnet: I'm sure there are iOS apps that do the same thing, but here are some Android apps that can improve the battery life of Android devices. The Greenify one is like way cool]

Juice Defender

Packed with seemingly endless options, Juice Defender is perhaps my favorite app on this list. The free client lets you manage common connections, such as mobile data as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Multiple preset modes, like "aggressive" and "balanced," allow for toggling and scheduling, background synchronization, and choosing which apps can keep your screen on.

Juice Defender is available in three versions with various features to suit your needs.Latedroid

Aside from the free app, Juice Defender also comes in Plus ($1.99) and Ultimate ($4.99) versions. Depending on what level of control you are looking for, one might be better suited for your needs. The Plus version, for instance, adds "extreme" and "customized" profiles as well as location-aware Wi-Fi, not to mention scheduling for night hours. The Ultimate app also boasts peak hours and weekend settings, autosync, and deeper GPS controls.
I definitely recommend the free client as a starting point but have no qualms about endorsing the paid apps.
Standout features: Multiple versions to suit needs, user profiles, scheduling, and location-aware features.


Initially created for rooted Android devices, Greenify helps extend battery life by automating the hibernation process, which keeps your apps from launching new background processes and sipping at that precious battery. Note that this is not the same thing as a task killer and the full functionality of apps is still present. In other words, Greenify puts misbehaving and otherwise thirsty apps to sleep without outright disabling or force closing them.
With Greenify, users can handpick which apps aren't always that important and have the phone put them to sleep.

Greenify puts your apps to sleep but doesn't "kill" them.Scott Webster/CNET

As a word of advice, you won't want to hibernate apps such as alarm clocks or messaging clients if you plan to use them every day, like I do.
While the standard, free version will work fine for most users, there is even more customization and optimization in the donate edition. For a few dollars ($3 USD, £1.94, AU$4.21) you can also auto-hibernate system apps. Doing so requires some advanced understanding of how Android works so proceed with caution.
Standout features: Set-and-forget approach to hibernation, less harmful than outright killing an app.

Go Battery Saver & Power Widget

Designed by the Go Dev Team, this one is as gorgeous as it is flexible. A simple tap of the screen lets you toggle preset modes, making it easy to go from reading and relaxing to online gaming. For those who don't like the standard modes, there are two other slots available for creating custom experiences.
Go Battery Saver & Power Widget keeps an eye on your apps to determine which are eating up battery more than others. By assigning a score to your battery, the app is able to determine which features you can enable or disable to extend its life. Tapping the optimize button, in essence, cleans up unnecessary, resource-sucking processes and tacks on some extra expected life. Doing this alone can provide an extra hour or more.

Go Battery Saver & Power Widget recently received a fresh coat of paint.Go Launcher EX

While the free app is stocked with options and settings, the premium pack brings about another dozen features. Available through in-app purchase for $4.99, this upgraded bundle removes ads and tosses in scheduled settings, more control over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and CPU, and a third "extreme" mode.
The app provides quick access to a number of settings with two home screen widgets. If you go with the premium option, there are three additional widgets to choose from. A number of skins or themes are available for Go Dev's own widgets, and you can also adjust how items appear in the notification bar.
Standout features: Handy widgets, multiple user modes, very clean interface, a steady stream of development updates.

Battery Aid - Saver & Manager

Designed to work in conjunction with your current smartphone settings, this free app tosses in a few additional options to help eek out extra battery hours. Battery Aid will automatically turn off your phone's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Data connections when not in use, for a set amount of time. It also lets users toggle the sync setting as well.
The free version of the app provides shortcuts to phone options such as display brightness screen timeout, and car dock settings. Sure, you can find these in your handset's normal places but Battery Saver keeps these sort of like-minded things in one place.

Automatically turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and data connections when not in use.Scott Webster/CNET

There are a couple of other features which can be unlocked for a couple of dollars, including battery statistics. Moreover, the developers have a Google+ and beta community it uses to test new features, too. If you're the type who likes to get a sneak preview of upcoming options, be sure to sign up.
Standout features: Material Design looks very fresh and fits with Google's app standards, all-in-one place for common device settings.


Of all the apps listed here, Tasker is the one that provides more than just battery extension and task-killing. In fact, I would recommend this one to anyone who wants to help automate the Android experience.
In the area of battery life, I like Tasker; it allows me to set times for sleeping and disabling of connections. While I generally tend to plug my phone in overnight, Tasker has proven handy in cases where I do not. Besides time of day, other triggers include day and location; both are useful for people with set work schedules.

Tasker provides users with a myriad of automation options.Crafty Apps

I also appreciate the way Tasker lets me set my phone to handle media, texting, phone calls, and other Android functions. It might take a while to fully grasp the capabilities, but at $2.99, this one is a true set-it-and-forget-it app.

Viva Paper Towels

Many people consider Viva paper towels to be their brand of choice, and they are an excellent choice indeed. But one word of caution, if you have a paper towel holder that does not keep the roll together, then you are wise to shun the Vantage and stay with the regular. While the Vantage might have a somewhat superior picker-upper absorbency ability, you will find it quite annoying if you use a towel holder such as this appended to a wall or cabinet because one sheet will always be hanging down, which is somewhat unseemly and certainly is quite asthetically displeasing:

Image result for paper towel holder
The two versions of Viva look much alike so be sure to check whether or not the word "Vantage" apepars.

Image result for viva paper towelsImage result for viva paper towels

Monday, September 28, 2015

Rebooting a Locked Computer

If your computer freezes or just does not boot up to the desktop, rebooting will usually cure it. You can reboot in that event by holding the power button down until the computer reboots. If that does not work, then unplug the computer (if it's a desktop) or unplug and pull out the battery (if it's a laptop). That should do the trick to get you back and running, although it's a good idea in the first instance to boot into Safe Mode the first time by just hitting the F8 key as the computer boots. An additional prophylactic step then to take is to do a System Restore back to a time when the computer did boot correctly.

Images Stop Downloading in Chrome (and Other Browsers)

One day you might wake up and find that the NYT crossword puzzle is not appearing on the webpage you've opened every day for years since the puzzle became available online. The puzzle does appear in IE and if you use the IE extension, but you hate IE and don't want to do the extra click to get to the IE extension. Ignore the suggestions you might find in The Google. Just disable any ad blocker you might be running for that site, and schzam, the puzzle should come back. Why all of us sudden the ad blocker started blocking the puzzle is a complete mystery. Don't both asking the NYT tech people ... they are without a clue.

Catastrophe (2015) PS

Yup, the last three episodes were as good as the first three.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Actions to Take When Missing Sections of Sunday NYT

There are good, bad, and terrible things correlative to your Sunday NYT arriving with missing sections, including the Magazine. The good is that you can report it in the Member section online and get a credit for the missed delivery (use the email option if there were multiple missed sections). The bad is that there matters you might want to say, especially the Spelling Bee. The terrible thing is that, unless you subscribe separately to the crossword, you are out of luck unless you are able to arrange for a re-delivery or you go out and buy a complete paper (which isn't all bad because inexplicably the cost is $1 or more less than what you are charged and what you will be credited).

Once you are signed in to report the missed delivery, if you want to print the Spelling Bee, scroll down the page and click where noted to bring up the Replica Edition. You then can scroll to the Magazine/Puzzles/Spelling Bee and print it (as well as the answers).

For actually reading undelivered sections, using the NYT app (on your computer as well as on any smart device) makes for much easier reading than the Replica Edition except for the Magazine for which the Replica Edition is better. Here is the link to the app: NYT App

Catastrophe (2015)

Season 1 of a 6-episode (1/2 hour each) drama series is available for free on Amazon Prime Instant Video, and it would be worth watching even if there a charge to watch it. The language can be quite raunchy at times as can some of the scenes, but it is worth suffering through that to enjoy the story and interactions of the two main characters whom are just so likable even while people they encounter are just so unlikable. It is the story of an American man who gets an Irish woman pregnant in London while on a business trip, and how they handle it. How it turns out, I don't know because I've seen just 3 of the episodes, so don't blame me if it disappoints, but I doubt it will because the New Yorker has given the series a quite favorable review.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sweet Potato Fries

Who doesn't like sweet potato fries? While restaurant sweet potato fries are better than frozen ones you bake at home, the All Natural Alexia waffle cut seasoned sweet potato fries (served plain or with a ranch or Caesar dressing dip) are delicious, particularly when baked for slightly longer than the recipe calls for. Here is what to look for in your grocer's frozen food section:

All Natural Sweet Potato Waffle Fries

Don't Be a Schmohawk Traveler: Go Global Entry

Some people seem to get TSA Pre✔ all the time. Others get it on occasion. Others hardly ever, if at all. Now, you can assure yourself of getting TSA Pre✔ clearance every time, allowing you to go through a shorter TSA line, without having to take off your shoes or open your computer, and you will often clear customs faster. All the information you need including the benefits and instructions on applying are shown in this link: Link to Global Entry Website

Refrigerator Water Filters

Brand new refrigerator water filters for virtual all makes are available at the Filters Factory Outlet Store Website at prices that are 1/2 those found from the manufacturer or Amazon.

Link to Filters Factory Outlet Store Website

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Spencer's TV & Appliance (Phoenix Area)

Many consider Spencer's the best appliance store in the Valley taking into account price and service. Until now, their website was terrible. It still has a way to go (e.g., you have to call for prices and the filtering is just a B), but now you can see all the products they have.

Link to Spencer's Website

GMail Blocking Options

Gmail has various options to block senders of email both for computers and smart devices. Those options are explained here: Link to GMail Blocking Options

Amazon Prime Offer

Amazon Prime is $99/year. On September 25, 2015, Amazon is making Amazon Prime available for new customers at $67/year. Amazon Prime is terrific. If you don't have it, you should at least try it (I think there's a 30-day free-trial period) but be warned, free 2-day shipping and the ability to get same-day shipping is very addictive.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Clearing Outlook Inbox of Phantom Messages

It is not uncommon for your Outlook inbox to show an unread message when in fact no messages appear in the inbox. The Google will give describe much frustration in people looking for a solution and will describe a plethora of supposed solutions that do not work. There really is an easy fix: In the Search box of the inbox pane, type "read:no" without the quotes and hit enter, and, if the supposed unread message does not appear, use the pull-down menu to broaden the search. It will appear and just open it and the inbox will now not show any unread messages.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Smart Garage Door Openers

Some of us do not have the luxury to own (or the means to have) a garage. But, if you are one of those people lucky enough to have one, and not have to endure the shame of being a carport person, let's pray that you have a smart system. With it, even if you forget to close the garage door, it will close on its own. And if your electricity goes out, you will be relieved to find it works on battery backup. Here is one make/model: LinkMaster Website

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Arizona Inn (Tucson)

If you haven't stayed at the Arizona Inn since 1978, there's good news and not quite so good but not really bad news, and that is this: It hasn't changed much at all. It is as beautiful and serene as it was, a perfect place with its flowered gardens and courtyards for a wedding or a 90th birthday party, with an attentive staff, and excellent food (even if a bit pricey with a wine list that is more than a bit pricey). That said, it would be better that some things would change like some worn carpeting and chipped paint, although the rooms are still comfortable, and certainly the bathrooms have been updated and the TVs are flat-panels. Here is a word of definite caution: If you want a patio or a terrace, be certain that you specify such when you make your reservation, because otherwise, you likely will not get one. Finally, one curious note: When you check in, they will ask you if this is your fist stay, and whether your answer is, "no, I was here in 1978," or "no, I actually was here last night but in a different room," or "yes," there is no follow-up nor does the answer seem to make any difference. Bottom-line: Stepping back in time to a place that has remained wonderful can be pleasant indeed.

Link to Arizona Inn Website

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Data On Off Widget

If you have unlimited funds or an unlimited data package for your smart devices, you can ignore this post. Otherwise, you are well advised to have a data on/off widget so that the 3G/4G data link is turned off (especially when you are out of the country) when you don't really need it, e.g., when you have a wi-fi connection. It is a homescreen must so that with a tap or two, you can turn on or turn off your data connection, and avoid the risk of paying through the nose for data because data charges can cost an arm or a leg. Indeed, with some careful data use, you might find that you can get by with a much smaller data plan that will save you $30 or more per month on your wireless bill.

Until a few days ago, the best data on/off widget was Data ON-OFF that looked like this:
Cover art

Then, it was "updated" and it doesn't work correctly, it started showing ads and even you paid the 99-cents to get rid of them, they were still there. And good luck trying to get a refund or even a response to your request for a refund. After some crash research by our crack tech team, we now recommend Mobile Data On Off which is free and looks like this:
Cover art
It takes two taps instead of one (the second tap is a double-check that you really do want to turn on or off the data connection), but it's simple and clean and works perfectly.

Link to Mobile Data On Off Download

Packing for Trips Is So Yesterday

With crowded planes and security issues, unless you have your own jet or jet service, traveling is a real hassle these days. While travel apps (e.g., GPS) and new technology (smart suitcases) have been very helpful, packing and carrying your clothing has remained burdensome. Until now: With Dufl, you pack once, and then you never have to pack or schlep a bag again. It's not free, but it's a God-send:
Once you’ve registered in the DUFL app, you’ll receive a notification that your first DUFL bag and welcome kit are on their way to you. Once received, just pack the clothes you’d normally take on your business trips. Pack as much or as little as you like. Your clothes will be stored at the DUFL facility in your virtual closet, and since there won’t be size or weight restrictions to worry about, you can send as many clothing items as you like when you travel. You can also include full-sized toiletries, with the exception of aerosols. Once your DUFL bag is packed, simply log into the app and schedule a pick up, affix the shipping label to the FedEx luggage tag supplied and wrap around the luggage handle. Dufl will send someone to pick up your bag. After your bag is picked up, it will be shipped to DUFL's warehouse for processing. That’s where Dufl will have your clothes inventoried, professionally cleaned and safely stored in your DUFL virtual closet. With DUFL, you can send as many items as you like to your virtual closet and select only the items you’d like to bring for each trip within the app. There are several different ways to change the items in your closet. You can add or remove items from your bag any time it’s with you, ship individual items directly to your closet or request a welcome kit, and Dufl will send you a new suitcase to fill. Want to swap out the contents of an entire bag? Just schedule a new trip to your home and replace your current items with anything you like.
Link to Dufl Website and App Download Site

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Art of Farecasting

[Courtesy of the NYT]

A handful of new and updated websites and apps are trying to perfect the art of what’s known as farecasting — predicting the best date to buy a ticket. Distinct from flight-booking sites like Hotwire, farecasting tools such as Flyr, Skypicker, Hopper, and Kayak advise travelers on whether to buy now or later. I’m also including Google Flights, which allows travelers to see if they can save money by departing days or weeks later, or by flying into or out of a different airport.

The sites and apps are free. And in most cases, users are instructed to book through the airline, or airlines if they decide to buy a “hacker fare” (more on that shortly).

My go-to tool is Google Flights. It’s swift yet comprehensive. And it has the essential filters (like fare class and stops) but requires few keystrokes to unearth all that information. Plug your travel dates into the search box and monthly calendars pop up with fares on each day (green fares are lowest), so you’ll instantly know if you should tweak your arrival or departure to score a better deal.

Google Flights is also my top pick because it makes searching for premium economy, business and first class fares simpler than most of its competitors, thanks to a drop-down menu on its landing page. Enter your dates, click on the fare class menu, and you’ll see the lowest price for each class. A recent search for an October flight from New York to San Francisco showed the lowest economy fare as $337. For premium economy it was $737, and for business and first class it was $982. A “tip” at the top of the page said I could knock $208 off the business-class fare by leaving a day later and returning two days later.

The site works smoothly on smartphones as well, but if you often browse flights on your phone, you may also want to try Hopper, which introduced an Android version of its iOS app last month.

A few caveats: Hopper doesn’t turn up flights by American Airlines and US Airways (they don’t share flight data with Hopper), so you can’t one-stop shop. And because the app is focused on the lowest price, it’s not ideal if you primarily search for premium economy, business or first class seats.

That said, the app is intuitive to use. I selected my departure and arrival airports and up popped color-coded fare calendars. Green dates had the best deals from New York to San Francisco ($325) and red dates had the most costly fares ($750). A summary noted that good deals for nonstop flights started around $350; flights with stops averaged about $50 less.

When I selected my October dates, the app said the lowest round-trip fare was $341. “This isn’t a great price,” the app noted, “but you will likely pay more if you wait.” (A price prediction scale said fares were expected to climb at least $195 after Oct. 4.) Under “tips,” the app said that if I changed my return date by one day, I could save $31; or $20 if I flew into Oakland instead of San Francisco International.

If you’re not ready to buy, or if the app says the fare is likely to fall, click “watch this trip” to receive fare alerts. Last month Hopper introduced QuickTap Booking, which allows travelers who use the “watch this trip” feature to book their flight within the app, something most competitors do not offer. Book this way and you receive a confirmation number to use on the airline’s website or app to manage your frequent flier status, select your seat and purchase upgrades and priority access. If, however, you want to know where you’re sitting before you buy (I do), book directly with the airline.

For those who like to get creative, some farecasting tools encourage users to combine flights from different airlines.ontinue reading the main story

Kayak (which analyzes historical price changes to predict if fares will rise or fall) refers to these as “hacker fares,” and while it has offered them for years, this will be news to some travelers. Shopping here is the most fun when you use filters such as “flight quality,” which allows you to see, say, flights with Wi-Fi. Here too is where you can filter for “hacker fares”: those that combine one-way tickets to or from a destination on different airlines, resulting in occasional bargains.

If this intrigues you, then check out Skypicker, a Czech start-up that finds combinations of flights among airlines such as Spirit and United. For instance, the site turned up flights from New York for an October weekend in Chicago for around $140 using JetBlue and US Airways.

Another nascent contender, Flyr, also advises travelers when to pounce. There are nifty graphs, and I see the potential, though Flyr has some shortcomings. The site can feel confusing; there are few options on the landing page; and American Airlines flights didn’t show up in my searches, to name a few.

One thing that distinguishes Flyr is that it allows undecided users to temporarily lock in a fare with no commitment to purchase the ticket (the few bucks you pay to lock in the fare are nonrefundable). That’s helpful. Flyr will refund you up to $200 if your fare increases in that period and let you keep the lower price if the fare goes down. Note though that in some of my searches it was cheaper to lock in the fare directly on the airline’s website. For instance, to hold the same United round-trip flight for seven days was $11 on Flyr and $8.99 on Lock in the fare through the airline’s site and if the price goes up, you’ve already secured the lower fare. If it goes down, you don’t have to buy the ticket you’re holding. Just book a new one at the lower price.

Still, if, like me, you enjoy airfare hunting, it’s probably worth revisiting Flyr when it has matured.

Whatever farecasting tool you try, check the number of stops, time between connections, and trip duration (flights that are normally two hours can become 20 hours with layovers on some sites). No fare is a deal if you have to sprint through an airport only to miss the next leg of your trip, or spend more time flying from coast to coast than to Asia.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Safeway's "Organics" Brand

Safeway offers many organic foods under its Organics label that looks like this:

Image result for safeway o organics

If you assume organic food is always more expensive than its non-organic counter-part, that would be a mistaken assumption. For example, Safeway's organic stoned wheat thins are $1 less than non-organic stoned wheat thins.

Schmitt Jewelers (Phoenix)--Fuhgeddaboudit!

When Smitt Jewelers was at 7th Street and Glendale, it was a wonderful establishment to deal with. You were greeted by friendly people and every effort was made to provide excellent service. Now that they've moved to their new hoity toity location at 44th Street and Camelback, they apparently think snootiness and aloofness are the way to go. I was particularly chagrined being a loyal customer for 30+ years, having my watch battery changed by no one else. It had always been done within minutes of my popping into the store, and had always cost $10. Today, when I presented my watch, I was told, "There is no one here who can do it now. You'll have to leave it and come back tomorrow." Seeing all the people behind the glass wall with sophisticated equipment, I blurted out, in a polite voice, but stunned tone, "You're kidding. There's no one here who can do that?" As the greeter kept saying, "that's correct," I kept saying, "I don't understand." The greeter then said that the battery changer won't be in until later, at which point I asked, "Are you saying not one of the six people here can do it?" At that point, one of guys from behind the glass wall heard this, and grumbled, without making eye contact with me, "I'll do it." Less than a minute later I had my watch back, and was charged $15. The greeter then gave me this explanation: "We used to change batteries when the watch was brought in, but we don't do that any more. That's the reason I told you would have to come back tomorrow." That goes down as the second worst explanation I've ever heard, the first being a former gardener guy who, after I questioned his bill, said: "I've decided to downsize my clientele. So, I won't be able to cut your lawn anymore."

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tracing Emails

When you receive an email message, the message also includes a set of information called the "headers", which tells you precisely how the message found its way from the sender's mail server to your inbox. Chances are, the mail will have traveled through more than one additional server, and those headers will give you the full story.
Being able to examine an email's headers is useful when you're trying to troubleshoot problems, such as finding the origin of an annoying spam message or if you want to know why your email is taking so long to arrive in your inbox. Where is the delay occurring? Is it with your email provider, or further up the chain?
Unfortunately, email headers, while easy to obtain, are difficult to understand. They're not in a user-friendly format. Thankfully, there are a number of web-based systems into which you can paste a set of headers and receive back the data in a much more usable form. My favorite is MX Toolbox. Just paste the header data into the form on the page, press the button, and get the results pretty much instantly.
This just leaves the issue of how to find the headers attached to a message. This varies according to the email provider or program that you're using. In the case of Gmail, just open a message and then, in the drop-down menu on the right hand side, choose Show Original.

Link to MxToolBox Website

iOS 9

If I had an iPhone or iPad, I would be jazzed about upgrading to iOS9. Here (courtesy of cnet) is what you need to know if you do own an Apple product.

Apple first announced iOS 9, the mobile operating system that runs on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad lineups. The update refines Apple's vision of a mobile computing experience, adding features such as running two apps at the same time on the iPad or markup features for signing documents in the Mail app. The list of new features is long.
You can learn the ins and outs of the new OS by visiting our complete guide to iOS 9.
While iOS 9 has been available as a public beta for the past few months, Apple plans on making it publicly available starting Wednesday, September 16. Once available, anyone with a supported iOS device (more on that in a minute) can download and install the OS.


The general rule of thumb here is, if your device is capable of running iOS 8, it'll run iOS 9. You can check the version of iOS your device is currently running by launching the Settings app, then tapping on General followed by About and looking at the number on the Version line.
If you have any lingering doubt, this list should clear it right up. See your device in this chart? It can run iOS 9.

Routine maintenance

With an update incoming, now's a good time to perform a little routine maintenance on your iOS device. Start by taking an inventory of the apps you have installed on your device and uninstalling anything you haven't used in the last couple of months. This both frees up precious storage space and declutters your home screen.
Additionally, it's a good idea to remove any old photos and videos eating up space on your device (You shouldn't be keeping them there anyway.). Rick Broida offers a few services you can use for backing up your phones. And there's always the option of syncing your device to your computer with a cable.

Backups are important

Before updating, you'll want to have a current backup of your device. You have two options, iCloud or iTunes.
Technically, your device should be backing up your device every night while its charging, but it's not a bad idea to have a backup made moments before you hit the update button. Launch the Settings app, tap on iCloud, then scroll down until you find the Backup option and tap on it. A Backup Now button will become active after a brief moment, which you'll want to tap on. Make sure you're connected to Wi-Fi and have your iOS device charging.
Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET
Using iTunes to backup your device just as easy, if not a bit more time consuming. Launch iTunes and connect your iOS device via a USB cable. A device icon will appear next to the various category icons along the top of the iTunes window. Select your device, and then from the summary tab select This Computer. Additionally, check the box next to Encrypt backup and enter a password when prompted. By encrypting the backup you can forgo having to re-enter passwords should you need to restore your device.

Time to update

With a current backup, you can update with peace of mind should anything go wrong you can restore your device and not lose everything.
The process for updating to iOS 9 can be done via iTunes, or directly on your device. Either way, you should plan on setting aside about an hour where for your device to run through the update process.

Launch-day jitters

With any new software launch, there's always a chance complications will surface. If you're not the type who wants to spend time troubleshooting issues, it's best to wait a few days after release to update. You're really not going to miss out on anything.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Additional Security Program: Voodoo Shield

I've recently been trying out a new (to me, anyway) piece of PC security software called Voodoo Shield. It aims to warn you if a program or web site is trying to install any new software or component without your knowledge. And my results seem to suggest that it actually does a very good job.
When you first install Voodoo Shield it takes a quick inventory of all the installed software on your computer, including browser add-ins and anything else that could be regarded as a program. This only takes a few seconds. Once this is done, the program sits quietly in the background waiting for you to open a web browser. As soon as you do, VS springs into action and watches to see if any new program is about to be installed on your PC. If this happens, it blocks it by default. You don't have to do anything, except to click on the warning message if you're sure you want to allow the installation. Assuming you don't (and you probably don't), just carry on surfing, safe in the knowledge that Voodoo Shield has just protected your PC.
Voodoo Shield works happily alongside your existing antivirus software so there's nothing to uninstall. The program is a 4 MB download from Link to Download and is malware-free according to VirusTotal and Web of Trust.
Note that the current version doesn't support the Edge browser on Windows 10, but this is presumably on its way (there's a new release currently in beta). Otherwise, it seems to work very well. The screen shot shows me (on my test PC) clicking on a video player plugin that's clearly designed to look like an Official Adobe add-in, which Voodoo Shield correctly identified and blocked.
Although VS costs $19.99 per year, the basic version (which does everything I've described so far) is free for non-commercial use.

Friday, September 11, 2015

They've Got to Be Kidding!

Here are the finalists for this week's New Yorker Cartoon Contest:

As big an upset as Serena's loss in the semi-finals of the US Open, it is stunning, indeed jaw-droppingly stunning, that this entry did not win:

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Repositioning Cruises

While not for everyone, and they go only from Point A to Point B (e.g., Alaska to Hawaii), so you have to get to Point A on your own and get back from Point B on your own, but re-positioning cruises can be fantastic bargains. You will be aboard the best cruise liners at a fraction of the normal cost (e.g., 25%). Just put "Repositioning Cruises" (without the quotes) into The Google and you will find a plethora of information. Here are two good websites to find a re-positioning cruise that might work for you:

Link to Vacations To Go Website

Link to Repositioning Cruises Website

My Old Lady (2014)

Many people cannot forgive Maggie Smith for the role she played in the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. But, it's been 45 years since then, and anyone who reaches their 90s, and is still acting, and able to turn in a stellar performance, is to be cut some slack, so get over it. Many people also might have trouble with Kevin Kline in the somber role he plays, but he is to be cut some slack because he's so likable, so get over it. My Old Lady is not the best movie made, and it's slow at times, and it's predictable in some ways, but not in the important way. If you understand why Mrs. Robinson did what she did in The Graduate, and you understand Oedipus Rex, you will appreciate the tension of this movie. It's definitely worth watching (and free for Amazon Prime members).

IMDb Link to My Old Lady

Smartphone Scanners

[From cnet]

Best scanning app for iOS: Evernote Scannable

Evernote, the popular note-taking service, has built a fantastic free scanning app called Scannable. It's useful for scanning receipts, business cards and in particular, printed documents.
That's because the app uses optical character recognition (OCR), which can detect the letters and numbers on whatever you scan so that you can search for words or phrases within the scanned digital document. The app's OCR feature works automatically, analyzing documents for words and characters as you make the scan. It also uses this feature to pull information from a business card, like emails and phone numbers, so you can save it to your phone. It's one of the best solutions I've found for digitizing business cards.
Evernote Scannable in action.Josh Miller/CNET
What makes Scannable so great is that it's foolproof to use. All you need to do is open the app and point your camera at what you want to scan. The app does the rest of the work by searching the camera's field of view for a sheet of paper, automatically focusing the shot and taking a photo. Move on to another piece of paper if you have a multipage document and Scannable will combine them together and let you delete scanned pages you don't want to or need.
It then quickly edits the scan to improve the contrast and brightness to make it as clear and readable as possible. If you'd rather not have it automatically scan anything in the camera's field of view, there's a manual capture mode too.
You can set the app to automatically save any scans directly to your Evernote account or manually export them to your iCloud storage or the Camera Roll in the Photos app. You can also choose to share scans in a message, email or other apps on your phone. The biggest downside of Scannable is that it doesn't really keep a list of previous scans. You'll need to save or discard a scan once you've captured it in order to save or share a new one.

Best scanning app for Android: CamScanner

For scanning documents with your phone, it's very hard to beat CamScanner. This free app covers all the basics, plus much more.
The app uses your phone's camera to scan printed documents, receipts, business cards and even words and doodles on a whiteboard. When you finish a scan, CamScanner analyzes the content of the image to automatically organize everything by type. That means, all of your business card scans are saved in one folder, while documents go in another. As an added bonus, the app also lets you create scans from photos you've previously taken. Most importantly, the scan quality is stellar, though your mileage may vary by your phone's camera.
CamScannerJosh Miller/CNET
Once you've captured an image, there are tons of ways to edit it by adjusting the color, contrast or brightness, or by cropping the image. You add can watermarks and annotations too, plus add tags so you can search for scans later. There are also built-in collaboration tools, where you can invite other people to make edits to your scans. The list of features goes on, including search and connections to popular cloud storage services, like Dropbox or Google Drive.
Like Scannable, CamScanner has OCR, but you'll need to download a plugin to use it. With OCR, you can search documents by keywords or phrases, which works phenomenally. You can also use OCR to export and edit text from your scans, but to this you'll need upgrade to the full version of the app, which is $4.99 (£3.99, AU$6.49). It's currently $1.99 (£0.79, AU$1.29) at the time of publishing.
You'll need to create an account to use the app, but this lets you upload your scans automatically to CamScanner's website, which makes it really easy to get them on your computer. CamScanner is also available for Windows Phone and iOS.