Thursday, April 28, 2016

Firewalls

If you don't have an upgraded firewall, get one. Tiny Wall is an excellent free one. It's a little weird to set up but it's free. In many ways, it's a beautiful wall.

Link to Tiny Wall Download

Lock and Wiping a Lost Cellphone or Tablet for Free

Here are 7 apps that locate, lock, and wipe your lost smart device, at least some of which are free:
Link to Explanatory Article

Charging an iPad Pro

I don't know anyone who has an iPad Pro, but anyone who does complains about the long charging time. If you're one of them, buy the now-available 29w charging cable (it does not come standard and it does not work on any other iOS device). It will cut the charging time in half (from 5+h to 2.5h), and it will go from 0% to 80% charge in 1.5h.

Cool Google Map Feature

Say you want to drive from the Philadelphia International Airport to a particular hotel in New Jersey and either you forgot your GPS device or didn't have room to pack it or just didn't want to take it. A very easy way to get driving instructions is to put your Departure Place and your Destination Place into the Google with the word "to" (without the quotes) into The Google. It will immediately draw you a map and step-by-step directions, which you can print, and it will ask you if you would like them emailed or texted to your phone or any other device.

Siren Apps

With Spring in the air, fine walking places are awash with adorable new ducklings and rabbits, not to mention coyotes. Say you are strolling down a canal path and a coyote jumps out of the flora onto the path and gives you the evil eye. You might back away and the coyote, sensing your fear, might keep approaching you. You could charge it if you have the nerve or throw a rock at it if you've been carrying a rock. Or, easiest and most effective of all, pull out your phone and tap your Siren App, and watch the coyote take immediately flight. There are scads of free siren apps (just type Siren into Play or iTunes), each of which comes with all kinds of life-saving sirens. You can also use them as ringtones if you have trouble hearing your phone ring.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Confirm Delete Text Messages

Many people do not delete text messages or text threads or any other communications (e.g., email). Those might just stop reading here. Of those that do like deleting such, many hate having to confirm the deletion. In most email and other programs, there will be a setting to eliminate the need to confirm deletes. But in most if not all standard texting apps, there is no such setting. Sorry.

Need for Pure Anti-Virus Protection

If your anti-malware does not include a pure anti-virus program, it really needs to. Two free ones and highly-recommended ones are Avira and EsetsNOD32, each of which has paid versions as well.

Link to Avira Download

Link to Esets NOD32 Download

Monday, April 25, 2016

Chase Southwest Credit Card Accommodation

Say you got telephone service in connection with your Chase Southwest credit card. It might take you a while, and a couple of transfers, and a threat to use a different card for your auto-pays, but if your complaint is justified, and you stick to your guns, you might be able to get an "accommodation." Such an "accommodation" might be 4,000 frequent flier miles or  more. Most important, don't be deterred if, before you get to the correct supervisor, you are told nothing can be done. The same is likely true in dealing with other credit cards.

Cox Mini-Box Set-Up and Remotes

The Cox Mini-Box (which you will need for any TV that gets it feed directly from a coax cable) is a snap to set-up and the remote is a snap to program. The process takes fewer than 5 minutes per television. So, there is no reason to waste $39.99 in paying for a "professional installation." The mini-box will ship to you by FedEx overnight the day after you order it. One thing: Each mini-box comes with just one remote. So, if you like to have a remote on each end-table at the end of your viewing sofa or each end-table beside the bed for any bedroom TV, you will need to get a second remote. According to a Cox Forum Advisor, extra remotes are available at stores or upon email request to cox.help@cox.com. When, in response to your first email request you get a message saying in effect, "we don't give out extra remotes," you have two choices: (i) Email back to call Cox and say your remote does not work, please send a replacement; or (ii) if you prefer an honest approach, email back explaining what an inconvenience it would be, say something like this: "  It would be VERY inconvenient for me not to have two remotes for our bedroom TV, so that one can be on my side of the bed and the other on my wife’s side of the bed. More important, could you please tell me when Cox changed its policy of sending customers an extra remote upon request. See http://forums.cox.com/forum_home/tv_forum/f/4/t/12752.aspx  where a Cox forum rep said Cox would supply an extra remote upon request." That likely will get you a "courtesy" replacement remote, or even two extra remotes because two reps read your plaint and each sent you another remote.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Night Manager (2016)

The West Wing on AMC will not be back. Hugh Laurie, perhaps the best actor of our time, has been gone from the small screen for way too long, but great news: he's back, and on a fabulous series on AMC: The Night Manager. So far, only one episode has aired, but it is terrific. It takes a truly novel approach to and allows for fascinating insights into international intrigue, with great actors and spot-on casting, great sets, tight dialogue, and beautiful scenery. It might or might not sit with you that Hugh Laurie plays the "worst person in the world," but he's chilling and riveting. Set your DVRs boys and girls, this is must-see TV.

IMDb Link to The Night Manager

Friday, April 22, 2016

Cox Strikes Again

Beginning early May, the Cox TV signals will start transitioning to being digital only. That means, no picture will appear on any TV that is connected just by coax cable. Rather, for a TV to work, it will need to be connected to a Cox cable box or a Cox mini-box or have a Cox cable card installed in it. The first mini-box will be free for the first year, and each additional mini-box will cost $2.99/month. You can order them online or pick them up at a Cox store (which is not recommended because of the inordinate wait time one typically encounters). A Cox cable card costs $1.99, but you also have to have a TV with a cable card slot, which your TVs likely don't have, and buying a cable-carded TV is not a cost-effective alternative.

The down-side of the mini-box is obvious: Your monthly Cox bill just went up again.There is much outrage about this in general, and specifically the idea of forcing a rental rather than allowing customers to buy mini-boxes. This outrage was expressed well in a recent letter to the Arizona Republic by one of our loyal subscribers. The text of that letter appears below.

At the same time, there are some technical advantages to the mini-boxes and for some there might even be a net cost savings. The technical advantages are that the mini-boxes will produce a sharper picture especially for HD channels and the Cox Schedule Guide will be available. As to cost savings, anyone using a cable box that does not need a DVR service, can use a mini-box instead which would represent a savings of about $5/month.

In the meantime, here is the text of the referenced letter of outrage:

"As the Republic reported today (at 14A), Cox TV is converting to all-digital signals this summer. As a result, any TV that runs directly from the coax cable will not work. Instead, for a TV to show a picture, it must be connected to a cable box or mini-box or have a cable card installed. During a promotion period, the first mini-box will be free, while any additional mini-boxes will cost $2.99/month. So, for any family with more than one TV, they will see their monthly bills rise by $2.99 per month per TV. No one disputes that Cox is entitled to make money on its services. But when it comes to needed add-on equipment, it is outrageous that Cox imposes a monthly rental fee and does not allow customers to buy the mini-boxes outright and does not allow others to sell mini-boxes so that there might be competition for mini-box sales. In essence, Cox has taken us back to the Ma Bell days when customers had to rent their phones for a monthly charge from AT&T. It sure was a boon for customers when Ma Bell’s monopoly was broken up and people could buy phones. It sure is a shame for customers that Cox gets to emulate Ma Bell’s greedy practices."

Breaking in a New Battery

If you're lucky or smart enough to have a cellphone with a replaceable battery, putting in a new battery often can breathe new life into your aging phone. Two tips: (i) After you pull out the old battery, before inserting the new one, hold the power button down for about 30 seconds, which will clear the circuitry; and (ii) let the new battery nearly drain three times before you re-charge it while it is at a level where re-charging is not necessary.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Fix Syncing Stoppage

Sometimes, your phone or tablet's email will stop syncing. Sometimes, everything (e.g., time/date, calendar, Evernote, etc.) will stop syncing. You can research and try the mind-boggling number of suggestions The Google will give you, or you can first try two simple fixes: (i) turn off the phone, pull out the battery, hold the power button down for 30 seconds, re-insert the battery, and startup the phone; and (ii) if that doesn't work, do the same thing but put in a new battery instead. More often than not, the syncing problem will be solved.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Stop Worrying About Lost Documents

I just heard from someone who lost her birth certificate in an airport. Why she was even carrying the birth certificate is one of those mysteries of the ages. The next day she spent hours on the phone trying to locate it, and she actually did, and it's being mailed to her. Not surprisingly, she's not a subscribed reader of this blog. Here's moral of the story: You can recover such things online in a matter of minutes. For example, at the VitalCheck website, you can order up birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage and divorce records. Here's the key point to remember: Always think internet first.

Link to VitalCheck Website

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Uninstall Quicktime for Windows Immediately

If you have Apple Quicktime for Windows installed on your PC, you need to consider removing it as soon as you can. A couple of serious security bugs have recently been discovered in the product, which could allow someone to gain access to your PC. However, while Apple still supports Quicktime for the Mac, the Windows version is no longer supported and so the bugs will not be fixed. Unless you absolutely need Quicktime, to play content that no other program can handle on your computer, now is the time to uninstall it.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Television Redefined: Molotov

[Prefatory Note: This applies only in France, but we are noting it because of ever-expanding readership in France, which has the most number of page views after the United States]

Television is about to revolutionized in France with the Molotov App. It's all explained here: Link to Explanatory Article

Thursday, April 14, 2016

ETF Bond Funds With Set Maturity Dates (Critical Caveat)

If you have any interest in ETF Bond Funds with set maturity dates, which were the subject of an April 6, 2016 post, be sure you know what, if any, brokerage fees will be charged. Even a small fee can chew up the expected yield, making such an investment a terrible one compared to FDIC-insured CDs.

Reasons to Buy Cellphones With Removable Batteries

Here are the main reasons you should get a phone with a removable battery. 
  • If your phone is frozen.
A lot can be said about the advantages of modern day cell phones, but due to the complexity of the way they work they sometimes freezes. No matter what you do it simply won’t respond. The fastest and easiest fix for this problem is to remove the battery for a second. This way ,when you reenter the battery and boot your phone again it will most likely work like a charm again. If it does not you will most likely have to buy a new phone or have it sent to a service center.
  • Waterdamage.
The first thing you should do if your phone gets wet is to remove the battery. This way you will minimize the chances of your phone being ruined forever. If you can get the battery out before something shorts out you will be on the right track towards saving your phone. The next thing you should so is to put it in a bowl of dry rice for a few days. Through the miracle of osmosis, the rice will “pull” the water out of your phone.
  • Batteries deteriorates.
As your battery charges it slowly deteriorates. After a year or two your battery will most likely have lost much of it’s ability to retain that all important battery juice. If you got a phone with a replaceable battery you could simply buy a new one and replace it quite simply. If your battery is unreachable you will likely have to pay someone a lot of money to have it replaced or even more expensive option, buy a new phone.
  • Emergency battery
Lots of phones has power saving features built into their system. Some phones can actually last for weeks using these features. But it’s going to limit the way you interact with your phone. Most times these power saving modes will have you going without Wi-Fi and lots of other goodies we have come to take for granted. To prevent this from happening you could rather get a spare battery to get you through the day. Having a spare battery on a phone that has a non removable battery is … well useless.
  • Untraceable.
Supposed you would like to get of the grid for whatever reason, and you would like to bring your phone with your. Remove the battery. This way your phone will stop transmitting, due to the lack of power.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

External Keyboard Stops Working

Before trying any of the fancy shmancy supposed fixes you might find on The Google, do a Restore function to a date when the keyboard was working. It's far easier and far less expensive than buying and trying three other keyboards.

Chatbots

If you're not using Chatbots to simplify your life, I don't know what to say, although I suspect you might still be driving your grandparents' Buick. Chatbots are virtual assistants that you can text-message to get food delivered, find a movie, and perform many other everyday tasks. You can use your phone's native SMS (or a messaging app) -- you don't have to download or open other apps, and in most cases you sign up with your phone number. The linked article explains simply and easily 10 things you should consider doing with Chatbots.

Link to Explanatory Article

Siri Commands

[Courtesy of cnet]
Hardly anyone actually uses Siri. But,there's a lot you can do with Apple's virtual assistant -- and some things you can't do. For example, while Siri can send texts, search Twitter, and open up your front-facing camera, she can't adjust your device's volume (something OK Google can do). Apple hasn't published a complete list of Siri commands, though you can find a fairly comprehensive guide to Siri's abilities inside Siri herself (open up Siri and say "Help" to see what she can do). So here's our unofficial guide to Siri commands and questions.
Hey Siri
There are a few ways to get Siri's attention.
  • Press and hold the home button to activate Siri and issue her a command or ask her a question.
  • If you're using Apple's Earpods, press and hold the center button to activate Siri and issue her a command or ask her a question.
  • If you have Hey Siri enabled, say "Hey, Siri" when your iPhone is plugged in and charging, followed by a command or question.
The basics
  • Call or FaceTime someone. Ex.: "Call Sarah," or "FaceTime Mom."
  • Call an emergency number. Ex.: "Call 911," or "Call the fire department."
  • Check voice mail. Ex.: "Do I have any new voice mail?" or "Play the voice mail from Mom."
  • Text someone. Ex.: "Tell [name] I am on my way," or "Tell [name] I am going to the store."
  • Send an email. Ex.: "Send email to [name] about [subject] and say [message]."
  • Hear your messages or emails read aloud. Ex.: "Read my new messages," or "Check email."
  • Set a timer. Ex.: "Set the timer for 10 minutes."
  • Check the weather. Ex.: "What's the weather like today?" or "Do I need an umbrella?"
  • Check stocks. Ex.: "What's Apple's stock price?" or "Where's the NASDAQ today?"
  • Conversions (of all kinds). Ex.: "How many cups are in a quart?" or "How many dollars are in a Euro?" or "How many pounds are in a stone?"
  • Calculate tips. Ex.: "What is a 20 percent tip on $68?"
  • Solve math problems. Ex.: "What is 234 divided by 6?" or "What is the square root of 16?"
Phone/Settings
  • Take a picture.
  • Take a selfie.
  • Turn on/off [Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Cellular Data, Airplane Mode, Do Not Disturb, Night Shift]
  • Increase/decrease brightness.
  • Open [app].
  • Designate contacts as relationships. Ex.: "My mom is Sandy Jacobsson," or "Timmy Jacobsson is my brother." Once a relationship is established, you can say relationships instead of names (e.g., "Call my brother," instead of "Call Timmy Jacobsson").
Scheduling and reminders
  • Schedule or cancel a meeting. Ex.: "Schedule a meeting with [name] tomorrow at 11:30 a.m." or "Cancel my 5 p.m. appointment."
  • What appointments do I have tomorrow?
  • Set location-aware reminders. Ex.: "Remind me to remember my keys when I leave," or "Remind me to feed the dog when I get home."
  • Find out the date and day of the week of holidays. Ex.: "When is Easter?" or "When is Labor Day?"
  • Set alarms. Ex.: "Set an alarm for 1 a.m." or "Set an alarm for six hours from now."
  • Delete/turn off all alarms. Ex. "Delete all alarms" or "Turn off all alarms."
  • Check the number of days between dates. Ex.: "How many days until October 6?" or "How many days between April 3 and June 16?"
  • Find out what time it is in another city. Ex.: "What time is it in Tokyo?"
Search
  • Define [word].
  • What is a synonym for [word]?
  • What's the etymology of [word]?
  • Find photos. Ex.: "Show me photos from last week," or "Show me my selfies," or "Show me photos from Tokyo."
  • Search Twitter. Ex.: "What's Kylie Jenner saying?" or "Search Twitter for [keyword]."
  • Find specific notes or emails. Ex.: "Find my note about [keyword]," or "Find emails about [keyword]."
  • Find your friends (if you have "Find My Friends" set up). Ex.: "Where is Ron?" or "Who is near me?"
  • Find pictures of [keyword].
  • Find apps. Ex.: "Get the Twitter app," or "Search the App Store for word games."
Navigation
  • Take me home.
  • What's traffic like on the way home?
  • Find [driving, walking, transit] directions to [destination].
  • How do I get to [destination] by [walking, bus, bike, car, train, etc.]?
  • Where is [business name]?
  • Where is the nearest [business type]?
  • Find out how long until you arrive. Ex.: "What's my ETA?"
  • How much does gas cost right now?
Entertainment
  • Sports updates. Ex.: "Did the Tigers win?" or "What was the score the last time the Tigers played the Yankees?" or "How did the Tigers do last night?"
  • Info about a sport or sports team. Ex.: "What basketball games are on today?" or "Get me college football rankings" or "Show me the roster for the Red Wings."
  • Find movie times and locations. Ex.: "What's playing at Regal L.A. Live?" or "What are some movies playing near me?" or "Is [movie name] playing near me?"
  • Find out what song is playing in the room (through Shazam). Ex.: "What song is this?"
  • What's the synopsis of [movie name]?
Music/Apple Music
  • Basic controls: Play, pause/stop, skip/next, play previous song.
  • Play [artist] or [song name] or [playlist] or [album].
  • 'Like' the song you're listening to. Ex.: "Like this song."
  • Shuffle my [playlist name] playlist.
  • Choose the next song. Ex.: "After this, play Wildest Dreams."
  • Find chart-toppers from certain years. Ex.: "Play the top songs from 2013."
  • Play songs that are similar to the one you're listening to. Ex.: "Play more like this."
  • What song is this?
  • Buy this song.
Travel
  • Check flight status. Ex.: "Check flight status of [airline and flight number]"
  • Find restaurants and make reservations. Ex.: "What's a good Chinese restaurant near me?" or "Make a reservation at Baco Mercat for 7 p.m." or "Find a table for six in San Francisco tonight."
  • Find a business' hours. Ex.: "How late is [business name] open?" or "Is [business name] open right now?"
  • Learn about the area you're in. Ex.: "What's the nearest museum?" or "Where am I?" or "What bridge is this?"
Random tips and tricks
  • Find out what airplanes are currently flying above you. Ex.: "What airplanes are above me?"
  • Roll a die or roll two dice.
  • Flip a coin.
  • What is your favorite color?
  • Tell me a joke.
  • What does the fox say?
  • Knock knock.
  • Who's on first?
  • Why did the chicken cross the road?
  • What is zero divided by zero?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Stopping Google Pages (Gmail and Google Calender) From Unnecessarily Re-loading

If you keep your Gmail or Google Calendar tabs open but don't click on them for a while, when you do, you might see them then re-load even though nothing has changed. We know how annoying the re-loading wait-time of 5 seconds or longer can be. So, we put our Chrome Tab Team to work, and here's what appears to be the fix: Type "chrome://flags/#automatic-tab-discarding" (without the quotes) into the Address (URL) bar, hit enter and change the setting from Default to Disabled.

Free Relief from Petya Ransomware

[Courtesy of The Comment]

The Petya ransomware appeared around March 25 and worked very differently from any other ransomware. Already it has made quite a reputation for itself, especially for its ability to encrypt the Master File Table (MFT) on an infected machine. Once executed with Windows administrator privileges, Petya rewrites the master boot record on the computer's hard drive, crashes the operating system and on restart, scrambles the data on the disk while masquerading as the CHKDSK file consistency utility.

"To use Leostone's decryption tool you will need attach the Petya affected drive to another computer and extract specific data from it. The data that needs to be extracted is 512-bytes starting at sector 55 (0x37h) with an offset of 0 and the 8 byte nonce from sector 54 (0x36) offset: 33 (0x21)". Since researchers noticed that the ransomware does not communicate with a server in any way, they understood that the encryption process is all self-contained locally and moved on to inspect the virus in order to find a way around its encryption system. 

A cure for Petya ransomware has been invented by an unknown user who goes by the name of Leo Stone. He even created two websites where victims can go and obtain the decryption password. Using data recovery tools to reconstruct files might be possible, but it is not guaranteed to work perfectly and would be time-consuming. If that sounds complicated, no worries: Fabian Wosar from security firm Emsisoft created a simple and free tool that can do it for you. Hopefully that will never happen to you, but if it does then you should thank two security researchers for coming up with free solutions to save the day and your hard drive.

Lawrence Abrams at BleepingComputer.com says to use the algorithm, it's best to visit Leo Stone's website to generate the key. As a result, without the decryption password, the infected computer wouldn't boot up, and all files on the startup disk were inaccessible. Once it reaches the ransom screen, just enter the password in the appropriate section and press Enter. If your infected computer has multiple drives, you should only remove the boot drive, or C:\ drive, from your computer. Victims who need extra help can ask it via Bleeping Computer and its tech support forums The Comment http://bsccomment.com/2016/04/12/experts-crack-nasty-ransomware-that-locks-your-pc-and-your.html

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Catastrophe (Season 2)

The second season of Catastrophe, a runaway hit, is now available on Amazon. It's a bit raunchy, and you might or might not relate to the people, but it's wonderfully done. Very fast moving, tight dialogue, and quite (indeed, laugh out loud) funny at times. It's in half-hour episodes, so it's easy to watch three starting at dinner time, and still put your head down on your pillow by 8 pm.

Link to Catastrophe Season 2 on Amazon

Three Cool Travel Adapters

[Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal]

From left: 4-in-1 Universal Travel Adapter; Travel Adaptor with USB Ports; PowerCube ReWirable USB + 4 Travel Plugs

For the Fun-Loving
The 4-in-1 Universal Travel Adapter’s bold primary colors and Lego-like stacking design make charging abroad as much fun as charging can conceivably be. Each colored piece of this adapter corresponds to various regions of the world (the blue-and-yellow block, for instance, sports rotating prongs for use in China and Australia). Whether you pack the whole set or only the parts you need, this charger is one of the most space-efficient available. $25, flight001.com
For the Forgetful
Most travel adapters include numerous loose parts that are easily left behind on your hotel night stand, but this handy alternative, the Travel Adaptor with USB Ports, employs a slide-out design that keeps all of the various prongs in house. It has one universal outlet on top (which accepts devices from various countries) and two charging USB ports. Press and slide the side button to your desired region and the respective prongs will pop out. $28, momastore.org
For the Power Hungry
This 2.5-inch cube—aka the PowerCube ReWirable USB + 4 Travel Plugs—is essentially a compact power strip that comes with three international adapters for use abroad (only one shown) as well as an adapter you can use at home. Its four U.S. outlets are positioned on different sides, so your gadgets’ bulky plugs are less likely to block access. You also get two USB ports for charging small devices. $35, powercube-usa.com




Friday, April 8, 2016

Condor Airlines Redux and the Theater in NYC (Are You Kidding Me?)

I know I've hooted about Condor Airlines, but it's worth doing again. By way of example, say you're doing a home exchange with a couple in Nimes, which is near Marseilles and considered the Rome of France. With Condor Airlines, you can fly from Phoenix to Marseilles (Phoenix to Minneapolis to Frankfurt to Marseilles) and back in business class with lie-flat seats for $2,700 and premium class, which isn’t lie-flat, but has plenty of leg room and has footrests and the seat reclines quite a bit, is $2,000.  Or, if one leaves from and returns to Providence (e.g., spend a day or two in Providence or go to NYC for a couple of days, take in a play, and then take the train to Providence), the round-trip business class ticket is $2,200 and the premium class ticket is $1,600.  Prices quoted include all taxes and charges. And if you go to New York, and want to see Hamilton, you can get mezzanine tickets for $700@ or, if you prefer, orchestra seats for $1,500@. I think there's a business out there buying all the tickets you can to plays that will be hits and then re-selling them (anyone say StubHub?).

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Gymnastics You Can Do at Home

Type "do a barrel roll" into The Google (without quote marks).

How to Choose the Right Micro SD Card

If you buy an Android phone, all other things being equal, buy one that will take a Micro SD card. Then you will have more storage than you'll ever need, and don't have to pay a premium for on-board RAM. Before buying the Micro SD card, check out this article to be sure you get the right one:

Explanatory Article

Five Cool Shortcuts for Android Phones

[Courtesy of cnet]

Reject calls with a text

Make your phone work like a personal secretary by letting callers know why you can't answer, and (hopefully) avoiding follow-up calls. On most phones, this option is available in the Phone app >Settings, and labeled Call blockingQuick responses, or something similar. You'll see the call-reject messages that you can edit with your own writing style.

Quickly open the camera

Launching the camera at a moment's notice means that you won't miss great photo opportunities. How you access this camera shortcut will vary between manufacturers, but here's a few examples of popular devices that have it enabled:
  • Nexus 5X or Nexus 6P: double-tap power button.
  • Samsung devices 2015-2016: double-tap the physical Home button.
  • LG V10: double-tap the volume down button.
  • Moto G 2015: twist your wrist with the device in hand.

Add contact widgets

Want to reach out to your favorite people with just a tap? Press and hold on your Home screen, choose Widgets, and then look for the Contacts 1x1 widget. Tapping this shortcut loads a contact's details, letting you call, text, or email without scrolling through your address book.

Enable 'OK, Google' everywhere

Ask your burning questions right now by enabling "OK, Google" everywhere -- meaning from any screen. To get set up, open the Google (search) app and head to Settings > Voice > "Ok Google" Detection > toggle the From any screen option on. Say the magic words three times and you're set. As a bonus, this little exercise will let you use the trusted voice option in Smart Lock.

Bypass unlocking your phone (when it's safe)

This feature in the Lock screen and Security menu will let your device know when it's safe to stay conveniently unlocked. Once you add trusted places, devices, or voices you can skip the PIN, pattern or password every time you want to check an alert. For more info on how to set this up, check out this post.

Best Chrome Extension for Emailing Webpage Links

If you're a Chrome user, you likely have been extremely frustrated by the recent bug that has popped up in the Email This Link extension where it will not send the link via Outlook or any desktop email client. Here's great news: Use Share Link by Email. Not only does it work with Outlook or any desktop email client, it's got some really sweet options.

Link to Share Link Extension Download

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

ETF Bond Funds With Set Maturity Dates

[Important Note: This post is not intended as financial advice nor should it be understood as urging anyone to buy anything. Rather, the sole intent is to make you aware of a "bond product group" that you might not know about, and which you might want to look into]

The benefit of investing in bond mutual funds is they minimize default risk because of the large number of bonds that are held; but, the problem with investing in bond mutual funds is that they never mature, so you have constant interest rate risk. The benefit of investing in individual bonds is that, held to maturity, they have no interest rate risk; the problem with investing in individual bonds is you have default risk until they mature and redeem. The other down-side of buying individual bonds is that the cost of doing so is much higher than the cost of buying a bond mutual fund.

There now are ETF bond funds with set maturity dates, i.e., on the maturity date, all the bonds will have been redeemed, and the fund will liquidate. The yield-to-maturity (YTM) or at least the yield-to-worst (YTW) can be determined on the day you buy into one of these funds. Such funds are offered by many different companies (e.g., Blackrock, Guggenheim) and you can find them on The Google. They come in different bond types, including: municipal bonds; high-grade corporate bonds; and high-yield (junk) bonds. They can be laddered with 1Y, 2Y, 3Y etc. up to 10Y maturities. They are low cost. If they work, they have no interest rate risk and the default risk is far less than holding individual bonds--although the default risk on the high-yield tranche could be substantial.

Link to iShares (Blackrock) Summary


Toward a Better Hamburger

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, "Why are your hamburgers the best I've ever tasted?", I could retire. While it doesn't reveal all of my secrets (e.g., why serving them on Pepperidge Farm slider rolls is the best way unless you're willing to splurge on brioches), this article from the WSJ reveals many of them. Bon Appetite!


Many chefs suggest home cooks use an iron skillet for cooking burgers rather than a grill. The skillet heats the meat evenly and encourages caramelization.

The ingredients are simple—salt, pepper, ground meat and the inalienable belief that any American can make a decent hamburger.
Yet as the days become warm and bright, countless home cooks will fire up the grill only to stare in wonder at the disc of meaty disappointment they have produced, cheese or no cheese.
What makes a good hamburger is a perennial obsession, though it feels ever more difficult to achieve perfection. How does a home cook compete with restaurants’ Wagyu beef burgers, procure duck fat or bake buns? Even fast-food restaurants like Shake Shack and In-N-Out Burger have raised the bar with fresh tomatoes and good quality beef.
“Cooking a hamburger is no joke,” says Mark Lapico, the executive chef at Jean-Georges restaurant in New York who likes to cook his burgers at home with dry-aged beef and on a hot Japanese binchotan grill. “It has to be crispy on the outside, moist on the inside. Making a medium-rare burger is actually a good test of a young chef’s abilities.”

THE ELEMENTS OF A BURGER

  • The Bread: There should be a 1:1 burger to bun ratio. Brioche or a potato roll work well because they don’t overtake the patty. Some chefs like a kaiser roll for keeping mess together.
  • The Meat: Grind your own chuck, which comes from the steer’s shoulder. The more an animal uses a muscle, the tastier it is. Burger meat should have at least 20% fat.
  • The Method: An iron skillet is better than a grill for making burgers because it heats the patty evenly, allowing caramelization to coat the crust of the burger.
  • The Fixings: Most customized sauces use mayonnaise and another ingredient such as sriracha, garlic or salsa. Mayo soaks up any flavor easily.
  • The Pickles: Most restaurants include a pickle on a burger. Don’t forget them at home. The fermentation makes them healthy and the tang offsets the fat and sweetness of the beef.
There is disagreement over the details. Some chefs require pasture-raised beef. Others say cornfed is sweeter. Some swear by the Kaiser roll, and others the soft potato bun. Some chefs smash the burger down until it is ragged and crunchy, others like to maintain a cool and rare center.
“A hamburger is a sandwich,” says Alex Tishman, a private chef and regional director for Big City Chefs, a chef service in the San Francisco Bay Area. “You need to balance flavor and texture.”
Think of hamburgers in terms of ratios, says Mr. Tishman. The bun and burger should have a 1:1 ratio. The meat should be between 70% to 80% protein and 20% to 30% fat. Any less fat and you will lose the vital mouth feel, any more than 30% and it will start to taste greasy.
The Meat
Chuck from the animal’s shoulder is good for burgers because the steer works that part of its body. The more an animal uses a muscle the tastier it is. Mr. Tishman adds brisket and trimming from hanger steak, but makes sure that 50% of the burger remains chuck. He says to avoid adding egg or breadcrumbs that change its consistency.
He and other chefs are dismissive of using expensive cuts of tenderloin, Kobe or Wagyu beef, which can bump up the price for a restaurant hamburger over $50. “That kind of beef has almost no flavor,” says Mr. Tishman. “It’s terrible for a hamburger.”
Freshness is paramount. Ground meat bought in the supermarket can come from any number of cows and often harbors unhealthy amounts of bacteria. Hamburgers cooked with meat from an unknown origin should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, or well done. For a rare or medium-rare hamburger, best to ask the supermarket butcher to grind the meat or, even better, do it at home.
A stand-alone grinder retails for between $100 and $600, but KitchenAid sells a stand mixer attachment for around $50. Some people grind meat in their blenders, though they can get hot and melt the fat, making for mushy, dense patties. Experts recommend putting the device and the meat in the freezer before grinding.
The Heat
The reason people like hamburgers so much, chefs say, is partly due to the way proteins and sugars react when they are heated to between 300 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Dubbed the Maillard reaction, it creates a meaty umami flavor that makes the outside of the burger taste more distinctive from the cool and velvety inside.
For this reason most chefs counsel using a griddle or a cast iron skillet. The consistent heat across the burger enhances the production of sugars on its surface.
“That’s why places like Shake Shack have such a successful burger,” says Graham Elliot,Chicago-based restaurant owner and chef, who keeps his burgers ½ inch thick and puts an ice cube in the middle to keep them moist. “That crunchy caramelized outside is the good part.”
Mr. Elliot says he would chose a pan or griddle over a grill any day, but concedes that most Americans will end up grilling hamburgers in the spring and summer. About 75% of U.S. adults own a grill or smoker, roughly the same percentage believe they are proficient or extremely proficient at grilling, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, a barbecue trade group.
Grilling is one of the most difficult ways to cook, and the people who grill are often the least experienced cooks in the house. Heat is inconsistent, flare-ups occur and the caramelization is difficult. Humidity and ambient temperature can also affect the cooking process.
“The grill has to be clean and hot, and I mean hot,” says Mr. Lapico, anywhere between 400 and 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Many gas-fired grills have trouble reaching this temperature, or they lose too much heat once the cover is opened. Unless you have a high-end gas grill, a charcoal grill is better for burgers, he says.
Nic Guehlstorf, a father of four and professor of political science in Illinois, says he once struggled with making a good burger. Since his wife bought him a Big Green Egg, a ceramic smoker and barbecue, his burger game has dramatically improved.
“I can make a restaurant-quality hamburger in five minutes,” he says. “I get the grill up to 500 degrees, two minutes on each side. Then I let it rest with the lid closed. Done.”
Mr. Guehlstorf says he is careful to keep the ratio of protein to fat at 80/ 20 and usually adds only salt and pepper. He grills year round, even under a light snow.
Tyler Schnoebelen, a tech entrepreneur from San Francisco, says he buys supermarket beef and adds onions and scallions. He says his burgers are moist and well formed.
“I only ever grill,” says Mr. Schnoebelen, “My stovetop burgers are disaster.” The stovetop, he says, makes burgers dense and uninteresting; sometimes they simply fall apart.
Condiments
Several private chefs said that Heinz 57 Ketchup remained among their favorite condiments for burgers. Ketchup, like caramelized onions, adds a sweetness that evokes childhood memories.
Customized sauces have recently become popular in restaurants, though several chefs say that the sauces are often just mayonnaise with one other ingredient.
“I go to the Indian grocery, get some green mango pickle. Mix it with mayo, slather it on a burger, delicious. I got special sauce,” says Malcolm Riley Gay, a chef in Fairfax, Va., for online personal chef service PlateDate. The mayonnaise can absorb pretty much anything, he says. When he goes to people’s houses to cook, he often makes the hamburger sauce from ingredients in their pantry, adding sriracha to mayonnaise for example, because people have on hand what they like to eat.
The Bun & The Extras
As for the bun, most chefs agree that making a hamburger bun at home is far too much effort for the return. A brioche or soft potato bun is sufficient. Mr. Gay says a Kaiser roll with its slightly tougher exterior, works wonders holding a messy burger together.
Bacon has such a strong taste it can overwhelm good beef, say several chefs. If used, bacon should be moist enough to break off easily in the mouth, and used sparingly.
Cheese can also improve a hamburger but should be considered carefully, chefs say. American cheese melts well and goes well with a traditional burger. Gruyere is strong but tastes good with dry-aged beef.
For home chefs who want to add something special, Mr. Gay says homemade pickles are a nice touch. Adding a fermented food also enhances the nutritional benefits.
“Pickles really are the unsung heroes of the hamburger,” Mr. Gay says.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Mac-Like Program Launcher for Windows

If you use a Mac, iPad or iPhone then you'll know that the program launcher screen is more friendly and simple than the default Windows desktop. And sometimes, simple is best.
Paper Plane is a program which gives you a simple desktop program launcher which bears a passing resemblance to the iPad and Iphone one. It runs on Windows, and it's completely free. Paper Plane is easy to use, and it helps to make your use of Windows more efficient. It automatically organises your icons based on how often you use each program, so commonly used ones will be most accessible. And you can easily add new programs, built-in accessories or files to the desktop screens if you want. It doesn't replace your standard Windows desktop either, so there's nothing to lose if you don't like it. And it's free.


Free Windows program launcher

End of Google Wallet

I doubt many of you use Google Wallet so I won't waste any words here on it. But if you, take a look at this cnet article so you'll be prepared and know what to do:

Link to cnet Article on Google Wallet's Demise

Fix to Webpages Not Saving in Chrome

If you want to save a whole page, but it just won't complete saving, try installing the extension in Play called Single File. Clicking on it when the webpage you want to save is open should fix the problem.

Link to Play Download of Single File Extension

HP Spectre Ultrabook

If you think the Macbook is the thinnest notebook, say hello to the HP Spectre Ultrabook, which is 30% thinner. And it's way cool. You can read about it here: Explanatory Article

Image result for hp spectre