CTPC User Group

 

  1. Preview of the Next CTPC Meeting
  2. Gizmo Lists the Best Free Android Apps - Ira Wilsker
  3. Will You Be Texting Your Doctor Soon? - Sandy Berger
  4. Free Kindle Ebooks - Ira Wilsker
  5. Got Windows 8? - Barney Babin
  6. External storage - Dick Maybach
  7. Who's Driving This Bus Anyway? - Dave Helmer
  8. Interesting Internet Finds - Steve Costello
  9. Permissions – Do you have the right ones? - Phil Sorrentino
  10. Word 2010 Text Selection Techniques - Lynn Page
  11. Back To Basics: Using Menus - Jim Cerny
 

Preview of the Next CTPC Meeting - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 6:30 p.m.

YouTube Festival

In February 2005 three former PayPal employees created the video sharing website known a YouTube. In less than a decade YouTube has become a major source of amateur and professional video content, including movie and TV clips, music videos and video blogs, most if it uploaded by individuals.

Many YouTube videos are intended to be entertaining while others are informative or educational. There are step-by-step “how to” videos for almost any project you can imagine. YouTube viewers are encouraged to “share” their favorite videos with others and, through that process, some are said to “go viral,” receiving up to hundreds of millions of views.

This month, we’re asking CTPC members to share their favorite YouTube videos with the group. Just make a note of the title and bring it with you – we’ll search YouTube and play the video.

Some guidelines: the clip should not be longer than 3 or 4 minutes. (If the clip you’d like shown is part of a longer video, please make a note of the start and end times of the segment.) The video need not be about computers or technology but if it’s a funny cat video (one reports says there are 110,952 of these on YouTube) it had better be good! And no naked pictures, cats or otherwise!

This should be fun. We encourage you to participate by suggesting a video but please come and enjoy in any case.

We also invite you to remain after the meeting for some socializing and to have pizza, salad and the beverage of your choice. Cost is shared and is normally less than $14/person. The Silver Star allows us to use their facility at no charge and we think they deserve some benefit for their generosity.

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Ira Wilsker - Ira is a member of the Golden Triangle PC Club, an Assoc. Professor at Lamar Institute of Technology, and hosts a weekly radio talk show on computer topics on KLVI News Talk AM560. He also writes a weekly technology column for the Examiner newspaper <www.theexaminer.com>. Ira is also a deputy sheriff who specializes in cybercrime, and has lectured internationally in computer crime and security.

Gizmo Lists the Best Free Android Apps

WEBSITES:
https://www.techsupportalert.com/mobile-apps/android
https://www.techsupportalert.com/content/best-free-antivirus-app-android.htm
https://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-android-apps.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_%28operating_system%29

Android powered smart devices, including smart phones and tablets, are currently outselling the other major smart operating systems by a huge margin. While published figures differ, some pundits allege that Android devices outsell Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows (smart device versions) by factors of between three or seven to one. According to Wikipedia, as of October 2012, Android powered smart phones had captured 75% of the market, with over 500 million devices currently using Android. Approximately 1.3 million new Android devices are activated on an average day (source: Wikipedia).

Android is an operating system currently developed and distributed by Google, but is really a Linux based, open source operating system. Google operates the Google Play Store, the primary source of applications or "apps", for Android, containing in excess of 700,000 Android apps. As of the end of 2012, over 25 billion apps had been downloaded from the Google Play Store (source: Wikipedia). With so many apps available, many of them for free, the half-billion Android users may be unaware of which apps had been independently reviewed and rated such that they may better meet the Android users' needs. For Android users looking for these independent ratings and reviews such that they can find the top rated apps, the popular website, Gizmo (www.techsupportalert.com), gladly obliges.

Gizmo, a pseudonym, is a real person who is the webmaster of a massive collection of software reviews covering almost every major operating system, including Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and others. The ratings and reviews displayed for each software title are a summary of the scores given by members of a large community of thousands of international volunteers who often present diverse opinions. For Android users, techsupportalert.com has several sections dedicated to Android apps. For those looking for the newest reviews and latest apps, Gizmo has a page "Android Apps: New and Updated Reviews" at www.techsupportalert.com/mobile-apps/android. On the right margin of that same webpage is a directory of hyperlinks for categories of Android apps, all with the prefix "Best Free" including Web Browser, Antivirus, File Manager, eBook Reader, Media Player, Music player and organizer, App Launcher, Image Editor, Image Viewer, and PDF Reader. Clicking on one of the listed "Best Free" hyperlinks directly opens detailed reviews and evaluations of the top-rated apps in each of the categories. These hyperlinks are a fast and effective way to locate many of the best apps available out of the hundreds of thousands listed at the Google Play Store.

For those interested in an even more comprehensive menu of rated Android Apps, Gizmo offers a master directory of Android Apps at techsupportalert.com/best-free-android-apps.htm. Frequently updated, this menu currently has an even dozen headings including Home and Office apps, Multimedia, Disk and File Tools, Security and Privacy, Internet and eMail, Phone and Messaging, Personal Development, Games, and several other headings.

As a sample, I clicked on the "Personal Development" link, which opened a page headed "11. Best Free Personal Development for Android". The page displayed a brief review of the best (highest rated by the Gizmo community of reviewers) App in each category. One that I found listed as a "best", which I promptly downloaded, was listed as "Best Free Astronomy Software for Android - Google Sky Map (2.2 MB); Point your device at the night sky or browse the skies in manual mode from anywhere at anytime and it helps you identify the stars, planets, constellations and other celestial objects with labels. You can also zoom and search the objects with this absolutely fun and good educational app."

Always being concerned with device security, I opened the category "7. Best Free Security and Privacy for Android", which included sub-directories of Anti-malware, Apps Protection, Password Manager, Private Gallery (photo and media security), and a Device Tracker. While somewhat controversial, I choose to have comprehensive security devices on all of my Android (and other) devices. Of the free security suites available for Android, several of which are listed online at www.techsupportalert.com/content/best-free-antivirus-app-android.htm, my personal choice is the community top-rated avast! Mobile Security. Other highly rated free security apps include Zoner Antivirus Free (which has a dedicated tablet version), Sophos Security & Antivirus, Dr. Web Antivirus Lite, AVG Antivirus Free, Lookout Mobile Security, and Comodo Mobile Security & Antivirus Free. The Gizmo community tested and reviewed other security products as well, but panned two of them under the heading, "Other reviewed but not recommended Security Apps." The two not recommended apps are NQ Mobile Security & Antivirus and a sister app Antivirus Free; both of these apps claim to be free but, according to Gizmo, referring to NQ Mobile Security & Antivirus, "Unfortunately, at some point it will try to charge you for updating the virus definitions and will flag your phone as "at risk" if you don't have the premium (paid) features enabled. Its detection rates are just average." The Antivirus Free showed " ... annoying full-screen ads randomly and after every scan" and had poor detection rates."

Of the free Android security apps, I agree with Gizmo that avast! Mobile Security is very good, and worthy of its top community rating, 9 out of 10 stars. According to the rating and evaluation community at Gizmo, "avast! Mobile Security has established itself as one of the most complete security apps for Android by trying to cover every possible security concern we users may have and is officially designated as the Top Pick for this category." Gizmo goes on to describe avast! as, "Fully featured security app that goes beyond the basic Antivirus and offers a set of 3 Protection Shields, an App Manager, SMS & Call Filtering, a Firewall, Network Traffic Monitor, SIM Protection and advanced Anti-Theft options with SMS and Online commands to find your phone in case of robbery or lost." The reviews listed two "cons" for this free avast! Mobile Security; the reviewers were concerned that the anti-theft and firewall features needed a rooted (access to the operating system) device to work, and Android devices rarely offer rooting as a feature, but there are several third party rooting utilities that can enable the firewall and anti-theft features. The other minor concern listed by the reviewers was that since avast! is so feature rich, "New and unexperienced users may find it a little too complex at first."

There are many true believers, including some of the Android developers at Google, who claim that comprehensive security on an Android device may be unnecessary and ineffective because apps run in a sandbox, or isolated system area that cannot access other system resources, unless access is explicitly approved by the user. These permissions are typically displayed on the Google Play Store listing for the apps prior to their download and installation. Several of the security publishers disagree, alleging that there are some very real threats to Android devices. As posted on Wikipedia, TrendMicro claims that "premium service abuse" is the most common type of Android malware; this occurs when spammed SMS (text messages) are sent from infected phones to "premium rate" telephone numbers, incurring a monetary charge without the knowledge or consent of the user. Other common Android malware contributes to identity theft by illicitly sending personal information to third parties, or displaying unwanted advertising on the Android device. While the security app publishers have claimed that security threats directed at Android devices have grown exponentially, "Google engineers have argued that the malware and virus threat on Android is being exaggerated by security companies for commercial reasons, and have accused the security industry of playing on fears to sell virus protection software to users." (Source: Wikipedia).

With thousands of Android apps reviewed and rated by the Gizmo community in the mobile app section at www.techsupportalert.com, good information is easily accessible that may allow Android users to locate and download the best apps for their devices. Users of other devices, including Apple's iOS and Mac, Microsoft's Windows (all Windows devices), and Linux will also certainly find current information on the best free software for their devices on Gizmo's www.techsupportalert.com.

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Sandy Berger, CompuKISS www.compukiss.co sandy (at) compukiss.com

Will You Be Texting Your Doctor Soon?

Texting has become very popular. We’ve all seen teenagers’ texting each other across the dinner table or from the front seat of the car to the back seat. You may be surprised, however, to find that older people are also texting and now even some doctors are using texting to communicate with their patients.

Because texting is so popular with the younger crowd, many older folks have started texting just to keep in contact with their children. Over and over again, I have heard the lament, “They (the kids) just don’t answer the phone. The only way I can get them to respond is to text them.”

Yet, when these people start texting, they find it just as useful for everyone they communicate with. Texts are less intrusive than phone calls. You don’t feel forced to run and answer the phone, you can deal with a text whenever you like. With a text, you don’t disturb a person who happens to be sleeping because he is in a different time zone. And you don’t disturb him during an important meeting, but you still get your message across. Two other advantages are that texting is faster than phoning and text messages are archived on your cell phone so you can search for previous conversations.

The newer cell phones make texting easy. With on-screen keyboards and predictive text, you can tap out a message quickly and easily. If you don’t like to type, you can speak your message and have the phone type it out for you will pretty good results.

Although some predicted that texting would die out with the proliferation of smartphones, that doesn’t seem to have happened. Texting does not use data, so it is often cheaper than using email on a cell phone. Also, several large cellular providers now offer free texting with their share plans, making it a very cost-effective method of communications.

Kids are still texting, and older people are also texting. In fact, in the future, you may even text with your doctor. If you think about it, texting is a quite suitable way to communicate with a doctor.

My conversations with several doctors indicate that they are happy to embrace texting patients but there are several hurdles to overcome before texting between physicians and patients can become routine.

Dr. Adam Schaffner, a New York City plastic surgeon, who specialized in aesthetic plastic surgery of the face, breast and body has been texting to communicate with his patients for several years. He says that “texting promotes comfort for the patient.” In his practice, post-operative patients who used texting to communicate with him fared better than others. He says, “This type of access (texting) empowers patients and is of great benefit during the immediate post-operative period.” He also finds texting a great way to start a necessary conversation with patients and found that patients who texted him had a reduced number of office visits. This, in effect, could reduce the cost of health care.

Although Dr. Schaffner finds texting “extremely beneficial”, he sees several hurdles to this type of texting becoming commonplace in the medical industry. The first is that the time spent texting is currently not billable or covered by insurance. So doctors who are currently taking advantage of the benefits of texting are doctors in fields like plastic surgery and concierge medicine whose main patient base is not covered by insurance.

Second is the investment of capital needed to implement secure texting platforms to comply with HIPAA laws brought on by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Because of this individual doctors and even most medical clinics are still not embracing texting. Besides offices like Dr. Schaffner’s, you will only find doctor-patient texting in large University hospitals that have more technology funding available.

There is little doubt that many of us will be tapping out texts for years to come. Perhaps we will be texting to improve our health as well as to improve communications.

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Ira Wilsker hosts “My Computer Show” a call-in tech support show on KLVI radio, 560AM, from 4-5 p.m. Mondays, Pacific time. The show streams live over the net at KLVI.com and on the free iHeartRadio app. His call-in number is 800-330-5584.

Free Kindle Ebooks

Websites
http://www.freebooksifter.com
http://www.amazon.com
https://read.amazon.com/?ref_=kcr_app_ariel
https://www.techsupportalert.com/content/linksthousands-free-kindle-downloads-amazon.htm
http://KindleBuffet.com
http://www.weberbooks.com/kindle/free-nonfictionbestsellers

Regular readers of this column are well aware that digital books (eBooks) are making tremendous inroads in the publishing industry. With the purchase of countless millions of e-readers, along with smart phones, tablets, and other digital devices, the market for eBooks has exploded.

Several book companies including Amazon and Barnes & Noble, have introduced dedicated readers such as the Kindle and the Nook, that allow the user to carry an entire library of books and magazines in a light weight, thin electronic device. Many schools and colleges across the globe are now arranging for textbooks to be provided to students via a reader, rather than as the traditional paper based books.

There are both cost and environmental advantages to utilizing eBooks rather than the paper books. Supposedly, millions of trees are now saved annually because they are not felled to make the paper used in the books, while massive amounts of diesel fuel is not burned because thousands of tons of books no longer have to be shipped.

With an e-reader, rather than the proverbial “ton of books,” our children no longer have to suffer back and other orthopedic issues due to an overweight backpack, but instead carry a digital reader that weighs mere ounces. Casual readers and academics can carry their entire personal libraries on a reader that weighs only ounces, yet may easily have a display comparable to that of their favorite paper books.

As our digital technology expands at an incredible rate, more and more devices can display eBooks from a variety of sources. The major e-reader manufacturers have also released free “apps” (applications) that can run on almost all digital devices, such as computers (desktop or laptop), smart phones, and tablets, including those running iOS (Apple), Android, Windows, MAC, Windows Phone, and Blackberry.

While there are many types and formats of eBooks distributed, one of the most popular is Amazon’s Kindle format. While Amazon produces and sells the very popular Kindle devices, it also distributes an unimaginable assortment and number of books and magazines in Kindle format.

Amazon also makes available for free and to anyone, Kindle apps that can run on virtually any modern computer, smart phone, or tablet, regardless of operating system. Amazon obviously has a pecuniary interest in getting the widest possible dissemination and distribution of its commercial Kindle devices and free Kindle apps in order to sell more of its Kindle formatted books and magazines. Amazon has millions of book and magazine titles available for Kindle, most available in digital format for significantly less than the paper equivalents. In many cases, the Kindle digital format is even less expensive than many of the used books listed on Amazon.

In order to expand the distribution and popularity of the Kindle format, Amazon has made available to Kindle users, both those that use a dedicated reader or an app based device, a large number of free titles, as well as a very large “lending library” of current and popular titles to its “Prime” members.

Many of the free titles offered by Amazon had been older editions of books whose copyrights had expired, and are now in the public domain.

There are several ways to locate the free books and other printed materials available on Amazon for the Kindle devices and apps.

I opened the Amazon.com webpage and did a simple search for “free kindle books” which displayed a pull-down menu that provided the appropriate links to what I was looking for. As I type this, Amazon is offering 54,472 free books for the Kindle. While most of these titles are totally free, there are many others that are listed as free to borrow by Amazon Prime members (normally $79 per year), but are for sale to non-members. It must be stated that the listings of free Kindle books are somewhat dynamic, in that some of the titles are only free for a limited time, while other titles are likely to remain free of charge. It is likewise also important to note that titles are somewhat constantly being added to these free listings, while others are deleted.

Unless desiring a specific title, this is a trivial impediment, as at any given time, there are over 50,000 free titles available.

Upon opening the listing of free Kindle eBooks, the display defaulted to the “New and Popular” listing and displayed Les Misérables (English language) by Victor Hugo, The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Ryan, The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (with Cross-References), A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, The Ugly Duckling (Illustrated) by Hans Christian Andersen, and thousands of other titles.
On the left margin of the Amazon webpage is a directory of approximately 30 genres or categories of free Kindle books making the menu method of finding titles of interest somewhat easy.

Upon clicking on many of the listed genres, a sub-menu opens listing topics under that particular genre, making locating desired texts still easier. For example, clicking on the “History” topic, which includes over 3600 titles, opens a sub-menu of over a dozen categories.

One especially interesting free Kindle eBook that appeared among the most popular downloads is “Kindle Buffet: Find and download the best free books, magazines and newspapers for your Kindle, iPhone, iPad or Android [Kindle Edition]”, by Steve Weber. “Kindle Buffet,” according to the review on Amazon, “ ... will introduce you to KindleBuffet.com, a website and newsletter founded by author Steve Weber to showcase the best Kindle books currently offered free — plus a multitude of other avenues toward great free content.”

While free to download in Kindle format, a paperback version sells on Amazon for $5.95. This title is also a guide to the website KindleBuffet.com, which provides frequent updates to the availability of free Kindle content, as well as a directory of free content broken down into 18 categories or subjects (www.weberbooks.com/kindle/freenonfiction-bestsellers).

Another website, Freebook Sifter (freebooksifter.com), currently has a compiled list of over 36,000 free Kindle titles in over a dozen languages. Being somewhat ethnocentric, I selected English as my chosen language, and Freebook Sifter reduced its displayed selections to 26,244 books published in English. Freebook Sifter offers a menu of 26 categories of free Kindle books; when clicked, the default display is based on the number of ratings for each title, followed by the readers’ ratings for each title.

Clicking on a title displayed on the Freebook Sifter website takes the user directly to the Amazon website where that free title can be accessed. With over 50,000 free books available in Kindle format that can be displayed on almost any type of computer, smart phone, or tablet, as well as on an Amazon Kindle device, there is enough free content available to satiate any casual or devoted reader.

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Barney Babin - Cajun Clickers Computer Club, LA, www.clickers.org, ccnewsletter@cox.net

Got Windows 8?

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This article will be in two sections. The first section assumes that you have purchased a new non-touch screen computer that has Windows 8 (W8) installed. The second section will deal with upgrading to W8 (both combined in this issue of the CTPC newsletter – CTPC Editor). All of the W8 comments in either section apply to W8 functionality.

Many people have a new operating system on their new computers – Windows 8. I have been running W8 Pro, the W8 flavor that meets my requirements, since the release date of October 26 and have a few tips that will assist you in becoming familiar with the new operating system. One thing to remember is that the mouse right click is going to be a very useful tool. If your new system includes a touch screen, all of those functions perform flawlessly in W8, which is the first Microsoft operating system specifically designed for touch screen and tablets, but also works on desktops, notebooks, laptops, etc.

First, the Start menu is gone, but has been replace with the Start Screen, which is the weird looking screen that you first see when W8 boots. This screen can be tailored to your requirements and tastes and if you have a Smartphone, this screen will look very similar to the widgets there. You can add and remove the tiles (former icons), change their size and position, etc. by using the mouse right click and looking at your options on the bottom left of your screen. While you are on the Start screen, just start typing the word help (you don't click anything before you start typing, which is how the Start screen search function works). Click Help and Support and you will be taken to a screen that has everything you wanted to know but was afraid to ask. Just click one of the groups and you will be taken to another screen that will allow you to “get your feet wet” with tutorials or comments about things in W8. I strongly recommend that you do this.

Perhaps the second most important change associated with W8 is the charms bar, which can be accessed by moving your mouse to either the right top or right bottom corner of any screen that you are currently on – or use the keyboard shortcut Windows Logo key and the letter C simultaneously (WL + C). The Charms bar will slide in and offer five options.

The Settings option is where you can tailor the system to your requirements (Don't overlook the Change PC Settings option at the very bottom of the settings screen. This is where you can change a lot of things, including the lock screen, start screen, and account picture).

I strongly urge you to click every one of these charms bar options to see what’s available. Many of these options will look very familiar to you if your old operating system was either Vista or Win 7. If you want to see all the apps (previously called programs) installed on your computer, while on the Start screen, either right click and then click the All Apps icon at the bottom right of the screen or depress WL + Q. You can scroll through these apps easily by rotating your mouse wheel. If there are apps that you frequently use and wish to have them on your Start Screen, right click the app tile, look down on the taskbar area at the bottom left of the screen, and select “Pin to Start”, or if you would like to have the icon on the desktop taskbar, then select “Pin to Taskbar”.

You will discover that one of the tiles on your Start screen says Desktop. When you click that icon, you will be taken to your familiar looking desktop, with the start button missing, but with all other looks, feels, and functionality of the desktop that you are familiar with, so no further comments will be made on the desktop. Once you leave the start screen and wish to return, just depress the WL key and perform your desired function.

To go back to the last app that you were using, depress the WL key again.

Another tile on the Start screen is labeled Store. Click this tile and you will be taken to the Microsoft App Store, which has the same functionality as the Smartphone app stores. Scroll through the item groups with your mouse wheel or, once again depress WL + Q to search the app store for your particular program or group. Once you type in this information into the search window, the associated apps will appear on the screen.

Remember, this is a startup app store, so the number of apps currently available is not as large as the iPhone or Android app stores, but the current app number is larger than either of these mentioned stores was at their startup.

Now, let's assume that you have Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 and you want to upgrade to W8. CAUTION: W8 is sold in two versions: Windows 8, Pro, Enterprise, etc. and Windows RT. The RT version is for Tablets with ARM processors and will not allow Windows programs such as Office, etc. to function and should not be available for purchase. Microsoft has an unbeatable deal running right now that allows you to purchase W8 Pro for $39.99, the lowest price Microsoft has ever offered the public for an operating system. To begin the upgrade process, go to http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/upgrade-to-windows-8 to download the upgrade assistant into your current operating system. The upgrade assistant will analyze both your computer hardware and the installed programs to determine if they are compatible with W8. Once this process has finished you will then start the upgrade process, which includes purchasing your selected flavor of W8 (at the time I purchased, Microsoft also included Windows Media Center for free). After purchase, the assistant wizard continues the upgrade process by asking if you want to upgrade by formatting the hard drive, which requires you to reinstall everything after the upgrade, or if you wish to upgrade and transfer all of your existing W8 compatible programs and your data, usually found in the My Documents folder. (As a test, I performed the upgrade both ways to see if the file and folder transfer would bloat the system or not. It did not, but there is a windows.old folder that contains your old operating system goodies and your documents as backup, which bloats the system until it is uninstalled, in my case almost 20GB in size.) I would strongly recommend that you choose the option of transferring your programs and files. This makes the process extremely painless and saves you the time and effort of reinstalling all of your programs again.

I have installed W8 upgrade with program and data transfer on about 10-15 computers and have had only one glitch in the process, which was a program that was incompatible and was prompted to totally uninstall it before the process could continue, which I did and the process continued uneventfully.

So how about more “weird” things associated with W8? The first thing that will not be immediately noticeable is the fact that the F8 safe mode function is no longer applicable during boot-up. W8 's safe boot security process does not allow this function, plus other things such as stack overflow prevention, etc. So....How do you now access safe mode?? There are two ways: the easy way and the convoluted, but user friendly and a onetime only process. The easy way is to go to search and type msconfig. When that window comes up, click the boot tab, click Safe Boot and minimal if no network is required, or click Safe boot and Network if networking is required in safe mode, then click OK and reboot your computer.

When the boot process is complete, your system will be in Safe Mode. Perform the functions that you need to do and then go to search, type msconfig, remove the Safe boot option on the Boot tab, click OK, and restart your computer, which will then boot normally. If you do not change the msconfig option prior to reboot, your system will restart in safe mode every time a restart is performed until you do so!

The convoluted safe mode option is: in search, type: safe mode; click the settings bar and then advanced startup options; scroll down to advanced startup and click the restart now button; the computer will start a restart process and bring up another screen; click troubleshoot; on the troubleshoot screen click Advanced Options; on the Advanced Options screen click Startup Settings; on Windows Startup Settings click the restart button; on the Startup Settings menu, type either 4, Enable Safe Mode or 5, enable Safe Mode with Networking; your computer will now enter safe mode. When you are finished, just restart your computer and it will boot normally.

Another change in W8 is that your Windows Explorer now has a ribbon, which can be minimized by right clicking. Task Manager also looks vastly different and is more user friendly. Did I cover all of the bells and whistles? No, but I did cover enough for you to better understand this new Microsoft operating system, so go forth and conquer.

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Dick Maybach, member, Brookdale Computer Users’ Group, NJ, March 2013 issue, BUG Bytes, www.bcug.com, n2nd (at) charter.net

External Storage

Although we use external storage much less than in the early days of home computing, it is still an essential technology for backing up internal hard disks, exchanging files among different computers, and expanding storage capacity. The increasing size of files had made obsolete many older technologies, and those that are still attractive fall into four types: electronic, optical, magnetic, and Internet. There are many variations of electronic storage, but two are now dominant, USB memory sticks and SD cards. They have similar capacities with current “sweet spots” (capacities where the cost per byte is lowest) of around 16 Gbytes, although this is continually moving up. SD cards are typically faster, but appear to be less rugged with exposed connections and thinner packages. I have carried a naked USB memory stick in my key case for many years, and it has never failed, but I always keep my SD cards in their plastic cases. USB sticks have the further advantage that every computer has USB connectors, while SD access is less common, and although memory card readers available are very cheap, they also have low quality and often are unreliable. The circuits used for electronic storage do have finite lifetimes, in that they wear out after a (very large) number of writes; however, the risk is negligible for external storage devices.

Optical storage is problematic, because much the available media is of poor quality and may begin to develop errors in just a few months. Even high-quality media rapidly deteriorate if exposed to high heat or humidity. For more on this, see my article, Using DVDs for Long Term Storage, BCUG Bytes, June 2008, available at http://www.bcug.com . Actually, my own experience with CD-ROMs and DVDs has been good, although I'm careful to use only quality media. Of the dozens stored at home, some for several years, I've had problems with only one, which can be read only on the drive that created it. On the other hand, the outer tracks of several music CDs stored in my car are no longer playable. Another problem is the low quality of CD-ROM and DVD drives, with Blu-Ray being especially bad. Blu-Ray drives are acceptable for playback, but their lasers frequently burn out after writing just a few discs. This is unfortunate, as the capacities of CD-Roms and DVDs are rapidly becoming too low to be really useful.

If you use optical storage for archiving, consider using the free program dvdisaster (http://dvdisaster.net/en/) for Linux, OS-X, and Windows, which adds error-correction and thus allows you to recover your stored files, even though up to 20 percent of the bits on the medium are corrupted. You need a disk-burning program that can create a file (called an iso-image) that is a bit-for-bit image of a CD-ROM or DVD and also has the ability to copy an iso-image to an optical medium. The procedure for creating an error-resistant disk is the follows.

Use your disk burner to create an iso-image, which must be at least 20 per cent smaller than the capacity of the medium.

Use dvdisaster to add error-correcting data to the iso-image. The screen-shot below shows this in progress. After creating this image, click on the Verify button to check that it's good. Finally, use your disk burner to write the iso-image to the optical medium.

(Note the small blue circle containing a question mark at the upper left of the screen-shot. Clicking on it brings up an extensive manual in your Web browser, which you should read carefully.) Periodically scan your optical media (using dvdisaster's Scan button) for errors. If they begin to appear, recover the data using dvdisaster (which will produce an iso-image), create a new disk, and discard the one with the error. Until the medium begins to develop errors, you can read it like any other disk using your usual software.

Magnetic storage, in the form of external hard disks, offers high transfer speed and high capacity, making it attractive for many applications. It is also has the lowest cost per byte. To achieve this performance, these devices are assembled with very tight clearances, which means they must be sealed against air-borne contamination. The magnetic disks cannot be separate from the motor and head assemblies, making these devices much larger and less rugged than electronic storage devices. Here, you have a choice of interfaces with USB being the most common, followed by E-SATA. USB-3 drives are beginning to appear, but are considerably more expensive than USB-2, although this will surely change, probably soon. Diskettes are now obsolete, for good reasons.

Their capacities are tiny, and their reliability is low. You can still buy drives, but their quality is very poor, with many delivered dead-on-arrival or failing very quickly. If you still have valuable data on diskettes, you should transfer it to a better medium soon.

Internet storage, commonly called “the cloud” is expanding rapidly. Modest capacities, up to around five Gigabytes, are widely available without charge. Transfer rates can be low, often just a few tens of kilobytes per second, and of course, the storage is available only if you have an Internet connection. There are also concerns about how secure the data is and whether it will continue to be available if the vendor goes out of business. Which of these approaches you use depend s on your application. For synchronizing the data among your own computers, Internet storage is the most convenient. Once you have set it up, the contents of the synchronized directories are always identical, no matter which computer you use to make changes. Since the information resides on every PC, you lose nothing if the cloud vendor discontinues the service.

For transferring files between your PC and a friend's, a USB memory stick (up to a few Gbytes) or a USB hard disk (for larger transfers) is the best choice. Almost every computer has a USB port, so your friend doesn’t need to install any special software or hardware to affect the transfer. I always carry an eight-Gbyte USB memory stick, formatted as FAT-32, in my key-case, and I've never found a computer that couldn't read from and write to it. (Actually, my stick has two partitions, a seven-Gbyte FAT-32 one for transferring files, and a one-Gbyte Linux one containing Parted Magic. See my article Parted Magic: Lots of Disaster-coping Tools, BCUG Bytes, April 2012, available at http://www.bcug.com. This means I always have the ability to transfer files and a tool kit to solve computer problems.)

For backing up your PC, and external hard disk is the only reasonable solution. These feature high capacities, fast transfer rates (especially if equipped with a USB-3 interface), and high reliability. Their bulk and relative high fragility are not serious problems in this application.

External hard disks are also good for archiving things like photos and financial data, but you could use DVDs, provided you add error-correction using and store them in a benign environment. For added security, consider making more than one copy, and either transfer the information to new media every few years or periodically scan it for errors using dvdisaster. Archival storage is an especially difficult problem. Computer technology is changing fast, and you must stay alert lest you lose the ability to access your archives (as happened to me when 5 ¼ inch diskette drives disappeared from PCs). For example, if you used dvdisaster to safeguard your archived DVD, you must be sure not only that the program runs on your new PC, but also that it uses the same methods as those used to record the data, and of course the new PC must be able to read DVDs. For sharing photos or files with friends, Internet storage is hard to beat, although mailing them a DVD or CD-ROM also works well, especially if they want to show the pictures to their friends.

To expand internal disk storage capacity, the preferred solution is an external hard disk with an ESATA interface, although USB-3 is not a bad solution. Most likely, you would use E-SATA for a desktop, since it requires an expansion card, and USB-3 on a laptop (USB-2 if your laptop is older or not top-of-the-line). Mac owners could consider Firewire or Thunderbolt.

As you can see, there is no single solution, unlike in ancient times when diskettes were universal (or if we go back to near pre-history, cassette tapes, audio tapes, punched paper tape, or even punched cards). However, there is a good and inexpensive solution for every application.

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Dave Helmer is Past President and Co-Founder of the Computer Users Group of Greeley, www.cugg.org, Greeley, CO. Originally published in March, 2013

WHO'S DRIVING THIS BUS ANYWAY?

When's the last time you worried about having the latest drivers for your computer? Ever? Never? Yeah, me too. Most people just don't give it any thought beyond the initial install of a new piece of hardware, but manufacturers tend to release new drivers all the time. Even your motherboard manufacturer sometimes releases updates. Mouse drivers, NIC drivers, USB bus drivers (there's probably a joke there somewhere, but it escapes me), hardware that no one ever thinks of in their computers, that may not be running the most current drivers. And really, why should you care? Mostly because those little outdated drivers might be the cause of some significant computer problems. For the most part, I'm a firm believer in the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach to system maintenance, but on more than one occasion, one or another of my systems will BSoD* for no apparent reason. Microsoft's pathetic approach to a diagnostic simply tells you that the problem may have been caused by an outdated driver. Well, duh ... Which one? Yeah, yeah, I know that BSoD's don't exist in the newer operating systems. But when a computer does a hard reset while you're in the middle of an hours long project, does it really matter what you call it?

Keeping those drivers current is a nightmare, because no one really keeps track of the manufacturers and driver release numbers for everything in every computer they own. No one. Well, no one I know, or would want to know I suspect. I am usually doing good to keep my video and sound card drivers current, and yes, I do use discrete hardware plugins on my desktop systems. Motherboard sound and video is just not good enough for some of the things I use my computers for, although it is getting better all the time. The good news is that there is a solution to this problem! Why else would I be writing this article? Actually, there have been a number of solutions to this problem over the last decade or so, but I have found none as user-friendly as a little freeware program called SlimDrivers, available at www.slimwareutilities.com. A recent article in MaximumPC magazine introduced me to this cloud-based utility for keeping drivers current, and it blew me away when I tried it.

Download the installer from the website listed above. Note that there are two other free utilities they offer as well, one of which, SlimCleaner, I am currently playing around with. Run the installer and when it's fully loaded, hit the big button labeled Start Scan. It's just about that easy. (Do be careful when accepting the install, as they will try to install AVG Security Toolbar into your browser, not a bad thing, but if you're not into AVG you might not want to have it auto-installed.) SlimDrivers then goes out and uses "Crowd-sourcing to spider and aggregate millions of devices" to find drivers. In English, that means it checks the hardware driver versions on your computer, matches them against the latest versions available online from the manufacturer, and presents you with a list of drivers for which updates are available. For those concerned, SlimWare Utilities is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, which means it should play very well with Windows. I've successfully used it on systems running Win8, Win7, Vista and WinXP, and was very satisfied with it's ability to locate updated drivers on all 4 platforms. You are given the option to set Restore points before any new drivers are installed, and you can un-install or restore drivers from within the program.

At this point, the shine wears off a little bit, because you can only select one driver at a time to update. The drivers seem to download very slowly, and to be honest I end up wondering if SlimDrivers is choking my download speed as a way of enticing me to upgrade to their paid version (DriverUpdate, $29.97/one year license), or if I am just being paranoid.

And seriously, for freeware? I can take the wait. I haven't been able to discover whether or not that one license would cover all my systems, or if I need a separate license for each computer. Guess which one I would pay for... After each update, you are advised to restart your computer, and although you probably don't really "have" to do so each time, I certainly recommend it. This of course adds to the frustration of time being consumed.

Has it prevented any more BSoD's on my systems? Too early to tell, but I feel a lot more comfortable knowing that I am running the latest versions of hardware drivers on my computers. This program delivers, with a clean, easy-to-use (and understand!) interface. Learn more about it by visiting their website, www.slimwareutilities.com , and give it a shot.

*Blue Screen of Death. If you don't remember those, you probably have not been using a computer for very long

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Steve Costello, Boca Raton Computer Society, http://brcs.org, editor@brcs.org, March, 2013 issue of Boca Bits

Interesting Internet Finds

In the course of going through the more than 200 RSS feeds, I often run across things that I think might be of interest to other user group members. The following are some items I found interesting during the month of May 2013.

HTG Explains: Why Does Chrome Say PDF Files Can Harm Your Computer?
http://www.howtogeek.com/161461/htg-explains-why-does-chrome-say-pdf-files-can-harm-your-computer/ 
How to Create A PDF With Fillable Forms in LibreOffice
http://www.maketecheasier.com/create-a-pdf-with-fillable-forms-in-libreoffice/2013/04/29 
4 Best Free Alternatives to Microsoft Visio
http://www.nirmaltv.com/2013/05/02/4-best-free-alternatives-to-microsoft-visio/ 
Fix: Bluetooth Mouse disconnects randomly in Windows
http://www.thewindowsclub.com/bluetooth-mouse-disconnects 
Is geotagging my photos a bad thing?
http://askleo.com/is-geotagging-my-photos-a-bad-thing/ 
How To Choose A Strong Password
http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/how-choose-strong-password.htm 
How To Use Remote Desktop Connections Like An IT Pro
http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/how-to-use-remote-desktop-connections-like-an-it-pro/ 
Send to Kindle — eRead (Almost) Anything
http://www.wonderoftech.com/send_to_kindle/ 
Tips and Tricks With Technology To Save You Time
http://inspiretothrive.com/2013/05/tech-tips-and-tricks/    
How to Print to Any Printer from Android
http://savedelete.com/how-to-print-to-any-printer-from-android.html  
Upload EPUBs & PDFs To Google Play Books; Read On Web, iOS & Android
http://www.addictivetips.com/web/upload-epubs-read-on-web-ios-android/ 

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Phil Sorrentino, Member, Sarasota PCUG, FL, March 2013 issue, PC Monitor, www.spcug.org, philsorr (at) yahoo.com

Permissions – Do you have the right ones?

Introduction In the early days of computing, when we didn’t have multi-users Operating Systems and networks, permissions were less necessary because the files and folders created were for the use of the one and only user. Files were shared using floppy disks and sneaker-net (run with the floppy from computer to computer). But, as operating systems improved and allowed multiple users and our computers were connected by Ethernet networks, permissions became necessary to make sure only those intended could view or change your files and folders.

If you have ever tried to share a folder on one of your computers on your home network, you know how frustrating it can be to get things to work. Well, “permissions” is one of the things that has to be understood and setup properly. Of course, there are many other things that have to be set up first, but permissions, often times, is a stumbling block. If you are setup with a “Homegroup” (all machines are running Windows 7), then the job is a little easier than if you are setup with a “Workgroup” (machines can be running XP, Vista, Windows 7 or even be Apple computers).

All the computers in a Workgroup must be setup with the same workgroup name (check in the System control panel for this setting, on the computers running Microsoft OSs).

Permission Types
Permissions may be a challenge because there are two types of permissions to be considered. There are “share permissions”, and NTFS permissions. Share permissions are necessary when accessing folders across a Local Area Network (LAN), from another machine. NTFS permissions are necessary when accessing any file or folder that you do not own (i.e. created it yourself). So, both permissions must be set up when you are trying to share files and folders on a LAN.

SHARE PERMISSIONS
Share permissions are easily setup for a file or folder. Just right-click on the file or folder you want to share (in Windows Explorer) and choose “Share with” and then select those that you want to share with. (Selecting “Specific People” will open a window that will let you select those people you would like to share with. Pull down the arrow and select “Everyone” and then click “Add”, if you would like to share with anyone on the network. But keep in mind that “Everyone” includes anyone you let onto the wireless portion of your network. Be especially aware if you do not have your network protected with at least WEP encryption.)

NTFS
The NTFS permissions are the next things to consider. NTFS permissions is a core component of the Windows 7 security system. Using this feature, you can specify exactly which other users are allowed to open your files and folders, and how much they can do with the files and folders.

Using Windows Explorer to setup the NTFS permissions for a file or folder, right-click the file or folder and select “Properties”. In the Properties window, select the Security tab. Here you will see a list of Users and the Permissions for each User. Click a User in the “Group or user name” box and the permissions will be shown in the “Permissions for Authenticated Users” box.

In this box you can Alllow or Deny the following Permissions “Full control”, “Modify”, “Read & execute”, List folder contents”, “Read”, “Write”, and “Special Permissions”. (You would think that Deny is just don’t Allow, but there are further details that complicate this issue and it would take more than the length of the Monitor to completely explain, however there is a good description of these issues in the best seller “Windows 7, the missing manual”.)

A brief explanation of these permissions is as follows:

User Levels
This is a little to the side of the topic of Permissions, but it is related. You will notice that there are two levels of Computer Users, Administrators and (Standard) Users.

Administrators have permissions to create, delete, and manipulate files and folders. Administrators can also execute programs, install programs, create accounts and change permissions.

Some of these can be very dangerous in the hands of a malicious person or piece of malware. (There must be at least one Administrator for every computer.)

(Standard) Users typically have lesser permissions but permissions can be increased as previously discussed. Microsoft recommends, for security reasons, that there be only one Administrator, and all other Users be the (Standard) User type. This is probably good advice for most installations because of the extent to which an Administrator can manipulate files and folders. Should a virus or Trojan horse get control as an Administrator, the malware could easily wreak havoc. But with the lesser permissions of a Standard User, the malware may be thwarted and not be able to pull off its nasty job.

Conclusion Setting the share permissions for different Users on a file or folder can be done if necessary, but if you are on a small LAN and all the Users are known to be trustworthy, then when it comes to sharing a file or folder, you might consider sharing with “everybody”.

And set the NTFS permissions for each User to what that User needs, and no more. This will probably help make it easier to setup your network and share files and folders on that network, and if a problem occurs, it should make the troubleshooting less difficult.

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Lynn Page, Editor/Webmaster, Crystal River Users Group, FL, Nov 2012 - Mar 2013 newsletters, www.crug.com, lpage46 (at) tampabay.rr.com

Word 2010 Text Selection Techniques

In Word 2010 you can select text in the document by using the mouse, the keyboard or a combination of both.

You can even select text in different places within the document.

Using the Mouse
The most common way to select text is to click and drag the mouse over what is to be selected. Click the mouse where to begin the selection and while holding down the left mouse button drag over what will be selected and release. With this technique you can select any contiguous text and objects.

Double click on any word to select it.

Triple click in a paragraph to select the entire paragraph.

Click in the gutter, the margin area to the left of the text, to select an entire line. When the mouse pointer is over the gutter it becomes a slanted right pointing arrow.

Double click in the gutter to select a paragraph.

Triple click in the gutter to select the entire document.

With mouse pointer over the gutter click and drag to select contiguous lines in the document.

Using Control Key with the Mouse
Hold down the Control key and click anywhere in a sentence to select the entire sentence.

The Control key can be used to select noncontiguous text. To select text from different areas within the document first select a word, line paragraph or other test with any of the selection techniques. Then while holding down the Control key use any of the techniques to select additional text.

Using the Shift Key with the Mouse
Using the Shift key is similar to dragging the mouse over an area to select it. But with it you don’t have to see the selection highlight while you are doing the selection. Click to place the insertion point at the beginning or end of what is to be selected. Scroll to the other end of what is to be selected press the Shift key and click.

Using the Alt Key with the Mouse
To select a vertical block of text use the Alt key, while holding done the Alt key drag the mouse pointer over the block of text to select.

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Jim Cerny, Director, Sarasota PCUG, FL, August 2012 issue, Sarasota PC Monitor, www.spcug.org, jimcerny123 (at) gmail.com

Back To Basics: Using Menus

You walk into McDonald’s or Burger King and up there on their nice flat-panel displays are their menus. Their choices are limited so their menus are short. But if you go to the Ritz and ask for the wine list – wow, what a list of choices! And their choices are grouped into categories too. Each restaurant has its own menu of choices. So do computer programs.

Menus, toolbars, and ribbons are the tools we use to do what we want in a program. They provide us with specific commands (or actions) or options we can change. Whether you are playing a game, creating a document, are on the internet, or doing email, every program has options (or commands) and these options can be changed by you. Toolbars and ribbons have symbols (icons) which are intended to give you a visual clue as to what that tool or option does. If you don’t want to guess, just “hover” your mouse (that is, move your mouse so the arrow is pointing to a tool symbol) and a small box will appear with the name of that tool. This is a good way to learn the tools or icons you want to use.

Menus, however, use words to tell us what the option or command is. Clicking on (use the left mouse button please) the word of a menu, such as “File”, or “Edit”, or “Help” will open a menu of options for you. (Ribbons are another form of a tool bar of options). Sometimes you will not see the full and complete menu right away, just wait or click on the arrow at the bottom of that short list to get the complete menu. (The shorter list that first appears shows menu commands that you have recently used.) Menus have no “X” in the upper right corner to close the menu unless the menu opens in a window. Sometimes a menu will appear because your fingers hit some wrong keys. So how do you get rid of a menu without doing anything? – Just click OFF of the menu and the menu will go away (and no option is selected). If you do want to select one of the menu options, just click on it. What happens next is either the command or option will be put into effect, or you may get another menu or window with more options. Microsoft and most other software (programs) have generally agreed on some conventions for menus. Although these may not always apply, try looking at some menus in the programs you use to see if these work:

The bigger and better the program the more options there are available for you. Try playing with some menus in a game program or the Paint program just for fun. What you learn will apply to many programs and you will enjoy using your computer even more. Once you master how to use menus, go to the Ritz and ask for their wine list!

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