CTPC User Group

 

  1. Preview of the Next CTPC Meeting
  2. Save Money on Prescription Costs with the GoodRX App or Website - Ira Wilsker
  3. 2TB of Cloud Storage - Free! - Phil Sorrentino
  4. The Internet as an Information Resource
  5. I Want It Now! - Greg Skalka
  6. Fun and Knowledge with YouTube - Jim Cerny
  7. Online Guides to Fix Almost Anything Around the House, Car, Computer, or Bike - Ira Wilsker
 

Preview of the Next CTPC Meeting - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 6:30 p.m.

Roundtable Discussion

The July CTPC meeting will be another round table discussion. This format is working well for us in between programs. Last month’s discussion about Artificial Intelligence and Super Artificial Intelligence had great participation.

This month we’ll discuss current trends in computing. For example, the move away from desktop and laptop hardware toward smartphones and tablets. Larger, more powerful tablets are now hitting the market bundled with special stands, wireless keyboards and mice that let them serve both as a mobile device and as a desktop unit. They’re being marketed as a sort of modular desktop. Do you have a mobile device? How much do you use it? What tasks do you perform that require a computer other than the mobile device? If you don’t have a smartphone or tablet, have you shopped for one? What appeals to you and what doesn’t. Lots to talk about.

We can also discuss Cloud Computing. Do you use it? Do you trust it? What platform(s) do you use ... Google Drive, One Drive, Drop Box, something else? Is the free storage offered by most services enough for your needs? Do you think they’ll suck us in with free storage and low rates – then start charging us more as we grow more dependent? Another interesting topic.

So please come weigh in on these or other topics. Richard Frisch will host Random Access as well. Don’t forget our new location: the United Congregational Church of Norwalk on Richards Avenue (directions here). If it’s a very warm night we can take the folding chairs outside and have an outdoor meeting – perhaps a first for CTPC! Pizza and refreshments at Uncle Joe’s will follow. CLICK HERE for directions from the church to Uncle Joe’s.

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Ira Wilsker - Ira 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.

Save Money on Prescription Costs with the GoodRX App or Website

WEBSITES:
http://www.goodrx.com
http://www.goodrx.com/mobile
http://m.goodrx.com
http://www.goodrx.com/how-goodrx-works
http://www.goodrx.com/about
http://www.goodrx.com/faq-insurance
http://www.goodrx.com/faq
http://abcnews.go.com/Business/top-tips-save-prescription-drugs/story?id=22918556
http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2014/03/14/5-ways-to-cut-medical-costs
http://www.wzzm13.com/story/local/2014/02/10/5384465/
http://www.thedoctorstv.com/videolib/init/10654

Anyone who has read or listened to the news over the past few years is well aware of the debate over healthcare costs. No surprise to anyone is the perception of the high cost of prescription drugs. Much like the popular app GasBuddy displays the current gasoline prices at nearby gas stations, GoodRX does the same with prescription prices at nearby pharmacies. While GasBuddy shows gasoline prices that may differ by a few cents per gallon, GoodRX shows that prices for the same prescriptions can vary among local pharmacies by hundreds of dollars. While many of us have health insurance that covers prescription drugs, I have found that it is sometimes cheaper to pay cash for my prescriptions, as the insurance co-pay might be higher than the cash price! GoodRX.com explains it this way, " If you have insurance, your co-pay might not be the best price. Hundreds of generic medications are available for $4 or even free without insurance. Your $10 co-pay doesn't sound so great when you can get the same drug for 60% less with GoodRX. Plus, many plans have high deductibles or limited formularies that don't cover the drugs you need."

Unlike some of the other websites and apps that offer to save the patient money on prescriptions, GoodRX explains how it is different than most of the others, "We do not sell drugs; In fact, we don't sell anything. Right now we are focused on information only. Our primary mission is to make you a smarter consumer so you can make better choices when filling your prescriptions. We offer prices and unbiased coupon and discount information for legitimate, licensed US pharmacies that you already visit regularly."

GoodRX has been reviewed and evaluated positively in several major publications, including CNN, Prevention Magazine, Forbes, ABC News, and Good Housekeeping (source: goodrx.com/press). In a story on ABC News on March 22, 2014, "5 Tips for Saving on Your Prescription Drugs", one of the money saving tips said, " Shop Around for the Best Prices. Don't assume that your prescriptions will cost the same at every pharmacy. You can go to your local pharmacies to price compare, or use sites like GoodRX, which allows you to compare prices for all FDA-approved prescription drugs at pharmacies across the country before you buy." The March 14 issue of US News and World Report mentioned GoodRX in an article "5 Ways to Cut Medical Costs - Lower the price of prescriptions and procedures without jeopardizing your health"; in the section "Get the best price on prescriptions" US News said, " Before filling your prescription, shop around at different pharmacies. Consider looking at prices through your insurance company’s mail-order pharmacy, or use websites like goodrx.com to compare prices at your local pharmacies." A TV station in Grand Rapids, Michigan, WZZM, reported in a story "13 On Your Side: RX prices vary greatly" broadcast on February 10, 2014, "The best deals, however, were found online, at the site Good RX. It offers deeply discounted coupons redeemable at most major pharmacies. Good RX brings a transparency and savings to just one part of our health care: prescription prices. To know if you're getting a good deal you need to know what your insurance will require you to pay - a set co-pay, a percent of the full price?" Profound information on prescription drug prices was given on the syndicated TV show "The Doctors" (thedoctorstv.com/videolib/init/10654), shown locally at 2:00 PM weekdays on KJAC12; an internist discussing drug prices recommended GoodRX as the best way to get the lowest prescription prices at local pharmacies, even to the point of demonstrating the GoodRX website and app on the program.

After downloading the app to my Android smart phone (also available for iPhones), and viewing the GoodRX.com website, I experimented by comparing the local prices for several of the best selling prescription drugs, as listed on Wikipedia (wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_bestselling_drugs), and using the zip code for The Examiner (77701) as a constant location. The results were startling! The brand name or generic for almost any prescription drug can be entered, with the option of choosing the dosage and quantity. One example was for the widely prescribed statin (cholesterol lowering drug), the generic version of Lipitor. Comparing the 40mg dose, for a 30 day supply, the cash prices varied from $14.18 at the Kroger pharmacy with the printable coupon or the digital coupon displayed on a smart phone ($74 was the non-discounted price), $14.68 at Walmart and Sam's Club with coupon, $16.00 online or by mail order, $25.35 with coupon at CVS ($145 non-discounted), and $25.60 at Walgreens with coupon ($149 non-discounted). A coupon was also available to get discounted prices at other local pharmacies.

One of the most widely prescribed diuretics, the generic version of Lasix (furosemide 40mg) also had wide variances in local prices. The lowest price for 30 tablets, 40mg furosemide was an online pharmacy at $3.50, followed by Kroger ($3.59 with coupon, $4.00 without a coupon), Walmart and Sam's Club $4.00 with coupon, Walgreens $5.00 for its club members ($12 without paid membership), and CVS for $8.84 with coupon ($12 without coupon). For the record, most of the coupon prices are less than the co-pay for generics on my health insurance plan.

Much more dramatic differences in price are apparent for popular, heavily advertised prescription drugs. I just heard a TV commercial for the diabetes drug Victoza, for which there is no generic, so that drug might be useful to compare what our local pharmacies are charging. Victoza, which will not be available as a generic before August, 2022, has a manufacturers' coupon available that can be used for up to two years that can save up to $150 per fill, the link to which is available on the GoodRX listing for Victoza. GoodRX also reports that there is a "Manufacturer Assistance Program: Financial assistance is available for eligible patients" to provide Victoza at much lower prices; this information is also linked on GoodRX. Victoza comes as an injectable in a pen format, three pens per box; at the common daily dose of 1.8mg, the box should last 30 days. For people paying for their prescriptions, Walmart and Sam's Club came out the lowest at $570.79 with the coupon. CVS was second lowest at $575.41 with the coupon ($634 cash price), Kroger Pharmacy was $575.91 ($675 without coupon), and Walgreens was $588.55 with the coupon ($618 without coupon). By contrast, the Victoza was listed at $618 from the online source.

We should never be afraid to talk to our physicians about the medications that we take; one feature of GoodRX is that when it displays a particular drug that might have been prescribed, it also displays if there is a lower cost generic available, as well as any less expensive similar drugs. With this information, we can have a frank discussion with our physicians about our medications, and ask if any of the lower cost alternatives might be equally appropriate for us.

Since many of us go directly from the prescribing physician to the pharmacy, the free GoodRX mobile apps for Android and iPhone (or iPad) may be convenient. As an alternative, there is a web based mobile version of the GoodRX website at m.goodrx.com. With the app or mobile version, it is very easy to search for the prescribed drugs, choose a location by zip code or city, and let the app display the prices at the nearby pharmacies. If a coupon is available to lower the cost, the app will display a digital copy of the coupon that can be used at the pharmacy; alternatively, the coupons can be sent by SMS text message or by email. Each coupon that I viewed had a statement that it did not apply if used under Medicare or Medicaid. While the majority of the pharmacies displayed are the major chain, retailer, or supermarket based pharmacies, there is also an additional coupon that can be explicitly used at most other non-listed pharmacies to get prescription prices competitive to those displayed.

GoodRX summarizes its service with this statement, "Use GoodRX's drug price search to compare prices (just like you do for travel or electronics on other sites) for your prescription at pharmacies near you. We don't sell the medications, we tell you where you can get the best deal on them." Now that I have downloaded the app to my smart phone, I will intelligently use the GoodRX app to find the best price for my prescriptions. Together, using the power of good information along with honest competition, we can help to bring down our costs for health care.

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Phil Sorrentino, Past President, Sarasota PCUG, Florida, January 2014 issue, PC Monitor, www.spcug.org, philsorr (at) yahoo.com

2TB of Cloud Storage - Free!

Well, now that I have your attention, let me tell you how you can accomplish this without any trickery or dishonesty. (Remember, 1TB is equal to 1,000 GB) Wouldn’t it be nice to have all of your pictures, videos and documents available to you whenever and wherever you want it? Cloud storage is a great way to accomplish this. Cloud storage is available from many sources like Skydrive, Google Drive, SugarSync, Dropbox, etc. Some of these cloud services give you from 2GB to 7GB of free storage and then you pay for additional space (Skydrive provides 7GB free). With over 100GB of pictures and more than double that amount of videos, this could run into quite an expense using one of the commercial cloud storage services.

The cloud service I’m suggesting is your own computer system with an additional external (or internal) 2TB hard drive. You don’t have to use a 2TB drive if you don’t need that much storage. Maybe you have an old 300 or 500GB hard drive around that would do the trick. The size of the drive is not that important. What is important is that the information on that drive will be available to you wherever you are. The software that makes this incredible benefit possible is called Teamviewer. Teamviewer is available for your PC, and the Teamviewer App is available for your smartphone and/or tablet; both the PC software and the App are free for personal use. (Though the App can work on a smartphone, a 4 or 5 inch display is really too small. If you try this on a smartphone, I think you will find that the objects you will want to control will be too small when you try to use your finger to select these objects. It really works well on a larger display, so I will be limiting my discussion to a tablet with at least a 7 or 8 inch display. It works great on a 10 inch display.)

For this arrangement to work, you install Teamviewer on your home computer, you install the Teamviewer App on to your tablet, and then you leave your home computer on whenever you want access to it and the hard drive. Because I’ve limited this to tablets, the tablet will have to be in reach of a Wi-Fi network because most tablets only have Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi networks are typically found in many places such as homes, airports, libraries, Starbucks, Panera Bread, shopping centers, and some McDonalds.) If your tablet has cell phone capability then you don’t have this restriction.

Teamviewer is a software package used for remote control, desktop sharing, online meetings, web conferencing, and file transfer between computers. It runs on Windows, Apple and Android operating systems. The basic features of Teamviewer are similar to Crossloop. (You might remember Crossloop from an article published in the Sarasota PC Users Group Monitor in Feb. 2010. The intent of that article was “Assisting another member with a computer problem”, but if you’ll remember it was stated that “CrossLoop provides a quick, easy, and completely free way to give another member, a friend, or a relative, access to your computer”. This remote control feature is also part of Teamviewer, and Teamviewer has the App for tablets that allows these devices to act as remote controllers. As it says on the Teamviewer website, “Teamviewer allows you to control computers remotely via the internet, as if you were sitting right in front of them”. The home computer desktop appears on the tablet and you can interact with your home computer by using various touch-screen gestures to control the home computer and its software. Just start Windows explorer on your tablet with a double tap, (once your home computer desktop appears on the tablet) and then navigate to the Drive you have designated as “Cloud Storage”, and navigate to the folders and files of interest. To show a picture, just double tap on the file in question. You can even start a video or music and it will be streamed to your tablet, for your enjoyment. (The video will only be acceptable if you have a fast uplink at home.)

To download Teamviewer for your computer, just go to www.teamviewer.com and click on the Download button. To download the Teamviewer App for your Android tablet, just go to the Google Play Store and touch the Magnifying Glass to search for “Teamviewer”, and then download the App. The Teamviewer App logo is as shown here:
Graphic #1
Teamviewer Logo

After Teamviewer has been installed on your PC, start it and you will be presented with a window that gives you a “Your ID” and a “Password” for this Computer. This ID is what you will need when you are attempting to remotely control this PC. (The “Partner ID” would be used if you were going to attempt to control another PC from this PC. That might be the subject of another article.) The last item needed is the “Personal Password”. You can use the “Setup unattended access” wizard by clicking on the pencil icon in the Personal Password box, or you can just assign a personal password by entering a password that you desire into the Personal Password box. I would suggest you use the wizard, at least the first time. Once you have the Personal Password setup you are ready to allow remote control, or Unattended Access, as the wizard calls it.

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Teamviewer on the PC

The last thing to do is set up the tablet for remote control, or “unattended access of the PC”. After the Teamviewer App is installed on the tablet, start it by tapping it’s icon. This will bring up the Teamviewer remote control screen. Enter the “Your ID” number that was assigned to your PC and tap Remote Control. Teamviewer will make a connection with your PC and display an Authentication window (if it doesn’t, your tablet may not be on the Wi-Fi network). Enter your “Personal Password” into the password box and tap OK. The first time this is done you will see a screen of Touch interactions as a primer for tablet control; just tap Continue (and check the “Don’t show this dialog again” if you don’t want to see this screen again.) After you tap Continue, your PC desktop will appear on your tablet. There is a box on the bottom right that indicates you are using Teamviewer; flick the box to the right so it will be out of your way. Now you can operate your computer just as if you were sitting in front of it. The only difference is that there is no keyboard, but you can use the tablet virtual keyboard by taping on the keyboard icon on the bottom towards the left, whenever it is needed.

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Tablet showing the PC Desktop

Now to get to your data, just open the Windows Explorer and navigate to the drive and open any of the folders and files that are now part of your 2TB cloud storage. Make sure you close everything and save any changes you made before leaving Teamviewer. To leave Teamviewer and close the connection, tap the big X on the bottom left, and then go back to your home screen.

Now, how is that for 2TB of cloud storage with no monthly storage charge?

(I’d like to thank Dennis Russell, a student in my Android Tablets class, for making me aware of Teamviewer.)

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February NNCUG meeting recap by Anne Moss, Secretary - Presented by: Brian Riley, Vice President, Northern Neck Computer User Group, VA, March 2014 issue, The Link, www.nncug.org, geocadjr (at) verizon.net

The Internet as an Information Resource

Brian started with an overview of the ancient history of software documentation to illustrate the impact of the Internet as an information resource. In real time, 30+ years. Software once came with manuals and disks (5-1/4, 3-1/2). A loose-leaf manual was designed for manual updating. Updating usually was tedious, time consuming, and almost instantly out-of-date. The problem was cost. Updates had to be printed, mailed, and then each manual updated manually. And updates could be out-of-date with the delay in the mailing process. This was costly both to the software vendor and to the company or individual who had to maintain their manuals.

Onward to Help File Systems. Remember those days? To get somewhere one had to search back and forth through hypertext trying to find an answer to a question. And then the documentation frequently almost but not quite answered your particular query and you ended up going round and round in circles trying to find a better answer. In addition, you could not update help files that came on disks.

So how do Help files now work? Click on “HELP” in the menu (or the F1 key), which formerly brought up a standard help format. Clicking F1 in a program brings up Help files that are now located on the Internet. This makes a lot more sense if you think about it. First, there is only one place to update; every user automatically has the latest information. Second, the user does not need to update individual installations and check others to make sure they updated. Third, updates and corrections are pretty much instantaneous. The major anti-virus vendors, Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, etc. now are following this same pattern. That doesn’t mean “how to” books are no longer out there. Printed documentation is bought separately, or from third parties.

What about the tangible effects of the Internet on everyday life? Brian then reviewed changes in everyday life that are the result of information being available through Internet technology. Real Estate has always been a candidate for a database – Multiple listings actually began in the late 1800’s and transactions were standardized in 1999 (RETS) by the National Association of Realtors. Realtors used to maintain paper files, and updated them frequently. This changed with Quick Response (QR) coding, which allowed a publication to show a picture or brief listing, with a QR code beside it, thus allowing the customer to access the data.

Banking is no longer just transactions by snail mail or in a bank branch. On line banking has grown exponentially in the last decade. How many tellers does it take this day and age to staff a bank branch? Instead customers now use the ATM and pay bills through a secure website. On the other hand who needs an ATM if you don’t use cash? Plastic card purchases comprise 66% of all in-person sales, and 31% of those are made with debit cards. Even bill paying can be set up automatically and half of all households have bills paid by automatic deduction from bank accounts.

Conducting transactions with your stockbroker is no longer by telephone, and choosing the best stockbroker for you is easy with an Internet inquiry and exploration of web sites.

We have all become used to using the Internet to find stuff, buy stuff, and these days fix stuff. For example, oops I have a broken keyboard. Do I take it to the shop or fix it myself? First, I’ll need a replacement keyboard. Using Google, type in “replacement keyboard” and the computer model number. There are references to the part, as well as a YouTube video showing just what to do, and a downloadable manual. Not only is this useful for electronic parts, but ordinary equipment such as a simple three-hole punch can be repaired.

There are innumerable questions and updates available with the simplest of inquiries. For example, when planning to visit an out-of-town friend, use Google weather, and pick the city or Zip Code. What about next week when I will be traveling, just add a10-day forecast to the inquiry. Then find hotels and restaurants at the destination. Found the type of food you want? Specify if you want it delivered. Whatever the topic, Internet surfing allows the user to learn more than the original question. We really do carry around a mammoth reference library in our smart phones,

tablets, etc. Taking Classes: Maybe you would like to take a class in something. There are a lot of online accredited colleges. They are usually expensive and require that you complete entrance requirements. There are also a lot of non-accredited classes for a wide variety of subjects and generally they are very cheap. Some of them are offered by established brick and mortar colleges, and some offer feedback from students.

Udemy is one of many websites offering online courses. It also lists reviews of the courses. Udemy, and similar sites, do frequently offer discounts, some substantial, particularly if you get on their mailing list. Keep in mind that non-accredited courses will not count towards a degree or be used for a job application.

Remember: There are thousands of websites. Some are well documented and maintained by professionals and experts. Others are less reliable. So who to trust? As an example, Brian uses Wikipedia and finds it good for information that is non-controversial. For controversial and philosophical subjects, you may want to check with several sources.

Brian concluded by noting that the Internet is more than just iPhones and tablets; it is about information access!

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Greg Skalka, President, Under the Computer Hood User Group, CA, February 2014 Issue, Drive Light, www.uchug.org, president (at) uchug.org

I Want It Now!

This may sound like the utterance of a tantrum-happy young child, but it also seems to be the mantra of the modern computer and technology user. Our popular culture today is all about instant gratification, and this is spilling over into our technology. Everyone wants instant access to information, communications, finance and commerce wherever they are and no matter what they are doing. While this is a rather tall order, tech companies are doing their best to grant us this wish. We are getting more connected and interconnected all the time. While this can provide great benefits, increasing our knowledge and security and saving us time and money, it can also be detrimental to us in many of the same ways. Are we trading away important aspects of our lives like privacy and individuality for speed and convenience?

The engine that drives all the increases in convenience in our lives is the Internet. Computers and tablets are powerful devices but are of relatively little use if not connected to the Internet. The Internet is the connection medium through which all our modern communications and access to information flow. The telecommunication (phone) system was once the most powerful and far-reaching network in the world, but its demotion can be seen in the low percentage of time that the typical smart phone user spends in voice calls. The average smart phone is now being used mostly to check email, monitor social media, play games and provide directions, functions which utilize the Internet. Our desire for increased connectedness and higher connection speeds continues to be met by our service providers, be they cable, telecom or cellular. The promises of online conveniences like streaming entertainment, security camera monitoring and video conferencing cannot be met without broadband Internet connections that are always live. Remember the days when you had to wait until the home phone line was free so you could use your modem to make your dial-up Internet connection? A down or even slow connection is now exasperating to the individual and death to a business. Today almost anyone in the United States can have a broadband connection. Cable companies have upgraded their systems, the phone companies have added fiber and the cellular providers have upped their “G’s” or generations in data networking capabilities. Even those living off the beaten path in rural areas outside the reach of cable can get broadband through satellite connections, using technology developed by our local company, ViaSat. All this capability comes at a price, however.

Naturally users were not satisfied to be connected only at home, so our tech industry gave us laptops to travel with. We wanted more portability, so they gave us Wi-Fi, tablets and smartphones. All this new stuff meant we had to buy more hardware (often of multiple kinds for multiple needs) and probably also get a cellular data plan. Now most connected folks pay around $100 combined for home broadband and cellular data, and even more for a family. Though connection speeds keep increasing, so too do rates for service. Comcast buying Time Warner Cable can’t be good for consumer costs. And we in this country pay more and get less bandwidth than a lot of other countries. Some countries may not have good water or sewer systems, but even the poor there have cell phones and five bars. We are getting Google Fiber in an additional 34 major U.S. cities soon, however (but still not in San Diego; I want it now!).

We couldn’t get online while onboard, so the airlines are rolling out more in-flight Internet access (for a price). Google knew we’d find tablets and smartphones were not convenient enough, so they developed Google Glasses, and others are working on their own wearable computing devices. Our homes and appliances will soon be connected to the Internet (the IoT, or Internet of Things), so we can monitor our homes remotely and have our fridge tell us when we are low on milk. What these new devices will cost us in privacy and other social and civil issues is yet to be determined.

We wanted instant access to our money and finances, and so the banks gave it to us. Now we can get cash anytime from an ATM machine, make purchases without cash by using credit or debit cards and get instant access to our account information at any time. If we want to deposit a check right now, we don’t even have to drive to a bank branch or ATM. We can now just take a photo of the check with our smart phone and deposit it through a banking app.

With all of our financial information available online, it was just a matter of time before criminal elements took notice. Now you have to protect and remember lots of unique and complex passwords for all the banking, e-commerce and other online accounts you use, so you can keep your money and identity safe. Unfortunately it is not only in your hands to protect. Financial institutions and merchants that store your information on their computers can be targets for data theft. There is a lot the institutions could do to increase security, like multi-factor authentication and smart chip credit cards, but these things cost money. A few things they have been doing to help prevent fraud are useful but put the onus on the account holder. Most bank and credit card companies encourage their customers to set up alerts on their accounts to help flag suspicious transactions. I have set these up on my accounts and find them very useful.

I have my credit cards alert me, through an email and/or a text message, when a purchase is made without the card being presented to the merchant, as in an online purchase. This can help alert you to fraudulent account activity as soon as it happens. My Visa card is set up to send me an alert when a gas pump purchase is made. I use this card often at a particular low-cost gas station and am amazed at how quickly I am notified. After I swipe my card, enter my zip code and press the Enter button on the pump, I can’t count to five before I feel my cell phone vibrating in my pocket with a text informing me of the transaction and location. That is pretty cool!

When we want to purchase something, we want it now. E-commerce has allowed the shopper to buy a much wider array of products online than is typically available in neighborhood stores, often at much lower prices. The one advantage for brick and mortar stores is the instant gratification of walking out with your purchase. Online merchants are working hard to minimize delivery time, offering one or two-day delivery for a premium. Amazon’s Prime service provides two-day delivery for many items for an annual subscription fee. Amazon knows we want even more and is looking at using predictive algorithms to pre-position products you are likely to purchase in local warehouses and is even working on 30-minute delivery of small items by autonomous flying quadcopters. I can’t wait (but I’ll bet it won’t be cheap).

Taco Bell is working to fulfill our desire for fast food right now. They plan to introduce a mobile ordering system later this year. Through their mobile app, already tested in five locations in Orange County, customers can place an order with the closest Taco Bell location and pay through their phone with credit or gift cards. The order can be picked up in-store or at the drive-through window, and the app will use GPS location to let the store know when the customer is near, so the order is ready and freshness is maintained. I’m not sure I want Taco Bell to know how far I am from their restaurants. Other chains are working on mobile apps of their own.

There goes more of our privacy in exchange for quick eats. When we want to watch a movie, we no longer have to wait to buy or rent a DVD (or Blu-ray) or go to a theater. We can watch our entertainment streamed to our computer, tablet or smart phone the instant we want it, in almost any location we choose. We can easily stay connected with our friends through social media like Facebook, allowing us to share our activities and see what everyone else is doing. Unfortunately, when watching other things happening becomes too convenient, doing things yourself can get pushed aside and lots of time can be spent in watching the Internet world go by, with little to show for it.

When we miss our far-away loved ones, we can not only speak to them, we can also see them, and at reasonable costs. The Internet has brought us VoIP, or voice over Internet Protocol, and along with it lower rates (often free) for long distance phone calls. Programs like Skype provide video calls at reasonable costs. And for those of us that can’t wait until the afterlife to converse again with our deceased loved ones, a new start-up, Eterni.me, promises to help. Through access to a dead person’s online interactions (chat logs, social network information, emails), they claim to use artificial intelligence algorithms to construct an avatar or virtual person that the living can interact with. It could be like online chat with a dead person. To satisfy our need for instant interactions with help lines and tech support, companies are working on similar avatars with artificial intelligence (even more intelligent than Siri). When we need to talk to a person right now, the avatar would be there and not even require a salary. It would be good if they got to the point where I could not tell if I was talking with a person or a machine. It would be bad if they got to the point where I could not tell if I was talking with a person or a machine.

All these advances in convenience and quick access come at the cost of our data security and privacy. We can get quick answers to all our questions, get directions and compare products online, but we must realize that the Technology, computers and the Internet will continue to try to provide what we want (though perhaps not what we need), as long as there is profit in it somewhere for someone. Hopefully we can learn to use these advances for the betterment of ourselves and others, appreciate them, and not become like spoiled children crying “I want it now!”

Google and Bing and merchants are all keeping track of what we are asking for and about. Seeking online information about sensitive topics or items might create undesirable associations in the data they hold about us. And while a lot of tech jobs have been created due to the Internet, there have also been some job losses. Just ask the former bank tellers, video rental clerks, encyclopedia salespersons and retail store workers that lost their jobs due to the effects of the Internet.

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Jim Cerny, 2nd Vice President, Sarasota PCUG, Florida, February 2014 issue, PC Monitor, www.spcug.org, jimcerny123 (at) gmail.com

Fun and Knowledge with YouTube

Whether you have a tablet, smart phone, or any kind of computer, YouTube is one application that can, all by itself, really justify the purchase of your device. YouTube can be found on the internet at youtube.com (that’s easy to remember, right?) or you can download the free YouTube application for any device. Since Google has acquired YouTube, it can also be found on the Google web site (it used to be Google videos).

YouTube is your access to millions of videos made by almost anyone who wants to make them available to you for free. Many of the videos are fantastic and some are just a waste of time. But YOU decide. You search for the videos you want to see simply by entering your search criteria (regular English words) in the search box. Do you have a favorite entertainer? Just enter their name and you will have access to hundreds of their videos. How about a home improvement project? Just enter what it is you want to do and see a video of how to do it. Almost anything you can think of, there is probably a video on that subject on YouTube.

Here are just a few examples of fun things to see and explore on YouTube: Famous people, science experiments, college lectures, cartoons, news, products, companies, cooking, travel, painting, and, well just about everything.

The only thing it seems that YouTube does not give you is fairly recent free movies and TV shows. If you searched for a movie or TV show by its title, YouTube will probably only show you the “trailers” for free. However, YouTube does offer some movies and TV shows for a price. But the real fun for me is seeing all that is available to you at no cost whatsoever – and you do not have to join anything.

You could think of YouTube as the ultimate “window to the world” and all that is in it by just using your computer or device. Why read a printed article or view pictures? YouTube can SHOW you what other sources only TELL you. Click on the right-pointing arrow to play the video. You can click on any point on the progress bar to go to that point in the video. And you can click on pause (usually the double vertical line symbol), just like you used to do with the old video VHS tape players. After clicking on “pause” you can go back to the list of videos just like you do with Google. Some videos may have a short advertisement the plays before the real video starts.

There is really no limit to what YouTube has to offer. I have yet to search for something that did not have some kind of video to watch on that subject. So do not limit your imagination either. Here are just a few things I have found – each of which can provide hours and hours of videos:

So don’t hold back – be adventurous and explore the world! Your brain will thank you for it.

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Ira Wilsker - Ira 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.

Online Guides to Fix Almost Anything Around the House, Car, Computer, or Bike

WEBSITES:
http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/something-broken-learn-fix-anything-4-websites
http://www.ifixit.com
http://www.familyhandyman.com
https://www.youtube.com/user/diyautoschool
http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help

Readers of this column may be aware that there are several websites that I utilize as primary sources of information; one of those favorites is MakeUseOf.com. Recently, MakeUseOf.com published an article, "Something Broken? Learn To Fix Anything With These 4 Websites" (makeuseof.com/tag/something-broken-learn-fix-anything-4-websites), by Dann Albright. The preamble of the columns states, "No one likes it when their things break. It might be something big, like your TV or your car, or something smaller, like a leaky faucet or a cracked floor tile. You can spend hundreds of dollars to have a professional help you out, or you can learn how to fix it yourself for the cost of some tools and a couple hours of work. Which would you rather do?"

The first of the recommended websites is iFixit at ifixit.com. The website is self described as " The free repair guide for everything, written by everyone." iFixit offers thousands of user written and illustrated repair guides for thousands of consumer products, all categorized into product types. Among the major categories listed are Mac Repair (1900 guides covering 128 devices and 5100 parts), Game Console Repair (514 guides, 83 devices, 353 parts), Phone Repair (2100 guides, 503 devices, 215 parts), iPhone repair (182 guides, 9 devices), Car and Truck Repair (255 guides, 155 devices), Camera Repair (770 guides, 208 devices), PC Repair (1000 guides, 351 devices), iPad Repair (194 guides, 18 devices), iPod repair (177 guides, 24 devices), Appliance Repair (181 guides, 78 devices), and direct links to a large selection of printers, scanners, musical devices, DVD recorders and players, flat screen TVs, classic (antique) computers, wheelchairs, skateboards, mopeds, and other items.

Since I, along with almost everyone else, have a phone of some type, I explored the iFixit phone guide; on the directory was every brand of home and cellular phone that I have ever heard of, and many that were unfamiliar to me. Since my wife and I both have Samsung smart phones, and Samsung is one of the largest manufacturers of smart phones, I selected Samsung under the Phone Repair directory, which then displayed 96 models of Samsung phones, both current and discontinued models. Somewhat randomly, I selected the Samsung Galaxy Note; iFixit displayed 14 replacement guides covering the battery, display, front and rear camera assembly, headphone and earpiece, memory card replacement, motherboard replacement, SIM card replacement, USB board replacement, antenna replacement, and other repairs, as well as links to sellers of replacement parts.

Since all of us routinely face automobile repair and maintenance issues, I selected the Auto Repair menu, and was presented with the logos for 41 brands and manufacturers, as well as special guides for auto accessories, car audio, and auto parts. There are two Hondas in my extended family so I clicked on the Honda icon; 12 specific Honda models were displayed, as well as two "Feature Guides" which provided instructions on routine maintenance tasks.

While comprehensive, the iFixit guides do not cover all models and variations of products, but it does provide enough information on many of the most common consumer products that a moderately skilled individual can complete the listed repair and maintenance jobs.

The second of the websites recommended by MakeUseOf.com is the Family Handyman at familyhandyman.com. While this is the website of a commercial print magazine, the website contains thousands of guides on how to perform home repair and home improvement projects. The top of the website contains a menu bar, for which each item opens a selection of relevant topics. For those who prefer to go directly to a topic rather than navigating through a menu hierarchy, you can utilize the search box adjacent to the menu bar. The menu bar has links for rooms, skills, parts of the house, outdoors, and other areas of interest. Selecting "Rooms" from the menu bar displays a list of room types commonly in most homes, with each room type opening an appropriate webpage with details about projects for those rooms. As many of us have crowded and cluttered closets in our homes, that menu item seemed a logical first choice. The page that opened under the banner "Closet Organizers: Maximize storage space with these DIY closet organizers" displayed eight guides on organizing and improving closet space. Selecting another room, the kitchen, opened a page headed "Kitchen: Remodeling ideas for your kitchen with new cabinets, backsplashes, and lighting", which included 50 guides covering such diverse kitchen related topics including installing backsplashes, sharpening knives, repairing or replacing kitchen appliances, repairing and replacing faucets, stove repairs, fixing broken ice makers, repairing kitchen cabinets and drawers, and other kitchen repairs and improvements.

Owning and maintaining a home requires an assortment of skills and knowledge; FamilyHandyman.com offers assistance with those skills and tasks under the appropriately titled "Skills' heading on the menu bar. Sixteen skills are presented, with each linking to an appropriate compilation of tasks. Among the skills listed are Appliance Repair, Carpentry, Drywall, Electrical, Heating & Cooling, Painting, Pest Control, Plumbing, Tiling, and other household maintenance tasks and skills. Being in southeast Texas, with our heat, humidity, and endemic pest problems, I selected "Pest Control" from the Skills menu. The page is headed, "Pest Control: Keep pests out of your home with these do-it-yourself tips and advice from professional pest control specialists." On this page are an even dozen illustrated guides covering relevant topics such as "Do Your Own Pest Control", seasonal pest control guides, dealing with rodents and other small mammals, ridding your home of those pesky mosquitoes, keeping ants out of your home, and other interesting but necessary topics.

Other household components are listed under additional menu heading including "Parts of the House" (ceiling, doors, roof, floors, siding, walls, windows), and "Outdoors" (decks, garden, grills, patios, landscaping, and decking). As with the other categories, each of these links directly to a collection of appropriate guides dealing with common tasks encountered by homeowners.

MakeUseOf.com recommended the "DIY (Do It Yourself) Auto School YouTube Channel" (youtube.com/user/diyautoschool) as its favorite source of auto repair information. As mentioned in the original article, and a characteristic that I agree with, this " DIY Auto School YouTube Channel" is a dedicated group of hundreds of videos on auto repair and maintenance topics that are easy to follow as well as entertaining, but not well organized. Among the YouTube videos in this channel are a series on getting rid of rust, replacing fuel lines, "Fueling Up For Gas-And Getting "RIPPED OFF" At The Pump!", detailing your car yourself, removing dents using the "paintless" technique, using Bondo, carburetor repairs on older vehicles, restoring classic cars, how to change the pads on disc brakes, 'Headlight Restoration Made Easy" (necessary to remove the light diffusing frosted finish becoming common on the lenses over the headlights on many cars), and many other auto repair topics. I played several of these videos and they are entertaining, "down-to-earth", not overly technical, but clear enough for a novice to follow. For those who like to work on their own cars, this YouTube channel can be a gold mine of information.

The fourth and final website recommended on the "Something Broken" MakeUseOf.com website is a guide on how to fix almost anything on a bicycle, provided by Park Tool Company, a 51 year old company manufacturing bicycle repair tools, located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Park Tool claims to be " ... the world's largest bicycle tool manufacturer." This wide-ranging bicycle repair website is located at parktool.com/blog/repair-help. Park Tool allows the user to locate detailed bicycle repair information using any one of the three listed tools; the first is an interactive image of a bicycle that displays repair topics as the user moves his cursor over the image of the bicycle; the second is a traditional menu on the right side of the window; and the third is a traditional search box. Personally, I found the interactive image method to be the most beneficial way to locate appropriate repair information as I did not know all of the bicycle nomenclature, and the interactive image displays part names as the user moves the cursor to that part of the bicycle image.

To get acquainted with the Park Tool maintenance and repair guide, I moved my cursor on the interactive image of a bicycle, and highlighted parts of interest. Being intrigued by the complex gearing on modern bicycles, a far cry from the old 3-speed bike that I grew up with, I selected the "Derailleur Systems", which instantly displayed a dozen guides on adjusting, repairing, and maintaining the complex gearing on the modern bikes. Included in this selection were guides on properly sizing and tensioning the bicycle chain.

With about 150 bicycle repair and adjustment guides, all of which are clearly written, well illustrated, and included a complete listing of parts, tools, and supplies necessary for each repair, these Park Tool guides are a valuable adjunct for anyone who might want to work on his own bicycle. Using these guides, I hope to restore one of my old bicycles, doing all of the work myself.

These four very comprehensive repair guide websites recommended by MakeUseOf.com contain a wealth of information that may enable anyone with a modicum of skill and time to save money and have the satisfaction of doing their own repairs and upgrades. I know that I will "Make Use Of" these four resources in the near future, and that my readers may likely do the same.

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