Monday, June 30, 2014

Skype problems

Answer Man

I have used Skype for a long time, and it always worked fine. Recently, however, I get audio and no video or video and no audio. I can't seem to get both. I have re-installed the camera software to no avail. Any suggestions?

I'm willing to bet that you have the camera plugged into a USB hub. Unplug the camera from the hub and plug it in to the USB port directly.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Should I trust online reviews

Answer Man

I would like to purchase some items on-line. Can I trust online reviews?

Some people are paid to do reviews. Some people write bad reviews to discredit competitor's products. Some people have a bad experience and criticize all products from the respective company.

Despite these problems, there are some good ways to interpret the reviews. Start by looking at those products that are rated 4 stars instead of 5. If the review was objectively written, see what intelligent facts you can glean from the review.

Then look at the worst reviews. See if they're objective. See if their critiques make sense, and glean what you can from them. Then use your own intuition based on the 4 star and 1 star reviews.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Dating sites

Answer Man

You wouldn't think this question would come from a retirement community, but there are many of us who are widows or widowers, and we'd like to meet someone. What's your view of on-line-dating?

I have been married for 56 years, so I'm not an authority on the subject, but I know several people who have used on-line dating services. My take on the subject is this: It's better than meeting in bars. The science is not exact, so it's essentially a numbers game. Many sites are expensive, and I don't think you gain much by paying more to a more expensive site. If you do arrange a date, be cautious. Meet the person at a neutral meeting site, not at your home. Meet for coffee. Then decide if you want to continue.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Screen blinking

Answer Man

The screen on my laptop was fine yesterday. Today it keeps blinking and popping up blank windows. I can't do much of anything with it as the screen keeps blinking away. I tried safe mode, but that didn't help. Any suggestions?

Often such problems are caused by a recent update. I suggest trying to restore the computer to an earlier date. If the computer won't let you enter restore, you'll need your Windows disk to start Windows repair.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Indicator lamp replacement

Answer Man

I have an HP slimline computer. The on/off button is on top, and is surrounded by clear plastic. There used to be an LED that lit the plastic. I guess it burnt out, because it is difficult to tell whether the switch is on or off. Can the LED be replaced?

Computer manufacturers rarely stock such parts for computers that are more than a couple of years old, but you can put in an LED if you're handy with a soldering iron. Open the side of the computer, remove the front, and you will see the switch and a tiny LED. Cut off the LED so that the remaining wires are as long as possible. Strip about 1/2" of the wires. Slip some heat shrink tubing over the wires. Solder the wires in to the LED. Move the tubing over the splice and heat. The biggest challenge is to fit the LED in place so that it lights the plastic and still lets the front cover snap back in place.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

E-mail forwarding

Answer Man

I want to send an e-mail I received to a friend of mine, but when I use reply to sender or forward, other recipients show up in the e-mail. I want to keep a running record of our communications. Is there a better way to accomplish what I want?

Reply to sender works fine if you just want to answer one person. Forwarding is generally not a good idea as all the other names of people who have forwarded the item show up, and that make's the e-mail contact list ripe for hackers.

I would create an e-mail folder for the person or entity. Save each e-mail to that folder. If you have something you want to forward, copy the content, create a new e-mail and paste the contents into that e-mail.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Where to sell

Answer Man

I have some computer stuff to sell and wonder if you know some good sites that aren't too expensive?

You can place free ads on the following sites:

orha-ocala.com/ClassifiedAds,
ocala4sale.com,
ocala.shoppok.com,
ocala.craigslist.org.

You can, of course place an ad on the Oak Run bulletin board in the Orchid Club (write the ad so that it fits on a 3" x 5" card, sign the back of the card and write down your phone number) and place the ad in the wooden box in the Card Room closet.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Partitioning

Answer Man

I have often heard you use the term "partitioning". What in blazes is partitioning?

Partitioning refers to the process of diving a drive into segments for a variety of purposes. Most computers come with the hard drive divided into two partitions. The partitions are generally called the "C" and "D" partitions. The "C" partition contains the operating system and your files. The "D" partition is installed by the manufacturer and is used to restore or recover the operating system is something should go wrong. Partitions can also be added by the user. Some users like to store all their photos in one partition, all their music in another, etc.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Control remote computer

Answer Man

My daughter lives in Cleveland. She has a laptop, but doesn't know much about it and continually has computer problems. I know there are programs that will let me control her computer from Oak Run. Are any of them free?

Yes there are some free programs that you can use. I particularly like Team Viewer: http://www.teamviewer.com/en/index.aspx. The program is free for individual use.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Kingsoft Office

Kingsoft Office software has “Writer, Spreadsheet & Presentation” programs and is FREE.

I have just taken a quick look at them and they “look like” MS Office in appearance. My first impression is very good. I think it is well worth a look. It’s free, a smaller download than LibreOffice and you can always uninstall it.

The link to the download is: http://www.wps.com/windows/

Password storage

Answer Man

Some time ago, the Club had a speaker that talked about a way to store all of your passwords safely. Do you recall the method?

The speaker was talking about one of the many password managers that are available. He specifically mentioned Last Pass lastpass.com. Password managers require that you know only one master password. They store all of your passwords, and with one click you can connect to a stored site.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Speed Dial

Answer Man

What is speed dial, and how do you use the program?

The Opera browser comes with speed dial built in. Speed dial 2 is an add-on for the Chrome browser. Speed dial is similar to using bookmarks or favorites. You modify little blocks that appear on the screen, so, that when you click on the blocks, your are taken to your favorite sites. The Opera method is easier to use. You can be on a site and click a tiny button in the upper right of the screen that will add the site you are on to the speed dial.

I use speed dial most of the time. Blocks that I have created are for my mail, various news outlets, e-bay, this blog, ORHA website, etc.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

When to buy a new computer

Answer Man

I have heard a variety of opinions on when it is time to buy a new computer. Some say that a 4 year old computer is hopelessly out of date. What do you say?

I say that it depends upon several factors, the most important of which is what you do with a computer. If you do little more than search the Internet and check your e-mail, many 10 year old computers will accomplish that will little effort. If the operating system is too old, you can install Linux. If , on the other hand, you are an active gamer, video editor, or photo editor, you might want the latest and greatest machine.

I have several computers, but the one I use most often, and am using to write this note, is a 6 year old desktop. It contains, however, a dual core processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive. I have upgraded the computer from Vista to Windows 8.1, and, at this juncture, I have no intentions of replacing the computer with a new one.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Calls from Microsoft

Answer Man

I got a call from Microsoft, and the caller told me that my computer was badly infected with viruses and malware. Can someone in a distant place tell that my computer is infected?

Microsoft does not call individuals. So, right away you know the call was bogus. The purpose of calls, like the one you experienced, are made for one reason only, to extract money from the unsuspecting.

The only way that someone in a distant place can know what's on your computer is if you give them access. Callers will ask you to give permission for them to download some software to your computer so they can gain that access.

Team Viewer (which is a legitimate free program) is often used by such callers so they can control your computer, and put viruses on it that will lock up your computer. Then the caller will tell you how badly infected the computer has become and for a fee of $250 or more, they will unlock it.

If someone calls again, be rude. Hang up immediately.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Burning an ISO file

Answer Man

You often tout the advantages of various Linux versions, and I would like to try Linux, but downloading and converting an ISO file sounds awfully complicated.

It's really not difficult. Let's say that you want to try the latest Linux Mint version (#17). Go to the Mint website linuxmint.com. Click on either Mint 17 Cinnamon or Mate (they're similar). Click on a download site in the USA. and download the file. If you don't have a DVD burner that burns images (ISO files), download Burnaware free, burnaware.com, and install the program. Open Burnaware and click on Image. Browse to the location of the ISO. Insert a DVD in the drive and click Burn.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Executive Board Minutes June 13, 2014

Alan Marcus, President, called the meeting to order at 9:00 AM. Members in attendance: Richard Bambridge, Elliott Bogart, Ron Kenyon, Bob Leiner, Bob Norton, Linda Tingley, and Carol Norton.  

Secretary’s report read by Carol Norton. No corrections or additions necessary.

Bob Norton gave the treasurer's report. The current balance is $1,936.11.

Upcoming Programs: June 18 - Don Zenn, General Manager of Ocala Staples, will be available to discuss “How to Get More Comfortable with Windows 8 and 8.1”; July 16 – Richard Bambridge, from Oak Run, will do a presentation on the “Top Ten Internet Scams and How to Avoid Them”; August 20 – Bill Sobel will return to discuss “Alternatives To Costly Cable and Satellite TV Systems”.

Further discussion ensued regarding future programming and other club business.

The meeting adjourned at 9:50 AM.

Respectfully submitted,

Carol H. Norton
Secretary

Passport photos

Answer Man

They charge about $10 to make a passport photo. Isn't there some way I can make one on my own computer?

You can checkout travel.state.gov/content/dwhere you can create a 2" x 2" photo and can save it to your computer. Unfortunately, most computers aren't set up to print that size, and instead want you to select standard photo sizes. So, try the following:
  • Right click on the picture and select "Open with" and choose Paint.
  • Click Resize, change from percent to pixels. Uncheck "Maintain aspect ratio".
  • Type in 250 for both horizontal and vertical pixels.
  • Go to File, Print, age Setup, and under Scaling, select - adjust to 100% normal size and click OK.
  • Choose File and print.
  • The picture will print 2" x 2" on a white background.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Pop-Up ads

Answer Man

My computer was working fine, and all of a sudden I started getting annoying pop-up ads and toolbars. I have tried to get rid of it all using Spybot, Malwarebytes, etc., but nothing worked. I even tried to do a restore back to a point before all this began, but the problems persist. What else can I do?

Before you do anything else, back up your files. If all normal means to repair your computer fail, you will have to perform a complete recovery (Puts the computer system back in the condition it was in when you bought it). Some computers will display what key to push at boot up. Many HP machines use F11. If your computer doesn't display the key, type system recovery in the computer's search box, and then click on system recovery above the search box. Then just follow directions. Unfortunately, anything you added to the computer after you bought it will have to be re-installed.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

USB Hub

Answer Man

In the past, you have often mentioned purchasing USB hubs as a way to expand the number of USB ports available. Do you know of a good source where I can purchase one reasonably?

I purchased a 10 port hub, that has proven excellent, from the following source:


The hub has an on/off switch, blue indicator light and a place for 10 USB connected devices. The hub is flat, which makes it much more convenient than some of those cubed shape devices. What is most unbelievable, is that the hub, including shipping, is $7.69.

Friday, June 13, 2014

IDE drive in SATA Computer

Answer Man

I have an old 200 GB IDE drive that I'd like to put in a SATA computer. Is there any way to connect it?

The easiest way is to disconnect the ribbon cable from the CD/DVD drive and connect it to the IDE drive (The jumper on the drive should be set to Master). Connect the power to the IDE drive, and you're good to go.

If you just want the IDE drive as a 2nd drive in the computer, you can purchase an IDE/SATA converter for under $3.00 on e-bay.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Alternative operating systems

Answer Man

I have been in the Oak Run Computer Club for years, and during that time I continually hear you talk about alternative operating systems such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint, etc. Are these systems as good as Windows?

I'll answer the question with a little story. An Oak Run resident was using an XP computer. He'd call me almost every week with a new issue that is computer was experiencing. After becoming totally worn out trying to solve the problems, I installed Linux Mint in his machine. A year after I installed Mint, he called. His call was in reference to Yahoo mail, which had nothing to do with his machine. When I asked him how the computer was running, he told me that he hasn't had any problems and loves Mint. His story is not unique.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Backups

Answer Man

I know I'm supposed to backup my files, but I can't afford a fancy external backup drive. Any suggestions?

The least expensive way to backup is to use a flash drive. The drives have come way down in price, and just yesterday I saw a 64 GB flash drive advertised for $19. And, my bet is that you won't need any more than an 8 GB drive unless you have tons of stuff to back up.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

SSD

Answer Man

Would a solid state drive speed up my computer?

Yes, certainly, but solid state drives (SSD's) don't come cheap. Although the price is dropping, expect to spend over $100 for a 250 GB SSD. You may find it is more cost effective to buy a computer that contains a solid state drive. Another option is to purchase a computer with hybrid drive (part SSD and part mechanical hard drive).

Monday, June 9, 2014

Ethernet through the powerlines

Answer Man

My wireless signal is very weak in my bedroom at the far end of the house. I'd like to have a wired internet connection there, but my router is in the den, and there's no good place to run the Ethernet wire. Is there any easy solution to my problem?

About the easiest is to purchase something called an Ethernet powerline adapter. Here's how it works: One of the two devices that comes in the adapter package plugs into a regular 110 volt outlet. An Ethernet cable from the router is plugged into that adapter. The 2nd adapter would be plugged in the 110 volt outlet in your bedroom, and a cable would be run from that adapter to the computer there. The connection should be much better than a wi-fi signal. The cost of the devices depends upon how many megabits per second they transfer. Expect to spend from approximately $29 and up. A good quality recent set will cost $40 or so.

For another option, click on 'comments' below.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Changing to Linux

Answer Man

I have an XP machine that has 2 GB of RAM and a 160 GB hard drive. I'd like to get away from XP. What steps do I have to take to get Linux?

First, you have to understand that there are dozens of flavors of Linux. Therefore, I'll pick one to use for an example. Let us suppose you want to install the latest Linux Mint #17. Go to Linuxmint.com, select the Operating system you want (Earlier versions require less computer memory) and click the download button.

If you have a DVD burner program that will burn images (ISO files), use it. Otherwise download a program such as Burnaware free, and burn the ISO file to disk. When the disk is done, you can insert it in the drive of the computer in which you want to have the new Linux OS and re-start the computer.

A live session will appear (that means you can try the Linux program without actually installing it. You will be given the option to install the program if you so desire.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Apple computers immune to viruses?

Answer Man

I was thinking of buying a new computer when someone told me that Apple computers don't get viruses. Is that true?

Funny you should ask. Just today, noted computer expert, Kim Komando, put the following message on her web site:

Scary new ransomware takes over iPhones, iPads and Macs
 
Apple users woke up today to find a disturbing message on their iPads, iPhones and Mac computers: "Device hacked!" The hackers want $50 to $100 to unlock them.

Blogmaster's note:
Read about this and how to protect your device at our Apple Users Group blog > HERE.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Printer Drivers

Answer Man

I bought a new wireless printer and plugged it in. I clicked on Print, but nothing happened. What am I doing wrong?

Printers require special software called drivers. Generally, the driver comes with the printer in the form of a DVD. The DVD must be inserted in the DVD drive and the software has to be installed. Most driver software installs automatically. Better drivers direct the user through each step of the install process. The user initially needs to connect the printer via USB cable before the wireless option can be set up. Wireless printers must connect to your computer network, and you will be required to enter the router password so that your printer can access the network.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Toolbars

Answer Man

My computer has slowed to a crawl. I don't know what happened, but today when I clicked on Internet Explorer, my screen looked like the picture below. How did this happen, and what can I do about the problem?

A slow messy browser toolbar

When you download programs, toolbars are often added unless you un-check or customize the download to eliminate the addition of those toolbars. In Internet Explorer, click on Tools, Manage, Add-ons and disable to stop the toolbars from loading.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How do you know you have a virus?

Answer Man

Would you re-print what you said at the last meeting about how you might recognize if your computer has a virus?

Here it is (paraphrased from Kim Komando)

5 signs you have a computer virus

If pop-ups are coming at you when your browser isn't even open, it's likely you have a virus. This is especially true if the pop-ups advertise some magic cure-all to your "virus woes"

Messages you didn't send - Most viruses have one goal in mind once they infect your computer: to make the virus as widespread as possible. An easy way to do that is to send messages to as many of your friends as possible in hopes they'll get infected.

You're locked out of your computer - You're surfing the Web when suddenly, a scary message appears saying you're locked out of your computer. It may claim to be from law enforcement or an anonymous blackmailer.

Programs and tools are out of reach - More often than not, a computer user will rely on one simple command when their computer starts misbehaving: Ctrl + Alt + Del. The "three-finger salute" opens up Task Manager, which can tell you so much about your computer.

You're not seeing any symptoms at all - No news isn't always good news when it comes to viruses. Powerful viruses can hide deep in your computer without causing any red flags. They'll just go about their business without you even knowing they're there. The only clue in these cases might be a slower Internet connection.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Why Linux?

Answer Man

I know you are a proponent of Linux operating systems. Why do you prefer them to Windows?

Let us suppose that you have an old computer, and the previous owner wiped the drive so none of his personal information was present. You want to re-install Windows. In addition to installing the operating system, you have to download drivers (using a 2nd computer) for the display adapter, the network card and a wireless card, and must install them on the new computer. You must configure the wireless card to work with your network. In Linux, you install the operating system and the drivers are automatically installed and all works immediately.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Uninteruptible Power Supply

Answer Man

Last night I was awakened by a loud alarm from my surge protector. What is wrong and what do I do now?

My bet is that what you have is more than a surge protector. It is probably an uninteruptible power supply or UPS. That's a device that provides battery back-up for your computer so that you don't lose what you were working on when the power goes out. Most UPS devices provide surge protection as well. When the battery dies, most UPS systems emit a loud alarm to let you know it is time to replace the battery. In my experience, the battery charges are prohibitive. So, either replace the entire UPS or do without one. In the meantime, just unplug all the cords going into the UPS and plug them into an outlet strip, and you will be operational once again.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Save cassette tapes to disc

Answer Man

I have dozens of old cassette tapes that I would like to save to disk and to my computer. It would cost a fortune to pay a commercial source to do a transfer. Is there an easy way I can do it myself?

Yes you can do it yourself. Download Audacity, audacity.sourceforge.net, and install the program on your computer. Connect the headphone jack on your tape player to the line input on your computer. If Audacity shows Microphone Input, click the down arrow next to those words and select Line Input. Press Record in Audacity, start your tape player, and stop the player and Audacity when the recording is done.

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