Thursday, July 24, 2014

Avoiding a Virus

Malware and Viruses are constant problems when using a computer. Because everything seems so invisible when using a computer a virus really seems impossible to predict or to find. So, the result is that many of us are always fearful that we might get a virus and are not even clear how it happens. 

The best defense against viruses is to be prepared and to not get them in the first place. There are a few things that you can regularly do in order to prevent getting viruses.

1. Most Importantly make sure that you have installed on your computer effective virus protection software. The most common ones are McAfee and Norton, which both have an annual fee. They are both very good. A free one is called AVG. If you go to the first link after you search for AVG you will come to the paid version which costs approx. $40/year. Keep looking until you find the actual free version. It is not as powerful as the paid version, but it does what you need it to do.

2. Back up, back up, back up!!!  I cannot emphasize this enough. Unless you do not care about anything on your computer and don't mind losing all of it you need to back it up on a regular basis. The frequency of your back ups depends on you. If you use your computer a lot once a week is good. If you just use it now and then maybe once a month is OK. If you have a business and depend on that data daily every day backups are good. There are online programs that you can purchase for around $40 a year that will do a regular back up to a server somewhere (in the cloud). Those servers are also backed up on a regular basis. This type of software is a simple solution. 

Another solution is to get a back up drive. There are drives on sale at Office Depot, Staples and many other places. They usually plug in using a USB plug. If you have a Mac you can use Timeline with an external drive to back up your files. If you do not have a Mac you can use any of the back up softwares with a removable drive rather than the cloud. This is so important that if you don't understand what is written here you should find someone to help you. 

There are two types of back ups.  One is a data back up. This is what most back up software does.  It will make a copy of all of your files and data (information saved on the computer), but it doesn't save programs. This type is the most common. Many people keep the original disks from the software they purchase or have paid for them and know that they can download the software again. The other type is an image back up. This is much more extensive and will copy all of the programs on the computer as well as the data/files. If you use a data back up you still need to make sure that you have copies of all of the programs you have added to your computer. 

3. NEVER click on a link or an attachment that you are not sure about. There are many negative hackers who can even make your email message look legitimate and put a link into it that opens a virus on your computer. If I get a message with a link from someone I know, I open a new message put in their address (never reply) and ask if they sent it to me. Most likely they did not and will let you know that. If they did send it you can ask them to send it again. People I know would not send a link without explanation and so often without asking I just delete the message.

4. If you are not sure about a link and it looks legitimate you can hover your mouse arrow over the link. Usually in the bottom left corner of your screen you will see the actual URL that your computer will take you to. If you do not recognize the link or it doesn't seem to be related to the sender do NOT click on it. Any legitimate company will send you a link with their company name in it (like 


You can go to a Geek (look online for computer repair in your area) and ask for help or call the 800 number of your computer maker. If you have backed up your data or have an image of your computer they can help you restore it. If you don't care about what was on your computer before you can reset it back to the way it was when it was new. One big problem with viruses is that they multiply, so it is possible that people in your contact list will get email that looks like it is from you with a link they should not click on. For this reason if you know your computer has a virus immediately take it off the network. For wired computers unplug them from the ethernet cord. For WiFi computers go to the set up and end all of your Internet connections.  

Computer viruses are changing and getting stronger all of the time. One recent malware is called Cryptolocker. It will scan a hard drive and then encrypt files so that they can no longer be opened. The only way to get them back is to pay anywhere from $100-$300 to de-encrypt them. That is why it is so important to follow the prevention tips above. 

If you do click on something and get a CryptoLocker message or something like that immediatly disconnect from the network. This is one thing you can do to keep from using your contact list to send out other messages that may infect other machines. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

How can I figure things out on my own?

It is likely that many of the people who read this blog already know this or already think this way, but I thought it was worth mentioning. It took me a long time to think of the Internet as the FIRST place to look when I needed something. This is one of those things that I think is a brain changing thing that technology can do. (good or bad?  I don't know)

Searching the Internet is an amazing way to find out what you need to know about ANYTHING!

I do this often. I go to Google and put in almost any words that apply to my situation. At the end of this article are links to other search engines that are very helpful. Google is not the only search engine, but it is the one that is most commonly used. The best way is to put in ALL of the words that describe it and depending on what you find take out words one by one. 

I am telling you this at the risk of losing business!  However, I am in business to help people to be successful using technology and there are always people who learn best from other people. 

One Example:

My iPad, my iPhone and my Computer are not syncing.

I first try typing in all of the main words of the sentence above and before I have even typed in all of the words the suggestion comes up:

On the first page most of the choices are from Apple Support. I know this because below the title of the page on the first line is the URL of the website.  Most of them start '' or '' The first page listed may answer your questions. Sometimes the text below the URL will be enough to let you know if this answers your question or not. Apple includes some screenshots and also links to other articles that might answer questions. 

All of the other Apple sites lead to other Apple help pages. They might have the answer to your problem. There is one that says Discussion in the URL. I find these particularly helpful because other people often have the same issue and in the discussion it is solved. 

Finally below the first 7 responses is one from '' and then one from YouTube. I usually go then to the YouTube answer because they are often helpful.  Here is the YouTube for this question. 

As I listened to this one I realized that it could be confusing or helpful depending on your prior knowledge and if you use a Mac or PC. 

It does take patience to look through the sites and try things and then keep searching, but you are often able to find a solution this way. It works for me!

Specialized Search Engines - Travel - Travel - a search for holidays returns Jewish holidays only! - a Christian search engine Returned "Should Christians celebrate holidays" and "Are Christian Holidays Pagan in origin?" among others. - people search - search yourself and see what you find... 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Downloading Books from the Library

It is time for vacation and this year we took a REAL one! We spent two weeks on the Greek Islands!  We went to Rhodes, Kos, Patmos and Samos. If you want to read more about that or look at more pictures you can look at my trip blog

Since I knew that there would be plenty of relaxing time and definitely lots of time on airplanes I downloaded a bunch of books from the Public Library.  It was GREAT!  I think that most public libraries have a Virtual Library where you can check out books and download them to a Kindle, iPad or even your computer. At my library there is a huge collection of text and audio books. On my iPad I have a free Kindle app. It compares pretty well to reading books directly on a Kindle. I have compared the two and the Kindle does really have clear text, but in general I don't notice a difference.

First of all, you have to have a library card. They are free for anyone. You just go to the library and show them something that proves you are a resident. I think that even an energy bill with your name and address on it works. You might want to check with your library first though.

Next you need to go to their website and create a web account. I have been using Dashlane to keep track of my passwords and it is great for the library account. For my library I have to put in my library card number as the username and it is about 10 digits. It is nice to have it automatically filled in by Dashlane.

Now just go to the Virtual library and look for a book you want. When you find one click "Borrow". If you want it in Kindle form it takes you to Amazon where I click on Check out the book now and it appears on my iPad!  Just like the physical library and physical books there is a date when the book is due, but unlike physical books where you can forget to get them back and incur a fine, the book just disappears from your device. You can renew books if you know that you will not finish them by the due date.

I checked out 4 books and finished 3.5!


Each time I have checked out a book I learn more about how this works. At times it can be confusing, but I have found it worthwhile!

Friday, May 23, 2014

What is an avatar?

An Avatar is a picture that you can use to represent yourself on a website. Many websites now ask for a picture when you complete your profile. Most people just use pictures of themselves, their families or something that they like. You will see some that are actually avatars. Here are some sites where you can make your own avatars for free. I have tried each one out and put it into the blog so that you can see what they are like.

10 Websites to Create your own Avatar

For Children especially
Avatars are especially good for children. It is best for them not to put their own photos online. This site has tons of choices.

List of Avatar Makers

Doppel Me

Voki-Voki avatars can move and even talk.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Help!! I have a bunch of files to rename!

When I connect my camera to my computer and download the pictures they are all files named DMG001, DMG002, etc... Usually I don't have time to rename each of the pictures one by one. It helps me to remember what they are if I name them something more meaningful.  So, I searched and found some software that would do that for me.

This is often called a “batch” process because you are changing a batch of files at the same time. To find some software I did a search for 'software to rename files mac' You could do the same for 'software to rename files PC' and add the word free if you want to be sure that you get a free option.

I chose NameChanger because it was free. 


    picture of NameChanger window
Open NameChanger and find the files that you want to change. Set the program up to change parts of the name or the whole name. Notice that there is a pull down menu that gives you several choices. You can choose to give them all the same name with a numeral at the end that changes (1,2,3)

  1. Find the files that you want to change. This may mean opening a folder and clicking COMMAND-A to select all of the files.
  2. Drag the files into the first column showing on the NameChanger window.
  3. Click the RENAME button on the top.

On the left side you will see the result and automatically you will also see that the file names have changed in your computer.

There are free options to do the same thing on a PC. 


Click on the file one time to highlight it. Count to 10 and then click just the name of the file one time and wait for a second or two. You will see the name highlight in a way that allows you to type whatever name you want it to be.

Right Click on a file (Remember right click always gives you another menu). In the menu that pops up you will see the word “rename”. Click on it and you will be able to give the file a new name.

Thanks to Glee for having this problem so that I could figure it out and write it up here!

Friday, April 25, 2014

What is encryption?

Since there has been so much news lately about the Heartbleed bug and other viruses I thought it would be a good time to talk a bit about encryption.

Illustration from
Encryption is an important part of Internet Safety although it is something that you do not see or do anything about. It takes what you type on the computer (input) and puts it into a code so that while it is traveling over the wires no one can intercept it and steal that information. When your message arrives at the other end it is decrypted so that it can be read.

At this time most Banks, PayPal, and other Websites that involve money or information that needs to stay secure use strong encryption. It is also a major concern of Doctors and Hospitals as they put patient information online. 

Unlike most posts this does not end with something that you should do. Encryption is good to know about. It is automatically done at many sites.

Good security is an important part of doing business online. The good thing for us users is that the companies are possibly more concerned with safety than we are. They know that if they are unable to provide secure transmissions on their site they will lose customers. 

Encription according to

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Password Management and the Heartbleed Bug

You may have heard of the Heartbleed Bug. Here is the article about it on Wikipedia

The Heartbleed Bug could allow a hacker to access all of your passwords. Experts in cryptography have called it catastrophic and rated it 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. Big companies like Facebook, Google, and Yahoo are plugging that hole and taking care of the bug, but since the problem has been around so long (maybe 2 years) your password may already be compromised.

In order to avoid any problems you need to change your password on all of the sites that you use. That is an overwhelming thought. 


I looked into Password Management Software. This type of software is often called a vault because all of your passwords are stored behind one strong password which is the ONLY one you will need to use. The software automatically gets you into sites because it knows your passwords. NO ONE except you knows your Master Password. It is not stored on a server somewhere. Even the company does not know it so if you forget it you also lose all of your other passwords. 

I also decided to read about the safety of using this software. What if someone figures out my ONE difficult password?  Then they will have access to all of the others. The articles that I read said that this will not be an issue. Dealing with passwords this way is MUCH safer than using the same password for many sites. 


With Dashlane I first went to their site and downloaded the program to my computer. Next the program looked through my computer to find any passwords that were automatically saved in the computer. There were several. It automatically added them to the list. I tried out each one and found that some of them did not work or were for old things that I do not use anymore. 

It was easy to click on the gear icon and then delete these with the trashcan at the bottom of the window that popped up. 

On the other sites I followed the directions for "forgot my password" and then did what they said in order to reset my password. When I clicked on the space to put in my new password a window popped up and Dashlane offered to generate a strong password for me.
I clicked to indicate that a secure password should be generated and then I closed up the site and tried to access it again. It was great! Dashlane did everything and I was logged directly into the site!

It took a while and some trial and error, but now I am set up with Dashlane for several websites. Now each time I go to a different site where I need a password it will be generated and added to Dashlane!  I just have to remember the one difficult password that I start Dashlane with. It is not saved anywhere, so if I forget it I will loose all of my other passwords and need to start again! I am going to put it somewhere I will not lose it.

Here are several Password Managers to choose from:

Dashlane - So far I like this one. It was recommended on many sites.

LastPass - I think this one is the most common. It is very good and it is inexpensive to connect your accounts on your iPhone or iPad so that they all sync together.

Norton Identity

RoboForm Everywhere