Archive for October, 2011

Office 2010

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis October 22nd, 2011

The newest version of Office, the productivity software that includes Word, Excel, etc., is the 2010 edition.  It’s now safe to use.  As usual, there were glitches in the initial release so we warned our customers to stay away for awhile.  Now it seems stable, so I thought I’d let you know about some of the purchasing changes.  Unlike Office 2007, this new version only has 3 purchase options.  They’ve done away with the multitude of packages they offered previously, probably because it confused customers.  Now you can buy 1) Office Home and Student, 2) Office Home and Business, and 3) Office Professional.  The Pro version is the ONLY ONE that has Publisher and Access.  Here’s a chart that shows the options.  They also did away with the UPGRADE option, which used to be available for about $100 less than the full product.  I think these were bad moves on Microsoft’s part.  More options are better.  By the way, if you don’t like having to shell out $100-300 for a license, there’s an open-source freebie out there that a friend of mine just told me about called LibreOffice.  It has a lot of powerful features and is very similar to the newer Microsoft products.  This one replaces the old OpenOffice suite that I told you about earlier.  You can download it here.

Games

Helpful Hints | Posted by Dennis October 12th, 2011

One of my pastimes has always been PC games.  All kinds, but I really love anything with great graphics and some strategy.  People ask “Why would you play it on PC instead of a console?” referring to X-box, PS3, etc.  The short answer is MODS.  Modifications, or mods for short, are much easier to do on a PC than the other platforms.  A game console is much like any other appliance; it does one thing, and does it well.  But if you want to change it, tweak it, improve it, hack it, or make changes of any sort you need a computer, not an appliance.  It’s the same argument I use when describing Apple products to my customers.  Yes, they’re gee-whiz cool, but fairly inflexible.  The reason they don’t ever “break” is that you can’t change anything in the underlying system.  This almost killed Apple early in the game.  They tried to change it by adding a ton of apps to the market, and it turned the table for them.  But if you ask any of the programmers they hired, they’ll tell you they got shafted (unless they’re still under contract.  They have a gag clause!).  Still, the question remains:  Should I game on my PC or a console?  I’d say, if it’s for your kids, get a console.  But if it’s for you, or your geeky teenager who is looking like a computer prodigy, get a really beefy PC and PLAY!!

Kodak

News, Warnings | Posted by Dennis October 7th, 2011

Since I was a little kid, Eastman Kodak (EK) was a name synonymous with photos.  Now the company is in trouble, competing in an ever-changing digital landscape that has caused the company to change strategies several times over the last two decades.  Read about their recent troubles here.  I’ve checked the details, and was surprised that they lost the digital camera race.  I always liked the EasyShare line of products.  I’ve owned a couple myself, and recommended countless others to friends and family.  They were great devices.  But the last one I bought had some design issues, mostly with the auto-focus.  Now the shift in camera use is in multi-purpose electronics, and I’m afraid that EK is in poor position to go there.  Now that Kodak has shifted their focus to inkjet printers, I’ve found flaws there, as well.  I recently handled a case for a customer who had purchased two different AIO 5000 series printers, and they BOTH had paper feed issues.  One was brand new, out of the box, and only was successful feeding about half the time.  This tells me that Kodak needs more quality control in their design and manufacturing, or they will continue to have trouble.  Consumers will only let you burn them once.  I do hope they can pull out of their slump, because it’s a great American success story.  Besides, EK was the first company with the cahonies to build an inkjet product that uses HALF THE INK.  Most other companies have followed suit under the market pressure.  Good Job, EK.

Passwords

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis October 6th, 2011

There’s an exception to the double entry rule I talked about last time.  Any time you enter a new password, you should have to enter it twice.  I know it’s a pain, but there’s a really good reason for it.  It makes sure that you didn’t typo the password, and be locked out afterwards.   To help you keep things straight, I recommend you choose a strong and weak password for all your sites/programs, and just use those two, changing occasionally.  You can use the weak one for stuff that’s not worrisome (the Betty Crocker Recipe site, for example), and strong ones for sensitive or critical accounts.  A fun way to create a strong password is to use a word that means something to you, but replace letters with characters.  For example, use @ for a small letter A, ! = i, zero = letter O, etc.  This can help you be creative, and prevent what are called DICTIONARY attacks.  Any system that will allow multiple login attempts can be hacked this way, given enough time.  The hacker just uses a program that rotates through every word in the dictionary.  After dictionary attacks, they can simply use a BRUTE FORCE method and send every possible combination until they HIT.  But this can take a LONG time, depending on the complexity of password.  This is why most accounts LOCK OUT automatically after a few misfired attempts.

Double Duty

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis October 5th, 2011

Double data entry is a DIRTY WORD in my book.  Why?  It should NEVER happen in any good workflow.  It means you are WASTING TIME, and thus money.  Any computer system and efficient office should only have to enter information ONCE.  After that, the worst case should be copy and paste, but ideally the correct info should be distributed throughout the system wherever it’s needed.  I see so much waste, just from this simple idea.  A prime example is our healthcare system.  EVERY TIME I go to a new PCP or specialist, I have to sit down and fill out a 3 page form that has all my allergies, history, etc.  That’s just CRAZY WASTEFUL!  Besides the double data entry, every time it’s re-entered there’s MORE TYPOS (mistakes).  We need a standard, that all offices comply with, to let all records be compiled together and shared, as long as we give permission.  You whip out a card, or a USB stick, and it’s all there, including the stuff you don’t know how to pronounce.  It could even have your latest X-rays or other lab results.  EVERYONE should support this kind of system.  It would save million$, possibly billion$.  It would also take a lot of the frustration out of our current, disconnected system.  Please support this idea every chance you get. 

Fast Forward >>

Helpful Hints | Posted by Dennis October 3rd, 2011

Ok, so just in case ou’ve never tried it:  Hit the >> button next time you watch a video or song in Windows Media Player (or Center).   It’s SOOOO COOOL!!  No, it doesn’t just speed everything up.  Not like an old record player, or running reel-to-reel fast (yeah I know, I’m old).  The overall frequency DOES NOT CHANGE!  Ok, so I’m a geek.  This kind of stuff just thrills me to no end.  😉    Instead, it takes out all the gaps.  It removes any pauses in the sound track, and runs them together ON THE FLY.   Folks, this takes some SERIOUS computer power to play this way.  We love to listen to the news like this.  Makes the weather last half as long, with all the same info.  AND the weather guy doesn’t sound like he inhaled helium!  :-)

Great Android Protection

Helpful Hints | Posted by Dennis October 2nd, 2011

Ok, so this time I tested BEFORE I spouted off about a program.  :-)  I’ve been running Lookout for Android for about two weeks now, and I REALLY like it.  It’s quiet, unobtrusive, and has some of the top ratings for protecting your phone.  It’s available for  Android, Blackberry, and Windows phone.  The BEST thing about it is that it not only gives you antivirus, but also a backup option (to the web – you must have an account) and a FIND YOUR PHONE feature, all for free.  The program has run flawlessly on my phone since I installed it, and has given me some great piece of mind.  You get even more features if you buy the full product, but I haven’t tried it.  You can download Lookout here.

TPCD News -1 Year Later

News, Warnings | Posted by Dennis October 1st, 2011

{Picture:  Can you spot the REAL download button?} Our news blog is celebrating its one year anniversary, and we’re HYPED!  Thanks to all you readers out there we hit another record for September, smashing all previous month’s stats.  We got 41,196 hits, and averaged almost 1,400 per day!  We’re glad to have you on board, and encourage you to let us know any time you have feedback or questions.  So far we’ve managed to stay ad-free, and we’re very proud of that.  Although we’ve seriously considered it, I keep fighting the idea.  One of the things that really irritates me is the big DOWNLOAD BUTTON ads that some otherwise helpful sites allow.  I send you to CNET Downloads, for example, and some a**hole crappy software company sticks an ad in there that catches you off guard (see picture).  So you end up downloading the wrong thing.  Grrrrrr!  That’s just WRONG.