Archive for May, 2012

Tulsa Traffic

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis May 31st, 2012

This is off the usual subject(s) but I just gotta say:  we’re VERY lucky in Tulsa –   our traffic is a BREEZE compared to the rest of the country.  I pondered this as I sat in traffic, bumper-to-bumper, for 30 minutes tonight.  It was at a complete standstill for a while (bad wreck… hope they’re ok!).  This is a record for me in Tulsa.  I have NEVER before had to sit this long and wait.  How great is that?  I mean, for nearly 15 years I’ve been ALL OVER this city, every day, and yet the longest I’ve ever been stuck in it was 30 minutes.  People in L.A., Dallas, D.C., etc etc would probably KILL for that.  The last time I drove in Dallas it was a nightmare.  So for all of us around Green Country… despite the contruction, we’ve really got it good.  Enjoy!  (oh, DRIVERS?  Now THAT’S a different story…)

Scam Alert

News, Warnings | Posted by Dennis May 25th, 2012

WATCH out folks, and check on your elderly…. there’s a phone scam going on that’s worrisome.  A guy with an Indian accent is calling people, telling them their computer is infected and they need to take care of it.  He’ll make it sound like he represents Microsoft.  DO NOT listen, instead ask for company information, write it down, and report it to your state’s office of consumer affairs.  For Oklahoma, here’s a link These crooks are calling old people and scamming them out of money for junk software (and stolen licenses).  The information they give points to a site called Micro PC PCare, and it all APPEARS to be legitimate, but it’s not.  My poor client got scammed out of $60 when there was nothing wrong with her PC.  Her credit card wouldn’t stop the charge because she agreed to let them do it!   SHAME ON YOU VULTURES.  The name he gave was Victor Lamb.  The phone number listed was 877-753-5167.  Warn your friends and family! 

Facebook Implosion

News, Warnings | Posted by Dennis May 24th, 2012

Remember how I warned against buying Facebook stock during its IPO?  If you listened to me, you sold short right afterwards, and MADE A FORTUNE.  It’s been in a downward spiral since the initial offering, and I don’t think that’s the end of it.  For some reason, Wall Street and the gang think that just because something is popular and “technological”, it can make money.  You would think that some lessons would be learned after the dot-com bubble burst in 2001, but alas…. they just don’t get it.  I just read a great analysis by Michael Wolff of the Technology Review that concurred, for different reasons.  I solve puzzles all day, and the thing that I always come back to is REMEMBER THE BASICS.  Yes, the advertising and the information they hold about their users is an issue, but the biggest, simplest reason they will continue to drop is POPULARITY.  People are already drifting away.  They’re tired of Joe Studly posting every move he makes, including brushing his teeth.  They’ve been scalded by having TOO MUCH information available when their best friend stops talking to them because of some awkward post on FB.  So it’s become a place where only the die-hard fans continue to post, and others just sit back and watch (or stop using it for weeks at a time).  As FB tries to capitalize on the information they have, and shove more advertising in people’s faces, they’ll lose even more users.  If you want to invest in technology, look for truly high-tech solutions to terrible problems.  Cancer research is a fine example.  Or at least buy something that has a tangible service to the users, like Google’s search engine, or Amazon’s online store.  Ok, I’ll climb down off the soap-box now.  :-)

MP3 players

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis May 21st, 2012

If you’ve ever had problems playing your music, join the club.  There’s a lot of us out here that use our computers and other devices (players, pads, smartphones) to keep the tunes rolling through our lives.  Personally, I live and breathe by my music collection.  It lifts my spirits, sets the mood, or helps me to work out.  In any case, it REALLY irritates me when I can’t simply play it all, at random.  I click SKIP when it’s not right for the mood.  So I was pretty irritated when I bought a new Sansa Clip + player and it DIED.  It worked great for a while, then simply wouldn’t turn on any more.  I tried all their recommended steps… no good.  So I RMA’d it, and bought a second one just in case.  This was the Sansa Clip Zip, the next generation.  It worked fine too, with one MAJOR glitch:  every time I hit the Power switch, it REFRESHED my media.  It took 30 MINUTES for it to do this (yes, I have a huge collection).  Apparently this has been a problem with these players if you add a 32 Gb SD card.  The answer?  DIFFERENT SOFTWARE.  You don’t HAVE to use the crappy software that Apple, Sansa, or any other company gives you with your player.  (NOTE: you might want something different just because of DRM… Digital Rights Management has hosed many people out of Boo Coo songs!)  Instead, try ROCK BOX.  This is more free public domain software from the GNU project, and it’s GREAT!  Just download the installer, tell it your device, and WHAM your player is reborn!  You can find RockBox here. The only issue I had was trying to play all songs, but it’s easy once you figure out the context menus.  If you get hung up, search for it online, there’s tons of documentation out there.

Freeze! Your backup is in danger.

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis May 16th, 2012

If you’ve been following my advice, you back up regularly.  But there are times when you should know how to lock, stop, or FREEZE your backups so that you don’t ruin them.  Let’s say, for example, you have a REALLY important document that gets corrupted somehow.  Maybe the power shut off in the middle of what you were doing, and you can’t open the file any more.  THIS is the perfect scenario for retrieving a file from backup.  The problem is, if you back up that file again BEFORE you retrieve it, you’re Hosed!  Screwed! Dataless!  You get the point.  The problem is that you overwrote the Good version from the last backup with the Bad version after it got ruined. How to prevent this?  TURN OFF YOUR AUTOMATIC BACKUP when trouble occurs.  Some do it by plugging in a USB memory stick.  If so, just turn off the program that automates the process (like  Allway Sync, for example).  If you use an Online backup, look for a command or menu item that does this.  In Carbonite it’s called Freezing your Backup.  For this service there’s about a 6 hour time lag with all files, so you have that long to choose the Freeze option.  If you do your backups MANUALLY, then that’s easy… just stop.  Don’t run another backup until you’ve retrieved what you needed.

Person of Interest

News, Warnings | Posted by Dennis May 10th, 2012

If you like Techno-thrillers, you may have been watching the new series on CBS called Person of Interest.  Starring Michael Emerson and Jim Caviezel, the show’s premise is that the US Government has a Super Computer that sifts through and analyzes the whole world’s data for terrorism.  It also sees everything else.  By 2013, THIS WILL BE FACT, not fiction.  The NSA (National Security Agency) is building a “Data Center” in Utah that will collect information gathered from all other sources and sift through it.  One of the primary goals is decryption, so it will be able to decode even the most sensitive data floating around the web.  Since there is such a HUGE amount of data out there, I assume that it will look for certain “flags” in order to warn the intelligence community of any possible threats.  This means that if you email a book report for your child about terrorism (or write a blog about the NSA’s activities :-)) you could come up on their Radar.  The US has pumped BILLIONS of dollars into post 9/11 technology.  Many listening posts are already active, they just needed a really big place to store it and analyze it all.  Bottom Line?  Watch what you say, and how you say it… Big Brother is Watching.  If you’d like to read more about the project, you’ll find a great article here.  (Thanks Wired!)

Sync Madness

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis May 9th, 2012

Sync or Swim, I always say.  :-)   With all the smartphones and tablets out there, lots of folks are “sync’ing” or synchronizing, their emails, songs, photos, etc. from their computer or web accounts.  It’s fine when it works, but it can be a real headache if it misfires.  How do you track down the problem?  First of all, know your apps.  You need to be aware of all possible culprits that made the mistake, and it could be more than one.  For iPhone users, for example, iCloud can sync, but so can  i-TUNES when you plug in to your PC.  For Android users most apps are pretty specific to one type of object, like Picasa for photos, Google Calendar for appointments, Soocial for contacts, etc.  But for Android THE LOCAL app (on the phone/tablet) may not be so obvious.  Calendar is the one to check for your appointments, gallery for your photos.  Keep digging around until you figure out this second half of the issue.  Now, BEFORE YOU GO MUCH FURTHER… is your stuff backed up?  You don’t want to accidentally change something and have all your files disappear.  Ok, the next step is to start looking at the settings for the app.  You may also need to log in to your online account and check the settings there.  If you can’t find it, try Googling the problem to see if there’s an article.  I just had a friend who DID NOT want her Picasa photos all dumped to her phone.  With a little searching I found this article.  (Thanks TricksWindows!).  Be aware that occasionally a Rogue App may be involved.  Facebook users were taken by surprise last year when the Android Facebook app suddenly added all their friends to the contact list on their phones.  Grrr….

Funkified Keyboards

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis May 8th, 2012

Keyboard nasty?  Broken? Here are some tips:  If it’s not working, try unplugging it and restarting your PC.  Wireless?  Check the batteries, and push the “connect” button.   If it still doesn’t work, see if it’s programmable.  These keyboards have lots of special (extra) keys, and can misfire.  Google them by model and “reset” and you’ll find instructions.  I just fixed my favorite wireless keyboard by doing this.  But for GRIME and GOO what do ya DO?  Lots… first of all, if you KNOW it will be in a nasty environment, buy a skin.  It’s a cover that will prevent spillage.  Otherwise it can help to use clean air and blow it out, but be careful not to apply so much pressure that it blows the keys off.  If you REALLY messed up and dumped a Coke down there; 1) Unplug it… QUICK  (remove the batteries if it’s wireless) and 2) wash it thoroughly in water.  You can even put it in the dishwasher but use a gentle cycle and no heating on the dry cycle.  Then 3) LET IT DRY – COMPLETELY.  This is the most important part.  Moisture and electricity don’t mix, so either let it sit for a few days, or warm it lightly in the sun, oven, etc.  These steps may not save your keyboard, but then again, they might!  Finally, keep some antiseptic wipes handy and clean the keys regularly.  They can harbor some nasty critters.  :-(

Data Bombs

News, Warnings | Posted by Dennis May 3rd, 2012

Self destruction isn’t just a human trait.  Viruses do it too.  I just removed one from a PC that caused EVERYTHING on the hard drive to disappear.  I haven’t seen this type of critter in quite awhile.  Another good reason to BACK UP YOUR STUFF.  NEWS:  Because of the surge of Smartphones and Tablets, IT analysts are trying to brew up a way to prevent sensitive data from getting into the wrong hands.  See, these devices aren’t designed to mesh with corporate networks properly, so businesses are scrambling to plug the holes in security.  Rather than try to fight this monster, they’ve realized that it’s much easier to simply have the data SELF DESTRUCT if this happens.  So, much like Digital Rights Management (DRM) that we all know and love <– {dripping with sarcasm}  this data would check for a “key” and then destroy itself if it weren’t present, much like a virus.  This is just an idea at this point, but I expect to see it implemented within the next few years.  Thanks for a great article by Matt Hamblen at Computerworld.