Two things on the table this week
Apple just killed QuickTime, and you should, too
Facebook Messenger isn’t just for smartphones anymore
Get rid of QuickTime pronto
Apple dropped support of QuickTime for Windows, which means they won’t be issuing any security updates for it. Last week a security firm discovered two dangerous flaws which could leave Windows computers with QuickTime vulnerable to malicious attacks.
US-CERT (the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team) advises uninstalling QuickTime from Windows machines.
Macs are not affected, as Apple continues to support the product on OS X, at least for the time being.
It used to be you needed QuickTime when running iTunes on a Windows computer, but iTunes will run fine without QuickTime. If, for some reason, you have a video file that wants to play in QuickTime, try VLC Player for Windows instead. It will play just about anything, including most QuickTime files.
Uninstall QuickTime as you would any other Windows program, and decline all future offers of it when installing iTunes. You don’t need it.
Facebook Messenger gets an extreme makeover
Do you facebook? If you do, you’re familiar with the Facebook Chat feature. When you chat with someone, a little window opens up containing your conversation. On a smartphone, that chat feature is a completely separate app called Facebook Messenger. Messenger has some interesting things going on.
The normal blue and white theme is so . . . normal. In the Messenger app, you can change any conversation to any of fourteen other colours, and white.
I do this when I have a couple of conversations going on. It makes it a little harder to reply to the wrong person.
You can also change the nickname of the person you’re chatting with. Do you really need to see everyone’s full name? Can you get by with just Fred or Dad?
You can also choose a default emoji for any conversation, so instead of accidentally sending that annoying Thumbs Up icon you can accidentally send something more interesting like lipstick or a rocket ship. Here’s a guide to emoji.
You can use Messenger to voice or video chat with your friends who use Messenger. Be a little cautious with that, or you’ll eat right through your phone’s data plan. There are more tricks, most of which are detailed here.
By the way, in Facebook Chat you don’t have to chat in a tiny window. If you click on the gear icon at the top right and then on See full conversation, you’ll have that conversation in a page to itself.
As far as I can tell there’s no way to change the colours or nicknames from within Facebook Chat. However, you can point your browser here to enjoy the web version of Messenger, a full-sized version of exactly what you can see and do on a smartphone.
Thank you to everyone who has already sponsored me in The Great Cycle Challenge. We’re raising money to help kids with cancer. The rides start in June, so there’s still time if you’d like to help. My page is here.
Questions or comments, email [email protected]
Reminders, recalls, rides:
Google Calendar for the web now includes Reminders.
Toshiba recalls 91,000 laptop batteries because of a potential fire hazard.
Google Calendar Reminders
I’m a big fan of Google Calendar. I use it all day every day to get me where I’m supposed to be when I’m supposed to be there. Whether I add an Event to Google Calendar from the web or from the app on my Android phone, it shows up immediately both places.
Recently, Google’s Calendar app for the phone added Reminders. This is a useful feature! Reminders differ from Events in that they hang around until you tell Calendar you’re done (or at least to stop reminding you).
In contrast, an Event is over when it’s over. If you’ve used an Event to remind you to return that library book and you don’t get around to it, you have to deal with that Event all over again. Reminders stay at the top of your “day” and move from day to day until you dismiss them (I think that’s what they mean by “Reminders”).
The app on my phone lets me add Reminders with my voice.
And I can make a Reminder out of a Gmail message.
I rely heavily on this system, and was delighted when Google added this feature to Google Calendar on the web last week. Click on your Calendar as you normally would to add an Event, and notice that you now can choose between Event and Reminder.
Now if I could just get get someone else to return that library book for me I’d be thrilled beyond words.
Toshiba recalls 91,000 laptops
Toshiba is recalling some laptop batteries sold between June 2011 and January 2016 because they can overheat and pose a fire hazard. The Toshiba website has a comprehensive list of the affected units with clear instructions to find out if your Toshiba battery is on the recall list. Start here.
According to Toshiba: “If your battery pack is subject to Toshiba’s recall/replacement program, Toshiba recommends you turn off the laptop and remove the battery pack immediately. You can continue using your laptop safely by powering the laptop with an AC adapter power until you receive a replacement battery pack.”
Let’s be careful out there.
Great Cycle Challenge
For the past several years my friends, family, customers, and readers of this column have helped raise money for worthy causes.
It’s that time again.
Or rather, June 2016 will be that time again. This year I’m happy to be part of the Great Cycle Challenge. I get to ride my bike to help kids with cancer.
The great thing about this fundraiser is, well, raising funds for a good cause.
The second great thing is there’s no need for me to show up at a certain place at a certain time. All I have to do is ride as much as I can, whenever I can, in the month of June. That is going to be awesome.
There are two goals:
The mileage goal is 160 km (or 99.41 miles). Attainable.
The money goal is to raise at least $500. Also attainable, with your help.
The money raised goes to the SickKids Foundation. Charity Intelligence rating here.
Please click here to make a secure donation through my fundraiser page. Any amount helps, and all donations are so very appreciated.
Microsoft introduced the Windows Start Menu with Windows 95. Over the years the look of it changed very little, so when Microsoft released Windows 8 without a Start Menu, chaos ensued. Microsoft lost its way, and some people at Microsoft lost their jobs.
Now with Windows 10 comes an Extreme Makeover Start Menu. Read on to learn how to make the best of it or replace it with a legacy-style Start Menu.
What is the Start Menu? What’s it for?
The Start Menu is the launching pad for programs in Windows. Please note: The Desktop is NOT the intended launching pad for programs in Windows.
We access the Start menu either by clicking on an icon in the lower left corner of the screen or by pressing the Windows Key. Doing either of those things brings up a nested list of Windows programs. Clicking on the icon for a program launches it. Honestly, it’s as simple as that.
What’s the deal with the Windows 10 Start Menu?
The new Start Menu combines elements of the classic Start Menu we’re all used to from Windows 7 with the Tiles most people found scary, confusing, or just plain revolting in Windows 8.
Very simply put, the Windows 10 Start Menu looks like the old menu on the left and the tiles on the right. This gives us two ways to find things and launch them.
The apps/programs are listed alphabetically down the left side. The Tiles on the right side can be customized and rearranged into groups, providing an efficient way to organize shortcuts to programs you often use together. Many people group all the Microsoft Office programs, for instance, or everything to do with photos.
The Windows 10 Start Menu is highly customizable.
If you think the Start Menu is too wide, too narrow, too short or too tall, place your cursor at one of the edges, hold down your left mouse button, and drag. You can change the size and shape of the Start Menu just as you can with any program window.
If you find the whole thing just too small, increase the size of the Start Menu. Be a little cautious with this as this will increase the size of practically everything:
Start | Settings | System | Display
Move the slider to the right
Logout/Restart to see the changes
To group Tiles, click and drag them where you want to see them. To name the group, click on the three bars to the top right side of the group and start typing.
To get rid of a Tile, right-click on it and click Unpin from Start. You can also uninstall programs from there, except for the ones built in to Windows 10. The Tiles that have changing information are called Live Tiles. If you want access to them but don’t need to see the information change:
Right-click on the Live Tile
Click on More
Click on Turn Live Tile off
You can resize most Tiles from a right-click, too.
You can add shortcuts on the left side of the Start Menu:
Start | Settings | Personalization | Start
In the CHOOSE WHICH FOLDERS APPEAR ON START section, slide the switches to toggle items on or off.
Oh yes, you can change the colours:
Start | Settings | Personalisation | Colours
Switch on Show colour on Start, taskbar and action centre
Choose a colour, or let Windows choose one for you based on your Desktop background
If you still really hate the new Start Menu and long for the old one, you can get Classic Shell free.
Questions or comments, email [email protected]
Two problems were solved last week. The first one was new to me, but the second one has been like a pebble in my shoe for years.
Here are the fixes:
The Language Bar is missing in Windows 7
There is a strange bug that bites some Windows 7 users. I hadn’t encountered it before, but it’s been enough of an annoyance that I was able to find the fix on a technical forum.
The Language Bar is a toolbar that either docks in the Notification Area (lower right corner of your screen, by the clock) or floats at the top of your screen. If you have more than one language enabled in Windows or if you have more than one type of input method (speech recognition, pen, etc.) you should see the Language Bar.
Most of my customers just want to know how to turn the thing off, but a customer who uses the English and Russian keyboards needs to toggle back and forth between languages, and the Language Bar icon in the Notification Area is ideal for that. This worked well for a number of years and then one day the Language Bar was . . . gone.
I went through all the normal steps to turn it on. No luck. Eventually I found a way to edit the Registry. This worked perfectly. I understand that it will also work in Vista and Windows 8.x.
The steps are here.
PLEASE DO NOT EDIT THE REGISTRY IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING.
And please set a Restore Point and/or back up the Registry before you edit it even if you do know what you’re doing.
More on how to hide or show or move the Language Bar here.
Once again, an update broke iTunes
If you want to experience a truly craptastic piece of software, install iTunes on your Windows machine. It is a constant source of irritation, with occasional flare-ups into complete frustration. I wouldn’t use it at all if I didn’t have to.
iTunes updates successfully several times in a row, lulling us into an optimistic state of believing the NEXT update will go as well as the previous three or four.
And then it all goes sideways.
The update to version 184.108.40.206 appeared to install normally, but when I opened iTunes it complained that it couldn’t properly identify my iPod, a device with which it had been grudgingly compatible until 20 minutes earlier when I started the update.
Here are the steps to fix the problem. It’s important to do these steps in this order. If you don’t do that you won’t fix iTunes.
• Close iTunes
• Disconnect your iPod, iPad, iPhone
• Uninstall IN THIS ORDER
Apple Software Update
Apple Mobile Device Support
Apple Application Support 32-bit
Apple Application Support 64-bit (If you’re running a 64-bit version of Windows)
• Restart your computer
• Install iTunes
• Restart your computer again
The Apple documentation is here.
If, or more likely when, the problem is simply that iTunes won’t open, it’s probably already running, secretly trying to annoy you, in the background. You’re going to have to kill it before it will open again.
In any modern version of Windows:
• Right-click on the Task Bar
• Click on Task Manager
• Right-click on iTunes
• Click on End task
Count to 10 and open iTunes again. If that doesn’t work, you will probably have to go through the uninstall/reinstall process to get it working.
Do you have a program that you really need and that you constantly have to fix? What’s your approach? Email [email protected] with your story and I’ll share.
More Getting Along With Your Computer articles
- Painless router setup Mar 28
- Replace router? Maybe Mar 21
- Office 2016 is awesome Mar 14
- Where is Internet Explorer? Mar 7
- Where are my folders? Feb 29
- PDFs, photos, and planets Feb 22
- Nag, nag, nag Feb 15
- Remember when Feb 8
- Just stop it Feb 1
- Little technical riddles Jan 25
- Keep malware at bay Jan 18
- I still like this stuff Jan 11