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Getting Along With Your Computer

Windows 10 rolls out

Windows 10 upgrades begin rolling out July 29. Notice I said “upgrades” not “updates” and I said “begins” not “you’ll get it” July 29.

 

Our story so far

Microsoft introduced the Start Menu in Windows 95. People got used to it. Some people relied on the Start Menu to be able to find things, while others just kept dozens of icons on their Desktops.

In a bold but misguided move, Windows 8 attempted to do away with the Start Menu and replace it with the Start Screen. The Start Screen is pretty much just like having dozens of icons on your Desktop, but these are called Tiles and they flash at you. People didn’t like that and complained bitterly about the lack of a Start Menu. Even people who never used a Start Menu and always littered their desktops with icons complained bitterly. General consensus: “I don’t want Windows 8 because I heard it was bad.”

Windows 8.1 included a stripped down version of the Start Menu, and made it easier for people to ignore the new Start Screen and live in the legacy Desktop environment. But the name still had “8” in the title so people avoided it because they heard it was bad. A bunch of folks lost their jobs at Microsoft, and someone decided to skip version 9 of Windows and go straight to version 10. And yes, Windows 10 includes a Start Menu.


Free upgrades

Most people running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 on a computer received a notification that they could upgrade for free to Windows 10. Please understand that this is not a Windows Update. This is a complete upGRADE to a new operating system.

Yes, it is free. No, Microsoft is not going to let you get a free upgrade and then charge you in a year. Free is free. You can reserve your copy of Windows 10 now. It will begin rolling out July 29, and you have a year to decide whether to install it on your present computer for free or not.

But should you?

As I mentioned in an earlier column (http://rlis.com/columns/column511.htm), it depends:

  • If you have a computer that’s only a couple of years old and you really hate Windows 8.1, then you probably want this upgrade.
  • If you are someone who always wants the newest thing and you are willing to put up with everyone not yet knowing how to solve the problems that arise from the newest thing, then you probably want to upgrade.
  • If you have an older computer and you know or you think you’ll be replacing it soon, don’t bother with an upgrade. Buy a new computer with Windows 10 already on it. Expect to see Windows 10 on computers in stores by the end of this summer.
  • If you are using your computer for business, with very few exceptions I am advising my customers to stay with whatever they are currently using until enough time has passed to work some of the kinks out of Windows 10.
     
Resources

Here’s a list of resources about Windows 10. Check out some or all of these links before you get started on your upgrade.

What did you decide? Did you reserve your copy? Did you install it? How did that go for you?

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.





Firefox vs. FlashPlayer

I heard from lots of you last week, and many of you had the same question. Politely stated, “What in the name of Oprah is going on with Firefox?!?”

 

Firefox blocks Adobe FlashPlayer --- big time

On July 13, Firefox users were presented with messages stating that the Adobe plug-in was unsafe and/or asking users if they wanted to activate it. This was all because two new, serious vulnerabilities in FlashPlayer became common knowledge and were being exploited. Mozilla felt the risk to users was too great to continue to allow the player to run without advising people --- EVERY SINGLE TIME!!! --- of the risk.

Mozilla stated that the block would remain in place until Adobe fixed those issues, and on July 14 a new version of FlashPlayer was available. Installing this version caused Firefox to stop the nervous twitching and allowed users to return to a more normal usage pattern.

If you are still seeing those warnings, update your FlashPlayer…again. Open Firefox, read this explanation: https://blogs.adobe.com/conversations/2015/07/resolution-for-recent-flash-player-vulnerabilities.html. Then you can follow the link in that article to download and install the new version. As always, proceed carefully and decline all offers of anything except the FlashPlayer (unless of course you actually want a new version of Mcafee Security Scan, Google Toolbar, or Google Chrome).
 

What is FlashPlayer?

If it seems that you just did an update, you’re likely correct. July 14 was the second update within a week. Which brings us to the next part of the discussion: What IS FlashPlayer and do we actually need it?

Adobe FlashPlayer is software that allows certain website content to play. A whole lot of content was written for FlashPlayer including YouTube videos, some games and other web content. There are problems though. It’s buggy and crashes a lot. It can be exploited by bad guys and requires frequent updates.

For a long time FlashPlayer was necessary to do lots of things on the web, but lately it’s being replaced by other enabling technologies. You don’t need it for most YouTube videos anymore. A growing number of people want to see it abandoned completely.

 

Can I get rid of it? Can I turn it off and on?

You can uninstall it if you want to. You might find that you really don’t need it. If you want YouTube, you can enable the HTML5 Video Player instead. (Instructions here: https://www.youtube.com/html5). You can cause Firefox to display a box instead of Flash content, and click on the Play button when you want to play Flash content. (Instructions here: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/set-adobe-flash-click-play-firefox). You can also do that in Google Chrome. (Instructions here: http://www.howtogeek.com/126284/how-to-enable-click-to-play-plugins-in-google-chrome/). How do you know if that worked? Test your FlashPlayer here: https://www.adobe.com/software/flash/about/.

 

This is a giant hassle. Will it ever end?

Lots of people want to put an end to Flash, and it’s clearly on the way out. You can stop using it completely or start using it selectively, as described above. You can notify the makers of websites that require it that you’re unhappy about that. There are more suggestions on the OccupyFlash website: http://occupyflash.org/. Ironically, you need to allow FlashPlayer to run in order to let the site test for FlashPlayer.

What’s your take? Are you still using FlashPlayer? If you are, please, please, please keep it up to date.

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



Keep your laptop cool

It’s not just you. Your laptop is hot, too. And yes, you can bypass the password in Windows 8.1 but I don’t recommend it especially on a laptop.

 

Laptops need airflow!

It’s that time of year again where I remind everyone that laptops need air flow. Using a laptop flat on a desk, counter, table, or any surface will impede air flow and cause the laptop to heat up.

You can buy USB cooling pads if you want to, but two inexpensive solutions work well and are lighter than a cooling pad. My favourite is two rubber doorstops from the dollar store used as wedges under the back of the laptop. You get the laptop off the table enough for some cooling and as a bonus it’s easier on your hands when you type.

Last year a customer turned me on to the “laptop ball” in The Source (http://images.thesource.ca/images/Online/26/2606116l.jpg. About the size of a golf ball, this silicone item comes apart to do the same thing as the doorstops. They’re about $5.00, come in several colours and look a little classier than doorstops. I keep one in my laptop bag and another on my desk.


Yes, you CAN start Windows 8.1 without a password but it’s STILL a bad idea

I’ve written several times about how to do this in previous versions of Windows. (I still don’t recommend it on a laptop). But there must be something especially irritating about signing in to a Microsoft Account (http://rlis.com/columns/column452.htm) on Windows 8. People want to skip that step.

In Windows 8, you do it the same way as in Vista and Windows 7:

  • Press the Windows Key and the R key simultaneously (WinKey + R)
  • In the Run box, type netplwiz and press Enter
  • The User Accounts box will open. Select your account from the list (it might be the only one, if you’re the only one using the computer. You still have to select it!)
  • Remove the check mark from the Users must enter a user name… box
  • In Windows 8, you’ll get the automatically sign in box. In older versions you’ll get the same prompts, but it will look a little different. Enter your user name and password. Confirm the password.
  • OK your way out.

In Windows 8.1, if you also want to bypass the new Start Screen and go straight to the Desktop when you boot up:

  • Right-click the Taskbar
  • Click on Properties | Navigation
  • Put a check in the box called When I sign in or close all pages on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start
  • OK your way out

If you want a free utility to do that for you, Windows Tweaker (http://www.thewindowstweaker.com/) will do that an a lot more. Windows Tweaker runs on Vista through Windows 8.1 and includes more than 100 tweaks. A nice touch is that you don’t have to go digging through many menus to find what you need because the utility is searchable. As always, I encourage caution when you tweak Windows. If you don’t know the expected outcome of a tweak, you probably shouldn’t tweak that thing!

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



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Sign your PDF documents

Yes. You can place an electronic signature into your PDF documents right on your computer without going through the print-sign-scan-fax/email cycle. And it’s easy. Also, now you can “unsend” that incendiary Gmail if you act quickly.

 

How do I add a signature to a document?

Last week a customer with a brand new computer asked how he could add a signature to a document and then send it to someone. There are lots of programs you can download that claim to do this, and many of those programs contain crapware. I’m not going to show you that way.

The method most often used by people who ask that question is:

  • Download a document attached to an email.
  • Print the document (or at least the page that requires a signature)
  • Sign the document
  • Scan the signed page and email it - OR - Fax the signed page

And that works OK, but there is a much easier way!

You can use Acrobat Reader DC (the newest version of Adobe Reader) to sign a document electronically. A tool called Fill & Sign will guide you through signing or initialling forms or other PDF documents. This article from the Acrobat Help page outlines the procedure in detail: https://helpx.adobe.com/acrobat/using/signing-pdfs.html#sign_a_pdf. The short version of my customer’s story is that since he has a nice touch screen laptop running Windows 8.1, he just used his finger to sign on the screen, an option not discussed in that article.

Are there any Mac users in your household? They can use this feature, too, by installing the latest version of Acrobat Reader for their operating system. Of course there’s no touch screen on a Mac, so like the rest of us they’ll need to use the type or scan in a signature.

You can get Acrobat Reader here, for whatever operating system you’re using: https://get.adobe.com/reader/otherversions/. Just get the Reader, and decline all offers of browsers and other crapware.

 

Take that back!

Gmail users rejoice. An experimental feature that allows you to “Undo send” is now officially part of Gmail. It’s disabled by default, so if you’d like a little less drama in your life I suggest you go into your settings and turn it on.

  • Open your Gmail
  • Click on the Settings icon (It looks like a gear) in the upper right-hand corner
  • Click on Settings
  • Select the General tab
  • Scroll down to Undo Send
  • Place a check mark in the Enable box, and set the timer the way you want it.
  • IMPORTANT! Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and Save your changes!

When you send a Gmail message, you’ll see the confirmation that it’s been sent and the options to View or Undo. The Undo option is only available for the time you set, and 30 seconds is the maximum. If you choose Undo, the message will go into your Drafts for you to edit or discard.

Thanks, Google!


Thank you, Ride Don’t Hide sponsors!

Many readers were kind enough to sponsor me in the 40K Ride Don’t Hide event for the Canadian Mental Health Association. I am so grateful for your support and for your messages of encouragement. The Kelowna ride reportedly raised close to $60,000. Thank you again.

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



Read more Computers articles




About the author...

Cate Eales has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible and fun for over 20 years. She lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric, and her dog, Sandy. Cate is a partner in Computer Care Kelowna, helping individuals and small businesses with virus, spyware and malware eradication; personal computer training and management; digital image management; music transfer; and website design, hosting and management.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with your comments, suggestions, or questions. To browse the column archives, visit the Real Life Internet Solutions website at www.rlis.com.




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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.


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