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Getting Along With Your Computer

Getting ready for Christmas

Christmas is just over a week away. Are you ready for the big day? It used to be that we only had to remember to buy batteries for the shiny new presents, but these days there’s a little more to it. If you’re giving or receiving technology, or your friends and family are visiting with their shiny new gear, you need these tips!


Charge!

Are you giving your loved one an eReader, smartphone, music player or tablet? Those devices take some time to fully charge. Consider charging them before wrapping them so they’re ready to go on Christmas morning. (Understand the return policy for any gadget before opening the box, though.)


Things should come with cables. But they don’t.

Have the right kind of cables on hand. If you buy a printer, you’re going to need a printer cable. Sometimes you even need a printer cable to set up a wireless printer! Did you buy a laptop or a netbook with an HDMI port so you could connect it to that big flat screen TV? You’re going to need an HDMI cable.
 

Wireless networks don’t just happen.

If your friends and family bring their wireless notebooks or tablets to your house and plan to use the Internet, you need a wireless connection. That means you need a wireless router AND the wireless part of it has to be enabled AND you need to know the password for your wireless network. If you are missing even one of those components, there will be disappointment and sulking. Keep your WiFi password handy. If your internet provider is Telus or Shaw, the information is probably on a sticker right on the router.


Create another User Account.

Don’t have a wireless router and don’t plan on getting one? OK, fine, but if you don’t have a wireless router you’ll find that people (including children) will want to “just get on the computer for a minute to check email.” Or Facebook. Or something else.

Attention Grandparents! While it might be true that your 15-year-old grandchild “knows more about computers” than you do, that does not necessarily mean that s/he is capable of making good decisions about what to click on.

Unless your plan is to stand behind each and every person you let use your computer for the whole time they’re using it, I can pretty much guarantee that there is going to be some kind of change to your computer that will be at best disconcerting and at worst catastrophic.

If you really want to lend your computer to your guests, at least create a different user account for them so they don’t have access to all your stuff and can’t rearrange your desktop icons and delete your Favorites. It’s not hard to do this, and you can even limit their privileges on the computer. If you have Windows 8, here’s what to do: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/create-user-account#create-user-account=windows-8 .

Here’s how to create a User account in Windows 7 (and Vista): http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/5261/beginner-geek-add-a-new-user-account-in-windows-7/ .

You can delete the accounts when everyone goes home, or leave them there if that’s more convenient.

Backing up your important files before your guests arrive and running a full malware scan after they leave couldn’t hurt, either.


Call for help if you get stuck!

If you’re trying to set something up, connect things together, install something, or print something and it’s just not working…stop. Get some help. Maybe you can get in touch with the support people for whatever you’re having trouble with. If not, call your own technical support. I know I’ll be working right through the holiday season. I hope these tips will help you enjoy yours.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. Don’t forget the batteries!
 

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.





Just say NO to holiday scammers!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…for scammers. Don’t get caught.


Fake Websites

If you’re careful, you can avoid this con, but some of these fake websites are really convincing. The idea is to get you to place an order and hand over your credit card information. Your order will never be fulfilled, and your credit card information will be in the hands of the scammers.

Before you buy, look carefully at the URL --- the internet address --- of the website you’re visiting. You’ll find the URL at the top of your browser window. Make sure it’s the real site and not one that’s spelled almost the same way. When you get to the ordering page, make sure that URL contains “https://” instead of just the regular “http://” The extra “s” tells you the transaction will be secure.


Gift Cards

This one is a new one on me, and I still don’t quite get it, but apparently thieves steal just the bar codes and activation codes (by scratching cards in the store), learn when cards are activated, and drain the account before the legitimate recipient has a chance to spend any of the money. Wow.

The Better Business Bureau lists several ways to protect yourself:

  • Ask for a card from behind the counter rather than selecting one from a rack.
  • If you buy a card from a rack, examine the back of it to make sure the activation code hasn’t been revealed.
  • Buy from a reputable retailer and keep the receipt.

I would add to this list: Don’t activate a card until you’re ready to use it!


The Usual Suspects

Besides the shiny holiday scams, there are the usual ones. Don’t fall for these:

Fake package delivery scam

You might receive an email claiming there is a problem delivering a package to you. It might even have a DHL or FedEx or UPS logo. Maybe it purports to be from Costco or Amazon. The email includes an attachment which is supposed to help you resolve this issue. DO NOT CLICK ON THE ATTACHMENT! It most likely contains malicious software that will infect your computer.

Take another look at the email. Is it addressed to you or to “undisclosed recipients”? Does it contain any misspellings or major grammatical errors? If the email is supposed to be from Canada Post, how many official languages does it use?

If it still seems like it could be legit, pick up the phone and contact the shipping company directly. Don’t download attachments and don’t click on any link in the email. If you ARE expecting a shipment, use the carrier’s actual site to track the package, or use PackageTrackr: https://www.packagetrackr.com.
 

Fake Microsoft Technician

Yes, still out there. See this previous column: http://rlis.com/columns/column378.htm. And now there is a new twist where you search on some computer-related problem and go to a site that looks like a real tech support site. But it’s the same guys, only this time you are calling them, and the result is the same.
 

Facebook Privacy

You still can’t change your Facebook Privacy settings by copying and pasting (or “Sharing”) a declaration. Really. You just can’t: http://www.snopes.com/computer/facebook/privacy.asp Stop doing that.

You CAN control your Facebook Privacy Settings, and it’s easier now than ever before. See this previous column: http://rlis.com/columns/column483.htm.

 

Unfortunately, there are many more scams and scammers out there. As with preventing malware attacks on your computer, the first line of defence is common sense. So back away from the cappuccino machine, take a deep breath and slow down. Do a reality check on every deal and every website and every email. Stay safe!

 

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.



Expert advice

Are you the go-to person when your friends or family need help with their computers? Here are three helpful pieces of advice you can give people in need. They’ll love you for it.

 

You’ve got the power

Windows has an annoying habit of dumping you out to a screen that prompts you for your password after just a moment of inactivity. Sometimes you can be sitting there watching a YouTube video but if you don’t move the mouse every 30 seconds or so you’re back at that dog-gone login screen.

You can totally fix this. There are two places to look. First check the settings for your Power Plan, as described here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-ie/windows/change-create-delete-power-plan-scheme#1TC=windows-7. Most of the time that corrects the problem, but sometimes the cause is something else. Check the screen saver settings:

  • Right-click on an empty spot on your desktop
  • Click on Personalize
  • Click on Screen saver
  • Clear the checkmark in the box that says On resume, display logon screen
  • OK your way out

If you want some help with this in Windows 8.1, have a look at this screencast:


Make your Desktop icons bigger --- or smaller

When I help someone with a Windows 7 computer, I get one of two questions about the icons on the Desktop. Some people say, “I can’t see anything. Can I make those icons bigger?” and others say, “Holy cow, those icons are HUGE! How do I make them normal?”

It's easy to change the size of the icons on your Windows 7 (or Vista) desktop, without monkeying with the size of text or the screen resolution. Here's how:

  • Right-click on an empty spot on the desktop
  • Click on View
  • Choose between Large, Medium, and Classic (Classic is like XP)

If you want more than those three options and you have a mouse with a scroll wheel, you can further customize the icons.

  • Click on an empty spot on the desktop
  • Hold down the CTRL key, and scroll up and down until you get the icons just the size you like
  • Release the CTRL key and stop scrolling



Move to where?

I use Word a lot and I think I’m pretty good at it, so I’m always delighted when I find something that makes it even easier to use Word. Here’s a pretty cool tip:

For years now I’ve know that I can move a block of text to another place in my document by highlighting the text and either cutting and pasting or dragging and dropping it to where I want it to go. That’s easy when it’s a reasonably small amount of text in a fairly short document, but sometimes I lose track of what I’m doing and end up with a document that looks like Word Salad. There’s an easier way.

  • Highlight the text you want to move
  • Press F2
  • Note that in the bottom left corner of the Word window it says Move to where?
  • Place your cursor at the destination
  • Press Enter

That’s it! You’re a power user now!

What advice would you like to pass along? Email [email protected] with your tips and I’ll share them (giving you full credit) with our readers.

 

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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Facebook Privacy

Facebook simplified their Privacy Policy, making it easier to control what you share and what you see. Also, a little more on the Firefox Forget Button.

 

Facebook Privacy is a lot easier to control now

Here’s the thing about Facebook: YOU control what others see about you. And to some extent, you can control what you see, too.

Last week Facebook cut their Privacy Policy from 9,000 words to 2,700. And then they added pictures.

It’s never been easy to figure out Facebook, and just as soon as someone smarter than I am figures it out and explains everything, Facebook changes everything. But something good happened last week. Facebook published an easy to understand guide to controlling who sees what. You’ll find the new Privacy Basics pages here: https://www.facebook.com/about/basics/ and if you use Facebook, I encourage you to take a look. Facebook breaks this information down into three sections: "What Others See About You," "How Others Interact With You" and "What You See."

If you didn’t already know that every picture you post is set to Public unless you change a setting, you need to take a look at the first section! Have a look at the explanation of Lists, too. I’ve always used Lists in Facebook to manage who sees my posts and photos. Why? Because many of my non-techie friends would not appreciate the geeky posts that only Friends on my “Tech” list would find interesting. And Friends who don’t live in Kelowna really didn’t care about the local elections, so I limited many of those posts to a list called “Local.”

Lists can be useful in telling Facebook which Friends’ posts you want to see most. Add a Friend to your “Close Friends” list to have most of their posts show up on your timeline. Add someone to “Acquaintances” to get the opposite result. Check the third Privacy Basics section to discover more about how to control what shows up in your newsfeed and what ads you’ll see. You WILL see ads, but you can influence which ones.


I forgot to add the Forget Button!

In last week’s column I mentioned the new Forget Button introduced in Firefox 33.1. You should have seen a prompt to activate it when you installed or upgraded Firefox, but some readers let me know that they either didn’t see it or ignored the prompt and now they want the button.

It’s easy to add. Here’s how:

  • Open Firefox 33.1
  • Click on the icon with three horizontal lines in Firefox’s upper right corner (I call it the Shopping List!)
  • Click on Customize
  • Click on the Forget icon. Your cursor should turn into a closed fist.
  • Keep holding the left mouse button down and drag the icon out to the Menu bar and let go
  • Click on Exit Customize

Here’s a video that shows you the steps:

You’re all set to forget.

 

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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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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