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Just stop it

Usually when sitting down at the computer I just want to get work done. 

Okay, okay, I just want to get work done after I look at all the dog videos on Facebook. 

But eventually, I just want to get work done, and don’t need to see an ad for the thing I’m already using, I just want to use the thing. Here are three ways to stop the madness.


Turn off the start screen in Office 2016

There’s a lot to like about Office 2016, but that doggone start screen can be annoying. When opening a Word document, 99% of the time I just want to get to work, and don’t need to see every conceivable template.

You can disable all that and go straight to your Word document or Excel spreadsheet, just like we did in previous versions of Office. It’s easy, and it works in Office 2013, too.

Start by opening a Word document, either an existing one or a new one; it doesn’t matter

Click on File | Options

Click on the General tab if you’re not there already

Near the bottom of that tab, clear the check mark next to Show the Start screen when this application starts

Click on OK

That’s it! Now repeat the process for Excel and PowerPoint if you want to get right into those programs as well. Next time you open them, you’ll go right to your document, spreadsheet, or presentation.

If ever you need the templates again, click on File |New and you’ll be right back there at the start screen.

Thanks to faithful reader Dot for the tip.


Turn off the splash screen in Adobe Reader

While we’re at it, the great big splash screen for Adobe Reader serves no particular purpose. All I want is for my PDF file to open, I don’t need a big ad for Adobe Reader while I’m using Adobe Reader. To get rid of this thing:

Open Adobe Reader (or any PDF file)

Click on Edit | Preferences | General

Scroll down to the Application Startup section and clear the check box next to Show splash screen

Now when you open a PDF you’ll go directly to your file.


Turn off the Avast! Antivirus ad in your emails

Unless you change the setting, Avast! Antivirus products (free and paid) insert a little ad for Avast! Antivirus products in your outgoing emails. Lots of antivirus programs do this, but not all of them allow you to turn that ad off. Here’s how to get rid of that thing in Avast!

Open Avast!

Click the gear icon in the top right-hand corner to open Settings

Click on Active Protection

Next to Mail Shield, click on Customize

Click on Behavior

Remove the check from the box next to Insert note into clean message (outgoing)

Click on OK

That’s all there is to it.

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


Little technical riddles

Some days, everything I encounter is a brand new puzzle to solve.

Other days, I hear the same questions more than once. 

How to troubleshoot Firefox crashes

As I write this, Firefox version 43.0.4 is running on all my PCs, without any fuss. I started using Firefox when it was version 1.2. and, like any love affair, Firefox and I have had our ups and downs.

Versions 41 and 42 were so horrible on every computer in our office that we installed Google Chrome on everything. Chrome is an irritating browser, but it was more stable than Firefox. I tried my best to get used to it. In the end, though, I decided to give Firefox another chance, and did what I should have done in the first place: Troubleshoot the problems.

The main causes of Firefox crashes, in order, are:

  • Malware/crapware on the computer
  • Browser/search engine hijacks
  • Out-of-date Java and/or Adobe FlashPlayer
  • Add-ons/extensions/plugins
  • Corrupted Firefox profiles
  • Firefox itself

To stop Firefox from crashing take the following steps, generally in this order:

Run an anti-malware scan with Malwarebytes
Allow it to get rid of anything questionable or outright bad that it finds. If it can’t get rid of something, get help from a computer technician who can use a more advanced product or two. Whatever it takes, get your computer and your browser free of junk. If you use an Avast! Antivirus product, run the Browser Cleaner to help with this.

Update your Java (if you use it) and Adobe FlashPlayer (if you use it)
Visit Java and Adobe to do this, or pay attention to your Avast! product pleading with you to update your critical software, and do it from there.

Update Firefox
To the latest version

Find out if an add-on is causing the problem
Briefly, to determine which add-ons (and likely there will be more than one) are causing the problem, start Firefox in safe mode (NOT Windows safe mode, that's something else) and run it for awhile. If nothing crashes, its add-ons are causing the problem. Here's a link to a more detailed procedure. 

If that doesn't help
It could be that the profile is corrupted. Consider doing a refresh of Firefox, but understand what it will keep and what it will discard BEFORE you do it. In any case, know how to back up and restore your Firefox profile before you do a refresh. If you don't know how to do that manually, try MozBackup. 

If none of that works
It could be a buggy version of Firefox. Try Google Chrome for awhile and stick with it if you like it. Or, if you’re like me, see if Firefox has changed its attitude, and if so, welcome it back.

How to play Solitaire in Windows 10

A surprising number of people ask how they can play Free Cell in Windows 10 as they did in Windows 7. Unfortunately, those games died a quiet death with Windows 7. Starting with Windows 8, and moving right along to Windows 10, are the Solitaire apps. They are awful. Don’t even think about playing cards with the cards apps.

If you want any of 32 varieties of solitaire, including Free Cell and three kinds of Spider along with Klondike and Vegas Klondike, play on the web. There is nothing to download, and the site is free from crapware according to VirusTotal. Enjoy!



Get Adobe FlashPlayer 

Get Firefox 

Troubleshoot extensions, themes and hardware acceleration issues to solve common Firefox problems 

Refresh Firefox - reset add-ons and settings 


Get Google Chrome

Free Solitaire


Keep malware at bay

As I clean out malicious software from my customers’ computers, the question most often asked is, “How did that get there?” 

I can usually make an educated guess, but the more important question is, “How can I keep this from happening again?” 

What the heck is malware and why should I care?

Malware is malicious or unwanted programs that either piggyback on the installation of legitimate programs or flat-out trick us into installing them. They are there to take your money, steal your banking information or your passwords. Why do people make these programs? Because, as Willie Sutton probably never said, “That’s where the money is.”

How do I protect my computer?

Take control of your downloads
The first line of defence against malware is YOU. Check whether a file is harmful before you install it. Even better, check before you even download it. 

VirusTotal is a great website where you can check a file against 40 or so antivirus resources to see if it’s likely to be dangerous. It’s dead easy. 

A fuller explanation of the site is here. This site explains how to submit a file for analysis, too. If you do a lot of downloading, you might be interested in the advanced tools, here.  

Once you’ve downloaded a file, you can (and should) check it before you install it. So given a choice to Save, Run, or Save and Run, the best choice on a file you’re not sure about is Save. When the download finishes, navigate to your download folder and right-click on the file. You will see options to scan the file with your antivirus and anti-malware program. That scan takes just seconds. Do it. 

Customize your installs
Even great safe programs will try to foist stuff on you. Sometimes it’s Google Chrome or McAfee Security Suite. Sometimes it’s the dreaded DriverUpdate crap-ware.

Always choose Custom Install over Typical or Express. Custom Install allows you to decline unwanted programs, toolbars, and search hijacks. Clear the check boxes for the stuff you don’t want. Typical or Express installs mean that you accept whatever is offered, sight unseen.

Layer your protection
Even when you’re aware and careful, bad things can slip through the cracks. And no antivirus product can protect from everything. You need something to catch what sneaks past.

I’m pretty good at this stuff, and still somehow Chrome manages to sneak in during an Avast! Free update. In addition to a good all-round antivirus program that provides real-time protection, you should install and run Malwarebytes (either the free or paid version) or SuperAntiSpyware (free or paid).

Malware tries to make sure it starts up with Windows and runs all the time. WinPatrol is another great program that monitors key elements of your Windows installation and alerts you to - or protects you from - programs that try to make changes to those elements, including what starts up with Windows. The free version is excellent, and the paid version offers additional features. Take a look at the program here. 

Holy smokes, that’s a lot. Is there anything else?

Yes. Keep your protection up to date! 

And - it’s good to have a proper backup. Look for more information on backing up your critical information in a future column.

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


Snopes: Willie Sutton  


About VirusTotal 

VirusTotal Advanced Features and Tools 

Malwarebytes (free)

Malwarebytes (paid) 



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I still like this stuff

Each new version of Windows brings new things and new ways of doing the same old things. Still, there are some things Windows doesn’t do on its own. That’s why I use some older utilities, even on Windows 7. Here are a couple of my favourites, both free.

Image Resizer

Digital cameras and cameras in smartphones take lovely, clear photos. In other news, those photos are huge in terms of file size. If you want to email photos or if you want to upload photos in a way that doesn’t take all day, it’s important to reduce the file size.

You can easily do that without compromising the quality of the photo as viewed on a computer. There are ways to accomplish it within Office, Photoshop, and many other programs. You can even do it online. However, I find the easiest way to resize an image is with the Image Resizer tool.

You can safely download the tool from its home site. There is no crapware, toolbars, adware, or anything else included. Once you install Image Resizer, take a look at the settings. The default settings work perfectly for most people, including me, but there are options you can set, and easily change later if you have different preferences. That’s all you need to do until you want to resize an image. 


  • Right-click on the image
  • Click on Resize picture
  • Choose the size
  • Click on Resize

That’s all there is to it. I’ve used Image Resizer on every version of Windows from Vista to Windows 10 without any problems. It just works.

Yankee-Clipper 3

When you copy a word, phrase, URL or picture, Windows holds it in memory - until you copy another thing. Then it forgets all that has come before. For many people, this is not a problem. For those who produce content or who need to copy something once and paste it over and over again, that forgetfulness can be an irritant.

Windows’ short term memory is called the clipboard, and there’s a whole class of utilities called Clipboard Managers. What they do is store more than just the last item copied, and make it simple to retrieve and paste any stored items into a document, email, or browser address bar. It saves a lot of typing and clicking.

I’ve tried at least half a dozen clipboard managers over the years, and the one I like best is the one I’ve been using since the good old days of Windows XP. Yankee-Clipper 3 is a free utility that is easy to use. It doesn’t have many features, it just has the ones I need the most. 

Yankee-Clipper 3 is no longer supported, but it works on every system I’ve tried it on. I run it on everything. I use it dozens of times every day. If you need a clipboard manager without a lot of fluff, give it a try. When downloaded from its home site. It is free of ads, toolbars, and crap.

What utilities from the old days do you still use? What utilities or functions do you miss? Let me know at [email protected] and I’ll share.


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


Image Resizer 

Yankee-Clipper 3 

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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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