Thursday, March 26th11.7°C
25492
24949
Getting Along With Your Computer

Microsoft accounts

Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and the soon-to-be-released Windows 10 require Microsoft Accounts to be fully functional. There’s nothing to be gained by complaining. Still, I can make it so you complain less!

 

What is a Microsoft Account and why should I care?

A Microsoft Account is an email address and password that you use to sign into a Windows 8 computer, and to access certain Microsoft services even when you’re not on a Windows 8 PC. Microsoft provides this video explanation: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/sign-in-what-is-microsoft-account.

You need one with Windows 8 and 8.1. You just do. Your Microsoft Account gives you access to the Store app. You can’t even download free apps from the Store without a Microsoft Account. You need it for Office and OneDrive (used to be SkyDrive). And when you set up a new Windows 8 computer, you’ll be prompted to sign in with your Microsoft Account.

If you don’t have a Microsoft Account, you can create one. Check this page for instructions: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/sign-up-create-account-how. You can create a brand new address for this or you can just use one that you already have. Fill out the form completely and as accurately as you can, and do not lose your password. Write down your password. Do not lose it. You’ll thank me for this advice some time in the future!


You mean I have to use a password every time I sign in?

Yes. That is exactly what I mean. And that’s a good thing.

That’s what I tell my customers. And right after that the complaining starts. Are you too busy to type in your password? It might take as much as eleven seconds! Is there a way to bypass your password? Yes there is, but it’s a really bad idea, especially on a laptop or a tablet because if someone simply grabs your laptop or your tablet and takes off running, there’s nothing to slow them down when they try to access your email, your files in the Cloud (http://rlis.com/columns/column498.htm), or the files on the device.

I will tell you how to bypass your password, I promise. But first let’s see what is actually annoying you and try something a little less dramatic than skipping the login screen. You can see a video that explains all this here:

Instead of typing in your password, which must consist of at least eight characters, you can use a 4-digit PIN, just like you do with a bank card. Or, you can use a picture, which probably won’t save you any time but might be fun. Here’s how to get to the settings for both those options:

  • Press the WinKey + C (or swipe in from the right on a touch screen device) to display the Charms bar.
  • Click or tap on PC Settings | Account | Sign-in options
  • Choose Picture password or PIN, and follow the prompts there.

Hey, did you notice the Password policy choice while you were at that Sign-in options screen? It’s probably set for “Password required when waking this PC from sleep” but if you click or tap on the Change button, you can turn that off, too. Please do not do this on a laptop or tablet that you take out of your home.

The final annoyance to turn off is Windows throwing you back to the Lock Screen every so often and making you enter your password/picture/pin every time. Disable that like this:

  • Right-click or long press on the Desktop
  • Click or tap on Personalize | Screen Saver
  • Clear the checkmark from “On resume, display logon screen”
  • Apply the changes

OK, now you can login once with a PIN or picture, and stay logged in. If that’s not enough for you and you really have to bypass the password completely:

  • Press WinKey + X
  • Tap or click Command Prompt (Admin)
  • At the command prompt, type control userpasswords2
  • Press Enter
  • Select your account, then clear the checkmark from the box called Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer
  • Click OK
  • Enter your password twice
  • Reboot

Did that make your life a little easier? You still have that password (DON’T LOSE IT!!!) but you don’t need it as often.


 

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.



25224


What was that thing again?

For the last couple of weeks I’ve heard from people who kind of remember something that I mentioned that sort of sounded interesting but now can’t find it again. I’m going to recap the most frequent requests here. Also, when I get a new website going it’s going to be searchable!

 

Grab YouTube videos and convert to mp3’s

Have you ever wanted to download a YouTube video? Have you ever wanted just the audio part of a YouTube video? Many websites and browser add-ons say they’ll do this. And maybe they will, but it’s likely you’ll also get a big dose of malicious software along with your file.

Long-time reader Ken recommended a site that is fast, efficient, and at this writing free from malicious software. Check out convert2mp3.net (http://convert2mp3.net/) for an easy way to grab and/or convert those files. Find the video you want, copy the URL and paste it into the appropriate box on the website, then select the format. The site converts it for you and provides a link to the download. Works great.

I checked the site URL with Virustotal (https://www.virustotal.com/) and found no negative reports. I then converted and downloaded a file and checked the file with Avast! Antivirus and Malwarebytes, again with no bad news.

In addition to YouTube, convert2mp3.net will grab files from DailyMotion, Vevo, and a German site called Clipfish. Be sure to check those files after you download them and before you open them, because things change all the time.

Many thanks, Ken!


Stay Safe with WinPatrol

WinPatrol detects and prevents changes to important Windows settings. The website explains:

You’ll be notified if unwanted programs are set to automatically run, if a toolbar has been added to Internet Explorer, if your home page, search provider or other internal configurations change. When a new Service or ActiveX component is detected it may be part of a legitimate program. WinPatrol will make sure and if it isn’t, you can tell WinPatrol to disable it.

Just adding a program won’t cause a notification but when a program is configured to run without your knowledge, WinPatrol will let you confirm the change is expected.

It does this without slowing down your computer, and that is just the beginning. See this page for a list of features: http://www.winpatrol.com/compare.html. You’ll notice a comparison between the free and paid versions. The free version is very powerful. I have many customers using it. I use the paid version. For a very reasonable price I bought the lifetime license that allows me to use it on every computer I own. WinPatrol adds one more layer of security to your computers. I recommend it highly. You’ll find it here: http://www.winpatrol.com/.


Disable the new start screen in Office 2013

There’s a lot to like about Office 2013, but the new start screen can be annoying. When I open a Word document, 99% of the time I just want to get to work. I 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.

  • 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, too. Next time you open one of 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.

Are you also irritated by Office 2013’s insistence on saving documents to OneDrive instead of to your computer? See the second item in this previous column for help with that: http://rlis.com/columns/column475.htm.

 

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.



'The Cloud' explained

Everyone seems to be talking about “The Cloud” but … what is it?

What is this “Cloud” thing everyone is always talking about?

Readers and customers often ask me to explain “The Cloud.” Judging from Google search results, more people want someone to “explain the cloud” than to “explain everything” so I’ll take a crack at it.

The Cloud can mean different things, but I’m going to talk about it as it relates to home and small business computer users. And I’m going to keep it as simple as I can. It’s very simple!

Most of us have always used computers by installing programs and storing files on the hard drive. Even if you use an external hard drive to store your photos or movies, you’re still storing things locally and using programs on your computer to do what you do with those files. That’s great if you have unlimited storage (Buy more hard drives! Buy bigger hard drives!) or always only ever use that one computer.

Cloud computing uses the internet to store your files so you can access them anywhere you have a connection. That’s it!


Wait, what? Is that good?

Well, yes! Being able to store and retrieve your files wherever you are comes in very handy when you use phones, tablets, and netbooks. Those devices don’t have much storage in comparison to a computer’s hard drive. You can upload your vacation pictures to The Cloud and show them to your unsuspecting friends and relatives just using your iPad. Or you can upload your pictures and provide a link to them so your friends and family can view them at their convenience. No more struggling with huge files in email. That is so 1998!

You may already be using The Cloud. If you use Dropbox (https://www.dropbox.com/), iCloud (https://www.icloud.com/), OneDrive (https://onedrive.live.com/) or GoogleDrive (https://www.google.com/drive/), or any picture or file sharing service, you’re storing information in The Cloud. Yes, you are! Your Facebook photos and videos are stored in The Cloud! See how easy that was!


But wait, there’s more!

Besides just storing and sharing there is Cloud Computing. Not only are your files stored in The Cloud, you can use programs in The Cloud to work with those files. Microsoft offers stripped down online versions of Word and Excel for creating and editing documents and spreadsheets. When you open a file on GoogleDrive, it’s opening in a Google program that makes it work for you.

If you need to collaborate with someone on a document, you can open it, edit it, store it in Dropbox or OneDrive or GoogleDrive, and your partner can grab it and make changes. You can then see the edited document. Some Cloud services allow simultaneous editing. (Be a little cautious with that!)

I often store technical documents in my DropBox account so I can see them when I’m at a customer. I can get to them from a web browser, my netbook, or even my Android phone. And I write this column in Word, so saving it to my OneDrive allows me to work on it in the library or a coffee shop between customer appointments as well as at my desk.


Is it safe?

Yes…and no. Some online services have stronger security than others. Some with strong security experienced problems. You are storing your data on someone else’s hard drives. My rule of thumb is never to upload something I wouldn’t want my mother or the President of the United States to see. Be cautious about what you store in The Cloud, and always double check the privacy settings.

 

Now go ahead and enjoy your Internet Hard Drive, also known as The Cloud!

 

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.





Problem solved

I keep hearing from people who threaten to drop their computers from a great height. Read on before you do that. There might be a quick and easy way to make that machine stop annoying you.

 

Laptop touchpad issues solved

Last week I was working with a customer who has a beautiful, fast Ultrabook. (An Ultrabook is a high-end sub-notebook with an Intel processor.) I told him I thought it was a great computer. He told me he was ready to throw it off the balcony.

The problem was that the cursor kept jumping around. When he answered an email or wrote a document, he got word salad. That behaviour created even graver problems in Excel spreadsheets.

This is a really common problem. Generally the culprit is the touchpad. That’s the square or rectangular part of the laptop’s keyboard that acts like a mouse when you drag or tap with your fingers. Most touch typists drag or tap the heel of their hand on the touchpad without even realizing it. The mouse moves just like it’s supposed to, and havoc ensues.

The easiest way to resolve this problem is to use a wireless mouse and disable the touchpad. (Uninstalling the touchpad drivers is NOT a good idea. If you ever forget to bring your mouse, you’re going to be in a world of hurt.) It’s easy to disable your touchpad and enable it again if you need it.

One way is to use the keyboard. Every laptop I’ve ever seen used the Fn (called “Function”) key plus F keys (the top row of keys) to toggle functions on and off. On my little netbook, the Fn + F3 combination toggles the touchpad off and on. Your laptop might use a different combination. Look for an icon that resembles a touchpad, and try that key with the Fn key. See what happens. (Have a mouse handy, though!)

You might also use Settings. Visit the control panel, and find the settings for Mouse. If you have a Synaptics touchpad, you’ll see a red icon there which will let you control the touchpad settings, including disabling it.

If you actually want to use the touchpad, disabling it isn’t an option. But you can install a little free utility called TouchFreeze. It will disable the touchpad while you are typing text and automatically enable it again when you stop typing. It works great on laptops running Windows 7 and Windows 8.x. It works on most Vista laptops, too. You can download it here: http://code.google.com/p/touchfreeze/.


High Contrast results in high anxiety

I received this email from a reader:

Cate, can you help me?

I've got a new laptop with Windows 8.1 … but just now I opened my computer and the background of everything is black.

Instead of my files opening with the usual white background (I'm using colors for correcting different categories), it's all black and white - no colored fields or cells showing.

I opened Firefox and got a message that I was in High something but that only came up once so I can't say for sure what it said. I went into settings - personalization, but again I don't know what I should do there.

I'm ready to toss it out the window.

 

The part about Firefox helped me figure out the problem. The computer was set to High Contrast Mode. This is sometimes helpful to people with vision impairments, but generally not useful for most people. The easiest way to get back to normal is to press the Left Alt + Left Shift + PrintScreen keys simultaneously.

That will either just change back to the regular way, or it will pop up a box asking you if you want to go back to the regular way. (You do, so pick the most appropriate answer.)

This works in Windows Vista through 8.1.

 

Got a cool tip? Got a weird problem? Send email to [email protected] and I’ll share the solutions in future columns.

 

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.




24811


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.


Previous Stories


25666
RSS this page.
(Click for RSS instructions.)
25322