Good to know

It’s great to find new things. Today, I’m sharing two new-to-me tips and one oldie but goodie. Make Wikipedia look good, control your trackpad, and stay safer.

Wikiwand makes Wikipedia look good

Wikipedia is a wonderful resource, with more than 35 million articles. Why does it feel so … clunky?

It’s been around for close to 15 years, and the interface looks like it. Wikipedia also looks awful on some mobile phones and tablets. But there’s good news! A browser extension and iPhone app called Wikiwand make Wikipedia more appealing and much easier to read.

You can get browser extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari, and an app for iPhones. An Android app is in the testing phase.

To get started with Wikiwand, visit the site, click on the word Wikiwand in the top left corner, and download and install the version you need. After that, any time you click on a Wikipedia link, the content displays in the extension/app. And it looks great.

I’m using it in Firefox, and besides looking good right out of the gate, you can further customize Wikiwand’s fonts and justifications.

It’s really very nice. If any of you are using it on your iPhone, I’d love to know how you like it. I’m waiting to test it on my Android.

Windows 10 contains a built-in way to disable touchpads

When you’re typing messages or documents on a laptop, do you ever lose track of the cursor and discover it’s jumped up a line or two? Now that beautifully crafted prose is word salad.

Most of the time this behaviour is caused by accidentally touching the touchpad/trackpad on the laptop. Unless you hold your hands like a concert pianist, your wrists tap on that trackpad and the mouse cursor moves as if you clicked on a mouse button.

Well, yes. That’s what trackpads are for. But we only want that behaviour when we intentionally tap.

In Windows 7 we relied on utilities like TouchFreeze to automagically disable the touchpad while we were typing. But Windows 10 has that feature built in. We just need to enable it:

  • Open Settings (Pressing the WindowsKey and the I simultaneously is one way to do this)
  • In the Search box at the top, start typing touchpad
  • Click on Choose whether to have a touchpad delay
  • Under Touchpad sensitivity, choose your delay.

The “delay” we’re tweaking here is the time between when you tap the trackpad and the time it reacts like you’re clicking a mouse button. If you strike a key in the delay, Windows 10 knows you don’t mean a mouse click and ignores that tap on the trackpad.

If you’re a fast typist, you can get by with a short delay. If you type slowly, you’ll want to set a longer delay. If you don’t know, start with Medium, and then tweak again if you want more delay or less delay.

Check a file or a website with VirusTotal

Customers, friends, family, and readers often ask me how they can tell whether a link or a file is safe before they download it. One way is to check it with VirusTotal.

When you visit the VirusTotal website, you’ll see a very clear explanation of the site’s purpose:

"VirusTotal is a free service that analyzes suspicious files and URLs and facilitates the quick detection of viruses, worms, trojans, and all kinds of malware."

Not only that, it does it quickly, efficiently, and with a high degree of accuracy. VirusTotal aggregates information from 50 or so antivirus engines and checks files, URLs, and IP addresses.

When you search on any of those, VirusTotal returns a result that shows how many of the AV engines return a positive result. You can then decide if the file/site is likely to be harmful.

It’s dead easy to use, but if you need help, check the excellent documentation here.

Remember, you can also check a file you’ve already downloaded before you open or run it.

Right-click on the file and click on Scan with Windows Defender or Scan with your antivirus product. It only takes a minute (or less!) to scan a file. It’s not like running a full scan.

And it’s well worth it.

Spring is coming! Enjoy Daylight Saving Time! And please consider sponsoring my ride: https://goo.gl/WnnSd3.


Should I?

This week, we answer three frequently asked questions:

  • Should I update it?
  • Should I replace it?
  • Should I renew it?

Should I update it?

Surprisingly, often when I repair a computer or perform routine maintenance on a computer, I’ll find a big whack of updates waiting to be applied.

If you have Windows 10 Home edition, it pretty much updates itself. It’s almost impossible to stop that. But other programs need to be updated, too. In general, if you are using a program and it prompts you for an update, you should update it.

These programs include:

  • Java
  • Adobe Reader
  • Any browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc.)
  • Any anti-virus program
  • Adobe Flash Player
  • iTunes (If you don’t use it, uninstall it. If you use it, keep it up to date.)

Updates to those programs tend to be security-related more than performance/feature enhancements.

You might have a specific reason not to update a specific program (“I heard it was bad,” usually isn’t specific enough for me…), in which case hold off. You may subscribe to the theory of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

That’s fine as long as you realize that if it wasn’t broken, no one would be issuing an update for it.

Some anti-virus programs, including the free version of Avast, notify you when programs need to be updated. If you don’t have an anti-virus program that does that, then be guided by the requests from the programs themselves to update.

Should I replace it?

Desktop computers, if you properly maintain them, should last at least five years. Most will last longer than that. The main reason people replace desktop computers is that they are under-powered or RAM-deprived. In short, they are too slow.

When you replace a computer, replace it with something more powerful and with at least as much RAM as your old computer.

Laptop computers won’t usually last as long. If you have a laptop for five years, it doesn’t really owe you anything. Start budgeting to replace it. Again, replacing it with another under-achieving laptop doesn’t make for a good computing experience.

You are backing up those computers, aren’t you? How old is the external hard drive you’re using for your backups? I replace mine every three or four years.

Should I renew it?

Are you using a paid anti-virus/anti-malware program? That means you’re subscribing to it, and eventually you will need to decide whether to renew the subscription or not.

When you buy a new computer, it usually comes with a trial anti-virus subscription. Sometimes that’s 30 days. Sometimes it’s more. Whatever that subscription is, trust me, the program will begin nagging you well ahead of time, urging you to renew your subscription.

That’s the time to ask yourself if you are happy with that product, and whether it’s worth the time and effort of uninstalling it and replacing it with something else. If you don’t want to pay for whatever it is you have, you must uninstall it completely before you install something else.

The choice is yours, but whatever you do have a working antivirus program on your computer. Just one, but a working one!

What have you been wondering about updating, replacing, and renewing?

Send email to [email protected] and I’ll try to help.

What you like

Last week, I shared some of my favourite programs and asked what you liked. I got plenty of feedback. You folks rock!

Here’s some of the best stuff.


Mentioned by several readers, Malwarebytes is also one program I’d have a hard time doing without. Long-time reader Rudy wrote:

My favourite program is Malwarebytes. With the new version 3, it has an anti-virus and malware all in one. I was able to get rid of my anti-virus program and just use it. It is wonderful now just having the one program to look after all my security.

Ron, also a long-time reader, mentioned:

FYI , for some strange reason the " web protection " on my Malwarebytes Premium wouldn't turn on ( just out of the blue this morning ) in desperation I re-installed the program and all is well. Just a note to your readers if this happens to them.

Yes. There was a glitch with a Malwarebytes update that caused problems with Web Protection. Then, there was a glitch with the patch for that problem. It took several updates to get that sorted out.

If you have the paid version of Malwarebytes, open the program to the Dashboard and make sure your Web Protection is turned on. If not, click on Update get the newest version.

If that doesn’t work, click on Settings | My Account and make a note of your licence. Then, uninstall and re-install Malwarebytes. If it doesn’t already know your licence, put that in and you should be good to go.

Notepad ++

Austin recommends this utility to replace/supplement built-in Windows program Notepad:

It’s just 1 program, but can do it all. From scripting to editing program ini or mostly any type of text files, but would preserve the layout of the file.
It's notepad++ portable. I have it with me and make and edit files with it.

Learn more about the program here, and use the safe download link here if you want to try it. I’ve never used it, but it comes highly recommended by many colleagues. I guess I need to give this a try.

Image Resizer for Windows

Yet another wonderful utility I use often. Keith wrote about it:

I take hundreds of photos at high res.  I use them at this resolution, but like to keep a copy in my archive.
I use “image resizer for windows” … Reduces  a 3500 kb photo to 100 kb in a flash.  FREE

This is the safe download link.

Want to do something good for someone?

Many of you have sponsored me on charity bike rides in past years. This year, I’m going to do the 50K Ride Don’t Hide to raise money for the Canadian Mental Health Association.

The Kelowna ride, on June 24, is one of many rides that day all over Canada. The goal is to raise $1.7 million for essential programs and services in communities, workplaces and schools, and to end the stigma of mental illness.

I’m excited to be part of Ride Don’t Hide 2018, and I hope that you’ll join me as a rider, fundraise as a virtual rider, volunteer at the event, or sponsor my ride.

If you’d like to sponsor me, please use this link to make your secure online donation. To learn more about the event, visit http://ridedonthide.com/.

Thank you all for your feedback on programs you like, and please keep it coming. Email me at [email protected] if you have something you’d like to share with other readers.


What do you like?

I have a few programs that I use all the time because I’ve liked them for a long time. But I’m always looking for alternatives.

What do you like? Here’s the stuff I’d have a hard time living without.

I throw everything in a giant shoebox and look for the thing I want later.

Really? Yes. And that giant shoebox is called Evernote.

To describe Evernote as “note taking software” is not doing it justice.

Save everything to Evernote, get it wherever you are on any connected device, and find stuff fast. Take pictures, save web pages, write down ideas, dictate a note, scan a document.

And, search for what you need.

Evernote runs on Windows, Mac, iPhone/iPad, Android phones/tablets and your stuff is always accessible in a web browser when you sign in with your Evernote user name and password.

Everything stays in sync. You can keep things private or share them.

I use Evernote all day long for a variety of things. At a customer, I might snap a photo of a Blue Screen of Death with my smart phone so I have all the information readily available to research.

When I park in a garage or large parking lot, I often take a picture of my car so I can find it later. I save technical information from websites.

Heck, I save recipes from websites! I save interesting thoughts for that novel I’ll write someday.

I save snapshots of the cartridges in our printers so that next time I need ink I know what I’m looking for. (Bonus tip: That works for wine labels, too.)

Some Evernote users take the shoebox approach. Others use a structured hierarchy of folders. You can use Evernote either way.

There are excellent Evernote tutorials available on YouTube. Here’s one on getting started.  

Here’s a link to the Evernote YouTube Channel.

Evernote offers a free version and several tiers of paid versions.

These programs get me through the day

Besides Evernote, I use a few little programs that make my computing experience better.

Google Play Music Manager
Set your iTunes library free. Upload your music and stream it to any device. More here.

USB Disk Ejector
Ejects disks when Windows can’t. Makes it easier even when Windows can.  Lightweight and portable. More here.

VLC Media Player
Plays just about any video file, disc, or stream. Runs on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. Adware-free. Make sure to download from the official site; many programs purport to be VLC player but are not. Get it here.

A simple, secure way to share or synchronize files between your computers, phones, iPads, tablets. Free or paid versions. If you want to give it a try and scoop up some extra free space, use my referral link. (We both get some free space.) I use Dropbox countless times every day on my computers and phone.

Yankee Clipper 3
Simple, lightweight, feature-rich, ad-free Windows clipboard manager . I tried others and kept coming back to this one. Works on everything from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Get it here.

What utilities do you like? Email [email protected] with your recommendations (and links to them, please!) and I’ll share them 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.

More Getting Along With Your Computer articles

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.

Computer Care Kelowna

Column Archives

Get Cate's column by email

RSS Feed

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

Previous Stories