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Getting-Along-With-Your-Computer

Odds and the end

Did you know you can create a Google Calendar event without opening Google Calendar?

Well, sure you did on an Android phone or tablet, right? You can use the Google Assistant or train your device to listen when you say, “Hey, Google.”

I knew that, too, and I do it all the time. But I found out that you can do this from your computer.

I don’t know why you would want to, but maybe your situation is such that opening one more browser tab to put an appointment in Google Calendar is just too much.

This is for the folks who wishes to appear incredibly productive and geeky at the same time:

  • Open your browser to the Google search page
  • Begin typing create appointment or make appointment for and continue typing the details
  • Press Enter to see what the event would look like
  • If you’re happy with what you see, click on Create event
  • If you want to change or edit something, click on Edit event

The event will show up on your calendar. I don’t know why it says it was created from an email, but leaving that aside, everything is just as you asked. (I believe you would need to be signed in to your Google account in your browser and in your Google Calendar.)

I’m not sure I’ll ever use this, but I am sure it will come in handy for some of you!

Was your data slurped up in the Facebook Cambridge Analytica debacle?

As I mentioned several weeks ago, at least 87 million Facebook users’ data was collected and sold without the users’ knowledge. Facebook, in addressing the scandal, says they intend to notify everyone affected.

I’m guessing that will take some time.

Meanwhile, if you want to see if your information was shared with Cambridge Analytica, Facebook is sending you here.

Are we there yet?

Last week’s column discussed the rollout of Spring Creators Update for Windows 10. This would have been a timely column except that Microsoft delayed the rollout.

It doesn't exactly give reasons, but sometimes offers clues, and this appears to be related to a couple of things that cause the update to fail catastrophically for a significant number of computers.

So, save the article for when you need it, sometime soon. They also don’t give exact dates. And apparently, they don’t care about MY deadlines! I’ll try to keep you posted.

A couple more things…

A giant THANK YOU to all who have already sponsored me in the Ride Don’t Hide event.

We’ve exceeded our original goal of $500 and are nearing the revised goal of $750. If you’d like to sponsor me in this June 24 event, you can make a secure online donation.

The ride raises money for the Canadian Mental Health Association.

And … I’m announcing my retirement effective June 30.

I’ve enjoyed writing this column since 2005 (!) and I’ve enjoyed corresponding with and working with so many of you.

There may be an opportunity to continue writing about technology, so watch for updates on that. Thank you for the awesome journey.



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Happy spring update

The newest version of Windows 10 is rolling out now. Here’s what’s new and how to get ready.

Windows 10 Spring Creators Update is rolling out

Microsoft rolls out two major upgrades to its Windows 10 operating system every year. The last one, called Fall Creators Update, took us to version 1709.

The new Spring Creators Update will be version 1803. It will rollout first to devices that have are known to work with the new version. The rollout will continue to eventually include (theoretically…) every device.

What’s new?

Here’s some good news: This update will take less time than previous updates.

Microsoft says that on average previous updates took 51 minutes, and that the average machine will update to version 1803 in just 31 minutes. So, there’s that.

The feature that seems to have caught the attention of most of the tech writers is called Timeline. This feature will allow you to go right back to where you left off doing something, either on your computer or on another device connected with the same Microsoft account.

That interests me, as I often start working on something on my main computer and edit it on my laptop between customers. If this feature makes that process any easier, I’m all for it.

Another intriguing feature is called (at least at this point; the name might change before rollout) Nearby Sharing, which makes it easy to send a file --- Screenshot? Photo? Link to a web page? --- to another device nearby.

Nearby Sharing uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to accomplish this. Spring Creators Update also allows (some) Bluetooth devices to connect with far less drama.

What else?

There are some tweaks, including visual enhancements. Cortana gets more features. More items have been moved from Control Panel to the Settings app.

From what I can tell, not many of the Privacy settings have changed, but it’s a little easier to find them.

The Home Group, which has been present since Windows 7, was still with us in Windows 10 although Microsoft kept hiding it. With the Spring Creators Update it’s gone. Most people probably will not miss it.

What do I need to do before I do the upgrade?

Great question!

First, make sure you have a current backup. (Not a backup from a couple of years ago. Not a hard drive that’s still in the box.) Take a look at the first item here for some suggestions.

Once you’ve got that nailed, preparing for this upgrade is much like preparing for the Fall Creators Update last year. Here’s what I wrote about that.  As I mentioned above, you don’t have to worry about the Homegroup password. And this update should go faster.

What do I need to do after the upgrade?

Before you do anything else, turn on your antivirus/antimalware software! (You remembered to turn it off, right?) Check the settings.

Check your printers and scanners. Most of the time everything is fine, but sometimes an upgrade breaks them, and you need to reinstall the software.

Reinstall any programs that didn’t survive the upgrade. Were you still playing Windows 7 games on your Windows 10 machine the night before the upgrade? You probably need to reinstall them. Here’s the link.

Have you received the upgrade yet? What do you think? Was it faster?

Email me: [email protected] and let me know how your upgrade went.



Beat the ransomware bug

Quick updates this week on items mentioned in past columns. Oh, and how to reset your networks in Windows 10 and why you might want to do that.

Ransomware is still a threat

Almost a year ago, I wrote about ramsomware. It’s still with us, and it’s still bad.

Ransomware is a form of malware, which is short for “malicious software.”

Ransomware enters a computer, server, phone, or tablet, then encrypts the files and demands payment for the key to unencrypt them. Without the decryption key, your files remain scrambled and useless to you.

Because the bad guys demand payment for the key, your files are being held for ransom, and that’s where the name comes from.

You can protect your computer or other device from ransomware. For a great discussion on ransomware and how to protect your data, I recommend pointing your browser to  the PixelPrivacy website.

The article covers Windows computers, macs, iOS and Android devices and how to protect them. Excellent resource!

Windows 10 Photos app may or may not be fixed

Last November, I wrote about the revamped Windows Photo app. It was working perfectly. It continued to work perfectly on all but one computer here. On that one, the app would open for a second and then shut down.

I was not alone. There were hundreds of posts from people having the same problem. I tried every reasonable solution. (UNreasonable solutions included reinstalling Windows, installing programs that were obviously harmful, and dropping the laptop from a great height.)

Eventually, this problem fixed itself with only a little urging from me. This fixed it (finally!) for me:

  • Click on Start | Microsoft Store
  • Click on the three dots in the top right-hand corner
  • Click on Downloads and updates
  • Click on Get Updates

I tried this several times over the past two months, and finally on April 4, the app updated to version 2018.18022.15810.0. That fixed the problem, and it matches the version on the machine that had never had a problem.

Why did this happen? Beats me. If your Windows 10 Photos app crashes, try those steps and see if you’re one of the lucky ones who got the update.

When all else fails, reset your network card

When you can’t get your computer online, try using the Network Diagnostic Tool built into all modern versions of Windows.

To run the tool:

  • Open Control Panel
  • View as Large icons
  • Click on Troubleshooting | Connect to the Internet | Advanced
  • For best results, check the box for Apply repairs automatically
  • Click on Run as administrator

Follow the prompts to the end of the process, and you might find that your connection has been repaired. If it hasn’t, you will probably gain some insight into where to look for the problem.

If nothing you’ve tried has helped so far, Windows 10 provides an easy way to reset your network and start clean.

Please note: It’s easy but it’s drastic.

It resets your Ethernet network, all your Wi-Fi connections, and forgets all your Wi-Fi passwords. If you have any VPNs, you’ll be setting those up again too.

Use this tool as a last resort and make a note of any special settings, your Wi-Fi password(s) and any VPN settings before you do this.

  • Click on Start | Settings | Network & Internet | Status
  • Click on Reset
  • Read the warning! 
  • Read the warning again! 
  • If you’re sure click on Yes

That’s pretty much all there is to it. Wait for the reset to complete, wait for the computer to reboot, and then set up your connections.

Ride Don’t Hide update

Thank you to everyone who already signed up to sponsor my ride. We’ve reached our first goal of $500. I’ll be raising the bar. The bar on sponsorship. Not the bar on my bicycle. That would be bad.

There’s still time. If you’d like to contribute, visit this link and help raise some money for a good cause.

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



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Clear your caches

You might want to clear your browser caches.

You also might want to kill off those annoying notifications and the prompts they rode in on.

And, finally, you might want to do good deeds.

Cover your browser tracks

If you use a public computer or if you share a computer with someone else in your household, you should know how to clear your browser history.

Why? Well, when it comes to that public computer, it’s pretty obvious that you don’t want the next person (or the person after that, or…) to be able to get to your email.

In a household sharing a computer, maybe you don’t want your partner to see that you’ve been shopping for their birthday present or planning that surprise Hawaiian vacation.

Here’s how to clear out your browser cache in Firefox:

  • Click on the hamburger menu (the three lines on the top right corner)
  • Click on Options | Privacy and Security
  • In the History section, click on clear recent history
  • Select a timeframe and the items you want to clear
  • Click on Clear now

If you want Firefox to forget everything every time you close it, click on the box next to Firefox will and choose Never remember or Custom to pick and choose what Firefox remembers.

In Chrome:

  • Click on the hamburger menu (the three lines or dots on the top right corner)
  • Click on More tools | Clear browsing data
  • Select a timeframe and the items you want to clear (Click on Advanced for more choices)
  • Click on Clear data

If you want Chrome to do that automagically when you close it,

  • Click on the hamburger menu (the three lines or dots on the top right corner)
  • Click on More tools | Clear browsing data
  • Select a timeframe and the items you want to clear (Click on Advanced for more choices)
  • Click on Content settings | Cookies
  • Move the slider next to Keep local data only until you quit your browser to ON

If you must use Edge, here’s how to clear the caches:

  • Click on the hub (Star with three horizontal lines on the top right corner)
  • Click on the clock icon
  • Click on Clear history
  • Choose what to clear
  • Click on the CLEAR button

Move the Always clear this when I close the browser switch to ON if you want this to be automatic.

Stop those annoying website notifications

There are days when it seems every website I visit wants to notify me about new content.

I don’t want that most of the time, nor do I want to keep swatting that request down every time I visit the page.

It’s easy to turn that off if you know how.

In Chrome:

  • Click on the hamburger menu (the three lines or dots on the top right corner)
  • Click on Settings
  • Scroll down and click on Advanced
  • Scroll again to Privacy and Security
  • Scroll AGAIN to Notifications
  • Slide the “Ask before sending” switch to OFF (Now you should see BLOCKED)

If you’ve already authorized some pages to send you notifications, you’ll see them in the Allow section.

Those are still allowed, so if you’re fine with that just leave them alone. If you don’t want notifications from something you’ve already allowed, click on the menu button to the right of the website and then on Remove.

In Firefox:

  • Type about:config in the address bar
  • Accept the risk
  • Type notifications in the Search bar at the top of the page
  • Scroll to dom.webnotifications.enabled
  • Double-click on the entry to change the value to “false”

Help raise awareness and money for mental health

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, 2018, is one of many rides that day all over Canada. The goal is to raise $1,700,000 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: https://goo.gl/WnnSd3. To learn more about the event, visit: http://ridedonthide.com/.

Thank you so much for your support. Every dollar helps.



More Getting Along With Your Computer articles

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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.

Computer Care Kelowna

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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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