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Technology Today - July 2013
By Robert Sanborn

Windows

The year is half over as we get ready to celebrate the 4th of July; and while I have some mixed feelings about the directions of our country, there is never a mixed feeling about Windows. My main computer runs Windows 7 and I begin to understand the push from Microsoft to get people to Windows 8.  Seems like every time I turn around, something in Windows 7 is not working right.  Just this minute, Outlook has decided that it wants to hang as does Internet Explorer.
I keep Windows up to date and am running the latest version of Office. But still, things seem to hang more and more frequently.  What is also interesting to note is that nearly every computer in the stores carries Windows 8 and people must be buying them but I hardly hear a peep of complaints about Windows 8. What is that? Is it so good that people don’t mind the radically different Metro interface or are they so frustrated that they just put it in the closet and hope it goes away?

Nearly every online publication you care to look at has nothing good to say about Windows 8 but it seems it is only the writers that are complaining. The first thing I noticed was that Windows 8 really buries itself in the background to the point that the ones that complain the loudest are the old DOS hands that really want to know where their files are. If you can get over that little hangup, you find that Windows actually manages things quite well. I think the key is that if you upgrade to a Windows 8 computer, don’t try to bring all the old baggage with you.  Start fresh.  Having said that, will the new Windows 8.1 look more like Windows 7 than 8? Doesn’t sound like it. I think Microsoft would rather you first purchase their mobile phone offering to get used to the new operating system and then buy a Windows 8 computer to go with it.

Ok, I had six different Internet Explorer tabs open and it was locked so tight I couldn’t even close any windows or the group.  So I brought up Task Manager and could see six entries for iexplore32.exe and so I deleted one of them. Boom, one went away and the rest are now behaving normally as is Outlook.  Maybe time to shut down the computer and restart, isn’t that the normal thing to do?

Kidz Gear Headphones

Seems like a couple of years ago, it was April 2010, I had received a couple of pairs of headphones from Kidz Gear, http://www.gearforkidz.com/ and immediately thought they were something special as they were specifically engineered to limit the volume that could blast through the headphones that kids use.  You can read that review here: http://www.pcll.com/Articles/TechToday1004.htm.  Fast forward to last month when they won a prestigious 2013 NATIONAL PARENTING PUBLICATIONS GOLD AWARD (NAPPA).  As an older lover of rock and roll who also is having some difficulty with hearing, something like this is long overdue for these folks. Congratulations.

Protecting Your Gear

I have been a long fan of Otterbox http://www.otterbox.com phone cases as the gold standard by which I have compared a ton of other cases to. Last year, I got a new case for my iPhone from Lifeproof, http://www.lifeproof.com that I thought was probably the best one that had come along in a long time since Otterbox and guess what, Otterbox also saw something to like about them and bought the company this past May.  You can read my review here: http://www.pcll.com/Articles/TechToday1301.htm

Protecting Yourself

The scammers are out for the summer, even I got a call from “Technical Support” telling me they were calling me about a Windows error report I had submitted.  Give me a break!  First of all, no one is going to call you out of the blue about a computer problem you are having unless you start the call first. Just hang up. They are calling at random, hoping to land a gullible fish at the other end and it will cost you. So hang up. 2nd thing.  If you use a Yahoo, Hotmail, or AOL email account, at some point, someone is going to guess what that little silly password you used is and hack into your email account and will start to send everyone on your address book junk to hook them. It’s a fact of life. It’s also time to change the password to something other than your house number, birthday, or dog’s name. Want an easy hint on a much stronger password? Then use an easy to remember two or three word phrase and separate it with a number or two. How about something like “christmas15coming”? It is strong, difficult to crack, and easy to remember.

Cloud Backups

Backing up your files in the cloud is getting more and more popular with a ton of offerings available.  Unless you are just backing up a few files and documents, cloud backup can be very slow because it really depends on how fast you are connected to the outside world. If you are among 4+ million people still using dial up, you will just have to wait. DSL users are also going to have a long slow go of it and with the wide variety of “high speed” internet connections out there, you also may find it is too slow for backing up your computer.  And my initial reaction is so what. Full image backups of a computer work great if you are going to just replace a crashed hard drive. Something else goes wrong with that computer and likely is not, you will be replacing it with a new computer and that full image backup becomes worthless. So, does that mean you need two sets of backup strategies? Maybe so. I am using cloud strategies more and more for things I want to share with my notebook, smart phone, and other portable and connected devices that I use. For that, it works great and you can use any of the big three of Google Cloud, Microsoft Skydrive, or Apple’s iCloud. For around 5 gig of storage, they won’t cost you a cent.

For a more automated backup strategy, look at either SugarSync www.sugarsync.com or SafeSync https://www.safesync.com from Trend Micro. Both are very highly rated.

 

Robert Sanborn

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