GEEK FREE

Virtual Credit Cards (Safer On-line Shopping)

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By Joe Callison
3 December 2022

Virtual Credit Cards (Safer On-line Shopping)

Many seniors are hesitant to use credit cards for on-line purchases and for good reason. Some merchants are fraudulent, some have poor security for keeping your account information safe from hackers, and malware on your computer can steal your information while you use it for transactions. Having to get your credit card canceled is a nuisance and it takes time to get a new one issued. A recently introduced option that is growing in popularity is the virtual credit card. Continue reading →

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Downsizing My Computer

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By Joe Callison
2 November 2022

Downsizing My Computer

I am getting ready to replace my old full-sized tower-type computer that I built over 13 years ago and have replaced parts and upgraded over the years. Having that capability was the primary reason I wanted a full-sized tower. Continue reading →

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Swollen Li-ion Batteries

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By Joe Callison
27 July 2022

Swollen Li-ion Batteries

A relatively recent phenomenon that is becoming more and more of a problem as our electronic devices have been designed to be ever thinner and lighter is a swollen battery. This is because the lithium-ion battery packs are no longer encased in hard plastic and are not designed to be user replaceable. They are thin, soft rubbery bags that are often glued in place and can only be safely replaced by professionals or very knowledgeable users. As a result, we don’t really think about them until they show serious signs of problems. If we are lucky, those signs are just a decrease in time they can run without charging, inability to hold a charge while not being used, higher than normal temperature when charging, or inability to stay on when the charger is unplugged. An extreme battery failure may even prevent the device from running, even with the charger connected. Continue reading →

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DIY Repairs

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By Joe Callison
11 July 2022

DIY Repairs

You may be surprised to learn that my favorite hobby is not computers, though it does explain how I got into repairing computers. I have always been interested in studying how things work, how they fail, and how they can be fixed. It can be mechanical, electrical, or structural and I am interested in learning about it. In my engineering profession, my favorite assignments were the occasional opportunities to do troubleshooting or failure analysis and come up with fixes. I often thought I would have enjoyed specializing in forensic engineering, except for appearances in court as an expert witness. Because of these interests, I really enjoy resources like the following. Continue reading →

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Computer Lifecycle

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By Joe Callison
21 May 2022

Support for consumer computer hardware and software used to be typically 10 years, because that was the normal contractual requirement in business and government purchases, which drove the need for stocking replacement parts and repairs and for software updates. In recent years this has changed, probably because of the explosive growth of the consumer electronics market. Now support for consumer products can be as short as the warranty period. Continue reading →

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Windows Settings for Ease of Use

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By Joe Callison
17 January 2022

Windows has a number of settings that can make it easier to use computers, especially as we begin to lose manual dexterity and visual acuity with age. There are a few settings that I recommend every senior computer user consider to possibly enhance their user experience. I have used Windows 11 screenshots because people getting new computers are more likely to need or want to make these changes and the settings look different than they might be used to in Windows 10. Continue reading →

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Google Changes

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By Joe Callison
5 December 2021

Google has made changes recently that may require action if they apply to you, i.e. if you use any of the Google services such as Google Photos, Gmail, or Google Fiber TV.  Continue reading →

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Shopping for a New Television?

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By Joe Callison
5 September 2021

Labor Day through New Year’s Day is the best time to buy the current model year televisions before the next year models are introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in early January and available to consumers by spring or summer. Most television manufacturers set the prices that authorized retail dealers can sell their televisions for, so any discounts should be the same wherever you shop but selecting a dealer with a price match guarantee is a good idea. Amazon does not do price matching according to my source of information.  Continue reading →

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Introducing Windows 11

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By Joe Callison
12 July 2021

Introducing Windows 11
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/windows-11

Much to my surprise, Microsoft chose to name their “new and improved” version of Windows as 11 instead of creating a catchy new name- a missed opportunity in my opinion. I guess they were still stinging from the Millennium Edition and Vista names that did not go so well. Now let’s see if they can actually get the new version out to computer manufacturers soon enough to be pre-installed in new computers for this holiday shopping season or if it will have to be installed later as a free upgrade. Continue reading →

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Linux as an Alternative Operating System

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By Joe Callison
10 June 2021

For decades computer hobbyists looking for a free or low-cost alternative to Microsoft Windows or Apple macOS operating systems have turned to Linux. Because of its reliability, modest hardware resource requirements, and low cost, it is now widely used for embedded operating systems for smart devices and a large percentage of computer servers powering companies and the internet. In recent years, improvements in the distribution process by organizations such as Ubuntu have made it more accessible to even those with modest computer skills by using bootable “live” CD or USB downloads that let you try it out without installing on the computer unless you choose to do so. Of course, the performance will be much faster when installed rather than running from the CD or USB files.   Continue reading →

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Advantages of New WiFi Standards

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By Joe Callison
21 April 2021

Wifi technology and the routers and wifi adapters using it have advanced a lot in recent years. It is difficult to explain the nuances of wifi technology without getting geeky, so bear with me a little as I attempt to explain some of the terminologies as simply as I can. Continue reading →

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Smart Home Device Privacy and Security

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By Joe Callison
7 March 2021

The use of voice-activated devices, smart TVs, and other smart devices, are becoming more and more common in our daily lives. So much so that we usually do not even give a second thought to reviewing the terms and conditions for privacy and security information when installing them, or bother to look at the relative settings when setting them up. Perhaps we are being a little too trusting of the companies producing the devices to look out for our best interests.   Continue reading →

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Technology and Covid-19 Vaccination

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By Joe Callison
26 January 2021

Kansas City area county health departments are all employing technology to help roll out the Covid-19 vaccinations. Below are links to websites and images of the areas for signing up to be notified when it is your turn to be vaccinated and the vaccine is available. Using your computer, tablet, or smartphone to sign up for notification is the most efficient method. Telephone numbers may be available also but may involve long wait times. These surveys are for notification only, not appointments for getting the vaccine.   Continue reading →

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Free Creative Programs for Beginners to Professionals

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by Joe Callison
18 November 2020

There are some great free open source programs available that I consider good enough to not only recommend to beginners to try out, but that will satisfy the needs of most professionals. Of course, if you find a program useful and want to support the developer(s), you are encouraged to donate to them.   Continue reading →

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Understanding Internet Speed

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By Joe Callison
10 October 2020

How fast is my internet connection? Am I getting what I am paying for? These are common concerns for consumers, especially if they think their internet connection is too slow. We will look at this from the top-down, starting with the service from the internet provider to the residence or business, then the modem/router that provides the local network over wire and wi-fi, and finally the adapters in the computer devices connected to the local network.   Continue reading →

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Solving Video Conferencing Camera and Microphone Problems

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By Joe Callison
29 August 2020

Solving Video Conferencing Camera and Microphone Problems

Because of privacy concerns, the use of cameras and microphones on electronic devices has become complicated. The operating systems (Windows, macOS, Android, iOS) have settings to either allow or block apps from using the camera and microphone. By default, they are initially blocked until you change the settings. If you access video conferencing through an internet browser (Edge, Chrome, Firefox, or Safari for example), the privacy settings of the browser will also initially block access until you change the settings in the browser. This is often done when first accessing video conferencing through a browser when a message appears for you to either allow or block access to the camera or microphone (two separate messages). Doing so will change the browser settings for you, but sometimes you just get a message that says you need to change your browser settings to allow access.  Continue reading →

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Mac Computers: a Love-Hate Relationship

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By Joe Callison
8 August, 2020

Full disclosure: I do not own or regularly use a Mac computer. I have provided technical support and upgrade services for several clients with Macbook Pro, iMac or iPad devices over the years and have virtual MacOS systems running on my Windows computers to help increase my knowledge and skills to support them.   Continue reading →

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Don’t Waste Your Money

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By Joe Callison
1 July 2020

We all like bargains, but sometimes they may not be the good deal they appear to be. Some to watch out for are below.  Continue reading →

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TV-Internet-Phone Service Providers

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By Joe Callison
27 May, 2020

Some members have been wanting us to talk about television/internet/phone service providers in the area. It is a very complex subject because they all have advertised promotional prices for bundled packages that do not include a lot of other fees, taxes and other extras that apply, nor do they advertise what the normal price will be after the introductory rate for the first year or two that it typically lasts.   Continue reading →

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Pet Peeves During Covid-19 Lockdown

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By Joe Callison
2 May, 2020

Maybe it is from watching too much television these days, but I am really getting irked by what I see as potentially bad deals often taking advantage of senior citizens.   Continue reading →

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Smart Television Apps

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By Joe Callison
31 March, 2020

As we are for a time mostly isolated from face to face contact with people, many of us with computers, tablets or smartphones have learned to use video chat and conferencing to keep in touch with family, friends, and associates. If you have not tried it yet, you are encouraged to take part in one of our upcoming virtual SenCom meetings. Be sure to frequent our website kcsenior.net for information.   Continue reading →

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New Microsoft Office App for Tablets and Phones

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By Joe Callison
21 February, 2020

Many of you know that Microsoft Office apps such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote are available as individually downloadable apps for free in the Android Play Store and Apple App Store for tablets and phones. If you only use one app, such as Word, that may still be your preference, but if you would rather have more of the Office suite available through one single app, you can now have it that way for both Android and iOS. Just search for Microsoft Office in the store and select the app called Microsoft Office: Word, Excel, PowerPoint & More and make sure it is from Microsoft Corporation. After downloading and installing the app, it will appear as a red on white icon simply called Office. If you have a white on red icon called Office Mobile that looks similar, that was just an old link to get you to download the individual products. I uninstalled that app from my phone to avoid confusion.   Continue reading →

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My 2019 Laptop Buying Dilemma Revisited

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By Joe Callison
26 January, 2020

I can’t believe a year has passed since writing about “my 2019 laptop buying dilemma.” During the after Christmas 2019 holiday sales I finally gave in to buying a new HP Envy 17t after a $200 price reduction. It had enough of my desired features at the right price to go ahead with the purchase:
Continue reading →

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Rich Communication Services (RCS)

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By Joe Callison
5 January, 2020

Short Message Service (SMS) has been used since 1992 for sending text messages over mobile phone carrier service. It is limited to 160 text characters per message. Some enhanced message services were developed that could handle up to 1600 characters per message, but a real advance in capability came into use after about 2005 with Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS). This expanded the capability of text messages to also contain files such as photos, videos, audio and documents. The data limit per message was initially 300 KB and then later increased to 600 KB, which is not enough for high resolution photos or video so they are compressed into smaller, grainier images. Since internet servers are utilized for storage and transfer of data between carriers, MMS is not real-time. Another breakthrough has begun to be rolled out in 2019 with Rich Communication Services (RCS). Theoretically the data limit per message is over 10 GB, but in practice may be limited to something less by the carrier service used.   Continue reading →

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Public Wi-Fi Security Q&A

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By Joe Callison
29 November, 2019

Does using HTTPS (secure HTTP) make internet browsing on public wi-fi safe?
Currently just a little over half of websites use HTTPS only in their designs. Others may use it to establish the initial connection with the user and then revert to HTTP for displaying some content to avoid the extra burden of encrypting/decrypting data. Some allow initial connection with HTTP and then redirect to HTTPS. This opens up opportunities for a “man in the middle” interception of the non-secure transmission and redirecting it to the attacker’s own content.   Continue reading →

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Snip & Sketch App

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By Joe Callison
18 September, 2019

If you use the Snipping Tool in Windows 10, you have probably seen the message from Microsoft about it moving and suggesting you try Snip & Sketch:
Continue reading →

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Password Security

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By Joe Callison
7 August, 2019

A friend recently asked what I thought about signing into a site using your Google or Facebook account credentials rather than creating an account for that site. I have not chosen to do that myself because of concerns about the data that could be shared between the sites and what they might do with it. It got me thinking that maybe it would be good to do some research on this and other password security questions that frequently come up. Let’s look at four common questions:   Continue reading →

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Desktop, Laptop, or Tablet?

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By Joe Callison
4 July, 2019

Lately SenCom has been asking members what type of device they think they will be using the most for their computing over the next few years- desktop, laptop, or tablet. Statistics on global sales of computing devices at https://www.statista.com/statistics/272595/global-shipments-forecast-for-tablets-laptops-and-desktop-pcs/ show a shift from desktops to laptops as the main device, while tablets sales have been decreasing. Projections for new sales of each over the next few years are almost flat. Comments by SenCom seniors show preference for devices with larger displays and keyboards, which generally favor desktops.   Continue reading →

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Problems with Windows 10 Feature Updates on Old Computers

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By Joe Callison
13 March, 2019

Windows 10 was released in July 2015. Many older computers manufactured as far back as 2007 were upgraded to Windows 10 during the free upgrade period. All seemed well until the feature updates were rolled out twice per year and difficulties in updating the old computers began to surface. Being stuck at one of the feature update versions for the remaining life of the old computer would be more tolerable if not for the limit of only 18 months of security updates Microsoft provides for each feature update version.   Continue reading →

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Is it Time to Consider a Chromebook?

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By Joe Callison
24 February, 2019

Chromebooks were introduced in 2011 as low cost alternatives to Windows and MacOS computers. They run the Google Chrome OS using either Intel or ARM processors. The goal was to make computers and the internet available to the masses for under $200. The first Chromebooks were a little pricier than that and had very few capabilities as a computer without being connected to the internet. Since then, Chromebooks have become available from sub-$200 models up to $600 or more for high-end models.  Continue reading →

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