GEEK FREE

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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Printing from Mobile Devices

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By Joe Callison
11 May, 2019

Most people now use an Ethernet capable printer that is connected to their home network either by wire or wirelessly. There are several easy methods available to also print from a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet to a printer when both are connected to the same home network. Even if you are using a USB only printer connected to a computer on the home network, your mobile device can still be set up to print to it as long as the computer and printer are on and available when you want to print. I just set up my Android phone to print to a USB printer connected to a desktop computer by using Google Cloud Print.   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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My 2019 Laptop Buying Dilemma

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By Joe Callison
14 January, 2019

It has been quite a while since I have provided updated buying tips for laptops. Partly it has been because of frustration with my own search for a replacement for my wife’s 2009 model Dell Inspiron 1750 laptop. It is still working and does everything she wants, and she does not want to give up the features it has that she loves. Continue reading →

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What to do with Old Computers

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By Joe Callison
9 December, 2018

After purchasing a new computer there is often a question of what to do with the old one. If you are like me, I do not want to see it go to waste or recycling if it is still useful to someone. Here is my evaluation of whether it might be worth using by another person:   Continue reading →

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Tips for Slow Computers

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By Joe Callison
3 November, 2018

Many low budget laptops and small desktop computers are provided with very low performance processors, such as the Intel Celeron or Pentium models or the older pre-Ryzen AMD models. Even some of the older Intel i3 processor models are very low performance. You will probably become aware of the performance limitations when trying to use the computer while it is running a scheduled antivirus or antimalware scan, or when Windows updates are being automatically downloaded in the background. You may notice that the computer becomes painfully slow at doing more than one task at a time. Continue reading →

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October is for Techies!

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By Joe Callison
6 October, 2018

October is an exciting month in the world of computer technology. Whether you are in the Apple, Microsoft, or Google camp, all sorts of new products arrive at this time of year, just before the holiday shopping frenzy begins.   Continue reading →

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Surge Protection – Are You Protected?

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By Joe Callison
31 August, 2018

Point of use surge protectors, usually in the form of a power strip, are probably used by most of us for at least some of the more sensitive or costly electronic items in our households. Did you know that your surge protector has likely been subjected to multiple surges if it is over two or three years old and may have diminished or even no protection left? If it has an indicating light, usually red, to indicate the protection is working, then there is at least some protection left in it. This is different than a light in the on/off or reset switch that only shows if it has power or not.  Continue reading →

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No More System Image Backup?

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By Joe Callison
23 July, 2018

Microsoft is no longer supporting the System Image Backup feature of Windows 7 that was carried over to Windows 10 and plans to eventually remove it in a future update of Windows 10. Few people were using it and often had trouble using it when they did. There are many third party programs that are easier to use, have more features, and are available in both free and paid versions. We will take a look at some of the best and most popular programs available for Windows and also macOS, as using Apple’s Disk Utility to create a system image backup is no picnic either.   Continue reading →

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Are You Seeing Red?

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By Joe Callison
4 June, 2018

Internet browsers have recently begun displaying red warning pages about potentially unsafe websites you are about to navigate to. Google analyzes keywords and attributes found on the page that might indicate danger and flags the site in a database that is also used by some other browsers for their warnings. It is possible for a site to be flagged as dangerous that is not, and Google will investigate and remove a listed site from the database if requested to do so, though it may take some time for that to happen.   Continue reading →

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Searching for Tech Support

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By Joe Callison
8 May, 2018

I continue to hear stories from people who were scammed or almost scammed from fake technical support providers. Most recently it was someone looking for help with their Amazon Kindle. Thankfully they got nervous about giving personal information to a stranger over the phone and ended the conversation by saying they would have their computer consultant (me) get back to them if needed.   Continue reading →

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Bluetooth Wireless Technology

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By Joe Callison
15 April, 2018

Bluetooth is finally becoming a very usable and useful feature thanks to two major improvements:
First, the new Bluetooth 5 standard has greatly improved the performance in both speed and distance over previous versions of Bluetooth. New devices already supporting the standard include Apple iphone 8 (and X) and the Samsung Galaxy 8. New headphones, earbuds and speakers are also available using the new standard, and are now able to work with the Low Energy mode first introduced with Bluetooth 4. This will greatly improve the battery life for wireless audio peripherals. The new standard also supports Dual Audio, streaming the same or different audio to two devices simultaneously.   Continue reading →

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Digital Tracking

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By Joe Callison
13 March, 2018

If you browse the internet or use a cell phone, you are leaving digital tracks that can be monitored by others for financial gain or other purposes. These tracks include information obtained from your internet viewing and searches and location information from your cell phone usage. Some tracking you have no control over. A cell phone that is turned on connects periodically with cell phone towers which record the “cell,” a small geographical area, that the phone is located in.  Continue reading →

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Know Beans about Java

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By Joe Callison
14 February, 2018

There is a lot of misunderstanding about Java, partially because of the confusion with the similar sounding JavaScript. Java was developed by Sun Microsystems almost 23 years ago. Sun was acquired by Oracle Corporation. Java was intended to be a “write once – run anywhere” programming language using a virtual machine that can be run on any processing platform.   Continue reading →

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Meltdown, Spectre and WPA3

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By Joe Callison
13 January, 2018

I tried to resist writing on these because they are everywhere in the media already and there have been new developments almost daily as companies frantically prepare their responses to the vulnerabilities. You can follow new security updates easily by looking at the Security Alerts and Updates on our own SenCom web site. The technical details and many helpful links and manufacturers’ responses are also contained in the following alert by Homeland Security.   Continue reading →

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Email Tips

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By Joe Callison
26 December, 2017

There are two methods that most people use for handling email. The most common method these days is using a web-based email client. Examples are Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, Gmail, or anything else that opens up in your web browser to connect to the host email servers to view or send email that is stored by the servers. The other method is an email program or app that installs and runs on your computer and connects to the host email servers to download the new mail to your computer for storage. Outlook Express and the older versions of the full Outlook program available from Microsoft as part of the Office suite (not to be confused with outlook.com which is web-based) are examples.   Continue reading →

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Deleting Internet Accounts

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By Joe Callison
3 December, 2017

There could be many reasons for needing or wanting to delete old internet accounts, if for no other reason than removing personal data from inactive accounts to reduce the chances of it being hacked. Finding instructions on how to do it may be a bit of a challenge. Sometimes the instructions provided by a particular internet site are hard to find or understand, and are explained more clearly by other sources that provide “how to” articles or videos.    Continue reading →

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Last Chance for Free Windows 10 Upgrade!

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By Joe Callison
9 November, 2017

Time is quickly running out for a free upgrade from Windows 7 or 8.1 to Windows 10. The extended deadline that was intended for those needing accessibility features or “assistive technologies” is ending on December 31, 2017. It is available whether you use accessibility features or not. The link is below:
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/accessibility/windows10upgrade?ranMID=24542&ranEAID=TnL5HPStwNw&ranSiteID=TnL5HPStwNw-u…q837srr4UGM1Qo7jIQ&tduid=(f73661ca7380245d9398e7af4f9c7854(256380)(2459594)(TnL5HPStwNw-u…q837srr4UGM1Qo7jIQ)()

Continue reading →

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KRACK and ROCA: Are You Safe?

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By Joe Callison
1 November, 2017

In October we were hit with two particularly onerous public alerts about security threats known as KRACK and ROCA. KRACK is the WPA2 vulnerability, which potentially affects the security of anyone using wi-fi communications. ROCA is the encryption key vulnerability, which potentially affects anyone using devices or software that uses encryption keys generated from chips made by Infineon, which has about 30% of the market share for such security chips.   Continue reading →

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Firefox Browser Changes

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By Joe Callison
17 September, 2017

Firefox version 52 and later ended support of legacy plug-ins such as Java, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Silverlight and others. For an explanation of the reason behind the change see this Mozilla link:
https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/npapi-plugins?as=u&utm_source=inproduct

Beginning with version 57 that is planned to be released November 14, 2017 support of legacy extensions such as LastPass will also end and they will be replaced with WebExtensions. This change has also been incorporated in Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome browsers. Continue reading →

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Windows 10 and macOS Fall Updates

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By Joe Callison
7 September, 2017

Fall is fast approaching and with it comes the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update which Microsoft has officially announced will be released to the public on October 17 (a little later than the planned September release). This will be the fourth feature update (new version) for Windows 10 since its initial launch and as a reminder, each new version of Windows 10 has an end of life for support 18 months after the public release. If you are more than one version behind, you can skip to the latest available version, assuming your computer hardware will support the latest version. This can be a problem for older computers that were upgraded from earlier Windows versions for the initial release of Windows 10, but should not be a problem for new computers that shipped with the initial release of Windows 10.   Continue reading →

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Why is Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8.1 Running So Slow!

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By Joe Callison
5 August, 2017

I have encountered Windows XP and Windows Vista computers running extremely slow recently. Checking Task Manager for the highest CPU processes (with “show processes from all users” selected) showed an instance of the svchost.exe process at a constant 99% CPU usage on computers with single core processors or 50% on computers with dual core processors (one core at 100%), and the process was using by far the highest amount of memory of all processes. Searching the internet for clues on the cause led to several articles on the symptoms being related to a problem with Windows Update.   Continue reading →

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Windows Search & File Indexing

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By Joe Callison
27 July, 2017

Windows Search has been around for several Windows versions, and frankly I never gave it much thought and rarely used it until Windows 8 came along, and then I found it was the quickest and easiest way to find where Microsoft had put all of the stuff I used to know where  was in Windows 7. I was aware of the option to index your hard drive or not in the disk properties, but had never made the connection with Windows Search until recently when I came across an article suggesting to speed up old computers and free up disk space by turning off the indexing if you do not rely on Windows Search that much and don’t care if it takes longer to find something when you do use it occasionally.   Continue reading →

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Using Chrome Extensions

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By Joe Callison
17 June, 2017

I have never been a fan of loading up my internet browsers with extensions (or plugins or add-ons), mostly because they used to be offered by a third party (other than the browser developer) and they modified the browser programming code which sometimes made the browser slower or misbehave or could even introduce malware. All of the major browsers have moved to a different programming structure that does not allow extensions to modify the browser code. Instead, the code for the extension is kept in a separate secured area with strictly controlled access to the browser. This has made browser extensions much more secure and safer to use.   Continue reading →

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Windows 10 Update Policy

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By Joe Callison
13 May, 2017

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The security and quality updates released in this week’s (May 9) patch Tuesday cycle was the last you will receive if still running the original Windows 10 version 1507. To check which version of Windows 10 you have, you can go to the Start icon, click the Settings icon, click System, and then click About. The version will be listed below the Edition as on this example, which is version 1703 (Creators Update):   Continue reading →

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Windows 10 Creators Update is Here!

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By Joe Callison
9 April, 2017

What is the Creators Update?
Windows 10 undergoes major updates introducing new features once or twice a year. On April 11, 2017 the next major update that will begin rolling out is called the Creators Update because of several new features planned to enhance the creative capabilities of the operating system. Unfortunately many of the planned new features are not ready to be released, so the update will not be as significant as first expected. It is still a major update in that it completely replaces your existing version of Windows 10.   Continue reading →

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Mobile Wallets and Payment Services

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By Joe Callison
25 March, 2017 (*Updated 21 June, 2019)

You may be familiar with the use of PayPal for sending money from your PayPal account linked to a credit card or bank account to another person’s PayPal account for Ebay purchases or receiving payments from others when selling items on Ebay. It has been around for a number of years and since being split off from Ebay, it is being accepted by many other types of stores and for peer to peer payments. There are a number of competing services available now. TopTenReviews “The Best Mobile Wallets of 2017” lists Android Pay, Apple Pay, Capital One Wallet, eWallet, Gyft, Key Ring, LevelUp, Samsung Pay, and Walmart Pay in addition to PayPal.
* The original link is no longer available, but a similar article is “10 Ways to Pay with your SmartPhone” at:
https://fueled.com/blog/10-ways-to-pay-with-your-smartphone/
Continue reading →

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How I Use Computer Searches to Avoid Risky Businesses

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By Joe Callison
25 February, 2017

Around this time of year I like to start looking at seed and nursery catalogs for some new plants to try out. I ordered some plants from a couple of places in the past and since then I have been inundated with catalogs from numerous places. Looking through them I began to notice that many of the items in different catalogs seemed to be identical and then I noticed that most of them had addresses in Bloomington, Illinois. Two were on one street with numbers very close together and two were on another street with numbers very close together. Could there really be that many different companies operating nurseries next to each other in one city the size of Bloomington?   Continue reading →

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What is 2-Factor Authentication?

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By Joe Callison
2 February, 2017

Most of us rely on passwords for secure access to accounts on various web sites. Besides the possibility that weak passwords can eventually be broken, there are more and more elaborate phishing schemes to trick you into entering your password in a fake login screen that looks legitimate, but is there to steal your password. Many major companies are now joining an alliance to support a standard 2-factor authentication process that is easy and economical to greatly improve login security.   Continue reading →

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