Category: Apps

Best Antivirus Programs

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I recently answered a question for a client that I think you will find very help and that you will want to share with people you care about.

Client:  Have you heard of scanguard?  It is a free download of a program that supposedly scans for viruses and speeds up your computer.  Would you recommend it?

Mardi:  No and I wouldn’t trust free.  My Techs recommend WebRoot in conjunction with Malwarebytes or BitDefender but BitDefender can slow things down.

Noah and Angel at NYPC Repair are in the business of removing viruses so they ought to know.  They also told me that they see machines using McAfee that come in with viruses.

There’s an old saying in publishing that says, “If you don’t pay to learn how to do things right the first time, you’ll pay three times that to fix your mistakes.”

You just learned how to do antivirus protection right and it didn’t cost you a penny!  You will need to pay for the most reliable protection however…unless you decide to use a Chromebook which doesn’t require antivirus programs.

Do you have a burning question that you want answered?  Feel free to ask.  There are probably many other folks that have the same question or concern.

Speaking of other folks, please share this with the people you care about so they can benefit too.  They can sign up to receive all my Techie Tips here.

Enjoy!

Mardi

Digital Calendars Rock!

image of google calendar

Are you using the Calendar app on your computer or mobile gadgets? Perhaps you have considered using a digital calendar, but wonder if it’s worth the time and effort to learn?  Perhaps you are curious about some of the features you aren’t using now?

Digital calendars are one of the best uses of modern technology and they are easy to learn.  They have a lot of “bells and whistles” that you may not need, but you might be surprised at how many features you will enjoy.

Here are 7 Good reasons to use digital calendars and
2 great articles on how to use them

  1. You have a lot of appointments and it’s a challenge to keep up with them — social, medical, business, family

  2. You would like to be reminded via email or pop up screens so nothing falls through the cracks.

  3. You have a big project you would like to do but you can’t seem to get started.  Breaking it down into small steps and putting it on your calendar would get it done.

  4. You would like to be able to see your spouse’s schedule so you won’t schedule conflicting appointments.

  5. Many of your To Do’s on your To Do List have deadlines and you’d like reminders so they will get done on time.

  6. You would like to be able to see your appointments on your smartphone or tablet when you are away from home so you can know if you are available to schedule something — to get it done the first time, instead of having to say “Let me call you when I get home and am in front of my calendar.”

  7. You would like reminders to purchase birthday cards or gifts so you can get them in the mail in time for the big day.

Outlook syncs with Calendar Apps
Years ago, I used Microsoft Outlook but now I use the Google Calendar.  I have an iPhone right now and I downloaded the Google Calendar app to my iPhone. However, the Calendar App that comes with the iPhone can be set up to work with Microsoft Outlook and the Google calendar.

If you are in the Apple ecosystem, you can easily use the Apple Calendar App. It should be activated in your settings alread.

If you have an android phone, the Google Calendar is probably activated already.
You Can Easily Use the Calendar App on Your Phone

Here is a great article about the advantages of Google Calendar with some neat tips and tricks.  Click here

Here is a detailed article on all the features of the Apple Calendar and how to use them.  Click here

If these articles seem too daunting, consider hosting a playshop, or schedule some one-on-one time with me. You will be using your digital calendar like a pro in no time!

Best Way To Backup Your Computer and Mobile Devices

Cloud Computing Diagram

Do you have a backup strategy for your computer and mobile devices in the event of a catastrophe?  Are you wondering about the easiest and least expensive way to do it?

I recently received an email from a client with questions like these and I thought you would like to know my recommendations….

“Is iDrive the best cloud storage company?  The cost is $45/year and it says it’s for all devices.  Is there a cloud storage system that automatically updates my iPhone and PC?  I pay Apple for extra storage and it still is not enough….and I have an external hard drive for my PC back-up.”

External hard drives can fail just like internal hard drives and won’t do you any good if burned in a fire or stolen.  You still need to have a cloud backup.

IDrive Online BackupI like iDrive the best.  The $45/yr. includes 1T (terabyte) of storage, which is more than enough for most people, and it includes backups of mobile devices.

Carbonite is also good but doesn’t include mobile devices.  It’s 59.99 for unlimited backup.  So if you need lots of storage and don’t have a smartphone or tablet to back up, this would be the best option.

It’s gets a little more complicated when you are using devices from two different companies, like an Apple phone and a Microsoft PC.  An iPhone backs up to iCloud but a PC doesn’t.

If you have an Apple computer and an iPhone and/or iPad, everything backs up to iCloud.  Apple offers some inexpensive plans but if you need a lot of storage, it can get expensive.

20 GB: $0.99/mo, 200 GB: $3.99/mo, 500 GB: $9.99/mo, 1 TB: $19.99/mo ($239.40/year)iCloud

Many of my clients are complaining having to upgrade to more expensive iCloud storage plans.  This is usually because of their photos/videos or music collections.

You can save money on iCloud storage by moving files to your PC and deleting them from iCloud but be sure have a backup plan for your your PC.

If you aren’t making changes to photos or docs and you just want to archive them, you can slide them onto a flash drive and save money on cloud storage.  Be sure you have more than one copy.  Flash drives can get damaged or lost.  You might store copies with friends or relatives or in a safe deposit box.

If you have an Android phone, Google has your back…almost.Android Phone

Google will save app data and all of your phone’s settings including Wi-Fi passwords to your Google account. When you sign in using this Google account on another phone, all of your preferences, photos (via Google+), and contacts will be imported automatically.  Be sure all the options are turned on in “Accounts & sync” in “Settings.”

This does not include your text messages, you’ll have to back them up yourself.  Or or you can save your text messages and call logs to your Gmail account by using an app called SMS Backup+.

To save the music, movies and other media you’ve saved on your phone’s memory card, you need to connect your phone to a PC and copy everything that’s in the micro SD card. This is a manual process so you’ll need to establish a routine for doing this.

When it’s all said and done, it’s simpler, easier and safer to just pay for iDrive cloud storage.  Think of it like paying for insurance for your house and renting mini storage for your extra stuff.

I hope you have found this information helpful and that you will get your files protected.  It’s really sad when computers crash and mobile devices get lost, but at least they can be replaced.  Your files cannot.  Having good backups will preserve your files and make it easy to restore them when you get new devices.

Please share this information with your family and friends so they will be protected too.

Enjoy!

Mardi

Crapware

Crapware:

Why manufacturers install it, what you can do about it, and why it’s not going to go away   Based on an article by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes  http://www.zdnet.com/

Crapware, also know as “bloatware” or “junkware,” are apps that hardware companies install onto their devices on top of the operating system (OS).  It’s a bunch of free trials and demos that nag you to buy the full version. Most annoying to me, is when you start using the app, not realizing that it’s a free trial, and then find out that you have to pay in order to continue accessing the work you’ve done.
snailThe worst consequence is that crapware can dramatically slow down system performance or even compromise your system’s security. I frequently see relatively new computers running slow because of the weight of the crapware that has been installed on them. They run great once all the junk is removed. One has to wonder about the number of people who spend hard-earned money on a PC only to end up getting a third-rate experience because of crapware.
Furthermore, many of these dissatisfied PC owners may end up blaming “Microsoft” or “Windows” for the performance issues, when the real problem is that the manufacturing company took money from third-parties to fill their computers with junk.
Microsoft is well-aware of this.  It’s now offering Signature which is free from the clutter that “can slow down your computer and junk up your Start screen or desktop.”  See it here
Screenshot 2015-03-07 at 1.35.12 PMScreenshot 2015-03-07 at 1.36.27 PM

If you ask the hardware makers why they install this stuff, they’ll tell you they are offering you extra value. That’s a lie.  They do it because they make money for doing it. Except for Apple products, computer profits are very thin. Hardware makers are happy to install junk onto new systems in exchange for a few extra dollars.

Photo courtesy of www.kitguru.net
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Eradicating crapware from Windows PCs isn’t easy, and when it comes Android smartphones and tablets it can be almost impossible.  There are tools out there for the PC such as PC Decrapifier and CCleaner that do a reasonable job of cleaning a system, but they’re far from perfect.

 

The purveyors of crapware have become wise to these tools and take deliberate steps to make it difficult. It’s best to call my friends at Desert Cow Computers. www.mydesertcow.com

desert cow computers

Hardware manufacturers operate in a cutthroat business environment and crapware can make the difference between almost no profit and a little profit, especially on budget systems.  Perhaps you will decide to stay away from budget systems now.
Microsoft offers the Signature range of PCs and Google sells Nexus-branded devices, These products are free from crapware. If you’re looking for a pure Windows or Android experience, then this might be worth investigating.  Another option is to switch to Apple or Chromebook.

nexus

If more people complain or vote with their feet by purchasing crapware-free products, perhaps equipment manufacturers will be persuaded to make crapware easier to remove.

 
Thoughts or comments about this topic?  Please comment below.  Thanks!

No More Password Hassles with LastPass

No More Password Hassles!

Treat your password like your toothbrush.
Don’t let anybody else use it, and get a new one every six months.

Clifford Stoll                                      Read more at brainyquote.com

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Are you ready to put your password hassles to rest once and for all?  I’ve got a great solution for you!   Get LastPass password manager.  It’s free! It will generate secure passwords for all your accounts and insert them automatically. You only need to remember one master password.  Everything is encrypted and safe.

No more updating pages and pages of accounts and passwords or going through a bazillion steps to reset the ones you forgot!  LastPass even let’s you know if you have an account with a company whose data base has been compromised so you can change your password immediately.

I’ve been using the basic features of LastPass for years, but I just took a class on it to learn more and I am very impressed.  I had the opportunity to teach a client how to use it this week and she is so happy and relieved that she’s telling all her friends.

You can learn more about it here  www.lastpass.com  I urge you to use it.  The little bit of time it takes to install and learn how to use it, will be minimal compared to the time it takes to clean up a mess if someone hacks any of your accounts.

Please share this with everyone you know so they can be safe and feel relaxed, happy and confident with their computers and techie gadgets.

Please post your thoughts or comments below….

Thanks!

Great Apps for Computers and

Apps are not just for smartphones and tablets. Many apps are web based and accessed through your web browser. You don’t have to have a smart phone or tablet to use some of the most popular apps.

However, when people buy smartphones or tablets, they often ask me what apps they should know about.  I’m always happy to make suggestions based on antheir lifestyle and interests.

Since you may have received a gadget as a holiday gift, I thought it would be a good time to tell you about a few of my favorites apps and programs. You may already be using some of these but you may discover some new ones to try. Enjoy!

Entertainment and Media:   

NetflixNetflix let’s you watch an unlimited number movies and television shows online for only $8.95 mo. You can train it to make suggestions for you based on the movies you watch and how you rate them.  You can even set up separate profiles for individual family members!  And, there are no commercials!!!

You can connect your gadget to your TV and watch movies on it too.

chromeCast

 

Chromecast from Google $35


roku

Roku Streaming Stick $50

 

appleTvApple TV $99


spotify

 

Spotify let’s you listen to music for free.  It even has playlists by subject or genre. The variety is astounding and there are no commercials!!!

 

YouTube

 

YouTube is a must for doing research on any topic that can be best explained with a video.  Think recipes, repairing things, movie previews, songs, lyrics, instructional videos, and answers to absolutely any question under the sun.

shazam

Shazam listens to songs on the radio, TV or movies. It identifies the song title, shows you the performer, album, lyrics and links you to sites where you can purchase.

 

 

Productivity:

dropboxDropbox is a great app for cloud storage and sharing.  When you put files in there, you can access them from anygadget or computer.  I use the phone app to play audio files of lectures and seminars. It’s super easy to learn and you get 2GB of storage for free.  By referring your friends to Dropbox, you can earn up to 16GB of additional space.  Sign up here

 

office 365

One of the most popular productivity tools for home and business is Microsoft Office. Unfortunately, Office documents don’t always play nice with third-party apps. Now Microsoft has released the Microsoft Office Mobile app.   It lets you open, create and perform basic editing on Word, Excel and PowerPoint files no matter where you are.

 

mintMint.com and its app  (Free, and available for Android and iOS) links to your all your bank accounts, credit card accounts and loans so you always know just how much money you have and how you are spending it. You can set up spending categories and create a budget for each category. I love it for keeping track of my income and expenses for paying my taxes.

 

The weather channelThe Weather Channel app and weather.com show you the current temperature, the hourly forecast and the next 10 days of weather.  Also you get a customizable radar map, video clips, severe weather alerts and beach conditions. It’s better than your gadget’s built-in weather app.

 

 

free wifi finder

You don’t want to burn through your cellular data plan when you are out and about or on a trip, so you need to useWi-Fi whenever possible. You can find free Wi-Fi locations with the Free Wi-Fi Finder app.

 

Dating:

match

 

Match.com app has earned the top spot in dating apps and is my favorite.

 

 

pof-logo

 

POF.com (Plenty of Fish) is very popular here in the desert and is free.

 

google mapsNavigation:

Google Maps is my favorite navigation app.  I especially appreciate that it invites you to submit corrections.  Youget an email thanking you for your help and then a follow up email when the corrections have been made.

uberUber is an app-based transportation network that uses a smartphone application to receive ride requests, and then sends these trip requests to their drivers. Customers love using the app to request rides and to track their reserved vehicle’s location.  Uber’s drivers use their own cars and there is a variety of types of vehicles available, from Town Cars to SUVs and more.  One of my friends is a driver for Uber and just loves it.  It’s a win-win for everybody.

Other Popular Apps

Here are some other popular apps that I don’t find the time to use very often, but you might enjoy.

Save Money  

RetailmenotThe RetailMeNot app helps you find promo codes and coupons for more than 50,000 physical and online stores, including grocery stores. You can save and store coupons for later, and share the savings with your friends through social media.

 

 

Photo EditingSnapseed-icon-medium

Snapseed is the top app for photo-editing and VSCO Cam is gaining ground in popularity.

Social and Sharing

Pinterest

 

Pinterest, WhatsApp and Snapchat are the top apps in messaging and texting.

 

instagram

 

Instagram and Facebook are considered the must-haves for social sharing. The Facebook app got me interestedin using Facebook more often because it is so easy to use.

Sports

watchESPN

 

WatchESPN.com is the most popular app for sports fans.

 

 

 

Fitness

MyFitnessPal is the top fitness app.my fitness pal

 

 

 

 

Do you have any favorite apps to share?

There are thousands of apps and recommendations from friends is the best way to sort through the maze.  Do you have some favorite apps not mentioned here?  Post your comments below so everyone can benefit from your ideas.

Microsoft And Apple Finally Playing Together Nice? Not!

I always love hearing from my clients and friends when they have an idea or a question.  It keeps me up to speed with your needs and concerns and provides me with the opportunity help others as well.  I enjoy doing the research and making the mistakes, so you don’t have to.

Recently I received this email,

office 365You should check out this offer of free software from Microsoft and Apple.  It really works, though it is available from the “Cloud” and is likely a bit slow.  I have their version for PC’s on my computer, and I pay $99.00 per year to use it!  This version, being free, and downloadable from the Apple App Store, looks worth a shot!

 

I was aware of this new service and have been meaning to try it.  This week I finally had the opportunity.  I was very disappointed.

I’m helping a client format his auto biography for self publishing on CreateSpace.com. He wrote it entirely on his iPad! (No, he didn’t write it using the touch screen keyboard.  LOL  He has a wireless keyboard for it.)
At first I thought we could collaborate on the document using the new iPages for iCloud service but it was sorely lacking in editing tools. (It’s in Beta, or test version.)

pages on cloudEver the “Queen of the Work-around”, I copied and pasted the doc into my Microsoft Word app.  Next, I signed up for the free month trial of Office 365 online so we could collaborate on the cloud.

MS-Office-for-iPad

 

Then, I  directed my client to download the free Microsoft Office app for iPad. Alas, it only gave him the ability to read the doc!

Microsoft, doesn’t say a word about that in the promotional information online! You have to subscribe to Office 365 and pay a monthly fee in order to have editing capabilities.

computer-frustration-815492-m
My client could have signed up for the free month trial but you know what it’s like to set up a new account with password and credit card info, and you have to put it on your calendar to cancel the service in 30 days before you get billed on auto-pay.  I wasn’t going to suggest that he go through all that for one project.  So much for “the boys” collaborating on the cloud!  We are back to emailing attachments.

It’s a challenge to keep up with all the changes but somebody has to do it. I enjoy doing it and always appreciate your help. Hopefully, sharing my experiences in the field will spare you from wasted time, money and frustration.

victory-1095383-mKeep those questions and ideas coming. Remember to consult with me about what you want to accomplish before deciding on what to buy (apps as well as gadgets).

Let me give you an orientation on how to use your new products and services so you can get your work done quickly, easily and efficiently.

Whom do you know that could use my help?  I promise to take good care of them.  Call me today!

Listen Up Sports Fans… There’s An App for That!

RememberThis week a client asked me if he could watch college football on his new tablet.  Yes!  “There’s an app for that.”  Actually there are a lot of apps available.  There are many free and paid options to watch football, soccer, basketball, tennis and other favorite sports.

You can download an app through “the company store”. (Google Play for Android devices and The App Store for Apple devices.)

Here are a few suggestions to get you started. Two good apps for streaming live sports are offered by television stations.

WatchESPN (ESPN Inc) offers live streaming of events from the ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3 and ESPNU networks. You can enjoy access to events from the NBA, MBL, U.S. Open, The Masters, college football and basketball, Grand Slam Tennis and Euro 2012 Soccer — as well as original ESPN programming like SportsCenter, Pardon the Interruption and SportsNation. WatchESPN is user-friendly, making it easy to search for your favorite teams, leagues and shows.

To access WatchESPN’s live stream, you’ll need a cable subscription through a participating cable provider (e.g., AT&T U-verse, Cox, Time Warner Cable or Verizon). The app will prompt you to enter your TV provider, TV subscription user ID and password.

CBS Sports (CBS Interactive, Inc.) features a live stream of video of top sports, including NCAA and SEC football games. Scores of games that cannot be streamed live are updated very quickly. CBS Sports also offers on-demand access to game highlights, analysis and original programming, as well as a live Twitter feed of commentary from players, writers, analysts and bloggers.  The CBS Sports mobile app features extensive college football coverage including live streaming of some games on Saturday.

Note:  You may need to download and install Adobe Flash Player, the leading video and animation player. Downloading Adobe Flash Player is free, quick and easy.

NBA League Pass Mobile allows you to follow the league through live NBA game viewing in addition to on-demand game replays and league highlights. The league Pass costs $16.99 per season and is available through the NBA Game Time mobile app.

MLB.tv offers the At Bat 13 subscription service, which features home and away broadcasts, HD quality video, full game archives and in-game highlights and stats. A season pass is $19.99 and premium subscribers have access to live video feeds.

In addition to apps, you can find websites that can connect you to an online broadcast of the sporting event you want to watch.  Just do a search in your web browser.  You may want to check out Ustream, FirstRow Sports and Stream2Watch.

  

Note:  Streaming sports live does limit the life of your battery because it requires you to use your data connection plus the audio and video components of your device’s hardware.  To prolong the life of your battery, try dimming the screen and turning off any unnecessary features (e.g., Bluetooth). Make sure to have a power adapter on hand to juice up your battery when the need arises.

If you, or someone you know, needs to learn more about how to search for good apps, or websites, I’d love to help. Call me today!

Share your favorite apps and websites for sports in the “Comments” below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back Up Your Smart Phone and Tablets

 

Please Check This Now!

Is your smart phone or tablet doing backups?
Did you even know that it’s supposed to?
Do you realize that if your phone or tablet breaks or is stolen, you might lose your photos, music, address book and notes?
Apparently none of the people who sell phones are setting it up or explaining it to their customers because most of the phones I examine are not doing back ups.  This issue has come up so many times in the past two weeks that I decided I’d better give you a heads up.

Please check your gadget’s settings and make sure backups are set up and operating. (It will show you the last date a backup occurred.)
This is especially important if you are going to be traveling on vacation this month!

com.alienmanfc6.wheresmyandroid_banner-450x220

 
Also, it’s important for you to know that there are really neat apps that enable you to locate your gadget if it is lost or stolen.  They even enable you to delete your data and lock the gadget so it will be useless to a thief.  (Even if you don’t get it back, you will have the satisfaction of knowing the thief didn’t get your stuff and couldn’t use it.)

If you have an iPhone or iPad you may have noticed the “Find My Phone” or “Find My iPad” icon and assumed that it would help you in an emergency. It won’t unless it is enabled in settings. I’m amazed how many iPhones and iPads I see that don’t have this feature activated!

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A related issue that comes up frequently is people want to know if they can see their phone or tablet photos on their computers.  Yes you can!  It’s just a matter of getting things set up properly.

I hope these Techie Tips will ensure that you are protected and enable you to take advantages of these neat things that technology can do for you.

As always, if you, and your friends and relatives, need help with any of these things, just call me to set up an appointment.

In Joy,

Mardi Boettcher

“Helping you make peace with the ups and downs of technology.”

Pre-purchase Consultation Questions

One of my services is consulting with people to help them choose the best computer or gadget for their individual needs.  So much frustration can be avoided by buying the right product in the first place, and I have already test-driven quite a few of them in order to pave the way for others to have a more pleasant experience.  See my previous posts for the gruesome details.  LOL

Here are the questions I use for my consultations.  Please forward this to your friends and relatives so they will have it when they are considering a computer or gadget purchase.   They will thank you for it.

1. What is your budget?

2. What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?

3. What screen resolution do you want?

4. Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?

5. How much battery life do you need?

6. Do you want to play games with your laptop? If so then please list the games that you want to with the settings that you want for these games. (Low, Medium or High)?

7. What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo/Video editing, etc.)

8. How much storage (Hard Drive capacity) do you need?

9. If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.

10. How long do you want to keep your laptop?

11. What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer, Blue Ray ROM/Writer, etc ?

12. Please tell me about the brands that you prefer and the brands that you don’t like and explain the reasons.

13. What country do you live in?

14. Please tell me any additional information if needed.

Additionally… you should consider available support options in your area. If you buy something abroad, will you be able to have it fixed near where you live? Does the warranty apply? How quickly do local accredited technicians fix laptops?

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