Category: Techie Tips

Equifax Data Breach

I hate to trouble you with bad news, but you need to be aware of this.

Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, has revealed that an estimated 143 million U.S. customers may be affected by a data breach carried out by criminal hackers. It includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. Additionally, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers and dispute documents with personal information for approximately 182,000 consumers may have been accessed.

Many thanks to Kim Komando who has written an excellent article which you can read here for all the details. My simple and easy version for you is…

Equifax is sending direct mail alerts to customers whose information was included in the data breach. Keep an eye out for the notice in your mailbox.

The company has created a website,, to help consumers check if any of their information has been affected. However, the tool requires you to provide your last name and last six digits of your Social Security number to initiate the check. I question if it is a good idea to give information to a company that just experienced the largest credit bureau data breach in history.

You can call Equifax’s dedicated customer care number 866-447-7559 to check but, judging by the magnitude of the breach, there will probably be long wait times. Let me know if you try that and how it goes so I can let others know.

If you use the website tool and are found to have been affected by the breach, you will be offered a chance to use Equifax’s own credit monitoring program, TrustedID Premier, free of charge for one year. However, you will have to agree to its Terms of Service and buried in the fine print is this a specific arbitration clause that waives your ability to participate in a class action lawsuit against Equifax.

Considering the extent of the stolen information, I doubt that one year of free credit monitoring is enough. With Social Security numbers involved, the threat of identity theft for those affected will assuredly be lifelong.

Kim suggests that you put a credit freeze on your accounts and she provides excellent instructions on how to do that here.

Other Important Steps To Take If You Are Affected

Scammers use the information they’ve stolen to target victims with other scams. If your data was compromised, please take extra caution and watch out for the following schemes:

Keep an eye on your bank accounts – You should already be checking your bank accounts online or your paper statements for suspicious activity. It’s even more critical now. If you see anything that seems strange, report it immediately.

Beware of phishing scams – Scammers will try and piggyback on data breaches like this. They will create phishing emails, pretending to be from the affected company, hoping to get victims to click on malicious links that could lead to more problems. They are tricky so call me if you suspect anything.

I hope you are not affected by this. (If you are, let me know.)

As always, if you have any questions or if you suspect a scam, feel free to call me and leave a message. I will get back to you just as soon as I can.

In any case, I hope you enjoy your day,


What to Do With An Old Computer

When I saw this astonishing video I realized that I should address this issue in my Techie Tips.   

Screenshot 2017-09-09 at 11.06.45 AM

When clients ask me what to do with their old computers, I recommend recycling them at Best Buy.  It’s quick and easy.  You just drop them off at the customer service desk.  

Many times, my people like to donate them to a charity or give them to a friend or relative.

In any case, you need to protect the data on your hard drive if you have any sensitive information on it that you would not want criminals to see.

How It Works

You cannot actually erase data on a drive.  When you delete something, the space on the drive gets marked as “vacant” or “writable” so new data can be written over it.  The original information is still there until it’s overwritten and can be found with specialized software.

Some people assume that they can reformat their hard drives, but that just erases the directory that the computer uses to find the files.  It doesn’t delete the files.  The physical bits and bytes still exist.  With regular use, the data  will get overwritten, but it’s a random process and you won’t know which files have been overwritten and which haven’’t.

A “full format” will overwrite the drive with zeros but it’s still possible to recover data with specialized software.

The Solution

DBAN is a free software that overwrites the drive multiple times.  I found a comment online by a Tech who said that after 20 passes, nothing can be recovered.  He swears by it 100%.  I looked up DBAN and it has a disclaimer that it’s not “certified safe.”  I imagine certification would be important in situations where there is legal liability — where you are responsible for someone else’s sensitive data.  If you are willing to install the software and do 20 passes this might be a good solution for your needs.

The most common recommendation is to remove the hard drive from the computer and smash the disks or memory chips with a hammer (wear safety glasses.)  I did that with my old PC laptop and I thought it was fun but you might not share my enthusiasm for taking things apart to see what’s inside.  

I told Angel Sanchez at NYPC Repair (on Hwy 111 in Palm Desert near the Red Barn) that a lot of my clients would probably not want to deal with removing the hard drive and he said you are welcome to bring your computer into the shop and they will take it out and smash it for you with no charge!  Isn’t that great!  Love NYCP Repair!

In Summary

Now you know the whys, the hows and simple solutions.  Your choice will depend on your level of comfort about the security of your files.  For most of us, it isn’t an issue but if it is, you know what to do.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or need help.  



P.S. If you have found this information helpful, please support my mission to make technology simple, easy and fun for mature adults.  Share this post with others and encourage them to sign up to receive all my Techie Tips via email.   They can sign up here  Thanks!

Shutterfly for Photo Sharing

Are you taking lots of photos this summer?

I got a call this week from a client who had just returned from an amazing caribbean vacation with family and wanted to know the best way for them to share their photos with each other. What fun!

I thought you might like to know about it too. It’s Are you familiar with it?

Shutterfly offers free, unlimited, secure photo storage! They also offer photo prints, photo books, cards, stationary, calendars, and personalized gifts like coffee mugs.

It’s very easy to set up a free private website where a group of people can upload their photos to share and then everyone has the opportunity to download their favorites to their computers, and order prints or other items from Shutterfly.

My nieces send my mother little books with photos of their children after they visit and she loves them.

I’m eager to know if you use Shutterfly and what you think about it.  Send me a message below.

If you are trying Shutterfly for the first time and have questions or want me to help you set up a site, let me know that too.

If you have any other questions about photos, I’m always happy to help.

Use the handy form below:


Feeling Better About Having to Change

frustrated computer user

The world is changing rapidly these days, largely due to technology.  My goal is to help people adapt as simply, easily and affordably as possible.

Perhaps thinking about the situation in a different way will help you feel better about changes.

We can’t turn back the clock or stop technological evolution, but we can control how we respond.  

We can choose to resist what is, get upset, refuse to change and be continually frustrated, or we can do what we need to do to make things work and make ourselves happy.  

Think about the things you wouldn’t be able to do if it weren’t for technology.  Make a list of all the ways you benefit.

Then remember that in order to benefit, you will need to invest in equipment and maintenance from time to time, just like you do with your house appliances and automobile.

Here’s a good analogy:

How old is your car?  (Is it as old as your computer?)  If your mechanic said it wasn’t possible to get parts to fix it because it’s too old, would you insist on driving it anyway?  It it couldn’t pass a smog check, would you drive without registration?

Computers and technology may become obsolete faster than cars, but the principle is the same.  There comes a time, when it’s more effective to change than to hold on to the old.  Sometimes that requires a little education, similar to taking continuing education courses for professional certifications or learning how to use a new TV.  You just get a little instruction and enjoy the benefits of the new information.

I hope thinking about technology in this way will help you feel better and inspire you to change your equipment or way of doing things when necessary.

If you need help to decide on the best equipment and apps for your individual needs and instruction on how to use them, just let me know.  I promise to make it as simple, easy, affordable and fun as possible.

If this has been helpful to you, please share below so everyone can feel better about changes too.  

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Tablet VS Chromebook

tablet and chromebook.jpeg

I received this question recently and thought you might be interested too…

Question:  Hi Mardi,  Thank you for always sending these healthy tips for the computer.  My question is what is the difference between a Tablet and a Chrome Book?

Answer:  Tablets are lightweight so they are easy to carry around but they are mainly for “consuming” information.  Any amount of typing with touch screens can be very, very frustrating.  You can get keyboards for them and then they are more like small laptops, but the screens are very small for doing much in the way of work and you have to buy a fairly expensive model in order to get the processor speed of a laptop.

A Chromebook is a laptop computer that does almost everything online so it doesn’t need a hard drive.  That makes it nice and lightweight like a tablet but it comes with a regular full size keyboard attached.  It’s better than a traditional laptop because it doesn’t need maintenance, backups or  antivirus programs.  It’s really trouble free. It’s also much less expensive than traditional laptops.  Good ones are less than $300.  The battery charge lasts a long time too, because it doesn’t have a hard drive with cooling fans.

If you are going to do any amount of work, like spreadsheets, or documents or blogging, you will be happier with a Chromebook than a tablet because of the full size keyboard and larger screen.  You will need to learn how to use Google docs but it’s pretty easy, and they are free.  All your docs will back up to the cloud automatically.  The other Google apps for the Chromebook like the photos app, are great too.  You need a wifi connection for Chromebooks because they work off the internet, but you can download some things and work offline when necessary.

If you only need a small lightweight device for travel to watch movies, youtube videos, check your email and calendar, a tablet will work, but, again, the screens are pretty small.  I think of a tablet as a larger version of a smartphone without the phone.  lol

My clients who have switched to Chromebooks love them because they are so trouble free and easy to use.

Let me know if you have any other questions or if you want me to help you buy one online. (I don’t recommend the HP Chromebook at Best Buy because mine stopped working on wifi after 18 mo.  My daughter’s HP Chromebook is still working fine, though and  been a couple of years.)  I have a Toshiba and I like the ACER that one of my students has.  Let me know what you decide to get.

If you, or people you know, are considering a new computer or mobile device purchase, please contact me for a complimentary consultation which I’m happy to do.  Buying the right equipment is the key to making your techie Life simple, easy and fun.  Let’s schedule a time to discuss the best purchase for your needs and budget….


Choose the Right Tools

cartoon of frustrated computer user

Are you thinking about doing any techie projects?

Many of my students call me because they need help with a project of some kind and I love seeing the interesting things that people in our age group are doing with modern technology.

Sometimes we get started on a project on a computer or mobile device and become so frustrated that we just want to give up. Yep, it’s happened to me too! : (

Often this is caused by not choosing the right tool for the job. We start with the apps that come with the computer or tablet without considering that there might be other options that could make it “simple, easy and fun.”

I want you to know that you (and the people you care about) are welcome to call or email me for a complimentary consultation before you launch a project so I can help you get started on the right foot.

Some of my students have:

  • written books and screenplays (two of them used an iPad instead of a computer)
  • learned how to use spreadsheets to keep track of golf groups and party invitations
  • made collections of photos and archived them for their family members
  • set up groups in their contacts to send broadcast emails and print mailing labels

Sometimes they start with the wrong tools and by the time they reach out to me, they have wasted tons of time and are extremely frustrated:

  • An author had written a book with his iPad and was starting to have trouble because parts of it were written in different apps and it was causing problems with formatting the final draft.
  • A woman was going to type addresses in a mailing labels template instead of in a spreadsheet or address book app that can rearrange the list alphabetically after new contacts are added. (Fortunately, she called me before she was too far along.)
  • A business owner was planning to send broadcast emails without using a service that would ensure that emails get opened rather than being flagged as spam.

There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes! Mistakes are an integral part of learning and I admire people in our age group who are willing to jump in and try new things but I want to make it a smoother road for you, so feel free to consult with me first so you can select the best app or hardware.

I’m always happy to answer your questions and, if someone you care about is embarking on a project that involves technology, invite them to check-in with me too.

Email me to schedule a complimentary consultation


Best Antivirus Programs


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.



What is 2 Step Verification?


Are you using 2-step verifications for some of your logins yet?

Is it bugging you that 2-Step Verification procedures are being recommended more and more when you try to login to your accounts?

I found it confusing and annoying when I didn’t understand what they were talking about or why it was necessary but now I appreciate the value of it.

I thought you might like to know more about it.

Here is a quick little video from Google that explains it very well and the principles apply to other accounts besides Google’s.  You just go into your account settings and set it up.

With 2-Step Verification, you’ll protect your account by requiring something you know (your password) and something you have (your phone, tablet or a key).
If hackers get your password, they still can’t get into your account because they won’t have the phone or other device that has a verification code on it.

Verification Codes are created for one-time use at the time you need them.  They are sent to your phone or other device via text, or phone call.

Here’s how it works

Step 1 You’ll enter your password
Step 2 You’ll be asked for something else, like a code that will be sent to your phone via text or phone call

Sometimes, during sign-in, you might have an opportunity to choose not to use 2-Step Verification again on that particular computer. If you say yes, the system will only ask for your password in the future. This makes it more convenient for you.
However, If you or anyone else tries to sign in to your account from another computer, 2-Step Verification will still be required.

If you aren’t using 2-Step verification, maybe you will start using it now.  If you need help, just let me know.  We can even do a quick lesson via remote access!

Please share this Techie Tip with your friends and family so their accounts will be protected too.



The Ultimate Apps List

bethMy friends call me “The Gadget Queen,” but when it comes to apps, I bow to Beth Ziesenis, Author, Speaker and Nerd. (

She is definitely “The App Queen”.  She looks at thousands of apps every year and shares the latest and greatest in her hilarious Friday NerdWords email. 

At the end of the year, she spends weeks combing back through the year’s NerdWords to create a list of every app she’s covered in the past year.  

I thought you would enjoy her annual Ultimate Tech Tool List and she gave me permission to share it with you.

Go ahead… get your nerd on and download this list!   Let me know your faves.



A Merry Emoji Holiday To All


A Merry Emoji Holiday to All
Whatever way you celebrate this holiday season…
I wish you much joy and peace.
May you find ways to keep it simple, easy and fun
And enter the New Year
With enthusiasm and a sense of adventure.
Your Computer Tutor & Gadget Guide
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