Okay, it’s not the Flux Capacitor, but who says science fiction doesn’t predict future technologies? Remember at the end of the original “Back to the Future” movie when Doc Brown starts stuffing trash into the Mr. Fusion appliance to fuel the Delorean? Well check out this Reuters story about a company in the Philippines that’s collecting waste plastic from landfills and breaking it down into fuel!
If your mobile phone wireless carrier offers free wifi calling, check it out! It could save you money, relieve stress, and give you better at-home wireless coverage!
As a small business owner with limited funds, I worry about the cost of my mobile phone bill, especially since my mobile phone is the lifeline of my business and I often get into lengthy conversations with customers on it. Of course I could cut those calls short but that would be at odds with my mission to provide a superior level of service and responsiveness to my customers. However, I do worry about going over the magic minute mark and possibly getting whacked with extra charges.
So imagine my delight when T-Mobile, sent me a text message announcing that they were offering free wifi calling for supported phones on their network.
What is wifi calling? It’s the mobile phone equivalent of Skype or Vonage, where instead of calling through the carrier’s 3G or 4G network (what most people still refer to as the cellular network), your phone is set up to make calls over the internet using your home wireless network.
So I rushed to the link on t-mobile’s website that promised the free wifi calling feature, and frankly, found it a bit difficult to decipher. They didn’t offer much in the way of instructions except for a list of phones for me to pick from. Okay, I chose mine, the Blackberry Bold 9900 and clicked it, expecting to be taken to a page that would say yes or no wifi calling and maybe some instructions for how to enable it. But instead, it just delivered me to a page that displayed a link stating that a software (OS) upgrade was available for my phone and then listed links to the Blackberry user manuals. Apparently T-Mobile feels that sending me to the manuals is adequate guidance… ummm not in THIS America!
Of course I don’t give up so easily and just a short google search away, found on crackberry.com, that my phone does indeed support wifi calling, but it needs to be enabled by my carrier. Ok, back to the T-Mobile site where I once again followed the path through the woods to the page for my phone. Still no clues from T-Mobile (not that I expected anything to have changed, but thought maybe I just missed seeing something the first time around like an “enable wifi now” button). So while searching I noticed the “software upgrade available” button again and decided to at least get that done so I wouldn’t feel like my efforts were wasted.
I initiated the software upgrade directly through my phone and it took about 2 hours to complete. When it came back up, lo and behold! there in the upper right corner was the wifi calling icon, and within minutes a message popped up on my screen explaining how wifi calling works. You know… they could have just said something on the website like “to enable wifi calling, download this lastest software update” …
Anyhow, the first benefit to wifi calling is that calls through my home wifi network don’t use plan minutes and don’t cost extra. This is perfect for my home-based business where most of my longer calls take place while I’m at home sitting at my computer. The second benefit is that my indoor wifi coverage is about a zillion times better than my indoor 3g/4g coverage, so I no longer have to do the sit-in-the-chair-by-the-front-corner-of-the-house-and-lean-towards-the-window-because-that’s-where-the-coverage-is thing.
Now don’t let me mislead you, wifi calling is far from perfect. First, it’s only as good as your local wifi connection and if you frequently lose your wifi connection at home, consider upgrading your wifi router as an unreliable connection will translate directly into dropped calls. Second, at least in the case of T-Mobile’s implementation, there’s no handoff between wifi and 3g/4g which means if you go out of range of your wifi network during a call (eg if you leave your house), the call will be dropped.
However, if you take and make a lot of calls at home and have a reasonably reliable wifi network, free wifi calling can not only make things cheaper and easier, it can also give you a little respite from that constant worry over plan minutes!
What is YouTube?
There was a time not too long ago when if asked what is Youtube? You might have responded that it’s the world’s biggest collection of home videos ranging from skateboarding dogs, to dancing bridal parties, to rambling kids spacing out on novacaine. You may have mentioned music videos and especially the plethora of cover songs and live performances, and of course, there are videos of every kind of sport and activity with footage from helmet cams, bike cams, dashboard cams, and even space shuttle cams.
What you may not have responded with is a detailed do it yourself auto repair screw-by-screw tutorial for pulling the intake manifold from your Ford Escape so you could change the back three sparkplugs which, for reasons that mere mortals cannot possibly comprehend, are buried underneath an awful lot of other stuff that has to be removed first. You may not have mentioned the step-by-step do it yourself appliance repair video showing detailed disassembly of your Maytag Dryer to replace a broken belt tensioner pulley.
What you may have missed if you haven’t been paying attention, is that Youtube has become the go-to authority for almost all things DIY, often offering multiple do-it-yourself videos, some from fellow do-it-yourselfers who want to share what they’ve learned, and some from professionals who offer free do it yourself video tutorials in exchange for the opportunity to pitch their shop as the place to go if you bite off more than you can chew or need to buy parts to finish your DIY project.
Either way, it’s not a bad thing, and as a do-it-yourselfer who has done both the plugs on the 03 Escape and the belt tensioner pulley on the Maytag dryer, I can tell you firsthand that having a good do-it-yourself video tutorial on hand not only saves time, money, and mistakes, it could even save you from having bloody knuckles by suggesting a better technique for removing a sticky bolt than what you may have attempted otherwise!
Does it seem like everything on your screen just got humungous and you have to scroll up and down and sideways just to see everything? Chances are you inadvertently used the zoom feature of your web browser and your screen is zoomed in so you are now seeing everything larger as a result.
Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome all contain a “zoom” feature that allows you to enlarge or reduce the viewing size of web pages you are browsing. This feature is particularly handy if you want to read something small but don’t feel like hunting for your reading glasses at the moment.
While the menu structures that get you to the zoom feature may vary, all three of the major web browsers, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome share the same keyboard shortcuts for using the zoom feature. Here’s a quick summary:
ZOOM IN: CTRL +
To zoom in, hold down the ctrl key and while holding it in, press the plus key (note that on laptop keyboards you may need to do ctrl/shift/+ if there’s no numeric keypad).
Zooming in makes everything appear bigger on your screen. You can zoom several times and each successive zoom will make things larger. Zooming is handy for reading small type, and can also help when trying to make out details in an online image. Note that not all web pages will zoom. Some (like facebook photo images) will automatically resize to fit the browsable screen area. When zooming in, expect that you will have to scroll sideways as well as up and down to see the whole web page.
ZOOM OUT: CTRL –
To zoom out, hold down the ctrl key and while holding it in, press the minus key (note that on laptop keyboards you may need to do ctrl/shift/- if there’s no numeric keypad).
Zooming out makes everything appear smaller on your screen. You can zoom several times and each successive zoom will make things smaller. Zooming out is handy if you are looking at an image that’s too big for the viewable area if you want to see the entire image onscreen.
RESET TO NORMAL VIEW: CTRL 0 (that’s a zero, not the letter o)
To reset your view to normal (100%), hold down the ctrl key and while holding it in, press the zero key.
A few more notes about zooming…
At the top of this article I mentioned that you may have inadvertently used the zoom feature to make everything gigantic and not fit on your screen. How, you might ask, does one “inadvertently” access the zoom feature? Here are a few common causes:
- Young children randomly pressing keys may hit the CTRL+ combination
- small animals, especially cats, that may walk on the keyboard
- Laptop touchpad controls that access zoom by using two fingers to “pull apart” or “pinch together” much like the zoom feature on your smart phone.
Regarding the need for reading glasses to view small type on web pages, if you find this to be a constant hassle, you may consider resettng your text size to larger than normal. This will usually make text display larger without necessarily blowing up the entire website. Text size is accessible from the “view” menu on most browsers.
I have observed that some websites, and particularly web-based games don’t display properly in zoomed-in mode. That is, besides being large, they may also display random characters or image bits called screen artifacts. Usually using CTRL/0 to reset to normal will solve this.
Please note that there are other possible causes for things being too large for your screen including corrupted or missing video driver, but you should try the things mentioned above first before digging into the more technical aspects of your PC.
There’s nothing like a few days in the high 80’s or 90’s to put your computer or laptop’s cooling system to the test. Of course if you have good air conditioning, this all may go unnoticed, but for those who don’t, or if you use your laptop on the road, outdoors, or in public places like classrooms, buses, or subways, rising temperatures outside means rising temperatures inside your computer that could become so critical your system shuts itself down to prevent damage.
How does cooling work in the PC?
Your computer’s processor (CPU) generates enough heat in a tiny space, that left uncooled, it would cook itself to death in a matter of minutes, To counteract this, system designers have come up with a variety of schemes to draw heat away from the CPU thus ensuring that it is sufficiently cooled to operate reliably. Most CPUs are air-cooled by the combination of a heat-sink (a heat-conductive metal structure designed to draw heat away from the surface of the cpu chip) and a fan that pushes air through the heat sink structure and exhausts the air along with excess heat out through vents in the computer chassis. You can usually locate these exhaust vents on a laptop just by moving your hand around the back and sides of the unit until you feel a gentle rush of warm air exiting the case. In most cases, there are sensors that measure the temperature of the CPU and cause the cooling fan to run faster when the chip gets hotter, and slower when the chip gets cooler. The purpose of this fan speed regulation is to balance the cooling needs of the CPU with the aesthetic need for the computer to run quietly and not be a noisy intrusion in the room.
A COMMON SYMPTOM: NOISY FAN
Understanding how cooling works, it’s easy to see how the first sign of a cooling problem is usually that the cooling fan suddenly becomes very loud, and remains on and running at high speed for prolonged periods of time. This is a dead giveaway that your computer is fighting to stay cool, and in most cases, is losing the battle!
I once had a customer who told me her computer sounded like an airplane trying to take off. While we had a good laugh over her description, it was no joke when I opened the tower and found the cooling system so clogged up with pet hair and dust that it was a wonder any air was passing through it at all!
In this case, the cause of cooling failure is usually blockage of the air vents or the “fins” on the heat sink where the fan is trying to push air through. This is remedied by using a vacuum or compressed air (or both!) to clean out the vents, the area around the heat sink and fan, as well as any cowling that may be in place to direct airflow. This can get very messy and is generally recommended to be performed outdoors so you don’t end up blowing all that accumulated dust and stuff into your indoor breathing space.
What if your PC abruptly shuts down before it even finishes booting up?
I have observed, particularly in older desktop PCs (windows xp vintage), that sometimes plastic clips used to join the heat sink to the CPU surface can become brittle and break causing the heat sink to “pop” off of the CPU. In this case you may get the high-speed fan sound, but more importantly, the PC may freeze up and become completely unresponsive or more commonly, it may abruptly shut down within 30 seconds to a minute of being started. If this happens, don’t keep trying to start it! More than a few times starting without the heat sink attached and the CPU will cook itself leaving you with little choice except to go shopping for a new computer.
What if your fan isn’t noisy but you get a warning message indicating an overheat situation, or your pc shuts down abruptly without warning?
It’s not always the case that cooling problems are indicated by a noisy fan. In fact, a cooling problem could also be indicated by a suddenly quiet fan that used to be noisy or an least noticeably running. In this case, your fan may have failed and is either barely turning, or has stopped altogether. In this case, the computer may issue an error messsage, but is more likely to just abruptly shut down without warning after a few minutes of operation. In this case, the fan usually needs to be replaced.
One time, I was called in to a local dry cleaner to investigate why their computer kept shutting itself down. When I got there, I found a portable tabletop fan pointing straight into the back of the computer and running at full speed. The manager said this was the only way he could get it to run without shutting down. Not surprisingly, when I opened the unit up I found it so packed with lint, there was no airflow at all from the built in fans. That customer is now on a regular regimen of quarterly cleaning to avoid the inevitable lint buildup.
Other signs that a cooling problem may be looming on the horizon…
Groaning – If your computer is making what is described by many customers as a “Groaning” sound, this usually indicates the bearings are wearing out on the cpu or graphics cooling fan. Replace the fan now because if you just ignore it, rest assured, when the groaning stops, so will your computer!
Pets – If you have pets (including birds), particularly breeds that shed a lot, expect your cooling vents to get plugged up quickly. Plan on a vacuuming/blowout at least annually, more often if you notice a marked increase in fan speed/noise.
Dusty House – If you’re like me and live in an older or antique house, you know that it’s a constant battle to stay ahead of the pervasive dust that seems to be shed endlessly by horsehair plaster. Thanks to its constant airflow, your computer’s cooling system is like a magnet to plaster dust and should be blown out at least annually, more often if you notice increased fan activity or are undergoing home renovations that generate inordinate amounts of dust.
I’ve given you a few different computer overheating scenarios, some that are easy to remedy, and some that may require professional help. The most common failure, the clogging of vents and heat sink with dust, lint, or pet hair, is forunately also the easiest to tackle on your own if you’re a do-it-yourselfer. Go to Staples and buy a couple cans of compressed air and use it to blow dust, hair, and other obstructions from your computer’s vents and fans. But don’t forget, do it outdoors unless you relish the thought of breathing in a dust cloud!!!
App requests: The new spam…
Are you getting smothered by Facebook app requests and invitations in your notification list? What a thrill to sign in to Facebook and see that little number saying your friends have included you in their online activities, only to open the list and see nothing but annoying app spam! How often are you seeing stuff like this in your facebook notifications?
Billy Williams has sent you a request in keg partyville
Jimmy James wants to enter your birthday in Birthday Alarm Clock
Now as much as you like your friends Billy and Jimmy, you have no intention of signing into those apps, so what do you do? Should you just ignore the request? You can, but that won’t solve the problem of you receiving a barrage of continued requests, getting them over and over again until you’re so annoyed you start seriously considering unfriending (or worse) your friends!
Step away from the unlike button!
Don’t think too badly of your friends for this, in fact, although a friend would actually have to initiate the first request according to Facebook app development guidelines, subsequent requests may be sent automatically by the app without your friend even being aware of it thanks to this little gem called Frictionless Requests that I found in the Facebook app developers guide:
Frictionless Requests enable users to send Requests to specific friends from within an app without having to click on a pop-up confirmation dialog. Upon sending a Request to a friend from within an app, a user may authorize the app to send subsequent Requests to the same friend without a Dialog prompt. This removes a Dialog from the flow and streamlines the process of sharing with friends.
So although guilty of sending the original invitation, all the annoying invites since then may be coming from the app itself, taking advantage of frictionless requests to continue getting in your face perhaps even after your friend is no longer interested in the app!
Don’t despair – Here’s how you can fix it!
If you’re sick and tired of app invites and app requests cluttering up your notifications, there are settings that can help you reign in on those spammy apps without having to resort to unfriending your bffs. Here’s the lowdown, step-by-step:
First, you need to get into your privacy settings by clicking the little arrow (inverted triangle thingy) to the right of your ‘home’ link, and choose ‘privacy settings’ from the dropdown menu
Next, scroll to the bottom of the privacy settings and choose ‘manage blocking’ in the Blocked People and Apps section
scroll down to the ‘Block App Invites’ section and start typing in the names of people who frequently send you unwanted app invites. As facebook suggests the correct name, click it, and it will be added to your list of blocked app invites. This won’t limit them from any other interaction with you, but will nicely get rid of those annoying invites.
okay, so what about those apps that seem to be on the tongue of every friend, and as a result, are all over your notifications? How about blocking the app itself? Yes!! Go to the section titled ‘block apps’ and start typing the name of the offending app and poof! Facebook will autocomplete the app name and with a simple click, it joins your no-no-please-no list of apps you never want to hear from again (that is unless you change your mind, in which case you can go into the list and unblock to your heart’s content).
Unlike blocking invites through friends which only blocks the invites, blocking the app effectively silences it including invites, updates, bragging (Bob Roberts just earned three-gazillion schmingers in schmingerville!), and whatever other types of clever communications the developers have dreamed up to entice you to join 😛
Okay, one final note before we wrap up and you head off to build some block lists… You should be aware, that when you add a friend to the blocked app requests list, it not only blocks the specific app request you’ve been plagued with, it effectively blocks your friend from sending you app requests from any app (or more precisely, it blocks any app from sending you invites through your friend). The good news though, is that even when added to your app request block list, your friend can still engage you directly via chat, message, or wall to tell you live and in person so to speak, what a great app they just discovered and suggest you check it out!
So there you are, dinner is over, the night is winding down, the kids are settled, and you’re going to get in a little “me time” with the computer. Maybe do a little online shopping, catch up with family and friends on Facebook, perhaps tend your crops in Farmville or finish up that long neglected game of Scrabble. Into the comfy chair you go, kick off the shoes, and ahhhhh…
But hello, what’s this?! Why are all your friends emailing to tell you that you’ve been sending them spam?!
Chances are your mail account has been hacked and a spambot is using it to send spam messages out, not only to your contacts, but potentially to thousands of others as well! Hackers use a variety of techniques, including phishing and social engineering, to trick you into handing over email account passwords or even causing you to unwittingly infect your own computer with trojans, worms, or other viruses that give the hacker control of, and from that vantage point, access to your email account. This problem is rampant in the AOL mail, Yahoo mail, and Hotmail communities, but is not limited to those domains and can also be seen in gmail, comcast, and verizon email accounts as well.
STICKYFIX Solution: Don’t let email hackers and spambots ruin your night (or your reputation depending on what kind of spam the bot is pushing). Here’s how to immediately take control of the situation, recover your email account, and secure it from future attacks. We’ll take it in that order, follow me…
- Take control – Check your system for viruses, trojans, or malware. One of the ways bots can get into your mail account is by using a type of virus called a key-logger that captures your email password and transmits it back to the bot. Checking for and eliminating local infection is important because further recovery steps may prove ineffective until the “spy” has been eliminated from your computer. In addition to performing a full system scan with up-to-date antivirus software, I also highly recommend that you install at least the free version of Malwarebytes and run a full scan with that as well. If either your antivirus or Malwarebytes reports finding anything suspicious, use those tools to fix, quarantine, or remove the offending elements. Now here’s the important part: If you do find and eliminate one or more bad guys, don’t rest on your laurels yet. Instead, completely shut down your computer and wait about five minutes then restart your computer and run both scans again. If you come up clean the second time around, you’re probably in good shape and can continue to the next step. However, if you again find viruses, trojans, or other malwares, this persistence may indicate the presence of a far more sophisticated type of virus called a rootkit. In this case I would recommend that you hire a professional computer service technician who has the tools and experience for dealing with this specific type of threat. One last thing before we move on: If you access your email account from more than one computer, it is important that you scan them all as described above. You may find yourself with multiple infected computers and it only takes one to recapture and transmit your new email password back to the bot!
- Recover your email account – Okay, Whew! *wiping brow*, you’ve made it to step two, so I’m going to take it that you were successful with step one. Congratulations! This next step is fairly straightforward but requires that you know the password for your email account. (don’t laugh, you’d be amazed at how many people type in their password once, click the “remember my password” button, and then promptly forget it). In this step you need to change the password on your email account. By doing so, you lock out the spambot as it has no means of recognizing the new password (thanks to step one) and so you have stopped the flow of spam. If you know your password, you can usually log into the webmail interface for your mail provider and change to a new password. If you don’t know your old password, you may be able to use a password recovery or password reset wizard that will send you new information via email, or you may need to get assistance from the tech support organization for your mail provider. Assuming you do have access to your account, go ahead and change your password, but before choosing a new password, read forward into step three about dictionary attacks and the importance of strong passwords.
- Secure yourself from future attacks – simply changing your email password and doing nothing else may temporarily solve the problem, but leaves you vulnerable to repeat attacks with similar results. There are measures you can take to protect yourself, your email account, and the people in your email address book. First, use strong passwords. A strong password is typically made up of six or more characters and includes both uppercase and lowercase letters as well as numbers and special characters such as @, %, or &, if supported. Strong passwords are less vulnerable to “dictionary attacks” where the hacker or bot works its way through a list of common passwords or other relevant word lists. As you might imagine, having a password of “password” or “password123” is far more guessable than a more random combination of words and numbers such as “Josie200doG”. The important thing is to come up with a password that’s easy to remember but hard to guess! In my case, Josie is my dog and 200 is my house number. You can see it would be easy for me to remember, but very difficult to guess! Another common way hackers gain access to your computer or email account is through social engineering. Social engineering refers to a form of trickery that plays on your values and trust. For example, you may get an email telling you your shipment from Amazon has been billed to your credit card and will be arriving next week and offers you access to a tracking website. The tracking website is a fake, but gets you to “log in” using your email address and password. Of course, if you fall for it, you’ve just handed your password over to the hacker and so, let the spamming begin! Why is this so effective? Well, if you actually are expecting a package from Amazon, your defenses are down, but if you’re not expecting a package you might think that there’s been some mistake, and you need to get it corrected because you didn’t authorize them to bill anything to your credit card! Either way, you find yourself logging into the fake tracking site and handing over your password to the bad guys. To avoid this possibility, never log into secure websites by following links in emails, even if it appears the email came from the correct source. Instead, always use your own links, favorites, or bookmarks to access those sites, or type the URL of the site (eg www.amazon.com) directly into the address bar of your browser. And lastly, when you get an email from a friend with a cryptic subject like “check this out” and nothing in the email body but a single website address, it’s a safe bet that you’re looking at an email sent, not by your friend, but from a bot through your friend’s hacked email account, and you can also bet that if you click that link, you will end up infected as well, so before you “check it out,” call, text, or email your friend and ask if they really sent this, and if the answer is no? Share this article with them because their email account is hacked and sending out spam.
This article was written by Andy Trask, Owner, and Chief Customer Caregiver at Stickynote! Tech Services. Based in Mansfield Massachusetts, Stickynote! Tech Services is a local provider of in-home personal technology services to individuals, families, and small businesses in Southeastern Massachusetts including the south shore, Cape Cod, south coast, greater Taunton area, greater Attleboro area, lower Route 128, and lower Route 495 up to the Franklin / Bellingham area. Need help? Call Stickynote today to experience world-class service!