Archive for the ‘Miscl’ Category

The Best Alternatives to Facebook

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

By now, you’re probably aware of Facebook’s improper use of your personal data. Both The Guardian and The New York Times published explosive reports about the improper use of data belonging to 50 million Facebook users by Trump campaign-affiliated data firm Cambridge Analytica.

The incident is the most high-profile misuse of Facebook’s systems to become public, but it’s far from the only one. Russian propagandists slipped through Facebook’s advertising safeguards to try to influence the 2016 presidential election. In 2014, the social network allowed academics to use the News Feed to tinker with users’ emotions.

If all that has you thinking about deleting Facebook entirely, you’re far from alone. (Quitting the social network is also somewhat of a first-world privilege, since for many people Facebook functions as the entire internet itself.) Going cold turkey can be hard; Facebook actually provides some useful services, and there’s no one-for-one replacement.

 

Fortunately, you can pretty easily put together anything you might miss from Facebook with a combination of apps and services. It won’t be exactly same, but at least you’ll be less tempted to use Facebook. If you no longer want to use Facebook, be sure to delete it from your mobile device otherwise the app can still spy on you. Facebook has the ability to formulate your location by analyzing the dust on your camera lens! Imagine the other things they know about you.

 

News Feed

Lots of services can feed you the latest news. Facebook, though, displays the specific stories your friends and family are talking about. If you value that feature, Nuzzleis a great choice. You can sync the app to other social networks you might use, like Twitter and LinkedIn, and it will feed you the articles your friends, as well as friends of friends, are talking about. The app also has a “Best of Nuzzel” feature where you can see the stories being widely discussed across the whole platform.

For more general news that can delight and surprise, try Digg, an aggregation site that prioritizes deeply reported features on a range of topics as well as lots of fun and quirky news stories. And of course, iPhone and iPad owners can always just fire up Apple News if they don’t want to bother setting up a whole new system. None of those fit the bill?

Messenger

One of Facebook’s most useful features isn’t the main app itself, but its spinoff app Messenger. But while Messenger makes it easy to chat with Facebook friends, it’s also confusing and riddled with clutter. If you’re looking for a clean and easy-to-use messaging app, try Signal. It’s a free, end-to-end encrypted messaging service, approved by security researchers, that sticks to the basics. There are no animated stickers or fancy chat bots, but Signal does an excellent job of keeping you securely connected to your friends and family. It also has a desktop version, allowing you to sync messages between your computer and phone, just like on Messenger. Signal can import your contacts, so it’s easy to start a thread with anyone you already have saved in your phone. Signal also has several additional security features that might come in handy if you’re aiming to avoid surveillance, like the ability to set messages to delete after a certain amount of time. You can also use Signal to make voice and video calls, just like on Messenger. There are absolutely no advertisements, and the app does not collect your personal information. WhatsApp also offers encrypted messaging, using the same underlying protocol as Signal. But Facebook owns WhatsApp—and can extract some metadata from its users—which defeats the purpose of trying to rid you life of the social network. Even WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton says it’s time to delete Facebook.

Events

One of the primary reasons to stay on Facebook is not to miss an invite to a party or other event. It’s worth unpacking that notion in the first place: If your friend or family member doesn’t realize you’re not on Facebook, do they really value your presence at the event they’re planning? If someone genuinely wants you somewhere, they’ll find a way to invite you, Facebook or no. From the planning side, collecting peoples’ contact info can be a pain, sure. But that’s a one-time bother. From there, use Paperless Post for beautiful and functional email invites and RSVP tracking. And for more rote calendar-coordination, use Doodle to find the best day for a dinner or meeting that works for everyone. The site lets each guest respond with a time that works for them, so you can easily figure out how best to accommodate everyone’s schedule.

 

Birthday Reminders

Another worry with deleting Facebook is that without it, you won’t be able to remember anyone’s birthday. Luckily, there’s a way to export your friends’ birthdays directly from Facebook before you delete your account. First, log into the social network, then click Events on the left-hand side. Toward the bottom, there’s an option to add events to your calendar of choice, like Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar, or Apple Calendar. There, tap “Learn More.” (This is as of 1.1.18) You’ll be led to a full set of instructions for how to export all your friends’ birthdays. If you’re friends with hundreds or thousands of people on Facebook, it understandably might not be worthwhile to put them all in your Gcal. In this case, it might be easiest just to take 20 minutes or so to add your close friends and family member’s special days to your calendar. And really, did the annual onslaught of best wishes on Facebook add much to your life in the first place?

Marketplace

In 2016, Facebook introduced Marketplace, a feature allowing users to buy and sell items from people in their communities. As a replacement, consider Nextdoor, an app designed to keep you in the loop about what’s happening in your neighborhood. It has a free and for sale section that, like Marketplace, emphasizes local offerings, and feels less sketchy than Craigslist.

Groups

Groups are the hardest feature of Facebook to replace, since they serve a wide range of purposes for different people. If you’re looking to organize friends and family in one place, GroupMe is a great choice. The app helps create an organized group chat, where you can share photos and messages. If you’re looking for a larger circle of people interested in the same topic, there’s almost certainly a sub-group on Reddit to fill your needs.

Third-Party Logins

For many people, Facebook accounts have become de-facto identities across the internet, thanks to the social network’s integration with third-party apps like Tinder and Spotify. When you sign up for a service using Facebook instead of filling out a form with your personal information, deleting that Facebook account creates additional headaches.

The best replacement is a password manager, which can store your credentials for every site you use in one place. It can also generate a new, secure password every time you sign up for a new website or service. Here’s an in-depth guide to choosing the best password manager for you and why you should be using one. Our two favorite picks are 1Password and LastPass. While you’ll still need to provide information like your name and email address—you usually don’t need to manually input this info if you sign up with Facebook—using a password manager will prevent third-party apps from collecting the personal information you’ve provided to the social network.

One word of warning: Many dating apps require Facebook integration to work, meaning you won’t be able to use them if you delete your account. You can still create a Tinder account without Facebook, but you will loose all your current matches and conversations. Hinge and Bumble require you to have a Facebook account to sign up, though the latter company says it’s working on dropping that requirement.

One Last Consideration

While deleting Facebook might feel like a step in a more private direction, it’s ultimately not going to do much to change the online digital economy that profits by collecting your personal information and selling it to data brokers. Facebook collects arguably the most private information, but plenty of other popular social networking apps like Snapchat and Twitter collect your data too. That’s their entire business model: When you’re not paying for a product, you are the product. Even your internet-service provider is likely collecting your personal information. In fact, through its expansive ad network, Facebook even collects info from people who aren’t even on the platform.

Still, deleting your Facebook account will prevent some of your personal info from being sucked up, and might make you feel better too. And with a few choice downloads, you won’t miss a thing.

Favorite Chrome Shortcuts

Monday, August 14th, 2017

 

  1. Press Shift and click a link – Opens the link in a new window.
  2. Ctrl 9 – Switches to the last tab.
  3. Ctrl Shift V– Paste copied content from the clipboard without formatting (ie,pastes as plain text if you copied some content from a webpage)
  4. Ctrl Shift B– Toggles the bookmarks bar on and off.
  5. Ctrl Shift T– Reopens the last tab you closed. Google Chrome remembers up to 10 tabs you closed recently.
  6. Alt F or Alt E – Opens your settings menu for Chrome.
  7. Shift Esc – Opens the Task Manager of Chrome, which will let you monitor system usage by each tab and kill tabs you wish.
  8. Type a URL, then press Alt Enter – Opens the URL in a new tab.
  9. Press Alt and click a link. – Downloads the target of the link.
  10. Ctrl Shift D– Saves all open pages as bookmarks in a new folder.

Net Neutrality and Privacy

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

Last year Obama created new rules that regulated the way consumer data could be exploited by your ISP. They were scheduled to go into effect this December. President Trump scuttled this. The future of your broadband privacy is at risk more than ever.

Please contact your congressman/woman to protect the internet and don’t let our President allow companies like ATT and Comcast to control what we do on the internet. This is called net neutrality and is most likely the next thing president Trump and Congress will try to destroy. This is voted on each year, and this year could be the end of the open internet. Whether you like this Administration or not, set aside your political ideals and protest the end of net neutrality. This will only end up costing us little guys more cash to use the internet. You have let the administration take away our privacy, don’t let them allow us to be charged more for it’s use.

 

Evernote

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

During the past month many have asked what is happening to Evernote. Instead of explaing this, a blogger named Thorin Klosowski has an excellent article in the following link:

How to jump-ship from Evernote-And Keep Your Data

 

Check it out.

 

Are Your Devices Worth Repairing?

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

This is a question I am often asked concerning mobile device repair.

With the help of a few questions you can determine whether or not your mobile device it is worth repairing. Just remember three factors: value, age, and cost of parts and labor. If the device is out of warranty or an insurance policy, take a look at this article.

1. Cost of the Mobile Device
What was initially paid for the device, if it is only a couple months old? If it is a couple years old, how much is a used device of the same model number on EBay? Is the device in good condition, or is the screen scratched or the case damaged (liquid or otherwise)? If it’s already in rough shape, determine that into the value variable you’ve gotten from researching online retailers or auction websites.
If it is an older device and in rough physical shape, it may not be worth repairing. Other factors include age and cost of repair.

2. Age of the Device
As mobile technology evolves, the content that is served to the device evolves as well. One example is how older websites usually appear very small on modern display resolutions, and they often look extremely plain and basic.
Another example is many Android devices with versions below International Classification for Standards (ICS) are still in the hands of consumers. Newer apps being developed may not be compatible with anything below ICS, which means the consumer will eventually have to unlock their device to be able to flash a newer Android version into ROM for use with newer apps. (For the average consumer this means purchasing a new device).
While the operating system version of the device is important, the initial cost of the device is also important. For instance, if the initial retail price of the device is quite low compared to other devices in the same size range, age is more important because a lower retail price typically indicates lower quality, and lower quality means it won’t last as long or run some newer apps.

3. Cost of Parts and Labor
Next you’ll need to consider the parts that need replacement. How much will you need to pay, (including tax and shipping)? For an older device sometimes replacement parts will be more expensive. Not always, but sometimes.
How long will it take you to repair the device? If you’re not familiar with the model, have you researched disassembly and repair, and then reassembly? This is the biggest factor in mobile device repair. Taking apart and reassembly typically takes considerable time.
Factoring Everything
Now that you have considered the above what is the estimated value of the device given the initial price, the current price for a used device in similar condition, and it’s age? Next, what is the cost of parts and labor? How much does the cost of repair compare to the value of the device?
Here is where the decision becomes more complex because we’ve only factored in the static value of the device. What we haven’t factored in is the value of the device to you. Was it a gift? Does it have data stored that wasn’t backed up? Are you willing to pay an extra fee to recover your lost data?
With an older device, not only could it suffer damage while repairing it,
(e.g. components or case have become brittle), but it could be at the end of its lifespan. If so, you might be spending money on a repair that might only last a few months to a year. On an older device you will also have an older operating system that might be less compatible with newer apps.
In conclusion, when trying to decide whether to repair or purchase, consider the following:
1. the initial cost of the device versus a new device
2. The age of the device
3. The cost of parts and labor, including data restoration.

I can always help you make these decisions. Give us a call for help.

PF

 

Windows 8.x Graphics

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Out of some 400+ Windows 8.x installs, the main complaint other than a lack of the start menu is complaints about the video. In Windows Vista and Windows 7, Microsoft had the Aero graphics interface. Windows Aero featured a translucent glass design with subtle window animations and new window colors. Aero was discontinued with Windows 8.x. Because of this, graphics display for some users result in a sometimes blurry graphics and a somewhat unappealing text rendering.
The top complaint is text. In windows 7, under the Personalize | Color setting, there was an advanced tab that allowed you to change font and window appearance. Along with Aero, this setting has been removed. Until Microsoft re-codes these settings, about the only thing that can be done is to turn to a third party application. A company called Stardock (www.stardock.com) has a product for $10 called Stardock WindowBlinds that might help some of you dissatisfied with Windows 8.x graphical interface. Stardock is the company that produced one of the best third party appscalled Start 8,that brings back the lost start menu in Windows 8.x. They also make a program called Launch 8that adds a stationary dock to the Windows 8 start screen much like a Mac.
Stardock WindowBlinds so far appears to be the best third party app for customizing the graphics and text on the Windows 8.x desktop. There are four main aspects of your windows that you can modify: style, color, texture, and background. Styles are preset schemes to make your windows look new. Each style contains a sub style that will modify a graphic or tailor your windows and taskbars to be more in line with your current version of Windows 7, Vista, or XP. You can also add or change a texture overlay complete with various color hues. WindowBlinds enables users to customize the Windows desktop interface with skins. Skinnable elements include the start panel, taskbar, window frames and control buttons. Personalize any of the default Windows themes or any skins downloaded from WinCustomize.com or create your own skins. WindowBlinds also includes SkinStudio, a powerful skin editor application that enables you to design your own skins. Customize only the parts of the Windows interface you want to change and SkinStudio will do the rest. This makes it easy for inexperienced users to create a great skin quickly, while advanced users can still enjoy designing every aspect of the windows interface.
If you are having trouble with graphic engine in Windows 8.1, miss your Xp, Vista, or Windows 7 graphical experience, try Stardock WIndowBlinds. It has a free trial, after that it is less than $10 to purchase. Trial download at http://www.stardock.com/products/windowblinds/download.asp.

Windows 7 vs Windows 8.1

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Many of our customers have made the move to Windows 8. Now that Windows XP will no longer have security patches created, one of the biggest concerns is do I move from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 or should I use Windows 7? Windows 7 was such a good operating system that Hewlett Packard brought back a line of Windows 7 machines during 2014. The demand for Windows 7 over Windows 8 was so great, they again began making Windows 7 computers!

Since Windows 8.1 release, if you wanted Windows 7 it would have to be a custom build or you could “downgrade from Win 8.1 to Win 7 at an additional cost. We at Coast Computing have built many Windows 7 boxes for customers not wanting to go through a Windows 8 transition. So, what is the answer, Windows 7 or Windows 8? (now Windows 8.1) What is the difference between Microsoft’s operating systems?  Below are a few key differences.

 

Boot time: Windows 8.1 boots significantly faster than Windows 7. Windows 7 can take 2 to 3 minutes to boot when started, however, Windows 8.1, when configured with the hardware, can boot up as fast as 8 to 10 seconds. WOW!

 

Performance: Windows 8.1 is redesigned and uses simple colors and fewer visual effects, drawing fewer resources than Windows 7’s Aero Glass effect.

Windows 8.1 performs better than 7 in everyday use and benchmarks. Extensive testing has revealed improvements in tests like PCMark Vantage and Sunspider.

 

Features and Interface: The interface for Windows 8 has a steeper learning curve compared to Windows 7. However, using system tweaks Coast Computing can configure your Windows 8.1 computer to be a more friendly experience. Connecting to a home network is easier in Windows 8.1, and mobile device management is improved. Backing up your data in Windows 8.1 is improved along with security enhancements (see below). Also, if you have a touch screen on your laptop, the Windows 8.1 experience is surprising.

Other features of Windows 8.1 include: OneDrive is free online storage that’s built into Windows 8.1. Save documents, photos and other files to OneDrive automatically, similar to Google Drive. Internet Explorer 11 is built for touch—now with larger tabs, simpler controls, and fluid response to gestures. If you use Internet Explorer, you should always use the most current version. Skype is now owned by Microsoft, so it is now integrated within the operating system. In addition, Windows store is the place to pick up both free and paid apps. Although much smaller than the Apple store, you can still find decent apps to run under Windows 8.

 

Security:  Windows 7 and 8.1 share security features. Both use BitLocker Drive encryption, but 8.1 enables it automatically. You can download Microsoft Security Essentials free for Windows 7, Windows 8.1 has this protection built into the operating system. Windows 8.1 also includes support for secure booting on UEFI systems, making it harder for rogue malware to infect the boot loader.  PCs running 8.1 can also automatically connect to Virtual Private Networks

 

In summary, Windows 7 has a shorter learning curve to those who have been using Windows XP, however, The improvements to Windows 8.1 make the operating system an excellent candidate for laptops and computers with touch screen capabilities. It is also a more secure desktop system

XP End of Life

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

As you are all aware, Microsoft has discontinued support for MICROSOFT XP. What does this mean for you millions of users happy with MICROSOFT XP, and those who do not plan to purchase a new computer at this time?

Microsoft has released bulletins scaring you into thinking your data is now compromised, and the only fix is to spend money to upgrade to Windows 8. THIS IS NOT NECESSARILY TRUE!

Although upgrading from MICROSOFT XP is inevitable, there are steps to take that can secure your computer and allow you to continue using MICROSOFT XP until hardware component(s) break down.

The first step in securing MICROSOFT XP is to stop using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser. Without monthly Microsoft patches, this browser has become unsafe. Switch to Google Chrome or Firefox.

Next, you need to uninstall  (if used) Microsoft Security Essentials and Outlook Express. These programs will either not work correctly, or have security issues that relied on updates. Install a third party anti-virus such as Avast or AVG.

If you are using Microsoft Office 2003, beware this program is also now open to hacking vulnerabilities. You can switch to Open Office, and still have the ability to modify your MS office 2003 documents. Uninstall MS Office 2003.

 

Unless there’s a massive vulnerability that security software can’t protect against, Windows MICROSOFT XP should still have a long life in front of it. As long as security software, drivers and other applications have Windows XP updates for them, the operating system can continue to be used securely and reliably. At some point you’ll find that new hardware and software won’t support the OS, and updates stop coming from manufacturers, but until that day you don’t need to upgrade.