All posts by Mardi Boettcher

About Mardi Boettcher

My Mission is to teach adults how to enjoy the many benefits of computer technology and make it simple, easy and fun.

What Are Cookies, What Do They Do, And Are They Harmful?

Cookies, you’ve probably heard the term and you might have some concerns about what they do, but maybe they’re just one of those “techie mysteries.”

By the end of this lesson, you will understand and be able to explain

  • What cookies are
  • How cookies work
  • How cookies help web browsers improve your experience,
  • Why websites and ad-serving companies use cookies
  • How to control which cookies get sent to you

Have you ever wondered how websites remember your username and password every time you visit, or how online stores know which items you’ve added to your shopping cart or how ads seem to know what you’ve been looking for? (kind of creepy!)

Well, cookies make this all possible. Cookies help websites and advertisers customize your online experience.

So what is a cookie?
A cookie is a small digital file that a website places on your web browsers (like Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox) so the website can identify you when you visit. It doesn’t identify you by name or by personal information, it just assigns your web browser a digital ID that might look something like this.

HTTP/1.0 200 OK
Set-Cookie: lu=Rg3vHJZnehYLjVg7qi3bZjzg; Expires=Tue, 15 Jan 2013 21:47:38 GMT; Path=/; Domain=.example.com; HttpOnly
Set-Cookie: made_write_conn=1295214458; Path=/; Domain=.example.com
Set-Cookie: reg_fb_gate=deleted; Expires=Thu, 01 Jan 1970 00:00:01 GMT; Path=/; Domain=.example.com; HttpOnly

The term “cookie” was coined by web browser programmer Lou Montulli. It was derived from the term “magic cookie”, which is a packet of data a program receives and sends back unchanged, used by Unix programmers.

Here’s How They Work
When you visit a site like google.com for the first time, Google places a cookie on your browser and the next time you visit Google, your browser automatically sends Google.com that same cookie with an ID number that allows Google to recognize you. Not by name…but as a user, using your web browser…you’re just a digital ID

All search engines and most websites use cookies. Cookies allow the sites you visit to recognize your computer when you return and then tailor your online experience accordingly.

It’s a lot like the claim check you get from the dry cleaners. When you come back for your clothes the clerk uses the number on your claim check to give you the right item. In the same way, when your cookie tells Google that you’ve visited its site before, Google is able to remember your preferences — like the fact that you want to see your search results in English or that you’ve turned on the Safe Search (a tool that blocks adult content from your search results).

What else do cookies do?

  • On weather sites they remember which cities you want the forecast for
  • On e-commerce sites they make sure all your selections are in your virtual shopping cart when you go to checkout and
  • On finance sites they allow you to easily track your stock portfolio without having to re-enter the information every time you visit

So you can see that cookies can you a lot of time and, you don’t need to be afraid of them. Like a claim check, a cookie ID is usually just a combination of letters and numbers. Most of the time there’s no personally identifiable information in a cookie file and cookies cannot be used to run programs on your computer, access information on your hard drive or deliver viruses.

There are different types of cookies

first-party cookie is the kind of cookie I just told you about – a cookie that goes back and forth between your browser and the website you’re visiting allowing that website to store information about your preferences.

There are third-party cookies that work a bit differently Unlike first-party cookies that travel back and forth between your browser and the website you’re visiting, third party cookies typically travel between your browser and the website of a company that’s displaying an ad on the site you’re visiting. That’s why they’re called third-party cookies –
because the websites sending cookies to your browser (the ad serving company) is a different site from the website you’re visiting.

Ad serving companies use third-party cookies to remember what ads have already appeared on your browser, that you clicked on an ad for a product and you saw the same ad twice. (For example, you clicked on an ad for Toyota and you clicked on an ad for Camry  twice.)

This information helps advertisers

  • deliver ads that are relevant to your interests
  • control the number of times you see a given ad
  • measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns.

What if you don’t want websites recording your preferences or ad serving companies knowing your web browsing history?

It’s easy to set up your browser to notify you when cookies are being sent, to refuse cookies from certain websites and ad-serving companies or to refuse cookies altogether.

However, bear in mind that, if you disable cookies, websites won’t be able to retrieve your preferences, or save settings to customize your visits in the future.

Nowadays, many websites show a notification that warns you that the website is using cookies and you have to click “Allow” That’s because European law requires that all websites targeting European Union members acquire “informed consent” from users before storing non-essential cookies on their devices.

So now you know

  • What cookies are
  • How cookies work
  • How cookies help web browsers improve your experience,
  • Why websites and ad-serving companies use cookies
  • How to control which cookies get sent to you

Has this information been helpful?  Has it changed the way you feel about cookies?  Please comment below and let me know what you think.

And if you have benefitted, please share this with your friends so they can “make peace with cookies” and have more fun too.

Above all else, Enjoy!

Mardi

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Microsoft logo

The Windows Store is Now the Microsoft Store

Did you notice the Windows Store is now called the Microsoft Store?Chris Hoffman on HowToGeek.com wrote a hilarious article cataloging the many ways Microsoft has confused consumers with name changes.  When I read the article, I laughed so hard, I cried.   You can read the entire original article here  Microsoft Sucks at Naming Products  by 

Here’s an excerpt:

“As you may have recently noticed, the Windows Store app on your PC—the one that offers app downloads—is now named the Microsoft Store. Of course, the “Microsoft Store” is also the name of a chain of physical stores Microsoft operates where they sell laptops. Just imagine if Apple suddenly renamed the “App Store” on iPhones and Macs to the “Apple Store”. Apple would be mocked everywhere, even on late night TV. The only reason people aren’t laughing at this new name is because no one cares about the Windows Store.”

OMG  that is so true!  Who cares about Windows apps anyway.  LOL  I’ll bet you didn’t even notice that it’s been renamed!

I’ve often commented to my frustrated students that I’m so sorry that Microsoft just keeps messing with people and doesn’t seem to have a clue about what consumers want.  Reading about the many mistakes Microsoft has made over the years was pretty amazing.

Chris suggests that “Microsoft should just name these updates after dogs.  It may sound like I’m joking, but cats worked for Apple and at least they’d be more memorable than the confusing collection of names we have now.”

Too funny!

The “Microsoft Store” suddenly replacing the “Windows Store” isn’t an isolated incident. Like other companies that should know when to quit, Microsoft keeps renaming products with perfectly good names.

If you have the time, and want a good laugh, you can read the rest of the litany of crimes here https://www.howtogeek.com/338120/microsoft-sucks-at-naming-products/

Enjoy!  
Mardi
ransomware website

How to Avoid Getting Scammed

Have you been receiving phone calls or seeing websites that claim your computer is infected with a virus?

Clients have been asking me about these scams and some pretty tech-savvy people have been tricked. Scam artists know how to scare people and get them rattled so they won’t think clearly and will react hastily. These types of scams are not only stressful and expensive, but they cause considerable embarrassment. (Here is a video of a Today Show episode that explains how one of their team got fooled by “The Tech Support scam”.)

The good news is that you can protect yourself with these Techie Tips:

First, be aware that there are many variations on this type of scam. It’s called “Social Engineering.” These scams are designed to manipulate people. Scammers use emails, fake websites and direct phone calls and they may claim to be representing Apple, Microsoft, the IRS, a Bank, Netflix, the FBI, AT&T etc., etc.. (there will me more…)

Here is the simple, easy way to handle all of these:

  • Hang up the phone or
  • Delete the email or
  • Close the window (If the window won’t close, close the web browser if that doesn’t work, shutdown the computer and restart.)
  • Do not call any number suggested

If you feel you must verify that it’s a scam, find the correct customer service number on your monthly statement and call the company directly. (If you look up a phone number on the internet, be sure that you are on the company’s website and not a fake look-alike site.)

If you get tricked by one of these scams and allow access to your computer, don’t panic. It can be fixed. You can take it to a repair shop for a complete checkup and removal of any viruses or spyware. (Let me know if you would like a referral.)

Don’t try to fix it yourself. Running a scan with your antivirus software may not be adequate. Each antivirus program has its strengths and weaknesses and you can’t depend on just one in a situation like this. A professional will have all the right tools.

The scammers may not have installed a virus but may have installed spyware, a keylogger (tracks the keys you use for typing passwords), or remote access software to give them access to your computer whenever they want. They may have only wanted you to pay for phony tech support, but you can’t be sure. You should engage the services of a professional.

If you have passwords stored in a document on your computer, you may want to change all your passwords. (Using a password manager avoids this complication.)

An even simpler solution to all of this is to use a Chromebook computer and Gmail.

Gmail is very, very effective at sending scam emails to the Spam folder and Chromebooks will not allow scammers access to install spyware. Some Chromebooks cost less than the price of a virus repair on a PC or Mac and you won’t have to pay annual fees for antivirus protection and backups. Chromebooks don’t get viruses and everything is on “the cloud” so you can’t lose your files. Let me know if you want more information about Chromebooks.

I hope this Techie Tip has increased your confidence and alleviated any fears you may have had. Now you can confidently and calmly, delete scam emails, close fake web pages, hang up on scam phone callers and enjoy a peaceful techie life!

Please share this with your friends and encourage them to sign up for Techie Tips below so they can be safe and fully enjoy technology like you.

Enjoy!

Mardi

holiday gift wrapping

Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

This week I received an email from a client about the “UPS Package Delivery Failure” email scam.  He wanted to know if it was a real threat or just a phony scare.  It’s a real threat, it’s been going around for years, and I want everyone to be aware of it.

These scam emails say that a package delivery company was unable to deliver a package and include instructions for things you need to do, that will steal private information or install a virus on your computer.

The main thing you need to remember is that a delivery company will not ask you to print anything or submit information.  If an email asks you to do that, delete it immediately and call the company directly to see if they are trying to communicate with you.

Here is a link to an excellent article on Snopes that explains all the details.

Package Delivery Failure Virus

And while we’re on the subject, now is a good time to review some other safety tips for internet commerce.

Here is a link to good information from the Google Safety Center.

Online Shopping Safety

My “simple, easy and fun” solution is to
Be conscious that there might be hazards
Take time to look at things carefully
Trust your instincts and
When in doubt, ask me

Wishing you a peaceful and joy-filled holiday shopping season,
Mardi

Black Friday Friday Shopping Bag

Black Friday Technology Shopping Guide

If you’re planning to buy a new computer or mobile gadgets this Holiday season, you will appreciate this great article from ZDNet about Black Friday deals.  They’re going to be updating it continually too.  Great service for people!  Thanks, ZDNet!

If you’re like me, and not willing to participate in the Black Friday frenzy, you may still be interested to see what’s being offered.

My recommendation for most people is Chromebooks, Chromeboxes and Chromebases.  They are truly the simple, easy and fun computer solution.  See Tablets VS Chromebooks

If you don’t have a cloud-ready printer, you might need to buy one to work with Chromebooks, but you will still spend less than it cost to buy Windows or Apple products.  Cloud-ready Printers

Chromebooks require no maintenance, anti-virus or malware protection so there are additional long-term savings.  Google Docs are included and they’re free!  No need to pay for Microsoft Office Suite.   All About Google Docs

If you are buying mobile gadgets, be sure they will integrate with your computer easily — that they are in the same ecosystem, i.e., Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft.  If you have gadgets from different worlds, it’s possible to set them up to play together, but you might need my help.  Sales Reps and Tech Support Reps, are familiar with only one ecosystem and do not know how to set things up across platforms.

Sign up for a complimentary pre-purchase consultation.  Getting the right devices that will “play together nice” will solve most of your frustrations.

Make an appointment for me to check the settings on your devices to be sure they are set up properly.  Just this week, I discovered that a client’s iPhone was not backing up her photos!  (Photo Stream only saves your most recent 100 photos and then dumps the older ones.)

If this information has been helpful, please share it.

Let me know how I can help you.  Contact me directly or post a comment below.  Enjoy!

 

Printer Meltdown

Techie Tips Live Class This Saturday – How to Buy A Printer: Tips and Tricks

Do you find shopping for printers to be very complicated and a little overwhelming? I do too! There are so many makes, models, features, and prices!

People frequently ask me what I recommend and it’s hard to know where to start.

I recently had to buy a new printer myself, and in my haste, I made a big mistake. I learned from the experience and I decided it would be a good idea to create a class on how to go about finding the best printer for one’s individual needs and budget.

This class will teach you:

  • What to look for
  • How to do research and
  • How to shop for a new printer.
I hope you will join me this Saturday, November 18th, at 9:00 AM for this complimentary online class (in my Zoom Room)

I will show you my process, some internet tips, tricks, and answer all your questions. It will be fun!

The class will be recorded, so if you can’t attend the in person, register anyway and I will send you the link to see the recording.

Please share this invitation with your friends so they can register too.

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.

When: Nov 18, 2017, 9:00 AM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Register in advance for this meeting:

https://zoom.us/meeting/register/386200396fdbb7e04…

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Hope to see you in class!

Enjoy!

Mardi

P.S. If you’ve never used Zoom before: Zoom will automatically instruct you how to download the Zoom interface and join the session. It will only take a few seconds, and you only need to do it once. You can see a tutorial video here https://youtu.be/vFhAEoCF7jg

Leo Laporte, The Tech Guy from techguylabs.com

Love The Leo Laporte Show

Do you know about the Leo Laporte Tech Show?

I’m a huge fan. He’s taught me a lot about how technical things work, keeps me up to date on new developments, and I really enjoy his sense of humor. We have the same opinions about a lot of things too, and it feels good to have my opinions validated by someone so knowledgeable.

I just roared when he said recently:

“I think a lot of what I do here in the show is I’m like Dr. Laura. It’s more emotional support– like I don’t know if I can fix your problem but at least I can let you know you’re not alone and and we all have to suffer with this. ‘Now go take on the day’ — that kind of thing. You know it’s just kind of relaxing and it’s, you know, ‘misery loves company.’ So if you listen to the show then you know we all suffer to some degree from technology. You don’t want to put up with these annoyances but we do. There’s the big annoyances which you fix but then there’s the little annoyances, like that chair that squeaks — they’re just little ones and there’s a lot of them with technology.

His advice is, to the degree that you can maybe set aside an hour a week to make a note of the little annoyances and set aside a little bit of time, not a lot, every week to kind of trim them, because it’s like death by a thousand paper cuts. No individual annoyance by itself is gonna drive you nuts but in aggregate — when you combine them all, in sum total, is a pain and the stress could shorten your life. (chuckle)

I loved hearing that because it explains exactly what I do! My tutoring is a lot about emotional support and letting clients know that we all suffer from the “squeaky chairs” of technology. I encourage people to make a list of all those little frustrations and then have me show them the solutions so they won’t suffer “death by a million paper cuts.” It’s so important for people to get over these little hurdles so they can have more fun, and it’s so rewarding to be able to help.

If Leo’s show is “TMI” (too much information) for you, I totally understand. Sometimes it’s too much for me too. No worries, I pass along the information that I think you need and I trust that you will let me know when you have questions you want answered.

Leo’s shows are available on his YouTube channel, are available as podcasts and are posted on http://techguylabs.com/ with show notes and time stamps.

Don’t suffer “death by a million paper cuts.” Make that list and call me if you need help.

Enjoy!

Mardi

P.S. Who do you know who could use my help with a list of little frustrations? Just send me their name and number. I’ll follow up and take good care of them.

Inkjet printer

When Your Printer Won’t Print…

Don’t you just hate it when your printer won’t print!!

I get calls from clients about this all the time.

The good news is that there’s usually an easy fix.

What do you think it is?

For a Printer connected directly to the computer with a cord:

  1. Make sure the printer is plugged in, turned on, and has paper in it.
  2. Make sure the printer cable is properly connected to the printer and to the computer.
  3. Check to see if there is a paper jam. Most printers have a flashing light to indicate a jam.
  4. Check to see that the printer toner, or ink is adequate. Printers will not print when even one cartridge is out of ink.
  5. Make sure the printer is switched to Online mode. There is usually a button on your printer’s control panel. If it is switched to Offline mode, it will not print.
  6. Try rebooting both the printer and the computer
    1. Turn them both off.  Then turn them on again in this sequence.
    2. Turn the printer on first
    3. Then turn the computer on.

If it still doesn’t work, the printer will need to be un-installed and re-installed.  I can do it for you in a few minutes via remote access.

Wireless Printers

Wireless printing is very convenient at times, but it’s slower and less reliable than a wired connection.  If your computer is usually near your printer, consider using a wired connection. You can get printer cables as long as 25 ft..

If Your Wireless Printer is not working:

Reboot the computer, printer and wireless router

  1. Turn off the computer and printer and unplug the router (If your router is built into the modem, unplug the modem.
  2. Plug in the router or modem and wait for it to reboot (all the lights are on)
  3. Turn on the printer
  4. Turn on the computer

If that doesn’t work, call your technician or call me for a referral to a good one.

 

To receive a handy printer troubleshooting cheat sheet and checklist to put on your printer, send me an email below.

Please share this with your friends and encourage them to sign up for Techie Tips so their techie lives can be simple, easy and fun too.

Your friends can sign up for Techie Tips right here.

Enjoy!

Mardi

Good News About the CCleaner Hack

Oh my…another security hack!  The Good news is that it’s probably not a problem for my people.  I’m reporting about it because I installed it on a few machines and I’ve seen it on many others and some of you will have concerns.

The malware was found in CCleaner version 5.33, which was actively distributed between August 15 and September 12.​  You probably use the free version which doesn’t update automatically.  So if you didn’t install CCleaner or update it between these dates, you are OK.

If you want to geek out, you can read all the gory details in this article on TheNextWeb.com  Kudos to all those who worked hard to discover and fix the problem quickly.

I deleted CCleaner from my PC because it doesn’t do anything that I can’t do myself.  I can teach you how to do without it too if you’re interested.  Maybe that would be a good subject for a Techie Tips Live online class soon.  If you are interested, let me know in the comments below.

If you switch to using a Chromebook like I have, you won’t need maintenance or virus and malware protection.  

Enjoy!

To receive email updates on how to keep your technology simple, easy and fun and invitations to free classes sign up here:

credit.com logo

More on the Equifax Debacle

In response to my last post about the Equifax debacle, one of my students sent me a link to this interesting article by Adam Levin, co-founder of Credit.com

I was curious how my student happened to find this, and I thought it was interesting that he is on the credit.com newsletter list because one of his doctors experienced a data breach and the doctor is provided him with credit monitoring by credit.com.

To keep things simple for you, I will quote the info that I found most useful but I encourage you to read the entire article, especially if you are a victim of the Equifax breach.

  • There are problems with freezing your credit report
  • The potential problems for those compromised go beyond credit cards and taxes
  • You can sue Equifax if your data was compromised
  • Tips for protecting yourself from now on

The Problem with Freezing Your Credit Report

“The New York Times reported still more bad news in the wake of the Equifax announcement.

The credit freeze service the credit bureau offered (originally offered for a fee until it finally decided to provide it for free for 30 days) generated PINs that were based on the time and date the PIN was created. These PINs are required to release the freeze whenever you need to grant access to your credit files in connection with a loan, an apartment rental, or a job application (where permitted by law). Unfortunately, they’re laughably easy for a hacker to guess before then.

The bigger problem is that a freeze needs to be in place at all three reporting agencies in order to be effective. As credit expert John Ulzheimer told the New York Times, putting a freeze on your credit with only one reporting agency is ‘like locking one of three doors in your house and leaving the other two unlocked. You’re hoping the thief stumbles on the locked door.'”

Types of Fraud to Be Aware Of

“…the threat goes way beyond maxed-out credit cards, fraudulent credit applications, and tax-refund fraud. With Department of Motor Vehicle information also in play, the risks are elevated. A fake ID made out in your name could cause you to get arrested for an outstanding warrant. In the realm of identity-related fraud products, a fake driver’s license is a luxury item for sure, but it’s still one that could hurt you if a scammer provides your information on a fake license the next time they’re pulled over for speeding or collared for a crime.

And then there’s the serious risk of medical-identity fraud. Consumers could see delays in prescription fulfillment because of fraudsters using their health care information. Worse, consumers may not be covered for health care expenses until they are able to prove they are who they claim to be using the same information that the crooks used—a frustrating and often complicated process.”

Legal Remedies

“One can only assume there will be lawsuits galore. In fact, one enterprising person has already automated the process. A robot lawyer is on the case, allowing consumers to automatically file a claim against Equifax in small claims court.

According to the Verge, consumers are still able to join class action suits while pursuing a small claims court remedy.

‘Even if you want to be part of the class action lawsuit against Equifax,’ the Verge reported, ‘you can still sue Equifax for negligence in small claims court using the DoNotPay bot and demand maximum damages. Maximum damages range between $2,500 in states like Rhode Island and Kentucky to $25,000 in Tennessee.'”

Protecting Yourself Now

“While it’s okay to hope that your services and vendors will do things right, you need to stay vigilant. And this should go without saying: if you can change privacy and authentication settings on a product or service, do it. If that’s not possible, perhaps you should consider finding a new vendor or service.

The easiest way to protect yourself, in my opinion, is by using a system called the “Three Ms.” The Three Ms is the centerpiece of my book, Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers and Identity Thieves, and the approach continues to be the best way to keep your personally identifiable information from being used in identity-related crimes.

And they are simple:

1. Minimize your exposure. Don’t authenticate yourself to anyone unless you are in control of the interaction, don’t overshare on social media, be a good steward of your passwords, safeguard any documents that can be used to hijack your identity, and freeze your credit.

2. Monitor your accounts. Check your credit report religiously, keep track of your credit score, and review major accounts daily if possible. (You can check your credit report for free at Credit.com.) If you prefer a more laid-back approach, sign up for free transaction alerts from financial services institutions and credit card companies, or purchase a sophisticated credit- and identity-monitoring program,

3. Manage the damage. Make sure you get on top of any incursion into your identity quickly, and enroll in a program where professionals help you navigate and resolve identity compromises—oftentimes available for free, or at minimal cost, through insurance companies, financial services institutions, and HR departments.”

“…Equifax is not the first, nor will it be the last, breach of note. Being prepared and alert is still the best remedy, because breaches have become the third certainty in life—right behind death and taxes.

A final tip: check with your insurance company, financial services institution, or employer. You may already have access to identity protection and resolution services, which is your best bet when it comes time to navigate the identity theft quagmire.

Many thanks to Adam Levin and credit.com for this helpful information.

I invite you to post comments or questions below and I will respond.

Enjoy your day in any case!

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