Category Archives: Productivity Tools

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

 

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The gift of technology – My top 13 Gratitude List

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  Doesn’t it feel so good to take time to focus on all the blessings in our lives?

One of my greatest blessings is being able to do work that I love and to be able to make other’s lives happier and richer.

You make this possible and I want you to know how much I appreciate you, your business and your referrals.

I love sharing my passion for technology and the many ways it can make our lives more simple, easy or fun.

Here’s A Baker’s Dozen of Techie Things I’m grateful for.  It’s not a complete list but it’s the things I enjoy almost every day.

What would you add to the list?  Share your suggestions in the comments section below and let us count the ways….

  1. The World Wide Web for education, communication and the answer to every question imaginable
  2. Google Search, Wikipedia, YouTube and all the researchers, educators, bloggers and writers that provide the information.
  3. Video conferencing apps that allow me to see my adult children who live far away and even tour their new homes, to offer remote Tech Support to frustrated clients and restore them to being happy campers and to share the joys of technology with more and more people.
  4. Email – It’s hard to remember what life was like before email
  5. Mobile phones, their amazing cameras and apps
  6. Photo sharing and editing apps
  7. Online shopping and online reviews of products and services
  8. Facebook – I don’t go there often but it’s always a good time when I do.
  9. Google Docs and OpenOffice – all the benefits of Microsoft office suite and it’s free
  10. Audiobooks and ebooks and all the amazing authors that provide education and entertainment on so many subjects.
  11. Google Maps and Google Earth
  12. Digital Music – iTunes, Amazon, Pandora, Spotify and others
  13. Digital video entertainment – movies, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and others

 

 

How To Clean Gadget Screens

People often ask about the best way to clean the screens on their computers and mobile gadgets. I’ve tried a lot of things and I’ve found a simple solution to be the best… plain water or eyeglass spray and a regular size microfiber towel.

Be sure to reserve a special towel that is used only for gadgets so it won’t have a bit of sand or grit in it from cleaning something around the house.


Microfiber towel for gadgets only
Get a nice big one and just keep refolding it into little squares until you have used all the clean surfaces. You will be able to do a lot of cleaning before you have to wash it. (Don’t bother with those itty bitty cloths for eyeglasses…they get dirty too fast and get lost in the wash.)
Spray water on cloth only
Be sure you moisten the towel and don’t spray anything directly on the glass because it might seep into the gadget.

A less “green” solution is to use eyeglass spray and a tissue.  Then you don’t have anything to launder.
If you enjoyed this tip, please share it so your friends and relatives can enjoy their gadgets more.  Thanks!

​Do You Use Skype or Face Time?

Why Use Skype?

Skype is an app that lets you connect with people using the video camera on your computer or mobile device.

Face Time does the same thing, but only works with Apple products. Even if you use Face Time, it’s a good idea to know how to use Skype as well. They are both very simple and easy to use and they are truly one of the best benefits of modern technology.

A friend of mine uses Skype to play checkers with her 9 yr. old grandson who lives out of state.

Parents use it to stay in touch with their children when they have to be away on business trips or vacations. They can read the children a bedtime story, watch them get tucked into bed, and throw them a kiss goodnight.

Several clients have had me show them how to use Skype for important job interviews. We practiced calling each other, chose the most flattering camera angle, picked the most attractive background, and discussed what to wear. It is so rewarding to see people gain confidence and be optimistic about getting the job!

Video chat is great for online dating and long-distance relationships too.

Businesses use Skype for video conferencing because they can have multiple people on a video call. They save a lot of money on air travel, hotels and meals.

On an internet enabled big screen TV, it can feel like you’re actually in the room with distant family members. You can even watch each other open Christmas presents!

On mobile phones, you can only use audio for group calls, but on your computer or internet enabled TV you can do video conference calls.

Skype also supports audio calls to traditional phones. Using Skype on your tablet or smartphone, you can call somebody on a regular telephone. This is really handy if you are traveling and don’t have access to phone service but do have access to wifi.

One of my clients who is retired from the Foreign Service, learned how to use Skype so he could stay in touch with his friends all over the world for free.

All of the features of Skype are free, except calling people on regular telephones. However, Skype phone calls are a lot less expensive than traditional long distance calls.

How to Use Skype

Skype is a free download from the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store and is already installed with Windows 10 and Window phones. (It’s owned by Microsoft.)

You need to have an account to use Skype. You can set up a free account or, if you already have a Microsoft account, you can just log in with that.

On iPads, iPhones, Android phones, and Android tablets, each version of Skype will look a little different but the functionality is the same. There are just a few minor differences on each device

When you login you will see three screens

  1. RECENT- shows the most list of people most recently talked to
  2. FAVORITES – shows the contacts you have marked as favorites
  3. PEOPLE – is your list of people you can call on Skype. They have to have an account also and they have to agree to be connected with you.

To Add a Contact

Search for the person in the Skype database. There are millions of people in the Skype database and lots of people with the same name…even unusual names. It’s amazing!

Therefore, the quickest and easiest way to find people is to search for their unique Skype name. Email address work sometimes too because there aren’t duplicates of those but it’s really easier to ask your person for their skype name.

When you find them, tap the button that says “add people.” Then tap “send a contact request.”

The person’s name will show up on your contact list but, they will not show up as online and accessible until they have accepted your request.

After they accept your request, you will be able to see their status next to their name, which lets you know when they are online for you to call them.

Note: some people leave the Skype app open all the time to receive calls. Other people text or email each other to set a time and then open the app. It depends on how often they use it.

To make a call

Select a contact and you will see buttons at the bottom of the screen. You can choose to do a video call or an audio call. They both work pretty much the same. Tap on the button for audio or video. The camera starts running right away so you can frame up your shot while you wait for the other person to pick up.

After you start talking, the buttons at the bottom of the screen will fade out of the way, but when you tap on the screen, they’ll pop up again.

You can mute and unmute your audio by hitting the mute button.

You can disable the camera by hitting the camera button if you want to talk and see them without them seeing you.

When you’re done, just hit the red hang up button.

To receive an incoming call

The app will make a sound and you will see a choice of buttons.

If you don’t want to answer a call, you can just hit the red button.

If you want to answer but only want to use audio, then hit the green button in the middle.

To see video and hear audio, hit the camera button.

To hang up, tap on the screen to bring up the controls and hit the red button

You can also use Skype to have a text chat.

On the screen, with a contact’s information, tap on the field that says “type a message”. Type and then hit the Send button. When he responds, you’ll see his response pop up.

Calling regular telephones

This feature is particularly useful when you’re traveling to a place where you won’t have a cellular phone connection, but you will have wifi.

This is called Voice Over IP, or VOIP. Using this feature, you can call a regular phone as long as you can connect to Skype on your mobile device.

This is the one feature that is not free but Skype is much less expensive than traditional long distance rates. To get an idea of the pricing options, check out their website. http://www.skype.com/en/

You can login to your Skype account on the website and add Skype credit to your account.

Or in the app on your mobile device, you can hit the “my account” button (top right), and there’s an option for “Skype credit”. This way, it’s an “in-app” purchase and it will be charged to your iTunes account or Play Store account. It will ask for your password for confirmation. Then hit “Buy”.

To make a call to a regular phone

At the bottom of the screen, there’s a dialer button and you can just dial a regular phone number. Also, there’s a button at the top that links directly to the address book on your device so you can find the person and tap on the number. When you hit the phone button at the bottom, it will dial. When he answers, you will be having a conversation just as if you were using a regular telephone. To hang up, just hit the red button at the bottom

Skype is a great app for video and audio calls because it runs on all mobile devices and computers no matter what platform. Group video calls are not available on mobile devices but video calls to individuals work.

I hope you will try this and enjoy it. If you need help, just let me know.

Please share this with your friends and relatives. Your referrals are the heart of my business and my mission is to help people more fully enjoy the many benefits of modern technology.

Thanks,

Mardi

Six Simple Maintenance Tips for Windows PCs

Most computer owners don’t know much about basic computer maintenance and their PCs are likely to slow down or crash as a result.

Of course, most of us don’t know much about cars either, but we know to give them gas, change the oil and keep an eye out for flat tires. It’s the same with PCs. You don’t need to be an expert to keep your PC in relatively good condition. You just need to perform a little basic PC maintenance and, more importantly, be observant.

Here are six simple steps you can take to keep your PC running quickly and reliably:

Windows Updates1. Keep the Window Operating System (OS) Updated with the Latest Patches

Windows Update scans your system and updates it with the latest security patches and service packs. You can schedule these updates to run automatically, so there is really no excuse for not having an up-to-date system.

To access Windows Update click on the Start button, All Programs and scroll through the list to find it.

2. Keep Your Applications and Utilities Patched  Java update message

This may surprise you, but all the applications and utilities on your system are prone to security risks and need to be updated regularly.

Programs that you use everyday like Adobe Acrobat Reader, QuickTime, Realplayer, Skype, WinZip and more require both maintenance and security updates from time to time. Even applications that run in the background like Flash and Java are at risk.

When update notifications pop up on your screen, allow them to install. Just read the screens as you go, to be sure they aren’t offering to install promotional software that you don’t want. You may need to uncheck some boxes.

If you have my business card, you have a list of safe updates on it. If you don’t have my care or aren’t sure if a pop up is a legitimate update, just give me a call.

Norton Expiration Notice3. Keep Your Spyware and AntiVirus Programs Updated

No matter how good your spyware and antivirus software, it won’t do you any good if it’s not updated or, worse, not running because it expired.

Most antivirus applications load an icon in the Windows tray, (lower right corner) which lets you verify its status at a glance. Always verify that the application is running after starting Windows.

In addition, these applications should be configured to perform definition updates everyday and complete system scans at least once a week.

4. Clean Off the Desktop  Cluttered Windows Desktop

Having a lot of files on the desktop will actually slow down your computer because each file and its icon preview take up RAM and resources. The less RAM you have the more you’ll notice the sluggishness resulting from a cluttered desktop.

It’s really more efficient to get in the habit of filing things in the appropriate folders instead of on the desktop; but if you can’t be bothered to do that, just grab all the files and move them into the appropriate folders from time to time.

If you can’t remember to do it yourself, there are apps that will automatically clean it for you by moving files and folders to a designated place at a regular interval.

IDrive Online Backup5. Regularly Backup Your Computer

Performing regular backups is essential for you to be able to quickly recover from potential disasters. I recommend iDrive or Carbonite. They are easy to set up and make it easy to restore your data when you have a disaster, or upgrade to a new computer. You can access your files from your mobile gadgets too! If paying the annual fee bothers you, just think of it as insurance, like your auto and home insurance.

6. Defragment and Check Your Hard Drive for Errors Regularly  Defragmenter Utility

In order to maintain the integrity of your data there are two hard drive tests that you should run at least once a month.

The first is to Defragment your hard drive. Over the course of regular use, your files get fragmented or spread out all over your hard drive. So while an MP3 or WMV file appears as a single file to you in Windows Explorer, small pieces of the file could literally be spread across the entire hard drive. Gathering all of these distant pieces back together into a single continuous order, makes files load faster. Defragmenting your drive can can make your system noticeably faster if you had lots of files fragmented.

The other test is Check Disk. This tool checks hard disk volumes for problems and attempts repairs. (It can repair problems related to bad sectors, lost clusters, cross-linked files and directory errors…but you don’t need to know all that.) Just remember that Disk errors are a common source of difficult-to-track problems, and running this test regularly can significantly reduce your risk of having problems.

Windows has a built-in defragmenter and check-disk utility. Just open Windows Explorer and right-click on the drive you want to examine. Select Properties and then click on the Tools tab. To defragment your hard drive, go to the Defragmentation section and press the Defragment now button. To perform a check disk, go to the Error-checking section and press the Check now button.

You don’t need to be a computer expert to keep your computer running well. Preventing problems doesn’t require much understanding about computers. You just need to pay attention and actually read those messages that popup on screen during an installation and use the tools that come with your computer.

Just follow these basic steps, and your computer will be safer and far more reliable.

4 Simple Apple Computer Maintenance Tips

Did you know that your computer needs some regular maintenance, just like your car?

Just like your car, your computer is a substantial financial investment and causes major inconvenience when it doesn’t run properly so it’s important to keep it in good shape. In both cases, you can learn how to do the maintenance yourself, or you can pay someone to take care of it for you.

If you don’t want to deal with it, I’ll be happy to take care of it for you…one time or on a monthly basis via remote connection.

I hope you find this information helpful and that you will forward to others so they can more fully enjoy the benefits of computer technology.

There are four simple maintenance tips that will help you keep your computer in tip-top shape and running at its best.:

Run Apple Disk Utility1) Run Disk Utility

Running Disk Utility every month or two is a good for: repairing permissions, and more importantly, verifying and repairing the hard drive.

Disk Utility is included on all Macs and found in the /Applications/Utilities folder, under the “First Aid” tab and can be run one after another.

Repairing permissions is a good procedure to run, especially after installing or uninstalling a lot of applications.

Repair Disk s probably the most important thing to do with Disk Utility. Be sure to run Verify Disk not only on the drive itself (physical drive name), but also the boot partition (Macintosh HD). If any errors are found, they’ll appear in red, and thankfully Disk Utility is usually more than capable of handling such repairs on it’s own.

The best way to repair the boot disk is to boot from the recovery partition by holding down Command+R and running Disk Utility from there. This will be necessary if bad blocks are found or if the drive is corrupt.

Mac Software Update2) Keep your Mac Software Updated

Keeping your software up to date is vital. Periodically run Software Update from the Apple menu, and periodically check the Mac App Store for updates of your apps too.

Updates contain bug fixes, feature enhancements, and security fixes. and it’s so easy to do there is no excuse not to.

Software Update will check for updates once a week by default, but the Mac App Store has to be manually checked for updates in OS X Lion.

With OS X Mountain Lion and newer, Software Update moves to the Mac App Store so this whole process will be automated for modern OS X users, including El Capitan, Yosemite, and Mavericks.

Mac Desktop Clutter3) Clean Off the Desktop

Having a lot of files on the desktop will actually slow down your computer because each file and its icon preview take up RAM and resources.

The less RAM you have the more you’ll notice the sluggishness resulting from a cluttered desktop.

It is more efficient to get in the habit of filing things into appropriate folders instead of on the desktop; but if you can’t be bothered to do that, just grab all the files and move them into the appropriate folders from time to time.

If you can’t remember to do it yourself, there are apps that will automatically clean it for you by moving files and folders to a designated place at a regular interval.

Set Up Time Machine4) Regularly Back Up Your Computer

Performing regular backups is essential for you to be able to quickly recover from potential disasters.

The simplest back up solution for Macs is Time Machine. You’ll need an external hard drive, but once you set up Time Machine, automatic backups occur without any effort.

If you haven’t set up Time Machine yet you really need to do so. Get a large external hard drive and configure Time Machine through System Preferences.  I’t’s easy to do and you’ll be very thankful you have a back up in the event of a hard drive failure.

You should also do a manual back up before allowing system software updates. I’t’s rare, but things can go wrong, and it’s best to be prepared.

“Listen to your Mother” and do your maintenance so you won’t have regrets later ; )

Enjoy!

Have you heard of Mophie?

Have you heard of Mophie?

It’s a compact battery that can charge almost any device.  It stores enough juice to charge two tablets at the same time… and it charges fast!

It’s great for keeping your cell phone or laptop charged when you don’t have access to electricity.  It’s perfect for long bike rides, camping trips, and road trip adventures.

It’s handy at home too. When your phone battery is low, (which seems like all the time) it’s nice to be able to talk on the phone while it’s charging without having to be tethered to a cord in a wall socket.  I think it charges my phone faster than a wall socket too!  I can charge my phone several times before I need to recharge “the Mophie.”  I’ve used it to charge my Chromebook also.

There are other “battery packs” on the Market but my friend who told me about it, did very thorough research and determined that the Mophie powerstation is the best.  If you’re constantly frustrated by your gadgets running out of juice, you might want to consider getting one.

There are smaller, less expensive models available but the Powerstation XL has the most power for the money.  Here is a link their website.

I hope you find this tip helpful and that you will share it with your friends and family members.  Please help me to connect with all those people who could be enjoying their computers and gadgets more if they just had a little help.  Your referrals help me to “restore peace and joy in the world through computer and mobile gadget education” and are much appreciated.

Enjoy!

Mardi

Money Saving Tips for Cable, WiFi and Best Email Services

Important Tips on Internet service, Wifi and Email providers.

This past week, I signed up for Time Warner Internet service, and I have several important tips for you.

  1. If you want to get your internet service started faster, you can pick up the modem and WiFi unit at one of Time Warner’s offices and hook it up yourself rather than wait for an appointment with a technician.  It’s pretty simple to do. If you should need help you can call their tech support.  I have found their customer service to be excellent.  (Sometimes there is a bit of a wait to get someone on the line, but I just put the phone on speaker and do something else while I wait.)

  1. If you will be using Time Warner Internet Service for more than a year, you can save money by buying your own modem and WiFi device rather than paying the monthly fees to use Time Warner’s.

  1. Don’t use their email service! (Don’t use Verizon’s or any other internet service provider’s either.)  If you ever change providers, you will lose access to that email address and will have to notify all your contacts of your change of email address.  You should be using an independent service like Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook.com, or Yahoo so you can keep the same email address if you move or have to change internet service providers.  

Here is a link to an excellent in-depth evaluation of free email services, courtesy of Laptop Magazine.

Yahoo Mail vs. Outlook.com vs. Gmail vs. AOL Mail

Note:

  1. I do not recommend AOL.  It has not kept upwith the latest advances and too many of my clients have had major trouble with it, especially the desktop application which crashes and ties up the computer.  I recommend that AOL users move to one of the other services as soon as possible.

  1. Many of my clients have had their yahoo email accounts hacked.  I’m not sure if it is a problem with Yahoo or that my clients have used weak passwords.  Yahoo got high ratings in the above article, so if you decide to use it, be sure to choose a very secure password.

  1. Gmail is my personal favorite, because of it’s many extra features and it’s excellent spam guards.  However, the interface can be confusing and many of my clients do not need all its bells and whistles.  If you want great free productivity tools for your business or personal life, you will love it.
If you enjoyed this article, please forward this and help your friends and relatives.

If you were forwarded this email and like it, you can subscribe here.​

No More Password Hassles with LastPass

No More Password Hassles!

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

Clifford Stoll                                      Read more at brainyquote.com

maxresdefault

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

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

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

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

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

Please post your thoughts or comments below….

Thanks!

Passwords Can Be Simple and Safe

Passwords Can Be Simple and Safe

I know you hate having to use so many passwords.  It’s a big pain to keep track of them.  You might even be using the same password for multiple sites and allowing your web browser to save them so you don’t have to login every time.

A recent article by Kim Komando, inspired me to encourage you to take the bull by the horns, do some house cleaning and start using a password manager. This will make your online life so much simpler and safer.
Here are some great tips based on her article, One secret about online accounts every computer user needs to know

You may have created dozens of accounts that have only been used once. Just think of how many times you’ve created a username and password just to read an article, play a game or download something.  This can be dangerous because your information is floating around on dozens or hundreds of websites that may or may not be secure.  Even worse, if you have used the same username and password for every site, every account you have is in danger.  A hacker who gets your account information from one site can use it to get access to your other accounts as well.

The solution is to hunt down and close any accounts you are not using and then change the passwords to your existing accounts so that each one is unique.

A simple browser trick

1) When you create a new online account or log in to an old one, your browser stores the username and password. This makes it easy to log back in later.  It also means you can go now and see what accounts you’ve created.

2) After you locate your accounts, you can close down the accounts you are not using and create unique passwords for the sites you are keeping.

3) Then turn off “password storing” and erase the existing passwords in your browser. The option to erase the passwords is in the same place you view the saved passwords.  (The Instructions are below.)

Use A Password Manager

LastPass, The last password you will ever need

 

 

 

 

 

I know this seems like a lot of work but you only have to do it once.  Then, If you start using a password manager like LastPass all your unique passwords will be stored in a vault and you will only need to remember one master password.  The password manager will even generate secure passwords for you so you don’t have to think them up. You will love it!

If you need help to clean things up or to learn how to use a password manager like LastPass, I’m always here for you. Just call for an appointment.

Invite some friends to a Play Shop in your home, community room or office.  A play shop is a really fun way to learn and only costs $25 hr. per person.

Forward this tip to your friends so they will be safe and happier too.
Thoughts or comments about this topic? Please share in the comment section below.

Instructions for web browser applications:

FIREFOX

To see your login information in Firefox, go to the Firefox menu – it’s the icon on the right with three horizontal lines – and click Options.

Under the Security tab, click the “Saved Passwords” button.

Then click the “Show Passwords” button and click “Yes.”

CHROME

In Chrome, click the icon with three horizontal lines in the upper right and choose “Settings.”

Choose “Settings” on the left, and then click the “Show advanced settings” link at the bottom of the screen.

Scroll down to “Passwords and forms” and click the “Manage saved passwords” link.

If you want to log back into your old account, but don’t remember the password, then you can click on a password and click the Show button next to it.

To see the password, you will have to enter your Windows account password, which does make it harder for casual snoops to get in.

INTERNET EXPLORER

You can’t view saved usernames and passwords directly in IE. You would need a third-party program like IE PassView.  However, I recommend that you don’t use Internet Explorer anyway.  It is easily invaded by spyware. I use Google Chrome but Firefox is good also.

SAFARI

In Safari, go to Safari>>Preferences>>Auto-fill. Click the Edit button to view the saved passwords.

Need Help?

If you need help to clean things up or to learn how to use a password manager like LastPass,  I’m always here for you. Just call for an appointment.

Invite some friends to a Play Shop in your home, community room or office.  A play shop is a really fun way to learn and only costs $25 hr. per person.

Forward this tip to your friends so they will be safe and happier too.