10 Things Every Computer User Should Know

10 Things Every Computer User Should Know

I’m not a tech support specialist.  I don’t help people fix their computers for a living.  I do love technology and know enough to help my friends and family when they have technology issues.  Over the years of helping others to fix their computers, I’ve found that most problems could be easily avoided if the user would just follow some simple suggestions.  I know that there can be exceptions to every one of the following suggestions, but for the most part following these suggestions might save you some heartache down the road.

Here are my 10 Things Every Computer User Should Know.

1 – Back up your important files.

This is an easy fix.  If you don’t know what cloud storage is, please find out.  Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, Google Drive and so many others make keeping a backup of your work very simple.  These programs put a folder on your computer.  Every file that you put in that folder will be automatically backed up to “The Cloud.”  It happens automatically each time you create a new file or update an existing file.  They each will back up many files for free.  If you have a lot of files, you can either pay for more space or use several of the different services for more free space.  If you have a lot of photos and video to backup, use Google Photos.  It offers unlimited storage for your photos for free and is a great tool for organizing your media as well.

2 – Keep your software updated.

You should be using the latest version of MacOS, Windows 10 or Chrome OS.  If you are not using the latest version, I assume you know a decent amount about technology and have a specific purpose for going in a different direction.  Your browser should be set to automatically update when new versions are released.  If you are running old software, you are putting yourself at risk.

3 – Don’t use Norton Utilities or other 3rd party anti-virus software.

There was a time when anti-virus software was necessary.  These large software packages that claim to protect you are not very helpful any longer.  In fact, they often to more harm than good.  Microsoft has anti-virus software built into Windows now.  Using Norton will often slow your computer down and cause other unwanted problems with your system.  It is not necessary.  Stop using it.

4 – Use unique passwords for each site.

The most common passwords are forms of 123456…, qwerty…, 11111…, password, 123123, 1q2w3e…, 987654321.  Even if you use what you think is a unique password “starlord85”, if you use it on more than one site you are putting yourself at great risk.  Websites are hacked all the time.  If you use the same password in multiple places and a hacker hacks into McCheesey Café’s website where you have an account, they can use that password to gain access to your social media accounts, bank accounts or email accounts.  That is NOT smart. I suggest using passwords that don’t contain words and contain numbers and symbols.  How can you remember all these strange, unique passwords?  I suggest using a password manager.  There are several out there.  Only use one that you trust, there may be some that aren’t as secure as they lead you to believe. I use and trust LastPass myself.  Also, if a site has it as an option, I would always use 2-factor authentication, especially on your main email & social media accounts as well as banking accounts.

5 – Change your Yahoo email.

If you use a Yahoo email account, stop it. Yahoo has been hacked several times and over a BILLION accounts have been compromised.  Chances are, if you have a Yahoo account, someone has access to your information.  They could potentially look you up, get your login info and, if you don’t use unique passwords, use that information to gain access to your other accounts.  Or they can use your email to send spam and/or phishing emails to others.  I know that changing your email address seems like a giant task.  It’s not as hard as you think.  There are ways that you can make the process easier and not lose access to all your past emails.

6 – Be careful using files and links that are sent to you.

If you don’t know what it is, don’t open it.  I get emails from family and friends with links and/or file attachments all the time.  If someone is going to send me a file, I usually know it’s coming or in some cases, they tell me what it is in the email.  You need to know the difference between an email that says “Dacy, check out this cool picture. From Matt” and “Dacy, here’s a photo from my trip to Hawaii that I told you about last week, check it out.  From Matt”.  I will only open one of those two pictures.  If the email is too vague and does not convince me it is actually from my friend Matt, I won’t open it.  If I do anything, I would call Matt and ask him about it before I opened it.  There was a recent bug that went around that involved a friend sharing a Google Document with you.  Same thing here.  I got a few from my friends but didn’t click on it.  If you don’t know anything about the Google Doc, don’t click on it.  Also, be careful clicking on any links that are emailed to you.  If you hover over the link, you should be able to read where the link is sending you.  A site that says http://google.feedback.gactnow.com is not a google address.  If you click on it, you will be going somewhere on the gactnow.com website and who knows where that will lead.

7 – Get the computer that is right for you.

I am often asked “Are you a Mac or PC guy?”.  Don’t let anybody tell you that one type of computer is the best computer to get.  Macs, PCs and Chromebooks are all great computers.  I have one of each sitting on my desk.  Give me a task and I’ll use the one that is most appropriate to complete the task.  Many people want a computer for simply surfing the web, streaming video and/or working on documents.  If that’s all you are going to use it for, you don’t have to spend big bucks for Mac or PC.  You don’t need the complexity of a PC for those things.  A Chrome OS computer might be the best bet for you to purchase and for a fraction of the price of some other computers.  If you are a big time gamer (high-end games, not solitaire), then you’ll definitely want to stay away from Chrome OS and lean toward a PC or in some cases a Mac (depending on your game choices).  Having a computer that is more complex than it needs to be for your use, can put you at risk.

8 – Don’t actively use your computer as an administrator user.

Are you using your computer as an administrator? You can easily create a new limited user and use that account.  This can prevent bad guys from installing bad things on your computer.  With a limited user, the background install will be blocked.  This is extremely important if you have someone else using your computer on a regular basis.  Even if it’s only you using your computer, it is a smart thing to do.

9 – Use Social Media wisely.

If you get a friend request from somebody you are already friends with, don’t accept it.  Report it to your friend as well as to Facebook.  Don’t post personal information in public.  I am amazed at what I see people post on the internet.  I’ve seen friends post photos of their new Driver’s License and/or pictures of items containing their address and/or other personal information.  Think before you post.

10 – Don’t believe everything you read/hear.

If something pops up somewhere on your screen that says that you are infected, whatever you do don’t download what they want you to download to fix it.  Close your browser/restart your computer.  Someone may even call you on the phone and tell you that your computer is messed up in some way.  Don’t believe them.  Don’t purchase anything from them.  Don’t give them access to your computer. Don’t go to their website.  Don’t fall for some of the oldest tricks in the book.

Long-time Samsung user’s first 2 months with a Pixel phone

Long-time Samsung user’s first 2 months with a Pixel phone

Let me start by saying that I’ve been a devout Samsung phone user since falling in love with the first one back in 2010.  In fact, my last 9 personal phones have been:

  • Samsung Galaxy S
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
  • Samsung Galaxy S 4
  • Samsung Galaxy S 5
  • Samsung Galaxy S 6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 5
  • Samsung Galaxy S 7
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 7

I’ve had experience with many of the Nexus phones as well.  Each one of my kids have had a Nexus phone at some point in their lives.  I’ve really liked the clean look and feel of the raw Android operating systems on those devices.  Hardware-wise, they didn’t compare to Samsung though.  Screens and Cameras were just not up to the standards I wanted in a phone.  If Samsung would have offered their devices with the clean Android OS at launch, I would have jumped on it.  They never did.

This year, after using my Galaxy S 7 for the first half of the year, I traded it in for the Galaxy Note 7.  In my opinion, the Galaxy Note 7 was the best phone ever made.  I  loved everything about it.  After not liking the “curved screen” of the past few Galaxy phones, I finally even liked this fine tuned version. I was happy.

After the 2nd recall, I kept my phone as long as I could before finally having to turn it in.  I didn’t want to go back to a phone I’d already owned so I purchased the Google Pixel XL in Really Blue.

With many of my most recent Samsung phones, I used the Google Now Launcher instead of Samsung’s TouchWiz launcher so I was pretty comfortable with the Pixel Launcher from the start.

I love the camera in the Pixel.  It’s the best camera (in a phone) that I’ve ever seen.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that most high-end phones have great cameras now days.  The Samsung Galaxy S 7 and Note 7 and iPhone 7 cameras are awesome.  I would be satisfied with any of those cameras but I wouldn’t trade my Pixel camera for any of them.  It has great features for manually taking photos as well as takes fantastic fully-automatic photos.

The speed of the phone is just as it should be – Super fast!  Google Assistant integration is nice but I find that I don’t use it very differently than than I used Google now in the past.

I like the fingerprint reader on the back, better than the front – most of the time.  The only exception is when the phone is sitting on surface with the back covered.  I then either have to pick up the phone or use my PIN rather than the fingerprint reader to turn it on.  The Galaxy Note 7’s iris scanner would be useful here.  For the most part it’s not an issue.  I have the phone automatically unlock when I’m in my car or my house so I don’t have to unlock it at all in those locations.

One of the best features of the Pixel is the OS security fixes and upgrades.  With this phone, I don’t have to wait to get the latest operating system like I had to with the Samsung devices.  This is huge!  I want to have the latest software.  If Samsung doesn’t fix this issue, they may lose a lot of customers.

Wasted Space

Wasted Space

One thing that I really like about Samsung and I’ve never understood about Android (and iPhone for that matter) is the lack of hard buttons.  I loved that there is a specific “back” button on the phone.  Why have it waste screen space when you could use that large space at the bottom of the phone for the button?  It just seems like a waste to me.  Recently there has been a lot of talk about upcoming bezel-less phones.  When the screen comes all the way to the bottom of the phone, I’ll be a proponent of on screen buttons but until then, I want to use that space at the bottom of the phone for something useful.  It’s taken a little getting used to the “soft” buttons but I have finally stopped hitting the blank space expecting something to happen.  On a side note, I like that the back button is on the left rather than on the right (like Samsung’s devices).  It makes more sense that way.

Wireless Charger

Wireless Charger

I really miss wireless charging.  I have 4-5 wireless charging stations that I used to use regularly – On my desk, in my car, by my bed, by my TV, in the garage….  I got used to setting my phone down in specific places while it charges.  All phones should have this feature, it’s really nice.  On the other hand, the battery in the Pixel has been great.  I’ve never run completely out of battery power during the day (although I’ve come close a few times).  With wireless charging though, I could always keep my phone charged and ready just in case I have a really late night.

I liked the Samsung screen quality better. There’s nothing specifically wrong with the Pixel screen, I just like the Samsung better. I miss the always on screen of the Galaxy 7.  I like to see the time without having to touch my phone.

I’m not one to care as much about the external design & appearance of a phone as much as what it can do on the inside.  The design and build quality of the Samsung Note 7 was far more attractive than the Pixel.  When I held the Note, it felt like a solid, quality product.  When I hold the Pixel, it doesn’t quite have that same feel to it.  I personally don’t mind that but I know many people do.

For the most part, I really like the Pixel phone.  It’s a great product.   Will I stay a Pixel user when Samsung comes out with a fancy new phone?  I’m not sure.  The Pixel is missing some useful features that I really like but it also will stay up to date with the latest software.  We’ll have to see what the Galaxy S 8, Galaxy Note 8 and the Pixel 2 look like later this year.

Android Wear 2.0 and the LG Watch Sport

Android Wear 2.0 and the LG Watch Sport

After having 3 other watch wearables in the past few years, I decided to try the new LG Watch Sport with Google’s new Android Wear 2.0 operating system.

With my other watches, my favorite feature was simply the notifications.  I love not having to get my phone out of my pocket to see who is calling or texting me.  That feature alone will keep me looking for the perfect watch.

My new watch offers many new features that some of my past watches didn’t have.

  • Make and receive phone calls, even without your phone (Sim card required).
  • Send and receive message, even without your phone (Sim card required).
  • NFC chip for use with Android Pay.
  • Built in GPS for stand alone use.
  • Crown and customization buttons make it very simple to get around.
  • Google Assistant built in.
  • Works with Android and iPhones.

While I do love the newly redesigned interface and operating system, there are some major downsides to this particular watch when it comes to hardware.

  • It’s large.  I love slim watches.  This is definitely not a slim watch.
  • While it works with a Sim card to make calls without needing your phone, it’s not really easy to change the Sim card.  I can’t remove my Sim from my phone and put it easily in the watch before I go for a jog.  I need a special tool to remove the back to do it.  It would work best if it had it’s own Sim card (which you’d have to pay for).  *Maybe a Google Fi Sim card could be handy here.
  • The band is not changeable.  They’ve put part of the antennas in the watch band.  For this reason, you are stuck with the band it comes with.  This also makes the band a little stiff and not as comfortable as it should be.
  • The battery drains quick.  Near dinner time, my battery is very low.  It eventually goes into battery saver mode at 15% and turns off most features including the always on screen.

Basically, I love the features and the software but don’t like the implementation as a watch.  I’m hoping that in the near future, technology will improve enough to get the same features in a smaller, more comfortable watch with a battery that lasts all day.

Google found a place in my Home

Google found a place in my Home

I’ve had an Amazon Echo (Alexa) in my house for quite a while.  One of “Alexa’s” biggest disappointments is her lack of knowledge.  Often, after hearing Alexa say “I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question you asked.”, I found myself turning to Google on my phone for the answer.

The Google Home is an Echo-like assistant for your home that has the knowledge base of Google behind it.  I can also control my IoT devices like WeMo, SmartThings and Philips like my Echo does. After using it since November, I feel I have a decent understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of using it vs. the Amazon Echo.


  • Smarter – It has the power of Google Search behind it so it can answer far more questions than the Amazon Echo.  Google Assistant can be a useful tool.
  • Better Looking – Sure, it does look like an air freshener but it’s better looking than the original Amazon Echo.  You can also change the color of the Google Home if you are into that type of thing.
  • Music – It works seamlessly with Google Music, which I like better than Amazon’s alternative.  Services like Spotify and Pandora work on either unit.
  • Sound – Music sounds a lot better coming from the Google Home speaker than the original Amazon Echo.  *I also have an Echo dot.  Using the Echo dot with an external speaker is a nice feature.
  • Chromecast Support – We have 6 Chromecasts in our house.  I love that I can say:
    • Play 80’s rock music in the Living Room
    • Play Justin Timberlake music upstairs
    • Play Studio C videos on the Family Room TV


  • It’s younger than Amazon Echo.  Since the Echo has been around longer there are far more devices and partners that work with it.  They both are adding new features all the time but since the Echo had a head start, it had the advantage.
  • Ordering product.  There’s something really nice about saying “Alexa, order more AA batteries” when you are running low that makes the Echo very nice.  Amazon has a great advantage here.

Overall, I really like the Google Home.  Unless you want the ability to order directly from Amazon with your internet connected assistant, I would suggest the Google Home over the Alexa.  For now, both devices have a place in my home.

The Pains of Supporting Crowdfunded Projects

The Pains of Supporting Crowdfunded Projects

kickstarter_logoIn recent years crowdfunding has become a pretty big thing.  Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the internet.

I’ve never started a crowdfunding project myself but I have a few friends who have found a lot of success using it as a funding method.  I’ve also created videos for crowdfunded campaigns.  Most crowd funded campaigns have videos that are shared on social media in attempts to find additional backers for the project.  A funding goal is set and if the project meets that goal through financial pledges, then the project is funded.

I have supported a wide range of projects at different stages of the crowdfunding process.  Here are some examples of projects that did get fully funded:

  1. indiegogo_logo_detailCamera Equipment – I supported a project for a new design of camera gear from a well established manufacturer.  My support would give me one of the new products.
  2. Movie Production – I supported a project to fund an upcoming movie.  My support would give me a copy of the movie Blu-ray as well as the soundtrack on CD.
  3. Book Publishing – I supported a project to fund the publication of a book.  My support would give me a copy of the book.
  4. Household Item – I supported a project that had already been funded and shipping was set to start in a few weeks.
  5. Audio Equipment – I supported a project for a new type of audio microphone.  The item was fully designed and waiting for manufacturer funding.

Each of these projects looked like a slam dunk.  I would pay upfront for the project and get the product in return.  Supporting the project in this way would support the creator of the project as well as give me the product for a cheaper price than if I waited and purchased the product when it was available on the shelves.  What I’ve learned is that things don’t always go as planned.

Lessons Learned

Here are some of the lessons that I’ve learned.

  • Items don’t always work as well as you think they will.  In the case of the camera equipment above, the prototype seemed to work great in their project video.  It could save me time and at the same time, make my videos better.  During the production process, decisions had to be made and the product changed slightly here and there resulting in a product that wasn’t all it could be.  After receiving the product, I tried and tried to make it work as advertised but ultimately it ended up gathering dust in my garage.  I never did use it in a real production.
  • Projects aren’t finished on schedule much of the time.  I have had to wait longer than expected in most cases.  One of the projects I was most excited for still has not started manufacturing and it’s been over a year since it was funded.  They’ve had to change their design many times.  They’ve had to change manufacturers many times.  They also physically moved their offices to another country, all while we are waiting for our finished projects.  You’ve got to remember that many of these projects are not started by experienced business professionals.  They don’t know what it takes to get items manufactured and shipped.  Even the project I supported (number 4 above), that was due to ship within a few weeks last April, still has not shipped.
  • Many Projects aren’t funded at all.  I can’t tell you how many projects that I’ve backed that ultimately do not get funded.  It’s not easy to raise a couple hundred thousand dollars for a new project.  You don’t get backers just by putting up a posting.  You have to actively sell the product to get the backers necessary.

I’m not saying crowdfunding is not worth it.  I love the concept.  I love supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs.  You just have to realize what you are getting into.  I’ve had very successful experiences as well.  I have a friend who has funded many projects using crowdfunding.  He provides a great product and does it in a timely manner.  You just shouldn’t expect that from everybody, every time.

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