Mar 10

Holy Resource Batman!!

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about using technology for those of us that are a little afraid of tech.  But, you know, there’s so many resources out there that I think it’s time to start taking a little tour through some of the resources that we really might not think about.

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that I might not be as “prolific” through this month, since there were a lot of personal and family things going on. You see, both of my granddaughters were born in March, so we typically go spend a lot of time in March with them for their birthdays.  Anyway, it’s amazing what I can find out when I spend time with an 8 year old and a 6 year old.

We were getting ready to go to Disney World with the kids.  And all of a sudden I heard the sounds of a roller coaster.  Then I heard the sounds of other theme park rides.  My 7 year old (soon to be 8 year old) granddaughter had taken her iPod, logged on to YouTube and started browsing the rides at Disney and Universal.  She was planning which rides she wanted to go on, and which didn’t interest her as much.  Amazing. Then I come to find out, that this isn’t that uncommon. She’s a regular using YouTube. 

But, it wasn’t just her.  Thinking back, I realized I’d always wanted to wear a real bow tie with a tuxedo.  When I finally found one that I liked, I had no idea (at over 60 years old) how to tie a bow tie.  To make a long story short, I went out to YouTube, and there were probably at least a hundred videos of how to tie a bow tie.  So yeah, I did the same thing that my granddaughter did… and learned how to tie that tie using YouTube.

So if you want to know how to do something — from sauteing onions or mushrooms, to building a piece of furniture, or even learning how to tie a bow tie turn to a resource like YouTube.  You’d be surprised what you can learn out there!

Coming up in the future… some additional resources that you may not know about!

Thanks for reading and be sure to forward, follow, comment on and share it!
 

 

 

Mar 06

Hey Honey – do you have any idea what this is for?

Have you ever found anything at your house and wondered “what the heck is this for?” Well it happens to me all the time.  I’m going through a closet and suddenly I see something like this…

Yup… the ever present cable box.  I think I have cables in there from before I got married.  I know that I’m going to use at least one of them one day, so I better keep them around. And don’t worry, I’ll remember what they go to.  No need to mark these cables.

Well guess what.  Everything electronic that I have is connected and working.  I have travel and charging cables for my phone, tablet, computer and all my other devices.  So what the heck are these cables for again?

I had at least 20 of these…

These are old RCA cables, so named for the type of plug.  Now, I haven’t used these cables in years, but whenever I get one included in something I buy, I keep it – and just throw it in the “box o’ cables”. Why? I don’t know… I might need it some day.  Guess what — all I need to do is keep just one.  The rest – off to the trash.

I’ve really started taking this to heart.  Why do I need 6 or 7 of the same types of cables, whether they’re USB, Component, Ethernet, or whatever.  If everything is connected and working, and I have my travel cables, why keep more than one of anything. More often than not, any device you purchase will come with the right cable, and if not you’ll have that one spare that you decided to keep.

Now, what about those old power cables with the “funky” connectors on one end and the little transformer box on the other.  I have no idea what they’re for, and again, if everything is working and connected, and I haven’t seen or used it in years why do I want to keep it?  Get rid of it.  Chances are you’ll never miss it.

But, be sure to organize the cables that you do keep.  Be sure to mark them so you know what they’re for.  Here’s a couple of good ideas for organizing and marking cables that are common household items and  don’t cost you anything. First, the toilet paper or paper towel roll…

Just save those empty rolls, cut them to the size that you want, put the cords inside of them, mark the roll with what the cord is for, and you’ll never forget why you saved that one.

Next… save those plastic bag closures that you get with some of the stuff, like bread, that you buy at the grocery store…

Just wrap your cable, tie it up with a rubber band or bag tie, take this little bag closure, mark the type of cable and what it goes to on the closure and clip it to the cable that you just wrapped.

And, here’s another quick tip…

[important]Both of these “organization” tools can be used the same way to organize and identify that mess of cables behind your TV or under your desk![/important]

Thanks for reading and be sure to forward, follow, comment on and share it!

Mar 03

It’s been a bit hectic

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks around here with family events and happenings, so I’ve been kind of quiet, and probably will be until the end of the month. If I get some time, I’ll try to find something interesting to talk about.

But, in the interim… I was watching TV and saw this commercial and thought — How Appropriate!

Thanks for reading and be sure to forward, follow, comment on and share it!

Feb 22

If you have an Apple device, don’t ignore the new update

I don’t want to get into a lot of details, but if you use an iPhone or an iPad, there was a problem with one of the security features of the operating system.

I don’t want to get into the details, but when you get the notice, update your software as soon as you can.  The recent release for both iOS 6 and 7 fixes the issue.

Feb 19

Candy Crush Crushes Tootsie Roll :(

Well, it seems to be official, according to every news report I’ve seen or read. The value of Candy Crush — that addicting game that I know you’re playing but won’t admit to — has been “valued” at $5 Billion (yeah – with a “B”).

In fact, I heard that their profits are now up to $500 Million.  But let’s get back to the valuation at $5 Billion.  That’s (to use Candy Crush terms) 2X the value of Tootsie Roll Enterprises.  It’s incredible when you look at the lineup of products that Tootsie Roll makes.

I just wonder how they got to the $5 Billion valuation of Candy Crush, because as far as I’m concerned, Tootsie Rolls still crush Candy Crush!

Thanks for reading and be sure to forward, follow, comment on and share it!

Feb 17

Tech Addicts Anonymous (or is it Unanimous)

I was watching the local news the other day and a headline came on and said “Are we addicted to technology”.  My first inclination was no, we weren’t. Tech is a tool — a tool that we use daily.

But then I spent a few minutes thinking about it.  In the last several days I’ve seen a few things…  First, there was a news report about how texting while walking was as dangerous, if not more dangerous than texting while driving.  Personally I think that you can do a lot more damage texting while driving than you can while walking.

But the report showed folks walking through a downtown area, looking down at their smartphones, texting and not paying attention to where they were walking or the streets that they were crossing. People kept knocking into each other… people nearly got hit by cars while walking across an intersection.  It was dangerous behavior, that could lead to serious injury.

But, it wasn’t just walking down the street.  I posted this video on my blog in June, but it’s worth repeating here…

Another report that I saw showed a family, at home, each with their respective devices (a combination of phones, tablets and laptops) surfing, playing or reading (not sure what they were doing) all while the TV was on.

And then there’s the folks who have their phone go off for every single email, text, tweet and Facebook post that comes in. Nothing more disturbing that trying to have a nice dinner or visit with friends when suddenly that ding sounds and sounds and sounds and the phone gets pulled out and looked at.  Now, I’ll admit that I’m guilty of this when it comes to text messages, but there are folks that have their devices go off for anything and everything.  I won’t even go into Facebook or Twitter — we all know folks addicted to that!

Then there’s the games… Words with Friends… Candy Crush… Angry Birds… games that we get addicted to… and yes, it’s an addiction. When I was playing Candy Crush, I would dream of those damn candies dropping and it would wake me up at night.  Game addiction is so bad that recently the author of a game named “Flappy Birds” asked to have his game removed from the app store and Google Play since people became addicted to the game, wasting both their time and his time.

Phones were being sold online, and charging a premium because they had “Flappy Birds” installed on them.  Folks figured that if you couldn’t get the game any longer, a phone with it installed was worth a lot more. I just read that the Google Play store will no longer allow any games with the word “Flappy” in the title – that’s how bad the “addiction” got.

Now those of you that know me know I no longer play Words with Friends, Candy Crush or any of the other addicting games I used to play.  I’m also making a personal vow to put my phone on “Do Not Disturb” when I want some private time, or if I’m trying to enjoy the company of friends and family. So, if I don’t answer my email or text within 5 seconds (as we all know everyone is expected to do) don’t keep sending it. I may just be in my private time.

Now,I know that I’ll forget to change the setting sometimes, but I also know that we all need to break some of the dependence, and yes, addiction, we have on our devices and just have some private time to enjoy real life as opposed to the virtual lives that many people don’t even know they’re living today.

It’s not easy, but as a former Word and Candy Crush addict, I’m here to tell you, it can be done.

Thanks for reading and be sure to forward, follow, comment on and share it!

Feb 10

This web site just won’t work on my iPad!!

In prior posts, I’ve talked about how we’re slowly moving away from computers to mobile devices.  It’s really evident in my house, as I’m sure it is at yours.  More often than not the computer sits there on the desk and you do your email, browsing, gaming or whatever on your mobile device — sometimes the phone — sometimes your tablet, and yeah, sometimes both!

But nothing to me is more frustrating than browsing the web on a mobile device. You never know what that website is going to look like. Sometimes you have to “fight” with the website to enter or find information.  Why?  The answer is simple.  Many websites simply don’t optimize their site for use on a mobile device, or they haven’t invested in a dedicated app for mobile browsing. And today there’s simply no reason not to.

When I set up this blog, I set it up so that its viewed differently on a mobile device versus a non- mobile device. Just take a look at the bottom left of this page.  You should see a link that will let you switch between the two.  Go ahead — give it a try. I’ll wait.

Now, there are some differences, and with some apps or mobile versions of a website.  Sometimes, not all of the features are available, but those that are used most often are almost always there.

I’m sure that someday, websites will be transparent, regardless of what you’re viewing them on.  But for now, if you come across a website that you have issues with on a mobile device, don’t be afraid to contact the business and let them know you’re disappointed that they haven’t kept their website up with current mobile technology. Maybe if enough people do it, these companies will get off of the stick!

Thanks for reading and be sure to forward, follow, comment on and share it!

Feb 06

Remember those annoying chirps from Nextel Phones?

Well… guess what… they may be coming back.  Take a look at what Stuart Sweet at the Solid Signal Blog had to say about that…  Just click on the logo! blogheader

Feb 04

Don’t ya just love Caller ID?

Ah… I remember the days fondly.  The phone would ring and we’d pick it up.  You never knew who was on the other end.  It could be the neighbor next door.  It could be a family member.  It could even be a wrong number.  But no matter what, you answered the phone.

Fast forward to today… caller ID has taken over our lives. Your screen shows you who’s calling — or at least the number they’re calling from.  You decide based, on that caller ID, whether you’ll answer the phone or let it go to voice mail.

But recently, there’s been a new way, using that caller ID, to find a way to part you with your money, and that’s what I want to talk about today. One of the things many of us do (and yeah, I’ve been know to do it in the past) is to take a look at that missed call and call it back to see who called us.

Well scammers have found a way to take advantage of that.  It’s called something like the “One Ring Scam”.  They call your phone (home or cell) and let it ring once.  They know you can’t possibly look at the caller ID and make a decision whether to answer the phone or not on a single ring.

Now you’ve got a missed call that you’re curious about.  So, you call back that number.

As soon as you do, the scam starts charging money to your telephone bill — The first thing it does is “cram” a charge (sometimes up to $20) onto your bill.  Then the scammers will charge you a per minute charge while you’re connected, and keep you connected they will — with messages like “please hold for our representative” or some other BS like that — all at a very high price per minute.

They’ll keep you on the line as long as they can running up your bill. And, once you find out, it takes a long time to get those charges off of your phone bill.

There’s a simple, easy way to avoid this scam…

[warning]DON’T BLINDLY CALL BACK MISSED CALLS[/warning]

You’re probably saying why would anyone do that.  Think about — we’ve all done it at one time or another. I know that I have. And they know it too!

If they make 1,000,000 “one ring” calls a day and only 1% of the people they call make the mistake of blindly calling back that number, they’ve taken at least $20 from 10,000 people each and every day – that’s $200,000 a day.

So, before you call that number back….

[important]Google it before you dial. You’ll find out if it’s a telemarketer or a scam.  But more importantly, it may save you a lot of money and hassles down the line.[/important]

[error]From Forbes Magazine – a list of Area Codes that are international but look like US numbers — be especially careful calling back any numbers from these area codes…

242- Bahamas 441 – Bermuda 784 – St. Vincent & Grenadines
246 – Barbados 473 – Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique 809, 829, 849 – Dominican Republic
264 – Anguilla 649 – Turks and Caicos 868 – Trinidad and Tobago
268 – Antigua 664 – Montserrat 876 – Jamaica
284 – British Virgin Islands 758 – St Lucia 869 – St. Kitts & Nevis
345 – Cayman Islands 767 – Dominica

[/error]

Thanks for reading and be sure to forward, follow, comment on and share it!

Jan 30

Are those pesky electronics affecting your sleep?

I read a lot of blogs and articles on quite a large number of subjects. I recently read one about the effect of smartphones (and being tethered to them) and sleep.

Let me give you the top-line in an article I read the other day written by Dan Cook for the site www.benefitspro.com.  According to research done by the University of Florida, Michigan State University and the University of Washington, findings show that the more you’re tethered to your phone, after normal work hours, the less likely you are to get a good night’s sleep.

In fact, the research showed that if your phone is next to you when you’re actually sleeping, your chances of getting a good night’s sleep fall even lower and could very well affect your performance the following day.

But there’s one more interesting thing that the research found, that I think extends way past cell phones — I’ll call it the “Blue Light Special”.  Researchers found that  colored lights and especially those pesky blue LED lights that some phones have can affect melatonin levels, the chemical in the body that helps you sleep.

As I look around my house, I see quite a few devices that emit that blue light.  My DirecTV boxes have it.  My Ooma telephone box has it.  My router and internet switches have colored lights.  In fact, just about every room in the house has something throwing off some light.

There’s a couple of simple solutions that might help you sleep a little better.  First, leave the phone charging in another room.  Is there really something that important in the middle of the night that you have to check?

Next, if you have some devices in your bedroom that are throwing off those colored lights (especially that blue one or ones that blink) get some electrical tape and cover it up.  You’d be surprised at the difference that that can make.

You can click here to read the full article.

As always, thanks for reading and be sure to forward, follow, comment on and share it!

 

Jan 27

If my phone is getting smarter am I getting dumber?

When I was growing up, our phone looked like these…

Then, as the years went by we saw a progression like this….

Next, we were all amazed when we could walk around the house without tangling up any cords…

Then, suddenly the era of being able to talk anywhere arrived…

And talk we did! You could hardly go anywhere without seeing someone talking on the phone (and more often than not, sharing more of conversation than any of us wanted to hear).

Then… they started to show up… the “Smartphone”!

They came in a number of styles and shapes, with many different features, but they were here!  Suddenly the whole world opened to us in the palm of our hands.  It used to be that we used our brains to remember stuff — some trivial, some important.  But now, that Smartphone opened up a lot of space in our heads that was previously filled with stuff we needed to know.

Who won the world series last year?  As a kid I used to be able to rattle off all kinds of statistics from sports information to different models and years of cars, and a whole host of other information – both important and trivial.

I used to know everyone’s phone numbers.  If I needed to call someone I picked up the phone, dialed the number and talked to them.  Today, I can barely remember my phone numbers (yes – numbers — cell, fax, home, work, work fax, etc.). But today, all I have to do is tell Siri to call xxx at home or mobile or work.  My Smartphone does the rest.

I used to remember everyone’s birthday and anniversary.  Between my contacts and Facebook, I don’t need to do that any more.  It’s all there.  I just need my Smartphone to remind me, and remind me it does.

I can’t tell you the number of times we’re having a discussion at dinner — with family or with friends, and someone asks a question that we really should know or remember.  But guess what.  Rather than tapping our brain, there’s a race to see if Siri can answer it faster than someone else can Google it on their Smartphone.

So I ask that question again… “If my phone is getting smarter am I getting dumber?” and quite frankly — I’m not sure.

Jan 10

Where do we go from here?

I was reading something the other day and it got me thinking.  The article was about what the future held for electronics and tech devices.  If you read my blog regularly, you know that my friend, Stuart, wrote an editorial about the Millenials that I shared with everyone. If you haven’t read it you can see it here… http://wp.me/s3Pu0L-tv

And if you happen to follow the tech industry, this week is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).  This annual even showcases the latest and greatest products and ideas in the tech world.  I’m anxious to see what’s being talked about and share some of that with you.

Anyway, all three of these things got me thinking about all the changes I’ve seen, especially related to my electronics and tech stuff.  Over the years, there’s quite a few things that were “must have” things that are no longer part of our lives or have changed dramatically.  Things like:

  • Reel to Reel recorders
  • 8 Track tapes
  • Casettes
  • Video Tape Recorders (Beta THEN VHS)
  • Black and White TVs
  • Rotary Dial Phones
  • Encyclopedias
  • Leaded Gasoline
  • Sony Walkman
  • Portable CD Players
  • Pagers

And the electronics landscape is changing quickly.

  • Desktop computers are being replaced by Laptops
  • Laptops are getting replaced with tablets
  • Music devices are getting smaller with larger and larger capacities
  • Landlines are slowly disappearing and being replaced by VOIP (Internet based telephone services) and cell phones
  • People “cutting the cord” –  getting rid of cable or satellite and find alternate sources of programming that cost less

In essence, technology is evolving and at a faster pace than ever before. So that’s what this post is about.  But, I want to take a slightly different approach today.  I could give you my thoughts about what I think might happen.  But I want this blog to be both informative and thought provoking.  So rather than me talking (or actually writing) about what I think is going to happen, I’d like you all to give me some of your thoughts.  We’ve all seen and experienced changes that have affected us.  Tell me what you think!

  • What do you miss that’s no longer with us?
  • What would you like to see happen?
  • What do you think will appear or disappear in the next 5-10 years?
  • What kind of tech changes would make your life better or easier?

Lets make this topic interactive. Take a few minutes and post a reply here.  Send it on to your friends… let them take a look and offer their insights and thoughts.  But lets’ not just lock ourselves into a simple “like” on Facebook.  Lets get a discussion going among all of us.  Let’s have some fun with this in the new year!

Thanks for reading and be sure to forward, follow, comment on and share it!

 

Jan 02

Looking for some feedback

So, the other night my wife was catching up on the blog.  And as she was reading it, she said something that kinda surprised me.  She looked at me and said that she got to a part in the post about the universal remote and got “lost” and didn’t understand what I was talking about.

So I tried to explain what I meant, and then realized, that even though I’ve been trying to keep things simple and easy to understand, maybe simple to me is complicated to someone else. But the problem is, I really have no idea what you all know and don’t.  Even more importantly, I have no idea what topics might be of interest to the folks who read this blog.

I try to select the topics based on random conversations and questions that I get. I never know when a topic might come up, and if you don’t see a post from me, well that probably means one of two things… either I got busy or I just couldn’t think of anything to write about.

[notice]So here’s the deal.  I’d like some feedback.[/notice]

Let me know if I get you confused with what I’m writing… or let me know if you simply don’t understand something. Even better, let me know what you’d like to know about.

That makes it easier for me to be able to help you use your tech stuff better.  Please leave your questions and comments here, or on any post that you have a question about or don’t understand.

Thanks, and Happy New Year to everyone!

Thanks for reading and be sure to forward, follow, comment on and share it!

 

 

Dec 26

How the $%#@ do I turn this thing on??

When I was a kid there were 5 TV Channels in Chicago – 2, 5, 7, 9 and 11, CBS, NBC, ABC, WGN (Independent) and PBS. Oh, what a simple time.  If we wanted to turn the TV on, we walked over to it and we turned the knob (yeah, an actual knob).  Changing channels was a simple thing.  If you wanted to go from Channel 5 to Channel 7 you got up from the couch, walked over to the TV and clicked the dial 2 clicks clockwise (that’s where the phrase “don’t change the dial – we’ll be right back after these words from our sponsor” came from).

Channel surfing didn’t really exist the way we know it today.  The Sunday paper came with a small TV guide.  And with 5 channels it was easy to see what was on.  Make your decision, get up, change the channel and you were set.

Fast forward to today. With VHF, UHF, Cable, Satellite, Direct Feed (like Uverse and Fios) Streaming services, DVD, Bluray, and a multitude of other devices, watching TV is a lot more complicated than back then. Just as an aside, I looked at my DirecTV Guide information.  There’s 1,380 total channels, I get 840 of them in my package and I’ve identified 130 of those as “Favorites”