TechByter Worldwide for 2012

More recent programs are at the top and older programs are further down. That is to say that we use an inverse chronological ordering. Click the program date to visit the summary for that program. The audio for each program will be near the bottom of the page.

30 Dec 2012

A Little Raspberry Pi for the New Year: At a time when the trend in computers continues to accentuate more speed, more memory, larger hard drives, and more power, the little Raspberry Pi is going the other way: Smaller, less powerful, no hard drive. Wimpy, in other words. But these tiny computers (the basic model costs less than $50 but you'll have to add a few components if you want it to do anything) can fill a specialized niche.

So Really ... What's to Like About Windows 8? Although some of the pundits are finally beginning to realize that Windows 8 makes considerable improvements in the user experience, far too many still see nothing but inconvenience for users. The gloom-and-doom brigade will continue to chant their dirges, I suppose, but I can find little to agree with. That's not to say that Windows 8 is perfect. In fact, I've found some things that I don't like but surprisingly most of those involve Windows 8 on a tablet. Where Windows 8 is supposed to be such a disaster, I've found nothing to complain about and several features that I like.

Short Circuits: Big Trouble for Marvell Technologies: Chip manufacturer Marvell Technologies has a problem. The company manufactures high-performance processors, broadband & wireless transceivers, storage controllers, and LED processors. It has also just been found guilty of patent infringement and ordered to pay $1 billion 170 million dollars. And it could get worse.

Does Instagram Employ Either an Attorney or a Public Relations Professional? That was my question as the on-line photo sharing operation announced that it intended to sell users' photos without their knowledge or consent and also that they would not compensate users in any way. A large amount of fecal matter came into contact with the rotary air-distribution device almost immediately. If Instagram employs either an attorney or a PR professional, I would hope that both of them raised serious concerns about this idiotic plan.

One Highlight of 2012: George Takei: If you're a fan of (the original) Star Trek, you'll recognize the name George Takei. In 2012 this 75-year-old actor became a sensation on the Internet because of his regular posts (multiple posts daily) to Facebook. Best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the television series Star Trek, he also portrayed the character in 6 Star Trek feature films and in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. His posts to Facebook are ones that I often share.

23 Dec 2012

TechByter Worldwide always takes Christmas week off but please click the link above to see the holiday greeting.

16 Dec 2012

Buying a New Computer? Beware the Crapware! This is a topic I've mentioned before but it's important this time of year because so many people buy new computers around the end of the year. Computer manufacturers are always trying to boost their margins. Five or ten dollars per computer might not seem like much but if you sell millions of computers, it adds up. Manufacturers install "helpful" applications on your computer and tell you that they're useful. What they don't explain as well is that the applications are trial versions and the manufacturers receive payments if and when you buy the full version of an application. You can remove or avoid this junk.

Pixels May Be on the Way Out: Whether you pronounce it pix-EL or PIX-el, these little dots have been the basis for televisions, computer screens, and digital photography. The tiny square dots (millions of them) are what make up the picture from your camera but a British firm says that the pixel's days are numbered.

Looks Like Spectrum Usage Will Change. Again. In the old days, the Federal Communications Commission and the International Telecommunications Union chopped up the radio spectrum into specific chunks: This piece was for use by international shortwave broadcasters, that one was for TV stations, other chunks were allocated to amateur radio, police, or taxi cabs. That system worked well for several decades. Then came computers and cellular telephones.

The Adobe Report: I (only half) jokingly suggested to one of my contacts at Edelman PR, the company that represents Adobe, that I'm going to have to start a new program just to report on updates from Adobe. This week there were updates to Camera Raw (which means that Lightroom has also been updated) and Photoshop has some new features.

Short Circuits: Are We Really Too Stupid to Use Windows 8? I continue to encounter "reports" by computer "experts" who say that Windows 8 is a disaster. In general, these are the same people who said that Windows 7 was a disaster and who said that Vista was a disaster (well, blind luck allowed them to get that one right.) Before that, they had said that XP was a disaster. And Windows 2000 was a disaster. You may have noticed a pattern here. Whatever version of Windows was new and different was "a disaster". By the "logic" put forth by these pundits, only DOS 1.0 was perfect. So I was surprised to see a report that praises an HP laptop.

Redbox Prepares to Fire a Salvo at Netflix: The clear leader in video streaming today is Netflix, just as the company is the leader in DVD rentals, but Redbox (the operator of those red boxes that rent a limited range of DVDs from locations in and near stores) is about to launch a streaming service.

Life on the Bleeding Edge: The desktop system upgrade (new hardware and Windows 8) that I wrote about earlier this month included a solid-state hard drive that has dramatically improved the startup time but it also caused a bit of consternation when it suddenly disappeared. When I say "disappeared" I mean that the computer would no longer boot and the disk drive didn't appear in the BIOS list of drives. This account also illustrates why I continue to recommend dealing with a local system assembler who will be interested in ensuring your satisfaction.

09 Dec 2012

Everything but the Facebook (Photo) Sync: In the past, Facebook has made some unfortunate security choices. Assuming, for example, that everyone would want to expose everything they post to everyone in the world. Over the years, that has changed and the new photo-sync function is a good example of the change but there's still reason for concern.

Computers May Kill Jobs But They Also Create Jobs: The personal computer has been one of the most revolutionary inventions in history because it allows us to do things that we could never do before. But the personal computer has also destroyed jobs and, in some cases, entire industries because it allows anyone to do things that once required a craftsman and the results have not always been good. On the other hand, personal computers have made it possible for people to do things they never could have done before and this has created jobs and entire industries. So if you view computers at job takers, that's only half of the story.

Some Things Never Change: Ten years ago this month, I wrote "Linux keeps chewing on the corners of computing" and in the years before and after 2002, I've written about Linux many times. Despite the fact that Linux would serve most users well, it has never gained widespread acceptance. In fact, except for IT specialists, it has never had any traction at all. Will it ever? Have you considred Linux?

Short Circuits: Drip. Drip. Drip. "Excuse me, United States and England, but there seems to have been a bit of a data leak." (Signed, Switzerland.) This is not the kind of message you want to receive if you're running a spy agency but that's exactly what Switzerland's intelligence service has reportedly been telling their US and British counterparts.

Guess What's Twenty Years Old! Writing in TechCrunch, John Biggs reminds us that text messages are now entering their third decade. It was in December 1992 that Neil Papworth, an engineer at Sema Group in Newbury, Berskshire, England sent a Merry Christmas message to a friend at Vodafone. At first, texting (also known as SMS - short message service) was a flop.

Clean Room Inventor Willis Whitfield Has Died: The clean room, these days, is ubiquitous and well known. Highly-filtered air is pumped in, providing positive air pressure so that dust and other assorted junk won't get in. If you work on electronic devices, you're familiar with clean rooms and the man who invented them is dead.

02 Dec 2012

Windows 8: How Do You Get There from Here? My position on Windows upgrades from one major release to the next (Windows XP to Windows 7, for example) is that it's generally better to perform a new installation or to wait until you buy a new computer and my experiences with Windows 8 has been much the same as with earlier versions. Which process is right for you may depend on how you use the computer.

Making Windows 8 My Own: If you're thinking about upgrading to Windows 8, I hope that my experiences will be helpful. There are significant differences between Windows 7 and Windows 8 but the one that seems to have caught everyone's attention is that the Start Menu no longer exists and many consider this to be a disaster. I have to admit that I was among this crowd a year ago but today my position is this: A Windows installation without a Start Menu is like a fish without a bicycle. I'll explain why.

Batting Outlook Out of the Park: When I installed Windows 8 on the desktop computer and followed that with Office 2013, the time seemed right to take a look at Outlook. Although I'm required to use Outlook at the office and I like the calendar and contact sections of Outlook, I've never been able to make peace with the e-mail component. Maybe the 2013 version would be different.

Short Circuits: Would the Latest Facebook Fraud Fool You? Probably not. You've seen these ploys deconstructed on TechByter Worldwide before and this one is nothing special. It's a bit different in that it closely mimics the appearance of a message from Facebook but the fact that it comes from an individual user at AOL should be enough to warn you away from the link.

"Don't Be a Petraeus" — The General Must Be Proud: We like to think that generals who serve in hostile parts of the planet during wars and who then become head of the Central Intelligence Agency to have a certain degree of intelligence when it comes to security. The Petraeus soap opera suggests otherwise and the Electronic Frontier Foundation has come to the rescue with a tutorial called "Don't be a Petraeus: A Tutorial on Anonymous Email Accounts."

Ballmer Says Microsoft is in the Portable Market to Stay: At Microsoft's annual stockholders meeting, CEO Steve Ballmer said that he should have moved faster to transition the company so that it could take advantage of portable computing, and particular tablet-based computing that is a piece of the market dominated by Apple's Ipad.

Will the United Nations Regulate the Internet? More than 2 billion people around the world use the Internet now and there is no central administration. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is probably the closest thing to a governing body and its primary goal is simply to maintain stable operations. No national or international body controls the content.

25 Nov 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! There is no program this week but the TechByter Turkey offers his greetings.

18 Nov 2012

The Easy Way to be a Television Producer: I installed a review copy of Adobe Premiere Elements in September and have been trying to find time since then to take it out for a test drive. Instead, the introduction turned out to be a trial by fire in the week after a niece and nephew were baptized. I took along a Canon point-and-shoot camera that could record video. With more than an hour's worth of raw video, I was faced with finding a way to edit it to a more manageable length while still retaining the flavor of the event.

What (If Anything) Does Windows 8 Offer Your Business? Windows 8 is here. You already know that I like it on two notebook computers. Time will tell what I think of it on a desktop system but, starting next week, that's the operating system that will be on my desktop system, the one that doesn't have any touch-screen functionality. But, in all honesty, neither of my notebooks has touch-screen functionality either. So what does this new offering from Microsoft mean if you're a business owner?

Three Spams for the Price of One: Earlier this year, I reported a Microsoft researcher's conjecture that cyber crooks claim to offer great riches from Nigeria because making money depends on quickly and accurately identifying stupid people. Sometimes, though, the ploy doesn't feature Nigeria, and recently I was advised that Google wanted to give me "GBP £950,000.00 {Nine Hundred and Fifty Thousand Great British Pounds Sterling}" because of the company's 15th anniversary. But this is the week that I also received the Cinderella spam and even one that wants to convince me it's from the IRS.

Short Circuits: At Microsoft, Windows Head Heads out the Door: If the choice came down to Steven Sinofsky or Steve Ballmer stepping down, one might reasonably have wished that it would have been Ballmer and not Sinofsky who departed Microsoft. Whether that statement is valid or not won't be answered right away. It may not be answered for year. But the decision by Sinofsky to quit and by Ballmer to accept the resignation will have long-lasting effects.

Take a Free Online Class and You Might Earn College Credit: If you take one of about 200 classes from more than 30 universities via the Coursera online service, you might earn college credit for the work. The American Council on Education is considering the recommendation but don't get too excited just yet because a pilot project would provide credit for just a handful of classes and each college or university would have to determine whether or not to accept any given class and, if so, how much credit to grant. But it's a start.

No Program Next Week: Next weekend is the weekend after Thanksgiving and there's usually not a program the weekend after Thanksgiving. In addition, this week is the 40th wedding anniversary of the TechByter and Mrs TechByter. In addition to the addition, this is the week that some of the TechByter Worldwide hardware is being upgraded so between the post-Thanksgiving stupor, the anniversary, tearing the work area apart and putting it back together again, silence seemed to be a good choice. We'll be back the first weekend in December.

11 Nov 2012

Passwords Are All That Stand Between You and Thieves: How many messages do you receive every week that claim to be from people you know and may come from their computers but contain either spam messages or malware? It's a rare week when I receive no messages like this. In some cases, people have been victimized more than once. That's because they continue to use easy-to-guess passwords such as "ABC123", "LetMeIn", or even "password". As more of us deal with online businesses and as more of us store data online, passwords become increasingly important. It's not hard to devise secure passwords.

How to Be Your Own Domain: If you're in business, you already know that you need a domain name even if you choose not to have a website. A follow-up message from "" will raise questions in the receiver's mind about how large the real estate business is and how serious it is about being in business. A message from "" sends a much more professional message. But should individuals should consider creating a domain name, too? My answer is Yes. (Note: The domain "" exists but it is not associated with any realty company. It's just an example that I pulled out of thin air. Don't go there.)

Have You Turned 64 Yet? 64-bit computing has been available since about 2001 and it's continuing to catch on, but slowly. If you're in the market for a computer this year or next, now might be the time to consider 64-bit hardware and a 64-bit operating system. Less than 1% of Windows XP users installed the 64-bit version. Only 11% of Vista users installed the 64-bit version. But Windows 7 broke through the clutter and, about 2 years ago, half of Windows 7 users had moved to 64-bit systems. That number should rise with the advent of Windows 8.

Short Circuits: What Can We Say About Electronics During the Election? Apparently not much. There were a few random voting machine irregularities reported but nothing that looked particularly suspicious. Let's consider what happened and look at ways to make the electoral process better.

The Incredible Shrinking Disk Drive (Price): It's time to upgrade some hardware at TechByter Worldwide in advance of installing Windows 8 on the primary desktop computer. Two of the most astonishing things I've seen in the review of options with Marshall Thompson at TCR Computers are the prices of disk drives and memory. Three years ago, I migrated to a 64-bit system, which meant that I could install more than 4GB of RAM in the computer. I installed 8 even though I knew that 16 would have provided better service. This time around, it will be 32GB of RAM in conjunction with a solid-state drive (SSD) for the operating systems and 2 new 2TB drives for storage. (Video files, photos, and audio files can take a lot of space.)

Suit-Happy Apple Smacked Out of Court: This week a federal judge booted Apple’s patent abuse lawsuit against Google’s Motorola Mobility unit out of court. Apple has been trying to beat back the attack of the Android devices and this is a setback for Apple's attempt to eliminate rivals from the smart phone marketplace.

04 Nov 2012

Your New Office Will Be Ready Soon: The day before Windows 8 became available, Microsoft released Office 2013 to manufacturing and made the code available to TechNet subscribers. I had been using the Preview edition and the Preview code is similar to the final version but I suspect that some debugging code had been maintained in the preview and that led to a few operational problems so I wasn’t willing to say much about it, pro or con. With the RTM version in hand, I can, and mostly what I can say is pro.

Beware that Thumb Drive! Thumb drives are all but indispensable these days because they hold gigabytes of data that you can transfer from the office to home and back again. But they're a nightmare for the IT department and some companies forbid their use. If you're caught with one, you could be fired. That's because thumb drives with gigabytes of corporate data can be lost or stolen. Thumb drives are also common vectors for viruses and malware so it's important to protect yourself, protect your company, protect your home computer, and protect your thumb drive.

Remember the Y2K Problem? Another Is Coming! The Millennium Bug was either a big deal and we dodged the bullet by spending time and money to fix problems in advance or it was a colossal waste of time and efforts because the problems weren't very large. There's supporting evidence for both conjectures. But now the 2038 Bug is approaching.

Short Circuits: The Challenge of Electronic Voting: With the election literally around the virtual corner, an article in MIT's Technology Review caught my eye. In the article, research editor Mike Orcutt discussed the voting machines that are used in various states, including the so-called battleground states, of which Ohio is one. Having served as a poll worker for a few years, I found the short article particularly good reading.

Microsoft Spins Windows 8: This week Steve Ballmer announced that Microsoft sold 4 million Windows 8 upgrades in the past week and seemed to be proud that upgrade sales beat Apple's Mountain Lion by 1 million compared to the first 4 days of Mountain Lion sales. So what? Apple's sales have been rising, but Apple still has at most a 15% share of the market. So shouldn't Microsoft have sold about 17 million copies instead of 4 million? (15:85 :: 3:X)

Price Drop? PayPal Offers a Refund: PayPal introduced a new program this week that offers a refund if the price of something you buy using your PayPal account drops within 30 days. This isn't a new technique; retail stores have used it for years, but it's new for PayPal.

28 Oct 2012

Must We Pay a lot to Keep Our Computers Free of Malware? In a word, no. Plenty of free applications exist to protect your computer and many of them are even small enough to fit on a modest thumb drive. (Granted that 64GB thumb drives are now available but you don't need one.) Let's see what's available for free.

Windows 8 Is Here: I had planned to write about subjects other than Windows 8 this week. After all, I've produced a series of reports on the subject, ranging from the early days when I questioned Microsoft's sanity in doing away with the Start Menu through more recent discussions in which I decided that the Start Menu really isn't important and that other features offered by Windows 8 are. But there were so many questions and comments this week that a final pre-release report (although you won't read it until after Windows 8 has been on the market for a day or two) was called for.

Short Circuits: Have You Bought a Surface Yet? Will You? Microsoft's Surface tablet is now available and competes with Apple's Ipad. It has 10.6-inch screen with nearly indestructible Gorilla Glass 2. The Windows RT model starts at $500 and has 32GB of storage. Add a cover for $100 more. Increase storage to 64GB for another $100 (You're now at $700). Is this a good deal?

Where's My Train? (We Might Have an App for That) It's a fact that New York City subway trains are sometimes delayed and riders waiting in stations are at a loss for information. Sometimes there's an announcement from the MTA command center in Brooklyn but the public address system is old and stations are full of echos, so something better is needed. Data, handheld devices, and apps to the rescue! (And, by the way, happy birthday to the NYC subway system.)

21 Oct 2012

Planning for a New Computer: Computer sales usually increase in the fourth quarter for many reasons. There are seasonal purchases around the various year-end holidays for home computers and businesses whose fiscal years coincide with the calendar year often buy near the end of the year once they've analyzed profits for the year. This year, there's another compelling reasons to think about a new computer in the fourth quarter: Windows 8 will be released later this month.

You Can't Get There from Here: Adobe has a dizzying array of applications for use with digital images. There's Photoshop CS6 that seemingly does everything and there's Lightroom that manages to accomplish some tasks with greater ease of use than Photoshop. Add to this mix Photoshop Elements, which includes a few tricks that aren't present in either Lightroom or Photoshop CS6. And then there's the media organizer, Bridge, and the raw-image plug-in that works with Photoshop, Camera Raw. Maybe you've tried to figure out how these pieces all work together and maybe you've been frustrated. Now there's an answer.

Is That Site Safe? You don't visit porn sites so you're not worried about malware being served to your computer? Surprise! Most porn sites are clean. That's because the operators want you to come back and spend more money. They're not interested in infecting your computer or stealing your information.

Short Circuits: Are You Ready for Office 2013? The next version of Microsoft Office has just been released to manufacturing, which means that it will show up on store shelves and on computers by the end of the year. Office 2013 looks much different from Office 2010 or 2007 but much remains the same. I've been using a preview version since about mid year and overall I like what I see but there are still a few rough edges in the preview version. Perhaps these have been removed in the RTM version but I haven't yet been able to obtain that.

The Digitizing of America: Newsweek will not ring in the new year, at least not as a print publication. Instead, the final issue of Newsweek will go on sale on 31 December 2012. It will probably carry a January 2014 publication date but it's the end of the line for Newsweek in print. This is not a surprise.

Friday: Beginning of a New Era or End of the World? Friday, 26 October 2012, is the day Windows 8 will be available on new computers and on store shelves for upgrading Windows 7 computers. Why Friday? And how do you view this day? Is it like any other Friday or something special? Will stores be be open late so that people can buy the new operating system at midnight? That happened for Windows 95 but is Windows 8 perceived as sufficiently different for stores to stay open late?

14 Oct 2012

"lol is this your new profile pic?" If you're a Skype user and you followed a link that came with a message such as this, your computer may have been compromised. Antivirus maker Sophos says that thousands of unsuspecting users have clicked the links and, as a result, were offered a malicious file.

Smart Phones: A New Malware Vector: If you own a smart phone that has any means of connecting to your desktop or laptop computer, you also have a new and attractive way for fraudsters to inject malware. That's a comforting thought, isn't it?

Free Software: You May Get More than You Wanted: There's no shortage of "WAREZ" sites on the Internet. These are places where you can go to download commercial software for free. Microsoft, Adobe, and most other software publishers have processes in place to ensure that their applications are installed on a limited number of computers. The WAREZ sites offer software with these features removed but often with other features added. According to a Microsoft report, about three quarters of the people who install WAREZ also install malware that comes with the stolen applications.

Short Circuits: Fewer PCs This Year: Research by IHS ISuppli says that fewer personal computers will be sold this year than last year. If the forecast proves to be true, this will be the first time since 2001 that year-over-year computer sales will have declined. But not by much.

Hewlett-Packard Falls out of First Place: For many years Hewlett-Packard was the number one personal computer maker but that is no longer the case. And, depending on how you define "personal computer", maybe it never was. If that term means any personal computer regardless of operating system, then Apple is number one, has been for many years, and will undoubtedly continue to be for a long time.

Who Are All These People and Why Are They Endorsing Me? For the past several weeks, I've been receiving "endorsements" from people on LinkedIn. In many cases these endorsements have been issued by people I know only casually and for whom I have never done any work. So what's going on here?

07 Oct 2012

Increasing Internet Threats Annoy and Alarm: Although "Internet security" has always been somewhat of an oxymoron, trust is increasingly being eroded by spam, phishing, malware, and now state-sponsored malware. The threats come not just from e-mail, though, but can also arrive via Skype or other IP-based voice services and even by phone using the plain old telephone system (POTS).

The New Newspaper: Many years ago I subscribed to the New York Times. No delivery was available at my office and the home delivery arrived too late for me to take the paper to the office so I read it in the evening when the articles within were more than 24 hours old. In those days, the national edition closed around 6pm and other editions closed throughout the evening until the morning local edition closed around 11pm. WQXR, the classical-music radio station owned by the NY Times, ran a brief report at 9pm with the next day's newspaper headlines. That ancient history occurred to me in September when I signed up for full Internet access to the Times online.

Where Your News Will Come From (or Already Is Coming From): It was startling to learn that more than half of the US population now owns either a smart phone or a tablet. Granted, most of these people probably have smart phones but I know a lot of people who have both smart phones and tablets. In addition, many have notebook computers and some still have desktops. Computing devices, after all, are tools and—just like hammers and screwdrivers—one size does not fit all.

Short Circuits: Cyber Attack Swatted but This Is No Time to Feel Safe: White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters this week that computer security systems installed at the White House detected an attempt to infiltrate computers there, isolated the threat, and removed it. Hurrah! But what about next time?

Microsoft Settles Computer Fraud Case: A Chinese businessman has settled a fraud suit brought against him by Microsoft and Microsoft has withdrawn the suit. A domain run by Peng Yong had served as home base for at least one botnet and was implicated in the installation of malware on personal computers around the world.

The Adobe Flood Continues: It seems like every week Adobe releases something new or updated and this week is no exception. The latest version of Adobe Acrobat (XI) is now available as are updates for Lightroom 4.2 and Camera Raw 7.2. Lightroom 4.2 is available as a free download for Lightroom 4 customers, and the Camera Raw plug-in is available as a free download for Photoshop CS6 customers; both are available for Mac and Windows.

30 Sep 2012

Adobe Pushes More Powerful Features to Elements Packages: Adobe released version 11 of Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements on Tuesday (25 Sep). I've been working with them for a few weeks. A decade ago, the Elements applications were elementary in scope but over the years they've become more and more powerful—not so powerful that they will steal market share from Photoshop or Premiere, but still packed with features that will appeal to photo and video enthusiasts.

Learn Almost Anything Online (Sometimes for Free): Are Salman Khan and Bill Gates trying to put universities out of business? Maybe not but that could be the unintended consequence of Khan Academy. Several years ago, Salman Khan was an analyst at a hedge fund and he was working with his cousins to explain mathematics. He prepared some videos that he posted to YouTube so that his cousins could review them but others found them and found them useful. Hmmm. This is profound.

Short Circuits: A Replacement for IGoogle? You probably already know that IGoogle's portal will not be available after 1 Nov 2013 so you still have more than a year to find a replacement if you want one. I like having a page that provides useful information so an ad on the IGoogle page that suggested IGHome looked interesting. Have you seen it yet?

You Don't Want One (Yet) But You Might: This week, California Governor Jerry Brown hopped into a car and it drove him to Google headquarters where he signed a bill making driver-less vehicles street legal in California. You might think California leads the nation in this area, but it's the third state to approve driver-less cars. The other two are Nevada and Florida.

Windows 8: Coming in Less than One Month: Some of the manufacturers are showing off the gear that they'll release with the new version of Windows and some are even talking about prices. Let's see what's coming.

23 Sep 2012

The Future is Approaching: More PC Choices: Both Apple's Mountain Lion and Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 are significant departures from what has come before. Microsoft's operating system embodies more radical changes than Apple's but both have made enough changes to shock longtime users. And don't forget about Google's ChromeBook computers. In the coming year, buyers will have more choices than they've had for decades.

Political Wonks Have a New Search Engine: Those who are interested in what Congress is doing will find that the THOMAS legislative search engine is being replaced. Named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, who collected lots of books, THOMAS provides information on pending legislation. The new site is called and it's still technically in test phase. That's expected to last about 1 year and then the old site will be retired.

Still Using Internet Explorer? If so, please let me know why. Other browsers such as Chrome and Firefox occasionally have security problem but IE seems to lurch from one disaster to another. Microsoft says it's aware of the the latest problem and it working to mitigate the danger. The best form of mitigation I'm aware of is not to use Internet Explorer unless you need to visit a site that some shortsighted developer designed to work only with IE.

Short Circuits: Adobe's Creative Cloud is More Popular than Expected: Earlier this year, as part of the Creative Suite CS6 release, Adobe announced a subscription-based plan. This plan has been so popular with users that Adobe has been forced to reduce its earnings estimates. Adobe says that earnings for the current quarter will, at best, remain flat and may decline.

LG Steps away from the Window(s Phone): Electronics manufacturer LG has a strong presence in the Android smartphone market and it now appears that this will not change. The company had considered jumping back into the Windows Phone market with Windows Phone 8 but now has decided not to.

Blowing Google off the Map: If you have an Apple device that runs IOS6 and you want to use Google Maps, good luck. Apple has its own mapping application and even though it's not as good as Google Maps, Apple wants you to use their system. Now it's not just Apple; Amazon has piled on to the bandwagon.

16 Sep 2012

TaskPower Lets You See What's Going On Inside the Computer: A PC Magazine utility called TaskPower is now in its 5th iteration and it continues to improve. In fact, it's the magazine's 2nd most popular utility, being beaten only by Startup Cop Pro. If you use the Windows Task Manager and wish that it could tell you more, you want TaskPower.

Improving Your Wi-Fi Network: Recently my Wi-Fi router croaked and I replaced it with a somewhat more capable unit. The new system was good but I felt that I could make it even better. It wasn't really difficult. I'll share some of the quick and easy ways you can improve your home network.

Free Music (as in Free Speech and Free Beer): If you enjoy music, you should know about It's a non-profit organization that's dedicated to improving access and exposure to music by creating free resources and educational materials. The MusOpen site provides recordings, sheet music, and textbooks to the public for free. That's like in "no money required". There are no copyright restrictions. How do they do this?

Short Circuits: Maybe a Router Problem, Not Anonymous, Took Down GoDaddy: GoDaddy is a registrar that is also a website hosting company. On Monday, people who had websites hosted by GoDaddy or who receive their e-mail via GoDaddy suddenly found no new message in their mailboxes and no websites where one used to be. Then Anonymous, the group of hackers who like to deface websites claimed credit. Although this seemed plausible, it just wasn't true.

Amazon's Kindle Fire Will Fire Ads for 15 Bucks: Amazon's Kindle Fire displays advertisements. That's one of the reasons that Amazon can sell the device at the prices it advertises but users have been less than enthusiastic about the "special offers" that appear. If you want to get rid of the ads, you can. All it takes is $15 and Amazon will turn off the ads.

Google Android Hits Half a Billion: Google announced this week that its Android operating system is now running half a billion mobile devices. Last year the company hit the 100 million mark and it now resting comfortably at five times that count. Google made the announcement on the eve of Apple's Iphone 5 launch. Was that coincidental do you think?

HP Accelerates its Negative Growth: Earlier this year, a struggling Hewlett-Packard said that it planned to eliminate 27,000 jobs by 2014. That would be about 8% of the company's global workforce. Now, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, HP says that was the wrong number. It's really 29,000 people who will lose their jobs as HP tries to fire its way to profitability.

09 Sep 2012

You Can't Have Too Much Backup: There are lots of online backup services and I strongly recommend using one of them (Carbonite is my favorite) but I really don't like to lose important files such as photographs, client's files, and tax records. A disk failure, just like a collision at sea, can ruin your whole day. So in addition to Carbonite, I maintain a local hot backup and a nearby system backup.

Adobe Updates You Should Download: Adobe has announced release-candidate updates to several applications that you should download. The most significant update is the release candidate for Lightroom 4.2 but Adobe also has updates for Camera Raw and the DNG Converter (both version 7.2). The Lightroom update fixes some bugs that persisted in version 4.1 and the Camera Raw/DNG Converter applications add support for some new cameras in addition to squishing some bugs. And if you use Photoshop Touch on your Ipad or Android tablet, there's an update for it, too.

Short Circuits—Picture This: Facebook's Stock Finally Begins to Rise: Like a loaf of bread dough in a warm room, Facebook's stock has finally begun to rise, slowly. It was up about 5% this week after the huge drop immediately after Facebook's IPO. One reason for the increase is the company's reassuring words to investors to let them know that some major stockholders will hold on to their shares even though they could now sell them and also that Facebook will buy back nearly $2 billion worth of shares.

Late to Acknowledge the Internet, Microsoft Will Not Miss the Cloud: In the 1990s, Microsoft largely wrote off networking and the world's largest network, the Internet. The company was late to acknowledge that people might want to network their home computers and was late to market with a badly flawed browser that even now, 17 years after IE version 1, is still an also-ran in terms of technology but nonetheless the market leader among users.

Oracle Owes Google $1 Million in Chump Change: To me and probably to you, $1,000,000 is nothing to sneeze at. Even the Barenaked Ladies (none of whom are either naked or ladies) sang about that sum. If you're old enough, you might remember a TV show in which the fictitious John Beresford Tipton, Jr., had Michael Anthony hand people checks for $1,000,000. In 1955, it was a lot of money. But today to companies such as Oracle and Google, it's a rounding error in the bookkeeping system. If either company dropped $1,000,000, it wouldn't even bother to lean over and pick it up. (The Supreme Court says that corporations are people so I don't feel at all odd thinking about a company bending over to pick up $1,000,000.) There is a story here. Honest.

Amazon is Fired Up and Ready to Go: The new Kindle Fire has a larger screen (although not as large as an Ipad), faster Wi-Fi (two connections are better than one), and a price tag that's considerably lower than that of Apple's Ipad. Apple is clearly the market leader and Amazon is hoping to change that.

02 Sep 2012

Where Are You Going, InDesign? Sometimes you lose touch with someone you've known for a long time. Maybe work takes them to another city for a year or two. When they return, it's like meeting someone new because they've changed so much. That describes my latest encounter with Adobe InDesign CS6.

How to Speed Up a Slow Computer (4): As computers age, they seen to slow down. The computer that was so fast when you bought it now seems to crawl. Although there's nothing you can do to make it faster than it was originally, it's possible to restore the old performance. Some of the actions are easy (enabling ReadyBoost or defragmenting a disk drive, for example); others are difficult (such as replacing the boot drive with a solid-state drive). This is the final section of a 4-part series on how to improve an older computer's performance.

Java Security Problem Causes Concerns: Your computer probably has Oracle's Java installed because it's used by many applications, including some Web browsers. A security problem with Java could put your computer at risk but for the risk to be realized, you'll need to make one critical mistake. Even so, now's the time to disable Java to avoid a potential data disaster.

Short Circuits: Samsung Beats Nokia to the Windows Phone 8: A few days after losing a patent battle to Apple, Samsung became the first manufacturer to launch a Windows Phone 8. The new phones will begin shipping in the next few months. Apple hasn't sued any manufacturers who make Windows phones. At least not yet. And yes that is the Windows Phone 8, not the Windows 8 phone.

Firefox 15 Cures an Old Headache: Which version of Firefox are you using? If you're on the beta channel, you have version 15. If not, then you're running version 14 or some earlier version. Despite my not uncommon complaints about the amount of memory Firefox consumes, it is the one browser that I cannot be without and, as you probably expect, I'm on the beta channel. Version 15 has eliminated one of the major frustrations that previous versions have had.

The Day When Everything that Could Break Broke: Well, not everything but who would believe that both a router and an Ethernet cable would both fail almost simultaneously? It happened and it took an hour for me to convince myself that what I thought I'd seen was true.

26 Aug 2012

A Windows 8 Upgrade Runs Into Trouble: Last week I described how I upgraded a notebook computer to Windows 8 now that the final operating system code is available to Microsoft TechNet subscribers. The upgrade worked as expected but there was a conflict between the Toshiba Power Saver application and the operating system. Every time I started the system, I was asked "Would you like TOSHIBA power saving technology to turn on the Optical Drive?" Regardless of how I answered the question, nothing ever changed. Let's consider why this was a problem, who's at fault, and how I remedied the situation.

How to Speed Up a Slow Computer (part 3): This week we'll look at an advanced option and one that's easy. If it seems the computer that was blazingly fast when you bought it is now mired in quicksand, you can restore the old performance by identifying what's causing the computer to be slow and then taking actions that will speed it up. Although the illustrations here are for a Windows 7 system, most of processes will work on Vista or Windows 8, and even on XP. The names may differ slightly but most of what you need to make the improvements will be there.

Short Circuits: A Year from Now, We Won't Have Postini to Kick Around Any More: Many Internet service providers have offered a service called Postini to reduce spam but I've never found it to be particularly helpful, mainly because of the number of messages it generates to ask me if another message is spam. If I have to go look at the other message to tell Postini whether it's spam or not, what's the point? It appears that Postini will be forgotten but not gone.

Think Kids Aren't Paying Attention? You might think that 5th-grade students don't pay much attention to what's going on in the world around them. If you do think that, here's something that may cause you to reconsider. Start by thinking back to 1995—17 years ago—and think about the state of the Internet.

Have a Little Trouble with that Last Batch of Microsoft Updates? If you did, you're not alone. It took days for me to get the current group of 15 or so updates installed. And it's not just you and me, either. I heard from others who had problems and when some of my usual workarounds for balky updates didn't work, I found that a lot of people were having problems. By manually installing 8 of the updates, I was able to successfully complete the process.

Microsoft's New Look: This is more of an aside than a story but I note it in passing: Microsoft introduced a new look this week ahead of the release of Windows 8. The current logo has been around for a while. Twenty-five years to be exact. The company says that this is an incredibly exciting year for Microsoft "as we prepare to release new versions of nearly all of our products. From Windows 8 to Windows Phone 8 to Xbox services to the next version of Office, you will see a common look and feel across these products providing a familiar and seamless experience on PCs, phones, tablets and TVs. This wave of new releases is not only a reimagining of our most popular products, but also represents a new era for Microsoft, so our logo should evolve to visually accentuate this new beginning." Let's see what they've come up with.

19 Aug 2012

Nigeria? Why Don't Scammers Claim to be from New Jersey? A research paper by Microsoft's Cormac Herley asks the question Why do Nigerian Scammers Say They are from Nigeria? You may have wondered about this, as have I, and Herley has an economically plausible explanation. The 14-page report includes a lot of sophisticated formulas that I'll not try to parse but the conclusion is definitely worth sharing.

How to Speed Up a Slow Computer (2): That computer that seemed so fast when you bought now seems to crawl. It's not all your fault but there are some things you can do to remedy the situation. This is part 2 of a series and although the examples here are for a Windows 7 system, most of processes will work on Vista or Windows 8, and even on XP. The names may differ slightly but most of what you need to make the improvements will be there.

Short Circuits: Identifying the Source of Viruses, Both Computer and Human: A Swiss research facility has developed software the scientists say can be used to quickly identify the source of a computer virus, a human virus, or a rumor. And they say their application can be used to identify terror suspects.

Windows 8—Now Available for Some of Us: Members of Microsoft TechNet can now download the release-to-manufacturing disc image of Windows 8 and I've done that. Thursday evening I booted to a Windows 8 installation disc and now Windows 8 is running there (and, as of Friday morning, on a second notebook.) The desktop is next.

For Android, No Flash (In or Out of the Pan): Adobe has removed its Flash Player plug-in for Android from the Google Play Store. This isn't a surprise because the decision had been announced earlier as part of Adobe's decision to halt development of the software for mobile devices.

Crack Google's Chrome Browser and Win Big Money: Google is placing as much as $2 million on the table for those who can find and exploit a security flaw with Chrome. And this is the second time around for Google. According to a company blog, "the first Pwnium competition held earlier this year exceeded our expectations. We received two submissions of such complexity and quality that both of them won Pwnie Awards at this year’s Black Hat industry event. Most importantly, we were able to make Chromium significantly stronger based on what we learned."

Mystery Computer Virus has Kaspersky Asking for Help: Why would a computer virus watch for computers with no Internet connection and install itself only when no Internet connection is found? That's one of the primary questions software engineers at Russian antivirus maker Kaspersky are trying to solve. A computer virus called Gauss, discovered in June, is active in Lebanon. Who created Gauss?

12 Aug 2012

Web Mail that Works from Microsoft: I am no fan of webmail. I find the interfaces clunky and the features primitive but still I use Gmail at least occasionally. It's a handy repository that receives mail from all of my various accounts and stores the messages so that they're available from anywhere and this same concept is handy when I'm traveling. But for daily use? Not a chance. Now, however, Microsoft has replaced Hotmail (even worse than Gmail) with, part of Microsoft's "Live" offerings, and it could be a contender.

How to Speed Up a Slow Computer (1): If it seems the computer that was blazingly fast when you bought it is now mired in quicksand, you can restore the old performance by identifying what's causing the computer to be slow and then taking actions that will speed it up. Although the illustrations here are for a Windows 7 system, most of processes will work on Vista or Windows 8, and even on XP. The names may differ slightly but most of what you need to make the improvements will be there.

THINK: IBM for Your Tablet (or Computer): Android and Ipad applications are normally measured in kilobytes but the IBM: THINK app is 431MB! Who would have thought, 30 years ago (or even 10 years ago), that a tablet or a phone would be able to run a 431MB application. But today's portable devices can and if you have an Ipad or an Android device, this is one that you might want to download. Allow me to explain why.

Short Circuits: Google Pays Small Fine to Close Privacy Case: To some companies, $22.5 million would be a lot of money. To Google, it's probably not much more than a rounding error. That's the size of the fine Google will pay to the US Federal Trade Commission to close the case in which it was accused of going around privacy settings for those who use Apple's Safari browser.

Surface II in the Works? Microsoft hasn't yet sold even one Surface tablet and they won't be available for a few more months, but TechRadar says the company is also working on the next version. (That's probably about as surprising as learning that automakers are working to develop models that will go on sale in 2015.)

Curiosity: From Earth to Mars, One Minute Late: NASA's website has been featuring the first photos sent back from Curiosity on Mars. So far one of the most remarkable aspects has been the fact that the Martian rover made the 135-million-mile* journey and landed only one minute later than scheduled.

05 Aug 2012

Microsoft Office 2013: Worth the Upgrade? Worthy of the Fuss? Microsoft tosses a preview version of Office out for people to look at and it seems like a pack of hungry dogs descending on an open box of steaks. Some of the dogs think it's delicious while others just want to tear it to shreds. After having the opportunity to work with the Office 2013 Preview Edition for a couple of weeks, I'm even more surprised by some of the comments, both from those who think it's horrible as well as from those who think it's wonderful. In fact, much more has remained the same than has changed. But some of the changes are worth talking about.

Editing Video in Photoshop CS6: Yes, video. Yes, Photoshop. And not just the extended version. But why would anyone want to edit video in Photoshop? One of the best reasons is ease of use. Video is complicated as anyone who has ever looked at Adobe Premiere will understand. Photoshop CS6 reduces video editing to the basics but it also includes some surprisingly powerful options.

Short Circuits: Sony's Miseries Continue: Back in April I wrote that Sony seemed to have lost its way. At the time, Sony increased its loss projections to an astounding $6.5 billion dollars. I also noted that Sony hadn't reported a profit since 2008. The fiscal year ended a little better than expected with a loss of "just" $5.8 billion.

As Goes Facebook, So Goes California? Facebook's continuing decline on Wall Street is apparently causing some distress in Sacramento because expected tax revenues won't be realized. A little over a week ago, the share prices dropped more than 8% in a single day. In the week just ended, declines weren't as sharp but there were declines.

Crooked Poker Sites Get Soaked: PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker have been brought to justice in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. These are two of the largest online poker companies in the world and they have agreed to pay more than $700 million to settle charges that include money laundering and fraud.

Windows 8 Rolls On: Microsoft says that Windows 8 is complete and has been released to manufacturing (RTM). This starts the process of making installable versions available to computer OEMs and working with companies that create installation discs, seal them inside shrink-wrapped boxes, and deliver them to stores in time for the 26th of October, when PCs that have Windows 8 installed will go on sale along with copies of the operating system for use in upgrading existing computers and being used on new computers.

29 Jul 2012

Spear Phishing: Smarter and More Dangerous: The message appeared to come from the IT department at Jeff’s company. The IT manager, whose office is in a distant state, said that a security problem had been detected on the corporate LAN. The problem had been resolved but all users should follow the attached link to a security partner’s website to confirm that their computer had not been infected. What should Jeff do? Better yet, what would you do?

Mountain Lion Beats Microsoft to the Finish Line: In a year of low-priced major operating system upgrades, Apple's Mountain Lion beat Microsoft's Windows 8 if the two companies were competing for release dates. Maybe they were, but who knows. The Windows update will cost as little as $40. Apple's Mountain Lion, which became available this week, costs just $20. And that's a win for Apple, too.

Short Circuits: Number 2 Must Try Harder: Remember the old Avis commercials about how #2 tries harder. Microsoft seems to have taken that lesson to heart. The Microsoft Apps Store, available under Windows 8 will offer real trial periods. The Microsoft store will be #2 behind Apple's store or maybe #3 behind Android's store. Download an app. Try it out. If you don't like it, you don't pay for it. This apparently is a concept that's well beyond either Apple or Google.

Going to Kansas City: If you want fast and reasonably priced Internet service, Kansas City might be where you should live. Google will soon being providing gigabit Internet service for $70 per month. That compares to my $100-per-month service that runs at a small fraction of that speed

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night (Thursday, 26 Jul 2012): I certainly am glad to know that this climate change stuff is all a hoax. Bad science. Nonsense invented by Al Gore to stifle free enterprise. Otherwise, I might be sitting here in the dark on a Thursday night writing about climate change instead of putting the final touches on the weekly program summary. Hmmm.

22 Jul 2012

Microsoft Haters Score a Two-Fer: Wow! Within a few months there will be not only a new version of Windows for Microsoft haters to rail against but also a new version of the Office suite. This week I learned that "Microsoft Office 2013 Customer Preview Proves Difficult With Touch-Screens." That was the opinion of a writer for one of the tech magazines. I was going to identify him by name but I've seen similar articles by other writers. So all I can say is Really? What a surprise!

Why Does Anyone Still Use Yahoo? Yahoo has confirmed that nearly half a million unencrypted user names and passwords have been stolen. You may have noticed an increase in the number of messages from your friends with Yahoo accounts stating that they are in some remote location (London, Paris, Madrid) and that their hotel room was burgled. The police are trying to help, of course, but they have no money. Might you send them some cash? The messages are frauds.

Short Circuits: Yahoo—Take Three: Yahoo has yet another new CEO, the third in just a year. If you've been following this train wreck, you'll remember that Carol Bartz was fired after being CEO for less than 3 years. She was replaced by Scott Thompson, who was fired when the company discovered that he had claimed a computer science degree that he didn't have. Since May, Ross Levinsohn has served as interim CEO. And now it's Marissa Mayer.

MSNBC Is No More: In the same week that NBC bought out Microsoft and converted to, the company also apparently decided to work with Facebook during the upcoming Olympics.

The European Union is Hot on Microsoft's Trail Again: This feels a bit like Back to the Future, Part XVI. The European Union says that Microsoft has failed to allow some users to select which browser to install and therefore it's time to step up anti-trust investigations.

Apple Must Advertise for Samsung in England: A British judge says that Samsung's tablet isn't as "cool" as Apple's Ipad that that means that the Samsung Galaxy did not copy its design from Apple as Apple has charged. Furthermore, says the judge, Apple must place a statement on its home page in the UK stating as much.

15 Jul 2012

Adobe Audition CS6: I Think I'm in Love: You may know that I have a background that includes several years of working in the broadcast industry. For that reason I'm partial to applications that make audio productions sound better and, although I've used Adobe Audition for several years, the CS6 version amazes me every time I open it. If you work with audio, either as an amateur or a professional, this is an application you should check out.

Dwolla Isn't Exactly PayPal (or Your Bank) But That's OK. Dwolla is an Iowa startup mobile cash network that connects to your social community in a way that allows you to spend money or send money to others from your bank account. The recipient pays only 25 cents per transaction, no matter how high the transfer amount. Dwolla uses proprietary technology and has business partnerships with the Veridian Group and The Members Group. You might want to learn more about this.

Short Circuits: Room Service. Would You Like Some Malware with Your Room? A report that's so vague that it almost sounds phony has been issued the the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) but because the IC3 is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) and because it is funded in part by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), you have to give it some credence. The IC3 says that you might encounter malicious pop-up windows that look like legitimate upgrade messages while connecting to the Internet from a hotel room.

Four Months and Counting: If you're anxiously awaiting Windows 8, you have about 4 months to wait. And if you're dreading the arrival of Windows 8, you have about 4 months to wait. Microsoft says Windows 8 and its new Surface tablet computers will be available in October. Last week I mentioned the upgrade price for Windows 8—$40 or $70 if you don't want to use the online upgrade. The Surface tablets are expected to sell for around $500 (for the basic version) and $1000 for a more powerful tablet.

Ubuntu Linux Seemed Like Such a Good Idea: Because I've been dual-booting most of my computers between Windows 7 and Windows 8, I haven't had much time to look at Ubuntu Linux for the past year or so. With the advent of Windows 8, I was beginning to look forward to dual-booting Linux and Windows 8. Now I'm not so sure.

A Personal Message from God Allah (Which is Redundant): This would have been a great public relations stunt when George Burns was making movies as god. Friday morning I received an e-mail from god allah asking if I knew of a church of mosque (etc) in the US to receive him. If so, I was asked to e-mail, call, or text message god allah or visit his website.

08 Jul 2012

It's Time to Decide! You're thinking about buying something so you visit stores, go online, ask friends, and research your options. There's no shortage of information these days but before you make the final decision you might want to check one additional online resouce: It's a startup service that's designed to help consumers buy electronic devices and not suffer from post-purchase depression when the price suddenly drops.

Passwords You Can Leave in Plain Sight: Passwords need to be easy to remember so the passwords many people create are common dictionary words (kitten) or patterns (abc123) or even the word "password". While this might be all right for some sites (newspapers, for example), they're a recipe for disaster when used for bank accounts and such. But when passwords are more complex (#@7Yuw-Zcx8Y, for example) they're impossible to remember and people write them down or store them in plain-text files on a computer. This is also a recipe for disaster. Let's consider some ways to create passwords that are safe and memorable, and can easily be taped to your monitor.

Short Circuits: Microsoft Announces Windows 8 Upgrade Price: This has to be the lowest cost upgrade Microsoft has ever released: $40 and that price is good for any user of Windows 7, Vista, or even Windows XP. That's how serious Microsoft is about enticing customers to upgrade. Of course, if you purchase a Windows 7 PC between now and the time that Windows 8 is released, your upgrade will be without additional charge. The upgrade to Windows 7, for example, carried a $200 price tag.

Will You Lose Your Connection on Monday? How big a deal will this be, really? The FBI shut down a rogue operation last November but allowed some of the operation's servers to continue running. On Monday (9 July) they'll shut them off. If you haven't been paying attention, you may find yourself without an Internet connection but there's a way to avoid the problem.

European Legislators Surprisingly Reject Digital Piracy Measure: Media companies have another high-profile failure. European legislators rejected an international treaty this week that would have provided stronger measures to combat digital piracy. The vote wasn't even close.

Goodbye, IGoogle. Google has announced that it will retire its IGoogle (iGoogle) service for desktops on November 1, 2013. The mobile version will be suspended at the end of this month.

For Your (But Not Microsoft's) Amusement: MBAOnline says that it's there to inspire, innovate, and broaden your business intelligence. "Movers and shakers in the blogging world drop wisdom daily so we decided to organize their thoughts into courses - creating an experience you won't find in any textbook." This week I heard from a member of the design team at MBAOnline and she suggested that I might be interested in a graphic they had created that "illustrates the 30 years of innovation at Microsoft and their failures along the way."

01 Jul 2012

Why Can't Skype Eliminate this Fraud? Skype makes it possible to block calls from anyone who's not in your address book and if you don't need your Skype ID to be generally accessible, that's a good choice. Because of the way I use Skype (specifically the fact that I have a New York City phone number attached to the Skype account), I can't limit calls to just the people I know. So once or twice a day there's a call that purports to be an "urgent system notification" from Skype. It's nothing of the sort so I refuse the call and block the origination point. But like a game of whack-a-mole, the creeps who run the fraud call from another location.

How To Change the Windows 7 Logon Screen: The Windows 7 logon screen is fine and you probably see it for only a few seconds as you select a user name and provide a password but maybe you're tired of being greeted by a plain blue screen. If you want to change it, you can. Maybe you'd like a photo of your owner (the cat) or your friend (the dog) or your spouse instead of the plain blue screen. I did and here's how I made Windows show me what I wanted to see at logon.

Dreamweaver CS6 Packs New Features in a Familiar Interface: At first glance, you might think that Adobe Dreamweaver CS6 doesn't have much that's new to show you but the fact that the interface has changed very little disguises the numerous changes and improvements that lurk below the surface. So if you're still using an older version of Dreamweaver (or any version of Microsoft Front Page or its successor, Expression Web), now would be an excellent time to take Dreamweaver CS6 for a test drive.

Short Circuits: Think the LinkedIn Break-In Doesn't Affect You?Think again! On June 26 I received more than 15 "reminders" from "Michael Costello" about my invitation to add him as a friend on LinkedIn. The clues that this was a fraud overflowed my inbox, fell onto the floor, and swirled around the wastebasket. Was this a surprise? Well, not exactly. But was it a result of the break-in at LinkedIn? Maybe not.

Photoshop Lightroom 4 Is in the Cloud: Adobe Creative Cloud is a membership-based offering that makes all of the company’s design, Web, video, and digital imaging tools available online for about $50 per month. Now that includes Lightroom 4.

What Can Microsoft Buy for $1.2 Billion? $1.2 billion in cash is what Microsoft will pay for Yammer, which will become part of Microsoft’s Office division. This is yet another foray in Microsoft's battle against competing social networks.

24 Jun 2012

Adobe Illustrator Adds Features and Power: The CS6 version of Adobe Illustrator is the beneficiary of some functions that were originally built for other applications such as InDesign or Photoshop and some of the new capabilities are the result of Adobe's new Mercury Performance System that renders images across the suite of applications. Support for 64-bit systems speeds the application overall and this time around Illustrator also picked up some new or improved functions that are unique to Illustrator.

Asus Transformer Tablet: Great. Asus Support: Shaky. This is probably the last in the first-person series of reports about an Asus Transformer tablet (TF101) that runs the Android operating system. Initially I loved the tablet because of what it allowed me to do. Then I added a keyboard/battery "docking station" to make it better but all it did was routinely drain the battery and frustrate me. Eventually Asus was able to solve the problem so this is a story with lots of ups and downs.

Scratching the Surface (Please Don't!) The coincidence of this week's update on the Android tablet I've been carrying around for a while with Microsoft's announcement of the Surface tablet was just that—a coincidence. The Transformer summary has been on the calendar for more than a month. Although the positioning is coincidental, it serves to highlight my reasons for avoiding Apple's Ipad, selecting the tablet I did, and now for giving consideration to Microsoft's upcoming tablet.

Short Circuits: The 15-Year-Old Cell Phone Has Been Retired. Again. Everybody I know has a smart phone these days but until last month I'd been using a nearly 15-year-old phone. Now I've upgraded to a phone that offers the most advanced technology available—in 2004. Sometimes the latest and greatest technology isn't what we need.

"The Computer Won't Boot and It Says No Operating System is Available" That was the message from my older daughter. She also mentioned that the computer was making a funny sound. Have you ever noticed that when computers start making funny sounds the result is never humorous?

The Windows 8 Upgrade Program: If you bought a computer that runs Windows 7 on or after June 2 or if you buy one anytime before Windows 8 is released, you can upgrade the system to Windows 8 for about $15. According to Microsoft, "the Windows Upgrade Offer provides consumers who buy an eligible Windows 7 PC the option to purchase a downloadable upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for an estimated retail price of just $14.99 (U.S.) during the time of the promotion, which will be redeemable when Windows 8 is generally available." And Microsoft promises that there will be many more offers in conjunction with the general availability of Windows 8.

17 Jun 2012

Photoshop CS6: Now Enhanced with Magic Pixie Dust: Adobe Creative Suite version 6 (CS6) will begin shipping soon. I've been working with the many applications in the suite for several weeks and the resulting applications live up to expectations; in many cases, they exceed expectations. In CS5, Adobe spent a lot of time making the applications faster. That has continued in CS6 but this new version also brings with it enough new features to (almost) convince me that Adobe has found a source of magic pixie dust. While that's obviously not true, CS6 makes life tough for those of us who write reviews. Simply trying to select which new features to write about is a huge challenge. Nowhere is this more true than with Photoshop CS6.

Adding Eye Candy to Your Photos: Alien Skin is the publisher of several sets of plug-ins for Photoshop and, because the new version of Photoshop will begin shipping soon, I wanted to give some of the company's plug-ins a test run with Photoshop CS6. Plug-ins generally need to be reinstalled whenever the user updates Photoshop so I ran the Eye Candy 6 installer and discovered that it recognized only the previous version of Photoshop; it didn't see the CS6 version. That was entirely my fault.

Short Circuits: Near Photo Quality on a Notebook: Photographic quality is generally defined as approximately 300 pixels per inch. Now Apple has announced a series of new notebook computers that approach the photographic standard. The latest 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with a Retina display, the technology that makes the latest Ipad's display so sharp and crisp. But it comes with a high price tag.

When Something Happens That Shouldn't: When the date for filing quarterly estimated tax payments with the Internal Revenue Service was approaching, I downloaded f1040es.pdf from the IRS website. When I opened the file, which contained fillable forms, Acrobat worked properly for a while and then closed abruptly. I tried to re-open Acrobat, but without success. After restarting the computer, I could open Acrobat but opening the IRS file caused it to crash again and I was unable to open it again, even after rebooting. Huh?

Happy Fathers Day, Tech Guy! Who's the tech expert at your house? A recent study shows that 93% of us dads think it's us but only 21% of your family members agree with that assessment. You've been displaced in the minds of 42% of family members by a son or grandson and 11% say the tech expert in the family is a daughter or granddaughter.

10 Jun 2012

Virtually Perfect: If you need to have more than one operating system on a computer, you may have set the computer up as a dual-boot system so that you can choose which operating system to run when the computer starts. Although boot managers are generally reliable, occasionally they become confused and that does not bode well for any installed operating system. And because you have to choose at boot time, only one operating system can run at any given time and switching between them is a chore. There is a better way! But I have to include this weasel word: Maybe.

Xara Designer Pro X: Too Fast. Too Much. Too Little. Every time the folks at Xara send me a new copy of their Designer program, I wonder how they're able to make a relatively small program (the installer is just 88MB) do so many tasks, perform them so well and so quickly, and charge so little for it. I'm a bit confused about the program's name (Designer Pro X) and its version (8)—I presume X is 10 but 8 is still 8. If that's all I can find to complain about, this must be a remarkable application.

Short Circuits: LinkedIn Cleaned Out: The social networking service for business people, LinkedIn, is investigating reports that crackers made off with user names and "hashed" passwords belonging to all of the networks's nearly 7 million members. Passwords that are hashed aren't directly usable and should be impossible to reverse in a way that reveals the true passwords.

Windows 8 Release Preview Is Available: Microsoft released the latest preview version of Windows 8 about a week ago. I've installed it on a 64-bit laptop and on a 32-bit laptop. Progress has continued and, if those who simply reject anything new out of hand don't get in the way, my predition is that Microsoft will have a winner. There's still the issue of the missing Start Menu but, as I've mentioned before, after a day or two, you probably won't miss it.

03 Jun 2012

Adobe Creative Suite 6—The Preview: New shoes, at least the kind that are made of leather and have hard soles, never seem to be comfortable until you've worn them for a while and often that's the case with software upgrades. Knowing that the CS6 version of Adobe's Creative Suite includes more changes than in any recent upgrade, it was with no small amount of trepidation that I opened the various applications. The look is distinctly better—cleaner, maybe more compact—but, even better, the applications fit like a comfortable old shoe.

Nik's Silver Efex: When Color Is Not Enough: More years ago than I'd like to remember, my wife and I were at Highbanks Park. As usual, I had a camera. A film camera. Yes, this was a long time ago. When I mentioned that I'd loaded the camera with black-and-white film, Phyllis was astonished. Why would anyone use black-and-white film to take pictures of trees in a forest? But when I processed the film and made prints, we both liked them enough that I made large prints and framed them. I still see them every day because they are in frames and on the wall. Sometimes black-and-white is better than color. If you like monochrome images, you'll want to see Nik's Silver Efex Pro.

Laptop Computer? You Have Walter Mossberg's Permission to Wait: The Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg is on of the best and most reliable technology journalists in the business and I'm taking this opportunity to quote him: "Unless your laptop is on its last legs and you have to move quickly, there are compelling reasons to wait." This is true "especially if you are looking for a Windows PC, but even if you are in the market for a Mac." I happen to agree with Mossberg on this but, even if I didn't, his point of view would be worth considering.

Short Circuits: Zuckerberg In, then Out, of the Bloomberg Top 40 List: If Mark Zuckerberg cared about money, the past week might be distressing but he claims not to be interested in money so the 25% drop in his net worth might not mean as much to him as it would to you or me. At the end of the week he was still worth nearly $15 billion. It's easy not to care about money if you're sitting on a cushion like that.

Flame: State Sponsored? Antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab says that the Flame virus, which is now spreading through countries in the Middle East, has all the earmarks of state-sponsored cyber attack. The likely suspects are Israel and the United States. Of course we don't engage in cyber-warfare just as we don't torture prisoners because by our definition it's not cyber-warfare or torture when we do it.

The Annual Site Redesign Starts Early This Year: Normally I start thinking about what I want to change on the site for the coming year around the middle or end of November. It's different this year because, although I don't plan to make many visual changes, I'll be gutting the interior and rebuilding it from the ground up. Website design has changed a lot over the past decade and there's far too much legacy code embedded in the site.

27 May 2012

Eliminating Crapware From Your New Computer: You buy a new computer and, when it boots for the first time, you discover that several applications you didn't want have been installed. The cheerful screens that follow tell you that the manufacturer decided to install these essentials as a grand favor to you because they are applications everyone needs. That’s wrong on two counts: Not everyone needs them and the only favor the manufacturer is doing is to pad the corporate bottom line. Manufacturers are paid to install these applications. Your mission: Eliminate them.

Playing Microsoft Word’s Trump Card: Ewe can’t all ways depend on yore weird processor’s spelling Czech function. Clearly the previous sentence contains a lot of errors but not one of them will trigger most spelling checkers. (They’re not “spell checkers” unless you’re a witch who needs to test incantations.) Nothing beats a editor when it comes to finding mistakes but, as you’ve no doubt noticed here, errors slip through even in edited text.

Employer Wants Your Password? Just Say Maybe. How many employers are asking prospective employees for passwords to social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter, for example)? I have to think that this is happening in relatively few instances because any company large enough to have a director of human resources would know it’s an exquisitely bad idea to either demand or simply request passwords.

Short Circuits: How to Make a Small Fortune with Facebook Stock: It’s a 3-part program: Start with a large fortune, buy Facebook stock high, and sell it low. A week ago, analysts were saying that only “dumb money” would pursue Facebook stock at $38 per share and that seems to have been the case.

More Bad News for Kodak: The Eastman Kodak company can’t seem to find a good break anywhere these days and the latest bad news is the outcome of a 2-year legal battle with Apple and Research in Motion over digital image preview technology. RIM and Apple didn’t violate Kodak’s patent, the judge said, because the patent was invalid.

Alibaba and the 40 Percent Yahoo Share: China’s Alibaba group plans to buy back about half of its shares that are held by Yahoo. That will reduce Yahoo’s share of the conglomerate to about 20% and provide Yahoo some needed cash. The deal was approved unanimously by Yahoo’s board of directors.

No Joy for Oracle in the Google Patent Suit: A jury in San Francisco’s Federal District Court cleared Google this week on charges that it violated Oracle’s patents in developing its Android operating system. Earlier there was a mixed verdict on Oracle’s claim of copyright infringement.

20 May 2012

Improving Digital Images with Viveza 2: Sometimes improving a digital photograph is just too easy. You start with a ho-hum snapshot and a few minutes later you have an image that exactly matches what your eyes saw when you pressed the shutter release. Nik's Viveza plug-in for Photoshop makes it possible for you to create the image you saw.

A New Look for Bing: Several weeks ago I switched my primary search engine from Google to Bing, in part because of what appears to be Google's continuing lack of serious effort to eliminate fraudulent and deceptive advertising. It's still too early to tell whether Bing will be any less evil but it can't be much worse. That's not my point, though. Because my primary search engine is now Bing, I was among the first to notice Bing's new look last week.

Short Circuits: Yahoo: The Gang that Can't Shoot Straight: Yahoo reminds me of Italy following World War II. In five years the company has burned through 4 CEOs. The latest, Scott Thompson, held the post for just 4 months and was brought down by claims that he padded his resume with a non-existent college degree in computer science.

A Raspberry Pi in Your Pocket: You can now buy a computer for $25 or $35. Before you get too excited about that price, you'll need to consider the computer's limitations. The Raspberry Pi Foundation in the UK started taking orders for the $35 version in February of this year. The computer is a system-on-a-chip device, a computer that's about the size of a credit card.

Facebook Hikes IPO Shares but Loses General Motors: Just ahead of going public, Facebook said that it would increase the number of shares available by 25% to 421 million shares. At $38 per share, Facebook stands to raise $16 billion. Meanwhile, GM just slipped out the side door. According to the Christian Science Monitor, about 1/8 of the people on the planet have a Facebook account.

Groupon Is Still Losing Money but Wall Street Likes it: Groupon posted a smaller net loss than expected and its revenues were higher than expected in the first quarter so following that announcement the company's stock gained about 18%.

13 May 2012

Speedy Web Design from Xara Web Designer MX: I just created an 8-page website design in less than 5 minutes and all but about 2 seconds of that time was occupied by trying to decide which of the 41 templates I wanted to use. Creating the pages required, literally, no more than double-clicking the website template option. There's more to creating a website than selecting a template, of course: You'll need to add your own words and illustrations but if you're good with words, not so good with design, and completely flummoxed by HTML, Javascript, and the like, Xara Web Designer MX will let you look like a pro.

Slim Browser Puts IE on a Diet: An acquaintance recently asked about Slim Browser. Although I'd never heard of it, the browser has been around for a while. It's based on the Trident layout engine. The person who told be about Slim Browser detests Microsoft's Internet Explorer and that made the recommendation humorous.

Short Circuits: One for Google. One for Oracle. If the court fight between Google and Oracle over software copyrights was a baseball game, it would be a double-header or maybe a series. The double-header is over with Google taking one game and Oracle the other. But the series will continue. Oracle, the company that acquired Sun Microsystems and, with it, the Java programming language says that Google improperly used Java code in developing its Android operating system.

Angry Birds are Finish(ed): The Särkänniemi (SARK-en-ya-me) theme park in Finland now has an area for Angry Birds. Angry Bird Land builds on the Rovio game that's on just about everyone's smart phone and on lots of tablets, Angry Birds. The theme park area features 12 rides, what's called an adventure area, games, and food courts.

Finding Stuff Just Got Easier: Some things are easier to find than others. Cell phones, for example. If you forget where you left it, you can just call it and the ring will tell you where it is. Keys are a different matter, though. Leave them where you know you'll be able to remember and you won't. Then there's that unproductive and frustrating search.

Amazon Learns Some New Tricks: More than anything else, "Amazon" brings books to mind. Amazon sells much more than books but that's where they started. The company sells its own hardware, the Kindle reader and the Fire tablet, but lately they seem to have branched out into other hardware.

A Special Treat This Week: Maybe you've wondered how techies figure out what's wrong when you call them with a problem. I can't guarantee that the flow chart you'll see on this week's program is totally accurate but it's distressingly close. The XKCD comic is one of my favorites, a mixture (as the artist says) of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.

06 May 2012

Scareware: Yet Another Plague to Endure: You're sitting at the computer and working on something. Suddenly a pop-up warns you that the computer is infected and that you must do something immediately to remove the threat. You're offered a link. You click it. And from there, it's downhill all the way. This problem is real and it's serious. For network administrators, it could be a disaster.

Breaking Adobe Acrobat File Restrictions: Adobe Acrobat files can be protected in a way that makes it impossible to print them, edit them, or extract text from them or so Adobe claims. In fact, the password protection is weak and can easily be circumvented. Why would you want to do this? Well, it's possible that the file you have contains text that you would like to use, with appropriate attribution, in a report or on a website. You can display the file on screen and manually copy the text, of course, but what if you have a legitimate need to obtain all of the text in a single locked file or snippets of text from dozens of locked files?

Short Circuits: Microsoft Is Frightening Apple! (Really?) Mercury News reporter Richard Saintvilus wrote about the tech triangle of Microsoft, Apple, and Google this week. Spurred, no doubt, by the announcement this week that Microsoft will invest $300 million in Barnes and Noble, the article is a worthwhile read.

Google Under Siege? Google's managers could be forgiven for thinking that they're under siege. It's beginning to appear much more likely that the Federal Trade Commission will take Google to court, much as the same agency filed suit against Microsoft some 15 years ago and the company's "don't be evil" motto probably won't serve as a get-out-of-jail card. A case can be made for saying that Microsoft became a better company as a result of the suit. Might Google become a better company if it's forced to play by other people's rules?

The Proliferation of Phone Numbers: How many phone numbers do you have? I have an office number. There's the home number. I also have two Google Voice numbers, one in central Ohio that forwards to my cell phone and a second in Houston because I could use it to spell TechByter. Why so many? I can explain.


29 Apr 2012

So Many E-mail Clients but One Clear Choice: Although they're not as plentiful as they used to be, there's no real shortage of e-mail clients. Outlook and Outlook Express, of course, are in widespread use and Thunderbird (both the Mozilla and Eudora variants) are popular. But many more are available. Whenever I look at the others, I wonder why The Bat isn't used by more people in the United States.

Digital SLRs for Stills and Video: Listener James Pierson in Pittsburgh has some questions about digital single-lens reflex cameras on work sites for both stills and video. Although his questions were about a specific camera for a particular use, the questions are sufficiently general that I believe they'll be of interest to many people who are thinking about using a digital still camera for video.

"Internet Doomsday": Just Around the Corner! On July 9, several hundred thousand people may suddenly discover that the Internet no longer works. At least that's what it sounds like on some radio and TV stations. In fact, the Internet will continue to work but several hundred thousand people may possess computers that cannot connect to websites or collect e-mail. Is your computer one of them? It's easy enough to find out but first let's consider the back story.

Short Circuits: Google Drive Isn't Free But it Might Be Reasonable: This week Google announced Google Drive, "a place where you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your stuff." Bear that "keep all your stuff" in mind as I prattle on about this new service. "Whether you’re working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a wedding with your fiancé, or tracking a budget with roommates," a Google blogster gushes, "you can do it in Drive. You can upload and access all of your files, including videos, photos, Google Docs, PDFs and beyond." Sounds good but this is Google so there's probably a catch, right?

It Was Never a Question of Whether: When an attack infected half a million or so Apple computers because of a long-known but unpatched flaw in Java, those of us who have tried for years to explain that all computers are vulnerable to some types of attacks felt somewhat vindicated. Not happy, because I don't wish a computer infection on anyone. But those Mac users who prepared themselves and their computers escaped.

Wow! Stay Tuned for the News! The next few weeks are going to be pretty exciting around here. I'm looking at several new applications and Photoshop plugins that I think you'll want to hear about. I'll give you a quick rundown on some of the topics that are in the hopper

22 Apr 2012

Toward the Future, Tablet in Hand: Back in January when I bought an Android tablet, I promised an update after I had used it for a while. Well, it's been 3 months since I bought the Asus Transformer and I've developed an intense love-hate relationship with the tablet and some disturbing suspicions about the abilities of Asus technical support. Despite those problems and questions, I'm still somewhat pleased with the tablet's capabilities even though I've returned it to Asus for service.

Are You an Expert, a King, a Butterfly, or a Maestro? What are you -- an efficiency expert, a content king, a social butterfly, or a connected maestro? According to IBM, you probably fit into one of those categories. The conclusions of an IBM study were released at this year's National Association of Broadcasters convention and it can't have done anything to help broadcast owners sleep better at night. The IBM study also identified 4 general types of users and you might find that one of them fits.

Ever Wonder How Spam Filters Work? Spam filters come in all sorts of flavors and you'll find them in many locations. Some Internet service providers perform spam filtering that identifies and deletes messages that are positively determined to be spam. Your e-mail program may have a built-in spam filter and you may also use a separate application or a plug-in for your e-mail program.

Short Circuits: Oracle Versus Google:

The judge in the trial that pits Oracle against Google was critical of Google CEO Larry Page's testimony this week. Page said that Google didn't purchase a license to use Java software owned by Oracle because it didn't need one. Oracle obtained the rights to Java when the company acquired Sun Microsystems and Google is accused of using the technology in developing its Android operating system.

Using Old Lenses on Your New Digital Camera: Did you know that you can stick an old lens on your new digital camera and it will work? It's not quite that simple, but it will work if you're willing to spend a few dollars for a converter and put up with some significant shortcomings.

Remember When "Sony" Meant "Leading Edge"? I was talking with a friend the other day and we wandered onto the topic of Sony. Whatever became of Sony? The company defined mobile music with the Walkman. Then Apple came along with the Ipod and nobody wanted the old technology. Sony tried to compete with its MD-disc technology, which was a great format for field recording but never caught on among the general public. Now most sound recordings are made on solid-state devices. Sony, it seems, has lost its way.

15 Apr 2012

Evernote or Microsoft One Note? Several years ago I found Microsoft OneNote and immediately fell in love with it but there are several problems with OneNote: First and foremost, Microsoft doesn't include it with every version of Office. No matter what Adobe Creative Suite package you buy, Bridge is included. OneNote is to Office as Bridge is to Creative Suite but Microsoft has never figured that out. If you want OneNote, you have to buy one of the more expensive suites or license it separately. If you're not willing to pay extra for OneNote, consider Evernote.

Film, the Final Frontier for Digital Photographers: Digital photography offers huge advantages over film photography: Cost, performance in low-light situations, and immediate feedback to name just three. For others, ask the Eastman Kodak Company. But the small minority of photographers who have stuck with film well into the digital age say that film has a special look. And you know what? They're right. But maybe they're also a bit shortsighted because that film "look" can be replicated digitally and you're not limited to any one film "look" with any individual image. Try several and see which works best.

Windows 8: "Radical Redesign": This week I was watching a short (72 minutes) Windows 8 presentation on by David Gassner in which he described the upcoming operating system from Microsoft as a "radical redesign" of Windows. That's an apt description but "radical" is likely to frighten some people. That's unfortunate because, while the changes are radical, they are also designed to make it possible for Windows users to have similar experiences across various platforms, from tablets to notebooks to desktop systems to servers.

Short Circuits: The Bumblebee is Dead: A man from Poland, whose name means "bumblebee" has died. He drove a taxi and repaired typewriters. The man from Poland went into business with a company in Czechoslovakia when that country was behind the Iron Curtain and set up a business front in Toronto so that he could import parts for office machines that were assembled here. Jack Tramiel was 83. Do you know this name?

Instagram to Become Part of Facebook: Recently my daughters have been adding images to Facebook via a service called Instagram. Now it turns out that Facebook will acquire Instagram for about $1 billion in cash and stock. That makes the acquisition Facebook's largest so far.

Apple's FlashBack Trojan Attack (Take Two): After dawdling for long enough that fraudsters were able to take advantages of flaws in its OS X operating system, Apple has issued issued two updates within about a week. It's too little. It's too late. More than 600 thousand Apple computers have been affected. This didn't have to happen.

8 Apr 2012

Everything But the Kitchen Sink: This is one of those weeks during which lots of things caught my attention but not one of them was big enough to stand as the primary article on TechByter Worldwide. So this week you get a laundry list of topics that you might find worthwhile, amusing, interesting, useless, boring, or stupid. Step right up! One size fits all! Here we go....

Mac Botnet Boasts Half a Million Infected Machines: If you're one of those Mac owners who believes that Macs are inherently resistant to all malware, here's your wake-up call: Russian anti-virus company Doctor Web sounded the first alarm this week about a Mac-only botnet that has taken over 550,000 Mac computers, including some that are located in Cupertino, which is also Apple's home town.

Apple's Chinese Workers Will Get a Break: The company Apple hired to look into working conditions at Foxconn factories in China has criticized the long hours the company demands of workers, working conditions, and pay. Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, has insisted that the company, headquartered in Taiwan, do a better job and Foxconn says that it will reduce working hours and increase wages.

Not a Good Week if You Work for Yahoo: The ever-shrinking Yahoo plans to drop another 2000 employees. That's about 14% of the company's remaining workforce. The company owns some popular websites and it's profitable. So what's behind the reductions?

It's an All-Yahoo News Week: Facebook has fired return shots at Yahoo after Yahoo filed suit against Facebook, claiming that Facebook is illegally using Yahoo's patented technology. This legal activity might have something to do with Facebook's planned initial public stock offering that's planned for this spring.

Anonymous: White Hats or Black Hats: The group known as Anonymous has apparently broken into some Chinese websites and defaced them. Does that make these guys good or bad? Freedom fighters or terrorists?

Google Found to be Evil in Australia: I'm one of the people who has complained many times about misleading ads that routinely show up on Google -- ads that promote, for example, 80%-off Ipads. These are ads that anyone with an IQ much above 80 will know are fraudulent but they continue to appear and Google continues to be paid for them.

E-Books Are No Longer the Future: For about 20% of us, books are no longer always physical objects that are stored on shelves. One in five Americans now reads books electronically. That's the result of a survey by the Pew Research Center.

1 Apr 2012

Delivering the Internet from Your Wall Outlets: As handy as Wi-Fi systems are, they're not always the right choice for use at home. Maybe the Wi-Fi signal isn't sufficient in some parts of the house or maybe you have a device that can't maintain a Wi-Fi connection. This is a problem that I encountered at home and, after trying several Wi-Fi solutions, I decided to install a Powerline Network Adapter. Problem solved.

Content-Aware Move: How Is This Possible? Over the past few versions of Photoshop, Adobe has added several new content-aware features. The CS6 release, out now in public beta and scheduled for release by mid year, raises the bar to include content-aware move. When I watched an Adobe presenter show the feature, I could barely believe what I saw and now that I've use the feature myself with my own photograph, I suspect that a wizard may be hiding behind the computer.

When You Have a MOV and Need an AVI: There's no shortage of file formats. Not long ago, I had an old Technology Corner Real Media file that I needed to provide to a law firm in England but the law firm wanted an MP3 file. I never liked Real Media files, even when that was the only reasonable way to stream audio, so the Real Media player wasn't present on my computer. I could have installed the player, played the file, captured the audio, and saved it as an MP3. Instead, I downloaded a free conversion program and used that.

Short Circuits: Scammers, Forget the DOJ. Now Microsoft is on the Case: When US marshals raided office buildings in Pennsylvania and Illinois last week, they were accompanied by technicians from Microsoft. The target: Command and control points for "botnets". If you've been off the planet for the past decade or so, a botnet consists of hundreds or thousands of lobotomized computers that send the delightful spam we all receive with such enjoyment each day.

Apple Prepares to Release iThink: Apple CEO Tim Cook is expected to announce a product aimed at improving the intelligence of Americans. It's called the iThink and it's about the size of a first-generation iPod but, instead of headphones, the device's wires terminate in sticky pads that are designed to be placed on the user's head. The technology is so revolutionary that it will be limited to distribution in the United States.

25 Mar 2012

When Words Aren't Sufficient, There's SnagIt: Ask anyone who creates documentation what they use to capture screen images and the most common answer will probably be SnagIt. The application from TechSmith has been the screen capture application of choice for more than a decade and the latest version (11 for windows or 2 for the Mac) seems likely to continue that trend.

Alien Skin Snap Art 3: When You Need More than a Photograph: Sometimes your digital camera is just too good and the image you have shows more than you want. Today's lenses, even inexpensive ones, are sharp. This, in fact, has been a problem for photographers for at least the last 50 years and probably longer. In the early days, lenses were soft (meaning they didn't focus light clearly on film) and film speeds were slow so large apertures enforced a shallow depth of field. No more. Now everything is sharp and sometimes sharper than you want. Film photographers could smear Vasesline on a lens to get a soft effect. Digital photographers have lots of options and Alien Skin's Snap Art 3 is one of the best.

Photoshop CS6 Nears the Starting Gate: Adobe's top photographic product will move up a notch from CS5.1 to CS6 within the next few months but if you'd like to see what the company has been working on you can now download a public beta version for free. This is beta software and comes with all the usual warnings. In addition, it will stop working when the CS6 is released.

Short Circuits: My Verizon Bill is Nearly $1000? How Amusing. If a Verizon bill showed up in your e-mail and suggested that you owed $925.53, would you quickly click one of the links on the message? That's clearly what some fraudsters are hoping.

I, Robot: Amazon: Now why would want to buy a company that makes robots? Actually that's the wrong question. The right question would be "Why hasn't Amazon already bought a company that makes robots?"

18 Mar 2012

Windows 8 Consumer Preview (Two Weeks Later): There's a lot to like about Windows 8 but there is also a fair amount to dislike, or so some writers say. Microsoft has one of the most robust testing operations in the industry but I thought that the testers were missing something that seemed obvious: Not everyone will buy a tablet computer the day that Windows 8 goes on sale. But note the careful use of past tense. The Scary Stuff; It's Beautiful, But ...? (Or It's Beautiful, And ...?); Recovering the Start Menu (Or Not); Do Not Upgrade; Emphasis on PowerShell for Windows 8; Bugs, Bugs, and More Bugs; Assorted Cool Stuff; and For Corporate Chief Information Officers, "W8" Says it All.

Short Circuits: Should Buying a Mouse Be this Hard? My wired mouse had seen better days so I decided to buy a new one. A Microsoft Explorer Mouse seemed a good choice. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

Print Version of Encyclopædia Britannica Dead at 244: Remember when Encyclopædia Britannica sales people made house calls and virtually shamed people into buying expensive sets of books to benefit their children? They haven't been around for a long time and now even the print version of what's often considered the world's best encyclopedia won't be around either.

Somebody's Being Stupid: If you received a message from American Express that was sent to an address American Express doesn't have and also included several of your co-workers and a variety of list addresses, would you consider it to be genuine? Probably some people would.

11 Mar 2012

Lightroom 4 — More Magic from Adobe: Lightroom occupies a space at the intersection of amateur and professional photography. For professionals, it's a superb workflow organizer that can provide the enhancements that all raw-mode digital photographs need and may eliminate the need for further editing but, when more work is needed, Lightroom works well with Photoshop. For amateurs, Lightroom is the most robust application shy of the full (and much more expensive) Creative Suite.

Questions About Replacing a Computer: Bob Allen (in eastern Washington) is buying a new computer and has some questions. He says that it's probably about twice what he needs, but that's what he always buys and eventually overwhelms its capabilities. He's keeping his monitor and printer and will be moving from Vista to Windows 7. It's a 64-bit system, which is a wise choice these days. He plans to install his existing copies of Microsoft Office 2003 and Adobe Elements. Everything else he uses are "free downloads". And he has some great questions.

Short Circuits: A New Ipad: This Updates Everything: The new Ipad 3 announced this week gives users more of everything but no new features. What's interesting is that even though other tablets are available (Android, for example) or coming soon (Windows), the Ipad has garnered a lot of interest from Windows users, even those who don't like Apple.

Android Market to Become Google Play: Google's boringly named Android Market will soon become the Google Play store. In addition to the kinds of apps that have been offered since the 2008 launch, Google Play will place more emphasis on games, books, music, and video.

4 Mar 2012

Windows 8 (Closer and Closer): The Windows 8 Consumer Preview is out and available for download by anyone. We're still many months away from release and this is still beta software. The next step in the process, 2 or 3 months from now, will be another general testing release. That will be followed by a release candidate and then, before the end of the year, the new operating system will be released to manufacturing.

Nexus File: A Windows Explorer from Korea: I've never been happy with the Windows Explorer. It shows just one panel and doing anything useful requires opening two copies of the application. Now I've found Nexus File, a replacement for Windows Explorer written by a software developer in South Korea. Visually it reminds me of applications from the 1990s but when it comes to performance and functionality, it beats anything Microsoft has ever offered.

Public Computers Are Like Public Bathrooms Only Worse: You're on the road and without a computer, smart phone, or any other device that you can use for Internet access and now you need to access the Internet. You locate an Internet cafe or a library and hustle inside. Now what?

Short Circuits: Unlimited Plans That Are Limited: What does "unlimited" mean to you? "Un" is a prefix that negates whatever follows. "Unfriendly" means "not a friend". "Unethical" means a shortage of ethics. "Unhappy" indicates a shortage of joy. Unhappy describes a lot of AT&T customers who felt that the company's "unlimited" data plan with limits was both unfriendly and unethical. AT&T says it will modify its "unlimited" plan -- to be a little less unfriendly.

Anonymous Members Arrested: The group known as Anonymous likes to deface websites, break in to sites with lax security and steal information, and otherwise engage in activities that some people might consider to be less than totally above-board and helpful. Now 25 suspected members of the group have been arrested in Europe and South America.

26 Feb 2012

BootMed: Linux Aims to Save Windows's Bacon: When something goes wrong with a Windows system, sometimes the best solution involves formatting the drive and reinstalling Windows. Although Windows 7 has substantially reduced the need to perform this task every year (since installing Windows 7, I have never needed to do this), it's still a sufficiently serious problem that a rescue option is needed. How about one that's based on Linux?

No, I'm Not Going to Call it "Googlegate": Google is in trouble again and once again it's about privacy matters. At issue is the relatively minor issue of cookies, which most computer experts consider to be largley harmless and helpful but which some privacy experts consider useless and demonic. The truth is unlikely to be found at either extreme.

Ubuntu Linux on Your Android Device? As Linux goes, Ubuntu is king of the desktop but it's still a tiny fish in a gigantic ocean. Now Canonical says that it's planning to release a version of Ubuntu for Android devices. One key point, at least for now, is that the Android device must be docked.

Short Circuits: Sony Appears to be the Victim of Bad Timing: Sony's Vita went on sale this week. It's a portable game device that sells for $250. You want a game with that? Figure another $50 or so. Memory? You'll need some and Sony devices use Sony's proprietary (and high priced) Memory Stick devices. Something seems amiss here.

Organize Your Office on Leap Day: It's the uncommon news release that earns enough of my attention to be included on the program, but one I received this week from Alison Beckwith at OFM, "a leading office and school furniture manufacturer, distributor, and wholesaler" was sufficiently inventive to pass the test. OFM says you should use this year's Leap Day to organize your office. OK, that's a good idea. Let's roll with it.

Nigerian Scammers Scammed by an Australian Woman: According to the Courier Mail in Australia, a woman has pleaded guilty to scamming a bunch of Nigerians who were trying to scam her. This boggles my mind (but, as you may recall, my mind has a very low boggle threshhold.)

19 Feb 2012

Windows, OS X, or Ubuntu? All of my current production or test machines run Windows 7 or Windows 8 these days. I no longer have any computer than runs any version of Apple's OS (unless you want to count an 11-year-old laptop that works only when plugged, has a 10GB drive, a G3 processor and version 10.3 or 10.4 of the operating system). I had a G4 notebook but it died a nasty death that was no fault of mine or Apple. The Windows 7 machines that used to dual-boot with Linux now dual boot with Windows 8 except for a netbook that has Windows 7 and Ubuntu. I recently upgraded Ubuntu to version 11.10 and I'm once again impressed.

When Too Much of a Good Thing is Too Much of a Good Thing: You probably already know that I spend a fair amount of time watching training videos because it's a great way to learn which features power users feel are the most important to learn. But sometimes too much of a good thing can be overwhelming. is constantly adding titles to the hundreds (or thousands) that already exist. I've had trouble in the past organizing titles that I planned to watch but now there's a Netflix-like solution, a queue that allows users to schedule upcoming training and to specify the importance of the training.

An (Inter)Face Only a Mother Could Love: When an application's documentation begins with "DO NOT PANIC!" it may be because you've fallen into a slight variation on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy but more likely it's because you've downloaded and installed the Bulk Rename Utility. If you occasionally need to rename a lot of files, you need this free utility from the United Kingdom.

Short Circuits: Apple Shamed Into Auditing Foxconn: Apple's leaders say that the company has been trying to clean up operations at Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturer of many of its prodcuts but following last week's high-profile delivery of petitions signed by a quarter of a million customers calling for change, Apple has suddenly called for an audit of Foxconn factories. As I mentioned last week, Apple is not the only high-tech company to have its products manufactured in Asia and it's not the only company that employs Foxconn. Other US high-tech companies also have dirty paws.

Steve Jobs, the Book: I finally got around to reading Walter Isaacson's book about Steve Jobs and I highly recommend it. Isaacson was surprised that Jobs didn't want to control the writing of the book and the result is a candid review of an uncommonly complex man.

Carousel Becomes Revel and Moves to Android: Less than a year ago, Adobe announced Carousel, a mobile photo manipulation and sharing application. Now the name has changed to Revel and this week it became available for users of Android phones and tablets. Note that Revel is a very Mac-centric application at this time. Still, it's usable via Android devices.

12 Feb 2012

Excitement Builds as Windows 8 Beta 2 Release Date Nears: Microsoft will release the second public beta of Windows 8 sometime this month. "Late February" is the announced target, which could be anytime from the 15th through the end of the month. And February has an extra day this year. The version of Windows 8 that I've been using is dozens (if not hundreds) of builds earlier than what Microsoft will release this month. Pundits of various stripes are already saying that Windows 8 will prove to be far better than Apple's latest operating system or that it will be dead on arrival. Both of those extremes are silly and are largely designed to sell magazines or build website traffic. I'll try to stick to the factual middle ground.

Is That Website Safe?: There have been lots of stories about malware on commercial websites and you might be wondering how to tell the difference between a healthy site and an infected site. VeriSign has released a white paper that's intended for use by website operators but also contains information that is of interest to the rest of us.

Short Circuits: 250,000 Users to Apple: Clean up Your Act: Apple is by no means the only electronics manufacturer to have its devices built in China and it's not the only US electronics company to use Foxconn's factory, where several workers have committed suicide and where around 150 Chinese Foxconn workers threatened to commit suicide last year by jumping off the factory's roof. Foxconn is the world's largest electronic manufacturer.

Yes, Windows 8 Will Have Angry Birds: Ipad and Android users have Angry Birds and the next Windows 8 beta will include access to the Windows Store (Microsoft's equivalent of the Apple App Store and the Android Market). If you're going to have a store, you need products. Among the products available at launch time: Wordament, Angry Birds, Crash Course, Toy Soldiers, Rocket Riot.

In other words, important business-related applications.

New York Times Looks at Multiple Monitors: Monitors have become larger over the years and some people think that adding a really large monitor is better than or at least equal to using two monitors. That is not the case. Replacing a smaller cluttered monitor with a larger monitor just leads to larger clutter.

No More Kodak Digital Cameras: Kodak, still trying to find a place in today's photography landscape, has decided to stop manufacturing digital cameras, video cameras, and digital picture frames. That's a good decision and one that's about 10 years too late.

A Different Sound for TechByter Worldwide: Thanks to a listener in Germany who once worked for the BBC, TechByter Worldwide has a brighter sound. Nicholas Bequet's ears are clearly better than mine and when he said that the podcast needed some technical changes, I decided to give them a try.

5 Feb 2012

When You're Here and Your File is There: Many people who use computers have more than one computer. Maybe a desktop or two sitting around the house, maybe a notebook or two, an office computer, possibly a netbook, and—with increasing frequency—a tablet. How many times do you discover that the file you need is on another computer—possibly a computer that's miles away from where you are. Eliminating this inconvenience is easy.

Behind a Strange (to Speakers of English) Name ... lurks the "Daum Pot Player". What would you expect this to be? Maybe a despised musician in a Southern funk band? The Daum Pot Player is a free video player from South Korea. In case you haven't been paying attention lately, South Korea manufactures some of the most reliable and popular electronic devices and automobiles. So why not media players?

Short Circuits: Tweeting an #Outrage: Twitter is the social networking site that the unknowing like to dismiss. "I don't need to tell everyone that I just had a bagel for breakfast," they say, ignoring the fact that Twitter has been instrumental in organizing protests around the world, from Egypt to New York. Now Twitter says that it will block messages in some countries and that has set off a fire storm of protest.

Google's New Privacy Policies: Take Two: Google has announced that it will unify its privacy policies across a broad swath of its services on March first and now a bipartisan group of 8 US representatives has sent a letter to Google asking whether the new policy will allow users to opt out of the entire process. The representatives also questioned the security of users' information. This week Google responded to the letter.

And Then There Were Four (Terabytes, that is): Hitachi has announced the availability of Deskstar 7200RPM 4TB hard drives. The Deskstar 7K4000 offers not only a lot of space but also high performance because of its 7200RPM spindle speed.

29 Jan 2012

Android Apps: Fun, Amusing, Useful, and Useless: Lots of useful apps are available for Android tablets and now that I'm a new user, I've started to find some that are indispensable. But there are also some apps that have no apparent reason to exist: Not useful. Not amusing. Not fun. And not discussed here. Let's take a look at some that you might like if you have an Android tablet.

Megaupload is Dead: The feds have shut down Megaupload, proving that even without SOPA and PIPA the federal government can shut down sites that offer illegal access to copyrighted materials. The Hong Kong site was clearly an illegal operation. Or was it? Might it be that Megaupload was the victim of a police riot?

Google's New Privacy Policies Raise Concerns: Google is changing its privacy policies so that they will be consistent across most of the company's offerings. This will be more convenient for users, Google says. But security experts caution that the new policies will make more of your information available to advertisers. And everyone is right.

Short Circuits: Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Likes His Android: You may have heard that Steve Wozniak likes Android phones but you may not have heard the entire story. In an interview with Dan Lyons on The Daily Beast, Steve Wozniak admitted that his Android phone offers more features than his Iphone. This is in contrast to the other Apple co-founder, the late Steve Jobs, who loathed the Android and threatened to bankrupt Apple if that's what he had to do to kill Android.

Symantec PC Anywhere Going Nowhere: If you use Symantec's PC Anywhere to work on remote computers, Symantec says you should disable it right away and wait for a patch update. The shady group known as "Anonymous" broke into Symantec's servers (embarrassing) and made off with the source code for PC Anywhere (even more embarrassing) so Symantec really had no choice other than to warn people not to use one of its products.

22 Jan 2012

SOPA/PIPA: The Right Way to do the Wrong Thing: Or vice versa. OPINION: At the risk of being accused of engaging in politics, I feel that it's important to say that SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (the Protect IP Act) are ill-concieved and badly written pieces of legislation that virtually anyone who knows anything about the Internet is opposed to. In an attempt to make this a top-of-mind issue for more people and to encourage opposition to a bill crafted not by members of Congress but by the movie and music industries, Wikipedia and Google (among others) this week highlighted the legislation. This really isn't a conservative versus liberal, Republican versus Democrat issue: The bills both had support and opposition from all sides of the political spectrum.

Keeping Your Computer Up to Date: On last week's program I mentioned the Secunia Personal Software Inspector and this week I'd like to tell you more about this free utility program. When I installed it and allowed it to scan my primary computer, I expected to find no problems. Oops. Although I earned a high score (91%) PSI still found some problems. If security and having up-to-date applications (which is a function of security) are important to you, check out the Secunia website and the free Personal Software Inspector.

Short Circuits: Bankruptcy for Kodak: We've known this was coming but it was still a sad day when the once mighty Eastman Kodak Company filed for bankruptcy protection. Kodak is filing for Chapter 11 protection, listing assets of $5.1 billion and debts that total $6.8 billion. The company owns thousands of patents pertaining to digital photography but has been unable to sell them.

After 17 Years, Yang Leaves Yahoo: Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang rode the Web portal business to its zenith and watched as mistakes nearly destroyed the company. Now he's announced that he will resign from Yahoo's board, the board of Yahoo Japan, and the board of Alibaba Group Holdings, which is owned in part by Yahoo.

Now Playing at Netflix: Getting Sued: It's as easy as 1-2-3: (1) Price hikes and an ill-advised decision (quickly rescinded) to split Netflix into two companies. (2) Plummeting stock value because of #1. (3) Now a class-action lawsuit because of #2. As surprise endings go, this isn't one.

What is that on Your Shoe? Online shoe retailer Zappos is being sued by a customer who's annoyed by a data theft that the company notified its customers about. Personal data from 24 million accounts could have been compromised. That creates the potential for a lot of unhappy people. The company is owned by Does this call into question Amazon's data security? If not, it should.

15 Jan 2012

Adobe Lightroom 4 Rolls into Public Beta: Version 4 of the juggernaut known as Adobe Lightroom is now available to anyone who wants to try it. As usual, Adobe is releasing the beta version publicly to obtain the greatest amount of feedback from people who might actually use it. This has, in fact, been Adobe's policy for several versions. I saw a demonstration of Lightroom 4 last month. The demonstration was provided in accordance with Adobe's non-disclosure agreement and it's been really hard for me to keep quiet about what this version adds to your photographic tool kit.

Free For All: It would certainly be great to have enough money to buy a commercial application for every need you have but that isn't always possible. And sometimes free applications are just as good as the commercial product. Occasionally, the free application is even better than the one you pay for. This week let's take a look at some of the applications you can install for free and with a clear conscience.

Don’t Put That in Your Computer! You Don’t Know Where It’s Been! What would you do if you found a thumb drive in your company’s parking lot? Would you pick it up, take it inside, and plug it in? A surprising number of people would. It’s not clear whether they’re being helpful (trying to return something that’s been lost) or attempting to exploit someone else’s misfortune (looking for data on the drive). Either way, your computer and possibly your entire network is at risk.

Miscellaneous Windows 8 Updates: I haven't said much about Windows 8 for a while but development continues to progress and today seemed a good time to report briefly on a variety of events that have happened, are happening, or will happen soon.

Short Circuits: PayPal Once Again Says My Account Has a Problem: I was more than a little disappointed that Norton Internet Security didn't catch this and spike it. Neither did the antispam add-in I use with my e-mail program (Antispam Sniper). And SpamAssassin didn't catch it, either. When something makes it through that many defenses, it concerns me because this is the kind of fraudulent message that will fool a lot of people despite the large number of red flags all over the message. Let's take a look at it.

Want to See a Movie from Warner Brothers? Prepare to Wait. Warner Brothers will soon announce that its latest DVD releases won't be made available to rental outlets until nearly two months after the discs can be bought in stores and websites. Take that, Netflix!

Consumer Electronics Show without Microsoft: The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is like the old PC Expo in New York City only larger. It's not just computers. CES is video and audio. It's robots. Its anything electronic that any consumer anywhere might think about buying. It's the perfect forum for a company such as Microsoft. Or not. In an era when Apple has abandoned Macworld it probably should be no surprise that this is Microsoft's last year at CES.

8 Jan 2012

NSA Recommendations for Computer Security: The National Security Agency (NSA)—also known as the "No Such Agency" because of its secrecy—knows a thing or two about cyber security. The agency has some down-to-earth recommendations for how you can avoid having your information, identity, and bank account stolen.

Five Minutes After I Bought an Android Tablet ... Eweek magazine wrote an article that said it's stupid to buy an Android tablet because Android "will lose the tablet race." And they go on to provide 10 reasons why I was stupid to buy an Android tablet. Stupid? Yes, let me count the ways. And then I'll let you know what I think of the tablet now that I've used it for a few weeks.

Paying for Journalism: Why do we need journalists? Do we need journalists? That second question may be the more important of the two. If you know anyone who has lived in a place where "the news" is entirely controlled by the state, you wouldn't ask the second question and you would know the answer to the first. A surprising number of people feel that journalists are, if not actively harmful, at least irrelevant in this Internet age.

Short Circuits: Can "PARC" and "Profitable" Occur in the Same Sentence? In the final (unintended) program of 2011, I reported the death of the founder of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), the organization that invented most of what is today's personal computing even though Xerox allowed the inventions to languish until some other company (Apple, Microsoft) noticed them and made billions. In 2002, Xerox spun off the business unit as "PARC" and gave it a mandate to become profitable.

Verizon and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: The CEO of Verizon may have to forego buying a new yacht this year. The company, apparently noticing the figurative band of axe-wielding customers approaching the front door, has abandoned the proposed $2 fee that would have applied to some of its customers.

Netflix Streams, Stock Soars: There's been so much bad news about Netflix over the past several months that it feels good to have something positive to say. Netflix is reporting that its streaming-video customers watched more than 2 billion hours of content in October, November, and December. In addition to that, the company's stock is up by more than 10%.

1 Jan 2012

Normally This Would Be a TechByter Vacation Day: The TechByter website changes this year won't be as obvious as in some previous years but there are more changes than usual in the 2012 annual site refresh. This year the typefaces will look different, the page is wider (but the e-mail is narrower), and the underlying code is HTML 5 instead of XHTML Transitional. Allow me, for a moment, to gaze at the TechByter Worldwide navel.

Microsoft Finally Drives a Stake Through IE6! (Almost): Report a problem to the IT help desk at a very large (50,000 employees) company and the first response will be "What browser are you using?" Regardless of what you say, the response will be, "Well, this Web application is certified for Microsoft Internet Explorer 6. Have you tried that?" IE6? Really? This is decade-old technology that even Microsoft tells people not to use. At long last Microsoft seems to be getting serious about this.

Being Your Own TV Producer: Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 is, without question, one of the most important applications used to communicate in print, video, and audio. By creating applications that work together, Adobe has made it possible for creative professionals to use content created by one application in another application. But Adobe has also expanded the powers of creative software for non-professionals. Premiere Elements is a good example.

Short Circuits: Opinion: SOPA in GoDaddy's Mouth: The big domain registrar,, announced its support for SOPA, the ill-advised "Stop Online Piracy Act" but when thousands of customers who were annoyed by that position threated to move their domain registrations elsewhere, the company relented. More or less. We'll examine the linguistics and the reasons why you should speak out against this lobbyist-inspired bill.

Fahrvergnügen for Volkswagen's Eurpoean Employees: Remember the 1990 VW ad campaign for fahrvergnügen—driving enjoyment? Now the automaker says that it wants its employees to have more fun when they're off the clock. No more checking your corporate e-mail account with the company-provided BlackBerry. That's because the devices will function only from half an hour before the work day begins until half an hour after it ends. The change applies to unionized workers but apparently not to managers.

Point-and-Shoot Cameras Will Disappear Soon: This is one of those stories that will seem obvious once you've read it. Serious photographers will continue to use digital SLR cameras or maybe Four Thirds cameras, Micro Four Thirds cameras, or even high-end point-and-shoot cameras. But the basic point-and-shoot digital cameras are doomed.

Oops. Wrong Beatle. What do you do when you list two members of the Beatles who are dead and you get one of them wrong? In my case, I updated the TechByter Worldwide website with the correct information (and a note about the wrong information) but I allowed the podcast with the wrong information to remain. In the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, pages were simply removed and new pages were inserted the "correct" history. I decided to leave the error in place and correct it later. Well, it's now later.