TechByter Worldwide

Program Index for 2013

29 Dec 2013

No Program This Week: The cats and I traditionally spend this week lying around idly (this is not a change for the cats, but it is for me) and all of us wish you good will for the holidays, whichever holiday or holidays you celebrate. May 2014 be a year without bugs, crashes, and viruses!

22 Dec 2013

Target Needs to Review Its Crisis Response Procedures: A week ago, Target knew that its servers had been breached and that information about perhaps 40 million shoppers had fallen into the hands of thieves. The company failed to make the information public for several days. As one disgruntled shopper put it, "Shop and Target and become a target."

4G for People Who Don't Need 4G: December seemed like a good time to have a hot spot. After all, the temperature was hovering around 10 and I thought a little warmth would be helpful. Then I realized that hot spots don't emit any heat, but they sure can be handy. I'm one of those strange people who feels no need to be connected to the Internet every moment of the day. Maybe you are, too. But I have to admit that being able to connect occasionally when I'm not near a Wi-Fi access point would be useful.

Dear NSA: Cut It Out! (White House Panel): That sound you heard mid week was the other shoe dropping in Washington. Presidential advisors have told President Obama that it's time to stop the National Security Agency's policy of collecting information about phone calls placed by all Americans and to restrict future snooping to instances when they have obtained a court order. Not that a court order is particularly difficult to obtain.

Short Circuits: Facebook Decides to Annoy Even More Users: How excited would you be about the prospect of finding a video in your Facebook news stream, a video that starts playing automatically? Facebook thinks this is a really good idea.

On Delta, No Phone Calls: The Federal Communications Commission may well be reconsidering rules against making cell phone calls on airplanes, but one airline has already stepped forward to say "Not on our planes!" That airline is Delta.

Ready for a Car that Runs on Hydrogen? This isn't the typical fare for TechByter Worldwide, but it is about technology and it is important. What if the cars we drive could run on a fuel that creates no harmful emissions? And what if that fuel cost about the same as gasoline?

Not All Internet Crooks are Evil Geniuses: People who want you to send them advance payments so that they can ship your $10 million from a long-lost relative in Nigeria depend on their marks being stupid. That's one of the reasons messages about amazing wealth come from one of the poorest nations on earth. But those who want to plant a virus on your computer need to reach the widest possible audience and that means the messages have to be more believable. It amuses me when one that's transparently phony.

Stupid Screenshot of the Week: Everybody needs protective software and the stronger the protections, the better. Unfortunately, Avast got a bit carried away this week and protected me from an automatic update ... from Avast. (Website only; not on the podcast.)

No Program Next Week: Christmas is next Wednesday and it's followed by New Year's a week later. As always, TechByter Worldwide will be quiet next week and will return on January 5, 2014.

15 Dec 2013

Surveillance: Some of the Big Guys Say "Enough!" In some ways, it's amusing that Google is one of several big players in Internet commerce to tell the federal government that their surveillance policies need to be modified. This is the same Google that has more information about people than the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, China's Ministry of State Security, the Mossad, Russia's FSB, MI5 and NCA in the United Kingdom, and even the fictional SMERSH.

April is the Cruelest Month (for XP Users): T.S. Eliot wrote that in The Waste Land (1922), except for the Windows part because he knew nothing of Windows or computers. Maybe you liked Windows XP and maybe you thought it was better than Vista (you were right) or Windows 7 (you were wrong) or Windows 8 (you were wrong). In April, Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP, which by then will be a 14-year-old operating system. In as few words as possible: GET OVER IT. It's time to move on. It's time to obtain a modern operating system.

Passwords May Be Dead, but Users Don't Know it Yet: Passwords are inherently insecure. They can be compromised in many ways and most people, even some information technology professionals, don't know how to create a good password. Microsoft wants to help with "Telepathwords". Certain password mistakes are common and they result in passwords that are easy to guess and therefore aren't secure. Telepathwords is based on the techniques that thieves commonly use to guess passwords.

Short Circuits: Why You Need Firefox 26 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android: Firefox 26 is now generally available. Those on the beta channel have been using it for a while now and all users should allow this update to be installed. A major security update called "Click to Play" is now turned on by default.

Adobe Updates You'll Want: Adobe has been busy. There are updates for many Creative Cloud, Creative Suite 6, Lightroom, Camera Raw, and Elements applications. So, in general, whatever Adobe application you use, there's probably something new for you on Adobe's website.

8 Dec 2013

A Short Course on Avoiding Holiday Fraudsters: Robert Siciliano is a McAfee security expert who is particularly interested in preventing identity theft. For more than 20 years, he's been researching security issues in an effort to stay ahead of the crooks. Thieves particularly like the holidays because we're all in a hurry and we're looking for a bargain. On Black Friday, I spent about half an hour talking with Robert and this week's program largely consists of that interview. Take the time and listen. Really. It's important.

Short Circuits: Jeff Bezos and the Incredible Amazon Drone: Unless you've been hiding out from the NSA, you've probably heard about Amazon's plan to deliver goods by drone. Jeff Bezos is a really smart guy and he knows how to launch a trial balloon in a way that will gain the greatest publicity for Amazon at the beginning on the annual Christmas feeding frenzy.

Microsoft's NokiaPhone is Closer: Microsoft's $7 billion bid to acquire Nokia is moving along snd should be completed in the first quarter of 2014.

Yet Another Music Service: Just what the world needs: Yet another online music service. This one is called "Beats" and it will commence operations in January.

1 Dec 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from TechByter Worldwide. We'll be back next week.

24 Nov 2013

SURPRISE! Last week I said we'd be off this week for Thanksgiving, but apparently my calendar was out of sync with the standard US calendar.

I Khan Do It and You Khan Too! Send Your Kids (or Yourself) to the Khan Academy. Maybe you've heard of the Khan Academy. If not, I'm going to fix that right now. Salaman Khan is a smart guy. He's a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard Business School. As I said, he's a smart guy. But he's also an excellent teacher. In 2006, he created Khan Academy ("Completely free, forever"). The stated mission is to provide "a free world-class education for anyone anywhere".

POP Goes the IMAP Weasel: E-mail users can choose between two options (protocols) when setting up an e-mail program: POP3 (Post Office Protocol) or IMAP (Internet Mail Application Protocol). IMAP is the newer of the two, but most people are still using POP3. Newer isn't always better though and deciding which to use involves analyzing how you use e-mail.

Goodbye IGoogle, Hello IGHome: In 2005, Google launched its Personalized Homepage service. Later renamed IGoogle (or, as Google styled it, "iGoogle") and then discontinued on the first of November. Google had announced plans to terminate the service a year in advance so developers who wanted to create an application to replace it would have time to do so. IGHome (or, as they style it, "igHome") became available and it's proving to be an excellent replacement.

Short Circuits: Will the FCC Allow Cell Phone in the Air? Between the people who think it is their god-given right to talk loudly on cell phones anywhere and everywhere and those who wish the previously mentioned folks would just shut the **** UP, it's not going to be a happy time in the skies. I suspect that flight attendants are not in favor of this.

Amazon Wants to Out-Netflix Netflix: A new streaming deal gives Amazon an advantage in its battle with Netflix. Amazon announced a deal this week to add releases from independent film company A24 to its Prime service. Prime is the service that allows customers to receive free 2-day shipping on most orders and also to view some streaming video.

Next Week is a Bye Week (Really): I mean it this time! Happy Thanksgiving a few days early. There will be no program next week, but TechByter Worldwide will return on December 8.

17 Nov 2013

Plain-Text Editing Is Now Fancy: It's been a while since I've written about text editors and it's about time to do it again because my favorite text editor just became a lot more colorful. Maybe you think color for a text editor is silly and maybe I would have agreed with you. Until this week. UltraEdit Studio is now useful and pretty, too.

Free for All: Most of the software discussed here are commercial applications, ones that you pay for, download, and install. But numerous free applications exist -- some as free versions of applications that have more powerful paid versions and others that are just simply provided at no cost. Occasionally I like to describe some of those hidden gems because -- with no advertising budget -- these applications are all but invisible. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, now seemed a good time to thank the developers for some of these applications.

Short Circuits: Updating a Windows 8 Tablet to Windows 8.1: Most of the systems that I've updated from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 proceeded smoothly, but "most" is not "all" and for the past month I've been battling with Windows 8.1 on an Acer Iconia tablet. Actually, that should have been the easiest update of all. Although I had planned to format the tablet's hard drive and reinstall Windows 8 this weekend, that turned out not to be necessary.

SnapChat Says Facebook's Offer Is One that it Can Refuse: A couple of mid-20s developers, when offered billions for their business that hasn't yet turned a profit, said NO. The application in question is SnapChat, a photo messaging application. It was created by 5 Stanford University students and it allows users to take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. Recipients can view the images or videos for no more than 10 seconds, after which they are deleted from the SnapChat server.

The Difference between "Assess" and "Asses" is Just "S": Sometimes it's impossible not to share an e-mail error, but you'll have to see it on the website.

10 Nov 2013

File Encryption You Don't Want: Normally the main section of the weekly report contains 2 or 3 articles, but this week there's just one. That's because this is an uncommonly important topic. The message you need to take away from today's program is this: Never open an attachment without first confirming that it's safe. If you practice safe computing, it's unlikely that you'll ever be forced to pay several hundred dollars just to regain control of your files. Those who use notebook computers that contain proprietary business data have heard about the importance of encryption and may have installed an application such as TrueCrypt to perform that task. But just as a hammer can be used to build a comfortable home or to kill someone, encryption technology can be used to protect proprietary data or to hijack files and hold them for ransom. This week you'll find out what it is, how it spreads, and how you can protect your computer and your data.

Short Circuits: Blockbuster Goes Bust: In 2004, Blockbuster had 9000 stores around the country. Now, to the great surprise of approximately 3 people, Blockbuster's owner, Dish Network, is closing most of the final few hundred stores. In other words, Netflix has won the race.

Amazon Makes Nice with Book Stores (Sort of): People who own book stores generally don't like Amazon. That is perhaps an understatement. To say that book store owners loathe Amazon would be somewhat less of an understatement. But now Amazon wants independent book stores to sell Kindles and profit from ebook sales.

03 Nov 2013

MailWasher Fixes Your Problem with Spam: There are estimates that perhaps 80% to 90% of all e-mail is spam. We don't see that much, of course, because some of it can be clearly identified and eliminated so that it doesn't completely overwhelm ISP's mail servers. Even so, though, a lot of it gets through. When the number of spams that made it through my defenses increased a lot recently, I tried increasing the strength of the filters that I maintain on my server. In one case I received 10 to 20 messages per day from a convicted fraudster who wanted to sell gold. A few regular expressions removed his spam, but writing regular expressions every few days isn't a good way to fight spam. There must be a better way, I thought.

The Ghost(ery) in the Machine: Some people are afraid of cookies. That's never been my approach. Cookies are generally not dangerous, not even those "terrible" tracking cookies you hear so much about. Yes, your activities on the Web can be tracked. Yes, this information can be used by people who want to serve advertisements to your computer. To that, I say "So what?" If I must see advertisements, and because of the way the Internet is constructed, I must, then I'd prefer to see ads that might be of some interest to me. And that's what tracking cookies allow.

Short Circuits: Remember the Adobe Hacker Attack? It was somewhat larger than anybody thought. Adobe thought that information belonging to about 3 million users had been stolen. As it turns out, the actual count was more than 38 million. But perhaps even worse, thieves have apparently made off with a substantial amount of Adobe's source code.

The Drip of NSA Revelations Continues: The never-ending list of reports about the National Security Agency (NSA, also known as "No Such Agency" because of its secrecy) continues not to end. The latest allegation says that the NSA, working with the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in England, tapped the fiber optic cables between Google's and Yahoo's servers in Europe and headquarters in the US.

The FAA Makes it Official: Electronic Devices are OK: As soon as airlines evaluate their equipment, passengers will be able to use certain devices at any time on an airplane. Devices such as computers and large tablets will still have to be stowed during takeoff and landing, but you'll be able to continue using smaller devices.

27 Oct 2013

Adobe Illustrates the Point: I'm always at a loss when it comes to describing Adobe Illustrator because it has always seemed needlessly difficult to use, but the latest Creative Cloud version is slowly converting me from a skeptic to a believer, if not yet a fan. Adobe has added several new features to this version and each of them strives to make the application more usable.

Trouble on the Road to Windows 8.1: For most people, the upgrade from Windows 8 to 8.1 will be routine, but some people will experience trouble and, for a few, the process has been no fun at all. I thought maybe you'd want to know about some of the things to watch out for.

Short Circuits: Gartner Confirms that 2013 is the Year of the Tablet: The numbers seem to suggest that tablets are about to sweep regular computers from the face of the planet. Gartner, one of the two primary high tech research firms has revised its predictions to show tablet sales growing by more than 53% this year while PCs will decline more than 11%. Previously, Gartner had suggested a 43% hike for tablets and a 7% decline for tablets.

Will Facebook Ever Get it Right? This week Facebook removed a video that showed a woman being beheaded and then promised to modify it guidelines for when to allow gory videos on the site. My only question is why it took so long.

Pogue Heads to Yahoo: Well, that was certainly a surprise. David Pogue, who has been the most popular NY Times technology reporter for more than a decade will be leaving the newspaper and moving to Yahoo, where he will start a site based on consumer technology. But that's not all.

20 Oct 2013

Xara Designer Pro X9 Includes the Kitchen Sink: Xara's approach to software development creates a mix-and-match system that includes 4 applications that are based on the same underlying environment, but each of the applications is intended for a specific type of user and various features are available in some components but absent from others. This makes a system that is extremely easy for users because everything learned in one component can be applied to the others, but it creates a difficult situation for reviewers because so many features are shared from one application to the other.

Can Google and Facebook Sell Your Picture and Endorsements? In a word, yes, but you can tell them not to. Google says that it will begin showing users' names, photos, ratings, and comments in its vast advertising network. Facebook has similar functionality and makes it relatively difficult for users to opt out. Google at least seems to be trying to make the process easier.

Short Circuits: Windows 8.1 Finally Has Been Released. Whoopee! Either a lot of people wanted to download the Windows 8.1 update on Thursday or the same people who designed also designed the Windows 8.1 update site. A 3.8GB file should take 40 to 45 minutes, an hour the most, but after an hour, the progress bar was sitting at about 1%. The entire process consumed nearly 5 hours!

Lower Earnings at Intel in the Post-PC Era: Whether this really is the post-PC era or not is open to question and I think it isn't. At least not yet. Desktop systems are still needed for many business applications and for most high-powered video, photo, and audio editing. Still, more people will find that what they need to do can be performed with a notebook, a tablet, and sometimes even a smart phone.

With Windows 8.1 Out of the Way, Microsoft Updates its Phones: When times are tough for hardware manufacturers, Microsoft starts making tablet computers and buys Nokia. How well that will play out over the next several years is uncertain, but it is certain that Microsoft phones are due for an upgrade during the next several months.

13 Oct 2013

Upgrading Windows 8.0 to Windows 8.1: Windows 8.1 will be available for purchase on the 17th and I presume that the Windows update process will make the update available about that time too. This is a free upgrade for Windows 8 users and it addresses some of the silly "problems" that pundits have been so vocal in condemning (the missing Start Button, for example). It's a painless upgrade and there are some worthwhile enhancements.

Protecting Your Computer: Procedures to protect computers have changed considerably since the early days of desktop computing. In the 1980s, when antivirus applications were updated once or twice per year, I said that protective applications weren't necessary unless you downloaded a lot of software from sketchy bulletin board systems. This, of course, was before Internet connections were readily available. Your point of view probably has changed several times since then; I know that mine has.

Facebook Threatens to Sue Programmer who Improves Facebook: Matt Kruse started working on on a program he called "Better Facebook" in 2009. Now it's called SocialFixer. Initially he created the application because he was annoyed that he couldn't get rid of posts that he'd already read and only see the new stuff. Eventually, he added features that allow Facebook users to create the exact interface that they want. Now, as you might expect, Facebook is threatening to sue him. A single programmer stands little chance of being able to prevail against a mammoth corporation, so Facebook eventually will win and Kruse will probably be forced to stop offering SocialFixer. Is this a great country, or what?

Short Circuits: A Fraudster Aims to Sell Snake Oil Disguised as Gold: "The End of Obama" - Have you been receiving ominous messages such as these from Porter Stansberry or others? For the past several days, I've received at least 5 of them per day. Maybe you wonder who Porter Stansberry is. I certainly did.

Adobe Systems Hacked; Change Your Password Now: Adobe is an attractive target for many reasons. Gaining access to source code for the many and varied applications Adobe provides would be one. Another would be user accounts for the Creative Cloud service. Adobe says that recent attacks have gained entry to some parts of their systems. Now what?

06 Oct 2013

This Phish Has Teeth: Phishing attacks used to be relatively easy to spot. The message that claimed to be from your bank showed the logo of a bank you've never heard of. Hovering the mouse cursor over a link immediately revealed the ploy. The message appeared to have been written by someone who had flunked third-grade English. Well, things have changed and today's phishing attacks can fool just about anyone. A recent white paper by Webroot explained the changes and raised some questions so I reached out to Chip Witt, the company's director of product management for enterprise and OEM clients.

Yes, You Still Have to Stow the Laptop: It appears that the FAA is on the verge of making some significant changes in rules that will allow airline passengers to continue using their smart phones and tablets during takeoff and landing. Larger devices such as laptops will still need to be stowed. This is a long overdue common-sense decision.

Short Circuits: Beware the WhatsApp Fraud: WhatsApp Messenger is a mobile instant messaging subscription service for smart phones that allows users to send text messages, images, video, and audio messages. It runs on Android, BlackBerry, IOS, Windows Phone, and a few other devices. There is no version of WhatsApp for desktop or notebook computers, but that doesn't stop fraudsters from sending messages that claim to be from the service.

Subscribing to Publishers' Backlist Books: E-books are usually priced in the $10 to $20 range, but the online service Scribd thinks that people would be willing to pay $10 per month for access to backlist books. ($9.95 - can't you just say $10?) That's "backlist", not "blacklist", by the way. Scribd's website has 80 million visitors monthly and hopes to create a Netflix-like subscription service for books.

No More Comments on the Popular Science Website: The online content director of Popular Science, Suzanne LaBarre, recently wrote on the magazine's website that effective immediately comments will no longer be accepted. The Internet is supposed to be about free and open discussion, but as anyone who has read the comments on just about any website it probably well aware, discussions that begin reasonably are quickly overwhelmed by trolls (the people who love to stir up trouble) and spambots (the automated applications that send spam). Unfortunately, this is the wave of the future.

The Apple Spaceship: Thumbing (electronically) through the San Jose Mercury News this week, I encountered an article by Patrick May about Apple's new (PICK ONE: space ship, dough-nut, flying saucer, rounded pentagon, bicycle tire, hula hoop) that's about to start being built. Maybe. It's being referred to as the building that will be "Silicon Valley's most iconic landmark." Public discussions that could determine the building's fate began this week. It's an amazing structure.

29 Sep 2013

Why You May Want to Dump Your ISP's Domain Name Server: Recently, when the Wi-Fi part of our router stopped working, I had to purchase another router. I ended up with a Linksys EA6500, which is one of the company's newer routers. Figuring out how to set up OpenDNS for the router was harder than it should have been, but part of that was my fault.

Adobe Competes with Adobe: Elementary Enhancements: Sometimes I think that Adobe keeps its software engineers on their toes by constantly pushing features from the high-end Photoshop and Premiere applications down to Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements. That forces the developers to create new features that can be added to the top-line applications. But it also means that people who want to edit photos or videos at home without learning how to use astonishingly complex applications and without paying a lot of money for those astonishingly complex applications can do so.

Short Circuits: New Tablets from Microsoft, Amazon: This week, on consecutive days, Microsoft and Amazon announced new tablets. For Microsoft, it was the next version of the Surface that, despite good reviews and powerful features, hasn't sold well. For Amazon, it was an updated Kindle Fire.

Remember Myst? It's been 20 years since a new kind of computer game went on sale. An article on Grantland discusses the game and how it was supposed to change gaming forever. If you remember the game, you'll find the article to be a worthwhile read.

9,000,000 Iphones in Two Days: Apple's new Iphone 5S and 5C models were on sale last weekend and all available models were sold. That would be 9 million phones and sales were almost double what Apple has recorded when any previous version was released.

What's Up with the Fraudsters? In the past week, I've received hundreds of spams that have somehow slipped through my defenses. Offers for low mortgage rates. Messages that tell me I'll forfeit my $15,000 mortgage credit if I don't reply. Messages that tell me I can buy a new Iphone at 90% off retail price. One would have to be an idiot to fall for any of these, but there seems to be no shortage of idiots.

22 Sep 2013

Power Play: What You May Not Know about Batteries, but Should: Batteries used to be about the most boring topic imaginable. We had the big D cells, the slightly smaller C cells, and the small double-A and triple-A cells. You can still find #6 lantern batteries and 9v batteries that came along to power transistor radios 50 or 60 years ago are commonly used in smoke detectors. The real advances began with the advent of rechargeable cells in the 1960s and today people expect powerful computers and phones to provide long service without being too heavy to carry around. How did this come to be?

An Update on DivX: Two weeks ago, I explained how the video player DivX wrecked my browser settings and strongly recommended using the VLC Media Player instead of DivX. Since then, I've heard from a DivX representative who has promised to make the installation process clearer and more transparent. Until then, though, I still consider DivX to be unacceptable.

Short Circuits: The Good Guys Win One for a Change: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that a major Florida spammer has agreed to turn over all of the company's remaining assets and repay up to $377,321 to people it had defrauded. The company sent more than 42 million deceptive text messages to consumers.

Google Buys Bump, But Why? Google reportedly has paid about $40 million for Bump, a service that allows people to share contact information and other data by bumping their phones together. That will allow the company to pay back the $20 million raised from venture capital firms and still walk away with more than pocket change, if they want to walk away.

Lightroom 5.2 Update: Adobe Lightroom 5.2 has been released. This is a free update for those who have version 5 installed. It adds support for 19 cameras and includes several process enhancements.

Google's Canary in the Coal Mine: If you're the adventurous sort, and particularly if you already use Google's Chrome browser, you might want to try the Canary channel. Canary is Google's bleeding edge channel, where you'll find products before they're anywhere near release ready. In the old days, coal miners took canaries into mines to test the quality of the air in the mine. In a way, users of the test versions are the canaries.

15 Sep 2013

Exposure 5 Improves an Already Great Photo Tool: A digital sensor is a digital sensor and all of them handle color in pretty much the same way, but film was special. Each brand and type of film had a certain "look". I have no desire to return to the days when film was the only game in town and there are only 2 film cameras in the house (a 45-year-old Nikkormat that no longer works after taking one too many tumbles and a Fuji point-and-shoot camera that I bought during a business trip to New York City in the mid 1980s). It's been digital photography for me since about 1999, but still it would be nice to be able to replicate that old film look with some of my new images. Well, we can do that!

A New Twist on the Old Wedding Fraud: In the old days, thieves would send fake wedding invitations to people knowing that some of them would attend the wedding even if they didn't recognize the name. Then, knowing the people would be away from home for a while at the time of the "wedding", they would burglarize the place. Today's thieves just want access to your computer.

What's All the Fuss about Evernote? I've tried to use Evernote several times and, although I keep hearing about how good it is, I've never been able to realize its potential. On the other hand, I couldn't live without Microsoft's OneNote. A new version of Evernote was released in early September and I've seen OneNote crash on open when it tries to access my SkyDrive account. So it was time to look once again at Evernote.

Short Circuits : Apple Unveils Faster, Cheaper Iphone: Unfortunately, it's 2 phones. One is faster and the other is cheaper. That's not to say "cheap", but somewhat less expensive. Unless you've been in a cave for the past couple of weeks, you know about Apple's big event this week. Now we have the Iphone 5S, which can read a fingerprint (and might be popular with the NSA) and the lower-priced 5C.

See You in Court, Google: A federal appeals court in San Francisco decided this week that a lawsuit in which Google is accused of illegal wiretapping can proceed. This seems to be the summer of privacy discord and it involves some of Google's data collection that occurred in conjunction with its collection of images for the Street View feature of Google Maps.

A Boost for Netflix in England: Virgin Media UK television has added Netflix streaming media to its cable system. Currently, only about 40 thousand customers will be able to use it via their TiVo systems, but the plan is to roll it out to all 1.7 million subscribers who use TiVo.

I Unfriend Thee! You probably think that "unfriend" is new, an off-shoot of Facebook. If so, you would be wrong. So was I. The term has been around since 1878 and, if you want to consider Old English, for a lot longer.

8 Sep 2013

DivX, a Good Video Player Gone Bad: When I received a notification that an update for the video player DivX was ready, I installed it. The installer asked if I would like to install the player module for my browser and I agreed. That was a very bad decision and DivX is no longer on my computer.

Buying a New Router: In honor of my birthday (and a day off on Tuesday), the Wi-Fi part of the Wi-Fi router that I installed a year ago last month stopped working. The D-Link router had a 1-year warranty and it had been in service for 1 year and 4 days. Warranty service would have been useless because I would have had to ship the thing somewhere and wait for it to be repaired. During the interim, most of the computing devices in the house would not have been able to access the Internet because they're wireless. So, it was off to buy a Wi-Fi router.

Fraudsters Continue to Annoy: Who are all these people and why do they want to be friends with me on Facebook and LinkedIn? Who are these women from all over the world and why do they want me to add them to my Skype address book? The answer, in both cases, is that they're up to no good and the best option is simply to ignore them.

Short Circuits: FTC Catches Webcam Maker in a Lie: The Federal Trade Commission has accused Internet video camera manufacturer TrendNet of lying to consumers. The company said that the cameras were secure, but according to the FTC the company knew about a security flaw that allowed hackers to take over the cameras at will.

The New Yahoo: Yahoo has unveiled its new logo. The old logo was purple, flat, and cartoonish. The new logo is more in the blue range, sculpted, beveled, and somewhat less cartoonish. The old logo carried the registered trademark symbol (®) but the new logo doesn't even have the trademark (™) symbol that is used before a trademark is registered.

Combining Real Books and E-Books: As much as I like e-books, there are times when a real paper book has definite advantages. Novels and non-fiction books are generally good candidates as e-books because we read them from front to back without a lot of skipping around. Reference books, on the other hand, are used in a completely different way. We jump from page 36 to 875 to 52 to 457 in tracking down the information we need. That's not so easy in an e-book.

Neither Gone nor Forgotten, Ballmer Persists: He may be retiring within the next 12 months, but Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will leave the company with either the keys to its own rejuvenation or a time bomb with a burning fuse. Microsoft phones are currently in distant third or fourth place behind Android phones and Apple phones. Microsoft wants to change that, so it bought a Nokia. Not a phone, but the whole company.

1 Sep 2013

The Personal Computer is Dying! Really? If you forward an e-mail to 100 people, Bill Gates will send you $1000. You've won a million dollar lottery even though you didn't enter the lottery. Hotel room key cards contain personal information thieves can harvest. Oh, and the sky is falling, too. There's been so much written and said about the end of the PC era that a little common sense seemed in order.

Malware's Growing Threat: The message said somebody wanted to connect with me on LinkedIn, but I'd never heard of the person. Should I accept the invitation or click the link to see the person's profile? Moments later, a message from American Express told me that I had just made a $5000 purchase and I told the company to notify me of any purchase larger than $2000. Should I check it out? Let's investigate.

The Ballmer Years: Good, Bad, and Ugly: In the past week, the tech media have overflowed with articles about Steve Ballmer—what he did right at Microsoft and what he got wrong. I don't want to spend a lot of time with an equally lengthy rumination, but I can't ignore the 13-year Ballmer era, either, now that it's near an end. So here's a short synopsis.

Short Circuits: New York Times Off-Line Again; This Time, It Was Hackers: A week ago, the New York Times website was unavailable for several hours following an unsuccessful system update. The site was off-line again this week, but this time it was an attack by a group known as the Syrian Electronic Army, which supports President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian Electronic Army brought the site down and also attacked the Huffington Post website in the United Kingdom just as it has recently attacked several other sites.

Microsoft Snubs Technet and MSDN Subscribers: Microsoft has released Windows 8.1 to manufacturing and normally that would mean that members of the Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN) and Microsoft Technet would be able to download and install the update. Not so fast, folks! You'll have to wait until October 18th, just like everyone else. The logic behind that is a bit hard to fathom.

25 Aug 2013

What Your Portable Device Is Giving Away: Security experts have long expressed concern about portable devices. This is true whether the device is an Iphone, an Android device, an Ipad, or a Windows-based tablet. If it connects via Wi-Fi, it's on somebody's radar, both the good guys' radar and the bad guys' radar. We'll look at some ways to balance security and ease of use.

Finding a Monochrome E-Book Reader: About 3 years ago, I asked if color screens were really necessary on e-book readers. At that time, monochrome was the standard and color screens were relatively low resolution, not easy to see in bright light, and overpriced. What a difference 3 years have made.

Short Circuits: Facebooking the World: Sometimes those of us who have high-speed Internet service at home forget that a few users who have Internet access are still using dial-up systems and about one fifth of US households have no Internet access at all. Elsewhere on the globe, it's worse and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says that he wants to do something about it.

A New Look for YouTube on Android and Apple Devices: Those who watch YouTube videos on Android or Apple phones and tablets have probably noticed that things look a bit different. YouTube rolled out a new interface for Android starting on the 19th and for Apple devices on the 20th.

Netflix Will Add Films from the Weinstein Brothers, but When? The Weinstein Company was founded by Bob and Harvey Weinstein in 2005 after they left Miramax Films, which they had co-founded in 1979, but by then was owned by Disney. The studio has released films ranging from Michael Moore's Sicko to Inglorious Bastards, from The King's Speech to Zack and Miri Make a Porno, from Django Unchained to The Tillman Story. Now these and all the other films by the company will be coming to the Netflix streaming service.
But ...

Big Iphone Battery Can Zap People: Would you like to add a taser to your Iphone? Now you can. An add-on battery called the Yellow Jacket provides extra power for your Iphone and also powers a relatively low-power taser.

18 Aug 2013

A Fool's Errand: Sir Walter Scott coined the term in 1821, in the first chapter of Kenilworth: "If I were to travel only that I might be discontented with that which I can get at home, methinks I should go but on a fool's errand." And that could be an apt description of my attempt to find the perfect portable computing device. Apparently such a device does not exist.

Finding Wi-Fi Hotspots (Catch 22): If you're traveling or just wandering around your town, you might need a Wi-Fi hotspot. Finding one would be easy if you were online because you could just use a service such as JI Wire's directory. But if you're already online, you don't need to find a Wi-Fi hotspot. A phone with a cellular access plan would give you access to a directory such as the one JI Wire provides, but if you have a Wi-Fi only device, you're out of luck. Or are you?

Short Circuits: Windows 8.1 Available in October and Investors Sue: Microsoft has announced that the 8.1 update for Windows will be available starting on October 19th. The update probably won't silence those who feel that any change is a bad change and it certainly won't placate a gang of investors that has filed suit against Microsoft, claiming that the company has been hiding losses related to its Surface RT tablet.

Cisco Dumps Another 4000 Employees: Cisco Systems plans to lay off about 5% of its workforce because of what the company describes as a challenging global economic climate. The announcement was made at the same time that Cisco announced its 4th-quarter earnings, which were better than expected.

No Time for the Times: Just about every day at lunch I sit down with a copy of the New York Times on a Windows 8 tablet, but on Wednesday the site just wasn't there. A momentary glitch, I thought, but pressing the Refresh button simply refreshed the error message. The site still wasn't back when I finished lunch, but CNN, CNBC, and other news outlets were reporting the outage. A cyberattack? Actually, no.

11 Aug 2013

Clarifying Blurry Pictures with Photoshop CC: Two of the new features in the latest version of Photoshop are designed to improve specific kinds of images. The Camera Shake Reduction filter can improve an image that is smeared because the camera moved during the exposure and a Preserve Details option might save the day if you have to do something graphics professionals say you should never do—increase the size of an image. Let's take a look at these two features.

Desktop Computing's Antediluvian Past: In many ways, Adobe Software is leading us toward the future of computing: For example, software that is effectively leased or rented with a license that has set start and end dates. Software that can automatically update itself as new features are released. Was anyone thinking about this in 1979? Probably not, but you might be surprised to see just how far in the future some people's minds were.

Short Circuits: Chrome Can Save Passwords; You Might Not Want It To: It's not uncommon for people to have browsers store passwords. Internet Explorer can do it. Firefox can do it. Chrome can do it. Most of these are somewhat less than secure, but people continue to use them even at a time when services such as LastPass are available. You could be giving your passwords away.

Surface Pro Now Costs $100 Less: You probably saw this one coming. Microsoft recently dropped the price of the Surface RT tablet by $150, but left the price of the more powerful Surface Pro where it was. The Pro is the tablet that can run standard Windows applications and not just Metro apps.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Joins the News Biz; Amazon Offers Fine Art: There's probably no relationship here at all, but it's been a busy week in Seattle, where Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post (perhaps thinking it was a newspaper in Washington State instead of Washington, DC*) and then his company,, announced that it will begin selling fine art online. (*Just kidding. See the full text for why.)

The Month of Many Changes at Yahoo: When radio stations plan to change formats, they often play the same piece of music over and over for a weekend or a week. Apparently that's something program managers learn in program manager school. Perhaps the thought is that listeners who stumble across the station will check back from time to time to see if that song is still playing. Maybe they'll even add the station the the presets in their car. Or something like that. Yahoo is trying a variation on that theme.

When Things Go Wrong: The TechByter website was down for most of the day on Friday, August 1. At first, I thought that I was seeing a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, but the cause was much more mundane.

4 Aug 2013

The Car that Knew Too Much: Remember the old murder mysteries that depended on the bad guy's cutting the car's brake line just enough that it would fail as the victim was driving down a steep mountain road? The car would sail off over the cliff and burst into flames. As a method of murder, that never seemed a reliable choice. Now writers can have the villain reprogram the car's computer to simply drive off the cliff.

Searching for Just One Great Music Player: "There must be something better than Itunes!" I have uttered that expression, sometimes accompanied by a variety of epithets, over the years because no matter how good Apple's hardware music players are, the software isn't exactly something to be proud of as a programmer, and particularly not on Windows computers. What else is out there?

Short Circuits: The Gang that Can't Trademark Straight: Remember Metro? That's what Microsoft wanted to call the Windows 8 interface and what most of us still call it even though a German company, Metro AG, filed suit against Microsoft for using its name and Microsoft stopped using the term. Now the same thing has happened to SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud-based storage service.

Former Apple Employees Sue the Company: Former Apple employees in New York and Los Angeles have filed a class-action lawsuit against the company saying that they were underpaid by about $1500 each year. The suit was filed in the Northern California Federal District Court.

Google and Starbucks: The combination seems so obvious, one has to wonder why it took this long. Starbucks has approximately 7000 locations in the US, all with Wi-Fi provided by AT&T. Starbucks is booting the phone company and bringing in Google to provide the service.

28 Jul 2013

Surprising Publishing Power in a Small Package: Xara’s familiar user interface is back, packaged this time to allow the application to serve as a publishing program. Or, perhaps more accurately, as a page layout program. The name even makes that distinction – Xara Page & Layout Designer. If you have a need to create advertising fliers and newsletters, this might be just what you’re looking for.

Fixing Another of Microsoft's Outlook Blunders: "They don't call it 'LookOut' without good reason." That's not a new thought, but I was reminded of its accuracy when I selected several messages in a folder, press the Del, and responded to "Are you sure that you want to permanently delete the selected item(s)?" by clicking Yes. The folder disappeared. Oops.

Short Circuits: Just What the Tablet Ordered: Tablet computers that run full versions of Windows on standard Intel processors are powerful, but connections are limited. Undoubtedly, this is by design because every installed connection takes space inside the case. I've been using my Acer Iconia tablet at the office more recently and found that it needed something that isn't included.

Intel Pushes to Develop Chips for Tiny Devices: Intel has typically built the engines that power computers that might be compared to the "muscle cars" of the past. These CPUs are relatively large, they run hot, and they require fans. As buyers increasingly move toward smaller, portable devices, Intel faced an uncertain future. Haswell is expected to fix that.

Distracted Drivers May be Worse than Drunk Drivers: Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that he'd like to see automotive and high-tech industries disable the functions of electronic devices that aren't directly related to driving when a vehicle is in motion. In an interview with Matt Richtel of the New York Times, LaHood said that even dialing a number on a voice-activated phone is a distraction from driving.

Google Wants to Take Over Television with Chromecast: For $35 you can purchase Google Chromecast and control your television. Maybe. Nearly any Web video or audio will play on your TV if it plays in your Chrome desktop browser. Exceptions: Silverlight and Quicktime videos. In other words, you can play sources such as Netflix, Pandora, HBO GO, Hulu, and Rdio on your TV.

21 Jul 2013

Adobe Creative Cloud (First Look): Adobe's decision to convert most of its applications (all but Lightroom) from the traditional perpetual licensing model to a rental (lease) model is one of the most disruptive changes I've seen in the 30-plus years I've spent using desktop computers. That's not to say it's bad, but it's also not to say it's good. It is, as some like to say, what it is. And we're going to see more of it.

One-Time Dead Drops for Non-Spies (Or is it a Cut-Out?): If you watch spy movies or read spy novels, you're familiar with dead drops and cut-outs. If not, I'll explain what they are. Even if you're not a spy, you could have a good reason for wanting to employ these bits of spycraft. And I'll also explain how you can do that.

Short Circuits: Microsoft Drops Surface RT Price: Perhaps taking a play from Apple's play book, Microsoft has dropped the price of its Surface RT tablet by $150. This is the process that Apple fans have come to know and hate: Early adopters pay full price while those who wait usually pay quite a bit less for additional features.

SoftBank Acquires Sprint Nextel and Prices Drop: The Federal Communications Commission approved the acquisition of Sprint Nextel, the #3 US cellular telephone provider, by Japan's SoftBank. The vote by FCC commissioners was unanimous. In addition, Sprint will acquire the remaining portion of Clearwire that it doesn't currently own. The proposal had been approved previously by the Federal Trade Commission and by Sprint shareholders.

No More Laid-Back Security at Universities: At one time, colleges and universities operated with lax security measures but that's been changing in recent years as higher-education computer systems increasingly come under attack. The attacks are staged not to damage the systems but to extract information.

14 Jul 2013

Drop by Diagon Alley Whenever You Wish: I was considerably outside the target audience's age for the Harry Potter series of books, but I enjoyed them. Although I haven't yet seen the movies, it's now possible to use Google Street View to wander through Diagon Alley, home to the stores where wizards in training obtain their wands, robes, and such. Yes, such a place really does exist.

Apple Found Guilty of Antitrust Violations: A federal judge in New York has ruled that Apple was in violation of federal antitrust laws when it engaged in a conspiracy with 5 large publishers to fix the price of e-books. The judge said that Apple played a major role in the scheme that was designed to inflate the price of books.

Social Media: Business-Boosting Time Killer: You've probably already heard both sides: Some say you can't have a successful business without social media, while others respond that using social media is nothing more than a waste of time. Both venerated and vilified, social media can't be both, can it? As with most things, the truth probably lurks somewhere in the middle. If you're thinking about using social media, or struggling with it, this report may help.

Short Circuits: PC Sales Continue Dropping, But at a Slower Pace: The good news is that the decline in PC sales has stopped accelerating. The bad news is that PC shipments declined for the 5th consecutive quarter and that's the longest decline the industry has ever seen according to the 2 big industry analysts, International Data Corporation and Gartner. To the surprise of few, tablet sales are up.

Windows 8.1 Goes to OEM's before September: Microsoft says the release-to-manufacturing version of Windows 8.1 will be ready before the end of August. The preview version was released to the general public recently, but I recommend avoiding it and waiting for the official update. If you missed the reason why, I'll mention that in passing, too.

Google Researcher Reports Microsoft Bug Publicly and Hackers Soon Follow: The one thing security researchers are supposed to do when they find a flaw is to report that flaw to the software publisher first. Instead, when Google security engineer Tavis Ormandy found a bug in Windows, he wrote publicly about it on his blog and included a significant amount of detail. Microsoft says hackers have exploited the flaw and Google has gone to great lengths to point out that Ormandy was posting on his own and not as a representative of Google.

A Belated Happy 7th Birthday to the Podcast: After being on WTVN for something like 16 years, Technology Corner became TechByter Worldwide and moved to the Web. Last month was the beginning of the 8th year as a podcast. Thanks for being part of the process!

07 Jul 2013

Xara Photo and Graphic Designer Hits an In-the-Park Home Run: Xara's graphic design software has been trying to develop a following in the Unites States for decades by creating an application that can be used to create and edit both vector images (think Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw) and pixel-based images (think Adobe Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro). Despite a surprisingly low price, Xara Photo and Graphic Designer 9 offers a lot of powerful features.

Farewell to AltaVista: Books were written about the revolutionary AltaVista when it debuted back in 1995. But success begets competition and one of the competitors was a little upstart named Google. Now, for AltaVista, after many years of irrelevance, it's the end of the line.

Short Circuits: Facebook Shields Ads but Essentially Ignores Users: Facebook says that it will begin removing ads from pages that contain "controversial content" to protect the ads. "Our goal," Facebook posted on its blog, "is to both preserve the freedoms of sharing on Facebook but also protect people and brands from certain types of content."

Proper Response to "iWatch": "You Watch What?" At a time when watch sales are down because just about everyone has a cell phone or some other device that knows the time, Apple has applied for a trademark in Japan on the term "iWatch". Apple might be thinking more along the line of a Dick Tracy watch.

Tech Sector Moves toward Sustainable Energy Sources: Apple says that it will build a solar farm to power its Reno data center. One computer doesn't use a lot of electricity, but hundreds or thousands of computers in data centers owned by Apple, Amazon, Google, and other big players use enormous amounts of power and the air conditioning systems designed to make computers happy can belch huge amounts of hot air into the environment.

30 Jun 2013

Dear Adobe: I've Changed My Mind. Please Reconsider Creative Cloud. When Adobe's product managers first described the decision to switch away from perpetual licenses for what was Creative Suite and to rename it Creative Cloud, I thought it was a good idea. For those who buy every Adobe update, Creative Cloud would reduce the cost. Even those who purchase only alternate upgrades would save a bit. Those who update less frequently would pay more. It seemed like a good idea. But so did the "New Coke" in 1985. So now my message to Adobe is this: Please reconsider.

You Want Your Own Website. Now What? There's no shortage of options: You can hire someone to create the site or you can do it yourself. You can pay for website hosting or you can get it for free. And there's no right or wrong when it comes to answers because it all depends on what you need, how much work you're willing to do on your own, and what your budget is.

Short Circuits: Office Intrigue Rumored in Redmond: Persistent rumors continue to predict major upheavals at Microsoft. Windows 8.1 was revealed at the annual Build Conference this week in San Francisco. Next week, the Worldwide Partners Conference gets underway in Houston. The question is whether some of Microsoft's top executives will s till be with the company.

Ready to Buy Another Wi-Fi Router for Your Home? In the old days modem speeds changed. We could replace that 300-baud modem with a 1200-baud modem, or the 1200-baud modem for a 2400-baud modem ($400, as I recall). And then came the faster modems, lower prices, and then broadband, which eliminated the need for modems but made it possible to share a single broadband connection with a variety of devices in our homes. All that's about to change.

Making Advertisements More Identifiable: The Federal Trade Commission would like search engines to more clearly identify paid advertisements in search results. The commission says that it has noticed that search engine operators are failing to comply with guidelines issued more than a decade ago.

2013, the Year of the Tablet, May Be the End of the Color E-Book Reader: Barnes & Noble this week announced that it will no longer manufacture color versions of its Nook reader, but will continue to make monochrome versions. That's the first shoe. Listen for others.

23 Jun 2013

Still Using Windows XP? Check your Browser! Windows XP was a popular version of Windows. So popular, in fact, that some people are still using it. As of May 2013, nearly 40% of all desktop computers were still running XP, which slightly less than the combined percentage of computers running Windows Vista, 7, and 8. The rest are running either Apple's OS X or Linux. If you're in the XP group and you're still using Internet Explorer, it's time to make a change.

Windows 8.1 Preview - Before you Download: On June 26, Microsoft will make a preview edition of Windows 8.1 available to the general public. If you're using Windows 8, there are reasons why you might want to download the public preview, but there are also some good reasons why you might want to wait until the final version is released later this year.

Short Circuits: The Race to Tell: High tech companies seem to be engaged in another race, this one to see who can release the most information the fastest about which government agencies have asked for information and what they've provided. Take Google's request to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court as one example of the trend.

Digging Up E.T.: Alamogordo, New Mexico, is where E.T. went to die. Not the space alien, but the Atari game based on the movie. Thirty years ago, Atari had released a computer game, but nobody wanted it. Atari apparently decided to dump the games in a landfill and that landfill just happened to be in Alamogordo.

And Speaking of Antiques ... An account by Mike Cassidy in the San Jose Mercury News about Steve Wozniak and 5 Apple 1 computers will probably make you smile. About 50 Apple 1 computers probably exist and one of them recently sold for $671,400. Keep in mind that this is a computer with less computing power than the average digital clock.

Fuzzy Picture Specialist Instagram to Offer Videos: Instagram, the company that made a fortune by making it possible for people to use smart phone cameras to create images that look like they were taken by $5 cameras from the 1950s plans to branch out. Now you can create and upload Instagram videos.

16 Jun 2013

One Most Essential Tool for Photographers: When Lightroom first hit the market, there wasn't a lot to differentiate it from other offerings that were available at the time. Since then, it has become an important part of any professional or serious amateur photographer's tool kit. With version 5, it has become indispensable. Version 5 was released last week and, after using a public beta for a few weeks, I was able to start working with the final gold code on Friday before it was released. If you're a photographer, you will want this!

Ensuring that Your Files are Secure: BYOD is the new rallying call at offices. "Bring your own device!" Smart phones, tablets, and other portable devices are flooding offices and, as a result, creating unprecedented dangers. This is true in large companies, some of which are reasonably ready to deal with the threat, and in smaller companies, most of which have no plan to deal with the threat. Just how real is the problem?

Short Circuits: What's This Spy Doing on My Phone? No, this isn't a story about the National Security Agency. Although Willie Sutton is credited (probably inaccurately) for claiming that he robbed banks "because that's where the money is", this forms the basis for why our electronic devices are the targets of so much malware. Crooks don't go after computers and phones for fun and the days of the ignorant "script kiddie" are long gone. How safe is your phone?

Google Finds Its Waze: Maybe you've heard of Waze. Perhaps you even use it. If you haven't heard of it before, that's about to change because Google just bought the startup for $1 billion.

The Israel-based service calls itself the "world's fastest-growing community-based traffic and navigation app." You're invited to join other drivers in your area who share real-time traffic and road info, saving everyone time and gas money on their daily commute. Or maybe it's just another driver distraction that will lead to more collisions, injuries, and delays.

Unintended Consequences of Hands-Free Devices: Many states have laws that forbid the use of cell phones that the user must hold, but permits hands-free systems. Police, amateur radio operators, and truck-based service technicians are allowed to use 2-way radios with hand-held microphones, though. That's always seemed to me to be a disconnect.

Radio Killer Pandora Buys a Radio Station: The online music streaming service Pandora has just bought a radio station from Clear Channel, KXMZ in Rapid City, South Dakota. Rapid City is not exactly a major market that radio professionals aspire to reach, so Pandora won't pick up many listeners in the nation's 255th-largest radio market. But the deal still makes sense.

09 Jun 2013

Start Button Definitely Returns to Windows 8, but No Start Menu: The constant whining that Microsoft took my Start button away means that the Start button will be back in Windows 8.1, which will be released by the end of the year. Microsoft will make other changes to the operating system, but they're unlikely to placate the whiners.

Google Apps, Zoho, Office 365, Office Suite, or Libre Office: At their most basic, office software suites offer the ability to create and edit text documents and numeric documents. They may also provide e-mail, presentation, and database applications. Today's choices include both applications users install on their computers and applications that are delivered as a service from the Internet.

Short Circuits: Samsung Might Have Out-Sold Apple in May: Investment research firm Canaccord Genuity says that Samsung appears to have sold more phones in the US in May than Apple did. The survey included AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint stores and showed that Samsung's Galaxy S4 was the top seller for Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint, although it was in second place at AT&T to Apple's Iphone 5.

Hacking Into an Iphone in One Minute: It's possible to defeat security on an Iphone and to plant malware on it in less than a minute. Actually, that sounds somewhat more alarming than it really is, but it's still something to be wary of.

More Videos for Amazon Prime Members: Amazon has signed an expanded licensing deal for streaming videos from Viacom. Amazon Prime is the $80 annual membership program that provides no-extra-cost 2-day shipping for many Amazon products, some streaming videos, and occasional free Kindle content.

02 Jun 2013

Hobby Website Operators Need to Consider Security, Too: Your website doesn’t sell any product or service directly. You don’t accept online payments. No credit card information is stored on your site. You don’t even ask people to register their name or e-mail address. It's just a site for club members or a place where you can show off your hobby. So security is no big deal, right? Wrong. In fact, your site might be an ideal target for cyber-crooks.

Magix Video Pro X5 Brings Power at a Surprising Price: In an increasingly crowded marketplace, Magix has released Video Pro X5. Magix, although very well known in Europe, is less familiar in the United States. Video Pro is available with a 30-day trial, after which you can license one of the three versions or uninstall it. Let's take a look.

Short Circuits: Did Adobe Perform any Market Research Before Launching Creative Cloud? This is another of those occasional opinion pieces. There's no question that Adobe Creative Cloud offers some real advantages. Among these advantages is lower cost for people who upgrade to each new version and, given the speed with which things change in the graphic arts industry, I expected that would describe most users. It seems that I was wrong and the push-back from Adobe users looks a lot like the push back Microsoft is receiving from Windows users.

2013 Looks Like the Year of the Tablet: PC sales, both for desktop systems and notebooks are down considerably and continue to drop, but sales of tablets are headed for the roof. International Data Corporation (IDC) tracks computer sales and earlier had predicted a drop of about one and one-half percent from last year's sales, but this week it changed the estimate to predict a drop of nearly 8 percent.

Facebook Can't Find a Way to Rid Itself of Hate Speech: Eliminating hate speech from services such as Facebook isn't censorship and it's not being "politically correct". Free speech is not guaranteed on forums that are owned and operated by any company or individual: If you use the service, you're obliged to play by the rules. Likewise, there are legal prohibitions against hate speech.

26 May 2013

How to Give Away or Sell a Computer or Hard Drive (Safely): You'd be surprised by how many people, when they sell an old hard drive or computer (or give it away) do nothing to safeguard the information on the hard drive. There are several things you can do to remove the data from a hard drive, but only one of them actually does remove the data from the hard drive.

WTOP and Federal News Radio Hit By Malware: According to the Department of Homeland Security/Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), Washington DC radio station WTOP and Federal News Radio websites were infected with malware but as of late last week, the malware had been removed. CERT says that the exploit would affect users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer on computers where Adobe Reader, Adobe Acrobat Pro, or Oracle Java had not been updated.

Short Circuits: Grilled Apples in Washington: This week the Senate asked Apple CEO Tim Cook about the company's tax strategies. You may recall the report from a few weeks ago that cited Apple's plans to sell $100 billion worth of bonds even though it has $145 billion in cash. It seems that the $100 billion that Apple couldn't use was unavailable because it wasn't in the United States. The $100 billion turns out not to be liable for taxes in any country on the planet. And it's all legal. Maybe it's the new iFraud.

PayPal to be in 2 Million Stores Soon: You can pay for your RadioShack purchases with PayPal. That was a big win for PayPal because RadioShack has a quarter of a million stores. The two companies signed the deal last month and PayPal intends to quadruple that within the year. PayPal head David Marcus says other deals are in the works.

Lots of Changes for Online Music Services: Google launched its online music service last week via the Play Store and competing services are updating their services. Whether this is because of Google's move into the market space or as part of planned, ongoing changes isn't clear. Internet businesses frequently change their operating practices regardless of competitors.

19 May 2013

Before Clicking, Think (You'll Be Glad You Did): The message looked legitimate. The TrustWave logo was present and in almost well-written English, it said "This is an auto-generated letter to notice you that the scheduled TrustKeeper vulnerability scan of YOUR COMPANY NETWORK has completed and is not compliant." The recipient was offered a link. The recipient did not click the link. The question is why.

When Somebody Steals Your Cell Phone ... Cell phones and other portable devices are attractive to thieves because they're easy to take and they can be converted to cash with relative ease. Although it varies from state to state, there's not much police can do to help even if you track your phone down.

Short Circuits: Dance to the Google: Google, the company that wants to be everything to everyone all the time has started streaming music. The company's developer conference began on Wednesday in San Francisco and that's when the music started.

RIM Continues to Survive: Just about everyone had written off Research In Motion, the maker of BlackBerry devices, but the rumors of the company's death may have been premature. This week RIM's CEO, Thorsten Heins, previewed a less expensive BlackBerry and said that the company's Messenger service will soon be available on Android devices and Iphones.

If Nobody Has Coined the Word Yet: Cybertage: The US Department of Homeland Security continues to ratchet up warnings about attacks on corporate computer systems. Not espionage, they say, but sabotage. Or maybe "cybertage". The source seems to be the Middle East. Note that I did not say China.

An Audio Note: You might have noticed that the audio quality of last week's podcast was a bit below the usual standards. That's because I had to go back to an older process while troubleshooting the source of some extraneous noise. Why this happened and what I did about it are described on the website and in the podcast.

12 May 2013

A Blue June for Microsoft: Microsoft plans to release the public preview of Windows 8.1 (the code name is "Blue") in June and the 8.1 update is expected to be generally available before the end of the year. I wonder if those who so desperately want the Start Button to return are eagerly awaiting the return of crank starters to today's automobiles. I mean, after all, getting used to turning a key instead of setting the spark, opening the choke, and hand-cranking the engine is just so difficult to comprehend. (Snark definitely intended.)

No More Boxes of Adobe Software: Gob-smacked! I expected that Adobe would transition from packaged software to software as a service (SaaS) sometime but this week's Adobe Max conference in Los Angeles made it clear that the time is now. Creative Suite is being replaced by Creative Cloud, the year-old online service that Adobe announced as part of Creative Suite 6. Adobe's acquisition of Behance, the online service for designers, photographers, videographers, and other creatives will change the way people use Adobe's applications.

Short Circuits: Sony Reports a Profit (Yes, This Is News): This is news because it's the first time Sony has managed to do this in half a decade. The yen is weak against the dollar and Sony has cut costs enough that it was able to report a profit of $435 million on sales of $68 billion.

A Spammer in the Slammer: Sven Olaf Kamphuis, a native of Netherlands, has been returned there from Spain as authorities continue to investigate a large distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against the anti-spam operation Spamhaus. Investigators can hold Kamphuis for up to 3 months as the investigation continues.

Senate Bill Proposes Placing a Spy Watch on Suspect Nations: Four senators, two Republicans and two Democrats, have sponsored a bill that calls for additional protections against online spying by foreign governments. Democrats Carl Levin (Michigan) and Jay Rockefeller (West Virginia) joined with Republicans Tom Coburn (Oklahoma) and John McCain (Arizona) to sponsor the Deter Cyber Theft Act, a bill that has no catchy acronym but that would create what it terms a "watch list" of nations.

Star Wars on Your Computer: The Disney Company has signed a licensing deal with Electronic Arts to develop games based on the Star Wars movies for PCs, game consoles, and mobile devices. Wait!? Where's George Lucas?

05 May 2013

Lightroom 5 Beta Now Available: Adobe is working on a new version of Photoshop Lightroom and the first public beta is available. You won't want to use this for any production work and the installer won't update any of your Lightroom catalogs, but you might want to grab the beta version for a test drive because some of the new features are remarkable.

Learning What Your Camera Can Do: A camera is just a fancy box with a device that allows light to strike a sensitive surface, either film or a sensor. On the front, there's a tube with a lot of glass elements and that's the piece that allows the photographer to create an image that matches a vision. Ben Long's session on lenses brings the entire subject (excuse me) into focus.

Short Circuits: Apple and Samsung Are Still in Court and Always Will Be: This is like the adaptation of the follow-up to the sequel of a Friday the Thirteenth movie. In November, Apple and Samsung will be back in court and Apple's attorneys will ask a jury to reinstate $450 million in damages from Samsung.

Newspaper Readership Isn't Up ... but it's not falling as quickly as it once was. A report by Christine Haughney in the New York Times this week provides a cautiously optimistic outlook based on digital circulation. I consider this to be good news.

Apple, with $145 Billion in Cash, Borrows Money: Maybe someone can explain this to me. Let's say I had $5 million in the bank and plenty of cash flow to take care of my daily living expenses. Why would I ask for a loan? That's what Apple seems to be doing. The company has approximately $145 billion in liquid assets and now it's seeking to sell $17 billion in bonds.

28 Apr 2013

Choosing Usability over Versatility: If you've been following TechByter Worldwide and, before that, Technology Corner on WTVN Radio, you have have heard me talk about The Bat many times. It's probably the world's most versatile e-mail application, capable of doing just about anything. You've heard me scoff at Microsoft Outlook more than once, too. So you might be more that slightly surprised to learn that I'm now using Outlook 2013 instead of The Bat. There is, of course, a story behind this.

Annoying Scams from Facebook Creeps: "Type '1' in Comments and see what happens." Posts such as this make me want to put on my best Lewis Black attitude and say something like this: "Nothing will happen, you moron! Do you have any idea how Facebook works? If you did, you'd know that typing '1' won't make anything happen. But you know that don't you because something will happen: The idiots who follow your advice will make money for you."

Short Circuits: An Alarming Improvement in Malware-Laden Spam: Almost overnight, the quality of teaser spams has improved dramatically. You're probably familiar with messages that claim to be from someone you know and include nothing more than a website URL. Most people don't send messages like that. Instead, they send a message that says something about the link. And now the bad guys have figured out how to do that.

Twitter Needs to Establish a Security Perimeter: A fake twitter post this week, claiming to be from the Associated Press, said that there had been an explosion at the White House and that the president had been injured. There had, of course, been no explosion, but for a few minutes the stock market wasn't aware of that.

Another Magazine Headed for Online Only: Vibe isn't Newsweek. In fact, it's likely that most people who read TechByter Worldwide or listen to the podcast have never heard of Vibe. SpinMedia has purchased Vibe, which has been around for more than 2 decades and is likely to drop the print edition in favor of a Web-based magazine.

21 Apr 2013

New Life for Your Older Computer: The first thing you notice about a solid-state drive (SSD) is its packaging. Disk drives that depend on spinning platters and tiny read-write heads that fly microns above the surface are amazingly rugged now, but they're shipped inside a padded box that's inside another box with additional packing materials. Not so SSDs. They're just tossed into a padded UPS or FedEx bag and shipped. The interior box has a bit of protection but nowhere near what you'd expect with a standard drive. That's because the drive has no moving parts.

Windows 8 is Why PC Sales Are Dropping, Right? Wrong. What those who make this absurd claim miss is the fact that hardware is changing. Large numbers of users are migrating to portable devices instead of notebooks and to notebooks instead of desktops. How many people are simply waiting to see what devices are going to be available in the next 6 months or so before committing?

Short Circuits: Microsoft Opens Its Campaign Against Amazon: So Microsoft is going to sell books? (Well, no.) They're going to create a competitor for the Kindle Reader? (No, but hasn't it already done that with Surface tablets?) Microsoft will set up an online store? (Not exactly.) So you might be forgiven for wondering what Microsoft would do that would be a threat to Amazon.

Oracle Says 42 Java Security Issues Have Been Resolved: 42. That is, as you probably already know, "the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything." At least, you know that if you've read The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. To avoid having writers like me introduce a story about their company in this silly way, Oracle should have added another bug or two to fix, even if they just had to invent one.

Who Turned off the Google? Why is it news when a company has a problem that affects 0.007% of its users? When the company involved is Google. That happened this week when about half of Google's primary applications experienced some loss of service. And, yes, that number is 7 thousandths of one percent. There's a solution and I'll explain how it works.

14 Apr 2013

Fake Twitter Followers Can Hurt More than Help: When I decided to resurrect the moribund TechByter account on Twitter, I had a new choice to make: Should I artificially inflate the number of followers by hiring fake followers? I elected not to, but no small number of Twitter users seem to think that they will gain more respect or credibility if they suddenly have a few thousand extra followers even if those followers aren't real.

Total Cost of Ownership: Tablets: Intel sponsored research on the total cost of ownership (TCO) of Atom-based tablets. They were compared against Apple and Android devices, and against Nvidia-powered Windows RT tablets. Surprisingly (or not) the tablet with the Intel processor won.

Only a Few Critical Windows Patches this Month: The just-ended week included the second Tuesday of the month, so Windows will have attempted to install updates or at least recommended them, depending on your Windows Update settings. If you have all forms of automatic updating turned off, now would be a good time to perform your manual update.

Short Circuits: There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch: If your company provides lunch without charging for it, you may soon find that the value of the meals is added to your taxable income. This is causing no small amount of consternation at Google, where lots of benefits are provided without charge. Although other companies provide free meals, the practice is particularly popular in the high-tech industry.

You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd: I'm not sure what the lyrics from an old Roger Miller song have to do with the former CEO of J C Penney, but they came to mind when I heard that the retailer had fired its CEO, the former Apple Store star Ron Johnson. And the Apple connection is why this little story is on TechByter worldwide.

07 Apr 2013

Fraud and Security Hazards are Everywhere: The Licking County Computer Society recently asked me to visit the organization to talk about ubiquitous Internet fraudsters. The danger is real and it's becoming worse. The easiest way to avoid trouble is to assume that anything you see on the Internet is fraudulent until you can prove it to be legitimate.

Convincing Older Programs to Work on Windows 7 or Later: A message from Mickey described a problem trying to run an old program on a new Windows 7 computer: "I have an OLD CD called PrintMaster Gold Version 3. Remember I did say 'OLD'. Well it ran fine up thru Windows XP Pro which is the last version I used it on until the new computer came along. I tried going to Microsoft and downloading something that might have made Windows 7 compatible with Windows XP, but that did not work. I really have gotten so used to this CD with the options it offers, I really hate to change. Is there anything in your bag that might get this CD to work on Windows 7?" This is not an uncommon problem.

Short Circuits: Apple Apologizes to China. How about US? In defiance of Chinese law, Apple offers a 1-year warranty on its devices. China says warranties must cover a minimum of 2 years. Consumers in China were also annoyed by being forced to pay $90 to replace a faulty back cover on their Iphones. The fuss began in mid March on what's called International Consumers Day and ended this past Monday when Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized and promised Apple would do better.

Adobe Offers Free Lightroom and Camera Raw Updates: Adobe has released Lightroom 4.4, which is free to any Lightroom 4.x user and there's a concurrent release of Camera Raw 7.4 for Photoshop users. The Adobe update service should offer automatic installation for Lightroom and Photoshop CS6, but files are available from the download section of

TechByter Twitters: "Maybe this social media thing isn't a passing fad." No, I didn't say that but you would be forgiven for believing that I did. In addition to the podcast and website, TechByter is becoming active on Facebook and Twitter.

Wi-Fi from Your Electric Utility? An article in the San Jose Mercury News caught my eye this week: Silicon Valley Power is installing new "smart meters" in homes and businesses and, with them, free Wi-Fi. The day of ubiquitous Wi-Fi may finally be approaching.

31 Mar 2013

Magazines Continue Trying to Put Themselves Out of Business: On my desk I have a renewal notice for Time magazine. There are offers from several other magazines and the one thing they all seem to have in common is that they were written by people who don't understand pricing. More accurately, it seems that they were written by people for whom economics is an unknown science.

Your "Private" Files May Actually Be Public Files: A report by Net Security says that thousands of businesses and individuals who probably believe that the files stored on Amazon's S3 are secure might find out the hard way that their files might be totally in the open.

State Government in a Digital Age: All US states have websites but some are better than others when it comes to sharing information about how tax dollars are spent. The Federation of State Public Interest Research Groups creates an annual report that reveals how well states are doing. PIRG is a non-profit group and it's also a political lobbying organization that encourages citizen involvement and government openness.

Short Circuits: This Software Could Crash Your Car: When an application crashes, it's usually not a big deal. The program shuts down and that's it. Or, in a more serious case, the computer itself crashes. But GM is recalling nearly 34,000 new Buicks and Cadillacs to fix transmission software that has the potential to cause a more serious crash.

Spammer, Caught and Annoyed, Nearly Takes Down the Internet: A Dutch hosting company that's headquartered in an old NATO bunker provides service for spammers and, when caught, apparently decided to reach out and touch everyone. Literally. If you noticed that your website or websites you use were unreachable starting on March 15 and intermittently for the next 11 days, that's the likely cause.

R U A Reader? Do you read books? Magazines? Newspapers? In this supposedly post-literate world, a lot of people are reading a lot of words. You're reading this (well, maybe you're listening to the podcast). But even those supposedly hopeless and helpless kids are reading. They're just not doing it while holding books or newspapers. Reading long-form articles on a phone isn't something I would like to do, but I have done it. Tablets are an outstanding choice. And those in their 20s really do read long-form articles on their phones. Now Amazon makes it even easier to find books you'll like.

24 Mar 2013

Are We Dealing Any Better with Windows 8 Hate? I had the opportunity this week to share my thoughts about Windows 8 with both the Licking County Computer Society and the Columbus Computer Society. Although Windows 8 continues to be the operating system that has attracted what I consider to be an unreasonable about of fear and loathing, it has a lot of promise and I like it.

Here's an Uncommonly Clever Fraud: Although an e-mail message I received this week was no harder to identify as a fraud than are most such messages, this one used a technique that made it stand out a bit from the standard frauds. This one tried to convince me that I was already engaged in a conversation with the sender. That's not uncommon, either. A lot of spam frauds include "RE:" in the subject line but this message went beyond that.

Short Circuits: An Interesting Week in South Korea: Banks and broadcasters in South Korea were all but shut down this week by a cyber attack that many quickly blamed on North Korea. But by most standards that attack was poorly executed and appears not to be up to North Korea's standards. North Korea may not have a lot but its cyber warriors are thought to be well trained and highly capable. So who did it?

Feds Investigate Alleged Microsoft Bribes: The US Department of Justice may be calling on Microsoft again and this time the might bring the Securities and Exchange Commission along. Both agencies are investigating allegations that Microsoft bribed government officials in several countries, including China, Italy, and Romania.

17 Mar 2013

Video for Everyone: YouTube or Vimeo: Do you prefer YouTube or Vimeo for watching videos? YouTube is, of course, owned by Google and brings with it all of Google's baggage, including the growing insistence on the use of real names. And if you post videos, what differences exist between YouTube and Vimeo? Because of an increasing interest in video, this seemed to be a good topic to explore.

Libraries Continue to Push the Envelope: Some people think of libraries as old-fashion places that are filled with books at a time when nobody reads. That's wrong. Although books are a key part of what libraries have to offer and people do stitll read books, libraries are more about information than they are about books. No matter how the information is stored, libraries and librarians are the ones who manage it, organize it, and safeguard it. Libraries have served the nation well and, with any amount of good luck, will continue to do so.

A TechByter Worldwide Benefit: Recently I described how Macrium Reflect saved the day when a video upgrade managed to scramble some important files on my computer's C drive, rendering the system unbootable. Saul Painter at Macrium liked the story and offered a 20% discount to TechByter readers and listeners. The only catch is that you have to act before the end of April 2013. Stop by the website to obtain the code and then enter it on the Macrium checkout page. Your discount will be applied.Feel free to share the coupon code with anyone, even those who don't read or listen to TechByter Worldwide.

Placing 'Google' and 'Privacy' in the Same Sentence: Asking whether placing 'Google' and 'privacy' in the same sentence creates an oxymoron seems a fair question. After all, Google knows what you search for, what's in your e-mail, and what videos you watch on YouTube. It might know what phone numbers you call and who calls you. There's no question that Google offers dozens of useful services but the cost of those services is measured in the value of information you willingly provide to Google.

Short Circuits: For Apple, A Nasty Case of Deja Vu: Remember when Apple all but invented the personal computer only to see IBM and the various IBM-compatible computers take over the market? That seems to be happening again, but this time with smart phones and tablets.

Electronic Arts Simulates a Disaster: Sim City is one of the longest-running electronic games in the history of personal computers, but now it's recovering from a problem that reduced the new version of Sim City to a pile of burning rubble.

More Warnings that Future Wars Will Be Fought Online: The Australian central bank says that it has been attacked by hackers but lost no data (or money) in the incident. Actually, it was more of an admission than an announcement. The Australian Financial Review had reported that the Reserve Bank of Australia had been attacked several times, successfully, and that information had been stolen.

How Secure Is Information Businesses Store? The FBI is investigating a website that posted personal information about people ranging from Michelle Obama and Joe Biden to Al Gore and Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck. The data might have been obtained by Russian thieves. Or maybe not. Federal, state, and local investigators are on the case.

10 Mar 2013

Should Google Demand Users' Real Names? If you've logged onto YouTube (or any of several other Google services) recently, Google may have asked for your real name instead of your user name. Google presents this as a way to improve service for users but not everyone agrees. Whatever your opinion of this is, Vint Cerf, in an interview with Reuters, had some thoughts that I think you'll find worth considering.

Download with Caution: TechByter Worldwide frequently recommends applications, some free and some commercial. Regardless of the application type, it's important to review the download and installation to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Short Circuits: 50 Million Users of Evernote Must Change Their Passwords: Following an attack that breached security at Evernote, the company says that all 50 million users must change their passwords as a precaution. This was expected following a report last weekend that an attacker had been able to gain access to customer information. The only surprising aspect of the story is that it took Evernote until Wednesday to act.

Hey, Apple, Where Are Your Touch Screen Laptops? After using an Android tablet for a year and a Windows tablet for a couple of months, I find myself increasingly wanting to reach out and touch the screens on my Windows desktop computers and particularly on the notebooks. It seems that Apple users are going through the same thing.

Google Looks at Same-Day Delivery: Buy something from Amazon and, if you've paid your annual Amazon Prime fee, you'll probably have it in your hands 2 days later and with no fee for shipping. Google seems to want to compete with Amazon and is offering same-day delivery. If you live in San Francisco.

3 Mar 2013

Why the TechByter is an Evangelist for Backup: On Wednesday of last week, Windows Update offered a new version of the drivers for my graphics card. Foolishly, I accepted the offer even though I've experienced problems previously when Windows updates certain device drivers. This time there was a problem. A big problem and the computer was rendered unbootable. This is why we have backup.

Yahoo Once Again Goes its Own Way: At a time when many large and successful companies are actively seeking opportunities for employees to work at home, Yahoo's CEO, Marissa Mayer, says there will be no more of that at Yahoo. Citing speed and quality problems caused by employees who work at home, Mayer says you have to show up at the office or find work elsewhere. The incident has created a lot of chatter and I want to get in on the fun!

Short Circuits: Downloading Illegal Content? Your ISP May Soon Reach Out. What's called the Copyright Alert System has been put into operation this week. Created by the recording and film industries, the system targets Internet users who share files using peer-to-peer networking applications.

Remember When Instagram Was Being Abandoned by "Everyone"? Apparently "everyone" came back and the service now reports 100 million members. When Instagram changed its terms of service in a way that would allow it to do anything it wanted with users' photographs, those users began leaving. Apparently, promises to play nice have convinced users to stick around.

Worth Reading: The Enduring Myth of the 'Free' Internet: An article by Peter Osnos in The Atlantic provides a worthwhile perspective on "The Enduring Myth of the 'Free' Internet." In the article he points out that information may be free but people still must spend a lot of money for access to the Internet in order to obtain the free information. I'll summarize the article and provide a link to the full text.

24 Feb 2013

Finding the Right File Sharing Program: Windows 8 includes 7GB of free storage on Microsoft's SkyDrive platform but you don't need to install Windows 8 to use SkyDrive. It works just fine on Windows 7 once you've installed a small SkyDrive application. You don't even have to use a Windows computer. SkyDrive works on Macs, too. In fact, it's easy to access your files on SkyDrive even if you don't have a computer. Even a phone with a Web browser will do. Against that backdrop, I set off recently looking for something better.

How Big Data and the Cloud Will Affect You: Anyone who reads publications that deal with data processing at nearly any level has probably seen the term "Big Data" a lot in the past year or so. What is it and how will it affect your business?

Photography Continues to Evolve: The Kodak bankruptcy may be the most obvious example of how much photography has changed in the past 15 years or so and for Rochester, New York, the change has been devastating. A friend of mine closed his photo studio less than a year ago. The studio once photographed hundreds of weddings every year but, at closing, only a few were on the schedule. Increasingly, photography is a do-it-yourself undertaking.

Short Circuits: An Update on Digital Magazines: Newsweek, it seems to me, continues to struggle in an all-digital world. It's not the magazine, which has improved greatly. By going digital and eliminating the cost of paper, printing, and mailing, the publisher has been able to enlarge the size considerably. The problem continues to be the download speed and the large number of formats that must be supported.

Google Glass: Better than Beer Glasses? Win a contest that Google is running and you'll have the opportunity to acquire a pair of Google Internet Glass. For $1500. Google says these are the next breakthrough in mobile computing. Or maybe it's another distraction for drivers that will push Google's project to build cars that drive themselves.

Old Technology Never Goes Away; It Returns as a Smart Phone App: Case in point: Tamagotchi. Remember them? In the 1990s, you could buy a Tamagotchi pet (an egg-shaped plastic toy) that would periodically request food, water, or attention. Ignore it long enough and it would die. Now you'll be able to add a Tamagotchi to your smart phone and this might make your phone a bit less intelligent.

17 Feb 2013

Ready to Make a Slide Show? It's Easy. Following a birthday party, an anniversary dinner, a wedding, or a vacation, you might want to share some of your images with others. In the very old days, that meant dragging out a screen and a slide projector. Or you could have prints made and send them to people. More recently, we've been able to e-mail photos or post them on Facebook or Flickr or any other of the social media. But some people want to do more. They want a presentation with music. Maybe some narration. Images that fade from one to the next. If that describes you, take a look at Magix Photostory Easy.

Correcting an Old Error: In 2005, apparently feeling a bit of nostalgia, I wrote an article about old computer hardware. In that article, I mistakenly described the world's first mouse, the one created at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). This year, I heard from Wolfgang Gunther, who set me straight and also provided some additional and background information that I think you'll enjoy.

Short Circuits: If You Wanted a MacBook but Waited, You Can Buy for Less: Apple has a problem: The Ipad is so hugely popular that it seems to be hurting sales of the more expensive (and more profitable) MacBooks. This has investors worried but CEO Tim Cook says there's nothing to worry about. But then came the price drop.

Apple Has a Problem: Investors are Lining Up to Sue: Two Apple shareholders are now suing the company. A Pennsylvania investor has filed the second suit in New York's US District Court to stop the company from voting on a measure regarding preferred stock. That issue is the same as in a suit brought by hedge fund manager David Einhorn. Another issue in Brian Gralnick's suit differs from Einhorn's.

We Can't Say We Haven't Been Warned (Opinion): President Obama signed an executive order this week to ensure that the government makes available to private companies information on threats to computer security. Congress failed to pass legislation that would have provided critical threat information to businesses and the president's executive order partially resolves the problem and Congress needs to act.

10 Feb 2013

Ten Utilities You May Need: Utility applications are typically single-purpose programs that are designed to perform a task that the operating system doesn't do or doesn't do well. Whenever I set up a new computer, I install some utilities right away because I know that I'll need them. In some cases, these are specific applications and, in others, there are choices to be made within a given type of application.

Are Tablets Catching On? Microsoft seems to have released its tablet computers in exactly the wrong order. First came the underpowered Surface RT that looks like it's running a standard version of Windows 8 but cannot run standard desktop applications. Now the company has released the Surface Windows 8 Pro. This is the one that should have been released first.

Short Circuits: Sales Results: It Was a Very Merry Christmas for Apple: If you consider the Ipad to be a computer, Apple won the holiday shopping season hands down. If you think of tablets such as the Ipad as computing devices but not full computers, then the story is mixed.

Dell Stock Owner Tries to Halt the Leveraged Buyout: You've no doubt already heard about the plan by Michael Dell, Microsoft, and the investment firm Silver Lake to take Dell's computer company private for $24.4 billion. But a stockholder has filed a lawsuit to stop the deal.

Big Fraud Day: I seem to have hit the jackpot one day this week when every fraudster in the known world decided to send a spam for my close attention. The level of quality varies remarkably as you'll see when you visit the website.

Restoring the TechByter Sound: Two weeks ago, you may have wondered why the podcast didn't sound very good. As it turns out, the bad sound was the result of an improvement in audio gear. An improvement that didn't work exactly as intended. Hear the explanation on the podcast or read the explanation on the website.

3 Feb 2013

Serious Threats to Your E-mail Account: This is important! The thieves who use other people's e-mail accounts to send spam seem to be making a concerted effort to use your e-mail account. And mine. And everyone else's. This week I received a message from someone who frequently sends documents by using one of the transfer services. This legitimate-looking link was a fraud and it fooled some people. Protecting against this kind of threat requires multiple layers of defense.

Maybe Being All Thumbs Isn't So Bad: ThumbsPlus is a small application that plays a big part in TechByter Worldwide every week. Nearly every image you see has been touched by ThumbsPlus because it makes the process of creating two copies of each file—the smaller image that's embedded in each report and the larger image that appears when you click the smaller one—easy. The new version has some enhanced capabilities.

Short Circuits: The Battle Between Privacy and Security Continues: As the first step in what will be a push by Google to make it harder for law enforcement agencies to obtain from Google information about users of the company's applications, Google has released a high profile "Transparency Report" that explains the circumstances that must exist when Google gives investigators your information.

Paid Content May Be Coming to YouTube: AdAge magazine is reporting that YouTube has plans to offer paid subscriptions for some of its content. The change is expected to occur sometime this year but no date has been set. YouTube is owned by Google.

Apple Trademarks its Stores: Apple has been granted a trademark on the design of its stores. So now anybody who wants to open a store that has "a clear glass storefront surrounded by a paneled facade", particularity if the interior includes an oblong table with stools in front of video screens that have been flush mounted to the back wall, will have to obtain clearance from Apple.

27 Jan 2013

A Few Boulders in Newsweek's Road: Newsweek has gone all digital. No more magazines. You already know that. This is good but the transition hasn't been exactly without challenges. One of the most significant problems so far is the lack of standardization among reading platforms. Newsweek was the first major news publication to exit the print arena. Some might give that prize to US News and World Report but it was always a weak third-place finisher behind Time and Newsweek. Whether you'll like the change may depend on what device you use to view Newsweek.

The Orchestral Performance of OneNote 2013: Microsoft made what I consider to be a horrible mistake in some of the earlier versions of Office: OneNote was included only in some of the higher-priced editions. Now it's present in all editions, even the Home and Student selection. Although Word and Excel are still the best known and most used applications, OneNote is the hidden gem. And with Office 2013, that's even more true than before.

Short Circuits: Would You Like to Borrow Our Ipad? At a time when airplanes are overcrowded or late (or both) and add-on charges sap budgets, Delta is trying something new to placate customers: Loaning them an Ipad.

Blockbuster Continues to Shrink: Blockbuster plans to close about 300 stores throughout the US and cut about 3000 jobs as the once high-flying video rental chain continues to implode slowly. The number of stores will drop to around 500.

Pinterest = Pix and = Links: seems to think of itself as Pinterest for Web articles. It's a new company that managed to attract the attention of Yahoo and has now been acquired by Yahoo. This could be another example of Yahoo's finely-tuned acquisition skills. Or it might actually succeed.

Google Beats Wall Street Expectations: Google reported better earnings than expected this week for its 4th quarter. Perhaps more important, though, were clues that the company has begun to get a handle on how to make money from mobile computing. As a result, Google shares were up about 5% in after-hours trading.

20 Jan 2013

A Change from Facebook Promotes Finding: Facebook is an outstanding resource when you want to share something but when it comes to finding something, Facebook hasn't had a robust tool. This week there's a new feature that will help but it will probably also cause some privacy alarm bells to ring.

Tablets: The Answer to What Question? In this week's EWeek, Don Reisinger dared to suggest 10 reasons why a tablet might be a better choice than a notebook. Response was immediate and ugly. One poster who "didn't bother reading" the article still felt qualified to ravage it and others piled on. Sometimes the Internet reminds me of recess time at an unruly kindergarten.

Short Circuits: Yes, You Definitely Need that Java Update! (Maybe): Oracle has released a patch that fixes the worst of the bugs that came to light last week and resulted in a warning from the Department of Homeland Security to disable it. Even with the update, Homeland Security hasn't exactly given Java a green light.

Accused of Running Down a Donkey, Google Responds: The Google Maps Street View continues to expand and a picture of a donkey lying on its side in the dust on a street in Kweneng, Botswana, led to charges from people who are somewhat challenged when it comes to the science of motion, common sense, and psychology. So of course the charge, which claimed that the Google Street View car hit the animal and killed it, went viral.

GM Plans to Return to Facebook: Last year, 3 days prior to Facebook's initial public stock offering, General Motors gave the old opt-out to Facebook, but now its beginning to look like GM will once again begin running paid ads. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the company's interim head of marketing, Alan Batey, says that discussions are underway.

13 Jan 2013

Microsoft Office 2013: Excel: Last week I began a series of reports on the new version of Microsoft Office. Released to manufacturing late last year, it will be on store shelves by the end of the first quarter. If you're a manufacturer or a member of Microsoft TechNet, you may already have a copy of Office 2013 and, if not, you can download the preview version that will work until the final version is released. I've been using the release version since last October and some of the refinements, particularly in Word, are most welcome but Microsoft gave Excel users some new toys, too.

Will Your Applications Work with Windows 8? Some earlier versions of Windows (particularly Vista) had a great deal of trouble running some applications and using certain hardware. Windows 7 eliminated many of the incompatibilities and Windows 8 has eliminated more. Even so, not everything works with Windows 8. The good news, though, is that if your hardware and software work with Windows 7 they will probably work with Windows 8. Key term: “probably”.

When Things Go Wrong: I thought that I was channeling Jerry Pournelle's Chaos Manor last week. Ever since the computer update in November, I've been seeing an intermittent problem that usually occurs when I'm trying to RIP a DVD, burn a DVD, or occasionally even play a DVD. The problem didn't have much of a signature and I couldn't reliably reproduce it. As a result, it wasn't possible to determine a cause. Hardware? Software? Operating system? Some combination. On Thursday, 3 Jan 2013, we found out.

Short Circuits: Newsweek: The End. Newsweek: The Beginning: Remember when the nation had 3 weekly news magazines: Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report? Only one of these will continue, after today, as a weekly print publication. As much as I like having the ability to read news publications online, I regret that we are losing the print editions. Time remains. US News and World Report has been shrinking for years. And, of course, Newsweek is now gone./p>

Windows 8 is Selling, Microsoft Says: At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that Windows 8 is in use on 60 million computers. The operating system has been on sale for about 10 weeks. If not outstanding, the number is at least a respectable start for Microsoft's new track.

Security Officials Blame Bank Hacks on Iran: The United States and Israel have launched several cyber-attacks against Iran, some aimed at the nation's banks and others at Iran's nuclear program. Now it seems to be payback time.

Google's Eric Schmidt Calls for Open Internet Access in North Korea: Google's Eric Schmidt was in North Korea this past week on a mission led by former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. It's billed as a humanitarian mission but at least some of the message is probably unwelcome. Schmidt says North Korea's government should allow more open Internet access. North Korea has an intranet that is available to a limited number of users but Internet access is granted on a case-by-case basis.

06 Jan 2013 ("The Show Must Go On!)

Have a SaaSsy New Year! This might be the year for SaaS (software as a service). There's no shortage of options and some of them might be sufficiently robust to serve your needs. The trouble with the SaaS office suites is that they all seem to offer about as much functionality as spreadsheets and word processors had in about 1994 under Windows 3.1.

Microsoft Office 2013: Word: The words that describe the Office 2013 collection for me are these: Faster and smoother. The applications generally load faster than their predecessors and the on-screen response to the keyboard is interesting. I haven't found a good way of describing it yet but characters seem to flow onto the screen rather than pop onto the screen. It's a very subtle difference but I've seen some variant of the effect in all the applications. It seems that Microsoft has moved beyond making an application that just works to making an application that works and is pleasing to watch. In fact, there's a lot to be happy about.

It's a New Year. It's a New TechByter: Normally the TechByter redesign begins in November or December but this year it began a couple of days prior to Memorial Day because I wanted to keep the overall appearance about the same. (Huh? You're keeping the same look so you're starting earlier?) I've been sneaking up on HTML5 and CSS3 since about 2010 but the 2012 design still had too much legacy code. For 2013 I wanted to eliminate the legacy materials and move to code standards that would serve for many years.

Short Circuits: Think Antivirus Software Makes You Safe? Think Again! An article by Nicole Perlroth in the The New York Times this week made it clear that, despite huge expenditures on protective applications, computer users aren't protected very well against new viruses and despite their advertising campaigns, antivirus publishers know this.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt Heads for Korea (North!): The Associated Press is reporting that Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, plans to visit one of the most closed nations on earth, North Korea. The secretive country is familiar with at least one Google property: The state has used YouTube to spread its propaganda.

"Oops!" -Amazon: Just as people were settling in on Christmas Eve to watch a movie or two using the streaming service from Netflix, something happened and that something was nothing. No movies. So Amazon has apologized. You may be wondering why Amazon apologized for a Netflix problem.

This week's podcast is not yet available.