TechByter Worldwide

Program Index for 2014

Programs are listed in inverse order by date, so the most recent program is at the top and the oldest program is at the bottom. To find other programs (2008 through 2013, follow one of the links above). For programs back to 1998, follow the Older Shows link.

28 Dec 2014

Holiday Greetings! This is the week that I'll be putting the final touches on the website update so that you'll see site next week that will work properly on desktop comptuers, tablets, and phone. You'll also hear a new approach (same kind of content, different theme) on next week's podcast.

21 Dec 2014 (final program of the year)

Your New and More Powerful Muse: I described Muse in July and said that this relatively new Adobe application impressed me with its capabilities. There were some shortcomings, particularly with regard to text that you might want to use on various instances of a website -- desktop, tablet, or phone. There wasn't an easy way to update text across those multiple instances. Now there is and there are several additional new features that might grab your attention as we approach 2015.

NASA Aims to Improve Flight Efficiency and Reduce Noise: According to NASA, engineers are working on new computer software that could improve flight efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of aircraft near airports.

Facebook's Privacy Policy Raises Concerns in Europe: The Dutch government is examining Facebook's privacy policy to determine whether it violates any laws in Holland. Facebook announced updates to its policies in November and said that they will go into effect on January first.

Short Circuits: The Amazing Vending Machine of the Future: "Change is inevitable, except from this machine," is the message that jokers occasionally tape to vending machines, but an article in Forbes says that and just about everything we take for granted about these ubiquitous appliances will experience radical change soon.

NBC Offers Video Streaming, but with a Catch:The National Broadcasting Company says that it will make more of its content available online. Other networks have sold online plans to subscribers, but NBC is taking another approach: You won't be able to use the service unless you already subscribe to a cable television service and can prove that to NBC's satisfaction.

Exposure 7 released by Alien Skin Software: Alien Skin has updated its popular Exposure product with new features that allow for non-destructive editing of raw images. This version also has new film emulation presets and some extra textures. I'll have a full review in January, but those photographers who always update Alien Skin applications will want to know about it now.

No More Use-It-Or-Lose-It at T-Mobile: If you have a cellular data plan with a smart phone, you're used to the process of starting with a clean slate each month. Any left-overs are dropped at the end of the month. Now T-Mobile says that it will allow customers to carry over unused data capacity.

Russians Who Want an Iphone Are Out of Luck: Falling oil prices and sanctions resulting from Russia's incursion into Ukraine are taking their toll on the ruble, which has lost half of its value against the dollar. Now Apple has halted online sales of its products in Russia as the ruble dropped nearly 20% this week.

14 Dec 2014

How Long Will That Solid-State Drive Last? Solid-state drives (SSD) are showing up in more computers. If you have a notebook computer that was built in the past year or two, it either has an SSD or you had the option of installing an SSD instead of a standard drive. Desktop computers increasingly have SSDs, too, either as the only drive or as the boot drive in conjunction with a large standard drive that's used for data storage. SSDs cost more per gigabyte than standard drives, but they're much faster. SSDs aren't bothered by physical shock the way standard drives are. They're also physically smaller than standard drives, use less power (important for mobile devices), and create less heat. There are rumors that they won't last as long as standard drives because SSDs can be read from indefinitely, but written to a limited number of times. I've been watching an experiment that The Tech Report has been conducting and it's very encouraging for those who want to move to SSDs sooner rather than later.

UBreakIFix Offers a New Way to Think About Electronic Devices: When a portable device breaks, we generally replace it because we think it can't be fixed. A repair chain called UBreakIFix (they style it as "uBreakiFix") might change your mind. Nearly 100 stores are now operating throughout the US (and one is in Canada). If you can get past the company's exceedingly slow website, you might find some useful information.

Short Circuits: Chromebooks Take Off in the Education Market: In an earlier report about Chromebooks, I noted that the small and inexpensive devices seemed to be poised to significantly erode Apple's Ipad market share in public schools, kindergarten through high school. There's evidence now that this is occurring.

Antivirus Maker ESET Offers Free Scanning via Facebook: Facebook is offering ESET's Online Scanner to all users without charge. Social media sites such as Facebook are frequently used by crooks to distribute links to their malware. The ESET application will scan the accounts of Facebook users, identify malware, and then help users to remove it. Facebook refers to the program as an anti-malware initiative. I'm not entirely certain that this is a good idea.

STOP!T Aims to Reduce Cyber-Bullying: How do we pronounce "STOP!T"? Clearly, the embedded exclamation point is intended to be seen as a lower case "i" and so the pronunciation would be "StopIt!" but the graphic presentation makes me want to read it as "Stop! T", which makes no sense at all. I'll just call the service StopIt from now on and we'll consider what the application does.

Dangers Increase as More People Bring Personal Devices to Work: BYOD is an initialism that stands for "bring your own device" and it's making corporate IT managers crazy. In the dark ages of personal computers, employees brought in Apple II computers so that they could run VisiCalc. The users couldn't connect those computers to corporate networks and IT managers, although possibly frustrated by those "newfangled toys", didn't have to worry much about them causing trouble. Things are different today.

A Most Amazing 5 Minutes 22 Seconds: Spare less than one tenth of an hour to watch Steve Wozniak talk about the early days of Apple -- before Apple even existed as a company. Steve Jobs was the marketing genius behind apple, but Woz was the technologist who started it all. (Only on the website.)

07 Dec 2014

A Look Forward at Windows 10: I'm keeping an eye on Windows 10, but it's a challenge because development isn't far enough along for me to chance installing it on even a secondary computer such as a notebook that gets a fair amount of use. As a result, Windows 10 is installed only on an older 32-bit notebook that had all but been retired. And because I don't get it out very often, there's always a substantial delay when I do because it needs to download and install lots of updates and, sometimes, complete new builds.

Deck the Halls with Caution and Care: This may be the season to be jolly and the season that many of us think about chartable giving. That means it's also the season that scam artists are looking out for their best interests. Shopping? Well, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, but the crooks are still out there. This is an easy season for crooks because we're all busy. Probably feeling a bit pressed for time. Distracted. Looking for bargains. But it's not a bargian if you get a great price but the "seller" never ships the goods.

Short Circuits: Uh-Oh! The C Drive is Nearly Full! The primary desktop computer I use displayed an ominous red icon the other day on the C drive. The boot drive is a solid-state unit that, at 450GB, is relatively small. Still, it was suddenly down to only about 13GB free. Where did all the space go? The answer involved several big files and reclaiming the space was easy.

Google's Android Support in a Single Word: Impressive: My Nexus 7 tablet upgraded itself from version 4.4.4 of the operating system to version 5 a week or so ago. This week I planned to use an open Wi-Fi connection with the tablet, so I enabled SurfEasy. Something went wrong, possibly an incompatibility between SurfEasy and the latest version of the operating system. Maybe something else altogether. Regardless of the cause, I had a tablet that I couldn't use because it rebooted to an error message that said the user interface had stopped. My encounter with Google support was letter perfect.

Weplan Plans Your Data Usage: The Spanish publisher of Weplan says it can save more that 50% of your mobile phone bill. That may be a bit of hyperbole, but the concept is interesting. I've downloaded it and I'll let you know what I think in a month or so. At the very least, it would seem that Weplan will provide a clear picture, after observing how the device is used for a month, that will show me exactly which applications are using how much data and whether the data is on the device's data plan (metered) or Wi-Fi (essentially free).

30 Nov 2014

Adobe Chases Creatives Out of the Office and They Go Willingly: Adobe seems to want photographers, designers, and other creatives to get out of the office and to that end they've developed a series of free mobile apps (Apple IOS devices only for now) that offer considerable functionality by themselves but really shine when they're coupled to a Creative Cloud subscription on a desktop machine.

Data Breaches Continue to Accelerate: This has been some year for data breaches and it's understandable for people to come away with the feeling that no information is safe anywhere. There's a difference between data breaches that may expose millions of accounts and what crooks can actually do with the information when they have it.

Short Circuits: Home Depot Sees Suits Resulting from Data Breach: More than 40 lawsuits have been filed in the US and Canada as the result of a data breach at Home Depot, a breach that exposed information about 56 million credit cards and debit cards along with 53 million e-mail addresses.

Symantec Says US and British Government Spyware is Widely Distributed: Malicious code has been found on research computers, government computers, and business computers, including those used in the telecommunications industry. Security company Symantec says it's been there since 2008 and it was planted -- not by Chinese hackers -- but by US and British government spy agencies.

Fire Phone Fire Sale (Part 2): Amazon's Fire Phone hasn't exactly been a success. More exactly, it has been a disaster. At full price, it didn't sell. Priced at 99 cents (with a 2-year AT&T service contract), it didn't sell. Now Amazon is trying $200 (instead of $500) for an unlocked version. Perhaps they should consider hiring people to carry them away.

23 Nov 2014

Weak. Off. Happy Thanksgiving (although Canadians celebrated this holiday more than a month ago). This is the week that TechByter Worldwide is off (a little more off than usual). I'll be back next week with the latest on Adobe's mobile apps and in December I'll have some thoughts about Windows 10. For now, chow down on turkey, stuffing, and more. Follow the link for a 2 minute 30 second bit of blather about holidays from the TechByter.

16 Nov 2014

Protecting Your Computer with Malwarebytes: Malwarebytes has been around for a long time and I've usually had the free version installed. Recently, though, I decided to pay the relatively small fee to license the paid version of both the Antimalware program (version 2) and a newer application called Anti-Exploit (still at version 1.0). These applications aren't intended to replace your antivirus program but to run alongside them.

Net Neutrality, Rural Electrification, and Competition: President Obama has finally added his voice to the millions of others who have written to the Federal Communications Commission in support of Net Neutrality on the Internet. Today there's a lot that's wrong with the Internet and creating a "fast lane" would simply make things worse. This isn't a political issue, though, and it's sad that it's being made a political issue. Let's consider the issue, the history of how electricity came to rural areas starting about 80 years ago, and whether Al Gore really invented the Internet.

Short Circuits: Pandora: 4 Hours, No Questions: If you listen to music using Pandora, you may occasionally see a message that asks if you're still listening. The service says that the message is displayed when you haven't interacted with the player for "a while". I'm not sure what "a while" is, but often it seems to be around 30 minutes or so. Pandora does this to avoid streaming music into empty rooms because the service pays royalties based on the number of selections played and the number of people who heard them. You can easily eliminate these warnings.

Yahoo Buys a System that Serves Video Ads: Yahoo has acquired BrightRoll, a system that delivers video advertising. The cost of the acquisition, $640 million. Last year, Yahoo spent a little over $1 billion to acquire Tumblr. The money comes from the initial public offering by Alibaba, but CEO Marissa Mayer says that her intent is to pay out most of the money to shareholders.

Alibaba and 11/11 in China: Speaking of Alibaba, the online company had a big day on November 11, which is a big sale day in China. The numbers of the date are all ones (11/11) and its essentially a celebration of the individual -- Singles Day. Marketers promote it as the day on which consumers should buy something nice for themselves.

The Future of Microsoft as Seen by Satya Nadella: The new CEO of Microsoft seems to be trying to figure out how best to position the company. The company offers operating systems, applications, hardware (phones and tablets), game consoles, corporate software, and online computing. It has something to do with getting things done.

09 Nov 2014

Updating Your Video Capabilities for the Holiday Season: Thanksgiving is coming (excepting Canada, where it occurred last month), Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other days religious and secular. Holidays seem to bunch up around the end of the year. They're good days for photography and for video because families also bunch up around that time of year. On an earlier program, I described Adobe's new Photoshop Elements. Now it's time for Premiere Elements.

Extending OpenOffice: If you've tried a free, open-source office suite such as OpenOffice, you probably noticed a few differences. First, the cost. There is no such thing as a free Microsoft Office, but OpenOffice is available without cost. You can donate to the project, but you don't have to. Second, you'll find that the open-source suites don't have all the features of the Microsoft applications. And third, although you can obtain add-ons for both Microsoft Office and OpenOffice, a search for "free Microsoft Office plug-ins" won't reveal a lot. Change the product name to OpenOffice and you'll find hundreds.

Short Circuits: Verizon's Tasteless Super Cookie: Verizon seems to be silently tracking about 100,000,000 of its paying mobile phone users and providing no way to opt out. More than 2 years ago, Verizon started what it calls a Precision Market Insights program that can be used to sell information about your location to companies that want to send advertising messages to you when you're near their stores. OK. Fine. If you want those messages, no big deal. But if you don't, how do you opt out? You don't.

New Price for Microsoft Office Mobile Suite: Free: It's hard to argue with "free" and that's the new price of Microsoft Office on mobile devices. This is a smart move because nobody will do any heavy-duty work on a mobile device and if you tie users to your office suite on phones and tablets, you'll effectively tie them to your office suite on desktop and notebook systems. The free versions are not for Windows tablets, though.

Facebook Reports a Big Jump in Government Data Requests: Government request to Facebook for information about subscribers is up almost 25% in the first half of 2014 compared to the second half of 2013. In real numbers, that's almost 35,000 requests from various government agencies around the world.

02 Nov 2014

Chromedroid or Androme? Some Android apps are intended for use only on phones and, while they may function on tablets, they sometimes don't function well. Now the folks at Google seem to be pressing developers to create Android apps that will also work on Chromebooks. What about Chrome apps on Android devices?

What Will You Pay for Windows 10? I was all set to ask this question about Windows 9, but then Microsoft decided that there will be no Windows 9 and they'll jump directly to Windows 10, but not until next year. The question, however, is still a valid one, if perhaps a bit premature. And the answer may surprise you.

Short Circuits: Microsoft Improves OneNote for Mac and Iphone Users: Microsoft's OneNote application is essential to the way I work because it stores information I need about stories I'm working on, books I'm reading (or planning to read), procedures for tasks that I do rarely, medical reminders, various documents, and lists of all sorts. It works well on Windows computers and Android devices. For Iphones, Ipads, and Macs, it's had some shortcomings.

The FTC Says AT&T Is Illegally Throttling Data: The Federal Trade Commission seems to have this strange idea that if a big corporation (AT&T, for example) promises something (such as an "unlimited data plan") then that company should provide what it has promised. As a result, the FTC is suing AT&T for severely limiting its "unlimited" data plans.

Wall Street Geniuses Punish Facebook Profitability: Facebook beat Wall Street analyst's projections for the 6th quarter in a row and the company's stock dropped 11% after Mark Zuckerberg announced that revenue would slow a bit. If, as the head of the company, you're not talking about short-term profits, Wall Street doesn't want to have anything to do with you.

The GUI and the Automobile: Earlier in the program, when I talked about Windows 10, I included a sidebar about Steve Jobs and the graphical user interface. It reminds me that we tend to classify one person as the inventor of most things. Maybe it because of the way history books are written. The inventor of record may simply have finished the work first (or possibly just had a good sense of PR), but others were involved. Why do we feel a need to identify a single inventor?

26 Oct 2014

Even if You Don't Click, You Could be Victimized: Not all that long ago, it was easy to avoid malware, but that's no longer the case. "Don't click that link" is still essential advice, but it's not complete. Just visiting a trusted site can expose you to malware and in September links to malware-infected sites were being served by Google's DoubleClick ad network. Some of the threats are all but invisible to antivirus programs, too.

Who Else Better to Team Up with Nielsen than Adobe: Nielsen, the TV ratings firm, and Adobe Systems say they'll work together to provide ratings services that go far beyond television sets. Some alliances make more sense than others and, at first glance, this one seems like genius. Nielsen may know television, but Adobe knows print, Web, and just about everything else.

Short Circuits: Zoho Expands its Online Office Suite: Zoho has been around for nearly a decade with an assortment of cloud-based applications that's larger than what Google offers and now Zoho has announced plans to expand its offerings. Zoho's parent company has been in business for almost 20 years.

Something Unusual at Yahoo: Profits: Yahoo surprised Wall Street this week by posting profits that were considerably ahead of what analysts expected. CEO Marissa Mayer announced that mobile revenue exceeded $200 million in the 3rd quarter that she thinks the company will hit $1.2 billion for the year.

Bullying Is Alive and Well Online: A study by the Pew Research Center says that online harassment and bullying have affected more than half of all online users. The incivilities reported by Pew include threats of violence and anonymous e-mails.

CBS Goes Digital (Sort of): Streaming video on demand. CBS. Should these terms be in the same sentence. Apparently some of the folks at Black Rock have decided that they should. As I mentioned in the Nielsen-Adobe account earlier, CBS has decided that streaming video is the future. Who will be next -- ABC? NBC?

Extra! This week's podcast features one of the musical selections that will be used next year as all of the bumpers are updated. Also coming in 2015 -- a new theme (but that's not being previewed).

19 Oct 2014

Not So Elementary, My Dear Watson: Within the past month, Adobe has released a new version of Photoshop Elements, released a new version of Premiere Elements, updated every application in Creative Cloud (that would be Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere, InDesign, AfterEffects, Illustrator, Audition, Dreamweaver, Muse, Flash, Acrobat, Bridge Animate, Edge Code, Edge Inspect, Edge Reflow, Fireworks, Flash Builder, InCopy, Prelude, Media Encoder, Scout, SpeedGrade, Story Plus, and more), and released 9 new or updated mobile apps. Every time I begin to think that I might catch up with reviews of various Adobe products, I find that I'm once again up to my knee caps in new material. This, by the way, should in no way be considered a complaint.

Cyberduck Comes to Windows: Mac software that is ported to Windows machines is often somewhat less than stellar and one of the better file transfer protocol (FTP) applications for the Mac seems to continue that trend under Windows. It's not that Cyberduck fails to perform well but that native Windows applications seem to perform better.

Short Circuits: High Tech Tax Cheats Will Need to Find a New Method, but not for Five Years: Ireland has been a tax haven for many US high-tech companies, but that's about to come to an end. The practice of stuffing millions (or billions) of dollars into an Irish subsidiary is perfectly legal, but in my view also totally reprehensible. The "Double Irish" will eventually end.

What Goes Up Must Come Down: There's been so much talk about how tablets are going to take over from computers any day now that the latest from Gartner research may seem like a bit of a surprise. Tablet sales are down. Or, more accurately, they're not increasing as quickly as they had been. Still, the growth is impressive.

I Spy: An article in the New York Times this week says that Russian hackers have been able to spy on NATO, the government in Ukraine, and other Western nations because of a bug in Microsoft Windows.

TechByter for 2015: Every year or two, I update the TechByter Worldwide website. Sometimes the updates are modest and barely visible. In other cases, there are significant changes. For 2015, the update is huge. Everything will change and I'm pretty excited about it.

12 Oct 2014

Beware the Phish that Bites: Protecting against viruses and malware isn't easy, but it seems to me that compared to protecting againt phishing, it certainly seems easier and more straightforward. Because phishing depends on social engineering, the only real protection is the intelligence and caution of the user. We'll talk with an expert about how you can protect yourself and your comptuer.

Upending Creativity, Adobe Style: This would be an incredible time to be an illustrator or a designer. Or a film maker. A book publisher or magazine editor. An audio specialist. If you touch anything that involves creating any kind of media, this has to be a great time to be alive. For the past 10 years of so, it's been possible to design, create, and publish (in print or online) in hours, not days. And Adobe dares to challenge all that by opening the door to working on photography, design, video and more -- whevever you are and whenever you want to!

Short Circuits: Yet Another New Leader for AMD: During the Cold War, a joke about a race between a Russian and an American went like this: The American had won the 2-person race and the supposed Soviet press account said: Soviet runner finishes second, while American runner was next to last. In the race between Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, Intel is "next to last" by a wide margin and second-place AMD continues to struggle.

Unsafe: Talking to Your Car: Auto manufacturers thought the hands-off systems that drivers could use by speaking to them would be less distracting than push buttons and switches. As it turns out, that is exactly wrong and Siri is the worst of the bunch. The least bad system, according to research sponsored by the American Automobile Association's Foundation for Traffic Safety, comes from Toyota.

Sluggish PC Market Opens Up a Bit: Manufacturers of personal computers have spent several years waiting for the market to improve. The recession hurt. Unfounded fears about Microsoft's Windows 8 hurt. The popularity of hand-held devices hurt. But I've been saying for a while that the desktop computer isn't dead and research firms IDC and Gartner released numbers this week that suggest a modest revival is approaching.

Isaacson on The Innovators: I'm reading Walter Isaacson's latest book, The Innovators, and he has introduced me to Vincent Atanasoff, one of many people who attempted, in the first half of the 1900s, to build a device that would simplify the process of complex calculations. I hadn't heard of him and, in addition to learning about his accomplishments, I was struck by two passages that are reminders of just how primitive technology was prior to the Second World War.

05 Oct 2014

Implementing Windows X (ah, 10): Microsoft caught just about everyone off guard this week by announcing that the expected Windows 9 would not be released soon. In fact, it won't be released at all. Instead Microsoft will release Windows 10 next year. Late next year. This week's program summarizes Microsoft's announcement, how to obtain the Technical Preview, cautions about using it, and my experience so far.

Short Circuits: Lies at the Speed of Light: An article by Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College, reminds me of the observation by Samuel Clemens (as Mark Twain) that lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. And that was in the 1800s. The Internet compounds the problem. Some sites are trying to sort truth from fiction.

Where's the FCC Going with Net Neutrality? Despite his background in the cable and wireless industries, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler seems to be trying to achieve at least adequate results for Internet users. It's going to be difficult. The Republican members of the commission are opposed to any regulation at all while open Internet advocates are resolutely opposed to anything that sounds like "slow lane" versus "fast lane".

Ebay will Spin PayPal Next Year: After a dozen years as a wholly owned subsidiary of Ebay, PayPal will become a separate company next year. Ebay acquired PayPal in 2002. The event should happen in the second half of 2015.

Blackberry's Good News: Losses are Smaller: BlackBerry says that it lost "just" $207 million in the second quarter and CEO John Chen says the company is "definitely in the first half" of an 8-quarter turnaround. A year ago, BlackBerry reported a quarterly loss of $965 million.

28 Sep 2014

Don't Look Now, but You're Being Followed: Mozilla has developed a new add-on for Firefox that will enlighten the curious and terrify the paranoid. When you visit a website, information about the visit will almost certainly be shared with other sites. TechByter Worldwide uses Google Analytics and StatCounter, both of which gather only information about the number of visitors, operating systems, browsers, and screen resolution. No personally identifiable information is gathered. Other sites use many more trackers and some of them might not be so friendly.

A First Look at Adobe's Newest "Elements" Applications: Adobe released a new version of its Elements applications this week -- Photoshop Elements 13 for photos and Premiere Elements 13 for videos. So far, I've had time only to glance at the new applications and it appears that they include a variety of new and improved features. You can expect more complete reviews in coming weeks, but I've seen enough to provide a decent first impression.

Short Circuits: Apple Says it Will Refuse (Some) Police Requests for Data: Apple will no longer turn over data from Iphones and Ipads even if police have a legitimate search warrant. In fact, the new mobile operating system, IOS 8, makes it impossible for Apple to gain access to the data because the encryption process has been modified. But some conditions apply.

The "Bash Bug" Could Be even Worse than Heartbleed: There's a "serious" new security threat, but it doesn't affect Windows. Instead, the targets of what's being called the "Bash Bug" are systems that run Apple's OSX or Linux, the very operating system whose users point at Windows and laugh. Is it really as bad as it sounds?

What a Strange Way to Use a Phone: I've been amused to watch the way people use smart phones. Both of my daughters, for example, post to Facebook or Pinterest or any of several other services. They send instant messages. They view websites. But phone calls? Never. Why make a 10 second phone call when you can spend 10 minutes texting back and forth? Maybe there's a bit of hyperbole in there somewhere. But not much.

What's Apple Going to Do with Beats? Apple bought Beats, the headphone manufacturer and online music service in May. Since then, nothing. It's enough to make people wonder what Apple plans to do with Beats and why it has done nothing for four months with with $3 billion purchase.

21 Sep 2014

Making the Most of a Chromebook: About a month ago, I described how surprised I was by the Chromebook I had purchased a month or so earlier, making sure that I bought it from a store where I could return it within 15 days if it didn't work out. I still had it then and I continue to find it to be more useful than expected. Then I found a book that explains everything. Now we'll hear from the author.

Firefox — Love It or Hate It, You Can't Ignore It: If there's any consistency about my opinion of Firefox, it's the total lack of consistency. I've given up on Firefox more times than I'd like to admit only to reinstate it as my primary browser after a few weeks. The browser's flexibility and the huge number of add-ons are what bring me back. The crashes and other performance issues are what drive me away. Maybe there's a middle ground.

Short Circuits: If Not for Bad Luck ... You know how that story goes. The once high-flying Sony that for many years seemed unable to invent a product that didn't sell now seems to have trouble coming up with anything that interests anybody. As a result, the company will lose even more money this year than it had predicted -- more than $2 billion.

SpaceX or Boeing Will Return the United States to Space: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has picked SpaceX and Boeing to compete for the right to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The first launch is scheduled for 2017 and will reduce the nation's reliance on the Russian space program that began following the end of Shuttle program.

Norwegian Company Creates a Photo Sharing Program for Children: Ole Hestas says that his 6-year-old son wanted an Instagram account because his older sisters had accounts, but Hestas felt that his son was too young for such a service. He couldn't find any service that seemed appropriate for someone as young as his son so he as created Kuddle (with a K). It's available for Android and Apple devices.

14 Sep 2014

PaintShop Pro's X7 Release Offers Useful Features: Remember PaintShop Pro? Maybe you thought it no longer exists, but that's wrong. Corel has released PaintShop Pro X7 and PaintShop Pro X7 Ultimate with extensive changes to the user interface. Corel also says brush performance is 30% better and support for 64-bit architecture allows fast performance with large images.

Should You Be Using Two-Factor Authentication? Is it more secure or just a bothersome extra step? With the increasing number of user names and passwords that have been stolen in the past year, you may be thinking about enabling 2-factor authentication for accounts that offer it. Or maybe you've just heard the term and wonder what it is.

Short Circuits: What's Cooler than an Apple Phone or Watch? Apple introduced a new watch and an updated Iphone this week. They got most of the attention, but the real bombshell from Apple is a new payment method that has the potential to virtually eliminate credit cards. Credit cards are inherently lacking in security and Apple's new "Apple Pay" (not IPay) could change a lot of things.

Amazon Fire Phones: 99 Cents: To say that the Amazon Fire hasn't sold very well is rather like saying the Titanic's initial voyage experienced minor problems with an iceberg. In an effort to sell the things, Amazon has dropped the price from $199 to 99¢. You still have to take a 2-year contract with AT&T, so even at 99¢ it might not be a great deal. Europeans don't get the full discount, though; they have to pay €1 and take a 2-year contract with a service provider. Is it a deal or a dud?

The Great Internet Slowdown Day: If you visited any websites on Wednesday, you may have seen the "loading" symbol a lot. Sites hadn't actually been slowed, but many of the larger players in providing Internet content were trying to raise awareness of what would happen if the Federal Communications Commission approves the creation of "fast lanes". FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has adamantly said that the agency will never allow "slow lanes" without seeming to realize that establishment of "fast lanes" means that the rest of the Internet would be in de facto slow lanes.

07 Sep 2014

Lotus 1-2-3 "Knock-Off" Thrives Decades Later: A company named Borland developed Turbo Pascal, a programming language, in 1983. It was my favorite application for writing small DOS-based utility programs. Then Borland created a Lotus 1-2-3 clone called Quattro. In fact. it worked far better than Lotus 1-2-3, so naturally Lotus sued. Borland had copied the menu structure of Lotus 1-2-3, but the underlying program was new. Lotus 1-2-3 is long gone, but Quattro Pro lives on.

Everything New is Old Again: If you're old enough, you may remember when cell phones had dial tones and when they were the size of an attaché case. For many years, smaller was better. Phones became so small that the buttons were nearly unusable. Now they're growing again and bigger seems better. Don't look for any phone the size of an attaché case again, though, and don't expect a dial tone.

Short Circuits: Now It's Home Depot's Turn: It looks like Home Depot is the latest retail operation to lose customers' credit card information to hackers. The investigation is continuing, but the evidence seems to point to the home improvement retailer.

Free Applications - A Follow-Up: Last week, I offered two cautions when downloading free applications. Both of them were apparent in responses I received from readers. The two applications called out explicitly were Gimpshop and CPU-Z. Let's take a look at the possible problems.

NetGear Network Attached Storage Update: After 72 days, the problem of a NetGear router being unable to recognize a USB3 drive larger than 1TB on its USB3 port has been resolved. Neither Seagate nor NetGear looks very good in this story, but at least NetGear's technicians had the persistence to continue working on the problem long after Seagate blew it off.

Fraud in Your Mailbox? This isn't an account of online fraud. It might not be fraud at all, but it's certainly something that calls for caution. This week I received what looked like a check for $69,750. I shredded it and threw it away.

Nude Celebrity Pix Push Apple Stock Lower: You have no idea how much fun it was to write that headline. You also have no idea how confused I am by that headline. But I do have this clue for celebrities (and for those who aren't celebrities): If you think that you would be embarrassed by having nude pictures of yourself posted to an Internet site, you should avoid storing such photos in locations where others might find them. But why did this affect Apple's stock?

Check Out this Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) from Magix: Until this week, I hadn't heard of the Sequoia Digital Audio Workstation, but the fact that version 13 has been released may suggest that I've not been paying attention. Magix says that it's intended for use in production, broadcast, and mastering. It sells for €2500 (that's about $3300). You're probably already on the phone to place your order. See pictures on the website.

31 Aug 2014

Selecting the Best Software Even if Costs Less (or Nothing): Most of the programs I write about are commercial software, but there are sometimes alternatives that you can download and use for free. That's the subject this week: Free applications. It's important to understand that an application such as Gimpshop won't take the place of Adobe Photoshop if you need the features that Photoshop offers. Likewise, Open Office can't replace Microsoft Office if you're in an environment where you need to share complex documents repeatedly with users of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and (particularly) Access. If your needs can be met by free applications, you'll save a lot of money.

For Windows: Q-DIR, Notepad ++, Apache Open Office, Filezilla, ImgBurn, Virtual Clone Drive, VLC Video Player, Amazon Kindle Reader, Calibre Reader, Bulk Rename Utility, Startup Delayer, ImPcRemote, Avast, Malware Bytes, SpyBot Search and Destroy, Adobe Digital Reader, Digital Downloads (from your local library), 7-Zip, FairStars CD Ripper, MP3 Tag, Media Monkey, Fuze Video Conferencing, Aptana Studio, Audacity, DS Clock, Gimpshop, Google Earth, KeePass 2, LastPass, Macrium Reflect, Browsers (download all of them), Moo0 System Monitor, Moo0 Connection Watcher, PDF Creator, Revo Uninstaller, Skype, CPU-Z.

For Android: NavFree (US version), Google Translate, Gas Buddy, Office Suite 7, Universal Book Reader, AndFTP, Lookout, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Facebook Android App, Google Calendar, Jota Text Editor, Kitty Cat Battery, Scanner Radio, Mobility-Ware Solitaire, Weather Underground, Wi-Fi Analyzer, Wi-Fi Finder, Wikipedia.

24 Aug 2014

Adobe Adds Productivity Features to Dreamweaver CC 2014: Dreamweaver has been a perennial favorite for website designers because it works for people who prefer to work in a visual environment as well as for those who prefer to work directly with the code. With the release of a new and more powerful version of Muse, you might think that Dreamweaver's appeal would be reduced for those who prefer the WYSIWYG methods. That's incorrect because the CC 2014 version of Dreamweaver adds features for both coders and designers.

Turning a Small Tablet into a Large Library: The Nexus 7 turns out to be an excellent device for reading books, but varying file formats and digital rights management (DRM) can get in the way. Fortunately, there are work-arounds.

Ballmer Is No Longer (on the Microsoft) Bored (Board): After 34 years with Microsoft, Steve Ballmer has called it quits. He succeeded Bill Gates as CEO, resigned earlier this year, bought the Los Angeles Clippers, and now has resigned from the board because his duties with the basketball team will require so much of his time. Or at least that's the story.

HP Unveils Cheap Windows Notebook, Targeting Chromebooks: HP has unveiled the "Stream" PC for $200. It has a 14-inch display and runs on an AMD processor, but if you want to accomplish anything with the computer, you should plan on spending at least $100 more and maybe double the price of the least expensive unit.

Windows 9 Preview Coming Soon: Rumors suggest that Microsoft will release a public preview of Windows 9 in late September of early October. It will be generally available in Spring 2015 and is code named "Threshold".

17 Aug 2014

Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft: Did you know that about 4% of all Americans will lose their identity to thieves in any given year? Or that the identity theft racket worldwide steals about $40 billion annually? And if your identity is stolen, even if your bank makes good on all of the fraudulent purchases, you'll spend more than $600 and 40 hours on the phone to recover your identity? These are the scary but realistic figures that describe the problem. As with most problems, avoidance is better than recovery.

Fraudulent E-Mails Seem to be on the Upswing: I receive a lot of fraudulent e-mail messages and most of them come to my TechByter address. There's a good reason for that: The address is on literally hundreds of website pages. The address isn't one that I use for business, though, so I know that any message from Bank of America (not my bank) or Bed Bath and Beyond (don't shop there) or Sam's Club (not a member) sent to that address is a fraud. But what about a message from companies I do buy from?

InDesign Pushes into the Future of Publishing: The future of publishing would seem to be electronic. Paper-based books are in not danger of disappearing anytime in the foreseeable future because they have numerous advantages for some kinds of works (reference books in particular). But electronic books offer some gigantic cost advantages to publishers by eliminating paper, printing, shipping, warehousing, and (pardon the reminder) remainders. Remainders are books that didn't sell and are offered by operations that sell them for as much as 90% less than the published price.

Short Circuits: What People Take When They Leave: Dealing with security when employees quit or were fired used to be easy in the old days. They couldn't easily carry off a filing cabinet full of information. Then came copiers. And computers instead of dumb terminals. Now e-mail and Internet connections and thumb drives. A former employee can easily walk off with tens of thousands of pages of confidential information. And sometimes companies make it even easier.

Just Write on the Bellhop's Forehead: Be sure to check out "‘Beep,’ Says the Bellhop" by John Markoff in the New York Times this week. (Link at the bottom of the website account.) It describes the bellhop in a hotel that's adjacent to Apple's corporate headquarters. The bellhop makes the hotel distinctive because it's a robot.

10 Aug 2014

Russian Hackers Have One Billion of Our Passwords: Yours? The broadcast news accounts have been sufficiently breathless to cause panic. There are 3 billion Internet users and 1 billion passwords have been stolen, so that must mean 1/3 of all Internet users are at risk. Actually, it doesn't; but that doesn't mean you should relax. In two words: DON'T PANIC. The story has been a bit (well) overblown.

Creating High-Design, Compliant Sites with Ease: The phone has become a device for looking at websites. People who own smart phones may not use those phones for all their browsing, but most of them undoubtedly use the phone to view some websites and those of us who have websites need to begin thinking about how those sites appear on smaller screens. Responsive sites examine the hardware they're being displayed on and then modify the code they return to the browser for the best possible result. "Easy" and "fast" are two terms that haven't been used to describe the process of creating responsive sites in the past. Xara may change that.

Using Lightroom with 40-Year-Old Pictures: Photographers, whether amateur or professional, have heard about all the advantages of Adobe Lightroom. About a week ago, Adobe released a new version of Lightroom (5.6) and the corresponding new version of Camera Raw. The primary additions this time around provided support for several new cameras, so there's not a lot of news. At the time, I was using Lightroom to work on some pictures from the 1970s and then my wife asked me to scan some pictures from the 1940s. So I used Lightroom for those, too.

Short Circuits: How Rugged are Thumb Drives? I've always considered thumb drives to be relatively fragile devices, but maybe it's time to rethink that. They're not good choices for long-term storage of important data if for no reason other than they're small and easy to lose. The wisdom of the Internet tells us that thumb drives' relative fragility make them a risk for anyone who relies on them for primary storage. Maybe we need to rethink the ruggedness part.

Microsoft Leaps into Court Against Samsung: Yes, this time it's Microsoft. Apple has sued Samsung. Samsung has sued Apple. Apparently Microsoft's attorneys felt that the other guys were having all the fun, so now Microsoft has filed suit against Samsung, claiming that the company has defaulted on a licensing deal the two signed in 2011.

Can Anybody Stop Android's Rout of the Smart Phone Market: With sales of Apple and Microsoft phones falling and sales of BlackBerry devices all but non-existent, Android has now reached 85% market share in the smart phone market according to Strategy Analytics.

03 Aug 2014

Chromebooks: Maybe They're Finally Ready for Prime Time: After writing about how Chromebooks are replacing Ipads in some schools, I began to wonder if these little Internet computers are really viable candidates for general use now. If you want the short answer, it's this: It depends. You'd probably like more than that, so stick with me and we'll consider the computer that's "nothing more than a browser." This week's issue is unusual in that it's essentially a one-trick pony -- all about Chromebooks, but we'll consider the topic from several viewpoints.

Short Circuits: Android Phone Owners Face a New Treat: A recently-discovered security flaw that affects Android devices will be patched quickly, but owners of older devices may remain vulnerable.

Jailbreaks Are About to Be Legal: In what may be the highlight of the legislative session, the US House has agreed with the Senate on legislation that would make it legal for mobile phone owners to unlock ("jailbreak") those phones so that they can switch carriers without having to buy a new phone.

Facebook Splits Chat from Main Application: Now Facebook users can run two applications to perform the tasks that one used to do. This is called progress. It's not a surprise, though. Facebook announced the change in April. If you have an Apple or Android tablet or phone, you'll be forced to change next week.

27 Jul 2014

The Scam that Never Dies: You receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be a lawyer in Nigeria. This lawyer (or sometimes its a bank clerk) wants you to help them get several million dollars out of the country. They'll give you 30% of it just for helping. This scam has been around since before the Internet. E-mail is only the latest iteration of frauds that once came by mail or fax.

Tenacity Pays Off with Tech Support: A NetGear router that I purchased several months ago offers 2 USB ports that can be used for network attached storage (NAS). I had been using it for only a few weeks when the old 300GB hard drive I had plugged in failed. I could replace the drive with a 1TB drive for $70 or a 2TB drive for $80, so I selected the larger drive. And thereby, as an author from another age might have said, hangs a tale.

As American as Apple Spy: Many people believe (somewhat inaccurately) that Apple devices are immune to hackers and malware. That's wrong, but it's worse than that. It seems that Apple may have built in back doors to their various operating systems that gives them access to your data.

Chromebooks Begin to Replace Ipads in Schools: In the early days, Google's Chromebooks couldn't get any respect. That has changed as the operating system has matured and cloud-based storage has gone mainstream. Now it seems that the little computers are poised to make a dent in Apple's Ipad penetration in schools. This could have long-term implications for both Apple and Microsoft.

Now You Can Rent that E-Book You Want to Read: Think of it as Netflix for books. Amazon is starting a new $10-per-month program that will provide access to thousands of e-books and audio books. Called Kindle Unlimited, it will offer subscribers access to 600 thousand books and about 2000 titles from Audible.

Netflix Roars Forward: At the Netflix of Netflix, profits and revenues are up dramatically. So is the number of subscribers -- finally topping 50 million.

20 Jul 2014

Mostly Cloudy with a Chance of Photoshop: Writing reviews of Adobe products sometimes brings Sisyphus to mind. Remember him? He was an ancient mythological king who was forced to push a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down again. That's not to say that reviewing Adobe products is torture. Just the opposite, in fact. It's more like every time I describe the amazing new features the the developers have created, I turn around, look up, and see that the top of the mountain is now another 1000 feet higher. So maybe it's like Sisyphus, except that it's delight and not discouragement at each cycle. Let's take a look at the 2014 version of Photoshop.

Updates Make Google Maps More Useful: Google recently updated the interface for its maps and the improved functionality is worth the few minutes it takes to explore the new interface. There's an option, if you don't like the new interface, to return to the older version. Examine what's new and you probably won't want to go back.

Short Circuits: FCC Gets an Ear Full, but Is the Agency Listening? When the Federal Communications Commission asks for public comment on an issue, it typically receives a few dozen or several hundred messages. Former cable company lobbyist, Tom Wheeler, who is now the chairman of the FCC has proposed a method that would allow broadband providers to create a "fast lane" for those who will pay more. This has not been well received so far and the FCC has received nearly 800,000 comments. (The 2004 Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" generated about twice the number of messages to the FCC.)

Intel Scrambles Back: For a while, Intel looked like it was going to go the way of Detroit's "big iron" as computer manufacturers increasingly shifted manufacturing to follow consumer trends that favored smaller devices that use far less power than desktop systems. Intel had been the undisputed champion of high-power CPUs that are used in desktop and some notebook systems, but Intel's processors are rarely found in small devices.

Rupert Murdoch's $80 Billion Rejected for Time Warner: Comcast wants to buy Time Warner and is expected to do so. This week, though, Rupert Murdoch bid $80 billion for Time Warner and HBO. Time Warner rejected the bid, but that's not that. Don't write the owner of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal off just yet.

13 Jul 2014

A Creative Muse Can Banish Frustration for Website Designers: Sometimes I write off the first release of an Adobe product as not being particularly worthwhile. I did that with version 1 of Lightroom (at version 5, it's indispensible) and I seem to have made the same mistake with version 1 of Muse. It seems that somebody at Adobe is familiar with the old Greek gods and goddesses. The muses are the goddesses of the inspiration of literature, science and the arts. It never hurts to have a muse on your side when you're trying to accomplish something and Adobe Muse is going to be a hit with website developers.

An Onion for Your Browser: The Onion Router (TOR) is many layered, just like an onion, and using it to browse the Web will have several effects: It may allow you to avoid being followed by commercial sites, it will slow your browsing, and it may cause the National Security Agency to develop an interest in what you're doing.

Short Circuits: And the Winner Will Be --- Tablets: Remember how popular the first "portable" computers were? By portable, I mean the 23 and a half pound Osborne 1 (The year: 1981). Luggable, these things were the size of a catalog case. (Remember when sales people carried those?) The notebook/laptop models became increasingly popular and threatened to overtake desktop systems, but now they're combined with desktops as "traditional" PCs and tablets are poised to outsell them next year.

Beware Questionable "DOMAIN SERVICE NOTICE" Messages:

"Important Notice , DOMAIN SERVICE NOTICE" was the subject line on a message I received this week. The TechByter Worldwide domain registration is due for an update, so I glanced at the message even though it wasn't from my registrar.

Free Ebooks about Windows: If you're a bit puzzled by Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 or Office 2013 or any other Microsoft product, the Microsoft Developers Network has some suggestions for you and links to free electronic publications you can download.

06 Jul 2014

Adobe's Gargantuan Creative Cloud Grows Even Larger in 2014: I have to admit something really embarrassing: After Adobe updated all of the applications to Creative Cloud 2014, I didn't see any differences. Then I realized that the updates didn't update the icons I had pinned to the task bar. Once I figured that out, I started seeing changes. Lots of changes. It's clear that Adobe's developers have been busy and they've delivered a lot of big new features.

Is It Time for a Wi-Fi Hotspot in Your Car? Remember road trips the old way? The kids would ask about every 12 to 15 seconds if we were there yet. New technologies have eliminated paper maps and even if your car isn't a connected car, electronic devices can give the kids all the comforts of home.

Short Circuits: Google Is Killing the Nexus? That's what some rumors have suggested. Fortunately, there doesn't seem to be any truth to the rumor. I say "fortunately" because the Nexus 7 is one of the most outstanding bits of hardware that I've ever owned. A new version of the operating system is scheduled for release later this year and Google says a new version of the Nexus tablet will be ready at the same time.

The FTC Goes after T-Mobile and Amazon for Unauthorized Purchases: Both Amazon and T-Mobile are calling foul over charges by the Federal Trade Commission that they have charged consumers for things that the consumers haven't purchased.

Facebook Says it Failed to Communicate Clearly: Perhaps you've already heard about Facebook's experiment that attempted to modify users' emotional reactions by modifying their news feeds. The way the information was presented made Facebook sound rather more manipulative than it really is.

Unintended Consequences: Canada's Anti-Spam Law Increases Spam: A new law that went into effect in Canada on Canada Day (Tuesday, 1 July) is intended to reduce spam and e-mail clutter. It won't, of course, have the desired effect any more than the CAN-SPAM law has reduced spam in the United States. In fact, for several weeks, the new law caused a huge increase in what could only be considered spam.

29 Jun 2014

The Week of Follow-Ups, Short Stories, and Asides: To say that this week's program contains nothing new would be partly right but also mostly wrong. Many of this week's topics have come up before, but in passing or accompanied by my promise to provide more information when I had it. So this is the week that some of those rhetorical chickens come home to roost.

This Fuse Burns Fast: Documenting applications on IOS or Android devices has always been a bit of a chore. After grabbing a screen shot, you have to find a way to move the image to a desktop system. In my case, the easiest method involved using FTP to transfer the image to a hidden directory on TechByter server and then using FTP to move the image from the server to my PC. There should be an easier way and now there is.

Avast's Android Backup Application Is Only Half Vast: I have a paid version of Avast's protective applications on the desktop system and the company offers a free Android backup system that I've been using for a while. Writing a backup application is one of the easier jobs: Identify files that have changed since the previous backup and back them up. Apparently Avast assigned this task to someone who wasn't up to the challenge.

Plentiful Malware Spams: Occasionally I turn off my spam elimination applications to see what's out there. When I did that this week, I found an astonishing increase in spams that directed me to websites that would attempt to plant malware on the computer, given half a chance. I didn't give them half a chance, and neither should you.

NetGear Routers Handle Network Attached Storage, But Only for Small Drives: Network attached storage (NAS) is handy if you have more than one computer in your home or office, and router manufacturers have been adding USB connectors to some of their routers so that users can plug in a USB drive and use it as a NAS drive. I had been using an old USB drive with my NetGear router, but the drive died and the "fun" began when I attached a larger drive.

Maxthon Releases an HD Browser for Portable Devices: On the May 18 program, I described a browser from China, Maxthon, but didn't say much about it. This week, I'm still not going to say much about it, but I will share a couple of reasons that you might want to consider it for desktop systems and particularly for Android or IOS tablets and Windows Phones.

The Supreme Court Kills Aereo: In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court has found in favor of TV networks in the case against Aereo, the company that captured over-the-air TV broadcasts for users and made video streams available on portable devices via the Internet.

22 Jun 2014

A Highly Decent Exposure: Hearing that Alien Skin has a new version of one of their products has about the same effect on me that ringing a bell had on Pavlov's dogs. Except that I don't literally salivate. I've found that makes rather a large mess of the keyboard. That was the case in mid June when Alien Skin released Exposure version 6. Was the anticipation justified?

Adobe Adds Mobile Features and Lots of Updates to Creative Cloud: It was clear when Adobe sent out a news release recently that cited the accelerating shift to mobile applications by photographers and designers that the next version of Creative Cloud would lean that direction. It did more than lean that direction. Every single application in Creative Cloud has been updated in ways that, even a few years ago, would have seemed to be nothing more than futuristic wishes.

Short Circuits: A Net Neutrality Plan with No Chance of Success: Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative Doris Matsui of California have proposed legislation that would make it illegal for broadband providers to charge content providers a fee for making better service available. A fast lane, in other words. Both Leahy and Matsui are Democrats. Neither bill has a Republican co-sponsor.

Facebook Launches Slingshot: Slingshot is the Snapchat that Facebook was unable to buy last year. Slingshot allows users to post images that are visible for a few seconds and then disappear. That, also, is what Snapchat does.

It's Not Just the NSA: The National Security Agency seems to think that it should have permission to view any communication sent by any means and you may have concluded, based on media coverage, that this is an American thing. It's not. The British security agency that's equivalent to the NSA, the Government Communications Headquarters, has the same idea.

15 Jun 2014

TechSmith Once Again Raises the Bar: SnagIt is one of the applications that I often think cannot be improved, but then TechSmith releases a new version and proved me wrong. That opinion was in jeopardy with version 11, but the just-released version 12 ground away version 11's rough edges and made several additional improvements that make it the must-have application for those who need a screen-capture tool.

Your Credit Card Faces More Threats: Another day, another data breach. This time it's restaurant chain PF Chang's that says thieves have apparently made off with credit card information from thousands of their customers' credit cards. As usual, the first warning came from security guru Brian Krebs. The threats just never end.

Short Circuits: Will Google Offer a Slick Login? Several months ago, Google acquired SlickLogin, a startup company headquartered in Israel. Since then, I've been trying to imagine how Google might use the technology. SlickLogin allows a user's smart phone to serve as part of a 2-factor authentication process. Most current 2FA systems require a second action by the user, such as entering a security code that is sent to a phone when logging in via the computer. SlickLogin reportedly eliminates the need for that section action by the user. But it still requires the phone. How will Google use the technology?

11 Main Opens by Invitation Only: The nation that fuels companies such as WalMart with cheap goods is now sponsoring a website in the United States that intends to provide small business retailers, the kinds of shops that WalMart has driven out of business. Can China save smaller retailers in the US?

Google Buys Skybox: "Google buys" seems to be a catchphrase these days. The latest plum to fall into Google's big basket is Skybox Imaging, a company that provides high-resolution satellite pictures. Google picked it up for the low price of just $500 million. These days, that's chump change.

Amazon Quietly Adds Music: With absolutely no fanfare, Amazon added music streaming to its Amazon Prime service this week. Prime is the $80 annual subscription service (increasing to $100 the next time you renew) that provides no-extra-charge 2-day shipping for many products and some limited video streaming.

NPR on Internet Privacy: Worth Listening To: NPR reporter Steve Henn presented a series of reports on Morning Edition this week. Initially, the story was pegged on what an organization such as the National Security Agency might be able to obtain with its massive data-gobbling programs, but it also examined applications that seem to be encrypted but that can still "leak" personal information. I highly recommended listening to the series. You'll find a link to it on the TechByter Worldwide website.

08 Jun 2014

WordPerfect is not Word and Word is not Perfect: That much should be immediately obvious. If you’re old enough, you remember a time before Microsoft Word existed when WordPerfect was king. Dozens of other word processors existed. They had names such as Electric Pencil, WordStar, WordMarc, XyWrite, MultiMate, Lotus Manuscript, and more. The primary battle was between WordStar and WordPerfect. And then Microsoft got involved. Today, most people use some variant of Microsoft Word. But not everybody.

Adding Some Magic to Photoshop: Adobe's Creative Cloud developers have added a new feature to the current version of Photoshop and it's the kind of feature that's easy to overlook. Overlooking this new feature would be unfortunate, though, because it can make your life a lot easier. Those who use Adobe InDesign will already be familiar with the concept of linked objects. Photoshop users might notice a new option in the file menu and I'd like to take a few minutes to explain how it works and why it's important.

Short Circuits: Have You Told the FCC to Preserve Net Neutrality? Once again, the comedians are showing that they have more common sense than politicians. John Oliver recently spent 13 minutes explaining the concept and illustrating why now is the time to speak up. Waiting will be hazardous to your Internet. View the video on the TechByter Worldwide website and then tell the Federal Communications Commission what you think:

Smaller and Smaller: How much data can you carry around in your pocket? The first time I saw a thumb drive in New York City, 16MB in a pocket was amazing. That would be at least a dozen floppy disks. The Israeli company that introduced the thumb drive suggested that a 1GB drive would be available eventually. Now you can put 16GB of data in your pocket. Or 64GB.

No More TrueCrypt: With very little warning, TrueCrypt has ceased to be and that has the rumor mill in high gear. Did the application have security flaws? Was it too secure? Did the developers kill the product rather than cave to demands by the National Security Agency? Did the NSA force the developers to withdraw the product? Those questions may never be resolved, but one question needs no be: What now?

Apple Seems to Have Run Out of Cats: Oh, look! It's another Apple operating system that's not named after a large cat. OS X (10.10) is called Yosemite. The new operating system and updates to Apple's mobile operating system (IOS) were revealed this week in San Francisco at the company's annual developers conference. IOS is now at version 8. The update to Yosemite will be free to users of OSX 10.9 (Mavericks).

National Security Agency Spurs New Development: Snooping by the National Security Agency (NSA) seems to have had some unintended consequences. Last week, I described a new service that will allow users to send and receive encrypted e-mail messages without having an understanding of the underlying technology. Now Google is getting into the act.

01 Jun 2014

Opera: Waiting for the Fat Lady to Sing: "The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings." According to Wikipedia, the first recorded use of this phrase was in the Dallas Morning News on 10 March 1976, by journalist Ralph Carpenter. That was at least 2 decades before some programmers in Norway created the first version of the Opera Web browser. From its inception, Opera was designed to follow standards as set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). At a time when Microsoft and Netscape did everything they could to create proprietary features, Opera insisted on creating a browser that just worked. Today is has only a tiny user base, but maybe it's time to look at it again.

ProtonMail Tries to Make Privacy Easy: The technology used for e-mail dates to the earliest days of network technology, which is to say it's not very secure. Unless you encrypt the message, it's sent across the public Internet in plain text. ProtonMail, with servers housed in Switzerland, is the project of 3 developers with the goal of making security usable by people who know nothing about encryption, public keys, or private keys. So far, they seem to be doing a pretty good job.

Short Circuits: Turned Hacker Released for "Time Served" after Assisting Feds: Hector Xavier Monsegur, known online as Sabu, was a member of LulzSec, an organization that staged numerous attacks against business and government websites. After being caught, he became an informant for the FBI; instead of being sentenced to as much as 25 years in prison, he's been released.

Hackers Are Winning: Despite high-profile cases such as the Anonymous hacker who assisted government investigators, hackers are winning. At least that's the opinion of 500 people in business, government, and law enforcement who were surveyed by the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) and CSO Security News, a magazine.

Intuit Angles for Mobile Payments: In a recent review of Quicken 2014, I mentioned a need for components that would allow users more flexibility with portable devices. Apparently Intuit managers were thinking the same thing and this week announced plans to acquire Check, a relatively new company that gives people a way to pay bills via phones and tablets.

Video Extra: Kids and Computers: If you have about 7 minutes and want to have some fun, watch these kids meet some computers from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Hint: They are not impressed. Be sure to check it out on the website.

25 May 2014

Just Like Old Times, But Different: Corel Suite X7: It's been more than a decade since I was an instructor at Rick Altman's Corel World. Rick has moved on and now runs programs for PowerPoint users. Adobe won the page makeup battle with InDesign (even though it still doesn't do some of the things that Ventura Publisher did in 1990) and the photo editing battle with Lightroom and Photoshop, but Adobe's Illustrator is still playing second fiddle to Corel Draw.

Resurfacing the Surface: At a news conference in New York City this week, Microsoft introduced what looks a lot like an Ipad killer. The Surface Pro 3 has a larger screen than the previous version and its aspect ratio (4x3 instead of 16x9) is more like a piece of paper than a wide screen TV That's important for several reasons and square inches of screen real estate is only one of them.

Short Circuits: Understatement of the Year: Cybercrime is an Enormous Problem: Speaking to the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, FBI Director James Comey said that law enforcement agencies face an "enormous challenge" in preventing state-sponsored cybercrimes. Comey's appearance before senators occurred shortly after the FBI filed charges against 5 Chinese military officials in connection with industrial espionage.

If You're an Ebay User, You Need a New Password: Ebay says that hackers broke into its systems and gained access to personal information for about 145 million customers. Consider that number: 145 million. The population of the United States is 319 million people, so that breach affects approximately half of the population of the country.

Appreciating Carbonite: The online backup service I use, Carbonite, displays markers in the system's file explorer to show whether a file has been backed up or is waiting to be backed up. I noticed that the icon overlays had disappeared a few weeks ago, so I sent an e-mail that described the problem to Carbonite support. In response, Carbonite suggested a call. The tier-1 technician I spoke with connected to the computer and checked out the system's antivirus application and firewall. He then referred me to tier-2 support.

18 May 2014

Managing E-Mail on a Small Tablet: Tablets, no matter how big, seem to be a challenge for text-heavy applications such as e-mail. When I first started using a tablet, my e-mail responses were usually limited to a word or two, typed slowly with my thumbs. An e-mail application designed for tablets and a keyboard application that provides a swipe (or, if you prefer, "glide") option has changed all that.

Life Without Firefox: Several weeks ago, I mentioned that I had stopped using Firefox because it routinely caused a computer with a fast (i7) processor and a lot of memory (32GB) to slow unacceptably. Since then, I've been using Chrome as my primary browser, Maxthon (the Chinese entry in the browser market) as my secondary browser, and Internet Explorer, Opera, or Firefox when I need a third browser. You might be wondering how this is working out.

Crooks Want Your Smart Phone: Phones were once just phones. They were wired to a wall outlet. Then they got smart enough to remember phone numbers. And became mobile. Now your phone does a lot more than make calls. It probably has stored user names and passwords, maybe links to your bank account, photos, and lots of personal information. And they have significant resale value even without the data. Is it any wonder that smart phones are attractive to crooks?

Short Circuits: The FCC Moves to Wound Net Neutrality: Hope that FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler would modify his fast-lane/slow-lane proposal that would end the Internet as it is known today were dashed Thursday when the agency voted to take the next step in the process that many say will create an Internet that will serve existing large companies and stifle competition.

A European Court Ruling on Privacy May Force Changes by Google: In 2009, a lawyer in Spain, Mario Costeja, typed his name in a Google search box. This was the first step in what became a protracted legal battle. Costeja's search returned legal notices that were no longer valid. The lawyer asked Google to remove the links. Google refused. This week the European Court of Justice told Google it had to comply with Costeja's request. What does this mean throughout Europe? Are there implications in the United States.

My Scale told the Refrigerator Not to Order Ice Cream! Over the years, there have been predictions about how connected devices will work together to help us. I remember writing a paper in the 1970s in which I described a "smart home" that was controlled by a computer. I envisioned something about the size of a small car that would have been stored in the basement, but I got some of it right. Today we're a lot closer to what I wrote about with devices that all have some built-in intelligence.

11 May 2014

Ready to Take Control of Your Finances? We're a little more than a month past tax day and maybe your checkbook is still stinging. Maybe you were also frustrated by your lack of organization as you sorted through records needed to fill out all those forms. If you've decided not to put yourself through this next time, your computer can help.

A Torrent for the FCC: Apparently the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been hearing a lot about Chairman Tom Wheeler's plan to "save" net neutrality by allowing broadband companies to charge more for premium service. The push back has been so strong that members of the commission are asking Wheeler to postpone consideration of his new plan, currently scheduled for review next week.

Short Circuits: Amazon Sunday Deliveries: Remember when the US Postal Service wanted to shut down Saturday deliveries because they cost too much? Well, now the USPS is working the Amazon to provide Sunday deliveries in some cities. Do you live in one of them?

Microsoft Pulls XP Owners' Bacon Out of the Fire This Time: Microsoft stopped supporting its 13-year-old XP operating system and then Heartbleed hit. Microsoft provided a security patch for XP and security advisor Graham Cluely says that was a bad idea.

Big, Pricey Solid-State Drives Are on the Way: SanDisk has launched what it calls the world's first enterprise-class 4TB solid-state drive (SSD) and says that an 8TB model is on the way. With solid-state drives that large, the only thing standing in the way of universal acceptance is the price.

04 May 2014 - May the Fourth Be with You!

Backup Revisited (Again): Maybe you share one of my great fears: Losing one or more important files. There's no shortage of threats, from disk failure to malware to user stupidity. Yes, I've accidentally deleted or overwritten files that I wanted to keep, but I haven't lost a critical file in at 14 years. Believe me when I say that I remember events like that because they're painful. It's a good idea to review your backup strategy once a year. I did and I've changed some things.

A New Router Makes Quick Work of Network Attached Storage: Many new routers make it easy to set up network attached storage (NAS) if there's a USB connection that can be used by an external disk drive. I'll share with you what happened when I plugged a USB drive into a new router.

Perfect Storm: IE Flaw on Windows XP: You've probably heard about the latest security flaw that affects Internet Explorer. As bad as the flaw is, it's even worse if you're still running Windows XP. Microsoft recommends some workarounds that involve disabling certain system functions. The US Department of Homeland Security (via CERT, the Computer Emergency Response Team) says that XP users who cannot follow Microsoft's recommendations should use another browser.

Short Circuits: Wheeler Says the FCC is Not Killing Net Neutrality: Facing extreme criticism that the Federal Communications Commission, in the guise of protecting net neutrality, is actually killing the concept, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says this is not what the agency plans to do. The week, Wheeler said that the FCC will write "tough" new rules to prohibit broadband operations from denying access to smaller operations and startups.

McAfee: A Problem with the Product, but Great Customer Support: McAfee offers a service that supports every computer, tablet, or mobile device you own for $100 per year. When they offered a discount ($50), I bought it. Except for one problem, it was a good buy. Sixty days later, I decided there was no solution to the problem, but the refund period is only 30 days. You may be surprised by what happened next.

Learning How to Take Better Pictures: I received a question from a listener who has several trips scheduled this year. He and his wife were looking for someone in central Ohio who could provide some hands-on training. They have Canon Powershot SX40 and SX50 camera cameras. He would like to stop using the camera's Auto-ISO function and she's looking for tips on exposure modifications. Although I know nobody in central Ohio who provides individual training, I was able to provide some suggestions.

27 Apr 2014

Lightroom 5.4 Reveals the Future of Photography: Lightroom, Adobe's profoundly useful photography work-flow manager and editor has gone mobile. Unfortunately for me, it's available only for Apple's Ipad. The next device Adobe has targeted is the Iphone. Only then will the portable version of Lightroom be ported to Android devices. This gives me something to look forward to.

Improving a Not-So-Good Photograph: In the old days, when photography involved film, I would sometimes look at a print and see an opportunity for improvement. I did my own black-and-white darkroom work, but most color work went to a lab in suburban Chicago. So generally the next step involved writing the instructions, sending the film to the lab, and waiting a week or two for the print to be returned. Digital photography has changed all that. On a Sunday morning in March, I was looking through some old pictures and found one with my favorite cat of all time, but it exhibited one serious problem. The color was lousy. Let's consider how to fix it.

Short Circuits: The Second Nail in Net Neutrality's Coffin: To save net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission will apparently have to kill it. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposes that the agency allow Internet service providers to offer a fast track to those companies that are willing to pay extra to deliver video and other streaming content to consumers.

Netflix Streaming Prices Rise: Netflix CEO Reed Hasting says that the cost of the company's streaming video plan will increase by a dollar or two per month soon for new subscribers and eventually for all subscribers. The increase is being attributed to improvements in content selection and not to the company's agreement to pay for better service from Comcast.

Still Trying to Get You Mind around Aereo? So am I. Aereo is the company that scoops up over-the-air television signals and delivers them to customers, but it does so in a unique way that seems to make it more like a TiVo and less like a cable company. The distinction is important and I wonder if the technologically challenged Supreme Court will be able to figure it out.

Microsoft Finalizes Nokia Acquisition: At midweek, Microsoft Executive Vice President Brad Smith announced that the company had completed the steps necessary to finalize its acquisition of the Nokia Devices and Services business. The transaction was completed on Friday.

Facebook Acquisition of Oculus VR Approved: US regulators have approved Facebook's plans to buy Oculus VR for $2 billion. Approval came about 30 days after the deal was announced. Oculus makes the Rift, a virtual-reality headset.

20 Apr 2014

Do You Believe in Magix? It hasn't been all that long since editing video was an expensive proposition. You'd have to take the video to an off-line editing suite and rent time, often hundreds of dollars an hour. Now for the cost of an hour or so, we can buy video editing software and cut together videos at home.

We're In for Better Weather: The National Weather Service has a website, but I prefer to use Weather Underground. Features have been added continuously over the years so that it is now what I consider to be the undisputed leader when it comes to information about weather. Without the National Weather Service, Weather Underground would not exist, so this isn't a public-versus-private argument. What Weather Underground has done is take data provided by NWS and make it more accessible to people.

Short Circuits: Facebook Eliminates a Feature and Says it's an Improvement: Did you ever notice how messages that begin with "for your convenience" never are? That seems to be the case with Facebook's latest advance. Prepare to say goodbye to instant messaging on Facebook, at least on smart phones.

Mozilla Gains an Interim CEO, Loses a User: Chris Beard has been named interim CEO of Mozilla, the company that's responsible for the Firefox browser and the Thunderbird e-mail client. Although unrelated to this event, I'm re-evaluating the use of Firefox as my primary browser.

Heartbleed: Not as Bad as it Might Have Been ... but a harbinger of bad things to come. A brief and well written article by Wendy Grossman on the Scientific American website explains why the recent security mess turned out to be less serious than thought initially, but why you shouldn't be encouraged by this.

13 Apr 2014

It's Time to Change Passwords Again: Security researchers have identified a flaw in the encryption technology that's used to securely transmit data via the Internet. This could affect e-mail and Web-based communications, including websites operated by financial institutions. You know the drill: Change your passwords.

Are You Satisfied with Today's Internet Privacy? South By Southwest (SXSW) is the annual music, film, and interactive conference and festival held in Austin. This year, the owners of Giganews, Golden Frog, Data Foundry, and hosted a program to discuss the current state of privacy on the Internet. The hour-and-a-half-long program is too long to included on this program, but I'd like to share some of the highlights with you.

The Windows 8.1 Update Arrives: The Windows 8.1 Update is big: 2000 megabytes. It's a cumulative update for Windows 8.1 that continues to streamline the interface, add support for more devices, enhance security, speed system operations, and improve reliability. What gets the most attention, in part because these are the features Microsoft enthusiastically points out, are the ones designed to make happy people who will never be made happy.

Short Circuits: Two Extremely Short Circuit Items: Two events this week are worth noting, but this week's program is already running a bit long, so I'm going to combine these as the first item in the Short Circuits section.

Intel Shrinks its Employee Base: Intel says that it will eliminate 1500 jobs from its assembly operation in Costa Rica, but will continue to employ more than 1200 engineers, finance, and human resources workers there.

Microsoft Wants Nokia's Device and Services Division: It appears that Microsoft's plan to acquire a division of Nokia is moving forward. The company started the $7.2 billion process last year and had hoped to complete it during the first quarter of this year. That didn't happen, but the end is in sight.

06 Apr 2014

Remembering More than just the Milk: Despite the funny name, Remember the Milk may be the best tool available to help you keep track of things that you've promised to do. After using the free version of the application for about a year, I decided to pay $25 per year for the professional version because it adds features that I find to be well worth the small fee. If you're tired of forgetting about important events, you need this.

Using G-Mail's SMTP Server: If you use the e-mail account provided by your Internet service provider, you may find it impossible to send e-mail when you're traveling because you won't be connected to the Internet via your ISP. There's a better and more reliable way to send e-mail and it's not just for those who are blocked when they're on the road. There's a better way and, although several steps are involved, it's not a complex process.

Short Circuits: A Convincing Fraud: Although most phishing schemes are obvious, the crooks who run these cons are getting better. Late this week I received what looked a lot like a message from American Express. It purported to be promoting a new security feature. The explanation was clearly written and seemed plausible. It even explained that my browser would be "redirected" when I clicked the link provided in the message. I didn't click and I'll show you what to look for.

In the Suit Pitting Apple Against Samsung, Google is a Factor: It's Apple versus Samsung in the court room, but much of the discussion this week was about Google. As you may recall from countless other reports over the years, Apple and Samsung like to sue each other. Perhaps they find this more entertaining than inventing hardware. This week Samsung struck back at Apple using a different tactic.

As It Turns Out, a New York Man Doesn't Own Facebook After All: Paul Ceglia says he owns Facebook, but a New York judge granted Mark Zuckerberg's motion to dismiss a suit by Ceglia. It's been a year since a previous judge recommended terminating the suit because key parts of the contract the plaintif presented had been faked.

Netflix Prepares for France, Netherlands, and Belgium: Netflix started hiring translators last year localize its service in Europe. The company will soon begin offering a streaming service in France, Netherlands, and Belgium. Future expansions apparently are planned for areas that are further east because the company also hired translators who are fluent in Turkish, Korean, and Hindi.

Privacy Seems More of a Hot Button Issue in Europe: An article by James Ranter in the New York Times this week described a call by Peter Hustinx, the European Union's data protection supervisor, for member governments to update privacy laws by the end of this year to restore public trust in the Internet. Hustinx also said that President Obama needs to carry though on his pledge to review US privacy policies.

Why Consider a Solid State Disk Drive? When buying a new computer, whether desktop or notebook, you should consider a solid-state drive. Many notebook computers now come with solid-state drives, but the Lenovo that replaced an older Toshiba came with a hybrid 1TB hard drive — a standard drive with a considerably larger amount of cache to emulate SSD-like performance. Well, it didn't.

30 Mar 2014

Windows XP Ends But You Can't Upgrade. Now What? You already know that support for Windows XP ends a week after April Fool's Day, but then what? No, this isn't another YOU REALLY NEED TO UPGRADE TO WINDOWS 8.1 message. There are other options. If you won't upgrade to Windows 8 because the nay-sayers have convinced you it's no good and you won't upgrade to Windows 7 because it's outdated, what are your choices? Well, you could buy a Mac. Or you could install some version of Linux. Have you heard of Zorin?

Short Circuits: Everybody Wants a Part of the Wearables Game: Google Glass (more about that later), virtual reality goggles from Facebook (more about that later, too), and now wearable fitness monitors from Intel. More about that one on this week's program.

Google Glass: Coming Someday to Your Nearby Optical Store: Google has announced a deal with the world's largest supplier of eyeglasses, Luxottica. By "large", I mean that this company controls more than 80% of the world's major eye-wear brands. If you've wondered why frames cost $200 to $300 for bits of plastic that are probably worth no more than $10, this may explain it. Luxottica owns brands such as Ray-Ban, Persol, and Oakley; it also manufactures those high-priced frames you find in optical stores. In fact, the company runs more than 5000 optical stores in the US.

Facebook Plans to Bring Reality to Virtual with Oculus Rift: Oculus VR has garnered a lot of attention in recent months, raising $91 million through the crowd-funding operation, Kickstarter. They developed a virtual reality headset called the Oculus Rift. The company had planned to release a consumer version of the hardware late this year or early next year. And now Facebook has bought the company for $2 billion.

Turkish Court Says Twitter is OK: Finally -- something that doesn't concern wearable computers. A Turkish court has ordered the country's telecommunications agency to restore access to Twitter. The government previously had blocked access to the social network.

Why Can't Companies Get Support Right? Several weeks ago, I got a new TV. There was a problem with it, so I called Samsung. Later, I received a follow-up call regarding the support call. I had spent about 40 minutes on the phone with a level-1 tech and another 20 minutes with a level-2 tech. Both of them were completely baffled by the problem. When I was passed on to a level-3 tech, I described the problem once again and she said "That's a known problem and I can fix it." She did. The person who called seemed a bit surprised that I felt the level-1 technician and the level-2 technician should have been made aware of the problem.

Reminder: Internet Annual Cleaning : The annual Internet cleaning is scheduled for this coming Tuesday. Mark it on your calendar. On this week's program, we'll have complete details regarding what you need to do.

23 Mar 2014

A Shameless Plug (In): Until 1994, a "browser" was someone who wandered more or less aimlessly through a retail store. Then came the World Wide Web and the concept of the "browser" as an application that runs on a computer. Today, many of us spend much of our time, at work and at home, interacting with a browser. It probably shouldn't be a surprise that the basic browser often fails to meet our needs no matter which browser it is. That's why plug-ins are so popular and there are some that just about everyone should have.

How About a Browser from ... ... China? If your initial response is along the lines of "NO XXXXing WAY!" give me a moment here. First, understand that this is not a brand new browser. It's been around for more than 8 years and, in some form, for more than 15 years. There's a story behind the Chinese part, too.

Short Circuits: Know Somebody Who's Sitting for the SAT? The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is one of two tests used by some colleges in determining which students to admit and the SAT will be changing its format in 2016. A huge and profitable industry tutors students to learn how to take the tests and the redesigned SAT is supposed to focus more on skills needed to succeed in college and less on learning how to take tests. Let me tell you about a clever new way to learn test-taking skills.

Watch This: Do you wear a watch? How many people do you know who wear a watch? Most people I know just use their cell phone or some other hand-held device to find out what time it is and often to manage their calendar, task list, and reminders. Could watches become powerful enough to make a comeback? Apple seems to think so. Google does, too. The latest Android watch could be either incredibly useful or astonishingly intrusive, depending on your feelings about privacy.

DeepFace Knows Who You Are: "Kill Decision", a novel by Daniel Suarez examines the future of warfare where drone aircraft can identify individuals and kill them entirely without human intervention. I'm reading the novel now and this week Extreme Tech had a report about a Facebook technology called DeepFace (really!) that's as good as humans when it comes to identifying people. Combined, the accounts are a bit unnerving. What's Facebook going to do with ths new technology?

Google and Viacom Agree to Agree: The news release was about as illuminating as a 2-watt light at the bottom of Mammoth Cave: Google (the owner of YouTube) and media company Viacom have reached an agreement to stop meeting in court rooms. I'll explain why it was merely an acceptance of what already is.

16 Mar 2014

VLC: More than Just a Video Player: I keep trying other media players, but I also keep coming back to VLC, which used to be primarily a video player but now handles audio, video, discs, and streaming content. This is a shareware project that began as a student project in France and initially the player was called "VideoLan Client". VLC is a shorter name and easier to remember.

Data Crooks Who Raided Target Were Nothing Special: A report by security firm McAfee says that the techniques used by the people who broke in to Target's point-of-sale devices and siphoned off tens of millions of customer records in late November and early December used only common, well-known techniques. Target's Chief Information Officer, Beth Jacob, resigned and Target says that it has started a full review of security.

The Nexus 7 at Six Months: A few months ago, I bought a Nexus 7 tablet. Later, because I don't have a smart phone, I added a NetZero Wi-Fi hotspot to provide cellular access when I'm not within range of either the home or office Wi-Fi service. Even with SurfEasy running, I try to avoid using public Wi-Fi hot-spots for secure operations and the NetZero hotspot provides that functionality.

Short Circuits: As Predicted, Amazon Prime Price Increases 25%: The extra-cost program offers to provide no-extra-cost 2-day shipping (not "free" 2-day shipping as they like to spin it) will increase from $80 per year to $100 per year. That's a 25% increase. Even at the higher price, it might be a worthwhile purchase.

Google Goes After Cloud Storage Business: Just a few weeks ago, I described the various online storage options. At the time, Google Drive was the best value for free storage, providing 15GB without charge. Now the company has trimmed prices for additional storage and it's clear that Google wants to win this competition.

09 Mar 2014

Maybe It's Time to Try ThumbsPlus Again: Have you been overwhelmed by digital photographs? Are you unable to find the picture you want when you need it? Maybe you need an image organizer such as ThumbsPlus, but when you visit the big shareware download sites that allow user reviews, you read about how ThumbsPlus used to be a great program with good support. The consensus is that this is no longer the case, but maybe it's time to give version 9 a try.

More Opposition to NSA Spying: Telephone companies have generally complied with the National Security Agency in turning over information they're asked for, even without a court order. Doing so, in fact, can be a profit center for the companies because they bill the feds for the work. Last year, when companies such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft reacted angrily to reports that the NSA had been intercepting users data, the phone companies were silent. That seems to be changing.

Short Circuits: Facebook Plans an Air Force of Drones: Unlike Amazon, which flogged a drone-delivery story at the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, mainly for the publicity the stunt would garner, Facebook has a plan that involves drones and might be beneficial. Facebook is reportedly talking to Titan Aerospace, a company that makes solar-powered drones. What, you might ask, does Facebook want to deliver with a fleet of drones? The plan is to deliver the Internet.

No More Facebook or Google IDs on Yahoo: Yahoo currently accepts both Google credentials and Facebook credentials when logging on to Yahoo services, but that's about to end. Yahoo has announced that you'll soon need Yahoo credentials to log on to Yahoo services. The first target is the service's college basketball fantasy game, Yahoo Sports Tourney Pick 'Em.

What's Down with Mozilla Firefox? Users apparently. Net Applications, a company that collects usage information from millions of websites, says that Firefox usage is at a 5-year low. Chrome seems to be picking up the slack.

02 Mar 2014

Dropping the Ball, Apple Style: Apple users sometimes like to claim that Apple computers, which are based on the BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) Unix operating system, are all but impervious to attacks of any kind. That has always been questionable, but Apple's release of a seriously flawed version of its Mavericks operating system (OSX version 10.9) and the company's slow response to fixing the problem should cause even die-hard Apple fans to view the claims a bit more realistically.

Updates Are Everywhere: Operating systems update themselves. Browsers update themselves. Some applications update themselves. Now even televisions update themselves. "Would you like to download and install an update for {insert the name of something here}?" is a question that I'm asked several times most days.

Panicked by Windows 8? If you're in a panic because Windows 7 will no longer be available after November 1 of this year, relax. Microsoft says that computer manufacturers will be able to continue selling Windows 7 after the planned end date. Microsoft, of course, manages to say (with a straight face) that this decision has nothing to do with the end of support for Windows XP or the lukewarm acceptance of Windows 8.

Short Circuits: You're About to Lose Your Facebook Email Address: Oh, you didn't know you had a Facebook e-mail address? Most people who have Facebook accounts seem equally unaware of this fact and that's why Facebook will retire it's e-mail service.

Netflix Buys a Pass: It didn't take long for Netflix to cave and agree to pay Comcast to give precedence to Netflix's streaming video. This is the first indication that Net neutrality is officially dead.

23 Feb 2014

Storing Your Important Files in Public Places: Maybe someday we'll have Internet connections that are fast enough and security procedures that are safe enough for me to consider storing everything on a server. In some ways, that day is already here. Nearly all of my files are backed up to a Carbonite drive in Boston, but I always work with local copies of those files and I back them up locally, too. If you're thinking about online storage, each of the big 4 options offers some storage for free. Let's take a look.

Spring Cleaning with Slim Utilities: Spring cleaning sounds like a good idea. Just the thought of spring is a good idea, even in mid Ohio where the snow and winter weather were nowhere near as severe as in some parts of the country. Just in time for spring, you might want to try Slim Cleaner, a utility from Slimware. The company offers several free utilities that can help you haul away the junk.

Short Circuits: Where Did I Put My (Fill in the Blank)? A Brooklyn friend posted a note to Facebook this week saying that he had just spent a lot of time trying to find his camera. He searched on, around, and under the desk. Looked through the rest of the house. Checked the bedroom. Then he looked in his shirt pocket. The small, light camera had been there all along. How much time to you waste every week looking for things like this? Nokia may have an answer.

Affordable Near-Real-Time Mapping Just $150,000: To the Air Force, $150,000 is "affordable". Newly developed LIDAR technology will make it possible for precision mapping of an area of about 100 square miles in less time than it takes to have a pizza delivered. The mapping will be based on images taken from an airplane. If you're wondering why this is important, stick with me for a moment.

Another Chance for Net Neutrality? FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says that the agency will try again to ensure what's called "Net neutrality" that would force Internet service providers such as Comcast and AT&T to treat all digital traffic the same, regardless of where it originates. The Federal Communications Commission seems to be what Mao Tse Dong called "a paper tiger".

16 Feb 2014

Desktop Sharing in a Post-LogMeIn Era: Those of us who help friends and relatives take care of their computers sometimes need to see exactly what the person we're trying to help sees. This is easy enough if the person you're trying to help is next door. Less so if the person is across town or several states away. LogMeIn, an application designed for commercial help desks, has allowed individual users to download and install a version of their application without charge. That all ended a few weeks ago with absolutely no warning.

When a Hard Drive Dies: Conventional wisdom says that hard drive failure is not a question of IF, but WHEN. I was reminded of the truth of that bit of conventional wisdom recently when a hard drive failed. Drives F and I existed as 2 logical drives on a single physical drive. The first drive (F) became unresponsive, but drive I was still available.

Short Circuits: Why Can't Microsoft Brand? Remember "Metro"? That's what the Windows 8 touch interface was called until Germany's Metro stores objected. Now it's either "The Interface That Shall Not Be Named" or "Modern" or, as I call it, "Metro". It's hard to kill a name that was in use during the entire development process. Now Microsoft will rebrand SkyDrive with yet another mistake.

Comcast Plans to Buy TimeWarner Communications: Comcast Corporation wants to buy Time Warner Cable and is willing to pay more than $45 billion to do it. This isn't a deal that will close in a few weeks, but it probably will close in a year or so after federal antitrust regulators review the plans.

You Won't Care To Encounter Careto: It's pronounced CUH-reh-toe (with a rolled R) and not "care to", but you definitely don't want to allow Careto to set up shop on your computer. It's one of the more sophisticated threats currently being found in the wild and it's not limited to Windows-based computers. Kaspersky Labs says that you'll find it on Macs and Linux computers, too, and possibly on hand-held devices that run IOS or Android operating systems.

09 Feb 2014

The Bat Roars Back: Around 1997, I discovered version 1.0 of The Bat (styled as "The Bat!" by publisher RIT Labs in Moldova) and considered it to be an interesting program, but not yet quite ready for mass distribution. In 2000, I recommended it. I have continued to recommend it enthusiastically since then, except the time from mid 2011 through the end of 2013. Well, The Bat is back!

A Cautionary Tale: Occasionally I run a Malwarebytes scan. When I ran a scan this week, I found 10 questionable files on the notebook computer and that didn't surprise me. I was surprised when one file turned up on the desktop computer, though, and even more surprised when it led to a hidden directory with more than 500 files.

Fraudsters on the Loose: The number of fraudulent messages is increasing daily. Fortunately, my anti-spam measures are sufficient to keep the crap off my computer, except when I decide to let some through to see what the thieves of the world are doing. In recent weeks, there's been a flood of phony coupons.

Short Circuits: Changes Planned for Broadband Internet in Schools: Digital Learning Day was this week and the head of the Federal Communications Commission says that his agency plans to modify taxes that are used to provide money that pays for high-speed Internet service in schools.

Yahoo Tries to Recover from Another Hacker Attack: In 2012, hackers broke in to servers at an organization that's associated with Yahoo and made off with credentials for about 400,000 users. Now it's happened again, and once again the attack didn't target Yahoo's servers, but those of some other company.

Rumors of a New High-End Nexus Tablet: Sources in Taiwan say that a new high-end Nexus tablet will show up on store shelves later this year—probably by Fall. The rumors say that HTC will work with Google to create the next version of a premium Nexus tablet.

02 Feb 2014

The Screen Capture Tool That Doesn't Know When to Stop: Snagit has been around for a long time and occasionally TechSmith releases a new version that somehow manages to improve on the previous version. Sometimes the improvements target the user interface, other times it's new features. It's a tool that I can't imagine being without. And capturing on-screen images is just the beginning.

Out-of-the-World Desktop Backgrounds for Your Computer: A business manager who was a big fan of the US space program once wanted to decorate the organization's various conference rooms with space-related photographs. A government website shows many images from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration so he wondered how much it would cost to license these images for use on conference room walls. The answer might surprise you, but it shouldn't.

Short Circuits: Google: Buy High, Sell Low: Less that 2 years ago, with a great deal of fanfare, Google purchased Motorola's mobile phone division for $12 billion 500 million. Now the company is selling the division to Lenovo for $2 billion 910 million. Yes, that's a 76% loss. At the time, it was Google's largest-ever acquisition. One might say that the deal didn't work out as planned.

US Justice Department on the Trail of the Target Hackers: Attorney General Eric Holder says the FBI will find the criminals who were able to break in to Target's point-of-sale terminals between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year. The crooks stole credit card numbers and other information belonging to tens of millions of people. Holder made his promise at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Now there's a new clue.

Facebook's Profits Shoot Through the Roof: Apparently moving fast and breaking things works as a business model. Facebook reported a 700% increase in profits in the 4th quarter of 2013.

Malware Author and Bank Thief Pleads Guilty: A man who extracted money from numerous bank accounts that don't belong to him has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud. Aleksandr Andreevich Panin appeared in US Federal Court in Atlanta this week. Another man, Hamza Bendelladj, who was extradited from Thailand, entered a not-guilty plea last year and that case is pending.

26 Jan 2014

Password Mistakes Crooks Hope You'll Make: I saw an article this week on the 25 most commonly used useless passwords. For a long time, the most common bad password was the word itself -- "password". It has been superseded by "123456". The security firm SplashData compiles the top 25 list every year. That reminded me of a white paper from Bitium, a provider of single-sign-on (SSO) systems for businesses, on the subject of password mistakes that the bad guys hope you'll make.

Will the FCC Appeal the Net Neutrality Decision? And should you care? To answer those questions in reverse order, Yes, you should. And I certainly hope so. There are dire predictions about what cable companies will do now that a federal appeals court has given them permission to do anything they want to, but as I've pointed out before, there's a difference between what's possible legally or technically and what works as a business model.

Short Circuits: Working Around Your Cellular Provider's Data Limit: Some cellular providers have promised "unlimited" data plans. Trouble is that cellular providers don't define "unlimited" the way most people define "unlimited". And then, most of the "unlimited" data plans (which had limits) went away. To say that data caps are not the most popular feature associated with cell phone plans is probably a bit of an understatement. If the websites you visit use a lot of graphics, Google has a plan to help you beat the cap.

Your Phone or Tablet Can Control Your Television: An older television in my office decided to stop working, so I went from a 20-inch CRT (seemed big at the time) to a 40-inch LCD. It's a "smart" TV, so it connects to the Internet via my Wi-Fi router. This means that I can watch TED talks and Amazon Prime videos, too. My younger daughter took a look, said that she didn't like the remote control, and suggested that I take a look at Android apps to control the TV.

Many Bank ATMs Won't Be Ready When Windows XP Expires: If you think that banks treat security as a top priority, maybe it's time to reconsider that. An article by Nick Summers in Bloomberg Business Week says that most of the automatic teller machines (ATMs) operated by banks run on Windows XP. As you know, Microsoft will no longer support XP starting in April. And only a small percentage of machines will have been upgraded by then.

Farewell, LogMeIn: Once or twice per month, I need to use my home computer from some other location and my preferred tool has been the free version of LogMeIn. "As of January 21, 2014, LogMeIn Free will no longer be available. To continue using remote access, you will need to purchase an account subscription of LogMeIn Pro." That's the message I received on January 21, 2014. That's right: Zero warning.

New Streaming Music Beats is Ready for You: Beats, the headphone company, has launched its new streaming music service. Unlike many of the competing services, users can also download music. After the first 30 days, there's no free option and any music you've downloaded will disappear if you stop paying the monthly fee.

19 Jan 2014

Google's Chrome is 31: Mozilla's Firefox is still my primary browser, but there's a lot to like about version 31 of Chrome. Because it's built by Google, it puts many Google features at your fingertips. Currently, it's not quite enough to drag me away from Firefox, but maybe someday.

New York Times Update Appears, Vanishes, and Reappears: Even people who work at the New York Times don't much care for the newspaper of record label that has been applied to the paper. It's not like an event, if it's not reported there, ceases to exist. But the New York Times continues to be, with the occasional mis-step, a dependable source of balanced information. For many years, I received the print version of the paper at home, but the national print version, if it still exists, closes in the late afternoon. The Web-based version is more timely and I read it daily. A new version of the website appeared and then disappeared. It's back now and I like it.

The Nexus Tablet Listens When I Talk: I • remember • when • voice • recognition • software • required • speaking • like • this. That's no longer the case and even small devices such as smart phones and tablets are able to listen and respond to what you say. Remarkable? To an old guy like me, yes. To somebody who has never known a time when there wasn't a computer nearby, not so much. My little Nexus 7 tablet listens when I talk and I'm impressed by what it can understand.

E-mail Trouble? Maybe You Need Another Option! A participant in a discussion list I read was having an e-mail problem. "A couple of years ago a university started rejecting messages from my domain. The tech people at the university tried to help, but found that the overrides they put in place didn’t last. This week, a message that I sent to one of my clients at the university didn’t go through. Should I use another email address such as Hotmail?" Even if you don't have your own domain, I have an idea that may help in situations such as this.

Short Circuits: Webroot Secure Anywhere: No Longer Recommended: It’s unusual for me to miss something so obviously problematic with an application that I shouldn’t have recommended it in the first place. Most applications have a certain number of “surprising features” (aka “bugs”) but if the application is generally usable, we learn to live with them. That’s what I thought initially about Webroot Secure Anywhere.

Net Neutrality: Dead or Just Badly Wounded? If it was up to me, companies such as Comcast and TimeWarner would have to treat all Internet traffic the same, but a federal judge has given the companies what is, constructively, permission to do whatever they want with data on their networks. Unless the Federal Communications Commission acts. So will it? The tea leaves are completely unclear.

12 Jan 2014

Make Your Own Kind of Music: I need to make one thing clear at the outset: I like music and I understand how to edit audio, but that doesn't mean that I have even a small clue about how to make music or edit it. Even if that describes you, Magix Music Maker 2014 Premium will allow you to make your own music.

Put Education on Your 2014 Calendar: One of the things I learned fairly early is that you can never stop learning. People graduate from high school, college, trade school, or community college with a particular set of knowledge. Then life takes over. Maybe you're assigned to do something that you don't know how to do or you learn about something and want to learn how to do it. I'm often surprised to find out what people studied in comparison to what they do: The chemical science major who runs a software company, the art school graduate who analyzes data, the business major who prefers teaching in elementary school. "Lifelong learning" is a catch-phrase, but it's also a way of life for many.

Short Circuits: The Mouse that Roared: Something seems to have AT&T quaking in its oversized boots. The perceived threat is the much smaller cellular carrier, T-Mobile. AT&T is so frightened, in fact, that it's offering T-Mobile customers up to $450 in credits if they'll just abandon T-Mobile and sign up for AT&T service.

Hackers Beware: FireEye and Mandiant are Together: Two companies that work in different areas of malware protection and response have merged. One is FireEye, a security software provider, and it has acquired Mandiant, a company that provides emergency responses when network security is breached. This could be bad news for crooks but good news for the rest of us.

Random Thought: Are Office Supply Stores Doomed? I received an e-mail from one of the big office supply stores this week and it offered me a 20% discount on a lot of common office items. Trouble is, I don't need any of them. We may not be living in a paperless society, but lots of things that I once used frequently are all but gone from my office.

Where Did My Network Go? Everything was working normally. After uninstalling an application, I rebooted the computer and found that I had no network access. For somebody who lives on the Internet, this was more than a bit distressing. I tried the usual corrective measures (system reboot, modem reboot, and router reboot) but that didn't fix the problem.

05 Jan 2014

Did You Score a New Video Camera from Santa? If you have a smart phone, you have a video camera. If you have a point-and-shoot camera, you have a video camera. If you have a digital SLR camera, you may have a video camera. Some people even buy video cameras so that they can have a video camera. Anyone who has a new digital video camera or who wants to make better use of an existing one, should take a look at Adobe's Premiere Elements 12, which was released last year.

The (Second) Year of the Tablet: Tablets are not right for everyone or for every tasks, but they are far more useful than I expected them to be. That applies both to small tablets such as the Nexus 7 that run the Android operating system and to larger tablets from various manufacturers that run Windows. Perhaps my largest surprise has been how useful the small Android device is.

The Internet is Still Too Slow: Many residents of the United States probably think that their 10- or 15-Mbps Internet speed is something to be proud of. Sorry, but it's not so. The US is, at best, in the middle of the pack when it comes to speed on the Internet and we fall a bit further behind every year.

Short Circuits: 2,000,000 Websites Offline on New Years Eve: German News Magazine says the NSA Plants Bugs and Malware The German news magazine Der Spiegel (The Mirror) says that the National Security Agency (NSA) operates a "shadow network" beside the public Internet and that the agency uses modified routers and compromised software to collect data. The report is the third in a series from Spiegel.

Netflix May Create a Single-User, Standard-Definition Plan. Or Not. Netflix is currently testing a streaming plan that knocks $1 off the monthly fee and reduces the quality of the streamed video. It's currently being offered to some users who sign up for the service's 30-day free trial.

Where's My Snow Plow?: Central Ohio received some snow on Thursday, but nothing like what the northern part of the state, and much of the East, got. While reading the New York Times website, I noticed a link to PlowNYC, a website that gives residents information about where snow plows are. What a great idea! This is the kind of thing that many cities could (and should) copy.