TechByter Worldwide

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2015 Program Index

27 Dec

The annual Christmas-New Year break. The program returns in one week.

20 Dec

You'll Get a Charge Out of This: If you have a Windows 8 or Windows 10 computer that you use frequently on battery power, this article is for you. If not, you might want to just scroll down to the next article because there's nothing to see here, folks.

Security Flaw Found In Antivirus Products: Antivirus applications are supposed to protect your computer, but sometimes they have flaws that can be exploited. Kelly Jackson Higgins, writing in Information Week's Dark Reading, described a vulnerability in AVG software that's also now been found in Intel McAfee and Kaspersky Lab antivirus products.

European Union Doubles Down on Privacy: Europeans seem to be more serious about privacy than Americans and that was reflected again this week when the EU approved data protection regulations that give citizens more control over how on-line information is collected and managed. The changes won't be fully in effect until early 2017, though. The changes will make life somewhat more difficult for companies such as Google and Facebook.

Short Circuits: Privacy Eraser Says it Won't Really Erase Your Privacy: Sometimes a product or service catches my attention based solely on its name and that's the case with "Privacy Eraser Free", which claims to be the all-in-one tool to ensure total privacy for PC users. You see, at first I thought it was offering to erase my privacy and that seemed not to be such a good thing. The application is from China and perhaps was named by someone who is not a native speaker of English. Let's see what it does.

IBM Has a Plan to Clean Up Air Pollution in Beijing and Elsewhere: IBM says that it wants to expand its Green Horizons initiative to reduce pollution and other problems in Beijing, New Delhi, Johannesburg, and other cities. Given the news from China in recent weeks about the extremely heavy pollution, it's clear that the problem is real. The Green Horizons project uses big data and the Internet of Things to help understand the problems.

Spare Parts (only on the website): Microsoft cooperates with the Linux community to provide certification for Linux on Azure and the battle to defeat cyber criminals continues.

13 Dec

MP3 Players Refuse to Go Away: Music streaming is popular. The most popular choices are Amazon, Beats, Deezer, Google Play, Grooveshark, Itunes Radio, Mixcloud, MySpace Music, Pandora, Rdio, Slacker Radio, Sony Music Unlimited, Soundcloud, Spotify, TuneIn Radio, Xbox Music, and even YouTube. Wikipedia lists 57 music streaming services. Some are no longer in operation. Of those that are still running, not all offer a free option. Some are available only in specific countries or regions. Some are available only on a single platform, while others have apps for all major operating systems and mobile devices. With all those choices, why would anyone need an MP3 player on their computer?

Learning or Refreshing a Language with Duolingo: It's been a long time since I was able to read, write, or speak Russian with even minimal proficiency and that's one of the reasons I've been watching the on-line lanugage teacher, Duolingo, waiting for the promised Russian lessons. Well, Russian is now available in beta. It's a promising offering and, because the alphabet differs from what English uses, it's giving me the opportunity to investigate Windows as a multi-language operating system.

Short Circuits: Desperately Trying to Avoid Windows 10? Some people are. I don't understand this, but there are some actions you can take if you're in that group. Although Microsoft will eventually force the issue, it's possible to forestall the change. So let's consider what you can do if you really want to avoid what I consider to be the best Windows operating system.

Acronis Releases 2016 Updates: Backup provider Acronis has announced an update to Acronis True Image Cloud and Acronis True Image 2016. Improvements are based on customer feedback, the company says, and reflect a growing demand for the ability to move data from desktop and notebook computers, smart phones, and tablets to the cloud. If you're already a subscriber, you'll find some useful new features.

In Spare Parts (only on the website): There's an increasing demand for video conferencing, but the technology still faces some significant challenges and
Microsoft has released information about this year's top searches on Bing.

06 Dec

Anti-Virus Applications Are No Longer Sufficient: How conditions have changed! Thirty years ago, anti-virus applications were optional -- needed only if you visited dicey bulletin boards. They were updated once or twice a year. Then came the Internet. Anti-virus applications haven't been optional for a couple of decades now and the updates happen several times per day. They're not sufficient, though, in today's increasingly dangerous world.

UltraEdit Moves to 64-bit Versions: I'm a fan of UltraEdit and UltraEdit Studio, the text editor for Windows systems. UltraEdit is the basic text editor and UltraEdit Studio includes several additional functions that I consider useful. IDM, the company that creates these applications, offers what was once called an "evergreen" license: Buy it once and you can update to the latest version forever. I made that choice many years ago, so my version of UltraEdit Studio is always up to date. Let's see what's new in the 64-bit version.

Short Circuits: Adobe's November 30th Update: Change comes fast at Adobe. Some significant updates were released this past Monday and more changes are pending. Creative Cloud updates are more evolutionary than revolutionary these days. In the old days (a couple of years ago), you could count on major changes every year or so. Now, the changes (while still very much worthwhile) are less overwhelming.

If it Seems Too Good to Be True .... You know the rest of the story, but this time of year scammers are hoping that you'll forget. Protective software publisher Sophos describes some of the frauds you might encounter this year on its Naked Security blog.

Area Code Overlay Comes to Central Ohio: Central Ohio has outgrown its 614 area code and as of the end of January will join cities such as New York and Los Angeles where multiple area codes are used in the same physical area. It's called an overlay and it's the future for most urban areas. At one time, phone companies simply reduced an area code to serve a smaller area and assigned a new area code to the other users in the area.

Spare Parts (only on the website): Underwriters Labs warns about counterfeit USB power supplies for Apple devices and car sharing providers are quickly moving to mobile applications.

29 Nov

The annual Thanksgiving break. Stop by for the world's shortest podcast.

22 Nov

Just Scratching the Surface: I give up! Several weeks ago, or maybe it was a few months ago, I said that I hadn't yet figured out how to justify buying a Microsoft Surface tablet. After all, I have a desktop system and I'm not likely to replace it with a notebook or a tablet. I have a notebook computer that's powerful enough to run applications that need a lot of processing power. An Android tablet serves as a book reader and Wi-Fi communications link. Yet here I am, the owner of a Surface tablet. Overall, I'm impressed. That's not to say that the Surface is perfect, because clearly it isn't. But it is impressive.

Why You'll Want Windows 10 Build 10586: The new build of Windows 10 was released on November 12 and your computer may already have been updated. The update had the codename "Threshold 2" and Microsoft publicly calls it 1511. The more accurate term is 10586, which is the build number. There are lots of changes, some small and some large. Most are welcome additions.

Short Circuits: The Importance of Being Prepared: If the podcast sounds a bit different this week or the overall look and feel of the program are off just a bit, there's a good reason: Last Sunday, the desktop computer suffered a catastrophic failure that rendered it unbootable. This week's program was prepared using a notebook computer with a single monitor. Files are on an external backup drive. The setup isn't what anyone would call well organized, but it works in an emergency.

November 22nd: This is a day of joy and a day of sadness. My mother was born on November 22nd. John Kennedy was assassinated on November 22nd. It's a few days before Thanksgiving and it's also just one week before the annual TechByter Thanksgiving break.

In Spare Parts (only on the website): The Toronto Star and the Scripps News Service investigated how encryption that you may be using to keep information private on your smart phone sometimes hampers law enforcement agencies and Microsoft and Red Hat have announced a partnership that they say will help customers embrace hybrid cloud computing.

15 Nov

Magic for Photographers: No matter how well you compose and expose an image in your camera, it can always be improved. When cameras contained film, the process was complex: Either you had your own darkroom and know how to adjust the processing or you needed to send detailed instructions to a professional lab. Today it's considerably different because you no longer need a darkroom or a professional lab. Applications such as Lightroom make the process relatively easy to learn and some of the applications that used to be offered as plug-ins for Lightroom and Photoshop can now be used as standalone applications.

Making Browsers Safer: Last week, I quoted a recommendation by the Cyber Threat Alliance: "Keep web browsers updated and enable settings that disable browser plug-ins such as Java, Flash, and Silverlight to prevent them from running malware automatically." That prompted this response from a reader: "Can you inform me how to accomplish this?" Yes, I can, but I don't agree entirely with the CTA's suggestions.

Short Circuits: Setting Up the Administrator Account: Sometimes you need more than just elevated (administrator) privileges. In those cases, you need to be the Administrator. This account has extra capabilities beyond what a standard administrator (note lower case) account has. Let's look at a case where the Administrator account is needed before I explain how to enable it.

Microsoft Cuts OneDrive Storage: If you need more than one terabyte of on-line storage, Microsoft's OneDrive isn't what you need. That's the new limit for those who have subscribed to Office 365. If you're using the free version of OneDrive, you'll be able to keep only 5GB of files on-line instead of 15GB. Microsoft will be happy to sell you additional space, though, at $24 per year for 50GB.

In Spare Parts (only on the website): A new Microsoft data center will open soon for users in Europe and Fujitsu examines the future of computing over the next 5 to 10 years.

08 Nov

Good News in the Fight Against Crimeware: The Cyber Threat Alliance, a group that includes Fortinet, Intel Security, Palo Alto Networks, and Symantec, says that it has cracked the code on CryptoWall, malware that's associated with $325 million in payments to crooks. This shows what can happen when organizations that normally are rivals work together. On the other hand, a report by MobileIron says that 10% of enterprises have compromised devices on their networks.

Some of the Things We No Longer See or Hear: It occurred to me the other day that every digital photograph I make is as large as the first hard drive I owned. That hard drive was large at the time, more than 60% larger than IBM's standard 10MB hard drive. Today that 16MB hard drive wouldn't hold even one raw image from a camera. Disk space is no longer something we run out of. Then I started thinking about some of the other things that have changed a lot in a short time.

Short Circuits: Alert! Windows 7 Fans: The End is Near! Speaking of things we no longer see or hear, Windows 7 has been living on borrowed time, but not for much longer. Microsoft usually discontinues sales of an operating system 2 years after the operating system's successor ships. For Windows 7, that would have been October 2014. Now that Windows 10 is out, Windows 7 will no longer be available after October of next year.

On1 Photo 10 Looks Like a Winner: In July, I took a look at the On1 Perfect Photo Suite 9. It's an application I hadn't mentioned for several versions. One shortcoming I found then was that Perfect Photo Suite 9 couldn't deal with raw images from certain cameras. That's been fixed. The new version arrived too late for inclusion in this week's program, but you can be sure that I'll have more to say about it in a few weeks.

The Incredible Shrinking Firefox: Browsers come and go. Netscape was once king of the browser hill, but Internet Explorer destroyed it. Firefox looked for several years as if it would be the long-time champion, but now Firefox usage his hovering around 11%. Is this the end?

In Spare Parts (only on the website): Traditional camera manufacturers are being overrun by electronics manufacturers, the launch of Halo 5 was the biggest ever for the franchise, and there's a utility that claims to eliminate dead links on websites and in documents.

01 Nov

The Windows Club: Worth More than You Don't Pay to Join: Anyone who has a computer than uses Windows should have at least a passing acquaintance with The Windows Club, either via the organization's website or through its presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, or YouTube.

Security First (Two Approaches): Can You Trust that On-Line Review? Have you ever hired a company or visited a restaurant based on stellar reviews and had such a horrible experience that you wondered how the company managed to accumulate even one good review, much less hundreds of them? The answer: Perhaps they cheated. And, another thought: The antique adage "if it seems to good to be true, it probably is" applies double to the Internet and triple to Facebook. You see an ad offering a free case of wine, a free airline flight, a free television .... Do you click it? Not if you're smart.

Short Circuits: Western Digital Plans to Acquire SanDisk: Western Digital and SanDisk announced this week that Western Digital will acquire all of the outstanding shares of SanDisk for a combination of cash and stock. The $19 billion deal values SanDisk common stock at $86.50 per share, which is about $7 above the current price of the stock. Both companies' boards of directors have approved the acquisition.

Battling On-line Bullying: I Am a Witness: On-line bullying is unpleasant but persistent and the results can be disastrous. Some children who have been bullied were so distressed that they killed themselves. The Goodby Silverstein & Partners advertising agency, the Ad Council, Adobe, and several others are working together to fight bullying.

Spare Parts (only on the website): Microsoft finally opens its flagship store in New York City and it's very close to Apple's flagship store and the rush to move software as a service applications to the cloud is accelerating.

25 Oct

Xara's Latest Designer Pro Does Everything: Saying that Designer Pro X 11 does everything might be a bit of an overstatement. For example, I haven't figured out yet how to get it to take out the trash, feed the cats, or wash the car. There's very little you can't accomplish with this latest version if what you're trying to do involves working with photographs, graphic design, typesetting, or websites.

How Safe is TechByter Worldwide? If you scroll down to the bottom of any recent page on TechByter Worldwide (and by "recent" I mean pages created in 2011 or later), you'll see an icon from SiteLock. Even though you won't see the logo on pages created in 2010 or before, the protection is in place. SiteLock monitors the site and alerts me when something is amiss so that I can fix it.

Short Circuits: Does a Federal Agency Have Your Information on File? I know that the FBI has a file on me because I requested access to it in the 1980s under the Freedom of Information Act. Most of the information on the pages I received from the FBI was blacked out ("redacted") but the conclusion was that I wasn't a threat to national security. After all these years, I still haven't decided whether that makes me feel good or bad. Maybe you're wondering if the FBI (or the NSA or some other TLA -- three-letter agency) has a file on you.

Comodo and Acronis Provide Cloud-Based Backup: Backup application provider Acronis and security applications developer Comodo are teaming up so that Acronis Backup Cloud will be incorporated into the Comodo ONE managed services platform.

Headline Says: "GoDaddy Releases Gender Salary Data": Gender is a social construct. Sex is a physical attribute. I suspect that what GoDaddy released was actually salary data distributed by sex. Of course, nobody seems to want to say "sex" and if you state that the salary data has been "broken down by sex", people snicker. So maybe "gender" is the better word (at least if your audience is high school sophomores). Let's check out the numbers.

In Spare Parts (only on the website): If you're a fan of FileMaker Pro, you can buy the latest version and get an extra copy for free and we'll take a look a computer you can throw out the window (but I recommend that you don't.)

18 Oct

You Need a Password Manager: There are free password managers and ones that you pay for. Some of them have extra features you'll find useful. Regardless of the features and regardless of which one you choose, the important point is to choose something. Web browsers can remember your login name and password for sites that you visit often, but storing passwords in a browser is considered a security risk.

Manually Coding Websites with Brackets: No matter how sophisticated applications such as Muse, Dreamweaver, or Xara Designer Pro get, there always seems to be a market for applications that allow users to manually code pages. Some people are just more comfortable writing code than using WYSIWYG tools. If you're one of those people, you may want to take a look at Brackets, a free open-source code editor for the Web.

Short Circuits: Office 2016 and Office 365: If you recently upgraded a computer to Windows 10, you may see notifications occasionally that offer 50% off for Office 2016 and Office 365. If you select the offer, you'll find that you can sign up for a year's worth of Office 365 for about $35. That's for one computer. If you have several computers, as I do, you might want to consider one of the standard offerings.

Dell Acquires EMC - Largest Tech Deal in History: Dell and it's private equity firm, Silver Lake, plan to acquire EMC for $67 billion, which makes it the largest tech acquisition in history. At $33.15 a share, the price is considerably above the expected price of $27.

Bitdefender No Longer Recommended: In an earlier report, I cautiously recommended Bitdefender. As a result of additional use, I have retracted that recommendation. Shortly after completing the review, I began to notice significant problems with the application. The company's inability to fix the problems and unwillingness to honor their 30-day money-back guarantee were disappointing.

In Spare Parts (only on the website): The market for wearable electronics is large and growing larger every day and software as a service is seen as a new vector for malware.

11 Oct

15 Million T-Mobile Customers' Data is at Risk: It's not T-Mobile's fault and CEO John Legere says the carrier will begin a thorough evaluation of its business relationship with the company that suffered the data breach. That company, by the way, is Experian -- one of the 3 companies that monitors and reports your credit worthiness to banks and companies. Perhaps there's a bit of irony in the situation.

New Features for Photoshop & Premiere Elements: Adobe has just released version 14 of its Elements applications, Photoshop Elements for still images and Premiere Elements for videos. At a time when Creative Cloud for Photography costs just $10 per month, you might wonder if the Elements applications are still viable. That seems like such a simple question, but the answer is complex.

Short Circuits: Saying You're Sorry with a Gift Few Will Use: On September 21, Skype had an "unspecified technical problem" that kept users from being able to make calls or, in some cases, unable even to log in for more than 12 hours. This week, Skype sent an apology to users and offered 20 minutes of free calls to "over 60 landline and 8 mobile destinations around the world*." It seems like a good offer, but few people are likely to use it.

Adobe Max Highlights: Now, Coming Soon, And ... Yeah, I know that Adobe got a lot of attention for the new Elements applications in the main part of the program, but if I hadn't already planned to discuss what's new with Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements, Adobe Max would have been the headliner. This annual event is always one of the highlights of my year because applications are immediately updated, we're given some insight into what's coming in the next version of Creative Cloud, and there are some sneak peeks that show what the developers are working on.

Look What Microsoft is Offering Now: Between Adobe and Microsoft, it's been an interesting week. This week's program has a lot of Adobe news, but this week Microsoft announced that Windows 10 has been installed on 110 million computers and also revealed the new Surface Pro 4 computers. This week's big news from Microsoft is the expanding line of featherweight computers.

In Spare Parts (only on the website): A small party that's participating in Swiss elections calls itself the Anti-PowerPoint Party, It's October, so stores want you to start thinking about spending money for Christmas presents, and a beer fridge (available only in California now) that connects to your Wi-Fi system so you'll know when you're running low.

04 Oct

It's Not Your Father's Acronis True Image:The files on your computer are in constant danger. The disk drive can crash and destroy all of the data. Granted, today's disk drives are far more reliable than drives from 10 or 20 years ago, but they do fail. Malware planted on your computer can damage files or encrypt them for ransom. And you might accidentally delete important files. Backup is the only reliable protection.

LG Enters the Notebook Marketplace in the US: LG has launched a line of lightweight laptops, the LG Gram series (LG styles "gram" as lowercase, though). The computers are available at Microsoft stores and on-line as and Let's take a look.

Short Circuits: Acronis + Quantum-Safe Encryption = Safe Clouds: Acronis is working with ID Quantique to help protect companies from security threats related to advances in decryption techniques and the arrival of "quantum computing". Acronis says that it plans to work with ID Quantique to bring quantum-safe encryption capabilities to Acronis cloud solutions and thereby to make Acronis the first cloud data protection solution provider in the industry to do so. We'll try to figure out what that means in plain English.

Odds and Ends: Sometimes something catches my interest, but isn't quite enough for a place in the main part of the program, Short Circuits, or even Spare Parts. This is one of those weeks. A quick glance at Adobe MAX and goofy company names.

Spare Parts (only on the website): Russia's prime minister touts the country as a good location for innovators, protective software publisher ESET acquires DESlock, and the Department of Homeland Security points out some security failings.

27 Sep

Finding the Sun and the Moon: Finding our star and our moon seem simple until you try to plan a photography session in which the position of either the sun or the moon is important. Then it becomes a lot more confusing. The sun is relatively constant. It appears to rise in the east and set in the west at more or less predictable times. The moon is another story because it almost seems to be playing hide-and-seek with us. I'm usually up early, so I occasionally get to see the moon race across the pre-dawn sky and dodge behind the horizon just before the sun rises. Can someone explain this madness? (The answer is yes.)

Another Windows 10 Fast Ring Release: This week Microsoft released another version of Windows 10 in the Fast Ring. Build 10547 includes bug fixes and improvements over Build 10532. There are also some new features. We'll take a look.

Short Circuits: Office 2016 is Available: This week Microsoft released Office 2016 as the company moves along the line of providing Office as a service. I had installed a pre-release version of the applications on a test machine a few months ago and it looked a lot like MS (more of the same). After all, how much change can there be in programs that create documents and financial reports?

Skype Blacks Out: Maybe the problem was all those people trying to call stores to reserve copies of Office 2016. Whatever the cause, Skype blacked out on Monday and users around the world found that they couldn't log on to the service or make Skype calls. The outage lasted more than 12 hours.

WizMouse Brings Windows 10 Function to Earlier Versions: One of my favorite Windows 10 features isn't turned on by default. When you hover the mouse cursor over a window and use the scroll wheel, shouldn't the operating system realize that you want to scroll that window even if another window is active? In Windows 10, you can enable this function; if you're using an earlier version, there's WizMouse.

In Spare Parts (only on the website): A survey suggests that far too many people send their children off to college with unprotected computers and
Concept Blossom says that it should be OK to re-use passwords on multiple sites. Is this dangerous?

20 Sep

Protecting Your Computer: I've used Avast Antivirus for several years, but it created an insurmountable problem on my wife's computer after she upgraded the system to Windows 10. I didn't see the problem on other computers, but I like to maintain the same protective applications on all of the computers I deal with. Initially I dropped back to Microsoft's Security Essentials (MSE). Although MSE catches virtually all "in the wild" malware, it doesn't include the extra features that third-party applications add. That's too bad because it seems to me that the best source of protective software is the developer of the operating system that needs to be protected. A listener in Germany suggested that I take a look at Bitdefender, so I did.

Windows 10 Oddities I've Encountered: Overall, Windows 10 has been a solid performer, but that's not to say it's perfect. This might be a good time to consider some of the oddities I've seen or I've heard about from people I trust. Most of the problems haven't been serious, but some of them can be annoying. My objective is not to damn Windows 10 or to praise it, but only to point out that operating systems are designed and built by humans and therefore they are subject to errors.

Short Circuits: Most of Us Think the Presidential Campaign Will Be Hacked: There's a comforting thought. As the 2016 presidential race heats up, data security company PKWare announced the results of a poll conducted by Wakefield Research that examined American perceptions of the threat of political hacking. It also asked about which of the leading US presidential candidates are most qualified to protect our nation from a growing onslaught of cyber-crime. According to the survey, 64% of registered US voters believe it is likely that a 2016 presidential campaign will be hacked.

DefCon Cyber Scores Security Risks: Organizations are being overwhelmed by security incursions that are themselves compounded by the increasing stack of detection tools. Rofori Corporation offers DefCon Cyber as a protective application based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Cybersecurity Framework.

Intel Inside (Your Bra, Mirror, or Dress): The news release from Intel forced me to check the calendar to see just how close we are to April Fool's Day. This is the information that Intel provided. Unfortunately, there's not additional information, but it seems that Intel wants to get up close and personal with you.

Spare Parts (only on the website): OpenText delivers analytics in the cloud; Localeur Expands, but still hasn't come to central Ohio; and Shakespeare comes to your smart phone.

13 Sep

TrainSimple: Teaching Adobe Products and More: If you're looking for on-line training, particularly for Adobe products, you may have encountered TrainSimple. Although on-line training has been available for only a few years, the company has deep roots that include in-person training in Los Angeles. In fact, founder Matt Pizzi says that initially he was a certified trainer for Macromedia, the company that Adobe acquired in 2005 to obtain applications such as ColdFusion, Dreamweaver, Contribute, Flash, and Shockwave.

Out! Out! Damned Spot! Installing programs is easy, but sometimes it's much more difficult to get rid of them. Several uninstaller applications exist and this week I thought we'd take a look at the IOBit uninstaller.

Short Circuits: Miami County Pays Ransom, Recovers Files: Miami County isn't the first governmental agency to pay criminals so that they could regain access to their file and they probably won't be the last. Despite recommendations from Ohio's attorney general not to pay the ransom, Miami County did. What option did it have?

The Bat at 64: Last week I described version 7 of The Bat and said that I hadn't tried the 64-bit version because I wasn't certain that it would make any real difference. In addition, the anti-spam plug-in that I use (Antispam Sniper) wasn't yet available in a 64-bit version. About the same time I finished writing that sentence, Antispam Sniper became available in a 64-bit version. OK, so let's take a look.

Watch Out for Mobile Payment Fraud: You have to give crooks credit for being inventive. No matter what you have, they'll try to find a way to get it. Some of them are very good. Good enough that they might be able to make a living honestly, if they wanted to. Apparently, though, they don't.

Spare Parts (only on the website): Things are changing so fast that it's becoming a problem and cloud-based storage is a business that's growing fast.

06 Sep

The Bat: Still Flying High After All These Years: I first wrote about what I thought was an interesting e-mail program that showed promise around 1997. It was version 1.0 of The Bat from Moldova. Since then, The Bat (the developers call it "The Bat!" with an exclamation mark) has continued to advance. It has a substantial following in Europe, but it's not well known in the US. That's too bad because it's the best e-mail program available.

Utilities that Monitor Your Computer's Hardware: Heat is the enemy. The hotter your computer's CPUs and disk drives are, the shorter their life span. Disk drives should generally operate in the 40-50°C range and the CPU should rarely exceed 60°C. But how do you know? There are several utility programs that can keep track of temperatures for you. Today we'll look at two of them.

Short Circuits: Publish On-Line from InDesign: One of the primary advantages of the concept behind Adobe's Creative Cloud for both clients and developers is the ability for clients to see some of the features the developers are working on and to provide feedback that the developers can use during development. Now a similar feature allows designers to publish finished or in-process works from InDesign to the Internet.

Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 10532: Windows 10 has been released, but that didn't mark the end of preview builds. Although I maintain only the current production build on computers that I depend on for daily work use, I still have one computer that's enrolled in the program on the Fast Ring. This week Microsoft pushed Preview Build 10532 and it was a big one.

In Spare Parts (only on the website): Microsoft has published a list of Windows 10 shortcuts that every user should know about, US Internet users show an interest in European Union legislation that forces websites to remove information if people ask to have it removed, a Spanish company claims to have solved a World War II mystery, and night-time surveillance from the air is surprisingly good.

30 Aug

Have You Ever Seen A Purple Camel? I have a picture of a purple camel. As far as I know, no purple camels exist, yet I have a picture of one. How can that be? Perhaps it has something to do with the latest version of Xara Photo and Graphic Designer. There's lots of magic in the version 11 and we'll examine some of it.

Freedom with LibreOffice: Even if you use Microsoft Office and you're anxiously waiting for the new version that will be released in September, downloading and installing LibreOffice is a good idea because LibreOffice can open files that Microsoft applications can't, sometimes even damaged Microsoft files.

Short Circuits: Calls for Munich to Abandon Linux: Several years ago, city government in Munich, Germany, decided to switch to Ubuntu Linux for municipal workers. The city migrated about 15,000 computers to a custom-version of Ubuntu. Proponents say that this saved the city a great deal of money, but a couple of city council members now complain the computers are too hard to use and they want to return to using Microsoft operating systems.

Windows 10 Adoption Continues & Office is On Deck: Microsoft needed more than 6 months to get 100 million Windows 8 updates installed, but now just a month after the Windows 10 release, already 75 million computers are running the operating system. Granted, users had to pay for the Windows 8 upgrade and the Windows 10 upgrade was provided without charge.

In Spare Parts (only on the website): A hackathon is coming up this week in Punjab, if you wonder how important photography is in understanding the past, take a look at some motion pictures of New York City from around 1900, a look a security risks in the Internet of Things, and a way to find out exactly where the sun and moon will be in the sky.

23 Aug

Adobe Encourages Peripatetic Designers: Peripatetic. Now there's a word you don't often see on a website. It sounds vaguely disturbing, maybe even a bit criminal. It's used to describe one who travels from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods. Designers used to be tethered to drafting tables and their computers. Tablets helped and Adobe has blown the doors off design studios everywhere. Now designers can do what they do best wherever they are and whenever an idea strikes.

Short Circuits: No, Windows 10 Isn't Perfect: The Windows 10 upgrade process has gone reasonably well, but with tens of millions of installations, one thing is certain: Not every installation will be perfect. Let's take a look at some of the problems I've either seen or heard about and what kinds of remedies are available.

Maybe the Best Possible Start Menu: When Microsoft removed the Start Menu from Windows 8, no small number of people freaked out. The Start Menu made a partial return to Windows 8.1 and now Windows 10 provides an improved Start Menu with alphabetized entries under All Applications. When combined with optional tiles that were introduced in the Start Screen and the continued ability to pin commonly used applications to the Task Bar, finding and starting applications is easier.

Spare Parts (only on the website): Auto theft investigators say they think "mysterious devices" are being used to steal cars; Acronis launches a new version of True Image, including cloud-based backup; Western Digital makes it possible for users to have up to 96TB of network attached storage at home (but I suspect the main users will be businesses); and Underwriters Labs says that a bunch of its serialized holographic approval labels have been stolen.

16 Aug

Tips, Tricks, and Tweaks for Windows 10: Windows 10 will probably be installed on 100 million computers within the next few weeks. Microsoft expects adoption to hit 1 billion within 3 years as existing computers are updated and new computers with Windows 10 are bought. Maybe your computer is in the first 100 million. I have heard from several people who read the website or listen to the podcast that they've upgraded their systems and, for the most part, the upgrades seem to have gone well. If you're in that group or if you're wondering what you'll find when you upgrade, some tips, tricks, and tweaks might be useful.

Short Circuits: Does Your Android Phone Suffer from Stagefright? Have you heard of "Stagefight Bug"? No, not the butterflies in your stomach when you have to stand in front of an audience and talk. In this case, it's a remotely exploitable software bug that affects just about every Android device on the planet. If you have an Android device with version 2.1 or lower of the operating system, you're safe. That's about two percent of the market.

Verifying a File's Integrity: When downloading a utility program or an open source application, perhaps you've noticed a checksum and wondered what that's good for. It's good for ensuring that the file you download is the one you really wanted. It's good for making sure that nobody has tampered with the file.

"G is for Google": That's the headline Larry Page used to announce Alphabet, the new company that will oversee Google. After 11 years of not being "a conventional company", Google now becomes a large part of "not a conventional company".

In Spare Parts (only on the website): The history of photography in 12 short videos, Sony tries to capture the world's runners, changes in the health-care industry lead to a high-tech scramble by pharmacies, and bringing technology to bear on fraudsters.

09 Aug

Prepare to Merge: Adobe has improved both Photo Merge functions in the 2015 CC version of Photoshop Lightroom. The merge function can be used to create panoramic images (vertical or horizontal) as well as high-dynamic-range (HDR) images. These are two features that can significantly expand your photographic vision. And although the built-in features are remarkably good, there are times when you might want to call on some other applications to work with your images in addition to Lightroom. Let's consider both.

The Windows 10 Update Experience: Four for four, only one minor installation problem, and a temporarily vexing video problem. That describes my Windows 10 update experience. The minor problem I experienced seems to be relatively common and I'll describe it in case you encounter something similar. There was a more significant problem with my dual-monitor desktop system, but it was not caused by the Windows 10 upgrade or by Microsoft. I'll describe that one, too, because it has the potential to be a problem for a lot of people, particularly those who have dual-monitor computers.

Short Circuits: The Couple that Never Should Have Been Has Split: After 13 years, PayPal has split from Ebay. This is a good thing for several reasons, not the least of which -- in my mind -- is the fact that there is no good reason why these two companies were ever one. Ebay acquired PayPal for $1.5 billion in 2002 and probably created some growth for PayPal, but PayPal seems to have been a company destined to succeed.

Typing in Non-English Alphabets: The next time you need to accuse someone of stealing your pencil and asking why in Russian (Вы украл мой карандаш! Почему?), you'll find a website that can take care of that for you. It's not a translation site, though, and you need to know the Russian words, Russian syntax, and Russian spelling to succeed. If you do, this is the site for you! And it's not just Russian, either.

Republicans Plan to Update Their Voter Management System: Elections in 2008 and 2012 revealed substantial shortcomings in data processing capabilities for the Republican Party and there are plans to remedy that in advance of the 2016 election.

In Spare Parts (only on the website): The 4th Open Innovations Forum is scheduled for Moscow, Epson launches itty bitty printers, faster ordering at Subway, and wearable cameras have become big business.

02 Aug

Some of My Favorite (Free) Things: Software comes in 3 basic flavors: Commercial applications that you pay for (sometimes following a free trial period), shareware applications that you're asked to pay for if you continue using them, and free-ware applications that are always free. Some of the free applications are open-source while others are proprietary but free. This week we'll take a look at some of my favorites that come with no cost or obligation.

The Best Way to Speed a Computer: "Add more memory" used to be the standard answer when someone asked how to make a computer faster. For 32-bit systems, that was a good answer up to 4GB because 32-bit systems can't use more than 4GB. With 64-bit systems, you'll run out of money (or memory slots) before you exceed the amount of memory a system can use. Today there are better options.

Short Circuits: Windows 10 Launches Quietly: Although I heard from one person that his Windows 10 preview computer updated nearly a week before the official release date of Windows 10, the real process got underway as scheduled on Wednesday, the 29th of July. A notebook at the office updated without a problem. I had decided to allow a notebook computer at home to update immediately, but planned to wait a few days for another notebook (used by my wife) and the main desktop system (because several time-sensitive events were scheduled). The notebook system updated Thursday morning, but 4 attempts on the desktop failed.

Questions about Windows 10 Security: Brian Krebs wrote rather breathlessly this week about what he sees as a disaster waiting to happen. A new Windows 10 feature called Wi-Fi Sense "by default" will allow your Outlook and Skype contacts to use your Wi-Fi network. It does this by sharing with those people an encrypted version of your Wi-Fi password. Panic button time! But does Krebs on Security get this right? I believe that he does not.

Spare Parts (only on the website): An on-line service can help you understand auto financing, why more large companies are moving to open-source applications for software development, and one of the big providers of high-quality optical disks plans to shut down by the end of the year.

26 Jul

The Best Time in History to be a Photographer: These are trying times for professional photographers, but it's a great time to be an amateur. If you're interested in photography as a professional or an amateur, this is an astoundingly great time to be alive and applications such as OnOne's Perfect Photo Suite 9 are one of the reasons that this is so.

The Biggest Free Application: Linux: Occasionally I talk about free applications. Many free programs are utilities, small applications that do a single job. Filezilla, the FTP application, for example, or the IrfanView image viewer. Larger applications include the Chrome and Firefox browsers, Mozilla's Thunderbird e-mail client, and the Calibre e-book manager. But if you want a huge free application, consider Linux.

Short Circuits: And Now, the Phone-y News: Ten-digit dialing is becoming the norm. Central Ohio is about to join the growing list of locations where 10-digit phone numbers are required. A new area code (380) will be added to the area served by 614 as an overlay. Residents of New York, Los Angeles, and other large cities are familiar with the need to dial both the area code and the local phone number. Some consider this to be "a mess". It's not.

The Obligatory Final Windows 10 Pre-Release Update: Those who have signed up for the free upgrade to Windows 10 may have noticed some activity on their computers this week as Microsoft started staging the files that will be used to perform the upgrade. The upgrades will begin on July 29th.

In Spare Parts (only on the website): Weather reports are about to be crowd-sourced. Does this mean clouds from crowds? If you're dumb enough to read and send text messages while driving, now there's an app that can call for help when you're in a crash. And RetailMeNot continues to walk a fine line between serving buyers and serving sellers.

19 Jul

Light(room)ing the Way: If you're a digital photographer and you're not using Adobe Lightroom to organize and edit your photos, you're working too hard and missing much of the fun that the creative process offers. (Opinionated? Me?) Adobe's $120/year program for photographers probably has more value than a new $600 lens because it provides access to all of Lightroom's organizational, editing, and sharing features as well as all of Photoshop's pixel-level manipulations.

Privacy: Hiding in Plain Sight: Google and Facebook are two of the most used services on the Internet. Both of them have extensive privacy settings that allow users to control who sees what. Although many people complain about the lack of security and privacy, few take the time to work their way through the options for Facebook or Google. One fact is important to understand from the outset: If you post something on the Internet, you should assume that anyone on the planet can see it. After all, that's the primary reason the Internet exists.

Short Circuits: Whack-a-Mole Continues: The FBI and law enforcement agencies in Europe and South America, have arrested more than 60 suspects in connection with an investigation of an identity theft ring called Darkcode.

Black Friday in July: Not so Much: Maybe they should have held the event on a day that's a prime number, like Monday (13) or Friday (17) instead of Wednesday (15). Stupid math jokes aside, Amazon's Prime Day didn't quite live up to its advance billing.

Showing New Windows 10 Devices in Berlin: Microsoft Corporate Vice President Nick Parker, who heads the OEM Division, will deliver a keynote at IFA 2015, a global trade show in Berlin. IFA is the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) and the annual event occurs in early September.

In Spare Parts, only on the website: Microsoft is essentially giving up on phones, at least the hardware part; in July of 1948, Bell Labs announced the "transfer resistance device", which we now know as the transistor; a company in China says it has a battery that can be ready to use after just 6 or 7 minutes of charging; and if you're looking for medical marijuana, there's a app for that.

12 Jul

Astonishment for Sale: The latest version of Xara Web Designer Professional adds features that make difficult tasks easy and previously unthinkable tasks possible. Because I wasn't quite prepared for what this version would show me, I spent quite a bit of time just staring at the screen and trying to get control of my senses. On this week's program, I'll show you why.

Countdown to Windows 10: If you've signed up for the Windows 10 upgrade from a computer that's eligible, you should see the update sometime around the 29th of July. In this case "around" means on the 29th or later. The first users to receive the upgrade will doubtless be the 5 million or so members of the Windows Insider Program.

Short Circuits: Hacking the Hackers: Apparently its legal to sell hacking tools, as an Italian company called Hacking Team does. The company's website says that it provides "effective, easy-to-use offensive technology to the worldwide law enforcement and intelligence communities," but it seems to do more than that. We know that because hackers hacked the hacking hucksters and released 500 gigabytes of data from the organization's servers.

Chinese Consumer Groups Fight Smart Phone Bloatware: As much as I like my Samsung smart phone, I detest the unremovable crap that comes with it. Now a group of consumers in an unlikely location (Shanghai) is trying to stop it.

In Spare Parts, only on the website: The developer of new software claims that it can create a sketch of a criminal or a victim based on the person's DNA, 7-Eleven will deliver to your home or office (if it's in San Francisco or Oakland), and with more large companies pushing backup to the cloud, Veritas says that the latest version of its backup software is designed to worth with nearly all online storage systems.

05 Jul

HoloLens Not Yet for You, but Ready for NASA: The HoloLens device that Microsoft announced in January will be supported by Windows 10, but that doesn't mean it will go on sale when Windows 10 ships at the end of the month. Because NASA and Microsoft worked together to develop the technology, NASA is finding ways to use the HoloLens devices now. The future is virtual and, had this week's SpaceX mission not failed, the astronauts would have a couple of HoloLens devices on board.

Agent Ransack Finds What You Can't: No matter how carefully you name files or how carefully you organize them, you'll probably still be unable to find a file that you know is on your computer ... somewhere. Wouldn't it be great if somebody wrote an application that could search an entire disk quickly, look inside files, and help you find the file you're looking for? Well, somebody did. Fifteen years ago! I'll show you why Agent Ransack is so useful.

Short Circuits: Planning for a Windows Refresh: In just a few weeks, Windows 10 will be rolled out to those who have signed up for the free upgrade to the new version. In most cases, the installation won't be much of an interruption. At least it shouldn't be. In my case, it was time for a system refresh to prepare the computer for the new version of the operating system. Maybe this is something you should consider, too. If so, it requires careful planning.

Does Microsoft Want to Return to the Chip Fab Business? A report posted by KitGuru this week is intriguing because it suggests that Microsoft might want to acquire chip maker AMD and return to making its own microprocessors for some functions, a market segment that Microsoft abandoned a decade ago. But with Microsoft's new ambitions in hardware (tablets and phones, for example), this makes sense.

Spare Parts: Only on the website: Computers you can kick down the stairs, an update for Malwarebytes AntiExploit application, and why AOL is (astoundingly!) still relevant.

28 Jun

It's a Good Week to Talk about Photography: From photos on smart phones and tablets to fixing old newspaper photos so that they can be printed, much of this week's program is related to photography. It didn't start out that way. I had some other topics in mind, but photo-related ideas kept popping up, waving their hands, and screaming (figuratively, of course, "USE ME!!!") So sit back and let's take a look.

Well, at Least They're Honest Thieves: CryptoWall, as I've described previously, is malware that encrypts files on your disk and then offers to sell you a key to recover them. The crooks who run the scheme usually do provide the key to unlock the files after you've paid, but the better option is to avoid being caught in the first place.

Short Circuits: Lots of LOT Planes Delayed by Hacker: Poland's national airline, LOT, had to cancel several flights this week and delay others while it dealt the an intrusion by hackers into its computer system. In all, about 1400 passengers were delayed, 10 flights were canceled, and 12 more were delayed.

Microsoft Clarifies the Modified Updates to the Changed Policies on the Process to Upgrade Systems to Windows 10: A week or so ago, there was news that all Windows 10 beta testers (those who had installed the Technical Preview) would be able to continue using Windows 10 without charge once the new version of the operating system ships at the end of July.

In Spare Parts, only on the website: How icons that you'll see in Windows 10 have changed during development and thoughts on the importance of carefully reviewing a laptop computer's specifications before buying it.

21 Jun

A Surprise that Wasn't from LastPass: LastPass is the password management tool that I've recommended for many years. The free version is powerful, but for about one dollar per month, users have access to additional useful features. This week LastPass notified users that its site had been hacked. That's not the story, though. The story is that nobody should be surprised and why users shouldn't be overly concerned.

Adobe's 3rd Iteration of Creative Cloud Packs More Features: If you're a designer, an editor, or a photographer, Adobe changed your world on Tuesday morning. As of midnight Tuesday morning, Creative Cloud 2015 became available for download on subscribers' computers. Some of the changes are big and flashy and others just sit quietly in the background waiting to be discovered. Let's take a quick look as some of the stand-outs.

Short Circuits: Big Irony: IBM Promotes Open Source: In the days of "big iron" computers, IBM carefully guarded their proprietary hardware, operating systems, and software. For several years, IBM has championed open source software and now the company has committed itself to Apache Spark, calling it potentially the most significant open source project of the coming decade.

Duqu is Back and It's Nasty: Kaspersky Labs says that it has seen a new version of Duqu, malware that has been used to target high-level world leaders. Among the targeted meetings are those of what's called "P5+1", a group of six world powers that joined the diplomatic efforts with Iran in 2006 to negotiate and end to Iran's nuclear program.

You Can Order a Microsoft Surface Hub Starting on July 1: Just in time for Independence Day, you can order one of the giant Surface Hub wall-mounted computers from Microsoft on the first of July. If you have a spare $7000 lying around. The Surface Hub is intended primarily for corporate conference rooms, but Microsoft may sell some of a few one percenters.

14 Jun

Stick in Your Thumb and Pull out a Plus (No, that's not a typo.) ThumbsPlus isn't Photoshop, but it is an application with an easy-to-understand interface that handles a lot of image-related management and organization tasks and also includes the ability to perform certain types of edits.

The current version (9) has been out for a while, but the third service pack will be released soon and will add more features.

Security, Security, Security: Just as success in real estate depends on "location, location, location", increasingly success in any endeavor that involves data is security. At a time when retail organizations and health insurance companies expose millions of records and when even the federal government can be hacked with relative ease, security should be constantly a top-of-mind issue for business and government leaders.

Short Circuits: Capture Your Cables: As essential as they are, cables can be a major annoyance. I have cables that are needed once a week when the backup drives come home. I have cables that are needed every day to recharge batteries. And of course there are cables that attach peripherals to computers and cables that attach various devices to docking stations.

Texts and App Data Show up Increasingly in Court: Members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (aka "divorce lawyers") say that they've seen an up-tick in the use of data from texts, smart phones, and other portable devices in divorce proceedings. Perhaps unsurprisingly, nearly 100% of the lawyers who responded to the survey report an increase in this type of data.

Surprise! We're Carrying More Stuff Around Now: A survey by Kensington seems to provide results that are only slightly less predictable than research proving that water is wet. About 60% of "professionals" use more than one computing device at work at least half of the time. Also not particularly surprising is the conclusion that most believe integrating the devices they carry would make them more productive.

Spare Parts (only on the website): A new security offering from a start-up company promises better protection against state-sponsored cyber-crime and BlackBerry is reported to be considering a big change.

07 Jun (which is also Phyllis's birthday)

Summertime and the Photos Are Easy: Camera sales increase around this time every year and once again near the end of the year, but whether you have a new camera or not, there's a good chance that you'll use whatever camera you have more in the next few months because you'll be outside more for recreation or on vacation. But then what? If you'd like to share your images with style, I have good news.

The Increasing Cost of Data Breaches: Crooks around the world want your data and, when they get it, the cost of fixing the problem will probably surprise you. The average cost of dealing with a data breach is now just a little less than $4 million! Granted, that number is for large organizations, but the costs are sufficiently high that they could put a small business out of business.

Short Circuits: For Windows 10, July 29 is the Day: Microsoft announced this week that Windows 10 will be available starting on July 29th. You may already have seen an icon in the Notification area. Click it and you'll be offered the opportunity to sign up for the free upgrade. That happened as expected on a notebook computer of mine, but not on the desktop.

Free Shipping Even for Low-Cost Items: I needed something from Amazon this week. It was a low-cost item in the $5 range. Usually items such as this either aren't available for 2-day Amazon Prime shipping or they're marked with an "add-on" icon, meaning that 2-day free shipping would be available only if the item is part of a larger order.

Spare Parts (only on the website): A follow-up on Android data usage, an examination of the popularity of tablet computers, and trying to apply technology to the battle for human rights around the world.

31 May

Can't Install; Can't Uninstall. Now What? Have you ever tried to install a program or a program update only to be told that there's a problem with the installation? If it's an update, uninstalling the application, reinstalling it, and then applying the update usually resolves the problem. But what if you're also unable to uninstall the application? Microsoft has an answer and it's a good one.

Can You Remember Where You Were Born? Google Security researchers recently presented the results of a study that examines security questions that are employed to validate users' identities. The study raises some disturbing questions about the validity of the questions themselves as well as about how computer users understand security.

Android Lollipop Could Be Detrimental to Your Data Plan: Because I am almost always within range of a Wi-Fi signal and, when I'm not, I rarely need data services, I signed up for the smallest possible data plan (500MB) from my provider and rarely use even half of that. So I was a bit surprised when the smart phone warned me that I had used 400MB of the data plan. Whaaaat??? And the villian is Google, the developer of the Android operating system.

Short Circuits: Going Where the Locals Go: Technology can come to the rescue for those who prefer to eat and drink in the places the locals patronize when they're traveling. Finding those places is usually the problem. I always feel sad when somebody explains that they ate only at chain restaurants when they were in New York City and now there's an app that can help you find the great local spots, but only if you have an Apple phone or tablet.

Spare Parts (only on the website)" New Jersey and IBM work together to improve traffic flow, a new approach to Internet security, and are you ready for a cannabis investor summit?

24 May

Windows 10: Let the Guessing Game Begin: Windows 10's release date is getting closer and Microsoft is providing a few additional bits of information about what we should expect. For example, you undoubtedly suspected that several versions of the operating system would exist. Now we know how many. What we still don't know is when.

Short Circuits: A Phish Not Really From BlueHost: BlueHost is one of the larger hosting services and it happens to be the one that hosts TechByter Worldwide. The company occasionally sends informational messages and one arrived this week regarding a site that I help maintain. "Your account contains more than 2692 directories and may pose a potential performance risk to the server. Please reduce the number of directories for your account to prevent possible account deactivation." The message seemed strange, but appeared to be legitimate. It wasn't.

We're Number One! Many of us like to think that spammers in eastern Europe and China are responsible for most of the dreck that arrives on our computers, but it's not so. According to Kaspersky Labs, the United States has once again retained its position as the biggest source of spam, sending more than 14% of all the junk.

Small is Big: Tablet sales, generally, have slowed but there's growth for some of the smaller vendors in the small tablet space. According to Strategy Analytics, Apple and Samsung sales dropped more than 10%, but overall sales increased by about 8%.

Spare Parts: Look who's the biggest threat to corporate data, China plans to spend more than $200 billion in the next couple of years to improve Internet speeds, calls to implement a Canadian anti-piracy program in the US, and RadioShack receives permission to sell its name.

17 May

Free Is an Excellent Price: Applications designed for Linux are often available to run on Windows and OSX computers, too. You shouldn't expect all the features of commercial software in open source software, but sometimes the applications are adequate to suit your needs. In some cases, the open-source application is even better than some or all of the commercial competition.

Short Circuits: Are You Smarter than a CEO? Here's a disturbing bit of news: 96% of senior executives missed identifying at least some phishing messages in a quiz designed by security company McAfee, which is now a part of Intel Security. The problem isn't quite as bad outside the executive suite, but still 80% of users failed to detect at least one of the test messages.

AVG Claims Its Applications Improve PC, Mac, and Android Performance: Security vendor AVG has released PC TuneUp 2015 for Windows systems and versions of AVG Cleaner for Apple computers and Android devices. AVG, which has more than 200 million users worldwide, says that the new applications speed computers and improve battery life for mobile devices.

In Spare Parts (only on the website): Dealing with Support when Things Go Wrong -- the story of a star-crossed attempt to obtain an answer from Microsoft.

10 May

Saving Private Android's Battery: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our Lollipop, but in our apps." (Shakespeare, updated). Last week I described problems that some users of Android smart phones have seen since upgrading to Lollipop. At the time, I thought my phone wasn't substantially affected. It seems that I was wrong, but I figured out how to improve battery life without degrading performance.

Microsoft Tries to Make Nice with System Administrators: The people who are in charge of purchasing computers and selecting operating systems for large organizations mostly turned their backs on Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, so Microsoft is making a concerted effort to encourage them to adopt Windows 10. Just how big that effort is became apparent this week in Chicago.

Short Circuits: The Speech Recognition Market's Growth Accelerates: Speech recognition software is getting better and the market is expanding. In the days after the terrorist attacks in 2001, I needed to modify flight plans from Boston to Columbus -- twice. Airlines were in chaos at the time, but American's new speech recognition system worked amazingly well. In the nearly 15 years since then, the process has improved to the point that even hand-held devices can understand what we say.

Microsoft Sues Registration Fraudster: Microsoft has filed suit against the "John Doe" owners of a Verizon IP address (, charging that hundreds of pirated Microsoft products have been illegally activated through it. Verizon owns the address and it appears to be located near or in San Diego.

Comcast and Time Warner Bills Going Up? Comcast and Time Warner called off their plans to merge recently, but not until they had spent more than half a billion dollars on the project. Half a billion dollars! Why, that's probably more than you have stashed away in your credit union savings account.

In Spare Parts: Android users continue to upgrade to Lollipop; Opera's new Mini browser is a hit; and Microsoft pushes Android and IOS developers to port their applications to Windows 10.

03 May (The day before May the Fourth Be With You)

New High-Wire Acts from Adobe's Multi-Talented Acrobat: Imagine leaning over a water fountain (or bubbler, if that's what you call it, or a drinking fountain), expecting a gentle flow of water, and finding that it's actually attached to a fire hose. Those of us who review Adobe applications are sometimes in that situation. Last week's program was almost entirely about the new version of Lightroom and there was certainly a lot to talk about, but Adobe also updated other Creative Cloud applications. Although a new version of Acrobat has been out for a while, I haven't had time to say anything about it. This week I'd like to remedy that, but we'll look at some other topics, too.

A Lollipop for Your Phone or Tablet: T-Mobile has finally started rolling out the Android operating system's version 5 (also known as Lollipop) to some of its Samsung phones and tablets. The carrier has the distinction of being the last carrier in the US to push out the update. Many owners of Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phones have reported problems, including extremely lower battery life with version 5.0 and T-Mobile delivered version 5.0.1 this week. Presumably, this resolves some of the problems.

Project Spartan Has a Real Name: The browser that will replace Internet Explorer will be called Edge and its new logo looks a lot like the old logo. The new logo drops the halo, which most people felt that Internet Explorer never deserved, but it will generally look the same. Microsoft pushed out build 10,074 in the fast ring this week, but the browser is still called Project Spartan.

Short Circuits: Behold the Mouse: During this week in 1981, the first commercially sold mouse became available for purchase. Prior to 1981, a mouse was a small rodent that you might find in your house, but it had been invented more than 15 years earlier.

A Dictionary in Your Apple Watch: During a conversation, you're about to use the term "comprise" and you can't remember exactly how it works. Do objects comprise the whole or does the whole comprise some objects? Not wanting to sound foolish, you look at your watch. Fortunately, it's an Apple watch with the built-in app. The day is saved when you confidently state "The Soviet Union comprised several socialist republics."

Yet Another Challenge for Radio: Internet radio is popular, but it's missing some important features that local terrestrial stations can provide. Weather, for example. Now a Chicago company plans to remove that advantage in 30 cities.

Spare Parts: Only on the website: Tiny storage devices are even larger and you can hang a weatherproof Wi-Fi access point outside to cover the neighborhood.

26 April

Adobe Lightroom 6: Indistinguishable from Magic: Does anyone at Adobe ever sleep? The latest version of Lightroom is now available to members of Adobe's Creative Cloud Photography program or as an upgrade for those who have a Lightroom 5 perpetual license. It's an upgrade you won't want to miss because of the new and improved features. Sometimes a single event or a single topic is enough to fill the entire program. That's the case this week with Adobe Lightroom 6.

Short Circuits: Could Somebody Hack Your Car? Developers of the Internet of Things (IoT) seem to have learned little from history. Security is questionable at best as we race to connect every possible device with every other possible device. Perhaps it's time for someone to think about the risks. And perhaps somebody is.

More Microsoft Windows 10 Tea Leaves: It's clear that Microsoft is nearing completion of Windows 10. Windows 8.1 users receive occasional messages on screen promoting the Technical Preview, even though the Microsoft website still warns that the preview edition shouldn't be used on production machines. Microsoft pushed out build 10,061 in the fast circle on Thursday. Development seems to be a bit ahead of schedule, with release anticipated during the summer. How about July?

Spare Parts: Only on the website: You can't get coffee from your smart phone, but you can pay for it with one; a new app promises to encrypt text messages and let you fix auto-correct errors; and sort of a dress code for wearable devices.

19 April

A Big Competitor Challenges the Crowded Music Market: Although it doesn't have the breadth and depth of some competing services, Amazon Prime Music has the advantage of appearing to be free. Amazon Prime subscribers receive no-extra-cost 2-day shipping on many products purchased from Amazon, some streaming video is available without extra cost, and streaming music.

Demand for Body Cameras Is Growing: File this under "not surprising". Global demand for tiny video cameras, whether worn or installed for surveillance, is increasing profits for companies that make the devices and pushing companies that haven't made the devices into considering new market opportunities.

The European Union Goes after Google: This should also be filed under "not a surprise." The European Union is filing suit against Google, charging antitrust violations. If Google loses, it could see fines of $6 billion. That's enough money to make a difference even to a company as large as Google is.

Short Circuits: More Attacks on Net Neutrality: Legislation is being considered by the House of Representatives to eliminate the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules. The ruling made Internet service providers "common carriers", which they should have been from the beginning. The big trade associations have already filed suit and now some members of the House are trying to open a second front. And a third.

Opera Plans to Grow by Being Smaller: Opera says that it plans to double its Android user base by 2017 from the current user base 130 million. The company is looking for 275 million users within 2 years and one reason they're expecting more business is the new Opera Mini browser.

Spare Parts: Only on the website, a host of new security products from D-Link, Western Digital introduces new hard drives intended for the video surveillance market, and if you'd like 720TB of storage, Supermicro has just the device for you.

12 April

Reading the Windows 10 Tea Leaves: 10049. That's the number of the current Windows 10 build. Build 10041 lasted only a few days, but it's still on my old 32-bit notebook because I can't install 10049. The newer version works properly on a later 64-bit notebook. I still won't install Windows 10 on any computer that I need for any important task because it is, after all, still beta software. But it's moving in the right direction and it's clear that we're approaching release day.

Just What You Don't Want to See: The message was there when I flipped on the monitor. A dialog box with a red X is never welcome and this one was less welcome than most. "Windows detected a hard disk problem," it said. Even though all important data is backed up locally, weekly backups are stored off-site, and continuous backups go to Carbonite, it still was a distressing message.

Short Circuits: Google Kills Webpage Screenshot Extension: You've probably heard that Google vets the applications that can be downloaded from its Chrome Store. Possibly you've heard that from me because I was repeating Google's claim that it does just that. But Google has suddenly removed an extension that had been available from the store. This extension had a 4.5 star rating and it had been downloaded more than one million times.

ISIS Attacks Websites: The Federal Bureau of Investigation says that the Islamic State of Iraq has been defacing websites that have WordPress installations that have not updated to eliminate known vulnerabilities. This may be related to an ISIS attack on French media.

Beware Fake Government Websites: If you use a search engine to locate government information, you might be directed to a fake site that will simply try to steal identity information. The crooks are getting better at optimizing their websites for search engines.

In Spare Parts, only on the website: Using mind control on the front door and considering software proof of China's continuing rise.

05 April

Microsoft Surface 3 Will Soon Be in Stores: Microsoft started taking advance orders for the latest version of its Surface computer this week. The Surface 3 Pro is the tablet-like device that has a keyboard and that Microsoft says has enough power to replace some desktop systems. The new device omits "Pro" and the Surface 3 is similar to the Surface Pro 3, except there's less of it.

Adobe's Creative Cloud Continues to Grow: Developers at Adobe continue their relentless efforts to push applications that formerly worked only on large desktop computers onto portable devices. That's the way I started to write the intro, but that's not entirely accurate. Instead of pushing entire applications onto mobile devices, Adobe's developers are making it possible for people who work with Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop to perform tasks on mobile devices and to have the work reflected on their desktop systems when they return to their offices.

Data's Value Exceeds Hardware's Value: Those of us who have been preaching the benefits of backup for years (or decades) seem to have been successful in communicating the message that the data stored on computers has more value than the computers themselves.

Short Circuits: Extremely Brief Windows 10 Update: Last week, I explained that the Windows 10 Technical Preview wasn't able to accurately detect the screen resolution of a notebook computer I wanted to install it on. As a result, I restored the disk image from backup. With a newly released ISO, I tried again this week.

Trying to Buy the Perpetual License for Adobe Lightroom 5? Whether you're an amateur photographer or a pro, Adobe Lightroom should be the starting point for your images and, depending on what you need to do to achieve your photographic vision, Lightroom might be all you need. For those times when you need pixel-level editing and the ability to use layers for precise control, there's Photoshop. The current version of Photoshop is available only on the Creative Cloud, while Lightroom is still available with a perpetual license. Buying it that way can be a challenge, though.

Spare Parts: In Spare Parts, only on the website: TrueCrypt, rumored to be insecure, proves to be safe; an executive order from President Obama to fight foreign cyber-crooks, Yahoo and Microsoft extend negotiations on their future, and looking at activity by high-tech CEOs in battling a law in Indiana.

29 March

Find Out What's Happening in Your Computer: If you need the registration key that's associated with an application, but you've forgotten it, call the Belarc Advisor. If you want to know how many disk drives are installed in your computer and how close they are to capacity, call the Belarc Advisor. How much memory? Call the Belarc Advisor. Security updates? Yep. Belarc Advisor. Accounts set up on the system? You know who to call, so you've probably noticed a pattern here and you're wondering how much all this analytical power costs. For home users, it's free.

Windows 10 Chugs toward the Finish Line: The question most people are asking these days about Windows 10 is "When?" When will Windows 10 be released? It might be in June, but certainly will be prior to the end of summer. That puts Microsoft slightly ahead of schedule, so where are we now? Let's find out.

Short Circuits: Running As Fast as You Can to Stay in the Same Place: Walking around the block half a dozen times might make you feel like you're making progress, but in the end all you've done is expend time and energy only to find yourself where you started. That was my experience last weekend with the Windows 10 Technical Preview on an older Toshiba Satellite computer.

Big ISPs File Suit to Stop Net Neutrality: Well, there's a surprise. The USTelecom Association, a trade group that includes most of the big broadband providers, and San Antonio's Alamo Broadband, have filed suit against the Federal Communications Commission in an attempt to upset the FCC's Net Neutrality ruling.

Beware Dangerous App Downloads: Apps are everywhere, but downloading them from anywhere other than the device's official store can be dangerous. By default, Android devices will install apps only from the Play Store. This can be changed, but doing so exposes the device to malware.

Spare Parts: In Spare Parts, only on the website: Finding an old math co-processor in the back of a drawer this week was amusing, trying to safeguard data stored in the cloud, and Microsoft works with Samsung to put Office on Android devices.

22 March

Progress and Photographers: Some photographers have an odd way of looking at technology. "Auto" anything is condemned for at least a few years, but eventually it's accepted. Let's take a look at some of the changes that continue to modify how we use photography and what we can do to make photographs even better.

Automating Your World: I'm lazy. Whenever I encounter a task that I have to do more than a few times, I look for a way to automate it. Computers are really good when it comes to doing the same thing over and over. I just get bored. Three applications (two of them are without cost) can automate just about anything your computer can do and I'll describe all of them.

Short Circuits: Microsoft and the Changing Software Business: For decades, the largest income segment for Microsoft was software — operating systems and, even more important, the Office suite. Microsoft has largely fended off challenges from open source operating systems and office suites. Apple hasn't been able to get any significant traction in offices. That doesn't mean Microsoft will continue to be king of the desktop and big changes are coming.

11 Million Users Exposed in Premera Attack: If Premera Blue Cross looks a bit under the weather, it probably has something to do with the millions of customer records that have been exposed to thieves — personal identification information, financial information, and medical information.

Kaspersky Says Phound Can Protect Your Android Device: Kaspersky Lab has released a free Android app that they say can protect both the portable device and the data on it. "Phound", by the way, is a portmanteau of "phone" and "hound". Now you know. Phound will phind (ah, find -- sorry) your phone or tablet. Or at least try to. And if it can't help you recover the device, you can use it to delete all of the data on the device.

Spare Parts (0nly on the website): MalwareBytes describes an old scam in a new suit, news site Gigaom is dead, and ubiquitous high-speed fiber is the future (and may always be the future).

15 March

Where's My Car? and Other Smart Phone Magic: Approximately 1.7 bazillion applications exist for smart phones. Most of the applications that have been written for Android devices have also been written for Apple devices. Many of the applications written for Apple devices have also been written for Android devices. Of those 1.7 bazillion applications, you may find some to be essential while you consider others to be useless. I'm always wary of articles with titles such as Ten Android Applications You Must Have. Your needs are different from mine. So this week I'll share with you some applications that I've found useful or, if not useful, at least interesting.

Adding RAM Makes Systems Faster: One of the most quoted recommendations for improving the speed of a computer is to add memory. Extra random-access memory (RAM) can make almost any computer faster. There are some new technologies that may replace some of the memory types being used now, so we'll take a look.

Short Circuits: Adobe & Marketing Communications: I've mentioned Adobe from time to time in context of communications. If you read a magazine, newspaper, or book -- Adobe is there. Look at a website or blog? Adobe is there. Photos? Of course Adobe is there. TV and motion pictures? Yep. Adobe is there. his week Adobe's Summit 2015, an annual digital marketing conference, brought all the pieces together in the "Adobe Marketing Cloud".

Hammacher Schlemmer's Eye Scanner: The Best, the Only, and the Unexpected is motto Hammacher Schlemmer uses. The 167-year-old catalog store is now offering a $280 password authenticator that uses an eye scan to unlock your passwords. Are you ready for this?

Spare Parts (0nly on the website): Watch out for scammers pretending to be IRS agents, predictions that real-time traffic information will be more available, and exploring differences between online shopping in various countries.

08 March

Xara Photo and Graphic Designer: Although the latest version of Xara's Photo and Graphic Designer (version 10) was released last summer, I failed to notice until recently. We're still several months away from version 11, so let's see what's new in this version.

BriefMe: Keep Up with News or Follow the Herd: Once upon a time, people (Murrow, Huntley, Cronkite, Brinkley, and Sevareid to name a few) told the American people about things they should know. Then big businesses discovered that they could make a great deal of money by telling people what they wanted to hear. In short, that explains today's "24-hour news cycle" in which people who are called journalists scamper after the current hot story until another hot story breaks.

Short Circuits: Here's a Surprise: Customers Don't Like the Service they're Getting: "We don't need another app! What we need is better customer service!" That's the clear message from an online survey by Harris Poll. Let's look at what's wrong and what's needed to make it right.

Apple's Rectangular Watch Versus Huawei's Round Watch: Chinese electronics manufacturer Huawei introduced a challenge to Apple's upcoming watch this week at the Mobile World Congress in Spain. Both watches are "coming soon". Remember when companies announced software products that would be shipping "any day now"? These were called "vaporware" because sometimes they never shipped. With the advent of wearable computing devices, perhaps these should be referred to as "vapor-wear". (Sorry.)

What's Your Router's Password? Every router shipped comes with a default user name (usually "admin" or something similar) and a default password (blank, "password", "admin", and the name of the manufacturer are common). The admin user name often cannot be changed and if you don't change the default password you're asking for trouble.

Only on the website, in Spare Parts: Fear of crime is pushing some of us to think more about computer security, a Swiss doctor has developed an app to help men assess the risk of prostate cancer, and condom manufacturer Durex say it has an app for orgasms.

01 March

The FCC Finally Approves Net Neutrality: On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to adopt Chairman Tom Wheeler's Open Internet proposal. Commissioner Ajut Pai accused those in the majority of turning their back on an open Internet. But an open Internet for whom -- Open for telecommunications companies and service providers to do whatever they want or open for consumers to be protected from abuses that have become all too common? Let's consider why this is a "political" issue and why it shouldn't be.

A Birthday Card for Adobe: Adobe Photoshop is 25 years old or maybe 27, depending on how you want to look at it. No matter how you look at it, Photoshop is the de facto photo editing application around the world and you probably encounter hundreds of images every day that have been touched by this application.

Short Circuits: Faster Wireless Networks (Maybe): Who wouldn't like faster wireless data services? A company that's been working on a way to make wireless data faster and more reliable says that it expects to make the service available.

SuperFish Might Be the Tip of A Large Iceberg: Undoubtedly you've heard that for several months Lenovo, the world's largest computer manufacturer, placed an application on nearly every computer it sold. "SuperFish" paid Lenovo to install the application on the computers. You paid Lenovo for the computer. Seems like Lenovo should have more allegiance to its customers than to developers of applications. But it gets worse. A lot worse.

Spare Parts: On the website only, Spare Parts includes worries by smart phone users about being tracked and a project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to modify Internet searches.

22 February

A Week of Tweaks, Fixes, and Utilities: Last week, I described the dangers of downloading applications from what was once the premiere location to find and download open-source software, SourceForge. I heard from a reader (Thanks, Matthew!) about a service called Ninite that can handle updates for many popular programs and utilities. This week, we'll look at that service and, while we're on the subject of utilities, we'll take a look at some other useful programs. Most of them are free or very reasonably priced.

Short Circuits: The Equation Group: Crown Creator of Cyber-Espionage: Kaspersky Lab has revealed the existence of what it calls the "Equation Group" in a report says the group has been active since at least 2001 and is responsible for malware that Kaspersky says is capable of reprogramming firmware inside computer hard drives. The US National Security Agency is believed to be the primary operator.

Crooks Steal Hundreds of Millions from Banks: Kaspersky Lab (this must be their week to be highly visible) says that clues about a massive bank job began to appear in 2013. An automatic teller machine in Ukraine occasionally dispensed cash even though nobody was using the machine. The bank called on Kaspersky to investigate and that revealed a far larger problem.

Spare Parts: On the website only, Spare Parts includes movement toward full solid-state storage, crowd-sourcing could be used for 911 calls, a $5 million competition for robotics, and Austin's South by Southwest educational conference expands.

15 Feburary

FileZilla Is The Best FTP Client if You Can Get It: I have recommended FileZilla for years because it's the best and most versatile FTP client available and it's offered for free. Recent changes, though, place the FileZilla installation file in the middle of a mine field and good luck trying to obtain it. I'll show you some options.

Safe Communications with Open Wi-Fi Hotspots: Wi-Fi hotspots can be dangerous. The threat level varies from one location to another. At a small coffee shop in a suburban location, you could expect to be relatively safe. Using a public Wi-Fi connection at a busy airport in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles (or any busy airport anywhere) would carry more risk. Crooks like it when lots of people use a Wi-Fi connection because their chances are better. But any public Wi-Fi carries some risk.

Short Circuits: Microsoft Wants to Be Your Mobile Computing Company: Microsoft missed the Internet and was slow to react to mobile computing, but the current management team seems intent on making the company relevant in an age when computers are becoming smaller and work is done in more locations than ever before. In that regard, Microsoft is adopting the Adobe model: Buy the best applications you can find and make them part of your business.

Oh, No! My Television Is Snooping on Me! Sometimes being too honest can get you into trouble. Just ask Samsung, the maker of televisions that can listen to you and perform functions based on what you tell them to do. When Samsung recently updated its privacy policy, the result was a firestorm in the media because of a poorly worded bit of text.

Spare Parts: Only on the website, Spare Parts takes note of a new NASA photo project, the Drones for Good winners have been announced, and a service you've probably never heard of is about to shut down.

08 February

Camtasia: Video Documentation with Ease: If a picture is worth a thousand words, would a one-minute video be worth 1.8 million words (assuming 30 frames per second)? If you've ever had to explain how something works on a computer to a person who doesn't quite understand computers, you may have wished to be able to record what's on your screen and send a video. You can do that and TechSmith has two applications that are just what you need.

Flipboard Might Be Your New News Magazine: How we obtain news is changing and has been for the past few decades. Thirty years ago, the daily newspaper landed on just about everyone's doorstep, most of us watched one of the big 3 network evening news programs, and we heard periodic radio newscasts during the day -- even on music stations. The Internet has largely supplanted all of these.

Step One of the 1000-Mile Journey to Net Neutrality: The Federal Communications Commission will vote on two important topics near the end of the month. On Thursday, the 26th, votes are scheduled on a request from two cities that could allow them to provide high-speed Internet service in violation of Tennessee and North Carolina state laws. The FCC is also expected to vote that day on a proposal to reclassify Internet service as a utility.

Short Circuits: Cisco, HP, and Symantec Win at Social Media while Apple, Facebook, & Google Fail: You might expect Facebook, Google, and Apple to be at the top of their game on social media, but a communications company says it hasn't worked out that way. Investis reviewed the use of social media by 500 major companies and named Cisco and HP first and second.

The Next Generation Raspberry Pi Is Available: Raspberry Pi 2 Model B is now available from its worldwide distributors. You've probably heard of the credit-card-size single-board computers developed in the UK and used to teach basic computer science in schools. They're also very popular with hobbyists. Would you pay $35 for a computer?

Spare Parts: On the website only, Spare Parts looks at a way to save roaming charges for international travelers, the dangers of "password fatigue", and the cost of a distributed denial of service attack.

01 February

Taming the Onslaught of Browsers: "Onslaught" might be overstating the case a bit. The attack isn't destructive, but it certainly seems fierce. I receive questions about whether this browser or that browser would be safer or faster or better in some other way. Invariably, the answer is "maybe", but it's important to remember that all browsers are built on just a few rendering engines. We'll consider some of the browsers that are available.

Taking Aviator Out for a Test Flight: "You probably shouldn't be using the WhiteHat Aviator browser if you’re concerned about security and privacy," is what Justin Schuh wrote on his blog. It's important to note that Schuh works for Google and that Aviator is somewhat antagonistic toward Google, the developer of Chromium on which the Chrome browser and Aviator are based. Let's take a closer look.

Short Circuits: Fantasy Football and the NFL Both Have a Super Bowl: Sunday, February 1, 2015, it's Super Bowl XLIX. It's Super Bowl 49 featuring the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, one of which will go home with a 15-4 record and the other with a 14-5 record. There will be a bunch of commercials, but I won't see them and this year there's Super Bowl fantasy football. See, there's the tech tie in.

The Technology of Brewing Craft Beer: Ohio has more than 200 breweries. Columbus alone has nearly 20. Some are factories that churn out a yellow, fizzy liquid by the truck-load and others bottle or can small batches of hoppy, or pungent, or dark beer. And yes, there's an app for that.

January 26, Birthday of Lotus 1-2-3: According to the US Census Bureau, on January 26, 1983, (yes, that's 32 years ago) Lotus 1-2-3 was released. Prior to Lotus 1-2-3, VisiCalc had been available for Apple II computers and lots of managers found ways to put those machines on their expense accounts so that they could use them in the office.

"Unlimited" Plans Still Have Limits and the FTC Doesn't Like It: Maybe your cellular provider offers an "unlimited" plan, but read the fine print and you'll learn that "unlimited" has some very definite limits even though providers go to great lengths to make them invisible. The FTC has a magnifying glass.

Spare Parts: On the website only, Spare Parts has the story of the International Spy Museum, a desktop computer that's not much larger than a notebook, prizes for drones in Dubai, and students say schools are failing when it comes to high tech.

25 January

Microsoft Intends to Change Everything with Windows 10: Going far beyond virtual reality, this week Microsoft announced "previews for 3D printers" in the form of HoloLens. Apparently Microsoft can keep a secret when it wants to. The new goggles will work with any Windows 10 device (from phones to servers) and NASA plans to use the devices so that scientists can walk, virtually, on Mars. Oh, and by the way, the next version of Windows will be free (with conditions). Most of this week's program had been written by the time Microsoft held what was billed as a routine event for developers and the media on Wednesday. What I'd planned to talk about this week can (and will) wait until next week. The news from Microsoft was that startling.

Short Circuits: Battery Manufacturers Get a Charge out of Mobile Devices: To the surprise of almost nobody, battery sales are growing fast. Sandler Research says that the industry's sales are increasing at more than a 6% compound annual growth rate. Smart phone batteries are the primary factor causing the growth. The result is a battery industry that's a lot more lively than it was in the days of carbon-zinc batteries. Remember those?

A Message from the IRS: Tax time is approaching and the IRS says "Doing your taxes doesn't have to be taxing." Get it? That's a little IRS humor. "It's fast," they say. "It's safe," they say. "It's free," they say. Well, except for having to send in your tax payment, of course.

Spare Parts: Don't miss Spare Parts, available only on the website.

18 January

Making Your Videos Go ZOOOOM! Occasionally somebody comes up with an idea that seems so obvious in retrospect, that we wonder why we didn't think of it first. Magix Fastcut could be one of those ideas. It's a new video editor that's intended for high-action videos. If you have an action cam such as a GoPro, you'll find that Fastcut has some optimizations built in. But if you have a standard video camera or a digital camera that can shoot videos, that's fine, too.

Lightroom Mobile Is Good News for Android Users: Every time I've had the opportunity, I've grumbled to Adobe product managers about the lack of support from the company's mobile applications for Android devices. Apple devices have the most complete set of Adobe mobile applications, but Lightroom Mobile came to Android this week. More is "on the roadmap."

Short Circuits: Expanding Broadband Access in the United States: This is the kind of effort that's sure to get lost in politics and that's a pity. Some cities are attempting to provide their residents with access to high-speed Internet service and they are, of course, being opposed by cable providers. This is happening at a time when broadband service is substandard when compared to just about any other developed country and where access carries a higher price.

Have WordPress? You Should Scan! WordPress is a popular tool for creating blogs and entire websites and because it's so popular, it's also a common target for malware. Updates are released frequently for WordPress, but users often forget to check for updates. As a result, lots of websites that run on WordPress are running on vulnerable software. Finding out if yours is one of them is easy.

"Hello, I'm Calling from Windows Support": The appropriate response to this statement is "No you're not," followed by hanging up. The Federal Trade Commission has whacked a couple of these moles, but the fakers are still out there trying to find a way to gain access to your computer. The first thing to understand is this: Microsoft does not make outbound calls to users. Ever. Period. Let's consider what these creeps want you to do.

11 January

Consumer Electronics Show Highlights: Although most of the big computer shows such as PC Expo no longer exist, the Consumer Electronics Show continues to run each January in Las Vegas and shows no signs of fading away. As always, there was lots of hyperbole, so let's see if we can slice through some of it. Kodak's New Smart Phone, Microsoft Announces an Incredibly Cheap Smart Phone, Gigabit Communications on House Wiring, and Turtle Beach Wants to Play Games with You. Plus ... See more CES items in Spare Parts.

What's Up with Windows 10? With about three quarters of a year to go, Microsoft developers continue to work on the next version of the operating system. I installed the public beta on an older 32-bit notebook computer and make a point of using the system for at least a few hours every month.

How Encryption Protects Your Information: E-mail is often used to send proprietary information (business development plans, for example) even though most people probably know that e-mail is even less secure than a postcard. Encryption will protect your data, but encryption is puzzling, or frightening, or both. A vice president of development at CDK Global, Phil Turner, who I’ve known for more than 30 years, recently explained encryption in an uncommonly clear article that simplifies this complex subject. He gave me permission to use it here.

Short Circuits: IBM Says Cyber Attacks Are Down, But ..... It could be that crooks have already stolen everything that they can steal. The IBM report notes that although the number of attacks was down, crooks still snagged more than 61 million customer records last year.

Watch the Watch: Nine to Five Mac is predicting that the much anticipated Apple Watch will be available soon, perhaps before the Ides of March.

The Pundits and the PC: Did you buy in to the silliness of the pundits a year or so ago when they said the personal computer was dead? We would all be doing everything on our smart phones and tablets? Probably not, but a lot of people did.

04 January

TechByter's New Look, Content, and Sound: Every year or two, I give the website an update. This year the update is somewhat more extensive than in the past. For 2015, the site has been updated to be fully HTML5 and CSS3 compliant. It is also responsive and adaptive. Those are both important considerations at a time when more people use portable devices to view websites. If you're interested in what's going on behind the scenes, I have the details -- probably more than you ever wanted to know.

A Very Decent Exposure 7: Speaking of new, get a load of what Alien Skin has done with Exposure. Version 7 includes the ability to work directly with raw images and, when used as a standalone application, Exposure 7 saves all edits in sidecar files, which is the process that applications such as Lightroom and Photoshop use. The sidecar files, however, are not compatible with those applications (the podcast misstates this). And the previously separate application "Bokeh" is now included! This is an outstanding way for photographers to start the new year. Certainly there are no indecent exposures here!

Kodak and Android: Kodak, once the film company, tried to rebrand itself as the picture company when the digital revolution began, but it didn't work out because people don't use photos the way they used to. Now we make websites, share photos by e-mail, make mugs and calendars that contain our photos. We don't have them printed as much as we used to. Kodak even tried manufacturing digital cameras, but the models it created didn't work very well. Now, following bankruptcy, "Kodak" will once again manufacture digital cameras.

Short Circuits: China's Internet Users Abruptly Lose Contact with G-Mail: The Chinese government says it's not responsible, but G-Mail is currently unavailable in China. The Global Times (a state-run newspaper) says citizens should stop whining.

Does the Internet Make Us More Productive? According to the Pew Research Center, workers believe that the Internet does make them more productive. Despite complaints about frequent e-mail interruptions, most workers in the survey credited e-mail with helping them to do their jobs.

China's Home-Grown Tech Manufacturers Surge: Xiaomi makes smart phones in China. Unlike Samsung or Apple, companies that also manufacture smart phones in China, Xiaomi is a Chinese company. Its phones seem to be well made and inexpensive, and therefore popular. The company has just raised more than $1 billion from private equity firms.

Only on the Website ... "Spare Parts" is a new section on the TechByter website. It will include topics that I've found interesting, but not sufficiently interesting to included in the podcast or in the main part of the website. Most will deal with technology, but occasionally you'll find one that has no connection at all to anything even remotely high tech.