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Master Your Printer (Not the Other Way Around)

“I hate printers, but I love what they can do!” That’s the mantra recited by just about anyone who has a printer attached to their computer. Of all the peripherals that connect to our PCs printers seem to be the number one troublemaker.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Paper jams, overpriced ink, print spooler logjams, wasted paper – these are just a few of the hassles whose remedies will be addressed here. If your love/hate relationship with your printer is more hate than love, read on as maybe, just maybe, we can switch that around with these eight printer tips and tricks.

How to Print With an ‘Empty’ Inkjet Cartridge

When my six page document stopped printing after page three, the reason was an empty blue ink cartridge. I was surprised since I hardly ever print in color and in fact generally print in draft mode with black ink only. So why the hell did the blue ink disappear?

The answer is relatively simple and applies to almost all brands of inkjet printers. You are probably well aware of the mechanical noise the printer makes each time you turn it on or right before it processes a print request. It is running a preprogrammed maintenance check, print head and nozzle cleaning. Each time it does that it eats a little bit of ink from each color cartridge.

So even though you might not be ‘using’ color cartridges, they might be used up thanks to the preprogrammed maintenance checks, thus your print jobs are held hostage until they are replaced. Even when you select grayscale printing, which would only use the black cartridge, the printer won’t budge. Even more annoying is when printers flash low ink warnings when there is about 10 to 20 percent ink remaining.

For most printer brands there is a way to force the printer to print even with an empty cartridge error message. The solution is as close as a Google or Bing search for how to print with empty inkjet cartridges.[site] Dozens of YouTube videos, some generic, others specific to particular printer brands and models, provide simple hacks which when applied let you continue to print. Most involve putting some opaque tape to cover up a window on the cartridge.

That we should be forced to hack our printers should wake us up to the reality that we are not buying ink from printer manufacturers, but we are buying printers from ink companies. As printers get cheaper, they are sold as loss leaders. Much like razor blades are pricier than the razors themselves, ink is where the enormous profits are.

The Number One Way to Reduce Ink Use – And Costs

As mentioned above, every time you power on your printer, it will use a trickle of ink in its maintenance and cleaning routine. The solution: don’t turn your printer off. Inkjet printers use a imperceptible trickle of electricity when left on in idle mode. Canon told Consumer Reports in June 2013 that “if the printer is switched off then it may do a longer clean” when powered on. Of course if you have a multi-function printer with fax capability you would probably want to leave the machine on as a matter of course to receive faxes.

Another method to reduce ink costs is to set your default print mode to draft or economy mode. Each printer brand has different terminology for this print setting. On yours it might be ink saving, Fast, or Custom.

To change your default print mode in Windows 7, 8, and 10, type devices in the Start search bar and select Devices and Printers. Find your printer in the Devices and Printers window and right-click on it. Now select Printing preferences Using the drop-down menu for Print Quality, select the one that matches the lowest quality print. Click OK. If there is a Custom choice, select that and adjust its sub-window. To maintain just black ink use, check the Grayscale printing box.

And one more advisory: Do not change an existing cartridge unless you absolutely have to or even if you are switching to a cheaper, third-party brand cartridge. Each time the printer senses a new cartridge installation, it runs through that ink-eating maintenance routine.

How to Reset the Printer Spooler When Nothing Will Print

It happens to all of us. You click Print and nothing happens. The most common reason is a stuck printer spooler. Each time you click Print that print job loads in the Windows print spooler. If one job, for whatever reason, does not commence, subsequent print commands will line up like customers in a bakery.

Often you can just go to the Devices and Printers, right-click on the printer and select See what’s printing. Select the document and right-click. Select Cancel. If there are more than one documents, repeat the process. If none of them will cancel out, more deep dive steps are needed.

The next step, then, is to clear out the print queue in the print spooler. In the Start menu address bar, type services and select services when it appears in the menu. Scroll down until you see Print Spooler. Right-click on it and select Stop. (You need to be logged in as Administrator for this action.)

Next you need to delete the files lined up in the spooler. In the Start menu search bar type %windir%\System32\spool\PRINTERS. Delete all the files in this folder. Return to the Services console, right-click on Print Spooler and select Start. Voila, you are ready to print normally again.

How to Print from the Desktop Without Opening Its Corresponding Application

So you wrote the perfect burn letter in Word? You don’t have to open the application to print out your scathing missive. You can print right from the Desktop or from the File Explorer menu. Just locate the document’s icon in either place, right-click on it and select Print from the shortcut menu. Let Windows do the rest. It will open the creating application and automatically print from the default printer.

How to Print and Save Paper at the Same Time

If you are in a paper and ink saving mood and don’t really need a printout but want to view it as it would look in its final format, select Save as instead of Save. (In Microsoft Office you can press F12 to bring up the Save as menu or from the File menu choose Save as. From the Save window, use the drop-down menu next to Save as type (it’s the one right below File name). Choose PDF and, select the location you want to save in, click Okay. You can still print the PDF later if you really want a hard copy.

Another paper saving routine is to select Duplex print from the Print menu, or as it is displayed with some printer models, Print on both sides. With this method, the printer will draw each sheet back in to print on each side. You won’t be saving ink but your paper supply is cut in half.

Lasky, MIchael. “Master Your Printer (Not the Other Way Around)” Windows Secrets April 2017

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Windows 10 tip: Startup and Shutdown Secrets

Thanks to a default feature in Windows 10, choosing Shut Down from the power menu doesn’t really shut down Windows. That’s a great time-saving feature, but it can cause problems with some updates and installers. Here’s how to do a full shutdown when necessary.

When is a shutdown not a shutdown? That’s not a Zen koan. Instead, it’s a description of one of Windows 10’s most fundamental features.

In Windows 10, fast startup mode is enabled by default. This feature uses the hibernation file to restore a previously saved image of the Windows kernel and all necessary drivers for installed devices. This process that is significantly faster than a “cold” start, which has to load and link the Windows kernel, enumerate all connected devices, and then load drivers for each of those devices.

To make this magic possible, the fast startup feature changes what happens when you choose the Shut Down option from Start. Just as with a full shutdown, Windows closes all running apps and signs out of all user sessions, leaving the system in the same state it would be in if you had just started up. It then saves that state to the hibernation file so it can return to that state the next time you start up.

To manage the fast startup feature, go to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options and then click Choose what the power buttons do. Use the checkbox shown here to toggle this setting on or off.

But you don’t need to disable this otherwise useful feature to do a full shutdown. Instead, hold down Shift as you choose Shut Down from the power menu. That forces Windows to do a cold startup, ignoring the hibernation file, the next time you restart.

Note that when you use the Restart option from the power menu, Windows also does a full shutdown and a cold restart. That’s the preferred way to ensure that updates and installers are able to complete their work properly.

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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The Secret Life of Files: How to Master File & Folder Properties

Every file and folder on your computer possesses digital DNA – file format, creation date, author, modification date, descriptive tags, etc. These inner attributes follow a file and folder. It doesn’t matter where it moves on your system, or whether it’s copied and forwarded elsewhere — those attributes are coming along with it.

The attributes are stored in each file or folder’s Property Manager; that can be accessed by right-clicking on the file name or its icon. Most of time we have no need to examine a file or folder’s properties. But when viewing or editing attributes are required –be it for security or personal reasons– that’s when we need to be our own property manager.

Metadata: Exploring the Inner Workings of Files

If Groucho Marx was to jokingly refer to metadata he would probably exclaim “I never metadata I didn’t like,” or something like that. But seriously, metadata is usually defined as the data that provides information about other data. In other words metadata is the instruction manual that tells a computer what’s up with a particular file.

When security cops are called in to examine, say, a politician’s deleted emails, they can actually glean the origins of the message, when it was transmitted, and its contents from the file’s metadata. Similarly we can often see and manipulate the files and folders on our computers by examining their Properties. And like those deleted emails, your files’ metadata (live or deleted) can sometimes expose your privacy. And for many of those files—photos, text, videos, audio tracks–you can edit that metadata of personal elements.

Let’s take a look at the Properties of various file formats – documents, images, and video/audio – to see what is stored there and how to change the data, if so desired. Examining the files themselves by right-clicking and choosing Properties is the same in Windows 7, 8, and 10. Viewed from Windows Explorer, there are a few surface differences which I will also point out.

Use Properties to Follow the Life of Documents

Legendary screen siren Mae West once said, “Keep a diary, dearie and someday it will keep you.” In digital terms the Properties of a document are its diary and the minute details and history of the document are saved here. In Windows Explorer, find your document file and right-click on it.

The first screen you will see lands on the General tab. There are two buttons for customization to note here. The first labeled Change is to the right of Open with: allows you to switch the application used to open this file format. For example, if you don’t like the app Windows defaults for playing videos, you can switch to another. In this case, I changed to Videolan’s VLC Player. The second button appears at the bottom of the General tab window and is labeled Unblock. This is handy if the files was downloaded from the Internet. For security Windows blocks making changes to Properties until you click Unblock.

The real nitty-gritty of file info is found on the Details tab. From the Properties window, select the Details tab. Here before you is the author or authors of the doc, the version number, the application used to create it and the times it was created and since revised, when it was last printed, and total editing time.

By default Windows allows users the ability to add, delete, and edit various Properties. In Figure 1, I was able to enter notes in each field under Description. But in the fields below under Origin most are locked except for the Author field where I could not delete my name but could add additional authors.

To actually know what fields in Properties are able to be modified, just double-click on each line. Ones that allow changes will pop open with a fillable space.

By clicking on the Security tab in Properties you can change the permissions tor reading, writing, and modifying both Properties and the document itself. Click the Edit button to execute changes to Permissions and then check or uncheck each function box. That way you can control what other authors or readers can do with the document.

Scrolling farther down on the Details tab reveals more details about the work that went into the document, right down to the number of keystrokes and words. Again, here some fields allow for data entry of notes or comments and a double-click on each will reveal that possibility.

Photo Properties Tell Who Took the Shot and How

While the Properties window for photo files is the same as revealed for documents, the fields are adjusted for the different components inherent in photo images. Image dimensions, width, height, copyright, camera model, exposure time, F-stop, and all the other characteristics of how a photo was shot – the entire DNA – are listed in a photo’s properties.

Notice now the copyright line was changed in Figures2 and 3 from Brent Winebrenner to John Q. Public. Because this field was left unlocked it allowed me to change the photographer’s name. Although this was done merely to demonstrate how Properties information can be altered and will not be saved, it does reveal how valuable file information can be altered. If a photo was, say, to be used as evidence in a court case, changes like this as well as in date taken and location fields could change ultimate verdicts. That’s one reason it is important to use the editing control offered under the Security tab.

 

Adding tags can be useful for notes, subject classification, or other credits. Curiously, you cannot add tags or ratings to some file formats such as BMP, PNG, AVI, or MPG. Go figure. Add a semicolon after each tag you want to enter.

Video file properties work much like those for images. The only difference is that elements unique to a video are included in the Details, such as running time, frames per second, mono or stereo, etc.

Remove Properties Option Erases Your ‘Fingerprints’

On every Details window there is a blue colored link at the bottom: Remove Properties and Personal Information. Click it and you will see a popup window with two buttons. By default the Create a copy with all possible properties removed is checked. Click okay to save a copy of the file, be it document, image, or other format, and all the file’s details will be deleted. Privacy is now protected.

The other option, Remove the following properties from this file, let you cherry pick the particular properties to be eliminated. A new file is not created but the current file is saved with only the elements you want to remain in the future.

Using the Ribbon View in Windows Explorer 10

Starting with Windows 8, Windows Explorer appeared with the Ribbon menu interface. It provides more information about folders and files than the previous, flat view Windows Explorer had in Windows 7.

While you can still right-click file icons to see the Properties windows – and I think that is still the most convenient option –the Ribbon now has Properties as a choice. By clicking Properties from the Ribbon, the highlighted file’s Properties window will open.

But if you click on the down arrow on Properties on the Ribbon, you will reveal Remove properties which proves to be shortcut to the Remove properties window that saves two additional clicks required if you reach Properties by the standard right-click method.

Lasky, Michael. “The Secret Life of Files: How to Master File & Folder Properties” Windows Secrets March 2017

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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How to Encrypt Your Tablet or Smartphone

How to Encrypt Your Tablet or Smartphone

If you left your smartphone behind in a coffee shop or you were required to pack your tablet in your checked luggage, would your personal data be safely locked away? If you don’t have your device protected by a lock-screen passcode and your data encrypted, your text messages, personal and business contacts, emails, photos and videos and other sensitive information could all be accessible.

What is encryption?

To describe it simply, encryption is the process of jumbling data using an encryption key available only to you in such a way that the information is no longer recognizable or understandable. When you need to use your data, the reverse process of unscrambling, known as decryption, uses your unique encryption key to bring it back to a readable state.

You can think of encryption as a secret code known only to you. If someone were to steal your private journal, the thief wouldn’t be able to understand what’s in it without knowing the secret code you used to encrypt it.

Why encryption is important

Even if you’ve locked down your phone with a strong password, the data behind that wall of defense are still readable — your emails, text messages, photos, everything. So unless you have encrypted your phone, a knowledgeable thief can use various means to crack or bypass your password and then harvest your data.

Since encryption garbles information, it adds another layer of protection to your information by rendering it unusable by anyone who doesn’t hold the key to un-garble it.

Governments encrypt classified information. Businesses guard their corporate secrets with encryption technologies. Doctors and lawyers use encryption to prevent client data from falling into the wrong hands. You can use encryption to shield your personal information against identity and data thieves. In fact, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights considers encryption a human right because it “provide[s] the privacy and security necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in the digital age.”

If you are preparing to sell or give away your mobile device, encrypt it before resetting it to its factory state, especially if it’s an Android device. Even a full factory reset won’t completely wipe out your personal data on older Android devices. Security company Avast found that information you thought had already been wiped clean still remains on your Android device even after a factory reset. The company’s researchers were able to extract photos, emails, text messages, search histories, personal identities, contacts and more from used Android phones they bought from eBay. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have also found that remnants of your “deleted” data can actually be used to log in to your accounts.

You can avert the potential for data breaches like these by encrypting your mobile device.

How to tell if your iPhone or iPad is encrypted

Apple devices running iOS 8 or higher have encryption baked into the OS and file system itself. However, your device isn’t encrypted until after you’ve set up a lockscreen passcode.

How to encrypt your iPhone or iPad

Go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode. There, turn on the Passcode feature. Disable Simple Passcode so that you can use longer alphanumeric passcodes that are harder to crack. While you’re at it, set the Require Passcode option to Immediately.

Afterwards, return to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode and scroll down to the bottom. Here, enable the Erase Data option so that your data will be automatically wiped after 10 failed passcode attempts. You should also see “Data protection is enabled” below the option. This means that data encryption is now active and uses your designated passcode as part of the encryption key. Now no one will be able to hand over your data because only you know your passcode.

How to tell if your Android tablet or phone is encrypted

If your phone runs Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) or higher, it’s encrypted by default.

If your phone is running an earlier version of Android, you can head over to Settings > Security (or in some phones Storage). There you will either see that your phone is encrypted or that you have the option to encrypt your phone.

How to encrypt your Android phone or tablet

On Android devices, the steps are similar. Here’s how to do it for Android 4.4 KitKat and Android 5.0 Lollipop. First, you’ll want to plug your device in and ensure you have at least 80 percent charge. Then go to Settings > Lock Screen > Screen Lock. Input  your old passcode and a new one (make sure it’s at least 6 characters). Then go to Settings > System > Security > Encrypt device > Encrypt Phone (or tablet). If you use a microSD card in your phone, you may also select Encrypt external SD card. Than select Encrypt phone (or tablet).

Once you encrypt your Android device, you cannot turn off encryption without performing a full factory reset. An encrypted SD card will only work on the device that encrypted it, so you can pop the card into a reader on your computer or use it in another device. Fortunately, SD card encryption can be undone, unlike full disk encryption of your mobile device. If you want to use your SD card on another phone, you will have to decrypt it first.

Initial encryption can take 30 minutes to about an hour, depending how much data you have. Your phone or tablet will reboot a few times during the process; this is normal. Just let the process complete. Once encryption is finished, you will be asked for your PIN or password to unlock your device.

Montejo, Elmer.  How to Encryt Your Tablet or Smartphone” Techlicious March 27, 2017

Posted in: Mobile Computing

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6 Links That Will Show You What Google Knows About You

Want to find out all the things Google knows about you?

Here are 6 links that will show you some of the data Google has about you.

  1. Find out what Google thinks about you

In order to serve relevant ads, Google collects data about you and creates a profile. You can control and review the information Google has on you here:

http://www.google.com/settings/ads/

Google also has a tool called Google Analytics, that helps publishers see what pages you have viewed on their website, how many times you have visited it, how long did you stay etc. You can opt out if you don’t want this type of data to be collected:

http://tools.google.com/dlpage/gaoptout

  1. Find out your location history

If you use Android, your mobile device may be sending your location to Google. You can see your entire location history here:

https://maps.google.com/locationhistory

  1. Find out your entire Google Search history

Google saves every single search you have ever done. On top of that, they record every Google ad you have clicked on. This log is available in Google web history controls:

https://www.google.com/history/

  1. Get a monthly security and privacy report from Google

Google offers an Account activity page that tells you about all the Google services you are using. You can even enable a monthly report that will be sent to your email:

https://www.google.com/settings/dashboard

  1. Find out all the apps and extensions that are accessing your Google data

The Account activity page also offers a list of all the apps that have any type of access to your data. You can see the exact type of permissions granted to the app and revoke access to your data here:

https://security.google.com/settings/security/permissions

  1. Export all of your data out of Google

Google lets you export all your data: bookmarks, emails, contacts, drive files, profile info, your youtube videos, photos and more here:

https://www.google.com/takeout

BONUS

Google also keeps a history of your YouTube searches. You can find it here:

https://www.youtube.com/feed/history/search_history

 “6 Links That Will Show You What Google Knows About You” Cloudfender.com March 2017

Posted in: Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Make Important Email Standout in Outlook

 

To make sure emails from important contacts stand out and do not go unnoticed, you can set up a rule that makes the email appear in a specific color or a specific size and type of font. For example, you can make emails from your boss appear in a larger font or have emails from family members all appear in red. To set up the way emails are displayed for Outlook 2016, Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2007:

For Outlook 2016:

  • Go to the View tab

  •  Select View Settings

 

  • Choose Conditional Formatting

 

  •  Click add
  • Name your rule
  • Click on Font and pick a color, style and size and click OK

 

  • Click on Condition

 

  • Type in the email address of the sender or senders you want to highlight. For multiple people, separate the email address with a semicolon.

 

For Outlook 2010:

  • Go to View tab

 

 

  • Select View Settings

 

  • Choose Conditional Formatting

 

  • Click Add
  • Name your rule
  • Click on Font and pick a color, style and size and click OK

 

  • Click on Condition

 

  • Type in the email address of the sender or senders you want to highlight. For multiple people, separate the email addresses with a semicolon.

 

For Outlook 2007:

  • Go to the tools menu

 

  • Select Organize, using colors

 

  • Then choose specific colors for emails from specific people

 

  • More advanced automatic settings for applying font type and size to emails can be added by selecting Automatic Formatting in the top right corner of the Using Colors screen.

 

  • Click “Add” to create more rules
  • When you’re finished creating your rule, important email will stand out.

 

 

Kantra, Suzanne. “Make Important Email Standout in Outlook with Color Coding” Techlicious February 2017

Posted in: E-mail, MS Office Tips and Tricks, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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The 10 Best Features Coming to Windows 10

Microsoft wants to make you love your computer again.

This spring, Microsoft will release the next major update to Windows 10. Dubbed Creators Update, the free download includes new 3D apps, VR capabilities and 4K game streaming among its flashier features.

But you don’t need to be a graphics professional or VR-headset owner to appreciate what the Creators Update has in store.

I believe these are the true top 10 features coming to Windows 10 — not the snazziest, but the ones that might actually make Windows work better when you’re trying to get work done. As neither a visual artist nor a VR early adopter, these are the changes I’m most excited about.

  1. Smarter Settings layout

If you head to the Bluetooth page in Windows 10’s Settings page right now, you won’t find a button to Add a Device, which I find maddening. Instead, you must tab over to “Connected Devices” to perform the simple, common task of adding a Bluetooth peripheral to your computer. There’s also no easy way to disconnect from a Bluetooth device without removing it entirely.

Creators Update addresses this mess by combining the separate “Bluetooth” and “Connected devices” pages into one “Bluetooth & other devices” page in Settings where you can add, remove, connect and disconnect devices at will.

Elsewhere in Settings, you’ll find new categories for “Apps,” “Gaming” and “Mixed Reality” as well.

  1. Free up disk space without lifting a finger

Hard drive nearing capacity? Mine always seems to be. Creators Update can help keep your drive from filling up with crap. Head to Settings > System > Storage and turn on Storage sense.

With this setting enabled, Windows will automatically delete unused temporary files, as well as files that have been in the Recycle Bin for more than 30 days. I’m pretty good with emptying the Recycle Bin on something approaching a regular schedule, but I’m also very happy to have Windows track down and eradicate needless temp files.

  1. Action Center sliders

Right now, when you swipe in from the right edge of your screen to call up the Action Center, there’s a control to adjust display brightness — but tapping it only bumps up display brightness in huge, 25 percent blocks. Usually, I’m looking for finer control. But Creators Update offers handy sliders for both brightness and volume.

Microsoft is also testing a slider that could help you fine-tune the balance between your computer’s battery life and performance. You can see a picture of that below.

  1. Easier to change screen resolution

One of the more puzzling things about Windows 10 is how difficult it is to change the resolution of your display. (Currently, you must right-click on the desktop, select Display Settings, scroll to the bottom and click “Advanced display settings” to find it.)

I’d argue that the display resolution isn’t exactly an “advanced” setting, and Microsoft finally agrees; Creators Update places the screen resolution drop-down in its rightful place on the main Display settings page.

  1. Hit the Pause button on automatic updates

I agree, the worst part about Windows 10 is automatic updates. With Creators Update, you can’t stop automatic updates from happening, but you can delay some of them — for about a month, anyhow. Head to Settings > Update & security > Windows Update and click Advanced options under Update settings. Here, you’ll see a toggle switch for Pause Updates, which lets you prevent updates from being installed for up to 35 days.

You aren’t completely free from the specter of an automatic update taking control of your machine and potentially losing unsaved work. As the panel clearly states, “some updates… will continue to be installed.” But, hey, at least it’s a start.

  1. Metered Ethernet connection

Originally designed to give you control over your data usage if you’re using, say, a mobile hotspot or a satellite connection that has a data cap, a metered connection also has the added benefit of keeping Windows Updates at bay. Windows won’t download the update until you tell it to, or set your connection as unmetered.

But what if your computer is connected with a physical Ethernet cable? Creators’ Update adds that as well. To set your Ethernet connected as metered, head to Settings > Network & Internet > Ethernet and then click your Ethernet network. Next, toggle Set as metered connection.

  1. High DPI support

It’s a bummer to upgrade to a 4K display only to find some of your apps look blurry, because the developer has yet to update them to run on a screen with so many pixels. Creators Update adds a way for you to override DPI settings so individual apps can scale properly (read: crisply) on high-resolution displays. Here’s how:

Right-click on the app and choose Properties. Click on the Compatibility tab and check the box for Override high DPI scaling behavior and then choose System (Enhanced) from the pull-down menu.

  1. New Reminders recurrence options

Forget to pay your cable bill or buy flowers for your wedding anniversary? Hopefully, never again: Creators Update adds two new options for Cortana Reminders, so you can now ask Cortana to remind you to do something “Every Month” or “Every Year.”

  1. Share menu where you want it

Currently, when you hit the share button in an app, the sharing options slide in from the right edge of the screen — usually not where I’m looking. But soon, the share window will pop up right in the center of the current app. The new Share menu in Windows 10 Creators Update offers the usual suspects — Cortana Reminder, Facebook, Mail, OneNote and Twitter — and also features suggestions to install the Box, Dropbox and Line apps.

  1. Night light for less blue light

Staring at an unnaturally blue screen at night can shift your body’s natural clock and make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Your phone likely has a way to switch to warmer colors at night, and Windows soon will, too. In Creators Update, there’s setting to lower the blue light of your PC. Head to Settings > System > Display > Night light settings. You can schedule it to come on at sunset or manually set hours. You’ll also find a new Night light button in the Action Center to toggle the setting on and off.

Elliot, Matt.  “10 Best Features Coming to Windows 10” CNET February 2017

Posted in: MS Office Tips and Tricks, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Why You Should Lie When Setting Up Password Security Questions

When you set up a new online account the website often will ask you to answer security questions so if the company needs to verify your identity, you can input the right answer to prove you’re you. For example, these probably sound familiar: “What is your mother’s maiden name?” or “In what city were you born?”

No doubt you’ve answered these kinds of online security questions, but really, there’s nothing secure about such generic queries. That’s because someone who wants access to your account could easily do some Internet research to dig up the answers.

So, what’s the best way to keep bad guys from finding out (or guessing) your security question answers?

Your best bet is to lie, especially on websites that only offer generic security questions and don’t let you customize your own questions.

But what’s the best way to remember your false answers?

Use a password manager that also lets you store notes securely.

An even better option, and one that many websites offer, is to create your own custom questions.

Think of little known facts that unique to you,significant private moments that represent a milestone or warm memory—things that you have not posted on your Facebook page, or shared with others by way of quizzes on social media sites.

If you think about it, coming up with these unique questions and answers simply takes a stroll down memory lane. For example, you might use the question, “What food caused your first bout of food poisoning?”

You want to have an extremely limited universe of people who would have any knowledge of things, events, or people that are special to you. Your age, your birth date, your mother’s maiden name, your favorite color, your first pet’s name, your engagement or wedding dates are often all easily found online.

The best way to keep strangers from finding out your personal information is to not make it public. Limit the information and events you share on social media sites and make sure you change your privacy settings on Facebook and other sites so the posts you do share can only be seen by friends and family.

“Why You Should Lie When Setting Up Password Security Questions” Techlicious December 2016

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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How to Browse the Web Anonymously

There are plenty of reasons why you’d want to stay anonymous online. Maybe you want to avoid those creepy targeted ads for things you Googled earlier in the week. Or perhaps you just don’t want your previously visited websites turning up in your partner’s browsing session. Whatever the reason, privacy online is becoming a big deal as it becomes clear how little of it we really have, thanks to ubiquitous website trackers that collect data on our movements.

From turning on your browser’s incognito mode, to downloading a plugin to erase your tracks, here are some tips on surfing the web without leaving (too much of) a trail.

Use a private browser window

 

Private Microsoft Edge Browser

If you share a computer – or are at a public computer – turning on private mode prevents your browsing history from being stored on the computer, thus preventing the sites you visited from popping up later, say, in an auto-completed web address.

Third-party cookies – small text files that track your movement between various sites – are also blocked, and first-party cookies (which track your movement within a site in order to keep track of, say, your shopping basket or preferences) are deleted at the end of the session, so that the next time someone visits that site, it won’t be clear that you’d been there too.

What to do: Head into the toolbar of your browser and select a private or incognito mode.

Kill all cookies

Blocking or deleting third-party cookies (do it by heading into your browser’s Privacy settings) stops some kinds of tracking, but not all. Flash cookies, or so-called super cookies, can store more information and are left by sites that run Flash, which is almost any site with video content. These super cookies can track your movements across different browsers and even regenerate third-party cookies you previously deleted.

What to do: Download the free CCleaner to clear both Flash and regular cookies, but be warned – some sites use third-party cookies to track you within the site, so you may find yourself having to sign in repeatedly.

Stop your browser sending location data

Nearly all browsers have a feature that sends your geographical location to sites you visit, in theory to provide you with more relevant, useful experiences – for example, so a flight comparison site automatically knows where you’re booking from, or so Google can return with nearby search results. However, advertisers or sites can use that very same information to add to that ad profile of you.

What to do: Deny location requests from websites where it isn’t vital. While the default option is always opt-in, i.e., your browser will ask you the first time a website wants your location, you can also disable the feature entirely:

Chrome – Preferences > Settings > Advanced > Content settings, and choose to either disallow any site to track your physical location, or ask when a site wants to track.

Safari – Preferences > Privacy, where you can disable location services, or let each website make a request.

Firefox – Type “about:config” in the URL bar, then “geo.enabled”. Double-click to disable location entirely. Otherwise, Firefox always asks before sending your location to a website.

Microsoft Edge – You don’t set this using the Edge browser. You’ll need to turn off location tracking using your computer’s main Settings > Privacy and then scroll down to Choose apps that can use your precise location and toggle Microsoft Edge to Off.

Microsoft location tracking

Search anonymously

Google accounts for more than 75% of global search traffic, with billions of search queries processed a day. It uses this data to deliver ever more personalized search results, which are highly relevant for most of us, but it also creates a bubble of you-centric search that could prevent you from seeing certain webpages based on what you’ve clicked on in the past.

What to do: You can turn off Google’s personalized search by hitting Search Tools > All Results > Verbatim. To prevent your searches being tracked – and affecting the ads you’re shown – switch to a private search engine such as DuckDuckGo.

Stop Google tracking you

Thanks its varied combination of services – Gmail, Calendar, Google+, YouTube, Search – Google is in a unique position to build a profile of who you are, what you like and what you do online. Its unified privacy policy means that it can track you across all its services – including scanning your email  – and use the information cross-product to personalize your experience. The pros are handy things like getting location-specific calendar reminders, but the cons include targeted ads based on your email content or your picture turning up on items you’ve liked while logged into Google+.

What to do: Opt out of “shared endorsement” in ads and turn off ad personalization (you’ll still be shown ads, but they won’t be targeted). Finally, download the Google Analytics Browser Add-on to stop Google Analytics using data on your movements to create profiles for its ad partners

Stop social sites figuring you out

It’s no secret that social network sites have amassed a huge amount of information on us based on what we do within their sites – things we like, people we click on most and what we search for. But sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn track users even after they’ve logged out of their accounts. One way is when you click on social media sharing buttons, such as a Facebook Like button, or a Twitter share button. But even if you don’t share content, the very act of visiting a webpage that contains such buttons sends the information back to the mothership, allowing advertisers to continue showing the same ad to someone who has visited their webpage and left (perhaps because they browsed but didn’t buy).

Facebook, which operates its own mobile ad network, uses an alternative to a tracker called a conversion pixel that advertisers use to track how many clicks or sales they receive. The information goes back to Facebook, regardless of whether the advertiser’s site had a Facebook button on it.

What to do: Head to Facebook’s Settings / Adverts to control whether ads are targeted based on your clicks in and out of Facebook; for Twitter, Settings / Security and Privacy, then uncheck the box for “Tailor ads…”; for LinkedIn, Privacy & Settings / Account / Manage Advertising Preferences.

In each of these cases, you won’t receive ads based on your browsing, but you’ll still be tracked, ostensibly for security reasons. (However, some sites, including Twitter, honor the Do Not Track setting found in your browser’s privacy settings, which means they will not log your presence at their site.)

Opt out of tracking

Every site on the internet is embedded with tracking cookies in the various pieces of content they contain – for example, ads, comment boxes, sponsored links. These cookies are placed by different ad networks comprised of myriad advertisers who get data on what sites you click on within particular ad networks. This data is then used to create a profile that’s shared among the members of an ad network so they can target advertising based on your perceived preferences and habits.

What to do: Head into your browser’s privacy settings and turn on Do Not Track. To minimize data collection on your web movements further, you can also opt-out of tracking at Network Advertising Initiative and Digital Advertising Alliance, by any advertisers who are part of these organizations. You can also opt-out directly at major ad networks including BlueKai, Acxiom and Chitika. You’ll still see ads – but they won’t be targeted.

Block all trackers

Opting out can stop you being tracked by many sites, but many more may not honor such requests. Anti-tracker browser plugins can prevent these cookies from “following” you around the internet.

What to do: Download an anti-tracker plugin such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Privacy Badger, Ghostery, or Disconnect, which blocks tracking cookies to prevent ad analytics companies from building a grand profile of just where you like to go on the internet.

Disable Java and unused plugins

Plug-ins are downloadable, tiny programs that enhance your browser’s capabilities, for example, playing certain video or animations. (These are not to be confused with browser Extensions, which are essentially web pages that load information within another web page.) Unfortunately, two of the most commonly required plugins, Adobe Flash and Java, are also to blame for exposing identifying details about your browser.

In particular, Java is well-known to “fingerprint” a browser by displaying to sites a glut of identifying details such as IP address, fonts downloaded and more.

What to do: Since plugins are also a common way for malware to find its way into a browser, it’s not a bad idea to disable them, particularly lesser-used ones. And, where once the vast majority of sites needed Java to run their various animations or interactive pieces, these days more and more sites are built using code that can be natively run by browsers.

Chrome: Enter “chrome://plugins/” into your search bar. To disable you want to disable them temporarily, just click “Disable.”

Firefox: Type “about: addons” into the search bar, then select Plugins. You can choose to activate the plugins always, never, or only after asking permission.

Safari: Head to Preferences > Security > Plug-in Settings to turn each on or off.

Microsoft Edge: Rejoice, for you have no plugins available to you.

If you receive messages on certain sites that you need to run these plug-ins, you may want to invest in a script-blocker extension such as NoScript (Firefox) or ScriptNo (Chrome). These stop all Flash and Java by default, with options to build a whitelist of trusted sites that need these plugins.

Use a proxy network

All of the above options are great for dodging tracking cookies that can give marketers what they need to create incredibly detailed profiles of who you are. But you can still be tracked and identified via the IP address of your browser. IP addresses can identify your approximate location, as well as how often you visit particular sites.

To regain a little more anonymity, a virtual private network (VPN) masks your IP address and reassigns you a new one, so that you appear to be surfing from a separate location. Each time you log into the VPN, you get a new IP address, preventing people (such as your employer, say) from monitoring what websites you visit.

In countries where certain sites are banned, such as China, many people make use of VPNs to surf via IP addresses that appear to be from another country, in order to access social media including Facebook. Here in the U.S., it’s worth noting that a recently passed amendment, Rule 41, gives the FBI powers to hack any computer using a VPN.

What to do: Check out a free VPN such as CyberGhost which works on Mac and PC; monthly plans from $5.83 (promotional offer of $2.50/month until 01-15=17, billed annually), if you want to use it on Android or iOS, or want a faster connection. Using a VPN is also a good way to protect your data on public WiFi networks.

Download a private, anonymous browser

Plugins, proxies and remembering to turn on private browsing can make for a cumbersome web experience. If you’re willing to give up the comfort of your favorite browser, you can download a whole new browser that offers all of the above features – including the ability to turn on a proxy network through a switch in the toolbar.

The Epic browser is based on the Chrome browser but with privacy settings dialed up so that third-party cookies are automatically blocked, search and browsing history is never logged, and trackers are always blocked. You’ll still see ads, but you won’t be tracked – and the homepage displays a fascinating counter showing how many trackers tried to log your movements today.

What to do: Get Epic Privacy Browser. Privacy doesn’t necessarily come at the expense of convenience – you can enable auto-fill to complete web forms with previously entered data (assuming it isn’t a problem that someone else with access to your computer sees this), and though passwords can’t be saved within your accounts’ sign-in forms, you can download a password extension that does the work for you.

Use digital currency

Purchasing things online is a great way to tie your identity to particular profiles and websites – after all, you’re using your credit card details. If you don’t want certain purchases associated with a profile – for example, maybe you want to make a private donation to a controversial site such as Wikileaks – you should consider using a digital currency such as Bitcoin, which, like cash, isn’t tied to any identifying details about you.

However, because bitcoin transactions are public, a determined sleuth could track specific amounts to eventually build a profile about who’s spending it – and tie it back to an individual. A growing crop of anonymity-focused digital currencies are rising, such as are rising, such as Zcash, which has received over $700,000 from investors.. However, it’s not as widely accepted as Bitcoin (which itself isn’t exactly the next Mastercard).

At the end of the day, staying anonymous online takes extreme effort – tech giants and service providers go to great pains to make It very convenient and easy for us to display our movements and profiles in exchange for a free service. While there are benefits to being tracked, perhaps the key issue today is for people to realize that not only are free services at the expense of our privacy, but that our information is valuable – and we should question every company that requests it, invisibly or not.

Stokes, Natasha. “How to Browse the Web Anonymously” Techlicious January 23, 2017

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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How to Protect Your Privacy on Public WiFi Networks

So you’re at your favorite coffee shop and have hopped on to the free WiFi with your tablet to check your social networks and maybe take a quick peek at your bank balance while you’re enjoying your latte. We’re so used to having Internet access whenever and wherever we need it that we don’t often stop to consider whether logging into a public network is safe.

Here are three major ways these free, open hotspots could get you into trouble.

The risks of free WiFi

Using public WiFi isn’t unlike having a conversation in a public place: Others can overhear you. If you don’t take precautions, information your devices send over a public WiFi network goes out in clear text — and anyone else on the network could easily take a look at what you’re doing with just a few simple software tools.

Someone spying could easily pick up your passwords or other private information. If you use the same password on multiple sites, that could be a big problem. Mallon reports that this is the biggest concern with public hotspots.

The next potential problem is what is called a honeypot. Thieves might set up their own WiFi hotspot with an unassuming name like “Public WiFi” to tempt you to connect so they can grab up any data you send. These are easy to set up without any kind of special equipment — it could be done just using a laptop or smartphone — so you could run into them anywhere. News reports about honeypots pop up once or twice a year.

Finally, using public WiFi puts you at risk for session hijacking, in which a hacker who’s monitoring your WiFi traffic attempts to take over an open session you have with an online service (like a social media site or an email client) by stealing the browser cookies the service uses to recognize who you are. Once hackers have that cookie, they can pretend to be you on these sites or even find your login and password information stored inside the cookie.

How to stay safe on public WiFi

Before you connect, be sure you know whose network you’re connecting to so you don’t fall prey to WiFi honeypots. If you’re not sure what the public network at a business is called, ask an employee before connecting.

Check to make sure your computer or smartphone is not set up to automatically connect to unknown WiFi networks — or set it to ask you before connecting — so you’re sure you know what you’re connecting to when you connect.

Make sure to connect to websites via HTTPS, which encrypts anything you send and receive from the website. While a VPN service encrypts everything you send, HTTPS ensures that communication to and from a particular website is secure. To verify if you’re connected via HTTPS, look at the address bar of your browser window; you should see “HTTPS” at the beginning of the web address (or, on some web browsers, a lock icon). Looking for HTTPS isn’t enough, though. Hackers have been able to acquire legitimate SSL certificates for site with names that are slightly off those of major financial institutions, as so bear the HTTPS at the front of the URL. Site names include banskfamerica.com, paypwil.com and itunes-security.net.

To encrypt all of the data you send, use a VPN service. Anyone trying to steal your data will see only encrypted data that they can’t get into. There are many services that can do this, including NordVPN and Buffered VPN. VPN services charge a fee for their use, with pay packages ranging from day passes to year-round protection. Keep in mind that services like Netflix many not let you connect if you’re using a VPN service.

Whenever you can, use two-factor authentication, which requires both a password and a secondary code that changes regularly, for websites. This makes it very difficult for hackers to get at your accounts because even if they can get your password, they won’t have the secondary code. Though not all services support it, many popular sites offer this level of security including Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Apple and Microsoft.

Make sure your computer isn’t configured to share access to files or be seen on public or guest networks. When you’re at home, it may be convenient to keep things in a folder you share with other members of the household, but that’s less safe when you’re connecting to public WiFi.

Disable sharing in:

  • Windows 10: Click on the Windows icon > Settings > Network and Internet > Wi-Fi> Scroll down to Advanced sharing settings Turn off file and printer sharing and network discovery> Save changes.
  • Windows 8: Go to Control Panel > Network and Internet > View network status and Tasks > Change advanced sharing settings > Turn off file and printer sharing and network discovery> Save changes.
  • Windows 7: Go to Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center > Change advanced sharing settings > Home or Work > Turn off file and printer sharing > Save changes.
  • Mac OS X: Go to System Preferences > Sharing and be sure that File Sharing doesn’t have a check mark by it.

Good luck, and safe browsing!

Harper, Elizabeth. “How to Protect Your Privacy on Public WiFi Networks” Techlicious, October 2016

Posted in: Security, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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