Collaborate on a Holiday Photo Album with Ease

photos-onlineHoliday gatherings mean lots of snapshots; and when the party’s over, the good feelings continue though shared photos. Here’s how to create a collaborative album made up of everyone’s favorites.

There are dozens on online sites that let you post images for others to view. But they often lack good collaboration options — or your friends and family simply don’t want to sign up for them. On the other hand, almost everyone you know probably has a Facebook or Google account. And cloud-storage services such as Dropbox and OneDrive are also in widespread use.

In this article, I’ll tell you how to create a quick and simple photo album in Dropbox, Facebook, Google Photos, and OneDrive. Then I’ll explain how to allow selected collaborators to add their own photos to the mix.

But before you start uploading, use a bit of discretion. Don’t kill those good feelings by posting all 258 pictures you snapped after the fourth cup of eggnog. Pick just the best ones — and encourage your collaborators to do the same!

Note: The following instructions assume that you’re creating and sharing your album on a Windows PC, via a desktop browser.

Facebook: The universal social network

Facebook is the obvious choice for this sort of project. Sometimes, it seems as if most of the human race shares photos — as well as political views and too much personal information — on the king of social networks.

But Facebook’s very openness and ubiquity brings considerable privacy issues. So before you and your friends start building shared photo albums, check out  “How to keep your Facebook privacy private.” Among other things, it’ll tell you how to limit who sees your albums.

If you and your collaborators decide to use Facebook, be sure to create the album on your Home page, which is not the same as your News Feed page that comes up when you launch Facebook. To get there, click your name on the blue bar at the top of the page to return to Home.

Start your new album by clicking Photos and Create Album. This brings up a standard Windows/File Explorer “Open” dialog box. Go to the appropriate folder and select the photos you want to share. (For better organization, you might want to put those photos in a separate folder beforehand.)

Click Open; Facebook will pop up its Create Album screen and upload your photos. While that’s taking place, enter information such as an album name in the panel on the left (see Figure 1). Next, check the Make Shared Album option under “Let Friends Add Photos.” Now enter the names of your collaborators.

Create Album

Figure 1. Facebook’s Create Album includes the Make Shared Album option for collaboration.

Click the Post button to make the album live.

Facebook will notify your collaborators of the new album the same way it notifies you that someone has commented on a post. They can simply click the notification to go directly to the album (assuming they’re already signed in to Facebook). Once on Facebook, collaborators click Add Photos and select their contributions to the new album. When they’re done, they click Post Photos.

Facebook includes several contributor privacy options. From the album, click Edit/Privacy; you can then select Contributors Only, Friends of Contributors, or Public (Figure 2). See the Facebook Help system for more information.

Contributor privacy

Figure 2. Facebook gives some privacy control over album contributors.

Dropbox: Sharing is easy; collaboration, less so

Dropbox is excellent for storing images, and it has strong collaboration tools. But it doesn’t have a formal system for creating collaborative albums.

To create a basic album in Dropbox, all you need do is create a new folder inside your main Dropbox folder, give it an appropriate name (e.g., “Holiday party”), and move or copy the desired photos into that folder. (Simply moving photos might cause other related apps to lose track of the images’ location.)

You don’t even have to upload the collection; Dropbox does that automatically as part of its standard synching process.

If you want to share the album but not allow collaboration, right-click the folder and select Copy Dropbox Link. Your clipboard now contains the URL to the online version of the folder. You can then paste the URL into an email or a Facebook post — your recipients don’t even have to have a Dropbox account.

Allowing others to contribute to an album gets more complicated. Your collaborators must have Dropbox accounts, and each account must have enough room for the final album. A free Dropbox account has only 2GB of storage, making it all the more important that everyone be selective in what they put into the album.

To create a collaborative folder/album, right-click the folder on your PC and select the Share option (the one with the Dropbox icon on the left; see Figure 3).

In the Share dialog box, type in your collaborators’ email addresses — or better yet, copy and paste them from your email client or address book so you won’t get stuck with a typo.

Make sure the Can edit option is selected and then click the Invite button.

Your collaborators will receive an email inviting them to Go to folder. That brings them to the online folder, where they’ll have to click the Add to Dropbox button (Figure 4). The folder and its contents will then download to their local Dropbox folder.

Add to Dropbox

Figure 4. Collaborators must have a Dropbox account to add photos to an album.

Once that’s done, all they need do is move or copy some of their photos into that folder to become part of your album.

That’s a good way to build a shared collection of images, but there’s another way to create a more formal Dropbox Album (see Figure 5) — but not collaboratively. Any images that are shown in your online Dropbox Photos section can be added to a Dropbox Album. On the Dropbox website, click Photos and then Album in the left column. Next, click New Album. Give it a name. Next, go back to Photos and select (big blue checkmark) any you want in the new album. When you’re done, go to the top of the page and click the three-dot menu icon. Click the Add [number] to album option and select the album name.

Dropbox Album

Figure 5. Dropbox’s online Albums feature doesn’t support collaboration.

The catch: Unless you’re using the Dropbox Camera Uploads feature, it can take some time for new images to show up in Photos — if they do at all. Also, others can view your Dropbox albums but not edit them.

Google Photos: Easy and quick albums

Google has its own Dropbox-like cloud-storage service (Google Drive), but it also has another service intended specifically for photos.

To use Google Photos, you and your collaborators must have Google accounts — Gmail or YouTube accounts will do.

When you first set up Photos, you’ll get two options for “Upload size:” High quality and Original (Figure 6). The former option gives you unlimited free storage, but your images will be compressed. They’re good enough for a typical PC, but I probably wouldn’t want to view them on 50-inch HDTV or print them. The Original option keeps the full size of the uploaded photos, but it counts against your storage allotment. That’s 15GB for a free account — minus what you’re using for Gmail and other Google services.

Upload size

Figure 6. Photo’s High quality option compresses uploaded photos, potentially reducing image quality.

To create an album, go to the Photos website, click Upload, and pick your images from the dialog box. Once they’re uploaded, select Shared Album from the next dialog box (see Figure 7).

Shared Album

Figure 7. Click the Shared Album option to allow collaboration.

Next, in the Add to shared dialog box, click New shared album and give the album a name; then, click the Share button in the upper-right corner.

In the next dialog box, enter names or email addresses, or select from the list provided by Google. Add a message. (You can also get a link post/email or connect to a social-networking service.)

Your collaborators will receive an email with a View album button. This will bring them to a message box where all they need do is click Continue. They can then click the tiny Add to album icon (along the row of icons in the upper-right corner), click Select From Computer in the upper-right corner, and select their photos.

OneDrive: Easy collaboration for Win8/10 users

If your collaborators are Windows users who like their software up-to-date, they probably all have subscriptions to Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud-storage solution — even if they don’t know it.

When you set up a PC for Windows 8 or 10, the installation process all but insists that you create a Microsoft account — and a Microsoft account always includes OneDrive. (There’s a OneDrive for Mac app, but most Apple users don’t have it on their systems.)

Microsoft gives you 5GB of storage for free. But if you have Office 365, you get a full terabyte. But please, don’t try to fill even one percent of that terabyte with a single photo album — you might lose some friends.

As with Dropbox, you can easily share a photo album with anyone. But you can only collaborate with other OneDrive users. Start your collaboration by creating a folder inside the local OneDrive folder. Name it as you like and move/copy your best holiday photos into the new folder.

To create a quick online slideshow of your photos, simply right-click the local OneDrive folder and select Share a OneDrive link. Then paste the given URL into an email.

Creating a OneDrive Album requires a bit more work. Right-click the local folder and select View online. Now, in your browser, right-click the folder and select “Create album from folder,” as shown in Figure 8. (The album name will be the same as the folder.) While still in your browser, click the Photos heading on the left side of the screen; then click the Albums tab at the top.

Create album

Figure 8. OneDrive makes it easy to create an album from a folder of photos.

To collaborate, right-click the album and select Share. In the resulting dialog box, click “Anyone with this link can view [or “edit”] this item” and make sure that Allow editing is checked (Figure 9).

Share options

Figure 9. OneDrive’s Share feature includes the Allow editing option for collaboration.

Click either Get a link or Email, depending on how you want to notify your collaborators. I prefer getting a link and pasting it into an email I create myself.

When your collaborators receive the email, they can click the link to go directly to the album’s webpage. Once there, they can click Upload/Files to put their photos into the album. If you want to lock the album, simply go back to the Share dialog box and uncheck Allow editing.

Using the common format: You might want to discuss these four services with your collaborators before you start. The one that all or most of them have will likely be the one they’re most willing to use.

Inevitably, you’ll have one would-be collaborator who has trouble using email. Find a way to acquire their photos and upload them to the album yourself.

Spector, Lincoln. “Collaborate on a Holiday Photo Album with Ease”. Windows Secrets. December 2016

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How to Keep Your Facebook Privacy Private

fbIf you’re like me, you share a lot about yourself with a great many Facebook “friends.” But are they really friends? Can you trust them? And can you trust Facebook?

The answer to those questions depends on how you set up your Facebook-privacy settings. And an important component of those settings is defining what kind of friend you want your various friends to be.

And, of course, even the best privacy settings are pointless if someone hacks into your Facebook account. So you also need to know how to lock down access to your account.

I’ll assume you’re accessing Facebook and changing settings in a standard browser.

Take a minute to better secure your account

When jumping into Facebook privacy/security settings, you might be tempted to click the little lock icon on the right side of Facebook’s title bar and select the Privacy Checkup option. That can help, but I think the following instructions will be more helpful.

Start by clicking the triangle just to the right of the lock icon and selecting Settings (see Figure 1). You’ll find the Password option on the default General section (see the page’s left nav column). If you don’t already have a long and strong password, or it’s been years since you changed it, click Password and enter a new one that will be difficult to crack.

Facebook settings

Figure 1. Click settings to update to a strong password.

Now click the Security heading in the nav column for the following options:

Login Approvals: Also called two-step verification, this setting makes it much more difficult to be hacked. To get into your account, the crook will need your password, your cellphone PIN, and physical possession of your phone.

Login Approvals option

Figure 2. The Login Approvals option adds a form of two-factory password verification.

Check the box next to “Require a security code to access my account from unknown browsers” and then follow the setup wizard.

Once that’s done, every time you — or someone pretending to be you — sign in to your account on a new device or browser, Facebook will text you a code number; you’ll then need that code to complete the sign in process.

Login Alerts: When this option is enabled, you’ll get an email notification whenever your account is first accessed by a browser or app. If you get this email, and you haven’t signed in to Facebook with a new browser or app, you’ll know immediately that you’ve probably been hacked.

Your Browsers and Apps: This shows you a list of browsers and devices you (or someone pretending to be you) have used to access Facebook. It can be a shockingly long list. Best to trim those you’re no longer using. (You might need to enable Login Approvals to populate the list.)

Take a little time to review the other Security Settings options; you might, for example, want to enable a Legacy Contact.

Control who gets to see what information

With your Facebook account reasonably protected from hacking, you’ll now want to keep from sharing too much information — with the wrong people.

Before posting anything on Facebook, take a look at the pull-down menu just to the left of the Post button. It’ll probably say Public, Friends, and either More Options or Custom, as shown in Figure 3. (The official name is the “Who should see this” menu.)

Who should see this?

Figure 3. Before you post, consider who should see what you’ve posted.

Consider who you want to read this item. If you select Public, your friends can share it with anyone — both on and off Facebook.

If you select Friends, your friends can only share it with other friends of yours. But there’s an exception: When you post a link to something readily available on the Internet — an article, for instance — your friends can share those with anyone. That makes sense; you don’t own that information.

So if you want your words of wisdom to go viral, select Public. If you want to keep it just among friends, select Friends.

Under the Custom setting, you can select other Facebook groups and categories you belong to — for example, Family or Close Friends.

Not every ‘friend’ is a close, personal friend

“Champagne for my true friends. True pain for my sham friends” — David Benioff, 25th Hour.

Contrary to what some believe, Facebook isn’t a popularity contest. There’s really no reward for the most “friends.” Just because the bully who beat you up in Junior High, or some total stranger, sends you a Friend Request doesn’t mean you have to accept it.

If you want to share a piece of yourself with everyone on Facebook, create a public page.  To create a public page, click that little rectangle in the upper-right corner of the Facebook page and select Create Page. Follow the instructions.

What about the people you’ve already friended — and now wish you hadn’t? Simply unfriend them. If you see them on your timeline, hover the cursor over their name and, when the pop-up window appears, go to the Friends menu and select Unfriend (Figure 4). If they’re not visible on the timeline, search for them on Facebook, go to their page, and pull down the Friends menu and select Unfriend there.


Figure 4. Facebook makes it easy to remove unwanted friends.

If someone you’ve unfriended starts harassing you on Facebook, click the little lock icon and select “How do I stop someone from bothering me” (Figure 5). Follow the prompts.

Stop Facebook stalkers

Figure 5. The privacy settings include help for stopping harassment.

Setting up tiers of Facebook friends

Unless you believe in the “My life is an open book” philosophy, you’ll want to define your types of friends. Facebook offers categories, and you should really use them.

For instance, you can demote a Friend to an Acquaintance. Use the same steps given above for unfriending someone, but select Acquaintance rather than Unfriend (see Figure 6). That way, you’ll see fewer of their posts popping up on your timeline — although by default you’ll still see some. The Following button in the popup box lets you “unfollow” them.

Set a friend as acquaintence

Figure 6. Demoting a friend to an acquaintance

You can hide certain posts from categories of friends. For example, open the aforementioned “Who should see this?” menu (again, next to the Post button) and look for “Friends except Acquaintances,” as shown in Figure 7. (It might be under More Options.)

Friends except Acquaintances option

Figure 7. The Friends except Acquaintances option lets you control who sees a particular post.

It’s important to remember that when you turn a friend into an acquaintance, they’re still a Facebook Friend. They’ll get everything you post to Friends; they just won’t get the posts you limited with “Friends except Acquaintances.” And your full friends won’t be able to share those posts with your acquaintances, either.

Facebook can help you choose which friends should be acquaintances. Go to the Home page and scroll down the left column, looking for the “Friends” group. You’ll see a list of Friends categories, many of which you probably had no idea you had. Click on Acquaintances.

You’ll get a news feed of posts only from your Acquaintances. On the right, you’ll find a list of Friends that Facebook thinks you might want to demote (Figure 8). If you agree on any of them, click the Add button next to the name. You can hover over a name for more details. You should also click “See All Suggestions” at the bottom of the list.

Recommended demote list

Figure 8. Facebook can display a list of friends you might want to demote to an acquaintance.

Conversely, you can also promote Friends to Close Friends. Not surprisingly, there’s no “Friends except Close Friends” on “Who should see this.” But there is an option to post only to Close Friends.

You can promote a friend to a good friend the same way you demote friends to an acquaintance. It’s only a matter of picking the appropriate menu option.

Clicking on the Friends category opens a page where you can create addition lists of friends (Figure 9).

Create new friends lists

Figure 9. Facebook lets you create custom friends list for controlling what you share.

By mastering all of these lists, you can control who sees what.

And then there’s Facebook itself

With Facebook, you have to remember whom you’re dealing with. It’s a highly successful, for-profit company that doesn’t charge you a fee.

That doesn’t mean it’s really free. It can collect an astounding amount of your personal information, and it earns its billions of dollars mostly through a special form of advertising. Over time, the service creates a detailed profile of you from what you post and what you read. That data is used for targeting tailored advertising to you.

In short, whenever you use Facebook, you’re giving away a piece of your privacy. Keep that in mind whenever you use it.

Spector, Lincoln. “How to Keep Your Facebook Privacy Private” Windows Secrets. March 2016

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How to Take a Screenshot on Mac: 5 Simple Ways

macMac is known, talked and preferred for several of its good features and functionalities. Yet you might miss ‘Print Screen’ button on its keyboard (which is a bypass for screenshots). Nevertheless, Apple has enabled some other keys on its keyboard to carry out the task.

There are a variety of methods (and keyboard shortcuts) to take different kinds of screenshots on Mac. Using various keys, you can capture an entire screen or even a part of it. Here is the know-how to take screenshots on your Mac.

Method 1

mac screenshot

If you want to take screenshot of the entire screen, follow these steps

  • Press Command+Shift+3 keys.
  • Screenshot will be automatically saved on your desktop.
  • Now find the .png file on your desktop.

Method 2


Unlike capturing entire screen, you can capture a part of it. Follow these steps to take screenshot of part of your screen.

  • Press Command+Shift+4 keys.
  • This command will bring up the cross hair.
  • Now select the area of which you want to take screenshot.
  • Release the mouse or trackpad button.
  • If you want to cancel it, press Escape (esc) key before releasing mouse.
  • Find the screenshot on your desktop in .png file format

Method 3

If there is a particular Window that you want to capture, Apple has a hack for that as well.

  • Press Command+Shift+4 keys.
  • This command will bring up the cross hair.
  • Now press space bar. This will change cross hair into camera pointer.
  • Move the camera pointer to the Window you want to capture.
  • After this, click your mouse or trackpad take screenshot.
  • If you want to cancel the command, press Escape (esc) key before releasing mouse.
  • Find the screenshot on your desktop in .png file format.

Method 4

screenshot mac

If there is one particular menu on your Mac that you want to capture, follow these steps.

  • Open any menu on your Mac. For example- Finder menu.
  • Press Command+Shift+4 keys.
  • This command will bring up the cross hair.
  • Now drag and select the menu.
  • Release your mouse or trackpad to take screenshot.
  • If you want to cancel the command, press Escape (esc) key before releasing mouse.
  • Find the screenshot on your desktop in .png file format.

Method 5

take a screenshot on mac

Alright, you might not want to remember all these shortcut keys. Here is another app on your Mac that helps you take screenshots without any hassle. Here you go.

  • Open Applications folder.
  • Now open utilities folder.
  • Find Grab app and launch it.
  • Grab won’t have a dedicated window, rather it’ll work almost entirely from the menubar.
  • Click on ‘Capture’ tab
  • Now select an option out of the given ones, to take the screenshot.

Grab helps you take screenshot of screen, individual window and even a part of the screen. You should select any of the options accordingly.

These are 5 ways to take screenshot on your Mac. Try these out and let us know of any other hack that you would like us to present to you.

Khatri, Minal. “How to Take a Screenshot on Mac: 5 Simple Ways.” Systweak, 05 Dec. 2016.

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Watch Out For These 3 Holiday Online Shopping Scams

scamThe holiday deals are already rolling out with early Black Friday specials on Amazon, holiday circulars leaking online and big name retailers offering incentives to buy directly from their sites to get a jump on your gift list. But along with the amazing Internet deals come the scammers with new and inventive ways to trick you into handing over your credit card number and personal information.

Here are three of the biggest scams to watch out for this holiday shopping season.

1. Incredible discounts from unknown sites

Not every site offering a great deal is up to no good, but the more amazing the offer, the more wary you should be. Entering your credit card info won’t get you that great gift on a bogus site, but it will get the scammers your credit card info and address which will allow them to start racking up charges.

These sites can also lure you in by offering not products, but coupons for popular gifts. If you find yourself having to enter a lot of personal information to get the coupon, reconsider if it’s worth it.

What to look for: Watch out for sites with strangely spelled names (i.e. Be wary of ridiculously discounted deals on high price items like iPads or hard to get items like the hot toy of the season. And when using a lesser known site, use a unique password if you have to sign up for an account to purchase.

2. Malicious links in text, email or Facebook feeds

Your digital life will be targeted in a number of ways to get you to click on a link that will download spyware or a malicious program designed to capture passwords and other personal information. These will come in the form of offers for great deals in your inbox, on your mobile phone via text messages and on Facebook from shady accounts. Also beware the emails telling you a package you didn’t order is being delivered.

What to look for: Carefully check the source of the link. Even if it’s from someone you know, if you didn’t know it was coming, contact them first to make sure they sent it. If it’s from an unknown source and offers an amazing deal, you can bet that it’s a scam.

3. Bogus gift card offers

This popular stocking stuffer is a vehicle for a common Internet scam. It involves an email or text saying you’ve qualified for a deep discount on a gift card ($10 for a $25 card!) But the site it takes you to asks for extensive personal information. Enough for scammers to get into your bank account, for example.

What to look for: This one is straightforward, don’t click on any links for amazing deals. Also, be wary if you come across any sites that offer gift cards at unheard of prices.

What to do if you think you’ve been scammed

If you think you’ve clicked on a link that downloaded something malicious to your device, immediately run a virus scanning program. This is especially true if you are on your mobile phone or tablet. Those devices aren’t immune to scamware, even iPhones and iPads.

If you given your credit card information to a site you think may be shady, call your credit card company immediately and alert them. They will put a watch on your card for suspicious activity.

In general, stick to the well-known sites, don’t click on an links from unfamiliar sources and don’t be duped into giving up extensive personal information to get a good deal.

Techlicious. “Watch Out For These 3 Holiday Online Shopping Scams.”  Techlicious, LLC, 23 Nov. 2016.

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Prepare Your Digital Devices for Holiday Travel

holiday-travelDecember is the season for getting out on the road — or in the air, or on the tracks, or maybe even on the water. And during our travels, many of us will carry along an assortment of digital devices.

Here are some tips for entertainment and security when you’re away from your usual home/office Wi-Fi networks.

Watch your Netflix favorites offline

On the last day of November, Netflix announced that it was finally offering offline video viewing, free to subscribers. It was excellent news for anyone wanting video entertainment while away from high-speed broadband.

But the new service was not ubiquitous: some Netflix content — probably newer and more popular shows — will still not allow offline viewing. Also important to know, Netflix’s offline viewing is currently limited to iOS 8.0 and higher and Android 4.4.2 and higher. (You also need to upgrade to the latest Netflix app.) In other words, you can’t call up Netflix in your laptop browser and download a video for viewing offline.

Why mobile devices only? Most likely, it’s because mobile operating systems such as iOS don’t have a true user-friendly file-management systems. That makes it easier for Netflix and other media apps to control access to the downloaded video files.

On my iPad, it took about three minutes to download a 46-minute episode of Doc Martin. The download took about 170MB of space, both on an iPad and iPhone. It did not seem to matter whether my default playback setting on the Netflix site was set to Medium or High resolution. The app’s own Video Quality option was set to Standard by default; changing to High increased the file size of my Doc Martin episode to more than double — 384MB. (You might want to switch the higher resolution if you’re casting the video to a full-sized TV.)

So with the right settings, you can pack hours of entertainment on a typical mobile device, assuming you haven’t soaked up a lot of storage space with music, photos, and videos from sources other than Netflix.

The mobile Netflix app offers other important settings for controlling downloads. By default, the featue is limited to Wi-Fi connections; turning that setting off allows downloading videos over a cellular connection. But just to make things a bit more confusing, there’s also a Cellular Date Usage setting for streaming videos. Six options let you control the amount of data used for streaming. You can, for example, limit streaming to Wi-Fi connections only or use the Unlimited option if you’re one of the lucky few who still have an unlimited cellular-data plan. The default setting is Automatic.

Netflix’s offline viewing tool is nicely designed. If the feature is available for a particular video, you’ll see a down-arrow (see Figure 1) next to the title and description. Another window lists your downloaded media (along with length and file size) and makes it easy to delete shows you’re done with.


Figure 1. Download shows for offline viewing by tapping the down-arrow icon.

(Amazon Prime also allows some content downloading. Check your subscriptions for details. Expect other streaming services to enhance or add downloading options.)

The timing of the Netflix announcement was somewhat ironic. While researching traveling with digital devices, I ran across the PlayOn app (site), which also lets you download and play streaming video offline. You might think that Netflix’s announcement would put the company out of business, but the PlayOn service works on both PCs (PlayOn Desktop) and iOS devices (PlayOn Cloud), and it has other significant differences.

Here’s the catch: Like any old-style personal video recorder, the desktop recording requires playing the video at standard speed. You can’t just do a quick download of a video file. PlayOn Cloud records a chosen show on a cloud-based virtual machine, and the full recording is then downloaded as an .mp4 file to the iOS device.

Note that the service lives in a gray area of legality. Services such as Netflix do not allow recording of streaming content. But in the 1980s battle over recording broadcast TV shows on VCRs, the U.S. Supreme Courts ruled that personal, non-commercial video recording was legal. PlayOn claims that its service falls under that ruling. And apparently it hasn’t been sued in the year it’s been in business.

PlayOn, of course, isn’t free: The desktop edition costs U.S. $2.50 per month, and the iOS version is priced at $.99 per recording.

Listening to audio content when on the road

Years ago, I did numerous drives alone between San Francisco and Seattle. Interstate 5 can get really boring over hours and hours of driving. My solution was an subscription, which I’d had since the early 2000s. With little free time for actually reading a book, I now listen books while taking my daily dog walks.

Unfortunately, Audible is relatively expensive; my subscription costs $14.95 per month for one book. So when I saw a promo for Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (more info), I decided to try it out. For $10 a month, the service lets you check out Kindle-based books from the Unlimited library of over a million publications (magazine, books, etc.). You can have up to 10 titles checked out at any one time.

Having subscriptions to both Audible and Kindle Unlimited might seem redundant, for numerous reasons. Both are owned by Amazon, and both offer a smaller selection of books in audio and text formats. For example, I can sit and read a few chapters on my tablet, then switch to listening on my phone while out with the dogs or on the road. (I maintain that listening to a book in the car is probably less distracting than trying to hold a conversation with a passenger.)

But there are some important differences between the two services. With Audible, you have actually bought a book — you own it and can re-read it as often as you like. If you cancel your subscription, you can still listen to books you’ve downloaded. You can also download a book to as many as four computers and download the Audible app to as many as ten mobile devices. (It’s not clear whether you can have the same book on ten tablets and smartphones.)

With Kindle Unlimited, you are renting the books. It’s like paying to use a classic library. If you cancel your subscription, you can access checked-out books only until your monthly subscription is up for renewal.

In one of those creepy/convenient features found in our connected world, Kindle keeps track of your reading. If I put down my tablet, I can pick my phone and continue from the same page.

I can’t say that one service is better than the other. Audible is listening focused and has a much better selection of books. Kindle Unlimited is less expensive if you do a lot of actual reading, but the selection is relatively limited, depending on topic. Fortunately for me, I like reading primarily history and science fiction, and Kindle Unlimited has an extensive offering of sci-fi titles. (I use Audible for history books.)

Setting up a personal and portable Wi-Fi network

I spend many weekends on my small, rural farm. It’s so rural that there are few options for Internet connections. Until recently, I used tethering on my phone to set up local Wi-Fi and connect tablets and other devices to the Net. But the process has always been a bit of a pain.w20161206-fn-velocity

So recently, I purchased a cellular-based, mobile-hotspot box from AT&T. The Velocity device shares my smartphone’s data plan (currently 6GB per month), at the cost of an additional $20 per month (two-year contract) to my cell-service bill. The local Wi-Fi network it creates supports up to 10 devices — in my case, two tablets and an Apple TV.

The box provides a better Wi-Fi signal than my tethered phone, and it can be left up and running as I come and go. It’s fully password protected, and a handy status screen gives a quick indication of your data-plan status. With multiple devices attached, you need to watch data consumption carefully. The device also has separate on/off switches for Wi-Fi and cellular connections to help prevent unintended data use.

Verizon, too, offers a mobile hot-spot device. According to its info page, the Jetpack supports up to 15 devices and costs $50. But you can also use it to give an emergency charge to your cellphone.

Digital security when away from home or office

There have been many stories on the dangers of connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots. And those threats are real. Before heading out on your holiday travels, check that your digital devices are fully secured.

  • Whenever possible, check that your browser is connecting to a Web server with secure HTTPS. Note that on some sites, this can be confusing: you might get a security warning because some links on a webpage — for ads, images, etc. — are not using HTTPS.
  • Set up a Virtual Private Network service. VPNs add an additional layer of encryption and privacy. There are a few free services but paid services such as CyberGhost typically provide better performance.
  • Prepare your devices for travelOne key tip: Make sure all your devices are fully backed up before you leave.
  • Ensure that your portable PC is fully locked down.
  • Use your smartphone for online banking? It might well be that banking over a cellphone is more secure than using your PC. Banks have beefed up the security of their mobile apps, layering on encryption on top of the encrypted cell signal. The better banking apps also require two-factor sign in.

    Check your bank’s site for its mobile-security features and policies. US Bank, for example, offers an “Online Risk-Free Guarantee” (more info) for its mobile app. And as I discovered over Thanksgiving, some mobile apps make it easy to transfer money to traveling family members on a tight budget.

Our digital devices are essential for holiday travel. But while you’re visiting friends and family, take some time to put the devices away and have a real conversation!

Capen, Tracey. “Prepare Your Digital Devices for Holiday Travel.” Windows Secrets Dec. 2016.


If you have any questions or need assistance, one of our experienced professionals would be available to discuss your options or assist you in setting up a portable wi-fi network.

Give us a call at (732) 780-8615 or send us an email at to schedule a consultation.

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This Tool Tells You if Your Gmail Account was Infected with Malware

gmailCybersecurity Check Point discovered a new piece of Android malware called Gooligan that’s able to steal email addresses. More than 1 million Google accounts connected to older Android versions are at risk, but there’s a tool you can use to see if you’re one of them.

Users who downloaded Android apps containing the Googligan malware or who clicked on links in phishing messages are at risk. The software is able to access information in Gmail, Drive, and Photos, and the hackers can use the Google accounts to buy apps on the Google Play store and leave reviews for apps.

Check Point says that devices running Android 4.0 and Android 5.0 are at risk — that’s nearly 75% of Android users. The company developed an online tool that can help you check if your phone is infected with Gooligan. All you have to do is go to:, enter your Gmail address, and then find out if you’ve been hacked.

Some might dismiss it as a non-issue, but malware still affects plenty of Android devices. In July, the same security firm discovered a different malware that affected some 85 million Android phones. That malware strain was generating $300,000 per month in ad revenue, Business Insider notes.

The best way to defend yourself against malware is to avoid downloading apps from untrusted locations and stick to getting apps from the Google Play store if it’s available in your market. Clicking dubious links from emails and instant text messages is also not advised, as they may be phishing attacks targeting unsuspecting Android users.

Smith, Chris. “This Tool Tells You If Your Gmail Account Was Infected with Malware.” N.p., 30 Nov. 2016.

We know how overwhelming it could be if you think your email account has been hacked! However, there are several steps that can be taken to mitigate damage if the breach is addressed promptly. If you discover that your account has been compromised we recommend that you seek remediation immediately.

Our staff is well-versed in best practices that can help to restore and secure your data. Give us a call at (732) 780-8615 or send us an email at for more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our trained professionals.

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Best Tricks & Shortcuts for Microsoft Word


Microsoft Word has become synonymous with document creation in businesses, schools and pretty much anywhere that wants to create electronic text documents. Despite more than one billion users worldwide, several of its most useful productivity features are still unknown to the average consumer. Here are some ways to utilize functions like Findand Replace and Track Changes to expedite and simplify your writing tasks.

Writing outside the box

Not all of your documents are simple line-by-line writing, and even the ones that are might require a bit of unique formatting. We’ve all wrestled with textboxes, customized margins and indents, but did you know that you can write anywhere on a Word document simply by double clicking wherever you’d like to insert your text? No more counting how many times you pressed the spacebar, no more spending 10 minutes formatting your textbox, just double click and start typing.

Customize your AutoCorrect

No matter how often or how much we write every day, there are still words, phrases and special characters that we can’t seem to master. Increase your typing speed by personalizing AutoCorrect to fix your commonly misspelled words without prompting you. Most of these are preprogrammed into Word (pretty much any ‘i’ before ‘e’ mixup), but customizing your own settings can solve issues like accented letters that are missing from your keyboard, or replacing short abbreviations with verbose technical terms. Just go to the File menu, click on Options, select the Proofing tab and click on the AutoCorrect options to explore all of your options.

Apply document formatting to pasted text

No matter how original your content is, there will always be reasons to copy from an outside source and paste to your own. You may need a quote, a piece of data or just an outside voice to your writing. When using the copy and paste function, you may need to remove formatting carried over from the original source. Although the icons and interface of this feature have changed throughout different versions of Word, Microsoft has been careful to always leave it as an option for users. Simply adding the Windows key to your copy shortcut (Ctrl+Windows Key+V) will integrate the copied material into your content. Default paste options can be further customized in the Options menu.

Collaborate with Review tab features

After the content has been written, you may want to invite others to edit your document with Microsoft’s Track Changes function. Once selected, anything altered in the content will be timestamped, highlighted and underlined in a color that changes in accordance with each editor. This allows you to see the original text along with suggested edits from colleagues. If an edit seems too drastic or risky, users have the option to leave comments or suggestions attached to the document, like a virtual sticky note. After the collaborative process is over, changes can be accepted or rejected individually, or en masse. All of these features can be found under the Review tab along the top of the screen.

Find and Replace

Most users know about using the Ctrl+F shortcut to find text in their documents, but not as many are aware of the Replace function. There are several hypothetical situations when you may need to replace several uses of an incorrect word or phrase. In a technical document you may realize late in the writing phase that you’ve misused a term, or in a marketing piece you may decide to change the name of a product or service; regardless, there is a simple one-step solution. After opening the Find window, simply click on the Replace tab and type the original word or phrase into the top field and the corrected word or phrase into the bottom field. From there you can choose to automatically replace all instances, or review them one by one. In addition to using this trick to fix errors, you can also use it as a shortcut to typing difficult and complex phrases by initially writing a shortened version and replacing it with the full phrase after you’ve finished writing.

Undo and Redo

Almost everyone knows the shortcut for undoing nearly any action in Microsoft Office – Ctrl+Z. Far fewer people know, and actively employ, the redo shortcut. This is a quick solution for viewing and comparing different formatting and layout options, and with a tracking history of 100 actions you’re pretty safe from changing so much that you can’t return to where you started.

Microsoft Word is one of the most universal document editing programs in the world. Don’t let creative, design and formatting speed bumps slow the development of your content when there are existing solutions tucked just a few menus away. An up-to-date understanding of Word and its functions can drastically alleviate the headaches of editing and formatting your files.

If you’d like to know more about Word and other Microsoft Office products, shoot us an email.


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Windows 10 Tips, Tricks, secrets, & Shortcuts: File Explorer


Even certified Windows masters can learn a trick or two from Ed Bott’s series of how-to articles. This edition covers tips, tricks, secrets, and shortcuts for using File Explorer.

For the past few months, I’ve been working with my two longtime partners, Carl Siechert and Craig Stinson, on a new book, Windows 10 Inside Out. It’s off to the printer this week and should be available in about a month.

Putting a book of this size together is always a learning experience, and that’s especially true with Windows 10, which mixes classic elements that have been part of Windows for many editions with all-new stuff.

Over the next few weeks, I want to share some of that learning here, in a series of how-to posts. Today’s edition covers tips, tricks, secrets, and shortcuts for using File Explorer. Even if you’re a certified Windows master, I bet I can show you a trick or two you didn’t know before.

1. Open a File Explorer windows fast

Get to know the classic shortcut combination for File Explorer, Windows key+E. For opening a single window, it’s only a few microseconds faster than clicking the taskbar icon, but it’s a huge time-saver when you’re trying to open a second window.

Knowing that shortcut is especially handy when you plan to move or copy files between two folders. To open a second window using the mouse, you have to Shift+click. Instead, press Windows key+E twice to open two windows, which you can then snap left and right for easy dragging and dropping.

2. Customize the Quick Access list

The signature feature of Windows 10’s revamped File Explorer is the new Quick Access list. You can pin your favorite folders to the top of the list for quick, one-click access. Folders you’ve used recently show up below the pinned items, which is handy when you’re working with a group of files as part of a short-term project.

Anything in the Quick Access list is a drop target, which means you can move files to that location by dragging them from the main window (or even from another File Explorer window) and dropping them on the pinned folder.


To pin the current folder, click the big Pin to Quick Access button on the ribbon’s Home tab.

3. Change File Explorer’s opening folder

In Windows 10, File Explorer opens with Quick Access selected. Old-school Windows users might prefer to start in This PC (previously known as My Computer), which includes the six standard data folders in your user profile as well as any local drives and removable media such as USB drives.

No problem. On the ribbon, open the View tab, click Options, Change folder and search options, and then choose one of these two options.


Choose one of two folder options

4. Use the expanded Send To menu

Yes, you can right-click a file or folder (or multiple items, for that matter) and use the Send To menu to do a few interesting things, like move or copy the selection to your Documents folder, create a compressed file (in .zip format), or send the selection as an email attachment. But the selection is pretty weak and, frankly, weird. Fax recipient? Really?


The selection is pretty weak and, frankly, weird. Fax recipient? Really?

But the Send To menu gets much more interesting if you hold down the Shift key before you right-click. The menu you get after doing that is just filled with interesting stuff, including every folder in your user profile. Here, see for yourself.


Hold down the Shift key before you right-click.

5. Customize the Send To menu

Speaking of the Send To menu, you can make it much more useful by adding and removing the options on the default (short) menu. They’re just shortcuts, but good luck finding them, because they’re buried in a folder hidden deep within your user profile.

To get to that folder, open the Run box (Windows key+R), type shell:sendto, and then press Enter.

First order of business: delete the Fax Recipient shortcut. After that, you can add shortcuts to favorite folders (local and network). You can also add shortcuts to programs. Adding a shortcut to Notepad or another text editor makes it much easier to quickly edit any file, for example. Ditto for pictures and your favorite image editor.

6. Customize the Quick Access toolbar

If you’ve jumped straight from Windows 7 to Windows 10, the addition of an Office-style ribbon is probably the biggest change in File Explorer.

Its companion, the Quick Access Toolbar, is equally noteworthy and arguably more useful. It appears in the title bar, above the ribbon. Customize that toolbar with the commands you use most often and you can bypass the ribbon completely for many tasks.

Some obvious customization options are available on the menu that appears when you click the arrow to the right of the toolbar. Not so obvious and much more useful is the option to add any individual command from any tab on the ribbon. Just right-click the command and then click Add to Quick Access Toolbar.


Right-click the name under the group to see this option.

But even most Windows experts don’t know you can right-click an entire group of commands and add the group as a menu on the Quick Access Toolbar. Right-click the name under the group to see the option. I use this trick to add the Panes group from the View tab, so I can easily show or hide the Preview pane or Details pane on the right.

7. Master advanced search

See that search box in the upper right corner of the File Explorer window? Type a word or two in there and you can find any file in the current folder that contains your search term, either in the file name or (for file types that are fully indexed) in the body of the file.

But there’s an entire advanced search syntax, complete with Boolean operators, parameters, and operators. My favorite is the datemodified: operator, which accepts actual dates but also understands relative dates, like today, this week, last week, this month, and last month.

If you want to see all the Excel spreadsheets you’ve worked on so far this month, for example, just enter this in the search box:

type:excel datemodified:this month

The search syntax assumes you want to find files that match both criteria, treating the query as if you had added the AND operator between the two terms.


The search syntax assumes you want to find files that match both criteria.

8. Pin saved searches to Start

So maybe you didn’t like that last tip, because the idea of typing commands in a box seems too retro. Fair enough.

But what if you could save those searches, so you could just click a shortcut to show only files that you worked with in the past week or two? You can, and the search results will always be relative to the current date.

Start in the folder or library you want to use as the search scope – that could be your synced OneDrive or Dropbox files, your local Documents folder, or a network store, for example.

Enter datemodified:(this week OR last week) in the search box. Be sure to include the parentheses and capitalize the Boolean OR.

Because you’ve just run a search, File Explorer politely switches the ribbon to the Search tab, where you can click Save Search and give those parameters a name. The search gets saved, logically enough, in the Searches folder in your user profile. Right-click that saved search to pin it to the Start menu, or drag it onto the File Explorer icon on the taskbar to add it to the jump list.


Right-click that saved search to pin it to the Start menu.

9. Use filters to find files faster

Typing in the search box is one way to narrow a large group of files to a more manageable one, but it’s not the only way. Filters are an even easier way to point and click your way to search success.

Start in the folder or library you want to search, and then use the button in the lower right corner of a File Explorer window to switch to Details view, which arranges your files into columns. Now look to the right of each heading, where you’ll find a small arrow. Click that arrow to show a filter list for the data in that column. By clicking a check box or two (or three), you can cut a very large list of files down to size.

The date navigator is much more powerful than it looks at first glance. Use the calendar to zoom in or out and narrow or expand your view of the contents of a folder or a search. Initially, the calendar shows the current month, with today’s date highlighted. Click the month heading to zoom out to a display showing the current year as a heading with the current month highlighted. You can then drag or hold down Ctrl and click to select multiple months.


Drag or hold down Ctrl and click to select multiple months

10. Group files

Everyone knows how to sort files–just click a column heading to sort by that value, and click again to reverse the sort order.

But you can also group files by date, size, or type, making it much easier to see similar files in a folder or a set of search results. The Group command is on the View tab of the ribbon. It’s also available when you right-click in the File Explorer window.

Each group gets its own heading in File Explorer, with a count of how many items are in that group. You can right-click a heading to expand or collapse it. You can also collapse all groups to produce a neat breakdown of groups, with the number shown beside each one.


You can also collapse all groups.

Bott, Ed.Windows 10 Tips, Tricks, Secrets, and Shortcuts: File Explorer.ZDNet. N.p., n.d. Web.

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Don’t Fall for These Cyber Scams

Once upon a time, it was easy to spot an online thief. But no longer.dont-fall-for

Internet scams used to be like the villain in a low-budget children’s show. You could spot the bad guy a mile away, and you were probably more amused than afraid. Remember the Nigerian prince who insisted you were due an inheritance, if you’d send in your personal information? Or the email declaring you’d won a giant lottery? All you had to do was send in your bank account numbers, and you’d get your prize.

How quaint. Even cute, almost.

But today’s scammers have grown up and are decidedly scary. Which is why it’s smart to stay familiar with the latest and not so greatest in cyber scams. How might you get ripped off in the near future? Lots of ways, if you aren’t on guard.

Be wary of any financial institution that asks you to take a selfie – with your ID

That’s a malware trick that McAfee technicians have discovered in the last few months, according to Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at Intel Security, a Santa Clara, California-based company that makes McAfee computer security software. He says a type of malware (software, used for evil purposes) has surfaced in Hong Kong and Singapore, and attempts to trick computer users into taking a selfie with a personal ID, which obviously would be the worst sort of personal information for a criminal to have.

“I’m in awe every time I see how creative and clever the bad guys are,” Davis says.

And, sure, you might think that this sounds on par with the Nigerian prince and lottery scam (Who would fall for this?), but Davis says this malware, once you’ve managed to download it, will lay dormant and not ask you for financial information until you do some online banking and are probably expecting to be asked some questions. One would like to think that most consumers would stop and reflect –and not pose for a selfie – with their driver’s license (even if they do think their bank is asking them to snap the shot), but it’s easy to imagine that many consumers would answer the more routine questions, like, “What’s your mother’s maiden name?”

Be skeptical of USB sticks

You can use these data storage devices, also called USB flash drives, to back up information but also to download software, a PowerPoint presentation, a computer game, recipes or almost anything you can imagine. And while most USB sticks or flash drives are perfectly safe to use, Davis says that Intel Security’s technicians have been finding ransomware being transmitted through USB sticks.

Ransomware is a type of malware that, once it’s in your computer, will shut everything down. Suddenly you won’t be able to access any of your files until you pay a cash ransom to the hacker who sent you the ransomware. Ransomware is on the rise, industry experts say, affecting not only individuals but school districts, hospitals and businesses. Meanwhile, think about all the times you’ve stuck a USB stick into your computer. Many people use these frequently without second thought.

“I can’t count the number of conferences I’ve been to, where they’re just handing out USB sticks … If you don’t know the history of the USB stick, don’t connect it to your drive,” Davis advises.

Be aware of Google Voice scams

Jayne Hitchcock – whose pen name is J.A. Hitchcock – had this particular scam attempted on her very recently.

Hitchcock, a Maine-based author of the upcoming book, “Cyberbullying & The Wild, Wild Web: What Everyone Needs To Know,” put her phone number on a Craigslist ad she posted in hopes of selling a bunch of books she no longer wanted. Not long after the ad went up, she received a text from a phone number she didn’t recognize. She Googled the number and found nothing bad, so she replied.

“Then I got a call from a 202 Washington, D.C., area code that had a prerecorded female voice saying it was Google Voice and to input the two-digit code I received,” Hitchcock says. “I then got a text from this person telling me to input ’50.'”

That made Hitchcock’s something’s wrong antenna go up, so she wrote back and said to check out her website,; if he wasn’t a scammer, she wrote, she invited him to call her from the local number he was texting from.

“I never heard from him again,” Hitchcock says.

So what was the problem? What would have been so bad if Hitchcock had typed in the two-digit code?

“What they do is steal your phone number, essentially using it as a forwarding number for them to scam other people,” Hitchcock says. It can be such a hassle to get your phone number back that some people don’t even bother and instead cancel it, she adds.

Steer clear of emails with links to

Nobody needs to be told that YouTube is a massively popular website, and con artists are leveraging its all-ages appeal, according to Rich Drees, a Miami-based entrepreneur who runs a social media marketing company.

Drees says crooks will sometimes send consumers emails with a link that leads to a YouTube video. Or, rather, it looks like it’s going to lead to a YouTube video.

“Instead, you’re taken to a page that looks exactly like the real thing, but you’re asked to sign on, thus enabling the scammer to hijack your account,” Drees says.

One major hint that you have a problem, Drees says: “Check the address bar carefully when you arrive to ensure that it contains If it contains another word before that, like, it’s not YouTube. “

These cyber tactics are only going to get worse, according to Davis.

“It used to be that proximity mattered,” he says. “If you were a thief, you had to go to the bank, and it was high-risk, low reward. But that’s why cyber crime is so attractive. It isn’t dangerous for the bad guys, and it’s difficult for them to be caught, especially if it’s somebody who lives in another country. It’s a growth market.”

Williams, Geoff. “Don’t Fall for These Cyber Scams.” US News. N.p., 25 Oct. 2016. Web.

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There’s now one less excuse not to use a password manager


LastPass becomes a great free option.

LastPass is making its password manager a much better option for people who don’t want to pay. As of today, it’s opening up to everyone the ability to sync passwords between an unlimited number of devices — something that used to be available only to subscribers.

Free users were previously limited to syncing LastPass to a single app, which is pretty limiting in a world where you very possibly need to access those passwords across multiple PCs, a phone, and a tablet. Now, there are no longer any big restrictions on the free version of LastPass (though it’s still offering a $1 per month subscription with some additional features).

Like other password managers, LastPass can be used to generate strong and unique passwords, keep track of which sites and services they belong to, and then enter them when needed. LastPass stores all passwords in the cloud, making them accessible from anywhere. That makes syncing simple, though it also opens the service up to some security concerns (ones that its competitors face as well).

Still, using LastPass or any other password manager is going to be a significant step forward for most people when it comes to security. We’ve seen a steady stream of hacks this year that have compromised usernames and passwords from major sites. Using a password manager lets you use a different password in every location, minimizing the potential fallout of a password leaking out. Password managers can be a bit of a hassle to use (compared to typing in a single memorized password), but it’s worth the effort.

Kastrenakes, Jacob. “There’s now one less excuse not to use a password manager.” The Verge. N.p., 2 Nov. 2016. Web.

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