Google+ 2011 ~ High Tech House Calls

Unexpected Chemistry of Cookies

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Accessories for the iPad/Android Tablet you just got!

As the proud owner of a Nook Tablet, here is a list of some must have accessories I found useful: 

  • Navigation with a Stylus - fingerprints will be a problem with any tablet. Use a stylus instead. Styli are also easier to use on touch keyboards for big fingers. Any iPad or Capacitive Touch Device Stylus will work on any touch screen tablet. I recommend the Targus ( or the Kensington Stylus ( ). I don't recommend the Pogo Sketch Stylus ( This stylus has a different type of tip and did not work as well as the Targus or Kensington ones. Styli come in different lengths. I liked the longer ones. To minimize losing a $14 plus investment, a pocket clip is a must. You can also purchase styli that clip to your headphone jack ( ). Combination styli/pens are also available  (  
  • Cleaning products for the screen -  the Targus CleanVu Cleaning Pad is my choice for removing fingerprints and smudges from the tablet screen  (  Any microfiber cleaning cloth that can be  used to clean camera lens or sunglasses can also be used. Do not use Windex-like products to clean the screen. They will yellow the screen. A damp, lint-free cloth can also be used to clean the screen.
  • Cases - A case is a must have to protect your investment. None of the cases I saw allowed room to store the wall charger. The case I purchased did have room to store a Targus CleanVu Cleaning Pad, plus business and note cards. Expect to pay in the $45.00 range for a case.
Carl Thorne High Tech House Calls Expert Computer Consulting 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What You See Is Not What You Get

With the holiday season fast approaching, here is some insight into way your computer processed photos do not look the same on your monitor versus when you print them out.

Printing Problems

You may notice a huge difference between the photos on your monitor. It can either be lighter or darker than the ones you preview on your monitor. They may even exhibit different color schemes than what you were expecting.
The problem you are running into is that your monitor is not calibrated with the printer you are using. The printer's black might look gray on your monitor if you have your brightness turned way up. What looks orange on your computer may very well print red because the color settings are off.

Adjust Brightness and Color

The two most common adjustments you can make to your monitor to balance it with your printer output are brightness and color.


The most common issue with monitor brightness is that it is turned up too high. This results in prints that are much darker than you expect, and a loss of detail in shadow areas.
Let's say you take a photograph and transfer the photo from memory card to computer. You look at it on the monitor, where you have the brightness set to 100%. Everything looks good to you, so you print it out. Your printer may have a brightness setting of 50%. Your printed photo is twice as dark as what you see on your monitor.
This is an extreme example, but proves a point. When you have your monitor brightness turned up too high, all of your prints turn out dark.


The colors displayed on your monitor can be as far off from your prints as the brightness. Monitors display colors using different color temperatures.

When the color temperature of your monitor does not match the color temperature of your printer, all the colors in your prints will be slightly off. You may have noticed this, you may not. You will certainly see it if you display an image on your monitor and hold up a printed photo next to it.
About the only drawback to changing the color temperature of your monitor is that it may turn anything white (like all word processing documents) into a sickly yellow color. Since this is really hard on the eyes, I recommend setting up two different color profiles for your monitor. Create one for general use and another special one to preview your photos. The ability to create a monitor profile is part of Adobe Photoshop software functionality. On Mac OS, you can use the Apple calibration utility to create a monitor profile.

Test Prints

The easiest way that I know of to get a really close match between your printer and monitor is to make some test prints. Without adjusting your monitor settings, send some photos to your printer. Make sure that you print at a fairly large size (5x7 or larger) — this will make it easier for you to see detail and color in the photo.
Once the print has been made, open the photo on your computer so that it displays on your monitor. Hold the printed photograph right up to the monitor and compare the two images side by side. Now you can adjust your monitor brightness and color settings. Make minute adjustments until the printed photo matches the monitor photo as much as possible.
While it will be hard to get a perfect match, you can get very close. Once you make these adjustments, you should see more consistency between the photos that you see on your monitor and the photos that you print.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November 2011 eNewsletter

Friday, November 11, 2011

Tablet Review

Why buy a tablet computer like an iPad? 

Here is an exercise I used to evaluate tablets for my business needs. I hope it helps you to think about what features you have to have and what features that would be nice to have. At the end of the blog, I have included some links to articles that compare and contrast the various tablets that are on the market. 

What would you do with a tablet? 
  • Read eBooks. 
  • Read Word Documents and PDFs.
  • Read/create emails.
  • Listen to music.
  • Show photos.
  • Stay connected to Social Media such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • Surf the web.
  • Watch NetFlix Movies.
  • Maintain your address book.
  • Maintain a calendar.
  • Maintain a to do list.
What features are you looking for in a tablet?
  • Can I buy and replace the battery myself?
  • Fast processor. High amount of built-in ram for operating system to use.
  • Connect an external keyboard via Blue Tooth or USB port.
  • Move data back and forth using a USB Drive or a SD Card.
  • Ability to download applications to extend functionality.
  • Print to a printer.
  • Sync data between tablet and laptop.
  • Connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi.
  • Large amount of user storage available.
  • Middle cost in price.
Notes on tablet use.
You will find that eBooks cost about the same as printed books. There are books that I could read over and over again. I would download those books to my tablet so that if I was stuck somewhere and did not want to do some work, I would re-read those pre-loaded books. Storing thousands of books on my tablet for summer beach reading is not a goal of mine.

There are many formats for eBooks. Are you locked into a particular format because that is the preferred format of your tablet? Many eBook readers will work on different platforms. For example, the Kindle reader which is the pre-loaded eReader on Amazon's tablet. It is also available as an application for other non-Amazon tablets, Windows PCs, Apple PCs, iPhones, Android Smartphones, Blackberrys, etc.

Make sure different eBook readers are available for your tablet.

Read Word Documents and PDF's:
Instead of carrying around a USB drive pre-loaded with reference documents, it would be nice to be able to store and display those reference documents on the tablet. More than likely, an application would need to be purchased to add this functionality to the tablet.

Make sure this application exists for your tablet.

Listen to Music:
There is iTunes and everything else for music formats. iTunes is restricted to Apple products. Non Apple tablets usually have a music player that will play .wav, .mp3 or another music file standard. Music from your iTunes library would need to be converted to the format your tablet supports. Music you paid for from iTunes may require an additional payment of .30 per song for you to be able to convert it to a playable format. There are other iTunes-like music sources that may be supported on your tablet. For example, Amazon's extensive media library of music and movies would be available for Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet.

If you have a large iTunes music library, is playing that music on your tablet very important? Then staying with a platform that supports iTunes may make the most sense. At present, only Apple's iPad supports iTunes.

NetFlix plays on many tablets. 

Check the NetFlix website for support for the tablets you are considering.

Browsing the Internet:
Make sure the browser speed is acceptable to you. The screen size needs to be big enough for you to see the web page.

If you cannot try the tablet first hand to test the browsing experience, look at reviews of the tablet for feedback.

Productivity Applications:
Go through your list of applications you must have to consider a particular tablet. If the application is not preloaded, can it be downloaded from an application library that supports your tablet?

Notes on tablet features:
Hardware Issues:
  • Cheaper tablets will have performance limitations. These limitations may make them useless to use. Reviews should point out performance issues.
  • Most tablets will not have a USB port.
  • Most tablets will not have a way of increasing the amount of storage capacity. Make sure you understand how much storage you need. If the tablet you are looking at does not hold that much, I would eliminate it from consideration.
  • Being able to plug in an SD Card to move files back and forth is very convenient.The SD Card can also back up your tablet.
  • Most tablets will not have Blue Tooth capability, meaning that an external keyboard will  not be an option. If the touch pad on the tablet is hard to use or too small for your fingers, that tablet needs to be eliminated from consideration.
  • Most tablets will have an application that allows you to print to a printer. Usually that printer will need to be a wireless printer. The printer application for iPad's is very awkward to use and I would expect that all tablets will share this same limitation. Printer manufacturers recognize this niche need and are starting to address it. HP and Canon have some printers with something called AirPrint built in. An AirPrint enabled printer can be printed to easily from an iPad from the tap menu without loading anything on the iPad. There are alternatives to printing directly to a printer from a tablet. You can send the file as an attachment via email to a computer that can print or you can copy the file to an SD Card and read the SD Card on a computer that can print.

Links for reviews of tablets:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Buy Microsoft Office 2010 Bonus Box - Office and Wireless Mobile Mouse

MS Office Bonus Box

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Syncing Your Email

Are your tired of seeing and deleting the same email message on your iPad, iPhone and Apple Computer? Is there a way of deleting the message once and not having it appear on your other email devices? Yes, there is a solution.

There are two basic protocols for email:
  • POP3 - most prevalent. Email is downloaded from your server to your computer for you to manage. Unless you use WebMail (access email using a web browser), each device that accesses your email will download all messages that are new to that device. Deleting an email from one device does not mean that email is deleted from all other devices.
  • IMAP - more likely to be seen in a corporate environment. Email is stored on the server. All email devices are accessing the same place for emails. Therefore, an email deleted from an email device deletes the email  from the server.
For example, Gmail supports both POP3 and IMAP protocols for email.  If your email account allows you to access it using IMAP, your email will be sync'ed.

If your email account supports only the POP3 protocol, you may be able to make your email account have a limited syncing ability.
  • In Outlook, you can specify that email be removed from the server once it is downloaded. Unfortunately, this is not guaranteed 100% that once that email has been downloaded once, it will not be downloaded again because it depends on how long it takes to remove the email from being downloaded again before a different email device attempts to download it. Usually, you want all email devices to have a copy of all emails so you are not limited to where an email you want is stored.
  • Outlook also has a setting to delete an email from the server once the deleted items folder is emptied. Again, you have a timing problem where an email may be downloaded to another email device before the deleted items folder is emptied.
Other email programs such as Thunderbird or the Mail Application on Apple computers may not have settings similar to Outlook that allow you to control somewhat what happens to deleted email or downloaded email.

iCloud, MobileMe and Lion

You patted yourself on the back. Your iPad and iPhone are now running IOS5. You have a new feature called iCloud. Now what?

In order to use iCloud across all your Apple computers and devices, your Apple Laptop or Workstation must be running the Lion (10.7) version of the operating system.
  •  If you are not running Snow Leopard (10.6), you cannot download and install Lion. Lion is only available as a download from Apple via the Apple Application Store. The Apple Application Store access is only available on computers running Snow Leopard or higher. 
  • What happens if you are running Leopard (10.5) or an older operating system release? You must buy a copy of the Snow Leopard upgrade disk. Unfortunately, that disk is not available to buy from any retail store in the U.S. including Apple Stores. You must go online to the Apple Store and place your order and wait for the disk to arrive via the postal system.
This seems like much time, trouble and expense. Why not stay with MobileMe? MobileMe goes away June 2012.  Here are the details of the transition from MobileMe to iCloud:

Changing Your Email Address

If you use the email address you created from your High Speed Internet Provider, what happens when you change providers?

  • You lose your old email address from your previous provider. Depending on the provider, you may be able to cancel your High Speed Internet Access contract, but keep your old email address for a small monthly fee. Usually, you will be able to receive emails, but not send them.
  • You probably tell all your old contacts in your address book about your new email address and tell them when the old one will no longer work. Usually that was accomplished by creating a distribution list of all your contacts you wanted to update and sending them an email with your new email address. In the age of SPAM, this has become problematic. One of my clients had her email refused to send because the 179 contacts in the distribution list looked like an attempt to send SPAM. I left her with the task of making smaller, less SPAM-like distribution lists to send out her announcement with. One thing that might make your announcement easier is setting a vacation message. Once you log onto your High Speed Internet Providers website, somewhere in the preferences for your email account may be the ability to create an auto-reply message that gets sent to everyone who sends you an email during a period of time you specify. We have all seen these messages at one time or another where the message informs you that so and so will be out of the office for a week and will have limited access to email. You can change this feature to broadcast your email address change instead.
  • If you are a business or someone who wants their own website, your alternative to ever changing your email address is selecting and buying a domain (the part of your email to the right of the "@" sign). Once you pay a web hosting company to host your domain, you can create email addresses with your new domain as part of the email address. As long as you renew the fee to re-register your domain, your email address will remain the same regardless of how many times you change web hosting companies. This concept is similar to your cell phone number where changing from T-Mobile to Verizon does not mean your cell phone number must change.
  • An alternative to spending money on a domain is the Google Gmail account. This is free and the email address you pick is limited by your imagination and whether someone else has already used your idea. Gmail is not dependent on any High Speed Internet Provider.

Android Cell Phone Is Not For Me

Three disturbing things have happened in the past month that have me wanting to get rid of my Android cell phone:
  1. My staff have two different models from HTC that stopped charging. The mini-USB port where the charger fits into the cell phone is defective. Over time it appears that the port shrinks in size enough that any charger you use will no longer fit tight enough for the  cell phone to charge. The fix is to gently apply pressure on the top and bottom of the charger end that goes into the cell phone to slightly flatten the charger end. This tightens the connection between the charger and the cell phone, fixing the problem until the next time you need to re-adjust the charger end. This problem seems to be limited to HTC Android models. The two Blackberry cell phones my staff have that use the same mini-USB port design do not have this problem.
  2. A recent upgrade to the Android cell phone operating system took away a feature that I am having trouble living without. Before the upgrade, I was able to have a distinct notification for a new voicemail, email, text, etc... With the upgrade I am limited to a distinct notification for your voicemail and one for everything else. A Google search uncovers procedures for Android users to un-install the last upgrade to recover the lost functionality.
  3. Two weeks ago, one of my staff members reported that they could send texts, but not receive them. The Verizon store indicated that there was a problem with the Verizon text messaging system and that model Android cell phone. The remedy was a replacement cell phone. Another Google search uncovers that other Android cell phones have had similar problems receiving texts and the fix was a new cell phone.
When my contract is up and I'm eligible for a cell phone upgrade, I do not think Android will be one of my choices.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Printing From Your iPad and iPhone

One of the major flaws with the iPad and iPhone is the inability to print from them.

This can be solved in one of two ways:
Note: Both of these solutions require a wireless printer that is located on the same wireless network that your iPad or iPhone are connected to.

The Print Central Application can be complex to install. If the application does not work after downloading and installing to your iPad or iPhone, you may have to install software to make your home computer a print server. This software is free of charge as a download from the application provider. The instructions to do this are pretty straight forward. A support phone number is supplied if you have problems. In the six times I have installed this application, I always needed to install the print server software. If you have to use the print server solution, the computer that has the print server software installed on it must be up and running on the wireless network for the print function to work on your iPad or iPhone.

The other problem with the Print Central Application is that it is not integrated into your iPhone or iPad seamlessly. You must set up a parallel email and web browser so that the print function works. In other words you cannot tap print while reading your email using the native iPad or iPhone application. Even with this drawback, this is better than nothing if you want to print from your iPad or iPhone.

Newer Canon and HP Wireless Printers are equipped with AirPrint. No software needs to be installed on your iPad or iPhone. Here are the details from Apple:

If you are not looking to spend approximately $200 for a new wireless printer that has AirPrint, $8.99 looks like a bargain if you have a serviceable wireless printer.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cleaning your laptop, Smartphone and Big Screen TV Screen

When cleaning any LCD screen such as a laptop, Smartphone or big screen TV, be careful. Any liquid that gets between the LCD and the trim can damage the display assembly. Always spray the cleaning fluid onto a soft cloth and use the cloth to clean the screen.

You can buy commercial cleaners, but you can make your own for a fraction. A 50/50 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water is used to clean your screen. Look for a 90% or higher pure isopropyl alcohol at your local drug store.

Don't clean your screen too often. To minimize the time between cleaners, use compressed air or a soft cloth to remove dust. Your screen should not have to be cleaned more than once every 3 to 6 months.

Friday, October 7, 2011

What is a QR Tag?

Look a the picture on the right side of this article. Does it look vaguely familiar? That picture is an example of a QR Tag that you are seeing more and more often in magazine ads and on real estate agent for sale signs.

Think of it as a bar code for marketers. Using a QR Tag Reader application for your Smartphone, the tag is scanned by taking a picture of it using your camera via the reader application. The application then connects to the Internet to decipher the tag.

The tag at right, when deciphered, contains the name of my company and contact information.What you put into a tag for your business could be a coupon, a link to a webpage with interior pictures of the house you are trying to sell or whatever your imagination comes up with.

For your Blackberry, I recommend QR Code Scanner Pro:
 To create your own QR Tag, try  Kaywa QR Code Generator:

September 2011 eNewsletter

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Email Management

Tired of reviewing the same email message on your laptop, iPhone and iPad? Here are some strategies to think about that might make managing your email a little easier.

Email accounts are of two general types:

   IMAP - email is stored on an email server. When you access email with Outlook or any other email application, the email you are reading is NOT downloaded to your PC or smartphone. When you delete the email, it is removed from the email server. Access your email again from another device and notice that the email is gone. Email is synchronized across all the devices you use to access your email. Email is not stored on your computer or smartphone. All email is stored on the email server. This is how an Apple MobileMe email account works. (MobileMe will soon be replaced by iCloud, due this Fall. Gmail can also be set up as an IMAP account. Unfortunately, most email accounts, by default, are not set up this way, and need to be reconfigured to work as an IMAP account. Some email servers may not support this type of email access.
   POP3 - in this model, email is downloaded to each device that accesses the email. The email server keeps track if a particular email has been downloaded before to the device accessing the email message. If you delete an email, in general, only your copy of that email is deleted from your device. It is still downloaded to all other email devices.
Therefore, the easiest way to synchronize your email – if you use multiple devices – would be to configure your email accounts for IMAP.

What if your email account cannot be configured for IMAP access? There are some settings you can change to make managing your POP3 email accounts easier:

   On a Windows PC running Outlook, on the advanced tab for your email account, make sure Leave a Copy on the Server is checked. This same feature is available for the Apple Mail program and for Microsoft's Office for Mac Entourage and Outlook programs.

   In addition to the Leave a Copy option, you can select Remove From Server When Deleted from "Deleted Items". Delete a message, empty your Deleted Items and the message will not be downloaded again. I empty my Deleted Items constantly. I set Outlook to Delete Items when I exit Outlook. I have many clients who seem to never empty Deleted Items and have 1000's of messages there.

   Many email accounts have the ability to be forwarded to another email account. You could forward all your email from a POP3 server account to an IMAP server account. If you did not access your POP3 emails other than through the forwarded copies to the IMAP account, your emails would be synchronized, but this will make the process of replying to emails complicated. To reply to a message, you would have to edit out the forwarded part of the text to make the reply look normal.

   The settings for email on an iPhone and iPad are minimal. If you use your iPhone or iPad to review the bulk of your emails, there is no easy way of deleting an email from your iPhone and have that deletion synced with your other email devices.

Coming up with a strategy to manage your emails is a workflow issue that you will need to resolve based on your particular work style and email device circumstances.

Wireless Network Roundup

Here is some general information about wireless networks that you can use to improve your wireless network.

   For your wireless network to be functional, the high speed Internet modem and wireless router must both be turned on. The computer nearest your network devices does not have to be on for your wireless network to be up. In fact, no computer, smartphone, Ipad, laptop, etc. has to be turned on for your wireless network to be functional.  Your wireless network is independent of any operating system resident on the device you are using to browse the Internet with.

   Occasionally, your computer will be connected to the wireless network, but you cannot access any websites on the Internet. Unplugging your high-speed Internet modem and wireless router may fix the problem. Count to 20 and then plug the modem back in. Count to 30 and then plug your wireless router back in. You may have to reboot your computer to take advantage of the fixed connection. If you need to do this procedure more than once a month, you may have a failing modem or wireless router or you have an intermittent problem with the Internet coming into your home.

   High-speed Internet access modems and wireless routers last between 3 to 5 years. You may want to replace your wireless router more often because wireless technology is evolving rapidly. A newer wireless router may mean a faster wireless network with more area coverage in a more secure environment.

   Never buy a gateway from your high speed Internet access provider. A gateway is a combination high-speed Internet access modem and wireless router. Many high-speed Internet access providers charge you a monthly charge for the privilege of having a wireless network in addition to renting the gateway. Most gateways provided by Internet access providers are of low quality. You can do much better with buying your own wireless router. Leading vendors for wireless routers are Cisco (previously know as Linksys and D-Link).
   Like any piece of electronic equipment, wireless routers will last longer if they are plugged into a surge protector. The surge protector should have a built-in protection of at least 1000 joules to be worthwhile. A better solution to protect your wireless router would be a UPS. This is a battery backup that constantly monitors your electrical level from your outlet. If there is a surge or spike in the voltage, devices plugged into the UPS are serviced by a steady voltage level from the battery until the voltage from the outlet stabilizes. Typically you buy a UPS and plug your computer and monitor into it. A model rated at 300 volt/amps should have enough outlets for you to plug your wireless router into it. (Please search my blog for a more extensive blog entry on UPS.)

   Each device you use to browse the network wirelessly has a limitation based on the wireless card built into that device. There are currently three main standards for wireless networks (801.B, 801.G and 801.N). Older devices will not be able to connect to a newer standard network. Newer devices can connect to older standards. Most wireless routers have the capability of broadcasting to all three wireless network standards, but may not be able to broadcast to all three standards simultaneously. Typically, a wireless router can be set up to broadcast to an 801.B and 801.G network simultaneously or to just an 801.N network singly. Based on the devices on your wireless network, you may have to dumb down your wireless router to 801.B/801.G so that all your devices can connect to the wireless network. New wireless cards can be purchased for windows computers that can upgrade that computers network access to 801.N, but it is rare to be able to upgrade older Apple computers with a newer standard wireless card.

   Any wireless network should be made secure by changing the administrator account password needed to access the wireless router setup program. Default passwords for wireless routers are easy to find out with a Google search or by downloading installation guides from vendor websites.

   To prevent unauthorized users from connecting to your wireless network, your network needs to have a password key. You can set this up when you configure your router for the first time. As wireless networks allow more and more area coverage, it is not unusual to see four or five neighbors' wireless networks from your home office. Amazingly, many of those networks can be connected to by you because they are unsecured by a key. If you have a label maker, create a label with the username and password pair to administrate the router along with the key and tape it to the wireless router. You will be glad you did. You can find out the key if you have the username and password pair, but if you can't log in to the administrator account, you will need to reset the router to the default factory settings and re-program it.

   You apply patches and updates to your computer and smart phones. You need to do the same to your wireless router. Typically those patches and updates are in the form of firmware. There is not an automated way to be informed of firmware updates. You must periodically check the vendor's website for firmware updates for your wireless router. In fact, the first thing I do when I install a router is to check for a firmware update before I configure the router. Follow the directions closely for the firmware update. Typically, you want to apply the update from a computer that is physically connected to the router (via an Ethernet cable), rather than attempting an update from a computer connected wirelessly. It is possible the update will wipe out all the original configuration settings, so be sure and document all settings before attempting the upgrade.

   Wireless networks in college dorms and off-campus college apartments are of poor quality and have poor support. If you buy a wireless printer for your college student, have the printer physically connect to the computer through a USB cable, rather than a wireless connection. Your college student will grumble about having to connect the USB printer cable to the laptop to print something but this beats not being able to print because you could not get the printer to work wirelessly or to work consistently on the wireless network. If you ignore my advice, remember that to program a wireless printer to work on a wireless network, you must install the printer software while connected to the specific wireless network that the printer will be connected to. So after you got everything unpacked and the bed made, remember you still have to install the wireless printer software.

Passwords You Need to Remember

Here is a list of passwords anyone working with your computer environment will need:

   The Administrator user account password for your Windows Operating System.
Many times the best way to solve a problem with a computer that will not boot is to boot the system in safe mode (a way of starting your computer in a diagnostic mode with a minimum amount of resources assigned to programs and devices). To log in to the computer in safe mode, it may be necessary to use the Administrator account.

   The username and password pair for a computer administrator enabled account for your Windows Operating System.
Administrator tasks such as installing a new printer or application program can only be installed by a computer administrator enabled account.

   The password for each of your email accounts.
In order to access your email, you must have the password associated with that email account.

   The Administrator username and password pair for your DSL or Cable Internet modem.
If your DSL or Cable Modem needs to be replaced, this password is necessary to re-establish your high speed Internet connection.

   The Administrator username and password pair for your wireless router.
Any changes to the router - such as a firmware upgrade (fixes to the software on the router that is supplied by the router manufacturer) – will require the username and password.

   The username and password pair associated with your anti-virus software.
Many times to de-install an anti-virus product so that it can be replaced, requires a valid username and password pair.
Carl Thorne High Tech House Calls Expert Computer Consulting