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Welcome to this week's edition of the Computer Kindergarten Newsletter.
Today is Sunday, March 2, 2014

In this Issue:
Special Feature: Prevent Tax Season Cons and Fraud Early
Special Feature: Windows 8: What You'll Need to Relearn
Special Feature: Intro to the Mac - Moving Your Files from Another Computer
This Week's Topic: Speed Up a Slow Computer - Clean the Desktop
Special Feature: All About Restore Points
Special Feature: iPad Basics - 8 Free iPad Apps for News and Media
Websites of Interest: Best Weather Web Sites; Tips for Safe Snow Shoveling; March is Women's History Month; Would You Recognize a Heart Attack?

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Special Feature: Prevent Tax Season Cons and Fraud Early

By Sid Kirchheimer of aarp.org

Whether you're gleefully expecting a refund or dreading writing that IRS check, scammers hit full throttle as you gear up for tax season, continuing through April 15 (and even afterward).

Here's how to stay clear of them.

Mail Thieves

In coming weeks, tax-filing documents from employers, banks and financial firms should be hitting your mailbox — and so could identity thieves. Late January through mid-February provides ideal opportunity for mail-stealing crooks to retrieve documents detailing personal information — including your Social Security number — so they can open fraudulent credit accounts in your name.

Employers are required to mail W-2 and 1099 forms by Jan. 31, but banks and brokerage firms may have later deadlines. If you're not home to quickly retrieve mail when it's delivered, think about asking a trusted at-home neighbor to do it. Or consider installing a locking mailbox or renting a P.O. box or having your mail held at the post office for personal pick-up. At the very least, pay close attention to which expected tax documents have arrived and when; if they're not received by mid-February, call the sender to ask why.

IRS Impersonators

Tax Man tricksters typically begin a campaign of phony phone calls and bogus emails as tax-filing season arrives. So beware of people claiming to need your personal information (such as your Social Security number), reporting a "problem" with past returns, or promising "new" or "updated" tax forms sent by email. Click to download these "forms" and you may well be downloading malware.

The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through email, so don't respond — or click on links. If you get an unexpected phone call claiming to be from the tax agency, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to check its authenticity.

Legitimate tax correspondence will arrive by U.S. mail in a sealed envelope. So beware of trash mailings like one that appears to suggest an impending tax audit -— but actually is bait to sell "audit protection services" for up to $50 per month.

Take Action: Sign-up for Watchdog alerts and protect yourself from identity theft and fraud

Refund Rip-Offs

In recent years, billions of dollars in refunds have been collected by scammers who e-file fraudulent returns under the identities of legitimate taxpayers. This scam is often conducted by street gangs who attend classes held by identity thieves. They don't need W-2s or other supporting documents, just basics like your name, SSN and birthdate — and a computer.

Your refund may end up direct-deposited into a bank account temporarily used by the scammer under the false identity, mailed out as a treasury check (often to a vacant home) or preloaded on a debit card, with which the money can be withdrawn from an ATM.

To avoid having your refund fall into the wrong hands, file early. Tax ID scammers tend to begin filing bogus returns by mid- to late-February — if you've already filed, they can't get your money. And if you mail your tax return, put it in a secure mailbox or hand it to a mail carrier. Don't leave it for pick-up in your home mailbox.

Costly Bad Advice

Have you been promised "free" government money or "secret" tax breaks if you'll file new paperwork with the IRS? Don't believe it. These and other conning claims are the calling cards of unscrupulous tax preparers who seek easy money at your expense — assuming they're not outright scammers intent on stealing information from your tax forms to commit identity theft or sell that data to other fraudsters on the black market.

Some operate from temporary storefronts or recruit clients by holding "seminars" advertised on church or public bulletin boards. Before trusting any new tax preparer or website, do your homework. Get referrals from friends and family and check credentials with your state's Board of Accountancy.

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Special Feature: Windows 8: What You'll Need to Relearn

By Mike Williams of techradar.com

How will you cope with the move to Windows 8?

There's plenty to like about Windows 8. It can synchronize settings across all your devices; the File History tool is perfect for simple backups; there are a host of useful new tools in the Windows Store; it's fast, includes some excellent repair options, and the list goes on.

What really matters this time, though, isn't just what Microsoft has added to the Windows mix: it's what it has changed, or taken away.

And that's because this is no gently incremental upgrade. Rather, Windows 8 has undergone a major redesign which sees the Start menu scrapped, the desktop demoted, and years of interface conventions thrown away.

Can you learn to live in a Windows 8 world, then? That all depends on how you feel about what Microsoft has done. Let's take a closer look.

The Start Screen

Log on to Windows 8 for the first time and you'll notice that the Start menu has been replaced by the colorful new Metro Start Screen. This looks so good that you may not mind, at least initially, but it won't take long before you run into problems.

The Start menu provided easy access to every aspect of your system, for instance: search, Windows tools, settings, installed programs, recent documents and more. There simply isn't room to display all this on the Start Screen, though, and so many functions have now been scattered around the system, making them much harder to find.

After launching Windows 8, for instance, experienced users may want to customize it - but there's no Control Panel tile. The Start Screen does have its own Settings dialog, but this is so hidden that many users will probably only find it by accident (you need to move your mouse cursor to the top-left corner of the screen to launch the Charms menu, and click Settings). And even then they'll be disappointed, as it doesn't contain very much.

Installing applications isn't difficult, and they'll extend the Start Screen with tiles of their own. What you won't find is a Documents menu, though, or a clear way of pinning files to the Start Screen.

And it's not even obvious how to perform a simple task like shutting down or restarting your system. In Windows 7 clicking the Start button was enough to point you in the right direction: now you have to move your mouse cursor over to the top-left corner of the screen, hit the Settings option (not the most obvious location), click Power and choose the option you need.

It's not all bad news, though, fortunately. The Start Screen does include a simple menu which provides easy access to some system tools: Control Panel, Task Manager, the Command Prompt and more (press Win+X to see it).

And better still, if you press Win+F, or just start typing a search term, then you'll launch the Windows 8 search tool. Type "Note", say, to see a link for Notepad, or type part of a recent document name to list that file. And if you ever find yourself unable to figure out how to perform some task, just type a relevant term - "shut down", say - and click Settings for more helpful links.

These techniques aren't a complete solution, of course. If anything, they present some issues of their own. When we search right now, for instance, Windows 7 displays matches for Control Panel, Documents, Pictures, Music and Files, all on the same display.

Windows 8 displays results only for Apps, Settings or Files, though, and while there are many more options available (News, Travel, Store, more) it takes an extra click to view each one.

Still, the Win+X menu should reduce your initial frustrations, and if you find you're still lost then the Search tool does a reasonable job of tracking down the information you need.

Task Management

One notable problem with Windows 8 is that it tried to bring together two largely separate worlds: one for the programs you're running now, and another for its Start Screen apps. And this can complicate the way you work. Let's take task management as an example.

If you want to launch a regular Windows program, for instance, then clicking the Start Screen "Desktop" tile will launch something which looks much like the Windows 7 desktop (less the Start menu, anyway). Run programs here, matching buttons will appear on the taskbar and you'll be able to switch between them with a click, as you can now. But you won't see buttons for any Start Screen apps you have running. It's as though they don't exist.

Press the Windows key to switch back to the Start screen and everything changes. You can launch multiple apps, but there's no taskbar to switch between them, so instead you must move your mouse cursor to the top left corner of the screen to see the previously used app, then drag down to see all the others. And while this will show you the desktop as one of the apps, you won't be able to switch directly to a specific program which you've launched from there.

Again, there is a sort-of solution here: just use Alt+Tab. This displays all your programs on a single screen, whether desktop or Start Screen-based, and allows you to switch to the one you need. But this may not necessarily be straightforward - switching from one running program to the next might take a while, especially if you've lots of Metro apps running in the background - and the underlying problems still remain.

The taskbar isn't as reliable a way to show running programs in Windows 8; users have to learn a whole new Start Screen task management technique which is similarly incomplete; and so even simple task switching can require a little more thought and effort than it did before.

That's just the start, though. The real problem with Metro apps comes when you want to run them alongside something else, because by default they run full-screen. It's possible to run two alongside each other, if your screen resolution is high enough (move the mouse to the top of the screen, click, drag and drop the thumbnail to the left to move one app to a sidebar, then run another), but that's your limit.

While the desktop still allows you to run multiple regular applications next to each other, in windows sized and positioned to suit your needs, that simply can't be done in the Metro world.

These issues won't be a major concern for everyone, of course. If you live solely on the desktop, or make only occasional visits to the Start Screen then they may not bother you at all. But the fact remains that Metro apps are very inflexible in how they can be displayed, and as Microsoft seem to think they're the future then you may not be able to avoid that problem forever.

Interface Issues

Another Windows 8 irritation comes in the way it sometimes splits functionality between similar Metro and desktop tools. There's an Internet Explorer app on the Start Screen, for instance, but it doesn't have all the functionality of the desktop version. And there's no way to switch from one to the other.

Or maybe you'd like to customize the look of your PC? You might launch "Personalize" in the Start Screen's PC settings, or maybe "Ease of Access". But there are more options in the full Control Panel's "Appearance and Personalization" and "Ease of Access Centre". Again, the Search tool can help, but of course you only need to use that so often because Windows 8 has added these extra complexities in the first place.

Install applications and you'll discover other issues. In the past, if programs added ten items to the Start Menu, say, it wouldn't matter as they were neatly hidden in a Start menu folder. Now, though, many are automatically pinned to the Start Screen as separate tiles, so you're likely to spend rather more time manually removing any you don't need (right-click, select Unpin...).

And even figuring out how to close Metro programs can pose another challenge. There's no "x" top-right, no "File > Exit" option, because Microsoft's intention is that Metro programs should happily run in the background until the system decides they can be closed (if your PC needs more resources, say).

You can shut them down with the mouse, though: just move your mouse cursor to the top of the screen until it changes to a hand icon, then click, hold, and drag it to the bottom of the screen. But as usual with Metro, there are no interface cues to even show you this is possible. And so the best approach might just be to press Alt+F4, which always closes the active program, whether you're on the desktop or running a Metro app.

This, and many of the other Windows 8 problems we've raised are mostly just a matter of familiarity. They may be confusing at first, and perhaps take an extra click or two, but once you've learned the basics then life will mostly return to normal.

But other issues still remain, in particular with Metro, which just doesn't feel like it belongs on a desktop. If someone has a 27" monitor, will they really want to be restricted to displaying a maximum of two apps at the same time? And if the answer is, as we keep hearing, "don't use Metro if you don't want to", then why does Windows 8 force you to boot into its Start Screen at all?

Don't let all this put you off entirely. As we said earlier, there's plenty to like about Windows 8 and it's worth taking a look at the Release Preview. Just be ready for some frustrations: there are many significant changes, and even mastering the Windows 8 basics could take quite some time.

 

In our next edition: The Windows 8 Lock Screen

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Special Feature: Intro to the Mac - Moving Your Files from Another Computer

From gcflearnfree.org

Mavericks makes it easy to transfer all of your files to your new Mac using the built-in Migration Assistant. It lets you choose which folders and accounts you want to copy, and then it can transfer the files using an external hard drive, an existing home network, a FireWire cable, or an Ethernet cable. Migration Assistant can also transfer files from a PC to your new Mac.

If you are using a brand new Mac, the Migration Assistant will appear when you first turn on the computer. If you would prefer to run it later, you can get to it by opening Launchpad and clicking the Utilities folder. Alternatively, you can search for it with Spotlight by clicking the magnifying glass icon in the top-right corner of the screen.

For full instructions on migrating your files, view the Migration Assistant page on the Apple website. http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5872

In our next newsletter: New Features in OS X Mavericks

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Today's Topic: Speed Up a Slow Computer - Clean the Desktop

As your Windows computer ages, its speed can decrease. You will notice an increase in response time when you give commands to open programs, files or folders, use the Internet and other tasks. There are several things you can do to speed up your computer.

Over the next several editions of this newsletter, we will present articles discussing some of the steps you can take to speed up your slow computer.

Speed up a Slow Computer: Clean the Desktop

Important: before making any changes to your system, always create a Restore Point. Read our article, All About Restore Points, in the Special Feature section, below, in this newsletter.
Every time you start your computer, memory is used by all the files on the Desktop. If these files are shortcuts (they have a little curving up and to the left), they do not take a lot of memory. If the files are not shortcuts, or there are dozens of shortcuts on your desktop, they will be using quite a bit of operating memory.

If the memory is being used by these files, the computer will have to swap memory from the hard drive to carry out commands that you are giving. This is called memory paging, and what you will see is a slowdown in the computer’s operation.

Put the files in the My Documents, or Documents folder. If you have many files that you would prefer to keep better organized, create separate folders for them.

A clean Desktop will improve the response time for the computer to carry out your commands.

In our next edition, learn how to speed up your computer by uninstalling unused programs.

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Special Feature: All About Restore Points

Before making any changes to your computer’s system, always create a Restore Point.

The System Restore feature is used to return your computer to an earlier state if you have a system failure or other major problem with your computer. The point of System Restore is to restore your system to a workable state without you having to reinstall the operating system and lose your files in the process.

If you create a restore point before making your changes, and something goes wrong with those changes, you can easily return to the point when the computer was working.
To create a restore point in Windows XP:

Click Start
All Programs
Accessories
System Tools
System Restore
Click Create a restore point
Click Next.
In the Restore point description box, type a name to identify this restore point. System Restore adds the date and time that this Restore Point is created.
Click Create
To create a restore point in Windows Vista and 7:

Click the Start Orb
Right click Computer
Click Properties
This will open the System area of Control Panel. Click Advanced system settings on the left hand side. An alert box may open, click Continue.
Click the System Protection tab to get to the System Restore section. The system will search for available disks; this may take a few moments.
Click the Create button to create a new restore point.
A window will open asking you to type a description for the Restore Point. Type in a name that is easy to remember; the date and time will be added automatically.
Click the Create button. The restore point will be created.
To use a restore point in Windows XP

Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and then click System Restore. System Restore starts.
On the Welcome to System Restore page, click Restore my computer to an earlier time (if it is not already selected), and then click Next.
On the Select a Restore Point page, click the most recent system restore point in the On this list, click a restore point list, and then click Next. Note A System Restore message may appear that lists configuration changes that System Restore will make. Click OK.
On the Confirm Restore Point Selection page, click Next. System Restore restores the previous Windows XP configuration, and then restarts the computer.
Click OK.
To use a restore point in Windows Vista and 7

Click the Start Orb
Right click Computer
Click Properties
This will open the System area of Control Panel. Click Advanced system settings on the left hand side. An alert box may open, click Continue.
Click the System Protection tab to get to the System Restore section.
Click the System Restore button.
You will now be at the System Restore window. From here, you can specify the restore point that you would like to use.
Vista will already have selected the Recommended restore option. If you would like to use this restore point, click the Next button to start the restore process. if there is another restore point that you would like to use, click Choose a different restore point and then click the Next button. A window listing all the available restore points will be displayed. Click restore point that you would like to use; click the Next button.
Vista will display a Window showing your selected restore point and ask you to confirm. Click the Finish button to begin the restore process.
A second window will open asking you to confirm that you would like to continue the restore. Click the Yes button. Vista will start the System Restore process.

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Special Feature: iPad Basics - 8 Free iPad Apps for News and Media

From gcflearnfree.org

The iPad is great for consuming media, including books, magazines, news, radio, TV shows and more. There are a lot of news and entertainment apps available for the iPad and one of the best things about these apps is their ability to be customized. You can choose content based on your likes and interests, thus creating your own personal radio station, magazine and more.

Here is a list of some of the most popular apps that can truly enhance your iPad news and entertainment experience.

iBooks (Free)

iBooks allows you to purchase and download books from the iBookstore and read them on your iPad. It has a pleasant interface that allows you to adjust brightness, font-size, color and type-face for easier reading. Other features include a built-in search, and the ability to bookmark, highlight and take notes on the text.

Kindle (Free)

With the Kindle app, you will have access to over 1 million books, newspapers and magazines from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It has a minimal interface for reading books and full-color images for reading articles. The Whispersync feature allows you to sync the last page you read, along with bookmarks, notes and highlights across all your mobile devices. Most books are $9.99 or less.

Flipboard (Free)

Flipboard is a customizable magazine, with a nicely designed format, that allows you to flip through and read stories from news outlets, popular magazines and your social media services. It shows you news, photos, videos, and updates from Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Flickr, National Geographic, Oprah, Rolling Stone and more. You can also like, comment, favorite and share your stories directly from Flipboard.

Pulse News for iPad (Free)

Pulse is a customizable news reader that features an interactive mosaic interface of colorfully-displayed articles from your favorite websites. When you scroll through and tap on an article, it will be displayed in a clean and simple format. If you like an article you can share it across your social media or bookmark it to read later.

Zite Personalized Magazine (Free)

Zite lets you customize the articles in your magazine based on category sections like World News, Film & TV, Personal Finance, Sports, etc. Every time you choose and read an article, Zite learns more about what you like. It has a beautiful design and clean reading interface. You also have the options to share, bookmark and email the things you like.

Netflix (Free)

If you subscribe to Netflix, you can watch TV shows and movies that are available through Netflix’s instant streaming service. It allows you to resume watching movies from where you previously left off on your TV or computer. You also have the ability to browse movies and update your instant queue. (Netflix subscription required.)

Pandora Radio (Free)

Pandora is a personalized radio that only plays the music that you like. It will customize your station based on your favorite artists, songs or classical composers. The free subscription includes ads and interruptions, but you can also subscribe to Pandora One ($3.99 a month) for music-only.

Remote (Free)

The Remote app allows you to control iTunes and Apple TV from any of your devices over your wireless network. If you have Apple TV, it is much easier to manage the TV interface using gestures on your devices. You can also access and changes songs on your iTunes from anywhere in your home.

Download a few of these apps and have fun customizing your iPad for news, media and entertainment. To explore more apps, visit the Apple App Store.

In our next edition:
Notifications

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Websites of Interest:

Best Weather Web Sites
http://tinyurl.com/882bp6e

Tips for Safe Snow Shoveling
From the Colorado Spine Institute, this site will explain ways to reduce the stress and strain when shoveling.
http://tinyurl.com/c6byfxm

March is Women's History Month

Presidential Proclamation
http://tinyurl.com/n2weabw

National Women's History Project
http://www.nwhp.org/

News, Events and Information
http://womenshistorymonth.gov/

Would You Recognize a Heart Attack?
From aarp.org, visit their site to learn the signs and symptoms now.
http://tinyurl.com/499qkgo