Welcome to this week's edition of the Computer Kindergarten Newsletter.
Today is Sunday, July 13, 2014
In this Issue:
Special Feature: Spyware
Special Series: Windows 8 Keyboard Shortcuts
Special Feature: Intro to the Mac - Mac OS X Mavericks – The Dock
This Week's Topic: A Step-By-Step Guide to Getting Better Tech Support
Special Feature: iPad Basics - Communication Apps
Websites of Interest: Travel
Special Feature: Spyware
By Peter May of How Stuff Works
The brief history of personal computing is replete with advances in productivity, processing power and entertainment. From word processing to e-mail to the World Wide Web, computer technology has forever changed the way we work and play. As with any new technology, however, these advances have also provided new methods for criminals to separate us from our money. One of those methods is spyware.
According to a number of sources, the first use of the term spyware occurred in a 1994 posting that made light of Microsoft's business model. Later, the term was used to describe devices used for spying, such as small cameras and microphones. In 2000, a press release from security software provider Zone Labs used the current meaning of spyware for the first time and it's been used that way ever since.
Spyware is software that resides on a computer and sends information to its creator. That information may include surfing habits, system details or, in its most dangerous form, passwords and login information for critical applications such as online banking. Many spyware programs are more annoying than dangerous, serving up pop-up ads or gathering e-mail addresses for use in spam campaigns. Even those programs, however, can cost you valuable time and computing resources.
Often, spyware comes along with a free software application, such as a game or a supposed productivity booster. Once it's downloaded to your computer, the functional element of the software works exactly as promised, while the information-gathering system sets up shop behind the scenes and begins feeding your personal data back to headquarters.
In many cases, the hidden activities of the software are clearly described in the end-user license agreement (EULA) that is displayed during the installation process. This protects the developer from potential legal action because they can prove you knew (or should have known) that the program included this functionality when you installed it. Most of us, however, don't read EULAs because they are long, boring and written in hard-to-understand legalese. As further proof that there's a software application for everything these days, you can now obtain software that will read EULAs for you and display a warning if keywords or phrases indicate there's a spyware risk.
In our next newsletter:
Other Types of Malware
Special Series: Windows 8 Keyboard Shortcuts
Many people still use the mouse to perform tasks which can be done quicker using a keyboard shortcut. Here are a few useful combinations which will get you started.
Windows key + C: Opens up the charms menu
Window key + O: Locks the orientation of the screen
Windows key + Q: Opens up the App Search pane. This now appears alone and without the Start screen.
Windows key + M: Minimizes all windows and brings you back to the desktop.
Windows key + H: Opens the Share charm in any app you are currently in.
Windows key + F: Opens up the Search box to help find files.
Windows key + I: Opens up the Settings Charm.
Windows key + (full stop) + Arrow key: Moves app to the left or right of screen so you can view more than one app at a time. Using the down arrow key with this combination will close the app you are in.
Special Feature: Intro to the Mac - Mac OS X Mavericks - The Dock
Some of the most useful features in OS X are the Dock, Stacks, and Launchpad. You'll use these features to open your apps and files, as well as to customize your desktop so your favorite items are easy to access. The Dock is available in all versions of OS X, but Launchpad was introduced in Lion.
The Dock houses shortcuts to your favorite apps, files, and folders, as well as the Trash. You can customize the Dock by reorganizing it, adding or deleting items, and changing settings.
The Dock contains a divider that looks like a solid line. Everything to the left of the divider is an app, and everything to the right is a file or folder. You'll need to keep this in mind when you reorganize the Dock.
To Reorganize the Dock:
Add any apps, files, or folders by simply dragging them onto the Dock. For apps, it may be easiest to open Launchpad, since it contains all of your apps.
Remove any unwanted items from the Dock by dragging them onto the desktop. You cannot remove Finder or the Trash from the Dock.
Rearrange items on the Dock by dragging them to their desired locations.
Everything on the Dock is a shortcut, so you won't delete anything by removing it from the Dock.
To Customize Dock Settings:
Click the divider, then drag up or down to change the size of the Dock.
Right-click the divider to see a menu where you can change options like Hiding, Magnification, Position on Screen, and more.
In our next newsletter: Stacks
Today's Topic: A Step-By-Step Guide to Getting Better Tech Support
By Eric Ravenscraft of lifehacker.com
When you need help fixing your computer, the last thing you want is a communication problem. Before you call tech support, there are a few things you should do to make sure you get the best help possible.
Step 1: Try Some Basic Solutions First
The person on the other end of the tech support line has to deal with tons of people every day who don't know much about computers. Some support lines even run off scripts they're required to go through no matter who's calling in. Either way, they're going to suggest you try some simple things that fix most problems. You can make the phone call go a lot quicker (or skip it entirely) by doing a few simple things first:
For Browser Problems
Restart the browser: Your browser is probably the most-used app on your computer. If multiple separate websites aren't loading (or not loading correctly), try restarting your browser first. It's quick, easy, and solves a lot of problems. On the other hand, if it's just one site that's having a problem, check services like Down For Everyone Or Just Me (http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com/)to see if the site itself might be the one with the problem.
Clear your cache and cookies: One of the first things tech support will suggest you do if you're having browser problems is clear your cache and cookies. May as well get this step out of the way. Like restarting your browser, clearing your cache can fix a lot of under the hood problems without the need for a lengthy diagnostics phone call.
For Internet Problems
Unplug your router for 10 seconds: When your internet goes out, it's not always your ISP's fault. Sometimes your router can be the problem. Restarting your router is one of the first solutions tech support will suggest.
For General Pc Problems
Restart your computer: When your computer does something weird, this is always the first, best step to fixing it. It's also extremely important when it comes to the next phase we'll get to in a bit: ensuring a problem is reproducible.
Close other applications: If your machine is running slower than normal, you may have too many applications running, hogging your RAM. Close background apps until you've freed up some space (of course, you shouldn't go overboard, either). This is also a good way to isolate any problem applications that may be causing trouble.
Free up disk space: When your RAM gets full of data, your PC can offload some of that data to your hard drive. If your hard drive is already pretty full to start with, this can cause your system to grind to a halt during regular use. Make life easier on yourself by clearing out a few gigabytes of data before you call support and see if that fixes things. This may also help you identify whether you have a faulty hard drive that's causing the issue.
These things won't fix all of your problems all the time, but if you check these before you call someone, you can dramatically reduce the number of calls you have to make in the first place. More importantly, tech support will probably ask you to do some or all of these things anyway. That frustrating phone call will go a lot smoother when you've got this out of the way first.
Step 2: Document the Problem in Detail
You've tried the usual solutions and the problem still exists. Whether it's a problem with your machine or a bug in the software you need to report, the procedure to get it fixed is largely the same: document the issue.
Make Sure the Problem is Reproducible
If you can't reproduce the problem, it's going to be difficult for someone else to find out what's wrong. Before you call or email someone for help, try to perform the task in question a few times in different ways to see what triggers the faulty behavior. If a problem happens in the same way, you can provide more details. There's not always a way for you, as the user, to know which particular piece of information will help fix the problem, but the more specific, reliable, and reproducible details you can provide the better.
Use Precise Language
When communicating tech problems, words like "it", "thing", and "weird" aren't very helpful. It's also not very useful to say things like "It's broken." Sometimes you don't know the right words to use. That's why you're looking for help after all. However, it's always better to say "The Netflix player is frozen in the middle of the movie and is displaying the spinning wheel" rather than "It's not playing."
As an example, this is bad:
"My internet's not working."
This, however is helpful:
"I can't pull up web pages in Chrome on my desktop or my phone. My phone is connected via Wi-Fi, but my desktop is connected to my modem via an Ethernet cable. I don't think I'm connected to the internet."
When in doubt, more information—particularly specific information—is always better.
Show, Rather Than Tell, Whenever Possible
A picture is worth a thousand confusing tech buzzwords. If you can show someone what your computer is doing, including that visual along with your complaint can help considerably. There is a way you can do this:
Take a screenshot: There are roughly five million different screenshot tools on the internet. Most operating systems also have a built in method for taking screenshots, though Windows in particular can be more tricky than it needs to be, but you can also take shots natively with OS X, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
Step 3: Be Calm and Polite
Technically, this could be considered step "all the time", but it's worth mentioning. Filing a nasty report with a developer isn't just rude, it's likely to get your request ignored. Even if you're dealing with tech support that's paid to help you, the person you're talking to deals with a lot of people who don't know much about computers and are very angry when they don't behave as expected.
Naturally, the reaction from people who fix things for a living is usually to write off the angriest complainers. In fact, it's universally healthy to accept that you can't please everyone. What that means for you, though, is that the angrier your complaint is, the harder it's going to be for both of you. If you're calling tech support that's paid to help you, it could be a more frustrating phone call. If you're filing a bug report with a developer, your complaint might get ignored entirely. It can be a whole lot more helpful to butter up the person you're talking to rather than berate them.
Special Feature: iPad Basics - Communication Apps
There are thousands of apps available for the iPad—both in the App Store, and built into your device. If you're just getting started, however, there are a few that are absolutely essential. This includes:
Contacts for managing your contacts list
Mail for checking your email
Messages for instant messaging
And other tools like FaceTime, Twitter, and Facebook
These are the apps that are going to help you communicate on your device, so you can keep in touch with friends, family, and other contacts. And the great thing about them is the fact that they're available for other Apple devices too—including the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Mac.
Have More Than One Apple Device?
There are many benefits to using these apps if you have more than one Apple device. They're designed specifically so you can open the same app anywhere (on your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, or Mac), and still experience the same look, feel, and functionality. All of your information will be there too, including your contacts, email, messaging history, and more.
Contacts may be one of the most important apps on your device. Not just because it contains so much important information (including valuable names, phone numbers, and more), but also because it's heavily integrated with so many other apps.
For example, it's what makes instant messaging so efficient. All you have to do is open the Messages app, and if the person is saved to your contacts list, you can start chatting with them right way. The same goes for Mail. You can email anyone you know in seconds.
In short, even if you don't think you'll use the app itself very much, your device will use the information it contains all the time. That's why it's important to understand what Contacts is—because it has so much potential to improve your experience with apps.
Sharing Contacts with Multiple Apple Devices
Use iCloud to sync the Contacts app. To find out if you already have it enabled, visit your device's iCloud settings. Remember, you have to configure each device separately.
For many people, importing contacts from another device or service—technically a form of syncing—happens along the way. However, your options will vary depending on the type of device you have.
If you purchased an iPhone at a retail store, the sales associate probably set up your device as a courtesy to you. If they didn't, you may need to go back and ask them to transfer the contents of your SIM card. You can do this with an iPad too if you have one of the cellular models.
There are also certain mobile apps that allow you to sync or import your contacts from another service. For example, when you sign into Mail for the first time, you should have the option of syncing the contacts that are stored in your email account. This will add them to the Contacts app.
As a last resort, you may need to input some or all of your contacts manually—especially if your only Apple device is a Mac. However, once this step is complete, your contacts will be much easier to sync/import in the future. You'll be able to sync the app to iCloud, so you can access your contacts on any other Apple device. This is especially useful if you upgrade to a newer Apple device in the future.
Using Contacts in Other Apps
To select a contact when using another app, tap the + button. Then select the person's name from the list. Alternatively, you can start typing any information from their contact card (for example, name, email address, or phone number), and your device will pull them up automatically.
This technique works in Mail, Messages, and any other app that allows you to use your contacts list.
Adding to Contacts
To add someone to your contacts from inside another app, simply tap their name or contact information. You'll be able to add them as a new contact, or add their information to an existing contact. The latter is useful if the person has more than one email address or phone number.
Contacts for Mac
Need to add several new contacts at once? It might be easier to do it on your computer if you have a Mac. Many people prefer their Mac for tasks that require a lot of typing, simply because you have access to a full-size keyboard.
In our next edition: Mail
Websites of Interest:
Direct access to hotels around the globe.
Lets you search flights by date, price, and budget — even if you don’t know where you want to go.
A guide to traveling by train or ferry
Pet Friendly Travel
Question: We want to bring our dog when we travel. Do you know any websites that will help us find accommodations and other information?
Yes, there are many. Here are some of our favorites.
Road Trips with Your Dog - http://tinyurl.com/mhq3uz8
Check these sites before you book a room