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Welcome to this week's edition of the Computer Kindergarten Newsletter.
Today is Sunday, September 14, 2014

In this Issue:
Special Feature: The Top 5 Online Scams and Internet Con Games
Special Feature: Windows 8.1 - Customizing the Desktop with Shortcuts
Today's Topic: How to Speed up a Slow Internet Connection
Special Feature: iPad Basics - More Communication Apps
Websites of Interest: September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month; Housekeeping; Grandparents' Web; 20th Century TV

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Special Feature: The Top 5 Online Scams and Internet Con Games

By Paul Gil of about.com

5) Items for sale overpayment scam

This one involves an item you might have listed for sale such as a car, truck or some other expensive item. The scammer finds your ad and sends you an email offering to pay much more than your asking price. The reason for overpayment is supposedly related to the international fees to ship the car overseas. In return, you are to send him the car and the cash for the difference.

The money order you receive looks real so you deposit it into your account. In a couple of days (or the time it takes to clear) your bank informs you the money order was fake and demands you pay that amount back immediately.

In most documented versions of this money order scam, the money order was indeed an authentic document, but it was never authorized by the bank it was stolen from. In the case of cashier's checks, it is usually a convincing forgery. You have now lost the car, the cash you sent with the car, and you owe a hefty sum of money to your bank to cover for the bad money order or the fake cashier's check.

4) Phishing / whaling emails and phony web pages

This is the most widespread internet and email scam today. It is the modern day "sting" con game. "Phishing" is where digital thieves lure you into divulging your password info through convincing emails and web pages. These phishing emails and web pages resemble legitimate credit authorities like Citibank, eBay, or PayPal. They frighten or entice you into visiting a phony web page and entering your ID and password. Commonly, the guise is an urgent need to "confirm your identity". They will even offer you a story of how your account has been attacked by hackers to lure you into entering your confidential information.

The email message will require you to click on a link. But instead of leading you to the real login https: site, the link will secretly redirect you to a fake website. You then innocently enter your ID and password. This information is intercepted by the scammers, who later access your account and fleece you for several hundred dollars.

This phishing con , like all cons, depends on people believing the legitimacy of their emails and web pages. Because it was born out of hacking techniques, “fishing” is stylistically spelled "phishing" by hackers.

Tip: the beginning of the link address should have https://. Phishing fakes will just have http:// (no “s”). If still in doubt, make a phone call to the financial institution to verify if the email is legit. In the meantime, if an email seems suspicious to you, do not trust it. Being skeptical could save you hundreds of lost dollars.

3) Lottery scams

Most of us dream of hitting it big, quitting our jobs and retiring while still young enough to enjoy the fine things in life. Chances are you will receive at least one intriguing email from someone saying that you did indeed win a huge amount of money. The visions of a dream home, fabulous vacation, or other expensive goodies you could now afford with ease, could make you forget that you have never ever entered this lottery in the first place.

This scam will usually come in the form of a conventional email message. It will inform you that you won millions of dollars and congratulate you repeatedly. The catch: before you can collect your “winnings”, you must pay the “processing” fee of several thousands of dollars.

Stop! The moment the bad guys cash your money order, you lose. Once you realize you have been suckered into paying $3000 to a con man, they are long gone with your money. Do not fall for this lottery scam.

2) Advanced fees paid for a guaranteed loan or credit card

If you are thinking about applying for a “pre-approved” loan or a credit card that charges an up-front fee, ask yourself: “why would a bank do that?” These scams are obvious to people who take time to scrutinize the offer.

Remember: reputable credit card companies do charge an annual fee but it is applied to the balance of the card, never at the sign-up. Furthermore, if you legitimately clear your credit balance each month, a legitimate bank will often wave the annual fee.

As for these incredible, pre-approved loans for a half-a-million dollar homes: use your common sense. These people do not know you or your credit situation, yet they are willing to offer massive credit limits.

Sadly, a percentage of all the recipients of their “amazing” offer will take the bait and pay the up-front fee. If only one in every thousand people fall for this scam, the scammers still win several hundred dollars. Alas, far too many victims, pressured by financial problems, willingly step into this con man's trap.

1) The Nigerian scam, also known as 419

Most of you have received an email from a member of a Nigerian family with wealth. It is a desperate cry for help in getting a very large sum of money out of the country. A common variation is a woman in Africa who claimed that her husband had died, and that she wanted to leave millions of dollars of his estate to a good church.

In every variation, the scammer is promising obscenely large payments for small unskilled tasks. This scam, like most scams, is too good to be true. Yet people still fall for this money transfer con game.

They will use your emotions and willingness to help against you. They will promise you a large cut of their business or family fortune. All you are asked to do is cover the endless “legal” and other “fees” that must be paid to the people that can release the scammer’s money.

The more you are willing to pay, the more they will try to suck out of your wallet. You will never see any of the promised money, because there isn’t any. And the worst thing is, this scam is not even new; its variant dates back to 1920s when it was known as 'The Spanish Prisoner' con.

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Special Feature: Windows 8.1 - Customizing the Desktop with Shortcuts

You can customize your desktop so that it's set up how you like it, in a way that works for you. You can create and delete shortcuts for your favorite programs, files and folders.

Desktop Icons for Programs

Go to the Start screen and find the program you want to place on the desktop.
Right click on that program and then click on Open file location from the menu.
This will take you to the shortcuts folder with the program you want selected.
Right click, a sub menu will appear, then point to send and click on Desktop.

Desktop Icons for Files or Folders

Open File Explorer (right click on the Start button).
Find the file you want to place on the desktop.
Right click on the file and then click Create shortcut.
Drag the new shortcut file to the desktop.

 

In our next newsletter: Customizing the Windows 8.1 Desktop – Using Themes

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Today's Topic: How to Speed up a Slow Internet Connection

From wikihow.com

A slow internet connection wastes time, turns streamed videos into bad slideshows, and puts your computer in real danger of being lobbed out the window. Here are some steps you can take to fix or improve your connection.

Optimize Your Browser

Switch to a different browser.
Some people use Internet Explorer, which, while a decent browser, does use a lot of resources. Moreover, as web pages become more advanced, the number of processes necessary to load them grows, meaning you’re usually better off with a browser that can be customized to cut back on ads and other non-essentials.

Firefox has many extensions that allow for the ability to block elements such as JavaScript, advertisements, Flash, and other things until you enable them. One critical add-on is Adblock Plus, which virtually eliminates ads from your surfing experience and speeds up load time considerably. You may also want to try the add-on Fasterfox Lite, which will give Firefox enhanced speed options.

Google Chrome uses very little memory and can also be good for sites that have a lot of JavaScript and Flash. You may also want to try the FastestChrome add-on.

Remove unwanted add-ons, extensions, and plugins.
Though many plugins and add-ons can make your surfing experience more efficient, others make it difficult to perform instant page loads. (Non-essentials like themes, skins, and gizmos you’ve long since grown bored with are prime targets.) Try disabling these unnecessary plug-ins and add-ons to gain better browsing and downloading speed.

To turn off add-ons on Firefox, Go to Tools > Add-ons and disable both unwanted add-ons and plugins. Restart Firefox to put changes into effect.

To turn off add-ons on Google Chrome, Go to Customize > Tools > Extensions and disable unwanted plugins. Restart Chrome to put changes into effect.

To turn off Internet Explorer add-ons, Go to Tools > Manage Add-ons and disable unwanted add-ons. Restart IE to put changes into effect.

Close unused tabs.
Even if you aren't looking at them, many pages automatically refresh themselves every few minutes or seconds to keep you in sync (news pages, Facebook, and Twitter are excellent examples). Close these when you’re not using them so they don’t eat up your bandwidth.

Allow (some) cookies and caching.
While allowing cookies and caching means that parts of your browsing history or even your personal information will be tracked and/or stored, a lot of this is completely harmless and, in fact, allows pages to load more quickly. If you’re skeptical about opening the floodgates, keep your default setting to ban all cookies, then add sites you trust to your “Exceptions” list. Furthermore, don’t set your browser to automatically clear its cache every time it closes. Note that different browsers will allow different levels of customization as far as cookies and caching are concerned. To change these settings:

In Firefox, go to Tools > Options > Privacy.

In Internet Explorer, go to Tools (may look like a cog) > Internet Options > Browsing History and make sure Delete browsing history on exit is not checked. For more controlled deletion, go to Delete… and make sure Preserve favorite website data is checked.

In Chrome, go to Tools (may look like a wrench) > Settings, scroll down, then go to Show Advanced Settings > Privacy > Content Settings.

 

Optimize Your Modem/Router

Change your wireless device to a different channel.
If you live close enough to your neighbors that you can see their wireless connections, it’s possible that your wireless device is being bogged down by having to broadcast on the same channel as them. To test this, download, install, and run a program like inSSIDer (http://www.pcworld.com/product/949311/inssider.html) to scan wireless networks and their associated channels in your vicinity.

Find your wireless connection in the list (usually at the top). Look for the channel it broadcasts on, then compare this to the other channels being used. Ideally, it will be the only network on this channel (as in the example below), but this often isn't the case. (In fact, in crowded areas, this may not be even be possible.) Scout for a channel between 1 and 11 with few or no networks and make note of channels that are overburdened with many, many networks (in the example below, channel 6).

If necessary, change your wireless channel. Connect to your modem/router’s IP address (find the manual, check on the device itself, or look it up online), look for the broadcast channel among the settings (the location will vary depending on your device), and select an alternative from the drop-down list.

Reposition your wireless router.
Either move it to the room where it will get the most use or position it centrally. Ideally, there should be a direct, unobstructed line between your computer and router.

Avoid interference from other wireless devices.
In particular, cordless phones can be a real nuisance for your wireless internet connection. Space them as far apart as physically possible (or at least leave a few feet between them).

Use an Ethernet cable.
Going wireless is liberating, but the tradeoff is signal interference, especially when it’s traveling through walls, and reduced overall performance. Make an Ethernet cable your first choice when connecting.

Upgrade your device.
An old modem/router may not be physically capable of accommodating the speed potential of your internet package.

 

Optimize Your Internet Service Package

Identify the speed your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is supposed to be providing.
This is important because your slow connection could be due to a problem on their end, not yours. The exact speed should be on your bill. If you don't have a bill handy, you can check the ISP's website or contact them directly to find out.

Conduct a speed test online.
This should get you results close to what your ISP is supposed to provide. If you get a low result, try another computer on your network first. If both get a low result, contact your ISP. If only yours has a problem, then the problem lies with the computer. (http://www.zdnet.com/broadband-speedtest/)

Upgrade to a better package.
If you’ve been using the same speed for years, you probably aren’t equipped to load today’s web pages, which are more intricate than ever. In particular, you might be missing out on streaming and downloading opportunities. If you’ve had the same provider for a long time, ask for a discounted upgrade in exchange for your continued loyalty. Otherwise, shop around for deals; many companies offer incentives if you switch to them.

 

Optimize Your Computer

Eliminate needless programs.
Your Internet connection requires memory to be able to be at the speed you are paying for. If your computer is bogged down by programs you don't need, your connection will be slower. Close programs you aren't using.

Do a virus and spyware scan.
Viruses and spyware also use up memory which can contribute to a connection appearing slow. Run a thorough or complete scan of each even if you have it on and scanning. A regular scan will catch additional items.

Make sure you aren’t running two firewalls.
These will interfere with each other and, in addition to posing security problems, also reduce your web performance. In particular, if you use Windows but have downloaded or purchased a separate firewall, double-check that you aren’t also running Windows Firewall (which is turned on as a default). Go to Search > Windows Firewall and, if necessary, hit Change Settings to turn it off.

Check your free space.
If your hard drive is nearly full, take files you don't use often and either burn them to CD or DVD, place on an external hard drive, or delete them. Your computer uses free hard drive space as virtual memory, so a full hard drive will slow down your computer and your connection.

Run a disk defragmentation.
This should be done once every two weeks. It will improve your overall performance which can only help your Internet connection.

Consider a computer upgrade.
An older computer may not have the power to make use of many things on the Internet now. Even something as simple as a RAM (Random Access Memory) upgrade could help, but if your computer is more than five years old, it may be time to consider getting a newer model.

Turn off your computer every night.
Leaving your computer in standby mode without turning it on and off completely every day or so will tie up memory and can soon slow down your Internet speed.

 

Tips

Keep your virus and spyware scans up to date.
Out-of-date definitions do no good and new things can be added almost daily. Always update before running a scan and when downloading a new program.

Even if your virus scanner provides spyware scanning, you should still have a separate spyware scanning program.

 

Warnings

Do not try to download any "speed boosters" for your connection. Most of these do not work, and if anything, may even slow down your connection more. The same goes for memory management software.

Do not run more than one virus scan at a time. Multiple virus scanning programs will merely interfere with each other and cause viruses to slip by.

Be wary of supposed spyware cleaners and other programs that boast to improve performance. Many of these do not work and could well contain spyware or impede performance. Always do research on a program before downloading it. Check a reputable website for reviews (not testimonials) from other users.

Be careful when closing off programs. Some programs are required for the running of other programs. If you aren't sure, search the name in your search engine to find out what it is or seek expert advice.

You should conduct the online bandwidth tests for a couple days in a row and at different times, as their bandwidth (or your bandwidth) could have been tied up. Find your "average" connection speed and work from that.

If you have a spyware-infected computer, changing browsers will not solve your problem.

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Special Feature: iPad Basics - More Communication Apps

From gcflearnfree.org


FaceTime

FaceTime allows you to make free video calls to other Apple devices. All the other person needs is a device of their own. (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and most Mac computers are compatible.) If you have an iPad or iPhone, you can even take advantage of your device's front and back camera. For example, you could use the front camera to talk face-to-face, then switch to the back camera to show what's going on around you.

If you haven't already added your friends and family to your contacts, now's a good time to do that. You can't call people in FaceTime just by dialing their number or entering their email address. They have to be part of your contacts list first.

If you have the newest version of the iPad or iPhone, it's helpful to know that you can make FaceTime calls over your cellular network if Wi-Fi isn't available. However, to avoid exceeding your data allowance, we recommend using FaceTime over Wi-Fi whenever possible.

Find My Friends

Find My Friends can be downloaded for free in the App Store. Developed by Apple, this app is designed to work closely with Contacts, Maps, and all the information synced in your iCloud account. It can help you keep track of friends and family, pinpoint their current location, and more. You can even receive alerts about their whereabouts; for example, when they leave or arrive at a specific location.

Find My Friends only works if your friends use the app too. If you don't want your location to be visible, you can always hide it temporarily, or turn it off permanently.

Find My Friends is available for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch only.

Twitter and Facebook

Twitter and Facebook have their own mobile apps for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. You don't even have to go looking for them in the App Store—instead, you'll find everything you need under your device's Settings. Just navigate to each app, then click Install to get started. Once the installation is finished, the app will walk you through the process of setting it up.

Installing Twitter and Facebook

Both Twitter and Facebook are designed to integrate with Contacts, so you can keep in touch with the people you know even more easily. That means your device may download additional data from your social networking accounts, including more contact information for your friends, or their profile pictures. The results will vary depending on your settings.

In the App Store

Other mobile apps from third-party developers (i.e., apps that are supported by Apple, but not developed by Apple) can be downloaded in the App Store. There, you'll find a wide variety of tools that can help you communicate with friends and family, and keep up with your social networks. For example:

Skype for making Skype calls on the go
LinkedIn for keeping up with business contacts
Google+ for Google social networking
Meetup for finding and organizing social events
Pinterest for bookmarking and social networking
IMO for instant messaging

Remember, the App Store is filled with thousands of choices. If you have something particular in mind (maybe an app for your favorite service), just search for it. There's a good chance you'll find what you're looking for.

In our next edition: Apps for Everyday Tasks - Safari

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Websites of Interest:

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
http://acco.org/

Housekeeping
Helpful housekeeping tips and tricks.
http://housekeeping.wonderhowto.com/

Grandparents' Web
This site has articles, links, newsletters and an advice column, all for grandparenting.
http://www.cyberparent.com/gran/

20th Century TV
http://www.reruncentury.com/