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Welcome to this week's edition of the Computer Kindergarten Newsletter.
Today is Sunday, November 16, 2014

We will not be publishing this newsletter for the next two weeks so the writers and editors can prepare for and enjoy Thanksgiving with their friends and families. We wish all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

In this Issue:
Special Feature: Beware of Medicare Open Enrollment Scams
Special Feature: Windows 8.1 – The Settings Charms
Special Feature: Should I Upgrade to Mac OS X Yosemite?
Today's Topic: Windows 7: Restore the Main Menu Bar in Internet Explorer 8, Windows Live Mail
Special Feature: iPhone: Tips to Keep iOS 8 From Destroying Your Battery Life
Websites of Interest: Traveling for the Holidays?; Help Homeless Children Enjoy the Holidays; Thanksgiving

 

TO OUR READERS:

Over the years that we’ve been publishing this newsletter, we’ve received thousands of emails thanking us for our articles on computer safety and online and offline scams and hoaxes. We wish we had the time to answer each email. We appreciate your thanks and are glad we can help!

Here at Sharper Training Solutions, one of the things we are very dedicated to is educating all of our friends about all the identity theft schemes, computer dangers, and hoaxes that are out there. We’ve found that some of these scams can be pretty clever and can easily fool most of us. Because of that, we encourage you to pass on our newsletter articles to your friends and family to help educate them as well.

And don’t forget, you can always email us with any questions or issues you may encounter.

Stay safe out there !

We’re on Facebook! Please like us at
www.facebook.com/sharpertraining
We’ll be doing gift card raffles for the holidays. Like us to automatically enter.

Please consider the environment before printing this email.

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Special Feature: Beware of Medicare Open Enrollment Scams

By Sid Kirchheimer of aarp.org

Medicare scams are a year-round concern, but the coming weeks warrant special attention. Open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 — during that time frame Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their 2015 health plan and prescription coverage. For identity thieves, it's open season.

The most common ploy: Posing as employees from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) or other government agencies, scammers claim that new cards are being issued. To get yours, they say, you need to verify or update sensitive information, including your Medicare number, which likely is also your Social Security number.

Don't fall for it. "Medicare will never call you and ask you for your personal information, such as your Medicare number, over the phone. Never," says CMS spokesman Aaron Albright. Nor will Medicare email or visit your home unannounced to collect data that, after all, it already has.

Despite impostors' claims, there are no plans to issue new Medicare cards. (Lost or stolen cards can be replaced at ssa.gov or by calling 800-772-1213.) Although many consumer advocates — including AARP and the Federal Trade Commission — have urged the government not to use Social Security numbers on the cards, a 2011 report concluded that changing the system would cost upward of $845 million.

So for now it's up to you to closely guard your Medicare number. And take these other steps, too.

Don't Give Out Any Account Numbers

In addition to wanting your Medicare info, scammers may angle for a bank account number, saying they need it to process payment on an overdue medical bill. And don't be fooled if they accurately cite a few digits from your checks.

"Just hang up," suggests Josh Hodges, who oversees the Senior Medicare Patrol, a group of 5,000 volunteers who educate Medicare beneficiaries on scam prevention.

Don't Trust Caller ID

It can be easily manipulated to display whatever name or phone number the scammers choose.

Flee From "Free"

Phone calls promising free medical supplies are often bids to harvest your personal information — a credit card number for alleged shipping charges, for instance. Also, be careful with pop-up storefronts and traveling clinics offering free health checkups that require personal data.

Nix Supplemental Swindles

Open enrollment is prime time for unscrupulous salesmen to pressure you to buy supplemental insurance products that will supposedly save you thousands. Before signing anything, compare medigap policies at medicare.gov.

Mind your records. To spot fraud, carefully review the Medicare Summary Notice that comes in the mail quarterly. Or check it anytime online at mymedicare.gov. You can also call 800-MEDICARE.

Nix Bilking Billing, Too

Are you told that something isn't usually covered by Medicare, but there's a way around the rule? Or that you can get a kickback for providing your Medicare number or undergoing unnecessary treatment? You may get this kind of offer if you go to a free medical checkup that is offered by a shady group. No matter how it's said, it spells fraud — and possible criminal charges against both you and the other person. When in doubt, check with Medicare or your supplemental insurance provider.

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Special Feature: Windows 8.1 – The Settings Charms

From microsoft.com

Using the Charms for Things You Do Often

The five charms—Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings—are quick ways to get to actions you do often, like search the web and your PC, print documents, and email photos and links. They’re always available on the right side of your screen, no matter where you are in Windows.

Swipe in from the right edge of your screen. Then tap or click Search, Share, Start, Devices, or Settings. (If you're using a mouse, point to the upper or lower right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and then click Search, Share, Start, Devices, or Settings.)

You can also press the Windows logo key +C to open the charms.

The Settings charm is the place to make quick adjustments to a few common settings (like brightness and volume), find settings for your PC (like personalization, user accounts, and devices), and change settings for the app you’re using.

To quickly adjust common settings

There are a few common PC settings—like volume, power, and network connection—that are always available in the Settings charm.

1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, then tap Settings.
(If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, then click Settings.)

2. Tap or click the setting you want to change.

To change settings for your PC

You can change most settings in PC settings (instead of in Control Panel), like personalization and settings for things like devices, user accounts, OneDrive, network connections, and languages.

1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, tap Settings, then tap Change PC settings.
(If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, click Settings, then click Change PC settings.)

2. Tap or click the category of settings you want to change.

To change settings for an app

If you’re in an app when you open the Settings charm, you’ll see the settings for that app listed first. Every app is a little different, so the settings might be a little different too. And if you're on Start or the desktop, you can use the Settings charm to personalize and change other options.

1. Open an app, or go to Start or the desktop.

2. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, then tap Settings.
(If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, then click Settings.)

3. Tap or click the setting you want to change. If you're using an app and you don't see what you want, check PC settings—some apps have settings there.

 

In our next newsletter: Windows 8.1 – Apps

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Special Feature: Should I Upgrade to Mac OS X Yosemite?

By Alan Henry of lifehacker.com

OS Yosemite is probably the most transparent, least surprising OS X update ever. That's not a bad thing.

Apple told us all about its new features a long time ago, and opened the doors to its first truly public beta shortly after that. Thousands of Mac users have been running the Yosemite beta for months, watching the operating system evolve with each patch and update, and get ready for today's release. For many of you, the upgrade will be one more patch and that's all. For others, especially those of you who couldn't risk being without critical apps or tools during the beta, you can relax—that open beta means Apple's gotten a ton of feedback, and barring a few slow-updating developers, your apps should work without issue.

However, ever since Apple made new versions of OS X free, it seems like the bar for quality has dropped a bit. Mavericks had real issues when it launched, issues everyone glossed over because "hey, it's free!" Remember, just because something's free doesn't make it good, and it certainly doesn't make it worth your time or energy. That said, for most users, Yosemite will be a smooth upgrade. Let's go through the details.

Who Should Upgrade Right Away

We'll come out and say right away that most Mac users should go ahead and upgrade to Yosemite. If you have a machine built in the past two to three years, you'll have no issue with the update, and even if your machine is a little older, you shouldn't have much trouble (more on that in a bit.) The upgrade process itself is smooth and easy, and the App Store download is only about 5GB. The install process only took me about a half-hour, and part of that may be because I'm using a slightly older Mac by comparison to many.

If you live in Apple's ecosystem and have an iPhone or iPad—especially one running iOS 8—you should definitely upgrade. Many of Yosemite's coolest features show up in the way your mobile device and your computer talk to one another, especially if you leverage features like Handoff and Call Answering, as well as iCloud Drive. The new Safari, for example, is faster, more streamlined, and makes it easy to get back to sites you visited on your phone or tablet, which is a nice touch if you're not already using something like Chrome Sync or Firefox Sync. Of course, to leverage those great mobile-to-desktop features, you have to make sure your Mac meets Yosemite's basic system requirements (which, luckily, are the same as Mavericks'), your iOS device supports iOS 8, and both support features like Bluetooth 4 LE, which is required for Handoff, Call Answering, and Instant Hotspot. If you can check off all three, you're in great shape.

You may also want to upgrade right away if you're a big fan of Apple's built-in applications, like Mail, Safari, and Notification Center. Notification Center itself is finally actually useful, and not just a list of things you'll ignore forever. Mail is much improved and much faster, and Safari is leaner, looks better, and while it won't unseat Chrome or Firefox anytime soon, it's certainly much improved. All in all, if you live in Apple's garden and have up-to-date devices, Yosemite will make your life easier—and if all of the features work for you—more convenient.

Who Should Hold Off For a While

Some users might want to hold off a little bit until their apps and other favorite tools catch up. In our tests, we haven't seen too many issues, but many devs have already pushed updates to fix post-upgrade bugs. However, some popular third-party apps, most notably Chrome and Firefox, devour RAM and CPU time in a way they never did in Mavericks. Some other tools have side features that just don't work—or work as well—after the update. Airmail, for example, works great in Yosemite, but for some reason after upgrading, global search stopped working. A quick search shows other people have the same problem, but luckily the Airmail team is already working on a fix.

Similarly, other have complained about sluggish or poor graphics performance in Yosemite, likely because of the new OS's shiny (but graphically demanding) translucent windows and effects. If you have an older Mac or a Mac with lackluster graphics, it can drag your system down. In my case, I saw slowness in QuickLook and anytime my wallpapers rotated. Occasionally my secondary display would just get covered with visual artifacts for no reason. Again, these are sporadic issues and my anecdotal experience, but a little digging says I'm not alone. Luckily, all of this is easily patched away, and likely will be before long. Still, if you have an older Mac, or one light on specs, you may want to hold off and see how other people fare, or wait for 10.10.1 before jumping on board.

Who May Not Want to Upgrade At All

There are a few people who may not want to dive in to Yosemite at all. People running pre-Mavericks versions of OS X and are happy, or whose Macs don't meet the basic system requirements (who wouldn't be able to upgrade anyway). Beyond those obvious users, anyone with an older Mac, by which we mean more than five or six years, should think twice before hitting the App Store, and probably stick to the last version of OS X that runs smoothly.

Like we mentioned, most of the improvements in Yosemite are interface and graphics improvements, but that better look and smoother feel come with higher demands on your system. If you don't think that old aluminum-keyboard Macbook Pro or plastic-backed iMac can handle it, it's best not to upgrade it.

The Bottom Line: A Must Upgrade for Some, a Good Upgrade for Most

At the end of the day, Yosemite is a pretty safe upgrade. Some users may see some slowness at first, but that's to be expected, especially on older hardware. We're betting much of it will be patched out as developers (at Apple and otherwise) get together and update their applications. If you're worried performance may suffer on your Mac, consider a clean install (which we generally recommend anyway) to root out the cruft from versions of OS X gone by. Beyond that, Yosemite will be a fast, painless update for most people.

The fact that so many people have been in the beta means there should be few surprises. Informally, I asked friends and followers on Twitter what their experiences with Yosemite have been, and the response was almost universally positive. Aside from minor quirks and some third-party app issues, the prevailing opinion is that Yosemite is a solid, evolutionary (as in, not revolutionary) upgrade—one that offers the most for people in Apple's ecosystem and who own newer hardware. If you're in that group, Yosemite is a great update with tons of new features. For the rest of us, or those of us who are cross-platform, dual-boot other OSes on our Mac, or use it for work? You'll be fine too, just tread carefully, and as always, make sure your data is all backed up.

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Today's Topic: Windows 7: Restore the Main Menu Bar in Internet Explorer 8, Windows Live Mail

From computershopper.com

This malady is not new with Windows 7 (it first reared its head in places in Windows Vista), but in a few major Windows apps, the familiar old top menu bar has disappeared. (That is, the one containing the File, View, and such crucial menus.) This was especially noticeable in Internet Explorer 7; now we’re seeing it in Internet Explorer 8 and Windows Live Mail.

It’s no big deal if you’ve dealt with it before—you hit the Alt key, and the menu bar pops up temporarily—but we still find it disconcerting and prefer to revert to the old, always-visible menu bar in these programs when we can. And if you’re a new recruit to Windows 7 straight from XP, the missing menu bar might be outright unnerving.

To keep the menu bar always visible in Internet Explorer 8, first hit the Alt key to bring up the bar (comprising File, Edit, View, Favorites, and so on). Then, right-click on the menu bar itself. On the context menu that pops up, you’ll see that the Menu Bar entry (the topmost in the list) is not checked off. Left-click on Menu Bar to check it, and that should lock the old-school bar back in its familiar place.

In Windows Live Mail, the process is a little different. On the right side of the topmost icon bar, you’ll see an abstract “menu” icon. (It’s between the paint-brush and question-mark icons.) Left-click it once, and select the Show menu bar option with a left-click.

Your File menu and its menu friends will be back where they belong. (You can deactivate them in the same place.)

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Special Feature: iPhone: Tips to Keep iOS 8 From Destroying Your Battery Life

By Eric Limer of gizmodo.com

While iOS 8 comes with plenty of advantages, upgrading to a new operating system is never without its drawbacks. Maybe battery life just ain't quite what you'd want it to be, but we've got some tips to squeeze the most out of that sucker and stay juiced all day long.

Many of the features on your iPhone are handy if you need/want them. If you don't, they're just eating away at that precious battery life behind the scenes, and give you exactly zero help for your trouble. So shut 'em down.

Identify Problem Apps

One of the handiest new tricks in iOS 8 is the ability to see what apps are using the most battery life. You can check on your own personal problem children by going to Settings>>General>>Usage>>Battery Usage where you can find a list of apps that are chewing up your battery life.

Where you go from here depends on the apps in questions. You can always try to stop using the app so much, but chances are there are other measures you can take as well, like turning off location polling or push notifications. We'll cover those a little later on, so just remember the apps that are topping this list and be sure to check back for new culprits whenever your battery life starts to sag.

Turn Off Parallax

Parallax is fun, but it's the definition of "extra." And maybe it even makes you dizzy. Who needs it? Not you. You can turn it off in accessibility settings, by going to Settings>>General>>Accessibility and setting Reduce Motion to on.

Turn off AirDrop/Bluetooth If You're Not Going to Use It

AirDrop is great when you are AirDropping. The rest of the time it's just fidgeting in its seat, looking for another device to play with. Turning it off is easy, just swipe up your Control Center, and hit the toggle.

Stop Searching For Wi-Fi

There's no need to have your phone searching for Wi-Fi when there's no trusted network in sight. You'll save yourself some trouble if you get in the habit of turning of Wi-Fi from the Control Center when you leave the house. Alternatively, you can go to Settings>>Wi-Fi and turn Ask to Join Networks to off. This way your phone will hop on Wi-Fi networks it knows, but won't look around for more without direct orders.

Disable Location Services (For Apps That Don't Need It)

Google Maps needs to know where you are, yes. But Facebook? Hop over to Settings>>Privacy>>Location Services to get a full list of the apps that are asking about where you are. You can probably turn off about half, and cut down on a lot of GPS polling.

Turn Off Background App Updates

Immediate app updates are rarely a huge deal, but having enough battery always is. Go to Settings>>iTunes & App Store and then scroll down. You'll see Updates under Automatic Downloads. Turn it off. Just don't forget to stop by the App Store and update manually now and then. While you are here you can also turn off automatic updates for music in order to prevent U2 albums from appearing on your phone now and in the future.

Turn Off Background App Refreshing

The brutal downside of good multitasking is running things in the background. But if you go to Settings>>General>>Background App Refresh, you can disable background-running' for the apps that aren't important. Or all of them if you want to go all the way.

Disable Auto-Brightness

Chances are, auto-brightness keeps you more well-lit than you need to be. You can shut it off and get your mood-lighting on by going to Settings>>Display & Brightness and flipping the toggle. While you're there, crank that backlight alllll the way down, or as far down as you can handle. If you step outside, that's what the Control Center is for.

Go On a Push Notification Diet

Not every app needs to push its notifications; that stuff takes power. Go to Settings>>Notifications and scroll down to the Include section. Then go on a toggling spree.

Don't Push; Fetch

If your email isn't that important, or you have a couple of accounts, go turn the low-priority ones to Fetch instead of Push, which means your phone will go retrieve mail at set intervals instead of having it pushed to you every single time Uncle Harry or a spambot blasts you. This one is pretty dependent on how often you get emails and how crucial they are, so you'll have to feel it out, but you can set to fetch in Settings>>Mail, Contacts, Calendar>>Fetch New Data

Turn off 4G (If Times Are Tough)

Disabling 4G is going to hurt a little bit, but desperate times can call for desperate measures and LTE is a battery-burner. You can choke off the data-hose by going to Settings>>Cellular>>Enable LTE/Enable 4G

And Treat Your Battery Right In General

But even without all these tweaks, it pays to treat your lithium-ion battery right from the start, especially if you have a new gadget. In our next newsletter: How To Take Care of Your Smartphone Battery the Right Way

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Websites of Interest:

Traveling for the Holidays?
Traffic Pulse monitors 19 major cities and their surrounding areas and updates its reports every 60 seconds with info on congestion, constructions and accident reports.
http://traffic.com

Help Homeless Children Enjoy the Holidays
Learn how at this website.
http://covenanthouse.org/

Thanksgiving

Visit the Better Home and Gardens website for some Thanksgiving decorating ideas:
http://www.bhg.com/thanksgiving/indoor-decorating/

The First Thanksgiving website features a picture timeline from 1620-1621, and discusses what life was like in Plymouth.
http://www.scholastic.com/scholastic_thanksgiving/

Thanksgiving Recipe Central
http://thanksgiving.allrecipes.com

This website has over 1,400 recipes – all for pies!
http://pierecipe.com

Here are some ideas for decorating your home and table, crafts, games, stories, coloring pages, and other activities for children.
http://tinyurl.com/69we9