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Welcome to this week's edition of the Computer Kindergarten Newsletter.
Today is Sunday, December 15, 2013

To all of our readers, we wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year. From all of us at Sharper Training Solutions, Ceil, Angela, Nicole, Trish, Angela I., Sandy, Roberto and Scott.


We will not be publishing this newsletter for the next two weeks so the writers and editors can celebrate the holidays with their families and friends. See you in 2014!

In this Issue:
Special Feature: Beware of Holiday Scams - Don't Fall Prey to These 7 Hoaxes
Tips & Tricks: Top 25 Most Popular Anti-Spam Tips, Tricks and Secrets: Watch Out for Those Checkboxes
Special Series: Using the Windows 8 Search Feature
This Week's Topic: Secrets Every Smartphone User Needs to Know
Question: Android, Apple, or Windows: How to Choose the Right Tablet
Websites of Interest: Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Happy New Year


Special Feature: Beware of Holiday Scams - Don't Fall Prey to These 7 Hoaxes

By Sid Kirchheimer of aarp.org

‘Tis the season for shopping, salutations and various seasonal scams as perennial as poinsettias. Among the most common:

1. Shopping Setups

During the holidays, scammers, working like type A elves, try to steal money and personal information from unsuspecting shoppers. One popular scheme: rogue websites that appear on your search engine results when you type in the names of hot-selling gifts or even terms such as "discount toys." Promising deals, the sites instead steal credit card information, passwords and other sensitive data when you click on links infected with malware. (The same can apply to holiday-themed videos that fraudsters post on Facebook.)

Also, beware of what's known as cybersquatting, in which crooks steal or slightly alter the website address of a well-known company to launch a copycat site that may be a spot-on replica of the real thing. While these sites may have malware, they primarily function to collect your credit card information for the purchase of inferior counterfeit goods — assuming you actually receive them.

So when shopping online, carefully read website addresses before clicking, to ensure you're headed to a recognized and legitimate vendor. Once on the site, look for phone numbers and street addresses (versus just email addresses and P.O. box numbers) as signs of legitimate vendors. You can check who owns the website's address at Whois.net.

2. Gift Card Gotchas

Taking gift cards from display racks, thieves peel and copy or use a portable scanner to get the code underneath the scratch-off strip. Then they put the cards back on the rack and wait for them to be bought and activated. By dialing the cards' toll-free numbers, they can find out exactly how much value is on the card. All's clear now for them to make online purchases or generate cloned copies for in-store use, leaving your intended recipients with worthless cards.

Your best bet: Purchase gift cards from a store's customer service counter or website, rather than from untended display racks. If you do buy from a display rack, make sure the cashier scans and activates the card in your presence — you don't want the cashier just pocketing the money. And make sure you get a receipt to give to the gift recipient in case there's a problem.

3. Courier cons

An email claiming that FedEx, UPS, DHL or the U.S. Postal Service is trying to deliver a package. Unless you provided your email address — unlikely, since many shipping forms don't ask — you can assume the email is scammer-sent. You'll likely install malware by clicking on the attached link promising details of the supposed delivery holdup.

Also beware of mailed postcards about "undeliverable" packages. They could be a trick to get you to make an expensive overseas phone call and/or to reveal personal and financial information. Area codes 809, 876 and 284 take you to the Caribbean, a hotbed of scams, where the idea is to make you pay phony fees or simply run up a high long-distance charge that will partially go to the scammers.

When in doubt, look up the courier service's callback number and dial it. Don't use the number on the postcard.

4. Greeting Card Cheating

When e-cards come from an unnamed "friend" or "admirer" — or an unrecognized name — that's your cue for a quick delete. It's another tease to click on a malware-likely link. Even e-cards bearing the names of people you know should be suspect; they may be the result of a botnet virus that captured your email address. Legitimate e-card notifications should include a confirmation code to use to safely open the card at the issuing website.

5. The Grift That Keeps On Taking

Mobile apps are an easy way for scammers to gather personal information via malware, so download wisely — and only from reputable vendors. The same applies to "free" holiday-themed screen savers. If you buy or receive computers, smartphones or gaming devices as gifts, learn how to protect them from future malware.

6. Travel Scams

Phony offers of accommodations with too-good-to-be-true prices proliferate during the holiday vacation season. Get wise to these lies.

7. Charity Cons

Once again, unless you provided your email address to an organization, assume that all email solicitations bearing that charity's name are scams. Don't provide credit card information to phone solicitors. Keep a close ear for sound-alike names, such as the National Heart Association instead of the legit American Heart Association. Be especially suspicious of heartstring-pulling solicitations to supposedly benefit disabled veterans, police and firefighters, or sick or needy children (those conning causes most often target older donors). When in doubt, check a charity's legitimacy.


Tips & Tricks: Top 25 Most Popular Anti-Spam Tips, Tricks and Secrets: Watch Out for Those Checkboxes

Spam, spam and spam. How to avoid spam, how to filter spam, and how to complain about spam are the items on this menu of junk mail fighting tips. With the help of Heinz Tschabitscher of about.com, we are presenting an ongoing series of tips and tricks that you can use to minimize the amount of junk mail that you will receive in your email inbox.

When you sign up for something on the Web, there is often some innocent-looking text at the end of the form saying something like: "YES, I want to be contacted by select third parties concerning products I might be interested in." Quite often, the checkbox next to that text is already checked and your email address will be given to you don't know who.

Watch Out for Those Checkboxes

To avoid that,

* look closely at every form you fill on the Web and
* make sure all relevant checkboxes are not ticked.

Sometimes, the text will read: "NO, don't give away my email address," and the checkbox will consequently be unchecked by default. Check it.


In our next edition: Spammers Track Usage, Too


Special Series: Using the Windows 8 Search Feature

From gcflearnfree.org

Using the Search Feature

Once you've used Windows 8 for a while, you'll start to have more and more files, such as music, photos, and documents. It may sometimes be difficult to find the exact file that you want. You may even have trouble finding a specific app, since Windows 8 has moved everything around. Luckily, there is a built-in search feature, which can help you find files, apps, or almost anything else on your computer.

To Search from the Start Screen:

From the Start screen, type what you're looking for. Your search results will instantly appear on the left side of the screen, and search options will appear on the right.

Using Different Search Options

By default, the search results will show apps. However, you can select different search options on the right side of the screen to find files, settings, and more:
You can select Settings or Files to search for a setting or file.

Searching From the Desktop

If you're on the Desktop, you will first need to press the Windows key to switch to the Start screen, and then type what you're looking for.

Searching on a Tablet

If you're using a tablet without an attached keyboard, you can search by swiping in from the right, and then selecting the Search charm. You can then type what you're looking for.


In our next newsletter: Personalizing Your Start Screen

You can review all of our previous Windows 8 articles on our website.

Do you have a question about Windows 8 that we haven’t covered yet? Please email your question and we’ll cover it in a future newsletter article.


Today's Topic: Secrets Every Smartphone User Needs to Know

By Kim Komando of komando.com

Can you believe the modern smartphone has only been around for 6 years? In that short time, it's changed the way society does business, communicates, flirts, gets news, makes news, plays games and so much more. According to a Pew survey, more than half of adults in the U.S. own a smartphone.

That isn't to say most people are smartphone experts. Just owning a smartphone doesn't mean you know all the tricks. In fact, here are some that you might not know, but really should.

1. Take a Screenshot

Capture an image or text on your phone with a screenshot.

On an iPhone, press and hold the Home button along with the Sleep/Wake button. You should hear a shutter click. The screenshot will appear in your Camera Roll or Saved Photos section.

On Androids, hold the Power and Volume Down buttons at the same time. The image is saved to the "Captured Images" folder in your Gallery app. That only works in Android 4.0 and higher, though. For Android 3.0, 2.3 or earlier, use an app like AirDroid.

2. Salvage a Wet Phone

It's a heart-stopping moment when you drop your smartphone on the ground. If you don't have a good case, there's a chance it won't survive. It's even worse if you drop it in the water. Unless you have a waterproof case, your smartphone is sunk - literally.

Or is it? You might be able to salvage it with a few steps.

First, and most important, DON'T turn it on. If you turn it on with water inside, you'll fry it. Instead, wipe it down with a dry microfiber cloth. If the gadget is dirty, you can clean it with isopropyl rubbing alcohol.

If the phone has a removable battery, take it out. Then fill a container or bag with uncooked rice and put the smartphone in the container overnight. The rice will help pull the moisture out of the gadget.

Under no circumstances put the phone in the oven or microwave!

The next day, put the phone back together and turn it on. If it starts up, congratulations! If not, you're off to the store for a new one.

3. Find a Lost or Stolen Phone

Mobility is a two-edge sword. Sure you can take your gadget everywhere you go. But once you're there, it's easy to leave it. Maybe a thief walks off with it and your precious information.

Fortunately, iPhones and iPads support Apple's Find My iPhone app. This allows you to use a computer or another iPhone to find your missing phone using GPS. You can also remotely lock and wipe your phone as well.

The latest version of iOS, version 7, includes the ability to take photos of the thief. It also has a lock system so they can't wipe the gadget and use it for themselves.

Android gadgets have apps that do the same thing. Where's My Droid?, Lookout Mobile Security and Carbonite Mobile are good ones to check out.

4. Don't Share Your Location

Smartphone cameras are great for the casual shutterbug. You can snap pictures no matter where you go and post them online.

Of course, if you aren't careful you're also sharing your location with everyone. Smartphones can embed GPS information into photos that anyone can read.

You could turn off GPS when you're taking pictures. To turn it off on your iPhone, go to Settings>>Privacy Location Services. You can turn it off for everything or just for the camera.

On an Android, go to Settings>>Location Services and turn GPS off when you don't need it. For Windows Phone, go to Settings>>Location to turn off Location Services.

Of course, you might forget. To see and remove photo information before posting, grab an app like PixelGarde.

5. Creative Smartphone Uses

Smartphones have way more features than you probably use. But they can do even more than you think. App designers have figured out some creative uses you won't believe.

Heard for iPhone is always recording using your smartphone's microphone. At any time, you can save audio from up to 5 minutes in the past.

Awareness for Android and iPhone uses your smartphone's microphone to keep track of noise around you while you're listening to music. Any sounds louder than regular background noise gets sent to your headphones.

Instant Heart Rate for iPhone and Android uses the phone's camera to figure out your heart rate. It detects the light passing through your finger and how it changes as your heart beats.

Want to go hunting for metal? Metal detector apps for Android and iPhone have you covered. They use your phone's built-in compass to find metals. You just need to hold your phone close to the ground.

Have fun!


Question: Android, Apple, or Windows: How to Choose the Right Tablet

Can you give some advice on how to choose a tablet for a holiday gift?

By Wendy Sheehan Donnell of pcmag.com

Whether you opt for an Apple iPad, or one of many Androids or Windows models, choosing the right tablet isn't necessarily a snap. Here's what you need to know before you hit the store.

It's difficult to remember a time before tablets, but it's been less than four years since the original Apple iPad hit the scene, and the current tablet market was born. Since then, we've seen scores of manufacturers trying to snag a slice of the tablet pie, which so far, has been dominated by Apple, now on its fifth iPad iteration. Growth is so rapid in the segment that some analysts claim tablets will make up half the PC market in 2014. There's no denying the tablet is here to stay.

But which tablet is right for you? Whether you're eyeing an iPad, one of the many Android tablets available, or a Windows slate, here are the key factors you need to consider when shopping for a tablet:

First Off: Do You Even Need a Tablet?

Despite almost four years of refinements, tablets still can't truly replace computers or smartphones. You can tackle productivity tasks on a tablet, but there are inherent ergonomic benefits to desktops and laptops. Plus, since we're talking about slates here, we're mostly talking about on-screen keyboards. There are plenty of worthy add-on hardware keyboards, especially for the iPad, but few will provide the same comfort you'll experience with a laptop or a desktop. The main focus of the tablets we'll discuss here is media consumption, rather than productivity. We'll touch on lower-cost Windows tablets here as well, but if you want a convertible tablet with a laptop-grade processor for serious work, take a look at the top-rated Windows 8 tablets we've tested—but be prepared to pay laptop prices, as many run around the $1k mark.

Tablets do have advantages over both laptops and phones, offering a more portable way to check email, browse the Web, video chat, watch movies, listen to music, and play games than your laptop can provide, but with a bigger screen than on your smartphone. Even so, you probably don't need a tablet. But if you want one, read on.

Choose Your Operating System

Just like with a full-fledged computer, if you're getting a tablet, you need to pick a camp. And just like with a computer, your decision will likely come down to your gut feeling. Right now, the top contenders are Apple with its iPads and Android with its many hardware choices from the likes of Acer, Amazon, Asus, Barnes & Noble, Google, Samsung, and others. And this year, we're finally seeing affordable Windows 8 tablets built around Intel's Atom (formerly codenamed Bay Trail) processor from various manufacturers like Asus, with its excellent Transformer Book T100TA. Meanwhile, Windows RT, a slimmed-down version of Windows 8, continues to chug along, but is still a bit confusing and doesn't support all Win 8 apps, which is a big problem. Microsoft released the second version of its RT-based Surface tablet this year, but the company seems to be hinting at rolling RT into its Windows Phone OS in the future. If you want a Windows tablet, Win 8 is the way to go.

Generally speaking, the greatest strength of Apple's iOS, the operating system on the iPad and iPad mini, is twofold: It's very clean and intuitive, and the wide selection of iPad apps that you can buy right on your tablet—more than 475,000 iPad-specific titles at the time of this writing—work uniformly well with very few exceptions.

Google's Android mobile OS is a more complicated story. Besides having your choice of hardware from several manufacturers, at any given time, there are a few iterations of Android floating around on various devices. The latest version, 4.4 KitKat, is the best yet, with maximum configurability, a top-notch notification system, fast and smooth Web browsing, and seamless integration with Google applications like Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Talk for video chat. Android also includes support for multiple user logins so you can share your tablet with a friend or family member, a useful feature that's missing in Apple tablets. Right now, though, you can only find KitKat on Google's own Nexus tablets.

Windows 8 comes the closest to offering a traditional computing experience with full x86 support for all of your Windows software. And you can run the full version of Microsoft Office when you buy a Win 8 tablet. Connectivity options and hardware add-ons for Windows models are also typically more plentiful than with other tablet types.

What About Apps?

What's a tablet without quality apps? If you want every third-party app under the sun, right now, nothing out there beats the iPad with its close-to-half-a-million programs and games designed specifically for Apple tablets. The App Store is well-curated and monitored, offers a deep selection, and includes every popular app you can think of. If a wide range of compelling apps that look good and work well your tablet is your main priority, Apple is your best bet.

Android has made some strides on app selection, courting more developers and offering more high-quality tablet apps, but it’s still nowhere near the number Apple offers. It's tough to say exactly how many tablet-optimized Android apps are available, but it's likely in the thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands. There are also Android phone apps, which look decent on a 7-inch tablet, but not a 9- or 10-inch one, so you're likely to have more problems getting high-quality apps for larger Android tablets.

Windows 8, meanwhile, offers an impressive array of more than 100,000 touch-screen-friendly tablet apps, but remember, you can also run all of your standard Windows-compatible programs.

Screen Size and Storage

This consideration is a bit obvious, but size—both screen real estate and storage capacity—is important to consider. First things first: When you hear the term "10-inch or 7-inch tablet" this refers to the size of the screen, measured diagonally, and not the size of the tablet itself. 7-inch tablets are considered small-screen, while 8.9- to 10-inch tablets are considered large screen. Apple iPads, Google Nexus tablets, and Amazon Kindle Fires all come in both small- and large-screen iterations

Lately, some phones are even blurring the lines with tablets. For example, Samsung, for one, wants you to have multiple choices, so it offers its Galaxy line in five different screen sizes ranging from 5.7 to 10.1 inches. The smallest, the Galaxy Note 3, is actually a phone with plenty of tablet-like features that mirror what the larger versions offer. And the Galaxy Mega is also more phone than tablet in that it requires a two-year contract, but it packs a huge 6.3-inch display.

Screen resolution is important too, especially for eBook reading and Web surfing. A sharp, bright display is key. Right now, the sharpest you'll find is 2,560 by 1,600 pixels on the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9" (339 pixels per inch) and the 2014 Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (298 ppi). The iPad Air with its 2,048-by-1,536-pixel (264 ppi) Retina display is no slouch either. If you're in the market for a 10-inch Android tablet, look for a display with at least a 1,280-by-800 resolution. For 7-inch models: The entry-level Amazon Kindle Fire HD's display is 1,280 by 800, and is perfectly viewable, even for eBook reading, but line it up side-by-side with the same-size Amazon Kindle Fire HDX's 1,920-by-1,200 screen, and you'll notice the difference.

The weight of a tablet is one definite advantage it has over a laptop—but let's be clear, with large-screen tablets typically weighing around a pound; they're not cell-phone light. After you hold one with a single hand on a subway ride for 20 minutes, your hand will get tired. Setting it flat in your lap, rather than propped up on a stand, can also be a little awkward. And few tablets will fit in your pocket, unless it's an extra-large jacket pocket.
Cloud (off-device) storage is an option for many tablets (iCloud for iPads, Amazon Cloud Storage for Kindle Fires, and SkyDrive for Windows tablets are a few examples), but when it comes to on-board storage, more is always better. All those apps, when combined with a typical music, video, and photo library, can take up a lot of space. Right now storage tops out at 128GB of flash-based memory, and that's only on the iPad Air and the iPad mini, with most of the tablets we've tested available in either 16, 32, or 64GB varieties. Larger-capacity models can get as expensive as full-featured laptops, though—the 128GB Wi-Fi-only iPad rings up at $799; add 4G service, and you're up to almost $930. Some non-Apple tablets have microSD memory card slots that let you expand storage.

Wi-Fi-Only vs. Cellular Models

Many tablets come in a Wi-Fi-only model or with the option of always-on cellular service from a wireless provider. If you want to use your tablet to get online anywhere, you should opt for a model that offers a cellular version, like the aforementioned iPads, or the Wi-Fi + 4G version of the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX. Of course, this adds to the device's price, and then you need to pay for cellular service. Generally, though, with a tablet, you can purchase data on a month-to-month basis, without signing a contract.

Another way to get your tablet online: Use your 3G or 4G phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot for your tablet. This won't work with every phone/tablet combo, so you should check with your carrier before you seal a deal.

Finally, before you buy, if you can, head to your local electronics store to get hands-on time with some different tablets, so you can see which feels and works best for you.


Websites of Interest:

NORAD Tracks Santa
For the kids, track Santa Claus as he travels 'round the globe on Christmas Eve.

Visit the North Pole
Play games, visit the toy workshop and much more.

Christmas Cookies
Find Christmas cookie recipes

The History of Christmas

Allrecipes.com claims to be the Internet's most complete Christmas and holiday recipe resource.

A celebration of family, community, and culture.

Some holiday safety tips from The National Safety Council

Winter Solstice
Everything you need to know.

New Year’s Eve customs and celebrations
Learn about the various customs and celebrations associated the New Year celebrations and how they originated.

Party Planning Ideas
From the Food Network.