Who you gonna call?

cropped-computer-repair.pngOne thing we can be sure of is that our binary buddies will never spend two days in a row, exactly the same. Sometimes we change it ourselves, add new software to perform some desired task. Install new hardware such as an external back up drive or a new microphone. Sometimes it is a mystery how we turn off the computer at night and the next morning when it fires up there are changes made without our knowledge, some good and perhaps some not so good. It’s the not so good ones that perplex and frustrate us, especially if we don’t know how to fix or undo the change. The other issue that goes along with this is we don’t know which service or company to contact for help.
Example: A recent Windows update was thought to be the cause behind the speakers suddenly going silent. A call to Microsoft resulted in the user being told to plug in the speakers. They were already plugged in just not working. Here is where the problem arises. Speakers are hardware, the hardware works because of software called drivers, specifically designed for the audio card in that computer. That driver is provided by either the computer manufacturer if it is a major brand or by the maker of the audio card. It is not provided by Microsoft or their Windows service. So calling Microsoft to fix another manufacturer’s hardware would be akin to calling Comcast to fix our dishwasher.
Another example was a user whose AVG antivirus stopped working. A call to Comcast resulted in an attempt by Comcast to install Norton on the computer without removing the non functioning AVG. Now neither system worked, both antivirus programs were trying to start, then they would crash, try to start, crash on and on. Error messages were popping up on the screen and the poor defenseless PC was being over worked trying to start two systems that refused to start. In this example it should have been AVG that fixed their problem. Comcast doesn’t own AVG, nor service it. Again, calling Comcast to fix an AVG problem is like calling the car mechanic to change the refrigerator light bulb.
Still another example of who you should call for help. A client decided to take my suggestion and buy their own Internet modem so as to save the rental fee on the modem provided by their ISP. (Internet Service Provider) This example happened to be Centurylink but it holds for all providers. The client ran into some difficulty installing the new modem and couldn’t get online. A call to Centurylink resulted in being told they don’t support any modems except their own. A call to the modem manufacturer resulted in some technical jargon regarding settings to be obtained from the ISP. Which brought the client back to Centurylink and round and round.
So the question is, does there exist a single source of help that can address all the issues, knows what company belongs to which piece of software or hardware and understands how they all fit together? Of course there is. Call a LOCAL computer technician. It’s what they do.
Court Nederveld owns his own computer consulting and fixit service –Bits, Bytes & Chips Computer Services. He makes house calls in Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte! He can also fix most computer problems remotely! You can reach him at adakeep@hotmail.com or 941-626-3285

Want a useful Christmas present?

Grumbles from the Keyboard is a collection of newspaper columns written over a period of six years. Published as Bits and Bytes, under Court Nederveld’s byline. The column appeared each week in the Charlotte Sun, Charlotte County, FL. The articles target average home computer users. Many computer users harbor a fear of computers because they seem so mysterious. The columns attempted to inject a bit of humor into human/computer relationships simply to allow people to take a deep breath and realize that it really isn’t as frightening as it seems. At the end of the book is a handy log for recording website, user name, password and any notes appropriate to that account. Another huge issue with users is what I refer to as Computer Vocabulary. So often a user will describe an issue with words that make no sense to a tech. So, within each chapter there is a computer or Internet related word or phrase printed in bold type. At the bottom of the page will be a box labeled “Grandpa and Grandma, how come you’re so smart?” This box contains the bold word, its definition and a couple of sentences that demonstrate how to use it. Another column favorite over the years were the comments by Martha. Those familiar with the column know that Martha, in her own way, simply said what most of us were silently thinking. Grumbles From The Keyboard As a desk side reference putting similar or related columns together will make it easier to find information as needed Enjoy! If you take advantage of this offer, the author will autograph it for whomever you wish. The link to checkout is https://sites.google.com/view/bitsandbytesnews/home

 

 

Jingle Bells and other commotion!

man in santa claus costume
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

It’s hard to believe, Christmas is just over a week away. If being good wasn’t your style this year, there’s still time to come up with some mitigating circumstances that might reduce the load of coal crashing down the chimney. For the rest of us, the shopping is nearly over, just those presents for the wives and girlfriends that send grown men into the stores Christmas Eve. But in retrospect, this year seemed a turning point for the holiday season and our twittering tin can played a large part of that change. Here’s some of the ways PC’s changed my Holiday paradigm.  

 Emily Post is turning, no spinning in her grave now that I decided to move from Christmas Cards to Christmas emails. But adding up the cost of cards, envelopes, paper and stamps, I felt the need to cut back. Two ways to save. One, cut a bunch of friends and family from the card list, or move into the 21st century and utilize the Internet. So here we are. This year’s infamous Family Letter was composed on the computer, mail merged on the computer, converted to a PDF file on the computer and attached to an email that found it’s way to the email boxes of friends and family. Tacky? Several years ago, I would have said yes, now it’s more of a necessity.  

 Shopping: I am probably the only person in the world born without a shopping gene. I hate shopping. There, I said it. (Martha, there are pills to treat that.) This year, I decided what gifts I would give, used my computer and the Internet to compare price/warranty/service, and then ordered it online. Even items I could have run down to the local big box stores and picked up, I ordered online and had shipped to my door.  A big decision maker was all the retailers offering free or very low cost shipping this year.  http://www.freeshipping.org lists over 500 merchants that offer free shipping. As a bonus to the procrastinators out there, Amazon Prime still offers free shipping and one day shipping on many items. The idea is that items ordered on the 17th can still be delivered by Christmas Eve.  

 If the joyous sounds of small children are filling your home this year, perhaps this site can quiet the little rug rats down. A site located at http://christmas-coloring.com/ has a collection of coloring pages that can be printed and handed out to the kids. Give them a box of crayons and this should keep then occupied for a few minutes Or at least until the linoleum lizards find our computer and change all the settings to make it “better.”   

 Once they have commandeered our digital domestique for their nefarious plans, send them over  to http://www.primarygames.com/holidays/christmas/games.php for a collection of online holiday games they can play. There they will find games like Deep Freeze, Where’s Santa and Run Santa Run. It will keep them occupied while we prepare the holiday eggnog. 

Always bought eggnog from the store? Don’t actually know what eggnog is? Fire up the pernicious PC and surf over to https://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/homemade-eggnog/ for eggnog recipes. Try one or try them all. Eggnog has been a holiday staple for hundreds of years. It has even spawned this gem of poetry. If you see a fat man, who’s jolly and cute, wearing a beard and a red flannel suit; And if he is chuckling and laughing away, while flying around in a miniature sleigh; With eight tiny reindeer to pull him along; Then – let’s face it – Your eggnog’s too strong!! (Author unknown) 

On a more serious note, tis the season for giving. Not only are many of us feeling philanthropic, but many organizations and folks offer themselves as worthy recipients of our hard earned dollars. It behooves us to make our charity stretch as far as it possibly can. Take a few minutes to surf over to http://www.charitynavigator.org. Founded in 2001, Charity Navigator has become the nation’s largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities. Thinking of donating to a charity? Check their ratings and efficiency. If they don’t rank at the top of the heap, maybe a charity with similar goals but with lower overhead would make better use of the money we worked for. Consider outcome based giving. Can you see feel and touch the results of your gift? 

Is there still time to amend my letter to Santa?  

Court Nederveld owns his own computer consulting and fixit service –Bits, Bytes & Chips Computer Services. He can do remote repair. You can reach him at adakeep@hotmail.com

 

The Taskbar and other things

taskbarOne of the phrases I hear frequently is, “I didn’t know that!” It usually pops out when something that is being explained triggers a sudden realization that there is a simple way to do something or prevent a problem from occurring. The following suggestions are given to those running Windows machines but many of them are consistent with other operating systems such as Apple or Linux computers.

Take a look at the desktop. This is the screen that appears after we log into our binary buddy. Usually a pretty picture for a background, a taskbar along the bottom of the screen with some icons in it, maybe a few icons located above the taskbar such as shortcuts to programs and files.

If we set up the computer originally choosing all the default settings, (the ones that Windows thinks we need) then some interesting things occur.

Icons that appear on the desktop for a program such as Word and the icon also appears in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen, we find that the icon on the desktop requires a double click to open it, while the one in the taskbar only requires one click from the mouse. If we double click the one on the taskbar we can sometimes open the program twice.

The moving taskbar: Sometimes the taskbar moves to the side or the top of the window. Use the mouse to place the arrow on an empty part of the taskbar, press and hold the left mouse button and drag the taskbar where to its proper place. Once there, use the right mouse button to click on an empty area of the taskbar. A menu will appear and near the bottom of the menu click on Lock the Taskbar. This will prevent it from moving again. If we can’t drag the taskbar to a better position, right click on it and make sure it isn’t already locked. If it is, click to unlock it then move it and relock it.

Now open a browser. There are several popular browsers, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera and there is a host of lesser known browsers. What does a browser do? It is not the Internet. It does however, take the data coming from the Internet and converts into something that humans can interpret. Or to put it another way, we can always open a browser, but if we have no Internet connection the page will not be displayed.

All browsers have the capability to print the page we are looking at. Remember it will print the entire page, ads and all. Many times we just want the article or statement from our bank, not all the junk that surrounds it. Take our bank statement for example. We can log in, go to our statement and there it is on the screen. If we use the print command from the browser, everything in the window will print. Now look carefully at the statement itself. Somewhere on, above, or near the statement will be a label or link that says Print. This will only allow the statement to be printed instead of all the junk around it.

Simple tips and tricks.

Court Nederveld owns his own computer consulting and fixit service –Bits, Bytes & Chips Computer Services. He makes house calls in Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte! You can reach him at adakeep@hotmail.com

Beeeep…Beeeeeep

Beeeeep…..Beeebackupeep…….Beeeeep. I was sitting in my bathrobe this morning, drinking a cup of coffee and reading the local rag. I mean the Charlotte Sun. When this awful noise crashed into my morning routine. Beeeeeep……Beeeeeep……Beeeeep. There it was again. I jumped up; or more accurately, got up. That early in the morning not everything wants to function quite as sprightly as it once did. I walked out the front door to see what was going on. Coming down our street in reverse was a large moving truck.

Beeeep….Beeeep….Beeeeep. Now I am not superstitious but this was a bit weird. Have you ever had one of those days where at the end of the day you say, “I should buy a lottery ticket.”  One of those days when seemingly random events have a recurring theme embedded in them. For example: I client of mine gave me his phone number. Later that day I went to his house and his house number was the same number as the last four digits of his phone number. Then oddly enough, when setting up a broadband account, they asked him for the last four digits of his social security number and, you guessed it, it was the same number.

Beeeeeep…..Beeeeeep…….Beeeeep  So here I am standing in my driveway, listening to a truck make that terribly annoying noise and it hits me. The truck is BACKING UP. This is the second similarity in two random events. Not twelve hours prior to this, a business client of mine had called me and told me his PC had crashed during a power outage and now it would not restart. I had run over to help him but the PC was in need of a complete re-installation of the operating system. I looked up and asked for all the BACK UPS so I could rebuild the system for him. “BACK UPS, what BACK UPS?” he said. Fortunately PC CPR  (that’s a computer/medical term)  was able to get the system BACK UP and limping along sufficiently to do an immediate BACK UP of all critical business information. Happy ending so far.

Beeeeeep…..Beeeeep……Beeeeeep. What was this series of events trying to tell me? As I pondered the question I turned and went BACK UP to the house. Wait a minute, is that the third event? I realized that while my PCs are all supposed to automatically BACK UP all important data, it had been awhile since I actually checked the BACK UPs myself. How do I run my BACK UPs? First, since I have more than one machine networked together, I have software on my machines that takes all the important files from one PC and copies it to the other on a regular schedule. This means that each machine on the network has a complete copy of all the important files on each machine. Lose one machine, no files are lost, and as soon as a new machine is installed, I am BACK UP and running. Second, the critical files or the ones that would be nearly impossible to recreate, stored in the cloud. Finally, on rare occasions I will make an image of the entire hard drive (no this does not mean I take the PC apart and take a picture of the hard drive) and store it on the network.

Now, let’s BACK UP a minute. You don’t have multiple PCs on a network. You don’t have a flash drive, and finally your camera doesn’t take pictures of bits and bytes. When your PC crashes you want to be BACK UP right away too. What should you do? If your back up requirements are minimal, open a GMAIL account and take advantage of 15 gigs of free cloud storage called Google Drive. Or if you have a Microsoft account go to OneDrive for 5 gigs of free online storage. Dropbox is another storage site as is Amazon Drive. If your storage requirements are even greater then check out Carbonite (https://bitsbytesandchips.com/cloud_backup  (“Did he say FREE, Martha?”) There you can store terabytes of data, (that is a lot of space.) Not only would your data be secure and BACKED UP, but if necessary you could access your files anywhere in the world. Isn’t the Internet wonderful?

Hopefully you have picked up the recurring theme embedded in the seemingly random preceding paragraphs. I have to head BACK UP to the office now, but later on, I think I will go out and buy a lottery ticket. Beeeeep……Beeeeep…….Beeeeep!