Google Maps Privacy

Google Maps is great when navigating in unfamiliar locations.  Personally, I use it quite often.

Have you looked at the street view option?  If not, it’s really quite fun.  To access the street view, open Google Maps, type in your address in the location box; look for the small yellow person looking icon at the bottom of the screen.  Drag the icon onto the map at your location and you will see your house from the street.

Depending on how close your house is to the street, you may get a good look at your house and property at the time the image was taken.  When I looked at mine there were images from 2007 and 2008 available.  My house sits back from the road and not much was visible except an image of a car I used to have.

Anyone with a computer or smart phone can look at your house from the street view.  If this is concerning to you, for instance if something is visible in the image that you don’t want the world to see, you can request that Google blur out the image of your house.  However, if Google accepts your request and blurs your house, it is PERMANENT.  Even if the satellite image is updated, the blurring will remain in effect. Even if you sell your house, Google will not un-blur your house. If you’re curious, here is how to make the request.

Open Google Maps, type in your address and go to street view.  At the very bottom right in small letters, click on “Report a Problem”  Center your home in the red box and fill out the form requesting your house be blurred.  You’ll need to enter a reason and your email address.  Google may contact you for more information on why and exactly what you think should be blurred. For Bing maps, the process is similar.

If nothing else, check out the street view, you may see your house as it was in 2007!

Memory vs Storage

When we talk about computer memory and storage space, these two concepts can be confused with each other.

Memory, also called RAM, holds information that your computer is using at a given time.  It is temporary storage.  When you turn off your computer, the memory is cleared.  For example, if you are typing a document in your favorite word processing program, the document you are typing is stored in memory until you turn off your computer or save your document to your hard drive.

The more memory you have, the more information your computer can process quickly without accessing your computer’s physical storage device which slows things down.

How much memory do you need?  That depends on what you do with your computer.  If you are a light user, typing an occasional document and browsing the internet, then 4 or 8 gigabytes of RAM is probably sufficient.  If you are a programmer or heavy gamer, then you would need much more.

Your computer’s hard drive is permanent storage.  When you save your document and shut down your computer, that information is stored until you delete it.  Hard drives come in different types and sizes.  An SSD or Solid State Drive is generally smaller but is much faster.  Having a solid state drive could make your computer boot up faster than using the older style HDD or Hard Disk Drive.  HDD drives tend to be larger and less expensive.  It’s not uncommon to see a 1 or 2 Terabyte HDD as standard on a new computer. SSDs would be more like 256 or 500 GB sizes although larger drives are available. 

Consider your computer’s memory your desktop surface and your file cabinet as your computer hard drive.  You can permanently store files in your file cabinet and bring them out to your desktop while you are using them.  You then clear your desktop and put your items back for permanent storage.

Windows 10 Mail

For those of you who use the built in Windows 10 Mail App for email, you may have noticed it taking a long time to load up.

Look at your Inbox, Sent, and Deleted mail folders.  If you have a lot of emails stored in these folders, this can cause your email to open slowly.  All these old emails must load before your mail application will open.

When you delete an old email, it gets stored in your Deleted mail folder until you go into that folder and delete it again.  Seems redundant but by doing it this way you have another chance to retrieve something that you may have deleted accidentally.  Open your Deleted mail folder and take a second look to make sure you meant to delete these emails and then delete them permanently from your mailbox.

Then look through your Sent mail folder and Inbox and delete out what you don’t need keep.  I tend to store a lot of mail in my Inbox simply because I’m looking at my mail in a hurry and don’t take the time to delete incoming mail after I read it.

If you have a large number of emails that need deleted, it may be more efficient to log into your email from www.outlook.com to delete them instead of deleting them through the App.  The advantage here is that you can checkmark multiple emails and delete them all at once.  You can also checkmark all emails in your Deleted folder with one click then click the DELETE key on your keyboard to clear out your Deleted folder.

Taking the time to go through old emails regularly will speed up your Mail App loading time and will keep you more organized as well.  I think I will do that right now!

What’s my password?

Keeping track of our passwords can be a real test on our memories. Many of us have notebooks that we keep our passwords in.  These work great if they are updated when we change passwords.  What if you just can’t find or remember your password?  Most web sites give the option to reset your password.  This is an option and can get you out of a jam so you can access your accounts again.

Before you change your password though, you can look to your browser to see if your passwords have been saved.  Internet Explorer, Edge, and Chrome all have the capabilities to save your frequently used passwords.  You’ve probably seen the little box that pops up offering to save your password for you.  If you opt to save them, they are stored in your browser’s settings. 

On Internet Explorer and the new Microsoft Edge, click on the three little dots at the far top right of your browser window and click on “Settings”.  Select “Passwords” and you will see a list of sites that has saved your password. To the right, there is an icon that looks like an eye, click on it to see your password for the web site.

For Chrome, again, click on the three dots, select Settings, and under Autofill, you will see “Passwords”. Click on the eye symbol to reveal your password.

Saving your passwords on your home computer is a good way to keep track of your passwords, however, never save your passwords on a computer that you don’t have control over, such as at the library or a friend’s house.  You can see how easy it is to get your password from your browser and you don’t want to take a chance that anyone can access your bank account or other personal information.

Tech Support Scams

Have you ever received a call claiming to be from Microsoft saying that your computer needs technical assistance?  They will try to convince you that there is a problem that they need to fix.  This is one form of a tech scam. If you receive one of these calls, hang up and don’t give out any information.

This past week, I came across another tech scam where the user’s internet browser was essentially hijacked by the scammer.  A message came up on the browser with words to the effect that the computer had been locked because of a security issue and the only way to protect the computer is to call the listed phone number.  The browser wouldn’t close and rebooting the computer didn’t clear the message.

I was able to clear the malicious pop-up, by opening the task manager and closing the browser. It took twice before the web site went away.  Open the task manager by right-clicking on the task bar at the bottom of your computer and selecting “Task Manager”.  You can also hold down the CTRL+ALT+DEL keys at the same time and select “Task Manager”.  The Task Manager shows a list of programs that are currently running on your computer.  In this case, Internet Explorer was the program I wanted to close, so I clicked on it and then clicked the “End Task” button.

The tricky part of this tech scam is that reopening your browser may reopen the page with the scam on it.  I was lucky and closing it twice did the trick.  Running a Malwarebytes scan regularly will keep some of these scams off your computer.  Most importantly, don’t call any phone numbers that claim to be able to clean your computer of viruses or unlock your computer.  Legitimate virus and malware protection companies won’t ask you to call them and they won’t call you either.

What’s that new icon on my computer?

You may have noticed a new blue and green swirly icon on your computer desktop in the last week or so.  This is Microsoft’s latest version of its Edge browser.  It is being automatically downloaded with when your computer does an automatic Windows Update. 

I have had people ask me if they need to switch.  No, you don’t have to switch.  If you are using Chrome now and it is what you are used to and are happy with, keep using it.  With that said, the new Microsoft Edge browser is based on the same Chromium open-source code that Chrome uses.  It has a more Chrome-like look and feel, which is by design. 

One interesting feature of new Microsoft Edge has a built in tracking prevention feature that has three levels of privacy, which you can set to meet your own privacy needs.

I will be testing the new Edge against Chrome in the coming weeks and will give you my thoughts.  For today I wanted to bring it to your attention as you may have seen the new icon on your computers and wondered where it came from.  Stay tuned for more on this subject.

Windows 10 Tips

This week let’s try a few Windows 10 features that may speed up your productivity.

You already know about pinning programs, like Word or Email to your Task Bar by right-clicking a program name on your Start Menu and selecting “Pin to taskbar”.  You can also access frequently used files, such as your family budget from those pins.

Let’s use Excel as an example.  With Excel pinned to your taskbar already, right-click the Excel Icon on your task bar.  A jump-list will pop up showing your most recently opened Excel files.  Look for the name of your file that you don’t want to lose track of – FamilyBudget for example.  Hover your mouse over the name of that file in the jump-list.  You will see a pin icon on the right.  Click on the pin.  Your file will now move to the top of your jump-list so that you can always find it without searching through your files. You can pin multiple files to this list.

You can also pin your favorite website to the task bar.  If you are using Microsoft Edge, open your web site and click on the three dots at the top right of your browser window.  Towards the bottom of the drop-down list you will see an option to “Pin this page to the taskbar”.  If you are using Chrome, there are a few more steps. Click on the three dots, select “More Tools” from the drop-down menu then select “Create Shortcut” then click “Create”.  A shortcut to your page will be placed on your desktop.  You can right click the shortcut that was created and “Pin to taskbar”.

You can easily remove a pin by right clicking on the program or webpage icon and selecting “Unpin from taskbar”.

Windows Updates

Have you been wondering whether or not you should be doing Windows Updates.  Yes, you should.  While Microsoft does some updates automatically.  There are some that you much manually initiate. 

Once a month, Microsoft puts out new updates.  They include latest fixes to the Windows 10 operating system, security improvements and sometimes updated drivers that your computer may need.  Installing these updates help keep your computer secure.  You can look for the monthly updates after the second Tuesday of the month.

Installing the updates is easy, just be patient with it as some updates take longer than others to install.  Your internet speed will also affect how fast your updates download.  Also be aware that some updates require you to reboot/restart your computer for the update to complete.  It is ALWAYS a good idea to Restart your computer after installing an update.

To look for new updates, go to Settings/Update & Security and Windows Update.  Sometimes there is already an update in progress, or one waiting for you to Install or Download.  If not, you will see a button labeled CHECK FOR UPDATES.  Select it and Windows will look to see if there are any updates available for downloading.  When it is finished, Restart your computer.

If in doubt about any updates, give me a call!

Driver Updater Software

Have you ever seen a pop-up screen saying that you need to update your drivers on your computer?  It will generally say that Somename Driver Updater has detected that your need to update your drivers and to click UPDATE NOW to install. These programs can sneak onto your computer without your knowledge while you are downloading something else from the internet.  Look for a bit of text with a checkmark already checked giving permission to include them in the download. 

If you see this type of pop-up, I recommend that you decline the driver updates as they are not all legitimate and could possibly harm your computer. 

Running a Malwarebytes scan on your computer regularly, should catch these Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs). Malwarebytes is an anti-malware program that you can use on your computer for free to keep these types of programs out.  It’s already on most computers that Robert or I have worked on. 

Any driver updates should come from your computer’s manufacturer.  Dell, HP, Acer etc. all have Support Assistant programs that will check your computer for any needed driver updates.  Give me a call if in doubt about any messages that pop up on your computer.  Manufacturer drivers and Windows updates are both done when I do tune ups on your pcs.

Black Screen

In the last couple of months, Robert and I have had several computers calls where the computer screen is black and the computer won’t finish booting up.  In one case the hard drive light was blinking rapidly but the computer still wouldn’t load which seemed to indicate that the hard drive had gone bad.

I also had another computer with similar symptoms.  In both cases when we brought the computers back to the office to work on them, they started right up as if there was no problem.

This may have been caused by a Windows update that hasn’t been able to fully complete, possibly from a slow internet connection or the update has stalled for some unknown reason.

We have suggested in the past to leave the computer sit for awhile and see if the update will finish. In one instance the client left his sit for several days with no change.  We are now suggesting that if your computer seems to be stuck in this manner and won’t load, but your hard drive light is on, go ahead and shut the computer down and restart it.  You will need to hold your computer’s power button down until your computer powers off.  Wait until it has completely shut down – no lights or sounds coming from your computer.  Then you can try to restart.  In many cases this will allow the windows update to continue or finish up and then your computer will start up. 

If in doubt, as always, give me a call.