On this week’s episode, El Kaiser continues his foray into the world of wireless Bluetooth earbuds after the weekly news roundup with J.D. And in these news this week: The stress of Internet shopping on New York City streets, more software updates from Apple and a leak peak at Windows 10X.
Election security — or lack thereof — dominated the headlines this week as social-media platforms moved to boot trolls and industry leaders met to discuss what to do with the U.S.midterms looming. Meanwhile, Walmart and Kobo teamed up on ebooks, rumors about Apple’s fall event popped up right on time, Samsung released its Galaxy Note9 and Google is trying to find regular doses of good news out there. All this and more on Episode 284!
In this week’s show, J.D. and an overworked El Kaiser discuss the week’s news, including Google’s big fine and Amazon Prime Day’s big fail. There’s also an exciting turn of events for those wishing rocket jet-packs were real. J.D. also has a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint about making your Windows PC or Mac clean up after itself. Hear it all now on Episode 281!
Things down here on Earth may be business as usual — mergers, lawsuits, taxes, paradigm shifts, feature updates and so on — but exciting things are happening Up Above as well as Out There. SpaceX had another successful rocket launch and resupply mission to the International Space Station, the Juno craft decided to take the long way around Jupiter for bonus science, NASA announced the discovery of seven possibly life-supporting exoplanets and Winston Churchill was writing about life beyond Earth way back in the 1930s. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all on this week’s episode of Pop Tech Jam, so Mr. Sulu, take us out!
Sometimes we just have to get a lot of writing done in a short amount of time and we don’t want distractions. Maybe it’s your family holiday newsletter, a big work report, a 50,000-word novel for NaNoWriMo, or a thesis or dissertation. Stuff needs to get done.
Full-featured word-processing programs are around to handle everything from a grocery list to a complicated mutli-page advertising brochure. But with more power comes more toolbars, windows, widgets and other user interface elements floating around your screen all trying to pull your attention.
If you need to knuckle down and crank it out, consider a free or cheap text editor or minimalist word processors that puts less stuff in the way between you and words. Once you get that first draft banged out, then you can go back to your standard word-processor for editing and formatting.
Want cheap? Just fire up the free text editor that came with your operating system, like Notepad or Wordpad for Windows or TextEdit on the Mac. These programs may have basic toolbars for formatting things like type styles, but overall, there’s not a lot of extras. But maybe you want something with a little more power under the hood, like the ability to sync with your online storage site of choice. To get a sampling of the many options out there, fire up your search engine and look for a variation of minimal word processors or distraction-free text editors. Here are a few to consider:
Notepad Classic or Notepad Next(Free for Windows 8 and Windows 10). A free, customizable old-school text editors from the Windows Store. Notepad Next works on mobile devices as well as on PCs.
Writer(Free for the Google Chrome browser). The free Writer extension for Chrome calls itself a big Internet typewriter. It asks you to create an account and displays a classic fullscreen plain-text window in which to start composing. You also get basic tools like a word counter and can customize the look of the interface. Documents can be exported as text or PDF files.
OmmWriter Dana II($5.11 for Windows, Mac, iOS for iPad). The program wants to be your private little writing space within the confines of your computer— where you can really focus on your work. While the user interface goes minimalist, the program does provide soothing background colors and audio soundtracks to sooth your mind so you can write.
Write!($25 for Windows, Mac and Linux). In addition to a simple interface for composing your thoughts, Write! gives you cloud syncing, progress trackers, unlimited undos, a smart spellchecker and a bucket of other features.
WriteRoom($10 for Mac). This Mac app is another full-screen writing environment that dumps ribbons, button and menus. If you first started using computers back in the 1980s, you can go retro and opt for the familiar old VDT green-text-on-black color scheme with a blinking cursor to get you going.
Once you pick a word processor that doesn’t drag your eyeballs away, go hardcore if you really need to get something done: Unplug your computer’s network connection — or just want until all the unsecured DVRs and webcams take down the Internet again. Sweet productivity at last!
The crisp fall air has returned to the Northeast, as do memories of sipping apple cider in front of a roaring fire. Unfortunately for some, the only fire around was coming from their replacement Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones…
On this week’s episode, El Kaiser and J.D. wrangle the week’s headlines, including the latest from the aforementioned Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Inferno, a new coat for Microsoft Paint and Sprint’s efforts to close the digital divide for low-income high-school students. El Kaiser discusses proper electronics safety and J.D. has a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint on how to find out what other household products might be problematic. Now, where are those marshmallows, Hershey bars and graham crackers?
This week El Kaiser revisits Audioquest’s Dragonfly USB DAC, preamp and headphone amp. This new version of the thumb drive sized device improves on its predecessors and finally ditches black for fire engine red. Also on this episode, J.D. prepares us for the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. National Parks Service and Pedro joins her for a rundown of the biggest tech news of the week.
Facebook mess with the News Feed? Really!?! But seriously, according to Mashable and a few other sites, images of a new tabbed news feed screen for mobile devices have been spotted on Twitter. Facebook did confirm that it is indeed testing the new design, but did not say if or when it would actually launch.
Also in Google news, the company’s Android Security 2015 Annual Report was released this week. The company touts its monthly security updates, better screening for potentially harmful apps in the Google Play store and greater adoption of its app verification service as factors in making Android devices safer than before, but it notes that there are still a steady number of malware, ransomware and other nasty apps lurking out there.
Amazon is taking a shot at Netflix’s monthly streaming fees by making its own Amazon Prime service available as, you guessed it, a monthly subscription instead of an annual fee. And speaking of Netflix, that company is raising its monthly fees by 25 percent for longtime streaming customers next month.
And finally, if you love NASA and you live vintage graphic design and branding standards, you can now buy a copy of the space agency’s official graphics manual first published in 1976. The book is 220 pages with 129 image plates and comes individually packages in a static-shielding pouch. This is actually a reissue of the original book, of which only 40 copies were originally printed. The new version is a Kickstarter project that can now be ordered only for $79 a copy.
Do you live alone with a desk-bound computer and wonder why you have to enter your password every time you log in? Yes, it’s a good security thing, but if you’re secure with your personal security (and make sure you are), you don’t have to do the typing bit. You can have the machine log you in automatically — once you set it up.
The automatic, no-fuss login steps for Windows are about the same from Windows 7 to Windows 10. They go something like this:
Open the Run box by pressing the Windows + R keys. Type in netplwiz and press the Enter key. (You can also type netplwiz into the Start menu search box and press the Enter key to get there.)
In the User Accounts window, choose your name and turn off the checkbox next to “Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer.”
Click the Apply button.
In the Automatically Log On box (shown below), type your password where prompted.
Click the OK button and restart the PC.
And remember, with Windows 8 and 10, you have other options for logging in, even if you don’t have a fancy fingerprint reader. If you want to log in without recalling a big text password, check out the PIN or Picture password options in the Settings.
Mac OS X
On a Mac running a fairly recent version of OS X, this is what you do to escape the hassle of the password box when you first boot up:
Click the System Preferences icon on the Dock (or choose System Preferences from the Apple menu).
Click Users & Groups.
In the Users & Groups box, click the Lock icon and enter the password for your account. You need to be the administrator here, or have the admin password.
Click Login Options in the left side of the box.
In the “Automatic login” pop-up menu, select your account name and type in the password.
Close the Preferences box.
When the Mac starts up next, you should not be asked for a password.
Keep in mind that for both Windows and Mac, you still need to use this password for things like installing new software or for when you manually log out of the computer without rebooting.
One final word about removing that log-in password. It’s a protective thing and a good one because anybody could get to your files if they happened upon your computer. If you share your living quarters or ever take your laptop out of the house, you probably want to keep it in place because: SECURITY. But if you decide to go with the auto log-in, make sure you don’t wind up forgetting your computer’s password because you never use it.
Ah, the first half of the month, when rents are traditionally due and software is often patched. But while these program fixes and security updates are meant to fix problems in software, they can sometimes create even more problems.
Now, many people just get an update notice and install whatever software arrives with the notifications. Or they have automatic updates turned on — and pay even less attention. Patches are generally a good thing and designed to keep your computer and data safe. But if you’re the type that wants to know what’s going on your hardware (or what scary thing you’re being protected from now), hit up the support area of the manufacturer’s website for detailed notes.
Here are a few of the major players:
Adobe Security Bulletins and Advisories. Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Reader are two of the most hacker-targeted pieces of software out there, and so security updates to sew up those holes are issued regularly. Find your Adobe product on the list and click through for the details on each update.
Apple Security Updates. Apple makes a lot of system software, including OS X, iOS, tvOS, watchOS and all its in-house applications, and you can find information about everything security-related here. Links on the site also take you to the downloads and supporting documentation, in case you didn’t let your Mac update the software automatically (or your iOS device, for that matter).
Microsoft Security Tech Center. Thanks to decades of Windows, the Redmond giant is an old pro at the security-update game. The company celebrates with new bugfix releases on Patch Tuesday, the second Tuesday of every month. All the latest security bulletins are posted there so you can read up and see what’s getting fixed this time. (The site is a little techie, but Microsoft has a Safety & Security Center site written for less-technical home users as well.)