If you subscribe to the Netflix streaming service, know that you can easily download movies and TV shows to your mobile phone or tablet. (Note: not all video is available to download, it must show a “Down arrow” icon.) Open your Netflix app, click on the Menu icon and select “Available to download.” Even if you don’t have an Internet connection – like if you’re on an airplane – you can still watch offline. Just click on “My downloads” to access what you’ve saved.
Todd Haselton is a terrific tech writer who I first crossed paths with on my jaunts to the IFA tech show in Berlin. He writes now for CNBC, as I mentioned here a while back.
He has a very interesting -- and especially easy -- solution for a problem that I suspect a great many people deal with: home WiFi that's unable to send a strong enough signal through your home.
Todd was having the same problem himself (yes, even high-techies come up against glitches in the real world), and -- like most people in the aforementioned real world -- went to friends for advice. What he came across surprised even him. Setting up "mesh networking."
Not to worry!! In fact, I was reticent to give its name, because I'm sure that will terrify a lot of people. But if you read his article, you'll see how easy he says it actually is. And it sounds extremely easy -- just not "Easy for Someone Who Knows What He's Doing." It took him all of 10 minutes (actually less), and even if that's because he's someone who knows what he's doing, it still sounds extremely easy for normal human folk.
You can read his article here for the solution.
Google Maps has introduced a new feature that could be a very nice help for people who have a hard time remembering where they parked their car.
After you've parked, open the app and tap on the blue dot that shows your location. A window will pop up that gives you the option to "Set as parking location." That's it. Easy!
Actually, it gets even easier, because the app uses the Google Street feature to show a photo of where your care is, when you tap on the icon.
But there are other features. A bar will show up at the bottom of the Google Maps screen called "Parking Location." If you tap on it, other options open up to you -- like leaving notes, such as the precise location of your car in a parking garage. And the ability to Share your location with someone who you might want to meet at your car.
It's available for both Android and iOS.
My pal the tech whiz Ed Bott has a very good article for his ZDNet column today about six easy tweaks one can make to Windows 10. These will resolve matters that some people have had gripes about and found annoying. Most of the gripes are small in the tech sense, but important enough on a personal level for people to complain. Which is where Ed rides in to save the day...
I'd already changed a few of the settings, but found several of them very helpful. I'm also perfectly happy with a couple others as is since I don't find the issues annoying at all. (For instance, Windows 10 appears to require that you sign in with a Microsoft Account, but not everyone has an account, and so have to create a new one. But Ed explains that that's not necessary at all, and you can simply use your own local name and password. The downside, as he notes, is that if you want to use any Windows 10 features which require a Microsoft Account, then you have to sign in with it. And since I use a lot of those valuable features, I'm fine logging in at boot-up with a Microsoft Account.)
Some of his other tips include how to set when your system updates itself, and the way to turn off the Windows voice-enabled Cortana feature if you'd prefer to do without it, as well as how to program default settings for your software, and more. (The final tip is one most people can ignore, without having your head explode. It's for businesses that use the Enterprise edition of Windows.)
Everything else is simple to follow. What's so wonderful about the column is that, like most of Ed's writing, it's written in easily understandable human English, full of step-by-step instructions and graphics to show you what to look for. It's also very witty, full of Bottisms, as I call them, including even a polite jab at the beloved Chicago Cubs. (Ed roots for the San Franciso Giants which, if it wasn't for the noble Cubs, would be okay.)
You can find the article here. If you have WIndows 10, it's definitely worth checking out, if only to see if there's anything he discusses which might be of interest for you to tweak that you hadn't even known about.
If you run Windows and have Apple's Quicktime software installed on your computer to run movies and play audio -- most commonly these days movie trailers -- the Department of Homeland Security is advising everyone to uninstall it.
There's nothing inherently wrong with the software, but Apple has just announced that they will no longer be providing security updates to Quicktime for Windows. That makes it a highly-visible target for viruses and any other threats to your system.
This does not impact Mac users who run Quicktime. Only the Windows version.
Forgetting even the government's warning, it's just a really good idea to uninstall any software that is no longer being supported.
I came across a very bizarre problem the other day, and although it's probably not something most people will have happen to them, I suspect it's not uncommon, and therefore worth bringing up here. In fact, when I went online to research it, I found that a lot of people were indeed asking about it, so clearly there are others. Since I did track down the way to fix it (and it was easy), I figure it would be a good idea to bring it up here. So, here's the problem and resolution, should you ever come across it.
The background is that I noticed that my C: drive was filling up. It has 464 GB capacity, but only had 58 GB left, so that meant it was using up 408 GB. But I had absolutely no idea where that’s all going. When I installed this drive a couple years ago, my storage was around only 150-200 GB. Now, as I said, it was showing that I was using 408 GB. That's a massive increase. And was inexplicable.
I did everything I could think of the find possible culprits.
I ran Windows "Disk Cleanup" to delete temporary and unnecessary files.
I checked through all the folders on my system to see where any huge files might be lurking.
The OneDrive cloud serve was using up 38 GB, but this is also where my music files, photographs and Documents reside on my hard drive.
The Windows folder was about 14 GB.
The two Programs folders were about 7 GB.
The Desktop had 4 GB.
That’s 63 GB. I cleaned out the Recycle Bin, so it was empty. I emptied my browser cache, as well.
There were a few folders in my Users directory that each had 4-5 GB. Let’s say there were 10 of them (there weren’t nearly that many) and let’s say they’re all 5 GB. That’s an additional 50 GB.
So, that’s 113 GB. Yet my system was saying that 408 GB were being used up.
There are more files and folders on the hard drive, of course, but as far as I can tell, no folders looked like they’d have massive amounts of storage. Just normal, individual files. In fact, I went to the C: drive in Window Explorer, highlighted everything manually and checked Properties, which among other things will calculate disk space. It came out to about 115 GB. So, where on earth was the other 280 GB??? I didn’t have a clue of any other places to look. But clearly, I seemed to be missing something.
I went online and did some searching. As I said, it turns out that there were a lot of people with the same problem. Most solutions made no sense, at least for what I was experiencing But one did. And so I tried it.
What I read was that System Restore can use up a LOT of space. And that the disk allotment is often set for too much space. (System Restore is a very valuable Windows feature that creates a "restore point" so that you can revert to an earlier setting of Windows if, for example, you install a new program that screws up your system.)
So, I went to check it out. (System Restore resides under Control Panel/ System/ System Protection. Highlight the drive you want to protect, and click "Configure.) What I discovered was that, for some inexplicable reason -- nothing I had set -- the allotment my system was configured for was…100% of my hard drive!. This meant that System Restore could use up all the empty space it wanted, as it created new and new and new restore points. And so it was using up 289 gigabytes!!! Which as you'll recall was almost exactly the amount of “missing storage” my random math was unable to figure out. So, I simply turned it off, changed the allotment to 10%, turned it back on and checked my C: drive. It now has 320 GB free on a 461 GB drive!!! Rather than the 58 GB free it was telling me before. (This also means that I have about 140 GB stored, which is near-exactly what I thought it was supposed to be.)
Well, that sure made a difference! I knew something didn’t make sense. And I’m pleased at having tracked down the resolution. Why it was set at 100% allotment, I have zero idea. Just a "Why me, Lord?" random glitch. Since this is such a recent issue I would guess it’s something that hiccuped when I upgraded to Windows 10. (I've checked with others who've upgraded, and their System Restore settings are fine.
I got into a discussion about this later with my Dalai Lama tech guru, the oft-mentioned here Ed Bott, who writes a great column for ZDNet here, as well as numerous books with Microsoft. What he said was, "Yeah, not sure how you got that allocated to 100%. It’s set by default using an algorithm based on disk size, and in many copies of Windows 10 I have tested [installed on low-capacity systems], it is turned off completely."
When Ed Bott tells you he's not sure of something about Windows, it is most definitely a glitch you can stop trying to figure out. Among other things, he just wrote a book with Microsoft about how to use Windows 10. So, when Ed doesn't know, it pretty much can't be known.
As I said, I now have System Restore set to allot 10% of the C: drive, which is likely far more than enough. System Restore will now never use up more than 46 GB of the drive, rather the 300 GB from before. And if I ever want to delete that much-smaller amount, it's even easier to do so now. Just use the Disk Cleanup feature I mentioned early (simply type Disk Cleanup in the Search bar...), and select the "Cleanup system files" option, which will remove all the existing restore points but the most recent one.
The bottomline is that the problem is resolved, and easily so. It's not a common problem at all, but it is also a problem that others can come across. And so, if you find that your hard drive is unexpectedly filling up for not apparent reason, now you know the resolution.
I just came across this incredibly-great website.
Have you have wanted to pass along a webpage to someone, but the content on it has changed? (Usually this would be a homepage, though not necessarily.) Or have you ever been curious what the homepage was on a particular date years ago?
Well, that's available to you. And with a nod to Mr. Peabody, the brilliant cartoon dog, it's called the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. You can get to it here.
To find an old page, you simply type in the URL address and hit the Search button. (Yes, this does require that you know the exact address, but if all you want is the homepage, like of the New York Times, it's simple to just enter "www.nytimes.com".) A screen will then load that let's you scroll through calendars and select the date. Just click on the day you want and, assuming it's available, bingo, it will load.
The site notes that 468 billion webpages are archived, so you have a good chance of finding it.
If there's a webpage you want to send to someone, and think there's a good chance that the content could change over time -- or even within minutes -- you can manually archive the page yourself. Just enter the URL address in "Save Page Now" box and click "Save Page."
It's all pretty darn easy.
I have fairly old external speakers for my desktop computer, but they're fine for my needs. I tend not to listen to music all that much, mainly the Cubs games, and other manner of talking. So, high fidelity is a low concern.
The other day I was getting a bit of static, so I fumbled around with cord and got that to disappear, though there was a slight, low hum. It wasn't heard when sound was coming from the speakers, though a bit annoying when they were on but just sitting. No big deal turning the speakers on and off -- though it was more inconvenient than should be the case, and also the sound has been somewhat low lately. I figured that it might simply be the case of an old pair of speakers on their last round-up. Nonetheless, today I dove back under my desk to play around with the cords again, just in case I could fix things..
Thanks my technical expertise, I figured out the problem. When I had been futzing around with the cords a few days earlier the time before...I hadn't plugged the cord back in all the way.
I have now done so. And all works well..
Which brings us to today's tech tip. "Make sure to insert your plugs in all the way."
There's a wonderful and valuable article on CNET by Lexy Savvides about how to protect yourself when using a free WiFi hotspot. You might think you're pretty careful, but some of the tips make so much sense for things you might not have considered. Take the very first one, for example.
Before using a Free Wi-Fi in a a coffee shop, or library or wherever...ask the staff the name of the network to verify it. As Savvides points out -- it's easy from someone nearby to create a fake network called "Free Wi-Fi" -- or even one that says "Starbucks" in the name, and hijack your account when you log in.
Some of the suggestions are a bit convoluted, and more than most people will likely do. But one -- which takes a couple of steps -- is still very easy and a huge safety net. In Windows, go into your Control Panel and turn off "File Sharing." That way, if you are hijacked, your files can't be accessed. Then you turn it back on after you log off. (The article shows you how to easily do this, and what to do with an Apple device.)
You can read the whole article here.
While it's nice to have videos Autoplay on Facebook (or not, depending on your taste...), the reality is that if you're not careful they could run when you're on a cellular connection eat up your data plan for your mobile phone. It's possible to disable Autoplay directly on your mobile phone so that videos will only run when you have a WiFi connection.
However, if you want to make things easy on yourself and disable Autoplay period, for everything -- whether with a cellular or WiFi connection -- you can now do so. And it's very easy.
For Apple iOS devices, you can make your selection under Settings/Facebook. For Android, it's found in Settings for the Facebook app. As you can see below, you'll be given the choice of disabling Autoplay so that it runs only when you're connected to WiFi or disable it entirely.
By the way, if you find that the automatic running of videos in Facebook to be annoying in general, you can also disable Autoplay for Facebook in your computer browser. Just click on Settings (which you find by clicking on the down arrow on your Facebook toolbar) and select "Video" which should be at the bottom of the list. Then, just choose "OFF" for Autoplay.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, and is a regular columnist for the Huffington Post and the Writers Guild of America. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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