Tools Toys and Technology

About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Tools Toys and Technology - About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Our Homegrown Computer Club

This column started in response to a request from the editor of the SaddleBag Notes addressed to the computer club. The first column appeared in September of 2009 when Windows 7 was just a twinkle in Bill Gates’ eye and the Android phone was celebrating its first birthday. While our usual topic focuses on computers and other electronic devices, we sometimes talk about the SaddleBrooke Computer Club. Continue reading

Smooth Operators

The free upgrade to Windows 10 officially concluded on July 29, 2016. With more than 350,000,000 computers now running Windows 10, this has been Microsoft’s best ever operating system launch. We are now told to expect feature upgrades (new versions) roughly twice annually from this point forward – a pattern established by Apple and Android.

I am awed by the uncanny ability of Microsoft to give away billions of dollars of Windows 10 software while thoroughly annoying millions of users. The company is faced by class action suits in the USA and Israel for aggressive marketing maneuvers – including “accidentally” installing Windows 10 even when the owners had refused daily for months.

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Too Hot to Handle

As we summer desert dwellers struggle to survive record high temperatures and monsoon storms, please take a little time to consider the seasonal hazards your electronic servants face. Power surges and outages challenge the growing numbers of electronic minions in your household on a daily basis. Your expensive and important appliances should have surge protectors in place; more sensitive or critical devices are best protected by uninterruptable power sources, a.k.a.battery backup systems. These protective devices do not last forever; replacing every few years or after a single severe power surge is routinely advised. If you will be away from home for a prolonged interval, simply unplugging unused devices is safest of all.

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All Good Things Must Come to an End

Spurred by the free conversion from earlier editions and prodded by constant and progressive nagging, PC users have made Windows 10 the most rapidly adopted version of Windows in history, doubling in installations since last November.

If you were among the millions who were “inadvertently” upgraded to Windows 10 even after repeatedly refusing the offer… Continue reading

Do Computer Screens Damage Your Eyes?

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), sometimes termed Digital Eye Strain, describes a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged exposure to digital screens for computers, televisions, tablets, e-readers and cell phones. Many individuals experience eye discomfort and vision problems when viewing digital screens for extended periods. Continue reading

A Little Help From Our Friends

The SaddleBrooke Computer Club started in 1993 as a result of 3 men sharing conversation and coffee in the RoadRunner Grill. Occasional meetings became weekly; these eventually became weekly presentations with a single borrowed computer in space shared with the sewing club. We incorporated as a non-profit group in 1998 for the express purpose of teaching computer classes. That single borrowed computer evolved into a well-equipped computer laboratory with 30 computers. We now offer over a hundred classes for PCs, Macs, iPhones and iPads each year. More than 3400 current residents have become members and attended our classes. Over the 23 years since inception we have served an entire generation of active retirees.

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Is Windows 10 Really Free?

Even though I thought I had already overdone writing about Windows 10, questions keep rolling in! Six months after introduction, Windows 10 has been installed on over 213 million computers; this is an adoption rate even greater than Windows 7, the previous record holder.

Upgrading to Windows 10 is currently free to those who have Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 already installed on a personal computer. The offer does not extend to those who have Windows XP or Vista, nor can businesses participate in this promotion. The promotion officially ends on July 29, 2016, but there are rumors that the offer will be extended.

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Planning Your Digital Estate

Approximately 55 percent of American adults do not have a will or other estate plan in place, according to LexisNexis. Since SaddleBrooke residents regularly get offers of free eats and presentations from estate planners, I’m guessing that nearly all of us have given estate planning more than a passing thought.

If you haven’t revisited your estate planning recently, you may not have considered what should be done with your digital assets. According to a recent survey, 63 percent of people don’t know what will happen to their digital assets when they die. A 2014 survey funded by McAfee found that the average digital device holds $35,000 worth of information by the owners estimate. The largest part of that value was attributed to irreplaceable personal memories, photos and videos. Over half of those surveyed felt their computers held information that is impossible to recreate, download or purchase again.

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Has the “Internet-of-Things” Gone Too Far?

Oral B introduces IoT Toothbrush

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is the hot topic these days. IoT involves connecting physical objects, everything from cars to refrigerators, buildings and homes, even entire cities, to the Internet. IoT objects contain electronics, sensors and accompanying software to collect information and communicate the data over the Internet or local network to other devices, for the purpose of displaying and/or analyzing the data.

IoT has the potential to be very useful for monitoring and communicating critical information, like medical issues. It also offers all kinds of possibilities for home automation. The potential for IoT is unlimited, with many applications that are yet to be imagined. And then there are those that have an uncanny imagination on how to apply this technology.

IoT-tbTake Oral B, who has just introduced a “smart” tooth brush. It is equipped with gyroscopes, accelerometers, and Bluetooth to communicate with your smartphone camera, so it can watch you brush your teeth. And you thought your mother was a stickler for making sure you brushed your teeth correctly!

Did I mention you can store your brushing history in the cloud?

Hmm? I wonder what could happen if someone hacked your toothbrush and installed some malware? The Stephen King film, “The Mangler.” comes to mind.

Spring Cleaning

If you missed the observance of National Clean Up Your Computer Month this January, never fear! This is a chore you can do any time of the year.

Cleaning video screens and the outside of your devices is fairly straightforward. Turn the device off or, better yet, unplug it. Blow off loose surface dust with canned compressed air, then wipe with a microfiber cloth using a gentle circular motion. If any smudging remains, lightly dampen the microfiber cloth with distilled water (moist, not dripping!)  and wipe again. For stubborn spots, use 50:50 distilled water and vinegar in the same fashion. Never use Windex or other household cleaners and never spray any liquids on electronics. Do not use paper towels or old cleaning rags – they can cause scratches on video screens.

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