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Shopping Online

I'm pretty amazed at the changes in technology in my lifetime.  Okay, so I'm going to date myself a bit but entertainment in our house when I was very, very young was radio.  We listened to radio shows and records and were fascinated by conversations through the short wave radio.  Our first TV was black & white with a screen about half the size of my current computer monitor. 

Our one telephone was a party line and hung on the wall of the kitchen/dinette area with a really, really long cord between the phone and the handset.  I've forgotten a lot of phone numbers but I remember the first one - GLadstone 27884.  I never envisioned that pay phones would essentially disappear in my lifetime.  Mom always made a point of checking to make sure we had the right coins to call home in an emergency whenever we left the house.

Now we have computers, email, tablets, phones with more capacity than my first MacIntosh.  A person can view their xrays and MRIs.

BUT, the most fascinating technology for me is Amazon!

I live out in the country in a farmhouse that is 7 miles from a grocery store in any direction and further from actually shopping places.  That's at least a gallon of gas for a round trip in my dog vehicle.

But.... Amazon (and it's little UPS and FedEx elves) know where I live and is willing to deliver almost anything (except groceries) to my front porch within 2 days.

I've bought puppy weaning formula, dog and human vitamins, PetSafe Salt, books, dog biscuits, computer parts, Christmas presents, Nylabones, pooper scoopers, flashlights, raffle ticket rolls for the fall dog show raffle, replacement rugs (the new puppy had a wonderful time with the old ones), Tylan powder and other doggie meds, etc.. 

And then there is the Kindle & the Kindle tablet apps. . . .  Who would ever have envisioned that a person could read so many books without having to drive to the library, pick out the books, and remember to return them before their expiration date?

What's next?  Well, I just bought a tiny, wireless camera that will keep an eye on my about-to-be-born puppies and stream the goings-on in the whelping box to my iPhone.  Should be here in 2 days....

Slow Down Hackers by Changing Your Password

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In general, hacked email accounts are used to send out spam.  The hackers generally know nothing about you, nor do they care.

What's the most important thing you can do to protect your email?

  1. Change your password
  2. Use a passwod with at least 8 characters that contains small letters, capital letters, numbers AND at least 1 special character
  3. Make sure you save all your passwords in a safe place.  Its easy to put them on  3X5 index cards and store them in a $2 photo album book.

Hacking a password is ridiculously easy for a computer.  They just try all possible combinations.  Finding a password made up of all lower-case letters (26 possibilities for each letter) that is only 4 characters long is ridiculously easy for a computer. 

I won’t bore you with the math but would only take about a HALF MILLION tries to hack a 4-character lower-case-only password.  Finding an 4-character password with lower-case letters, Capital letters, numbers and special characters could take as many as almost 27 MILLION tries.  Adding one more character in your password could take more than 2 BILLION tries to hack your password.

So, do yourself (and all the people in your address book) a favor and change your password to something more secure (8-10 characters with lower-case & capital letters, numbers, and special characters) and change it periodically.

Spam, Pfishing, Identity Theft

Spam is "the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages, especially advertising, indiscriminately."  The most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam.  Spamming is a low-cost, high profit bulk mailing designed to attract new customers to the products being advertised.  It is annoying and can fill your email inbasket, but by itself it's not harmful to your computer.

Malware (malicious software) is much worse.  It appears in a variety of forms but is hostile and malicious in intent, trying to get personal information from your computer or disrupt your computer's functioning.  These may also cause your computer to spew out spam to the computers of other people. Everyone should be running Malware Bytes (or some equivalent malware software) on their computer in addition to their Internet security software.  It is free and updated frequently, often several times per day.

Phishing is the act of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity, usually in an email. I've seen some that are really, really good and look very credible complete with legitimate bank logos that didn't look homemade. 

The best phishing email I've ever seen came this week.  It looked like it was sent by a legitimate company that I already do business with and was asking for me to renew a product.  Only by reading it carefully did the bells go off that it was not a legitimate email and was trying to get my credit card information.

How does a person avoid these?
  • Make sure you have a good anti-virus, security program running on all your computers (Microsoft Security Essentials, Norton Anti-Virus, McAfee Anti-Virus are examples) and keep it up to date.  Run full system scans at least once a month, preferably weekly.
  • Make sure you run Malware Bytes
  • Never click on a link or attachment that you don't know is from a trusted source
  • Beware of unusual emails from companies you do business with
  • Automatically download patches and updates if you use Windows


  • If you don't keep a good backup of your files, you risk losing everything when a virus or spyware hits (or your hard drive fails). Use an external hard drive or a remote backup service.  Newer external hard drives have software that sets up an automatic back up as you work. Another alternative (the one I use), is a remote backup service that backs up and stores your files somewhere else ("in the Cloud").  It's slightly more expensive but they work. I've restored from them.  Many vendors also have apps available to access those files from a smart phone and/or tablet.
  • Scan your computer at least once per month, weekly if you can.
  • Remember: if it seems suspicious, it probably is.
  • Delete your browser's temporary internet files (cache) every day.
  • When you see a fake virus popup occur, don't click the x button. It will infect your computer. Hold down your computer's power button to shut the computer of or use the task manager (hold down the CNTL/ALT/DEL buttons at the same time to bring up the Task Manager) to close it.

Shortcuts & Keyboard Tips

Finding the Search Box for a PDF or other Documents

Hiding the search box within a PDF document is a function of the Adobe software and your browser.  If you press the F key while holding down the CTRL key, it will pop up in the upper right hand corner if you’re using Internet Explorer. 

CTRL+F is a universal shortcut on all PCs for ‘find’....  Also, if you click on the very top of your browser, you should be able to bring up a box and click on ‘Menu Bar’ to show the menu.  The ‘find’ is under the 'Edit’ menu.

HINT:  If you have an iPad, you can download PDF documents to your iBooks to reference when you don't have an online connection.

Copy & Paste

After you highlight a bunch of text (or numbers in Excel), you hold down on the CTRL key and press the C key to copy.  After you put your cursor where you want to Paste the information, CTRL+V will paste it in that spot for you.

Other Keyboard Commands

CTRL+B to bold text after you highlight it
CTRL+P to print a document

Note:  These are PC keyboard commands.  The Apple commands use the

Looks Like a Good Resource for Information about Computers

I'm always looking for good resources for people trying to learn more about their computers.

I talked to someone this morning who asks her grandson when she gets stymied on her computer but was concerned because he fixes the problem but doesn't tell her what the problem was or what the solution was.  She didn't fell like she was learning anything.  Sound familiar??

I spent some research time and came up with a website course that looks pretty good.  I thought I would share it with you.  Check out the website for more information.

What is a Site Map?

A sitemap (a.k.a. Site Map) is a outline of the content of a website that is visible to the crawlers (the programs that search the Internet looking for content).  Remember that each search engine has it own programs (crawlers) that constantly read, organize, and evaluate the relevance of the content of websites.

A good sitemap has 2 functions:

  1. Outline the content of the website for the people visiting there that want to see it's organization quickly.  It's like the index of a book.
  2. Outline the content of the website for the search engines in words so that the search engine knows what words are important to the website content.  The more times a particular phrase is uses (e.g. "german shepherd dog"), the bigger the impact on the search engine being able to tell where to put information for that website in lists of importance.

The sitemap for is in the footer menu at the bottom of every page on the website.  If you are a GSDCA member and are logged on, the sitemap is smart and knows to include the content that is reserved for viewing only to members.  The crawlers do not index those pages because they are not available to the public.

When you go to a very large website, it can be helpful to check the sitemap if you're looking around.  Sitemaps are always there somewhere but some websites choose to show them only to the crawlers and not the humans. 

Browser versus Search Engine

There are a lot of words that get thrown around but it seems 2 of the more confusing are "browser" and "search engine".

Both of them are software.  Both of them are found when using the Internet.  They work together but there is a BIG difference between them.


A browser is a program that takes all the various pieces of a website (pictures, articles, presentation features like color and fonts) and puts them together so that you see them as an integrated website. 

The top browsers in use today (in order of use as of July 2012) are:

  • Google Chrome or just Chrome (the Google in the name is sometimes confusing because Google started as just a Search Engine)
  • Mozilla Firefox (MSN's desktop is a modified version of Firefox)
  • Internet Explorer - also called IE - (AOL's desktop is a modified version of Internet Explorer)
  • Google Chrome
  • Safari
  • Opera
  • AOL (usage is becoming significantly smaller every year)
Search Engine

A search engine does what the name suggests.  It searches for relevant websites based on key words.  If you want to know about something, you type it into the search engine and it will give you thousands (millions sometimes) of websites that have one or more of the key words associated with them. 

The top search engines as of May 2012 are:

  • Google with almost 67% of the searches on the Internet
  • Bing (15%)
  • Yahoo (14%) (Note:  Bing and Yahoo are in the process of merging)
  • Ask (3%)
  • AOL (2%)

Each search engine has a different way of storing information about websites and determining in which order they should be displayed.

Read more: Browser versus Search Engine

Email Etiquette

Here are some hints to help you create better emails:

  1. Be courteous with your greeting and closing. Using courtesy in the main text - please and thank you where appropriate - never hurts either!
  2. DO NOT PUT EMAILS IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS!  This is considered shouting.  Ditto too much bold type.
  3. Make sure your subject line is descriptive, reflects the subject and is properly spelled.  Keep the description as short as possible.
  4. Keep emails as brief as possible.  Emails are intended to exchange information.  If you have exchanged more than 3 emails on a subject and it's still not resolved, pick up the phone.
  5. Make sure if you attach documents (files, photos, etc.) that they are sized appropriately.  Different mail systems have different rules .  Remember that KBs are less than MBs (by 1,000 times) and MBs are less than GBs.  Email prefers KBs.  Many mail services prefer attachments less than 5 MB.  Ask the recipient before sending an attachment larger than 5MB.
  6. Remember that emails can be forwarded to a lot of people.  Do not discuss confidential information.
  7. Spell check not only the content but the name of the person(s) to whom you're addressing your email.
  8. Read your email out loud.  If you are pounding the keys when writing an email, save it as a draft and review it before you send it.
  9. Use proper sentence structure and avoid "texting" words like 'U' rather than 'you'.
  10. Acknowledge receipt of emails you receive from someone you know, even if it's just "thank you".  (You may wish to ignore this one for annoying chain emails.)
  11. Do not use patterned stationary.  It's hard on the eyes and really annoying.  Online reading is 25% harder on the eyes and patterns drive that up to 75%.
  12. Keep it as simple as possible while still getting your point across.  You can usually remove about 50% of the words in your email and still communicate.
  13. Put people you expect a response from in the To: line and people that you are just informing in the CC line.
  14. Only use Cc: when it is important for those you Cc: to know about the contents of the email. Overuse will cause your emails to be ignored.
  15. When forwarding an email, if you cannot take the time to add a little comment about why you thought they would be interested and "clip" (delete) the extra text (such as 3 versions of the content), don't forward it.
  16. Do not use Reply All unless everyone needs to see your response.
  17. Don't forward hoaxes.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Hardware? Software? Data?

"Hardware" is a physical entity with mechanical or electronic parts such as a computer or an iPhone or a printer or an external hard drive.

"Software" refers to instructions that tell a computer not only what to do but also how to do it.  Software today is generally loaded onto the hardware via a download from the Internet or loaded from a CD/DVD disk.  "Apps" are software designed generally for a limited, specific purpose such as playing solitaire or connecting to a newspaper or the Weather Channel.

"Data" is stored information (names, addresses, photos, etc.).  Data is manipulated and/or displayed by the hardware (a computer) using software (a program) that knows with to do with the data. 

Read more: Hardware? Software? Data?

Storage and Files

More About Storage

Whether it's storing something on your home computer, your mobile device, or  "in the Cloud", it pretty much works the same.  The computer processes information it gets from somewhere (typed in with a keyboard/mouse, downloaded from the Internet, received in an email, etc) and stores it as a document in a folder. 

Read more: Storage and Files

What's a Computer?

The Old Days

Computers in 1977 (when I started) were only affordable by large corporations and mostly made by IBM.  We gave the computer information on punch cards and it gave us back information ONLY on paper. 

The paper was produced by impact printers that worked like the typewriters of the day, striking one letter at a time through a ribbon with a die that had the letter stamped on it. If a person needed the information in a hurry, they ran down the stairs to the printer room and read it as it got printed!  Good exercise but hardly timely!

Computers took up huge rooms, mostly because the internal processing ('thinking') created so much heat that most of the space was taken by "chillers" that pumped cold water through the core of the computer.

Read more: What's a Computer?