Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Today’s Tech Turning Us Into Sociopaths?

Folks, here’s another article I think everyone should read (and really think about).

Today’s Apps Are Turning Us Into Sociopaths

While I am far from a Luddite who fetishizes a life without tech, we need to consider the consequences of this latest batch of apps and tools that remind us to contact significant others, boost our willpower, provide us with moral guidance, and encourage us to be civil. Taken together, we’re observing the emergence of tech that doesn’t just augment our intellect and lives — but is now beginning to automate and outsource our humanity.Read more..

Ready for more good news?

The NSA may not be listening to your private phone calls, but it has been watching your private parts

The U.K. and U.S. government’s ability to tap into webcams — and directly into your living rooms and offices — shows the biggest and most blatant lack of respect for people’s privacy by Western governments in living memory.” Read more..

Yes.. it is kind of hard to take that all in. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture. But we need to be thinking about this stuff now. (Actually.. yesterday would have been better, but..)

*     *     *

Today’s bonus video: 15 Inaccuracies Found In Common Science Illustrations

Today’s quote:It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” ~ Albert Einstein

Copyright 2007-2014 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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All we really have, in the end, are our stories.
Make yours great ones. Ones to be proud of.
And please, never forget – one person can make a difference.

February 27, 2014 Posted by | advice, consumer electronics, gadgets, IM, Internet, privacy, security, tech | , , , , | Leave a comment

Playing with an Android – Part 2

Not too long ago, I finally joined the 21st Century, and got one of those “smart phones”. It’s one of those fancy new ones; the kind that fetches my slippers  and lights my pipe. (See,  My First Look At Android, part 1.)

Actually, I don’t smoke a pipe. And as far as I have been able to determine, my HTC phone does not have a butane lighter built into it. (None of the current crop of phones does. I asked.)

But it does have some nifty features: too many to list here. So what I thought I would do is tell you about the ones I have found quite useful in the first few weeks of use, as well as how often I’ve used them. I am hoping maybe it will help some of you decide if it’s time for a new phone too. (I hope readers will tell me what features and apps they are finding most useful too.)

More than a phone:

1) MP3 music player/FM radio. I am finding that my smart phone really is proving to be an entertainment device. It came with the ability to act as a FM radio, and I frequently use it to listen to my fave station (107.7 the Bone). It also came with (basic) Slacker, and I downloaded Pandora, “online radio” players.. though, in practice, I haven’t used them. Also, I have loaded a “playlist” of music onto the phone’s 8 GB MicroSD chip, so my favorite songs are just a couple of screen ‘taps’ away.
Short version: my phone is also an ‘iPod’ (type device) — and I use that feature a lot: almost every day, in fact.

2) Turn by turn navigation. Two years or so ago, I gave my father a Garmin GPS device. I never saw use for one myself: I am a pretty good navigator. (And before I leave, I check Google Maps or MapQuest, and maybe write down some notes.) But my phone has GPS and a Navigation app which works just like my father’s Garmin – even “speaking” my directions to me as I drive. [note: I disable GPS on the phone except when I need it, setting it to “911 mode”.]
Short version: my phone is also a Garmin — and though I don’t use that feature but rarely, I find it quite useful when I need it.

3) Watching shows. When I said my smart phone is proving to be an entertainment device, I wasn’t kidding. I didn’t think I would be trying to watch TV on such a small screen, but .. well, darned if I’m not. Occasionally. And I watch YouTube music videos. (This made my recent trip to the dentist’s much more .. tolerable.) I downloaded the app and have used it to watch full episodes of CBS shows (NCIS, mainly) in bed before sleep. I should be able to watch my DVR recordings (AT&T Uverse) at some point too. (I just haven’t had time to fiddle with that yet.)
Short version: my phone is also a TV (sorta) — and though I don’t use that feature but several times a week, I find it quite useful when I want some amusement.
In fact, I am kind of kicking myself for getting an Android and not a iPhone, as Netflix doesn’t have an app yet… (When that arrives, I think maybe my productivity may drop… ahem)

4) I have not found a use for the video camera or camera yet. But I think it’s pretty neat that my phone can send (aka “share”) via email, my media with a couple of screen ‘taps’. I can see many uses for that ability.

5) I would very much like it if the “video chat” feature (in my case Qik) worked like it should.. but I understand Skype has acquired Qik, and hopefully, mobile Skype will go video soon (Verizon only???). And work out the bugs.
My phone has both front and rear-facing cameras.. and a flash.. which can act as a flashlight with the flashlight app. Surprisingly, to me anyway, I have used that feature several times already.

6) Wireless hotspot. The ability to use my phone as an Internet “access point” (for other devices) was a feature I knew I would use, and was actually a big reason I decided to get a smartphone. I thought I would have to use “USB tethering”, and PDAnet software, but, no, I don’t. The phone uses Wi Fi to broadcast, enabling it to act as a wireless router.
Short version: though I consider this really only an “emergency” feature, I also consider a “must have”.

Well, I am running long, and so I see a Part 3 is in order. I will close by saying this: the Top Number 1 Smartphone Feature I use all day everyday is: fully synced integration with Google Calendar and Tasks.

Today’s reading reco: A letter on behalf of the world’s PC fixers

Today’s free link: Eagle cam.
This is a webcam feed that is rather unique.. someone climbed up and pointed a webcam at a bald eagle nest.. there’s 3 eggs in there… (The nest is in Virginia, so you might want to keep Eastern Time in mind.)

update: Part 3 is now available. Android Adventures – Part 3

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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March 10, 2011 Posted by | advice, Android, cellular, computers, gadgets, Google, IM, iPhone, mobile | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Free Phone Calls by Google Voice: What’s Next?

Today I opened my Gmail account and was informed that I could make free phone calls to the US and Canada.


Now.. I sometimes joke that today the two Superpowers are no longer the US and the USSR, but Google and China; but is Google really going to put an end to Ma Bell by making my phone calls free???

Naturally, I clicked on “Learn more”!


Okay. So this is Google Chat. And it says I can “call anywhere”. Free in 2010. So that must mean I can call landlines — which I pay for with Skype. (And since they say “2010”, I assume there will be a fee starting in 2011..)

“How does this work?
You can now place calls to landline and mobile phones from within Gmail. Just dial any phone number and you’ll be connected. Learn more.”

Yup. Install Google Voice, and you can call landlines, free (US & CA) for the remainder of 2010. And – like Skype – it has video too.

* Call phones from Gmail – Official Gmail Blog
* Google Voice is added to Gmail; Boosts exposure but still falls short in other areas

… I wonder why I am getting a little uncomfortable with Google..?

In other news: The September/October issue of Foreign Affairs is now available online and within its virtual pages is one of the most important cyberwar articles in modern history.

Our nation faces risks far greater than a rogue flash drive: Failure to properly safeguard our consumer and industry systems; unwillingness to invest in ongoing security; and ordinary computer users playing with digital weapons of mass destruction.”

For more, see: Inside look at Pentagon’s cyberdefense strategy: The battlefield beyond bad flash drives

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.

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<a href=””>Call phones from Gmail – Official Gmail Blog</a>

August 26, 2010 Posted by | computers, free software, Google, IM, News, tech, VoIP | , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

How To Uninstall Live Messenger

Microsoft’s Instant Messenger (IM) program, “Messenger” is now a part of the “Live” family of downloadable programs and utilities, (see, The “Live” Line – Microsoft’s *New* Product Family) and like the others, is now called “Live Messenger”. The “Windows Live” programs you can download are: Messenger, Mail, Writer, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Family Safety, and Toolbar.

Some of those are keepers for sure, but renaming Messenger to “Live Messenger”, and giving it a fancier look, um, er, well, let’s just say I don’t want it on my machine. If you have it, and do not want it either, keep reading.

How To Uninstall Windows Live Messenger (or other Live program):
1) The normal way to remove (technically, “uninstall”) programs from your computer is to use the “Add/Remove Programs” tool in the Windows Control Panel (called “Programs and Features” in Vista/Win7). And this is where you go to uninstall Live Messenger too.

But Paul! I looked there already! Messenger isn’t there!“, you say? Well, yes it is, but it’s kind of hidden. So click Start > Control Panel > Programs and Features >Uninstall a program. And let the list “populate”.
The “pack” of downloadable “Live” programs – including Live Messenger – is called “Windows Live Essentials” so that’s is what you want to look for. (Click on images to see larger versions.)


2) Click on “Windows Live Essentials” to ‘select’ it, and then click the “Change/Remove” button. A new window will open.


3) Select the “Uninstall” ‘radio button’ (if it isn’t already) and click “Continue”.


4) Place a check in the checkbox for Messenger (and any others you no longer want) and click “Continue”. Follow the steps until it says “Finished”, reboot if necessary, and that’s it, you’re done. Live Messenger will be gone.

Today’s free download: For my Instant Messaging (aka “chat”) needs, I use Trillian Astra, which lets me monitor multiple ‘identities’. (Works on Macs now too.)
Connect to IM & Social Networks. Trillian lets you connect to multiple IM and social networks at the same time, managing contacts and real time status feeds efficiently.

AIM , Yahoo! , ICQ , Windows Live (MSN) , MySpaceIM , Google Talk , Jabber/XMPP , Facebook , Twitter , Skype , Bonjour.

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.

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April 3, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, IM, Microsoft, PC, social networking, software, tech, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

A Collection of Tips for E-mail

One of the very first things I do in the process of starting my day is I check my e-mail Inbox(es). It is as much a part of my routine as my morning cup of coffee. This morning, it struck me that you do not have to be a computer geek to realize and appreciate that electronic communication has become an important — if not vital — part of our lives. And that it has changed the way we live.

If you will pardon a little self-indulgent reminiscing, I would like to tell you in a before-and-after manner, that I am old enough to well-remember what it was like in the days before email, Instant Messaging, and cellphones. In my High School years there simply were no such things. (There were no ATM machines either, if you can imagine that.)

When I wanted to find out what my friends were up to, I picked up a Slimline telephone (with cord) and tried to catch them before they left, but I usually had to track them down by “making the rounds”, in person, of our ‘hangouts’…which put a lot of miles on my 10-speed bike. (No obesity here.)

Besides ‘Ma’ Bell, the other method of communicating was the mail, now known as “snail mail”. How we ever got along back then is beyond me.

Today the speed at which I transmit written correspondence is limited only by how frequently the recipient checks their Inbox. My pals answer their phones no matter where they are (or their voicemail does) or what they’re doing.. who doesn’t carry a cellphone? I not only talk to my neice and nephew out on the East Coast, but I can see them via “videoconferencing” (free). Or I can “chat” with IM, no matter the miles of separation (also free).

But of all these modern methods, I rely the most on email. Email is the main way I stay informed and in contact with my friends and kinfolk, and the same is probably true for you.
(For kicks, I challenge you to a little test: how long can you ignore your Inbox before it irritates? Could you take a week’s vacation… and never check it?)

Because I am an “email guy”, I am perhaps overly aware of the negatives of email. I am peeved by spam, alarmed by phishing, nervous about privacy, and paranoid about hackers and e-criminals. I have written a few articles on these ‘negatives’ and how to combat them, and my “Tip of the day” today is; if you have not read them, to consider clicking on the following links.
Managing your email: eliminating the junk

Managing junk mail in Outlook/Thunderbird
They ARE reading your mail

How to block ads
Simple e-mail encryption

It is my hope that the knowledge you find there will make using the modern miracle of electronic communication a safer and more pleasant experience.

Today’s free download: If you are considering building your own website, or are interested in free WYSIWYG web-authoring tools, a nice tool is the free version of Web Easy Professional, by V-Comm.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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October 30, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, e-mail, how to, IM, Internet, security, tech, tweaks, VoIP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Parental Monitoring And Cellular Phones

If you are a parent concerned about what your child is doing with their mobile phone– whether or not they’re talking to strangers, for example– you may want to keep reading. This topic was spawned by a question from such a parent.

And if you’re the kind of person who’s easily agitated about technology and the erosion of privacy, a Luddite, a Big Brother Conspiracy Theorist, or anyone else who hasn’t quite come to terms with the modern age we’re living in– you might want to stop reading here.
You’ve been warned. I will not respond to your e-mail.

Regular readers (and tech-savvy people in general) know that your computer use at work is monitored. And you’ve probably heard of “spyware” and “keyloggers” that record what you type (my readers have, and that’s fer sher). And you know that GPS devices can pinpoint your location.shhh

And you know that cameras (usually hidden) are being installed everywhere– as a crime and terrorism preventative, and to stop red-light runners. Cities compete to have the highest percentage of camera coverage.

And you know that modern phones allow text messaging, the sending of photos and movies, and surfing the Internet. (They are becoming more like little laptops everyday.)

And you know that the Internet can be a dangerous place. Especially for kids.
(read Monitoring Your Teenager’s Internet Usage – Should You?)

And thus the parent’s dilemma. If you have a child, the day will come when they want a phone. I think that happens around the ages of 7-9, these days.
And being kids, they won’t want just any old phone, but they will want a “kewl” phone; one with all the bell’s and whistles. (Your hands are kind of tied on this.. nobody makes a “plain old cellphone” anymore. Haven’t for years.)

“But Mom, everybody’s got one!”

The answer, for you, may be to give your child a phone that allows you to see what they text and IM, control who their “contacts” are, and, maybe, even record their calls. It’s called “parental monitoring”, and the extent to which you use it is up to you.
[note: if reading that made your blood pressure go up a notch, refer now to the second paragraph.]

You don’t need to buy a special phone.. or even a new phone, to monitor your child’s activity.
* There is commercial software that can be installed on every type of phone– such as RADAR and MobileSpy. These can notify you in “real time” if a parameter you set is being broken. iPhone users can look at safe eyes.
[note: did your employer give you your cellphone? Think, people. Think. Let’s add two and two here.]

* There are USB dongles that read a phone’s SIM chip –even if your child’s erased their messages– for $50.

So, if you’re a concerned parent, you have several options that will allow you to find some middle ground. And if you’re a Big Brother Conspiracy Theorist.. well, friend, it’s twice as bad as you dare to realize and it’s only going to get worse.

Today’s free link(s): Concerned parents who have a child reaching the driving age (and Big Brother Conspiracy Theorists) might read my article “What Your Car Is Saying About You.
Or you can give them a Guardian Angel cell phone which reports their location and speed..

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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October 21, 2008 Posted by | advice, cellular, gadgets, hardware, how to, IM, Internet, iPhone, kids and the Internet, privacy, security, software, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

I’m Really Looking For New Friends

There is a *new* phishing method being employed on chat clients such as Skype. The cyber-criminals really, really, really want you to click on the links they send, so…

They spam messages posing as young men and women who are “really just looking for new friends”.
It is similar to a “make a new Buddy” request, so don’t be fooled.

This is really just a ‘sex’ twist on the ‘fear’-based social engineering ploy I warned you about here, Skype- “Windows Requires Immediate Attention!”

I am too tired of this game to backtrack this hyperlink, so I can’t tell you if responding to this chat will try to install spyware on your machine, try to sell you a “rogue anti-malware program”, or both..
I will simply say — once again — never click the link.

I got six of these this weekend.. Wow! I’m popular, all of a sudden.

[addenda: Peter Parkes (Skype Blogger) wrote and asked me to remind my readers to, quote, “Please report users who send these messages to – that will help us to block them where appropriate.”]

Today’s free link: You are probably familiar with anonymous e-mail addresses, used when filling out forms on Websites (so you can gain access) to protect your privacy and cut down on junk mail. It is becoming more and more common for your ISP to provide you with some [I always just use].
Internet Security blogger Bill Mullins posted a nice article this same type of service, except it is ‘temporary’ private telephone numbers (and he reviews two of them) here, Free Anonymous Phone Numbers for Online Safety

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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September 29, 2008 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, computers, cyber crime, e-mail, hackers, how to, IM, Internet, Internet scam, kids and the Internet, News, Phishing, phraud, security, spam and junk mail, tech, VoIP | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments