Tech – for Everyone

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

Just don’t download any apps..

Guys, I have long told people, if you don’t absolutely need it, don’t install it (and you sure as shooting don’t need five media players..). Well now there’s even more reason to repeat that advice.

* More than 1,000 Spyware Apps Found On Android App Stores

If you think you are downloading apps from Google Play Store and you are secure, then watch out! Someone has managed to flood third-party app stores and Google Play Store with more than a thousand malicious apps, which can monitor almost anything a user does on their mobile device from silently …” Read More..

Update: 500+ Android apps found containing program that can download spyware plug-in

More than 500 mobile apps on Google Play were recently discovered containing an advertising software development kit capable of downloading malicious plug-ins that can spy on Android users’ call histories.. Apps using the ad SDK, a product called Igexin, were downloaded over 100 million times by Android device owners before Google removed these programs from its store..Read more..

Tell your friends.

Addenda: I have been asked my thoughts on Wikileaks and the (alleged) CIA hacking tools (such as this one, posted today) often enough now that I think I should mention them here.. please don’t think the CIA are the only folks who can do/are doing these ‘exploits’. They basically copied from the hackers. These things are possible because all our devices/technologies are inherently, fundamentally, insecure. (Don’t believe me? Read this.)

* * *

Today’s quote:I am thankful the most important key in history was invented. It’s not the key to your house, your car, your boat, your safety deposit box, your bike lock or your private community. It’s the key to order, sanity, and peace of mind. The key is ‘Delete.'” ~ Elayne Boosler

Copyright 2007-2017 © “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.

August 11, 2017 Posted by | advice, Android, cellular, consumer electronics, cyber crime, gadgets, Google, hackers, Internet, mobile, News, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review – Streaming Music With Spotify

I was lucky enough to get an “invitation”, and have been using the music service Spotify for a few weeks now.

Spotify is a new way to listen to music. Millions of tracks, any time you like. Just search for it in Spotify, then play it. Just help yourself to whatever you want, whenever you want it.

Spotify has three levels of service:
Free (waiting list for invite): Millions of tracks available instantly.
Unlimited: ($4.99/mo) No advertisements, Unlimited streaming of music.
Premium: ($9.99) same as Unlimited but adds, Spotify on your mobile, Offline mode for playlists.

Once I got it installed, the first thing I wanted to know was, did they have my artists and bands? (aka, Would they provide the music I wanted to hear?) Well, so far, the answer to that is 95% (or, higher) → yes. Considering the convoluted mess that is DRM, that is impressive.

Back in my day, THE band was Van Halen (unless you were into the Bee Gees). Did Spotify have that?

Yes, they do. And they also have Van Halen songs performed by other artists. (see the “Artist” column.) Great! But what about the band that popularized “hard” rock, AC/DC?

Oops. They only have “cover bands”. I found the same goes for The Beatles (which makes sense, as iTunes and Apple bought the rights to the Fab Four). But the weird part is, I only knew I was listening to a cover band because I read the list — my ears thought I was listening to John, Paul, Ringo, and George.

I found other instances of DRM/artist restrictions.. for instance, the band Offspring has two songs I really like – “Come Out And Play (Got To Keep Em Separated)” and “Self Esteem”. Though Spotify has plenty of Offspring songs, the first is not listed (too popular?) and the second is sort of listed, but is not the song at all (it’s some Bluegrass weird thingy) .. But their top song, “The Kids Aren’t Alright”, is there.

But by and large, if I can think of the song, Spotify has it. I did not explore other music genres, but I have no reason to suspect the same would not be true there. (I did look up Johnny Cash, and he’s there. “I fell in to a burnin’ ring of fire..”) I do not think “millions of titles” is an exaggeration.

Spotify works much like the iTunes program, in that you can create “playlists”, play existing libraries, pause, replay, sort and search, etc.. It blows the doors off of Pandora if hearing your band play your song is what you prefer. I cropped my screenshots in a way that the banner ads in the free version are not as evident as they are when you have the Spotify ‘player’ open. I found no lags or skips or anything other than good quality when playing music with Spotify.

I can tell you that the “hype” over Spotify you have probably seen, seems justified to me , and I certainly understand why CNET calls it is a Top Pick. As I am not really a “music guy” these days (too many other distractions), I am fine with the free version, (and the ads don’t bother me as I create a playlist and then minimize the window) but were I still like I was when I was younger, and more “into the tunes”, I would seriously considering “upgrading” to the version that would allow me to access Spotify with my Android smart phone.. so I could better use it like an iPod when I am out walking. $10 a month for that, and “offline” playlists, seems quite reasonable to me.

You can check out Spotify, here. “All the music. All the time. On your computer, mobile phone, and more.” If you like listening to music, I highly recommend you do. Put your name on the waiting list for the free service, at least. Spotify earns two Tech Paul “thumbs up”.

(I might like to see an “equalizer” function.. you know, so I could crank up the bass.. ha! I guess I still have some music fan left in me..)

Today’s quote:I like long walks, especially when they’re taken by people who annoy me.” ~ Fred Allen

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

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August 23, 2011 Posted by | Android, cloud computing, computers, digital music, Internet, iPhone, software | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reflections of

A couple weeks back now, I saw a cardboard box on the side of the road (by somebody’s driveway) upon which someone had scrawled F R E E, in black marker, which had what could only be a keyboard protruding out of it.

Since I was in no real hurry, I decided to pull over, stop, and take a quick look, and see what else was in the box.
(One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure – they say.)

Sure enough: it was a keyboard I’d seen; and the box was full of old computer stuff — a couple more keyboards, a joystick, some floppy discs (still in the cellophane), several mice, and other parts and pieces and doodads. A look at the connecting plugs (and the floppies) told me this stuff dated to the first generation of personal computers — and should have been recycled long ago. Absolutely useless.

I was just about to walk away when I noticed that a bit behind the box was a stack of jewel cases. These jewel cases contained CD’s. The CD’s were install discs for —

  • Star Wars X-Wing Alliance
  • B-17
  • Heroes of Might and Magic III
  • F-22 Lightning 2
  • Comanche 3
  • Operation Flashpoint
  • Homeworld
  • and several other games from that era..

Brings back some memories, doesn’t it? (Well, for some of you, anyway.) These games also date from the first generation — and were written in DOS, if you can believe that.
In spite of the fact that these games are too old to play properly on modern machines, I took some of them. Maybe I could get them to work..

There are methods for getting old games to play on modern machines. My How To for that is here, Windows 7 – Old Games Won’t Play.. Help! (Updated), which sometimes work.

But for several of these titles (um.. most of these titles) they did not, and if I wanted to proceed in my efforts I would have had to start using virtual environments. But instead, I did what I have not done in ages – I went into the T4E Museum Of Computers and pulled down a 1st Generation computer, and “fired it up”.

This bad boy is a Celeron 333 MHz, that has a whopping 64 Megabytes of RAM, a massive 4 Gigabyte hard drive, and runs the smooth and stable Windows 98 Second Edition. (It even has – hold on to your hats, USB ports!)

Ahhh.. the days of AUTOEXEC.BAT. I had almost forgotten..

[a brief aside: Now.. if you have read this far, I feel I have to be a little clearer, and more precise — the actual “first generation of PC’s” — the Pentium 286, 386, and 486 era, did not have “graphical” user interfaces, nor “video games” as we think of them. No “icons”. Instead, you typed in things like “cd c:\programs\lotus\”. What I meant by “1st Gen” was when people started actually buying PC’s to have in their home..]

I had – also – almost forgotten how slow, and incapable these machines, and Windows 98 were/are. And how many hurdles you had to jump through to get a graphics adapter to work. Can you believe there are people out there advocating going back and running Windows 98.. because Microsoft OSes “have become too ‘bloated’, slow, and unresponsive”? And I still see people who take pains to set their machines to have the “classic” look (spartan) shown above.

Sorry.. I am long-winded today. Back to the story. So installed some of these old games (or, tried to) and went through multiple (slow) reboots, a couple of BSOD‘s, etc., and I came away from it all with one word at the forefront of my mind –> LAME.

I hurried back to my 64-bit Win machine, used my wireless mouse to double-click the icon for Call of Duty Black Ops, and chuckled as I realized my machine has twice as much RAM as the the old PC has hard drive. And my game looks like this..

So there you have it: LAME vs less-lame. The old and the new. Night and day.

I really had forgotten Windows 98. I remembered it being better.. somehow. And the games too. I thought they were “cool”… and I suppose they were. In their day. Now? LAME. (I could only stand to play Heroes for a few minutes.. It was a bit like watching Pong.)

Related reading:

* It is time to face facts and finally dump Windows XP.

* A trip back to the land of Mega

Sorry if I angered anyone. That was not my intent. The above is just my “humble opinion”. My point is, we have evolved and advanced — and the past is, frequently, nostalgia at best. (Again, MHO.)

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

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June 16, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, Gaming, how to, Microsoft, PC, tech | , , , , , | 12 Comments

How To Play Your Steam Games Offline

This tutorial is for those folks who, like me, have no interest in online ‘deathmatches’, but prefer to play their games against the computer in Single-player mode. Or .. otherwise do not like Steam. I have not had time to try this yet myself, but a reliable source told me it works. Source ~ It is posted on the Call of Duty Black Ops forum.

[note: this applies to games you own.. and are in your Steam “library”.]

Offline Mode allows you to play games through Steam without reconnecting to the Steam Network every time you wish to play – this is particularly useful if you do not plan on playing over the internet and would prefer not to download new updates for your single-player games.

1) Start Steam online – make sure the Remember my password box on the login window is checked.

2) Verify that all game files are completely updated – you can see the update status for a game under the Library section (when the game shows as 100% – Ready it is ready to be played in Offline Mode).

3) Launch the game you would like to play offline to verify that there are no further updates to download – shut down the game and return to Steam once you have confirmed that the game can be played.

[NOTE: Mine never showed “100% Ready”, and I had to download an 8012.4 MB file (which I believe is the entire DVD contents) to complete the update process referenced in Step 3.]

4) Go to Steam > Library then right click on Call of Duty: Black Ops and select Properties. In the Updates tab, choose Do not automatically update this game under Automatic updates.

5) Go to Steam > Settings to ensure the Don’t save account credentials on this computer option is not selected.

6) From the main Steam window, go to the Steam menu and select Go Offline.

7) Click Restart in Offline Mode to restart Steam in Offline Mode.”

And, yes, I am going to implement this mucho muy mas pronto. I am not a fan of Steam, and successfully managed to avoid it for years — until my favorite game title, Call of Duty, required Steam to install.

Call me an old dinosaur if you want, but I do not enjoy running around arenas, getting knifed in gun battles and sniped by campers — and trying to guess if what just killed me was a hack, a bot, or a lucky/good player. I leave online gaming (and Steam tracking everything I do..) to the teenagers-of-all-ages, gladly!

My sincere and profound thanks and regards to the person who alerted me to this. (You know who you are.)

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

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February 5, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, Gaming, how to, Internet, PC, privacy, software, tech, troubleshooting, tweaks | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 51 Comments

How To Play Online At Work

cubicle Don Reisinger over at C/Net writes, “We all spend some of our time at work doing things that have nothing to do with our job. We surf the Web. We play games. Sure, we all need our downtime, and the enlightened manager knows that. But still, we’d rather just surf in private than deal with the raised eyebrows.

That’s why we need ways to ensure that when our boss surprises us or sneaks up behind us, she’ll think that we’re actually working.

Now, I hope you won’t think me too much of a curmudgeon, but…
* At a recent major IT “expo”, the keynote speaker kicked off the show by saying, “IT lost 100,000 jobs last month but..
* Far more companies are downsizing than are hiring, and there are now more job seekers-per-job-opening than ever before in history.
* You’re not twelve any more.
* No amount of camouflage or quick Alt-Tab-ing is going to fool your machine’s logs, or the corporate screen-capture “productivity” monitoring software.

However, if you want to see the latest Fool The Boss tools, click here. There’s some new ones on me.
(And.. here’s another thought; maybe your boss saw this article too..)

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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April 18, 2009 Posted by | computers, tech | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments