Newsletter Archives

  • When is the right time to buy a Windows 11 computer?

    HARDWARE

    Susan Bradley

    By Susan Bradley

    The other day, I retired the last Windows 7 computer in our office, the one that had been used by our office manager.

    She didn’t like change and rarely went online. She used the computer only for some key business applications. (She carried a flip phone.) In other words, this is a case in which I wanted to make the transition as smooth as possible.

    So I took an older Windows 10 computer that wasn’t eligible for Windows 11, put the Start10 application on it, installed the Office classic menu, and ported her preferred background image to the “new” PC. I put the icons on the desktop in exactly the same place. I did everything possible to make the new computer look and behave as much like the old one as I could. And I didn’t tell her the computer had changed.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.04.0, 2023-01-23).

  • Dymo declines

    HARDWARE

    Will Fastie

    By Will Fastie

    One of my favorite brands is headed for extinction.

    I don’t think I’ve ever been as dismayed with a Christmas gift as I was a year ago. I just didn’t know it at the time. My wife gave me the gift because I asked for it, but even my reason for wanting it was askew.

    The gift? A Dymo LabelWriter 550 Turbo. Faster than a speeding bullet. Able to leap buildings in a single bound. And, designed to disappoint.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.02.0, 2023-01-09).

  • Let your PC start the new year right!

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    ISSUE 20.01 • 2023-01-02

    HARDWARE

    Ben Myers

    By Ben Myers

    Taking a little time now to check and proactively service your Windows PC thoroughly can pay off big time in the coming year.

    Whether you’re planning to move to Windows 11 or stick with Windows 10, this easy-to-follow annual checkup is the preventive medicine that can help ensure that your PC begins 2023 in the best shape possible.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.01.0, 2023-01-02).

  • Defibrillate your “dead” laptop

    HARDWARE

    Ben Myers

    By Ben Myers

    I confess: I do not have a defibrillator to use on a laptop.

    Beginning with Windows 7, a laptop in sleep mode can become unresponsive and completely inoperative. In the repair business, we call this “dead.” Ultimately, it’s about managing your laptop’s battery.

    On the average, a seemingly dead laptop lands in my hands every couple of months. That is not often enough to be classified as a major problem by Microsoft, but it is still very real.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (19.51.0, 2022-12-19).

  • Printers are a pain

    Reading one of the “known issues” in Windows 11 22H2 and the side effects with certain printer drivers reminds me of how I have a love hate relationship with printers.

    In the known issues section….while the issue with IPP printers has been resolved and the block from Windows 11 22H2 has been removed, it reminds me that printers can drive us crazy. So here’s some of my tips:

    1. Don’t get so tied to a printer that you aren’t willing to chuck it out the window or send it to e-waste. Often you can buy a new printer that will work with a new computer easier than the hassle of trying to get a really old printer to work.  These days I tend to buy Lexmark printers and Brother printers.  But now that I’ve said “gee buy new”, I’ve also seen where it’s been hard to find printers of a certain type and style. There have been times I’ve purchased refurbished printers on ebay because I couldn’t find it any other way.
    2. Don’t buy inkjet printers. If you don’t print on a regular basis, that ink will get dry and the printer won’t work. Better to stick with a laser jet printer.
    3. If you get stuck, remember you can use the built in “Microsoft print to PDF” and can print something to a pdf in a pinch.
    4. When trying to get a print out of a web site, sometimes you just have to use snipping tool and cut and paste the image to word to get a USEABLE version of the web site. I’ve even tried the “print” button on a web site and it still doesn’t print.
    5. I personally find that connecting a printer via ethernet rather than wireless connection works better. I also make it a point to assign the printer a static IP address (this can normally be done in the setup section) and that works the best.
    6. Always be prepared to turn off and then turn back on a printer. Often they will go “asleep” and turning it back on reconnects it.

    What about you?  What tips and tricks do you recommend for dealing with printers?

  • Does an old personal computer become useless?

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    ISSUE 19.46 • 2022-11-14

    HARDWARE

    Ben Myers

    By Ben Myers

    Come take a ride in my souped-up DeLorean for an adventure in the days before Windows.

    You see an old computer and ask, “Why hasn’t it been scrapped?” But don’t look at just the PC — look at what it does within some total system. That’s what this story is about.

    The ride takes many twists and turns on the path to where we are today. Progress over the last 20-plus years is hard to believe.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (19.46.0, 2022-11-14).
    This story also appears in our public Newsletter.

  • “Which laptop should I buy?”

    HARDWARE

    Will Fastie

    By Will Fastie

    I thought I knew the answer to that question, but it’s changed.

    During idle chitchat at my podiatrist’s office recently, my involvement with computing came out and the nurse immediately asked me which laptop she should buy.

    Family, friends, and clients have asked me this question for decades. I thought I had a pat answer, but I found myself fumbling this time. Afterward, it occurred to me that my thinking had not completely evolved with the market. Here’s my new, updated answer.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (19.44.0, 2022-10-31).

  • Real-life SSD reliability must be managed

    HARDWARE

    Ben Myers

    By Ben Myers

    Solid-state drives did not have a very good week here recently, but it was not their fault.

    Here are the facts about a trifecta of mainstream laptops I handled recently, and why these laptops came up short. If you pay attention to the details here, you can improve the life and reliability of your solid-state drives (SSDs).

    I will also weave in my opinions and points of view on various related subjects.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (19.40.0, 2022-10-03).

  • Make a laptop run perfectly!

    HARDWARE

    Ben Myers

    By Ben Myers

    With a little work, the right laptop can look and run almost like new, but its upgrade possibilities are far more limited than a desktop’s.

    Numerous brands and models of laptops dot the landscape, each model designed according to different principles by different design teams. Different sizes of laptops carrying the same brand and model follow a similar (but not identical) design, even from generation to generation, as the design team works through model after model.

    Business-class brands such as Acer TravelMate, Dell Latitude, Hewlett Packard Elitebook, and Lenovo ThinkPad vary widely from one another in design, construction, and quality of materials. Then, too, there is a plethora of models intended for consumer use, causing us to roll our eyes.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (19.36.0, 2022-09-05).

  • The technology of cars

    As you well know, I’m a geek.  I love technology. Alexas surround me.  iPhones, iPads, Android tablets. But for many years I’ve had a car that was quite behind in technology.  As in it had a CD player and a stereo and an auxiliary jack and that was about it. Recently after having that car for many years (trust me I can’t name it because I’m still in mourning over having to finally let my head be more important than my heart) and now have “upgraded” to a used car that has many more features in the dash including bluetooth connection to my phone, as well as a Pandora app link. It does not have a SiriusXM link like my Dad’s newer Honda does. But one thing you find with technology in cars is beware that the vendor may not like it as much as you do. And thus, just like with computer technology, sometimes you have to find workarounds and alternatives.

    In my older car I was able to get Alexa to work in it quite reliably by using a Roav VIVA attachment and then connected it to a Bluetooth enabled AUX cable. So if I’ve forgotten to arm the House alarm I can say “Hey Alexa, tell Honeywell to set the alarm to away”. Note that Honeywell only lets you arm your House, not disarm it for safety reasons.

    On an occasional basis, I will have to resync up my Dad’s SiriusXM subscription as it falls off the Satellite. In going through the options for my “new” older car I noticed that some of it’s audio options no longer function as they originally were planned. Got an Onstar enabled car that dates from 2015 or before?  Guess what?  Due to 2G and 3G technology being out of date and retired, that feature is also going to be retired in older cars.  HondaLink App reviews are also showcasing that connecting TOO much and relying on an app that the vendor may not support well means you get frustrated.  Someone said… too bad it doesn’t have Apple Carplay and the problem with that is that it too will be obsolete at some point in time. Those vintage cars sold at Mecum Auctions – it will be interesting to see in the years ahead if our newfangled cars stay as valuable as those vintage ones do.

    And then of course there is the concern that any bit of tech can be used for nefarious purposes. Blackhat security conference has long had sessions about how hackers can break into remote starting cars or any number of issues.

    I am reminded by a quote from Brian in Pittsburgh… “The fun😐 thing about security problems going forward is that there will forever be new ones to worry about because developers are inherently more eager to create new functionality and get it out the door than they are to bake in good ways to prevent or restrict misuse.”

    So what technology in your car no longer works like it should?

  • Restored desktop computers must work flawlessly

    HARDWARE

    Ben Myers

    By Ben Myers

    Test, test, and test again — just to be on the safe side.

    In my last article, I covered the basic and essential tests needed to assure that a computer was in generally sound operating condition. As the late-night TV pitchman always says: “But wait! There’s more!” More testing, that is.

    There are still electronics that need to be working right for the entire computer to be fully functional. Along the way, you need to do at least a visual inspection to see that all the ports and connectors — in back, in front, and even on top of a computer — are not damaged.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (19.32.0, 2022-08-08).

  • Beware of used printers

    Normally when I purchase refurbished technology I have had zero problems.

    Normally with printers we have purchased new, but lately it’s been impossible to find the models we want either locally or online sold new. So, thought I, I’d go to plan B. Refurb laptops, refurb’d desktops, refurbed Alexas, you name it I’ve always had good luck.  Until recently that is. At least with printers I am having lousy luck.  I have tried twice now to purchase a certain model of printer (Lexmark) that supports two trays (one letter, one legal), is made to fit near a desk and twice now I have purchased either a used or a refurbished model from Amazon and Ebay and both of them had issues.  The first one had a bent chassis so that tray one could not be sensed and itiwouldn’t print. Well, It would if you shoved a screwdriver in the slot to make it “think” the tray was lifted. The other wouldn’t lay down black ink on half of the printing.

    Both fortunately are available for sending back but it’s still been frustrating to try to get certain printers that due to supplies are really hard to find right now and when you try to go with plan B – which is let’s try renewed/refurb’d – which NORMALLY never let’s me down – it’s not coming through this time.

    Printers. The BANE of our existence. We have been saying that we are going “paperless” in our society and yet we still use paper.

    Bottomline, I’d stay away from refurbished printers for a while as I keep sending them back.

    (and don’t get me started on brands that demand you install their ink)