Newsletter Archives

  • Are you travelling this summer?

    (Inspired by this post)

    So are you travelling this summer?  And if so, what technology are you taking with you? Often one of the most costly part of travel is the connectivity you need. Often the most concerning part of travel is questioning… is it safe?  I’ll have a full article about that second topic (is connecting to THAT safe and revisiting the VPN question) in a newsletter in the coming weeks, but tonight I want your opinion about what technology you take with you.

    Once upon a time I’d pack a camera, but now with smartphones having such good cameras and taking such good photos I don’t. My sister packs her smallest mini ipad, however I bring my smallest Surface because there are times I do have to connect back to the office and while it’s not impossible to use an ipad to connect to a windows desktop remotely, it’s easier for me to have a true Windows desktop should there be any emergency in the office.

    So what about you? What tech do you make sure you ALWAYS take when you travel whether it’s local or abroad?

  • Desktop or Laptop? What’s your choice?

    When you get to that point in time when either your Apple or Windows computer needs to be upgraded, sometimes it’s better to start over and buy a new computer. But then the question comes — Desktop style or Laptop style?

    Typically desktops are more expandable in the long run, easier to upgrade hard drives, memory, etc. But laptops are more portable. These days with either a USB (or USB C) docking station you can also have multiple monitors.

    Me, personally?  I have both here at home as both have their role. If I want to type up an newsletter column while enjoying nice weather outside, clearly a desktop won’t do. But if I’m working from home, or need a better monitor setup, for sure it’s a Desktop with a normal keyboard, normal mouse and the whole setup.

    In the Apple ecosystem, it comes down to cost.  I can purchase a MacMini and enter the Mac ecosystem at the cheapest price.

    So what’s your preference? And why?

  • What is your favorite home consumer tech thing?

    What’s your favorite technology thing that you use at home? I’ll start with mine. A kindle. But only for books, not for gardening magazines. One can get a book sized kindle which can also hook into your email so you can send email from it. I typically purchase two at a time so that I can be charging one while I’m reading the other.

    So what is YOUR favorite technology thing that you use strictly for personal use and not for business?

  • Dynamic or Static? Which do you choose?

    First off – if you are in the Northern Hemisphere – Happy spring.

    The tulips are in full bloom at my house.

    Speaking of houses – and more specifically, of home networks: The other day where I have a peer to peer network at home consisting of hard wired computers, a scanner/printer and another dedicated printer along with wifi, laptops, ipads, iphones, iwatches, kindles, an galaxy tablet, roku devices, rachio sprinkler device… well you get the idea. And for most of these devices I’ve left them to pick up their IP addresses from the router I have that sits between me and my Comcast modem. Until the other day. When I was trying to scan something from the scanner to my computer and it kept failing. The scanner is not set up via USB, rather it’s set up via a wired connection. So is my computer. And most of the time these two devices pick up the same IP address over and over again even though, in theory they can pick up any available IP address.

    This is also how I set up my network at the office, but there at the office there is a server called a domain controller that handles a specific role (called DHCP server) that hands out the IP addresses to each workstation or device. Once again most of the time each computer picks up exactly the same IP address it has had in the past, or you can exclude that IP address from the range being handed out and statically assign an IP address – as I typically do for printers at the office.

    Well you can probably see what’s coming next. The Lexmark MC2426 scanner/printer was working just fine and finding my computer to scan to, just fine, until it didn’t. I realized that the scanning shortcut I had built into the interface of the scanner was pointing to what I THOUGHT was the IP address of the computer. Clearly a reboot of the router had caused it to move the IP address on that computer. So I went into the settings of both the computer and the printer and set a static IP address to make sure it wouldn’t “move” on me again.

    So how do you know what settings to put into your computer?

    It’s pretty easy to figure out what your router is handing out to your computer.

    Open a command prompt on your computer and type in ipconfig /all

    In the window you will get a listing of all of the potential network connections on your computer. If the wireless port is active, that’s where the IP address will be.

    Typically in a home setting it’s based on a range with the router probably being at the or position in your home network.

    In my case my router is at (see that Gateway setting?)

    The main IP address that I’ve assigned to it is

    The subnet mask is a setting that tells the computer how big of a network it can talk to. Normally in a home private network you limit your IP range to 253(ish) devices (I say 253 because at least one is going to be your router itself taking up one of the spots.)  If that subnet mask is set to that means it will “talk” to a larger pool of devices.  You then go into the ethernet settings, change adapter options and manually set the ip4 address to a static IP address.

    Note I don’t recommend this for most home configurations, it’s MUCH easier to let your router do it’s thing, but I happen to mention it because when you start adding on a bit of home tech like printers, sometimes setting things statically does help especially in a peer to peer setup.

    Also note that the setting of the DNS server comes down to personal preference and sometimes recommendations from your ISP. Some ISPs mandate that you use their DNS, I have moved around over the years to various DNS providers based on various recommendations and speed.  Currently that is Cloudflare’s DNS servers.

    Also go into the control panel/network connections and make sure all of your computers in a home setting see that they are on a private network.

    There has been a couple of times I have been trying to do something shared on a peer computer only to find that our Microsoft patching overlords have sometimes flipped that to public. Whenever you can’t do something on a peer to peer network – check that “private network” setting in the control panel just to make sure.  Monthly patching does NOT normally touch this, but on rare occasions I do see that flipped, so make sure it says “private network”.  If it says public, just change the setting to private.

    So what about you? Do you use the IP addresses set up by your router or do you set up static IP addresses on your home computers? What DNS setting do you use? Share in the comments why you set up your home network the way you do.

  • Beware of the fine print

    The other day I retired an HP color laser all in one that I had here at home because my Sister was about to chuck it out the window. It would get jammed. It would stop and “clean” constantly. So I replaced it with a Lexmark MC3426i unit. Now this unit is not for the faint of heart. First off when it says it’s a “Multifunction Wireless Printer with Print, Copy, Scan and Cloud Fax Capabilities” beware on that last part.  When it says “Cloud fax” it does NOT mean a plain old analog fax that uses a phone line. Nor does it mean a free cloud faxing service built in. Rather it means a trial for a cloud fax service and if you want it to continue you have to pay for it. I found it fascinating that there is a hole in the back of the unit where the faxboard USED to be. So if you go shopping for a multi-function fax machine – beware of devices that include “cloud fax”. That just means it has a hook into an online faxing service.

    On the back of the unit they even still have a plastic hole where the fax machine USED to be connected with an analog fax board, but clearly the manufacturer deems faxing with a phone line to no longer be used.

    Slowly but surely faxing is starting to die out. Once upon a time we lived on faxing. Everything was faxed. Now we are emailing or sending PDFs.  Back in the day there was a specific fax board that was the best computer faxing board around. If you depended on faxing, this was the board to have. The Brooktrout board.

    So here’s a dirty little secret about faxing. We think it’s more secure than email. It’s not. If someone intercepted that screeching sound transmission and had a receiving device listening, they could read that transmission. It’s not protected as it transmits across phone lines. It’s just HARDER to hack into a fax machine versus a computer. A fax machine also can’t be phished like a human can be with email. Typically as well the fax machine is less connected to the rest of the network. Especially with fax machines connected to phone lines, they typically were not connected to the RJ45 connection. If, however you had a device like the Brooktrout in your workstation or server, and if the attacker knew your fax machine answered at a certain number, and if the attacker send a specially crafted signal to the fax/brooktrout board, then they could, in theory, do potential bad things on a network. But as you can see from that, there are a lot of “ifs” in there. It’s easier to phish someone. But that’s not to say in theory fax machines connected to network devices bring vulnerabilities, but then too do humans and keyboards.

    So what technology did you rely on then, is now being slowly killed off?  Did you rely on faxing?

  • Organizing and networking

    In the United States, it’s that time of the year we call tax time. When you have to find those receipts and documents if you fill out a tax return. (As an aside, be kind to your accountant and get your information in early as well as recap your receipts on an Excel spreadsheet, Google docs, or Open office document to make it easier for them and cheaper for you, but I digress …. organizing your tax data isn’t tonight’s topic).

    I’m a gadget girl and one of the things I got recently at the office is a small little desktop scanner called the Epson ES-200. It’s a USB based scanner and I can easily scan in invoices we receive and  there is an add on called the Epson smart scan accounting edition (for $99 for the software) that scans in the invoice, reads the document and then connects it to QuickBooks desktop or online and adds it to either bill pay or write a check. Now it’s not 100% foolproof as you do have to review what it read but it certainly is more accurate than some of the AI chat things that Microsoft and Google love to demo these days.

    So of course now I have to have one at home. But while I don’t need it to scan into QuickBooks, as I don’t use that software at home, it just has nice easy scanning software that I can take my receipts and keep them in smaller electronic versions rather than in boxes of paper.  And of course, me being a geeky gadget girl I would like to share the scanner with other computers on my peer to peer network. And that’s when I remember how hard it is to share a USB based device when it doesn’t want to be shared. Now while there is a unit that can do wireless (the ES-300) in the reviews some say it’s a little flakey.

    I have in the past used such tools such as Fabulatech when I’ve needed to share usb devices at the office, but $149 just to share this scanner with my sister when we can probably just unplug and plug in the USB connection on her computer? Needless to say a longer USB extension cord is going to be cheaper in the long run. But it reminds me that sharing printers, scanners, and other home devices is often frustrating and doesn’t work as well as advertised.

    I’ve also seen devices that can make a USB connected over a network jack, but again, overkill for a home network.

    Bottom line, I think home network should be easier. It’s still way too complicated. What do you think?

  • Cables are very important

    When upgrading a computer and you’ve also invested in a new monitor you might want to also invest in new monitor cables. Case in point the HP workstation at the office supports multiple monitors. If you ask the folks at the office, they will tell you that often when I’m upgrading something I will leave behind a power cable I don’t need, or reuse cables that are already there.

    When setting up the computer I happened to have a Display port cable connected to Display port. But when moving around computers they aren’t my favorite cables because they have a clip that invariably when I’m trying to move a computer, I forget there is a clip and I’m yanking on that cable trying to get it to come out.

    So given the choice between Display port and the mini  display port  (the ones on the left are Display port, the ones on the upper right are mini , I’ll opt for mini . So when I was moving the computer around I reused the mini display port to hdmi cable that I happened to already have there plugged into the old computer and old monitors. But when I plugged them in, they were fuzzy and would only get a resolution of 1920×1280. It wasn’t until I plugged in a different set of cables Mini display to Display port that I was able to get the native resolution of 2560 x 1440 on the 27 inch monitors.

    I’m guessing I had older hdmi cables that couldn’t support the higher resolution. But bottom line, if you are setting up a new desktop and things look …. fuzzy….. make sure you see what cable you are using and try another one!

  • Do you know the easy way to get into the boot menu?

    During last week’s video I recommended that you look for a backup software that adjusts the boot menu so you can easily get under the operating system and recover should something happen. Do you know the OTHER way to get under the operating system into the troubleshooting screen that’s just as easy? Watch it here!

    On Windows 10 and 11, Click the Windows Start menu, then the Power button. While pressing down the Shift key, click the Restart button. This will take you to the Windows Troubleshooting options, where you can reboot to BIOS.

    But wait there’s another way…. you can access Windows Settings by right clicking on the Start Menu. Then navigate to the Update and Security section then the Recovery section. In the Recovery settings, under the Advanced startup section, click Restart now.  Note that if you don’t see an option for UEFI as an extra option (like in the video) it’s because your system doesn’t support uefi boot or is in legacy mode.

    Then wait for the loading screen to complete and then click the Troubleshoot button. Tap the advanced button and then choose what you need to do – you can even boot into the bios settings from here.

    Now if your computer isn’t bootable, you can still get to these boot options menu via the Windows 10 USB installation drive.  Plug the USB drive into your usb drive on your computer. While booting, before Windows starts to load (and you’ll need to do this quickly) you need to continuously press F12 to enter your PC’s BIOS. Then select USB Drive as the boot device and Press Enter key.

    This has ALWAYS been annoying to me:  The keys to press, such as F12, F2, Delete, or Esc, differ on computers from different manufacturers.

    Got a Macintosh? Do you know it has similar firmware booting options?

    First is it the newer style with Apple silicon or older Intel based?

    If newer, turn on your Mac and continue to press and hold the power button as your Mac starts up. Release the power button when you see the startup options screen, which shows your startup disks and a gear icon labeled Options.

    If it’s the older Intel style, you can read this post for the various key combinations.

  • Bringing in the new year with a backup

    As the year 2022 closes give yourself a new year’s resolution to make a backup.

    One that ensures that anytime you read about ransomware, hard drive loss or possible issues with a Windows or Apple patch you don’t worry about such things.

    I personally use Macrium reflect and I ensure that it builds a “boot” menu so that I can easy get into the recovery process.

    Part 1 of the backup video is here: Making a backup 

    So have YOU rung in the new year by making sure your computer has been backed up?

    What about restoring?  Do you check if you can restore your computer?

    Part 2 of the backup video showcasing how to restore is here:  Restoring your backup

  • So did you buy a new computer or laptop this season?

    What did you buy?  What brand did you buy and why?  What specs?  Hard drive, memory?

    Where did you buy it?  Several of my friends buy electronics at Costco because of the return policy.

    One thing that I’m sad to see in the marketplace is that while you can find Chromebooks, the market for Linux based laptops and desktops is moved back to niche brands and a bit more expensive business machines and not affordable (i.e. cheap) home versions. Yes you can put it on older laptops that are aging away from Windows 7 and 8.1 but it’s also nice to see a healthy ecosystem of cheaper Linux based laptops geared towards the home market.

    So what did you buy? Why did you buy it? Where did you buy it?

  • Is technology a good gift for Christmas?

    Ehhhhhhh …. typically not.  For several reasons. You never know how someone might feel about the tech you are giving them. It may bring up privacy issues that they would rather not deal with. Or like me in the case of a laptop, the keyboard isn’t quite right. So often you may wish to opt for tech gift certificates rather than technology itself.

    What you can consider is a gift certificate to a streaming service (to see if they want to cut the cable on TV) or maybe a gift certificate to learn something new.  Something like ContextLearning or maybe even a virtual pastry class?

    Bottom line, often I give something that needs technology, but not the technology itself. Too often that’s a personal decision. What’s your thoughts?

  • Got pop ups and ads?

    Someone mentioned the other day “I’m having more and more ads … so many it’s often hard to read anything on a website …”

    Whenever anyone complains about ads that are so annoying to where they interfere with a web site, chances are you don’t need an ad blocker, chances are you have either browser notifications enabled or some sort of advertising software installed on your system that it making your system pop up an ad.

    This is the American holiday of Thanksgiving when I review the health and well being of my computer systems. One key way to review your systems is to literally look in the add/remove programs (or programs and features) section of your computer and sort by date installed. If those annoying pop ups started a month ago, scroll down and review what programs are installed. If you don’t recognize something, ask here in the forums and we can help you figure the good programs from the bad ones.

    Next, see any funky tool bars installed?  Is your search engine not going to what you want it to go to?

    Next open up each browser you have installed. Click on the (typically) the three dots in the upper corner and click on extensions. What do you have installed? Do you personally remember installed each installed extension?

    Go into the settings of the browser and search on notifications. In Chrome it’s chrome://settings/content/notifications?search=notifications, in Firefox it’s about:preferences#searchResults and then search on notifications. Make sure only those sites you WANT to notify you are set to be notified from.

    Especially if you are going to be online shopping this weekend, make sure your browser is up to date, ONLY has the extensions YOU intend to have installed, and ONLY uses the search engine you intend to have.

    If there is something not quite right, ask here in the forums, there are links to the right to get you started!