Category Archives: Everything Else

It’s Dead, Jim!

2016 marks the end of some of the most long-lasting names and devices in the technology world. We sadly mark the passing of:

  • Motorola: The company has had problems in the past several years, was sold twice, and as of 2016, the name no longer exists. Motorola had a long run, having invented the car radio (Hence the name), in 1930, then quickly moving on to the first walkie-talkie in 1940, the car phone in 1946, and the first commercial cell phone in 1983. They also, incidentally, provided the radio gear that allowed NASA astronauts to communicate from the Moon.
  • iPhone headphone jack: Probably in order to make their phones thinner, sleeker, lighter, and trendier, Apple has in their infinite wisdom eliminated the headphone jack from the latest iPhone, leaving users with no choice other than Bluetooth headphones, which cost a lot more and are not nearly as idiot-proof as wired headphones. Sigh.
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Marketing a product that spontaneously catches fire is not too good for business, but, again, it has a lot to do with making products that emphasize trendiness over usability. If only the Galaxy Note 7 had a removable battery (A feature I insist upon in a phone), the problem could have been taken care of much more easily. But removable batteries make the phone thicker, heavier, and not quite so “cool,” so they’re out.
  • VCRs: It took 50 years, but they finally managed to kill the VCR. I pity all those folks with stuff on videotape that isn’t, and never will be, available on DVD.
  • Hoverboards: Cheap Chinese quality control and Lithium-Ion batteries don’t mix well, especially at the bleeding edge of battery capacity, when they have to be made thinner and with tighter tolerances than ever before. See Samsung Galaxy Note 7.
  • Google Picasa: My all-time favorite photo organizing program. The good news is, it still works, if you already have it; it just won’t be updated or downloaded anymore.

Well, there you have it. We’ll just have to struggle along somehow without these icons of the technology world.

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For even more empowering technology info, read my new book, “Deciphering the 21st Century,” Available now!

Click here to read all about it.

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Tales From the Trenches

In my years offering technical support to folks, I’ve seen some strange and odd things. Some qualify as 1D10T errors, also known as PEBKAC (Problem Exists between Keyboard And Chair), others are just strange issues with equally strange fixes. Names have been withheld to protect the guilty…

Mute button

Mute button

Mute button on keyboard: I had a customer who used his computer to record and edit audio. One day I got a panicky call, “I’ve got no sound!” Upon arriving, I saw the little “mute” icon by the clock, pressed the “mute” button on the keyboard, and the sound worked! That’ll be a hundred bucks!

A customer complained that when he was sitting at his computer playing audio, the audio would unexpectedly stop and start. This took some observation of how he was actually sitting at his desk. Many audio programs pause when you hit the space bar. Turns out he was pressing the space bar accidentally – with his stomach! Since he reacted badly to my weight-loss suggestion, I turned off that feature…

Here’s a real stumper: Customer complained that the computer shut down immediately during startup. I came in, pushed the power button, computer started normally.  No problem. A week later, I get another call; same problem. Again, computer starts fine when I push the button. A few days later, same problem again! Okay, I sez to myself, sez I, something strange here. Works fine for me, so I turn the computer off again and ask the customer to sit down and turn on the computer. She presses the power button and holds it down! Of course the computer shuts down within 10 seconds – All modern computers do that if you hold the button; that’s how you do an emergency shutdown. Why she started doing that, not even she knows…

Worst Virus I've ever seen...

Worst Virus I’ve ever seen…

A friend had a similar problem except he wasn’t holding down the button, and it didn’t always happen. My first theory was a bad power button, so I removed the (desktop) computer’s front panel. Turned out, the computer was very old, and had possibly not been cleaned in it’s lifetime, and there was so much dust behind the front panel, it was jamming the power button! Did I mention the fellow was a bachelor?

WiFi switch on laptop: Some laptops have a tiny little switch somewhere (usually on the side) that turns the Wi-Fi on and off. Some others have a “hotkey” on the keyboard that does the same thing. This can be really annoying when there’s an errant typo that turns the Wi-Fi  off, or the tiny switch gets bumped taking the laptop out of it’s bag. The cure? inspect the laptop very carefully for a switch, and check the top row of the keyboard for a little “Wi-Fi” symbol (usually looks like an antenna with waves coming out of it).

Sometimes, when troubleshooting audio systems, the problem is one of signal flow. Some folks, if they don’t have an audio input on a piece of equipment, will plug an output into another output, or vice-versa. This not only doesn’t work, but can cause damage. Outputs always need to go into inputs.

And finally, yes, it’s possible to put a CD or DVD in it’s player/reader upside down. No, it doesn’t work that way. The label side always faces up or toward you.

Visit my store for cool gifts and gadgets

For even more empowering technology info, read my new book, “Deciphering the 21st Century,” Available now!

Click here to read all about it.

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I’d love to hear your comments!


I’m Branching out

This post is going to be a bit different. I’m still servicing computers, but I’m also branching out into a new venture that’s dear to my heart: Making things!

I now have a store with a very nice selection of gifts and gadgets, all hand-made, by me, and all unique, or nearly so. Many are my original designs, and all are high quality stuff, unlike the cheap Chinese c**p so often seen in gift shops.

Check it out, and tell me what you think! New items are being added all the time, so stop back often.

If you don’t want to buy online and you live in the Tucson area, give me a call or email and I can sell you my stuff in person at a discount, usually 10-15%.


Annette 520-977-5670

For even more empowering technology info, read my new book, “Deciphering the 21st Century,” Available now!

Click here to read all about it.

Follow me on Twitter:

I’d love to hear your comments!

Who Invented That??

Pop quiz: Where were all these things invented?

  1. The first microprocessor, the 8088
  2. The Pentium and Celeron computer processors
  3. Anti-Virus software
  4. Code that enables sending email
  5. Mobile Phones
  6. Texting (SMS)
  7. Voicemail
  8. USB Flash drives
  9. The Super Iron Battery, which may be in your (next) electric car
  10. Transparent solar panels (“Solar Windows”)
  11. Drip irrigation
  12. Cherry Tomatoes
  13. Sodastream (A machine to make soda at home)
  14. The Pillcam (swallow-able colonoscopy device)
  15. Heart stents
  16. Radiation-free X-ray technology
  17. The Epilator hair-removal device
  18. A new technology for divers that extracts air from the water

Impressive list, huh? Without these inventions, the world would be a much different place, probably a worse one.

If you said, “The United States”, good guess, but no. The answer is Israel, the tiny, much-maligned country that has more research and development, and more Nobel Prizes per capita, than any other country on earth.

How could this be? In a country that didn’t even exist 70 years ago?? It might have something to do with Israeli philosophy. Classical rabbinical literature created the Hebrew phrase “Tikkun olam” (literally, “world repair”). The Israelis seem to have not only realized that the World is broken, but decided to do what they could to repair it.

The innovations in the above list are only a few of the things Israel has done to make the world a better place. They are often first on the scene of major disasters, bringing state-of-the-art mobile hospitals, food, and anything else needed. The list of medical advances is lengthy; Treatments for cancer, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS, epilepsy, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and on and on. 

Their cows produce more milk. Their bees produce more honey.

They rank as the fifth happiest nation on Earth, maybe because they care so much about their fellow man.

On the other hand, it just might be a God thing…

Want to boycott Israel? You might want to read this first:

Israeli flag

For even more empowering technology info, read my new book, “Deciphering the 21st Century,” Available now!

Click here to read all about it.

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I’d love to hear your comments!

What’s the REAL price?

Ever wonder why your phone plan is advertised as “$29.99/month,” but it’s always over $40? Phone bills (even landlines) have so many hidden charges, it’s enough to make your head spin. You might expect to pay State, City, and Federal Excise tax, but here are some others you might find:

  • State excise tax
  • Universal service charge
  • 911 charge
  • LNP (Local Number Portability) charge
  • TRS (Telecommunications Relay Service) charge
  • Single Bill Fee
  • Detailed Billing fee
  • Access charge
  • Intercontinental Ballistic IntraLATA Surcharge

Okay, I made that last one up, but seriously, this is ridiculous! And those are only the charges you can’t get out of, that add anywhere from 17% to 25% to your phone bill. Reminds me of a TV commercial where the husband comes in with a package in the mail the size of the L.A. phone directory, drops it on the kitchen table with a resounding thud, and says, “It’s the phone bill!”

Arizona ranks 17th in high wireless bill taxes with a State and local rate of 11.98% and a Federal rate of 6.46% (Same in all 50 states) for a combined rate of 18.44%, so we are above the median as far as taxes go.

Why can’t they fold all those fees into the advertised price and avoid the sticker shock? Well… Because then they wouldn’t be able to advertise “$29.99*” in great big numbers and then under the “*” they say (in tiny letters) “Plus applicable taxes, fees, and whatever else we can gouge out of you!” This is also true of many other businesses, such as hotels, airlines, and online ticket sales. One company even tried an all-inclusive “Out the door” price model on it’s website… and lost business to their competitors advertising a lower price, even though their final price was higher. Moral of the story? Sadly, you can’t play an honest game if everyone else is cheating.

People are starting to get really sick of this manipulation, though. That’s one of the many reasons cellphone customers are switching to prepaid service in droves. With prepaid, you buy a month’s worth of service ahead of time, typically for around $40-$45 for most carriers, and the only thing else you pay is sales tax. Granted, the hassle factor is slightly higher because you have to be proactive in making sure your service continues, but look at all the advantages:

  • No contracts!
  • No credit check, in fact, no credit needed because you pay for the service before you use it.
  • No hidden fees, and no surprises. If you need to pay more for some service, you’ll know about it beforehand.
  • You own your phone.
  • No sitting down with someone who wants to sell you lots of additional services.
  • No hour of wasted time reading and signing those contracts.
  • Depending on your needs, often lower monthly charges.

There are a few disadvantages, as well:

  • You may have to pay a lot for your phone, especially if you want the latest iPhone or similar.
  • Your selection of available phones may be smaller, or different.
  • If you run out of money, the grace periods are short, and you’ve got no phone service until you pay again.
  • If you let the service lapse past the grace period, you lose your phone number.

Still, if you stay on top of your finances, prepaid is a very good alternative for many folks. Here’s an idea: Join the revolution and demand a simple quote of the real price! Patronize those businesses that actually tell you how much something costs.

More info:

It Took An Hour Just To Get It Out Of The Box: Making Your New Gadget Work

Now that you’ve gone through the process of shopping around , the excitement of buying something new, and the heartbreak of finding out that by the time you’ve gotten your shiny new gadget home, it’s been supplanted by something even newer and cooler, it’s time to actually unpack it and use it. Just the unpacking alone can turn into a major ordeal; some manufacturers seem to think it’s okay to make you actually use tools to extract the product from the package. There’s even a new consumer malady called Wrap Rage, caused by people having to spend disproportionate amounts of time and effort unpacking new products.

  • Be very careful when using a knife to open the box or package. I’m not talking about hurting yourself here (You already know better than that!), I’m talking about damaging the product inside the box. Sometimes the packing material is thin in places. When opening those awful welded plastic blister packs, scissors work better than knives.
  • Never throw anything away! (At least for a while). Keep the box and packing materials for at least 30 days or as long as the store’s return policy. If the item is defective, returning it to the store is quicker than dealing with the manufacturer, but this usually only applies to the first 30 days (or less) after purchase. It’s a good idea to keep the packing materials longer if it’s something large and fragile and you may have a move in your near future.
  • Keep the receipt for the duration of the warranty. It’s a good idea to establish a file drawer or box for manuals and receipts. I staple the receipt into the inside cover of the owner’s manual. Some receipts are printed on thermal paper, which fades in a matter of months or even weeks. If it’s an important purchase, make a photocopy of the receipt before it fades away.
  • Keep the owner’s manual for as long as you have the product. Modern products are not nearly as easy to figure out as older devices. If you sell the product, having the owner’s manual may make it sell faster.
  • Check the packing material very carefully before panicking over a possible missing part. Some manufacturers get very creative with their packing methods. Unfold any cardboard packing to make sure something isn’t hiding between layers.
  • If batteries are included, and are already inside the device, look for a small plastic tab protruding from the battery door. This tab needs to be removed before the unit will turn on.
  • Look for a “Quick Start” guide. The product manufacturer knows you’re eager to plug it in and play with it, so they often include a short guide that’s just enough to get you started.

This post has been adapted from my new book, “Deciphering the 21st Century,” Available now! Click here to read all about it.

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This has gotten out of hand!

Did you know that last year, selfies killed more people than shark attacks?

The narcissistic practice of taking “selfies” is bad enough, but now we see the rise of using “selfie sticks” to get the camera farther away from the self-absorbed subject. Don’t these people have any friends? I mean real friends, not the kind on Facebook. Apparently not. Many places have started banning selfie sticks, because people using them are a hazard to themselves and others around them.

Friends don’t let friends use selfie sticks!

For even more empowering technology info, read my new book, “Deciphering the 21st Century,” Available now!

Click here to read all about it.

Follow me on Twitter:

I’d love to hear your comments!