How (and why) to measure computer performance

Tech Talk #71 – Feb. 17, 2018 How (and why) to measure computer performance How do we tell if a computer is fast or if it’s faster than that computer over there? What’s fast anyway?   We need an objective way to measure a computer’s speed overall, and it would be nice to break down the major parts of a computer and get ratings for them, too. That’s where benchmarking comes in.   Gamers have

Switch from Chrome to Firefox

Tech Talk #70 – Feb. 3, 2018 Switch from Chrome to Firefox I’ve been a fan of Google’s Chrome browser for years. When it first launched, it was fast and very configurable. The sync feature made it easy to have the same bookmarks on both my desktop and my laptop, and there were lots of extensions that made it better and safer than browsing without them.   Lately, though, Chrome has started helping itself to

Meltdown and Spectre, oh my!

Tech Talk #69 – Jan. 20, 2018 Meltdown and Spectre, oh my! It’s unusual when extremely technical problems make the news, but by now you’ve probably heard about Meltdown and Spectre. Multiple teams of independent researchers have discovered (and named!) these design flaws in computer processors. Meltdown and Spectre are in the news because these flaws result in vulnerabilities in every computer chip made in the last twenty years.   The Windows, Mac, and Linux

Helping your new gadgets live a long life

Tech Talk #68 – Jan. 6, 2018 Helping your new gadgets live a long life Here are four things you can do to give your new gadget, whether it’s a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer, a long life.   Keep it clean and protected Keeping dirt and grime out of your devices helps keep them running. Getting your computer up off the floor will help it breathe cleaner air and last longer. Getting a

Jack-of-one-trade websites

Tech Talk #67 – Dec. 23, 2017 Jack-of-one-trade websites   These websites do one thing and do it well. You won’t need them every day, but when you do, they can really save the day.     GIPHY GIFs are those short video animations you see on the internet, GIPHY ( will let you make GIF file from an online video or a file on your hard drive. Once you’ve made your file, you can

Keeping your accounts and devices safe

Tech Talk #66 – Dec. 9, 2017 Keeping your accounts and devices safe During this busy Christmas season, it can be more important than ever to protect your personal information. Whether you’re shopping online, making travel arrangements, Uber-ing (is that a word?) around a different city visiting family, your data can be attacked from different angles. While you can’t control the security practices of major corporations (cough, Equifax, cough), you can minimize the chances of

You should change your Yahoo email password.

Tech Talk #65 – Nov. 25, 2017 You should change your Yahoo email password.   They call it largest known theft of user data in history. In an August 2013 data breach at Yahoo, all 3 billion account holders at Yahoo had their info stolen. What info, you ask? Oh, just user account information, including names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords (using MD5), and, in some cases, "encrypted or unencrypted security

Web browsers and extensions

Tech Talk #64 – Nov. 11, 2017 Web browsers and extensions Are you still using Internet Explorer (IE)? If so, we need to talk.   Are you tired of seeing “Web page not responding” errors? Tired of seeing “Could not connect to secure page” when you try to connect to your bank’s website? How about “An error has occurred in a script on this page,” tired of that one? You can fix all of these

And now for something completely different

Tech Talk #63 – Oct. 28, 2017 And now for something completely different With apologies to Monty Python, I’m taking a break from the doom and gloom of tales about security breaches and giant corporations collecting and selling our data and identity theft.   Let’s start with a question.   Why do smartphones get bigger every year? Seriously. In the beginning, smartphone screens were about 4” (measured diagonally, like TVs – for some reason.) Then

Smart speakers: how to protect your privacy

Tech Talk #62 – Oct. 14, 2017 Smart speakers: how to protect your privacy Smart speakers are voice-controlled WiFi-connected devices that are used as virtual assistants. They can look like a hockey puck, a large air freshener or a regular speaker. Amazon started things off with their Echo line and was successful enough that Google has entered the market with their Google Home devices.   The speakers work by listening for their wake word (Alexa