Greg Cunningham @ Wed, 20 Mar 2019 19:26:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Greg Cunningham @ 32 32 125299763 Self-driving cars Sat, 16 Mar 2019 17:20:14 +0000 Tech Talk #99 – Mar 16, 2019

Self-driving cars: the media (whether, for you, that means reading web sites, reading physical papers/magazines, or listening to the radio) seems to be telling us that self-driving cars are finally here. Or that those self-driving cars are almost here. Or even that self-driving cars will never be here. So, who’s right?

Technically, everybody.

Newer cars come with many driver-assist technologies like making sure you’re in your lane, blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control, parallel parking assist, back up cameras, and more. If that’s your definition of self-driving cars, then they’re here.

If you want a car that drives you to your destination without any help from you at all, well, we’re getting closer. Most of the major car manufacturers (Ford, GM, Mercedes, etc.), ride-hailing companies (Uber, Lyft, etc.), tech companies (Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc.), and many start-ups you’ve never heard of, are working on the hardware and software that will make a hands-off self-driving car a reality.

There’s even a government standard for defining what self-driving means. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has defined six levels of car autonomy.

Level 0: No Automation

A Level 0 vehicle has no self-driving capabilities at all, you do all the driving. Yes, that means a level 0 car isn’t self-driving at all. Your first car was a level 0 car.

Most cars on the road today are level 0 cars.

Level 1: Driver Assistance

A level 1 vehicle contains technology that will assist with either steering or braking, but not both. Adaptive cruise control is level 1 technology because it can brake your car to keep a specified distance from the car in front of you. But it can’t steer your car.

Many cars and trucks sold since 2015 include level 1 technology.

Level 2: Partial Automation

A level 2 vehicle can assist with both steering and braking at the same time. You still must pay full attention to the road, and you need to be ready to take over at any time. A vehicle with adaptive cruise control that can also steer to keep your vehicle centered in the lane is a level 2 vehicle.

GM’s Super Cruise is an example of Level 2. With a Super Cruise-enabled vehicle, you can take your hands off the steering wheel and the car will keep you in your lane and away from the car in front of you. Tesla’s Autopilot works the same way, but GM’s system also has cameras aimed at your eyes. If GM’s cameras detect you not paying attention to the road, the system will disable itself.

There are some level 2 vehicles on the road, but it’s new (and expensive) technology now.

Level 3: Conditional Automation

You can finally read the paper on your way to work in a level 3 vehicle. A little bit, anyway. Drivers are still required in a level 3 car and required to be ready to take control if something happens on the road that the car can’t figure out. The sketchy part here is a driver might not have the time to figure out how to proceed safely. Level 3 automation will probably be used for slow speed, contained situations like stop and go traffic.

There are currently no level 3 vehicles for sale in the US.

Level 4: High Automation

Level 4 vehicles can do all the driving, but only in certain circumstances. The vehicle is smart enough to know how to handle almost all situations. Currently, level 4 vehicles have trouble in rain and snow, so the vehicle might not let you switch to self-driving mode in bad weather.

Lots of companies are testing level 4 vehicles, although currently all are using safety drivers.

A self-driving car company called Waymo (part of Google) does have a full level 4 vehicle running as a taxi in Arizona. The service is only available to specially-picked Waymo research customers. But not in the rain, yet.

Level 5: Full Automation

Level 5 vehicles require no driver at all. There is at least one level 5 vehicle on the road, but it’s not for people, it’s for groceries.

A company called Nuro is working with Krogers to test small cars to deliver your groceries. They drive themselves from the store to your house and then back. Limiting the speed, the distance, and the road conditions the little cars operate in is a safe way to develop the level technologies needed for the vehicles that drive themselves at high speed with passengers.

Here’s a link to a Forbes story on Nuro:

We’re still a long way from completely self-driving cars, but lots of the technology is already in the cars around you.

Someday this will be less true than today

Apparently I snore so loudly it scares everyone in the car I’m driving.

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at

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Inkjet vs. laser, streaming radio Sat, 02 Mar 2019 16:13:37 +0000 Inkjet vs. lasers

You’re probably tired of your printer telling you it’s out of black, magenta, yellow, or cyan ink. And you’re also probably tired of paying the high price of printer cartridges. And once the insatiable thirst for ink is fixed, your inkjet printer is slow, too. Wouldn’t it be great if there were some other way to print out stuff at home?

The next time your printer tells you it’s out of ink, or the print head wears out or gets clogged up, or it won’t pick up the paper anymore, consider replacing it with a laser printer.

Inkjet printers use ink stored in cartridges. Ink cartridges don’t last very long and can dry up if you don’t print often. Laser printers use a toner cartridge instead of an ink cartridge. Toner is a mixture of granulated plastic and carbon, so it can’t dry out. A laser printer prints a page by melting the toner and bonding it to a page using a fuser assembly.

Toner cartridges do cost more than ink cartridges but can print many more pages. How many more? A typical ink cartridge prints 300 pages or so while a toner cartridge can print a few thousand pages. And your page comes out of the printer nice and warm, too.

If you’ve worked in an office in the last twenty years, you’re probably thinking of the big, expensive laser printers of the day. Forget about those dinosaurs. Basic home laser printers can be smaller than that inkjet printer you have and cost about $100. If you need scanning and copying, the cost might be $200.

Laser printers are fast, too. Most inkjet printers print about 9 pages a minute while laser printers print more than 30 pages a minute.

The only drawback to laser printers might be that they’re black and white only. Yes, there are color laser printers out there, but you have to buy four toner cartridges instead of one, and I bet you don’t really need to print in color that often.

What do you do if you do need to print out a color photo? Instead of replacing empty or dried out ink cartridges, it’s easier to head down to Witts or Walgreens and have it printed there.

And no, I don’t sell laser printers. But I do have one.

Streaming radio stations on your PC

Maybe you’ve recently moved to Tehachapi, or maybe you’ve gotten a sweet gig where you can work from home, or maybe you’ve recently retired. Whatever your reason is, you miss the radio station you used to listen to in the car.

Maybe you’ve tried going to the web page for the station and found that most of the sites are terrible. Almost like they know how to do radio but not the internet, right?

Instead, try Odio. It’s a free app and works on Windows or Mac computers (sorry, no Android or iOS support.)

The app is completely free and lets you listen to your old radio station almost like you were back in the car during that 17 mile, 90 minute commute.

If you think you might like to branch out a little, Odio offers radio stations from more than 200 countries. Just open the app and click on “Countries.” You can also browse stations by language and tags. All of that and it’s fast, too.

Here’s the link to download Odio if you’d like to try it out:

If your station isn’t listed anywhere, you can request it on this page:!/

All too often…

A printer consists of 3 main parts: the case, the “jammed” paper tray, and the blinking red light.

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at

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The end of Windows 7, plus microwave ovens and Wi-Fi Sat, 16 Feb 2019 16:08:05 +0000 Windows 7 support ends

Microsoft will stop supporting Windows 7 with security updates on January 14th, 2020. But don’t worry, your trusty Windows 7 computer will still work, it just won’t get any more security updates. Eventually none of your browsers will be able to update themselves and you also may not be able to connect to some websites. New programs, and new versions of your old programs, may not work anymore either.

When Windows XP support ended back in April 2013, estimates were that about 25% of Windows computers still ran Windows XP. Everybody else already was on Windows 7.

As of the end of December 2018, Windows 7 is still running on nearly 35% of the computers running Windows. Windows 10 is running on just over 50% of all Windows computers with Windows Vista (!) and Windows 8 or 8.1 making up the rest.

Why is the end of support a big deal? It means no more security patches for problems in Windows 7. Security flaws that are found and fixed in newer versions of Windows will often affect Windows 7, too, and remain unfixed. Attackers will eventually know how to attack your Windows 7 computer. Also, when Microsoft ends support for Windows 7, other companies usually follow their lead. Nobody wants to run on an unsupported operating system.

You’ve still got a year to plan what to do. You could install Windows 10 on your old Windows 7 hardware, but modern processors, the increased capacity and speed of RAM, faster hard drives and better graphics are all good reasons for upgrading your hardware, too.

Why do microwave ovens and Wi-Fi share a frequency?

All devices that emit radio frequencies are regulated. Surprise, right? Regulations are needed to prevent devices from causing interference. Everybody gets their own playground. In 1947 the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) established a frequency band for Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) devices.

The ITU designated the 2.4 GHz band as an unlicensed spectrum specifically for microwave ovens. The industrial,scientific, or medical applications of early microwave ovens I’m not sure about, but there probably were some. Eventually the 2.4 GHz frequency band also became home to cordless phones, walkie-talkies, and Wi-Fi.

Why? Mostly because the 2.4 GHz frequency band doesn’t require much power to broadcast on and can be shielded inexpensively. This made it cheap for consumer-level devices.

Oh, at 2.4 GHz we can also heat food. Microwave ovens, while shielded, aren’t perfectly shielded. If they were, you wouldn’t be able to watch your food while it cooks.

The Wi-Fi standards call for algorithms to try and avoid interference from other devices operating in the band, but interference can and does happen. Since the oven is a stronger transmitter, it can block your Wi-Fi signals. It’s not super common because the microwave oven is focusing inside itself, while your Wi-Fi router is broadcasting in all directions. Microwaves also operate at power levels about 10,000 times higher than Wi-Fi routers (that’s why your Wi-Fi can’t heat up your burrito.)

If you do see some interference in your Wi-Fi- signal when the microwave is on, you don’t need to get a new microwave, get a new router instead.

Virtually all new routers are dual-band, meaning they operate on the 2.4 GHz band and the less-crowded 5 GHz band. Better, faster, and less interference.

Tech Quote

“All of a sudden, we’ve lost a lot of control,’ he said. ‘We can’t turn off our internet; we can’t turn off our smartphones; we can’t turn off our computers. You used to ask a smart person a question. Now, who do you ask? It starts with g-o, and it’s not God…”

― Steve Wozniak, often referred to by the nickname Woz, is an American inventor, electronics engineer, programmer, philanthropist, and technology entrepreneur who co-founded Apple Computer, Inc.

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at

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iPhones and Windows, YouTubeTV, fun and useful web sites Sat, 02 Feb 2019 16:15:31 +0000

Tech Talk #96 – Feb 2, 2019

Sync and backup your iPhone to Windows

iPhones used to pretend that Windows didn’t even exist. But since there are more Windows devices than iPhones, Apple has (probably reluctantly) provided tools to access the photos, music, and videos on our iPhones on our Windows computers.


By far, the easiest way to get your iPhone talking with your computer is to install iCloud for Windows. iCloud for Windows brings your photos, videos, email, files, and bookmarks to your Windows computer. iCloud is an official Apple app and does a good job of syncing the files on your iPhone to your Windows computer.


Download the program here:


Install iCloud and sign in with the same AppleID you use on your iPhone. Now, choose what you want to sync to your Windows computer; your iCloud Drive, photos, emails, and contacts are the usual choices.


Be careful with the Photos and Videos sync options: if you sync all of your Windows computer photos and videos to iCloud, you’ll probably end up using all of your iCloud storage and need to pay for more. Most people don’t sync their computer to iCloud, only iCloud to their computer.


But what about music? Well, there is always iTunes. If you’ve invested heavily in music and videos on your phone, then install iTunes on your Windows computer and log in with the same AppleID.


It’s sort of odd because on Windows, iTunes is an App, and the Apple iTunes page sends you to Microsoft to download it. You can get iTunes here:


Most people stream music from Pandora or Spotify and stream video from Netflix or YouTube, so having a synced up iTunes might not be for you.


Of course, iTunes is also useful for making a data backup of your iPhone, so there’s that.


Instead of installing iCloud for Windows on your computer, you can access most of the files and data on your iPhone by opening iCloud in the browser of your choice. You can just type in “iCloud” and get it from the search results or go directly to:


Again, sign in with the same AppleID you use on your phone and you should see your iCloud Drive, photos, and the rest of your data. You can even open documents made with Pages or spreadsheets made with Numbers from Which is good since there isn’t an option for opening those files with Windows.



YouTube TV

I’m sure you know what YouTube is, but have you heard of YouTubeTV? It’s a  streaming service for live TV: Think live local news without a cable or satellite subscription. They offer 60 channels for $40 a month with got cloud-based DVRs, multiple accounts per subscription, and YouTubeTV works on newer smart TVs, Android TV, Apple TV, Roku, Android, and Xbox. Not the PS4, though.


YouTubeTV has been around for some markets for a few years, but they’ve recently completed the nation-wide rollout and it works here now.



A few fun or useful websites

My90sTV simulates flipping through TV channels in the 90s. If that’s too recent, they also have the and 70s TV, too:


Looking to watch a certain movie but don’t know which streaming service it’s on? Try JustWatch:


For those times when Google Translate isn’t cutting it for you, try the DeepL Translator over at:


Use the Atlas Obscura to find strange and scary places (other than Bakersfield) in the world:



Times were tough…

I wonder what today’s kids are going to tell their kids… “We had it so rough when I was a kid. I didn’t get my own phone until I was in the 4th grade and sometimes the WiFi didn’t work upstairs.”



Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at

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Windows shutdown process, saved passwords on iThings Sat, 19 Jan 2019 15:05:18 +0000 Tech Talk #93 – Jan 19, 2019

The Windows shutdown process

After you click “Shutdown,” and before your computer actually turns off, Windows runs a bunch of processes.

First, Windows checks where any other users are logged in to your computer. If so, you’ll see a “Someone else is still using this PC” message. If you continue, the other user(s) will lose any unsaved data. To prevent that, click “Cancel” and let the other user sign in, save their work, and log out before shutting down the computer.

If there aren’t any other users logged in, you won’t see this message and Windows will go straight to the next step.

Now, Windows tells any open programs to save their work and close. (This also occurs when you restart your computer since signing you out is a necessary part of the restart process, too.) Windows doesn’t just forcibly close open programs, instead, programs are told to save their work and close. It may take some time to get everything closed if you have a lot of programs open. This is one reason it can take a while to shut down or restart your computer.

Sometimes a program might need input from you before it can close, like saving an open file. This is why you may see a “This app is preventing shutdown” dialog box. If you see this message, click “Cancel,” check the application, save your data, and close it yourself. If you don’t need the file saved, click “Shut down anyway.”

Windows 10 also remembers which application windows you had open and try to re-open them the next time you sign into your computer. If that’s not something you want to happen, hold down the SHIFT key while you click Shutdown.

Now that all of your programs are closed, Windows ends the “session” belonging to your user account. When all user sessions are closed, Windows alerts all of its system services and processes to shut down, saving necessary data to disk. Windows services have 20 seconds or so to clean up and shut down before Windows forcibly shuts them down.

Once all the services are closed, Windows 10 saves the state of your Windows kernel to disk, sort of like a partial hibernate. The next time you start your computer, Windows can reload the saved kernel and boot up more quickly. This feature is called “Fast Startup;” although, “fast” is always subjective.

Windows also works on Windows Updates during the last parts of the shutdown process. Windows works on updates at shutdown, before the computer starts, and in the background while Windows is running.

When the services are closed and any updates are done, Windows will cleanly unmount your solid-state drive or hard drive, waiting for an “all clear” signal that indicates all the system’s data has been saved to the physical disk.

Finally, Windows sends a shutdown signal to your computer, which is the step that actually shuts off your computer.

Checking your saved passwords on iPhones and iPads

Even if, for some reason, you decide not to use a dedicated password manager app on your iPhone or iPad, Apple has you covered with a built-in password manager. It’s not fancy but it works. Don’t know which passwords are already saved on your iPhone or iPad? Here’s how to find out.

Tap the Settings app, then tap Passwords & Accounts, and tap Website & App Passwords.

After authenticating, you’ll see a list of the saved passwords on your device. Tap an entry in the list to show the saved username and password for that site.

To add a new password, tap the “+” button to open a new password entry, then enter the password you want to add and then tap the “Done” button to complete the process.

And a large orange drink

Why is that the NSA can hack into my smart TV and listen to every word I say, but at the drive-thru no one can hear me say “no pickles” on their speaker/phone thing?

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at


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Top passwords, Alexa’s wake word, Instagram photos Sat, 05 Jan 2019 16:27:41 +0000 Tech Talk #94 – Jan 5, 2019


Top passwords of 2018

A company called SplashData analyzed more than 5 million accounts/passwords that have leaked online and compiled a list of the most-used passwords for 2018. For the fifth year in a row, “123456” and “password” retain the number one and two spots on the list. Here’s the complete top 15 passwords and the change from last year’s list.:


01. 123456 (Unchanged)
02. password (Unchanged)
03. 123456789 (Up 3)
04. 12345678 (Down 1)
05. 12345 (Unchanged)
06. 111111 (New)
07. 1234567 (Up 1)
08. sunshine (New)
09. qwerty (Down 5)
10. iloveyou (Unchanged)
11. princess (New)
12. admin (Down 1)
13. welcome (Down 1)
14. 666666 (New)
15. abc123 (Unchanged)


These, the top fifteen stolen passwords in 2018, are not very inventive, are they? Remember, these are passwords that criminals “know” and can try on other accounts and websites to see if they work.


I personally find the inclusion of 666666 a bit ominous, but I see the optimism of princess and sunshine.


In 2011, Randall Munroe (creator of the fabulously nerdy xkcd web comic) summed up the problems with passwords as “Through 20 years of effort, we’ve successfully trained everyone to use passwords that are hard for humans to remember, but easy for computers to guess.” Here is a link to the xkcd panel about password strength:


If we use Randall Munroe’s example of using four random words like “correct horse battery staple,” ironically that’s probably not going to be secure enough for most websites. Try using a special character and the name of the site you’re creating the password for and ending in the year, like correcthorsebatterystaple@Amazon19. This way you can use a different password for each site, but it’s still easy to remember.


Just don’t use correcthorsebatterystaple, OK?


Changing Alexa’s wake word

If you have any sort of Amazon Echo device, you know you need to say “Alexa” to wake the thing up to do your bidding. But maybe you’re tired of shouting “Alexa” to wake up your Echo, or maybe your name is Alexa and all this shouting is confusing.


Guess what, you can change your Echo’s wake word. No, not to just any old thing you want, but Amazon does give you a few options; Alexa (the default), Amazon, and computer. Here’s how to change your wake word:


Open the Alexa app on your phone or tablet and tap on the three lines stacked on top of each other (also known as the Menu button) in the upper right corner of the app. Tap on Settings and then Device Settings.


Choose your device from the list (if you have more than one) scroll down to Wake Word. Select the new wake word you’d like from the list, and then select OK.


This setting is device-specific, so change it on all of your devices.The change takes a minute or so to process, so be patient.


Downloading your Instagram photos

If you’re breaking up with Facebook because of the crisis-a-week Facebook’s 2018 was, remember that Facebook owns Instagram, too. To be a clean break you need to delete Instagram, too. But guess what happens to your photos? That’s right, they’ll all be deleted with your account.


Here’s how to download them, even if you’re not deleting your Instagram account and just want them saved to your device.


Launch Instagram on your phone and tap your profile button at the bottom right side of the page. Tap the three lines stacked on top of each other (also known as the Menu button) at the top-right of the screen and tap Settings from the bottom of the menu. Scroll way down and tap Data download and then tap Request download.


Instagram sends you an email when your photos are ready to download and includes a link for your download. The whole thing can take as long as 48 hours, so be patient.


Oh really…

Did you hear about the guy who changed his WiFi name to “Hack me if you can?”

The next day he woke up to find his WiFi name had been changed to “Challenge accepted.”


Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at

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Fake tech support scams, password resets Sat, 22 Dec 2018 16:37:04 +0000 Tech Talk #93 – Dec 22, 2018

Fake tech support scams

They’re still out there, you know. Like chewing gum stuck to the bottom of your galoshes, those fake tech support scam “people” are still out there, stealing people’s money. They just won’t go away.


I know you’re smart enough to know that no one from Microsoft (or HP, or Google, or Yahoo, etc.) will ever call you to tell you there’s something wrong with your computer. But what about your friends and family? Remind them that those people on the phone are 1) not from Microsoft 2) there’s nothing wrong with the computer and 3) the safest thing to is hang up the phone.


Also remind them that when a page pops up on the computer screaming (sometimes literally) about disastrous problems and offering a number to call for immediate tech help, there isn’t anything wrong with the computer. We know it can be hard to get rid of that stupid and scary web page, so gently remind your friends and family they can shut down their computer by holding down the power button until it shuts off. When they turn the computer back on, the page will be gone, and their computer will be just fine, no matter what that stupid and scary web page said. Now, have them run a full scan with their anti-virus and anti-malware programs, like washing your hands after working out in yard.


Those scary web pages aren’t just a PC problem either, the same scams show up on Macs and smartphones these days, too. It’s kind of hilarious to see a web page screaming about how your Windows file are corrupt, when you’re seeing it on a Mac or a smartphone.


Password resets

In the old days (a couple of years ago), if you forgot your password for your email or social media account, you could prove you were you by answering some security questions and then reset your password.


But there were problems with that method; 1) many people didn’t remember the answers to their security questions (who was my second-grade teacher?) and 2) some of your personal data could be captured by people who weren’t you but maybe wanted to be.


Today, companies will email you a code, or email you a link to reset your password.


But that doesn’t do you any good if the site sends a password reset code or a link to the same email address you’re trying to reset the password for. That’s why many companies also want to know your cell phone number or a different email address to use to reset your password.


Sending you a text with a reset code is a great way to reset passwords. It ‘proves’ you’re you because you have your phone and it’s fast. Some sites call the number on file and ‘read’ you the code if you gave them a landline instead of a cellphone number.


Sending an email with a code or a link to an alternate email address also ‘proves’ you’re you because you can access the other email address.


But what if you don’t have a cell phone, landline, or more than one email address? Or what if you’ve changed your phone number or don’t remember the password to your other email address?


Then you’re stuck with remembering the answers to your security questions. (Where did I meet my spouse? What was the first beach I went to?) Maybe you set up the account so long ago you have no idea what the answers are.


If all else fails, look around on the company’s web site for a support chat feature or a phone number.



Don’t you hang up on me…

Kids today will never know the satisfaction of slamming down the phone after an argument. Now all they can do poke at the screen in an angry rage.



Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at

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Internet speeds, sand and computers, Sat, 08 Dec 2018 15:52:03 +0000 Tech Talk #92 – Dec 8, 2018


Internet speed tests

Do you know how fast your internet is? Do you know how fast it should be? A quick check of the bill from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or a phone call to your ISP, will tell you what speed you’re paying for. Now for testing.


At first, the only way to check your Internet speed was at Over time, their site filled up with ads and wasn’t the easiest thing to look at. Then the good folks at Netflix released No ads and it’s easy to use, if a bit bare bones.


Today, Speedtest has removed the ads and cleaned up their site. Speedtest also gives you a bit more information than the site.


If you run tests at both of the sites, you’ll probably get different speeds from each, but why? A lot of internet traffic is optimized to let the big speed testing sites have better numbers. The site measures traffic to and from Netflix without any optimization, so it’s more of a real-world example. And it may take several speed tests at different times of the day to get a true picture.


OK, great, now you know how fast your internet is. What does it mean as far as the things you like to do with your internet connection?


The SourceForge Speed Test Tests your connection AND tells you what services will, and won’t, run well at the speeds you’re getting. What kind of services? Gaming, YouTube, live streaming, Skype, Netflix, Hulu, and more. SourceForge needs you to turn off all ad blockers to get results, although I don’t think they mention that anywhere on their site.


Here’s where you can run your tests:



Sand and computers

Silicon Valley. You know, the valley up near San Francisco where all the high technology and venture capital companies are? Do you know why it’s called silicon valley? Because way back in the 1950s, transistors were becoming a big deal.


Transistors began replacing the vacuum tubes used in the old house-sized early computers like ENIAC. Transistors are made up of semiconducting materials—a small class of elements that conduct electricity at certain temperatures while blocking it at others. The original transistors were made from the element germanium until Robert Shockley, the father or the transistor, and his team decided silicon made a better transistor. A group of his engineers started Fairchild Semiconductor and one of those engineers, Robert Noyce, left Fairchild and started a company called Intel.


Today, Intel’s chips contain billions of transistors on a piece of silicon a couple of inches square. The internet, self-driving cars, Alexa, computers, smartphones, ATMs, cars, airplanes, drones (civilian and military), TV and movies—all depend on processors and electronics built on chips of silicon.


And silicon is made of sand.


Very special sand, to be sure. You can’t go out to Pismo, shovel up some sand and try to make a silicon wafer for computer chips. That’s even if you could basically melt your Pismo sand into metal, then melt it, and treat it with a bunch of chemical processes and somehow get to the 99.99999999999% pure silicon needed for computer chips.


The world’s primary source of the silicon used in electronic chips is the quartz mines of Spruce Pine, North Carolina.


Wired magazine has a great article excerpted from The World in a Grain by Vince Beiser, all about silicon’s journey from a quartz mine in North Carolina to the inside of your smartphone.



Tech support made easy (if only)

TECH SUPPORT: Good morning. How can I help you?


CUSTOMER: Hi, nothing works right on my computer.


TECH SUPPORT: No problem, I can help you with that. Open the main menu, click on Preferences, and open the drop-down menu.


CUSTOMER: Um, oh there it is. OK, now it’s open.


TECH SUPPORT: OK, now, about halfway down the menu, find the “Nothing  works right” option and uncheck it.



Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at


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Useful apps for your computer Sat, 24 Nov 2018 17:26:23 +0000 Tech Talk #91 – Nov. 24, 2018

Useful apps for your computer

Microsoft and Apple both pack lots of features and apps into their operating systems. For many people, the included apps are all they need to get things done on their computers. But what if you want or need to do more than what those apps can do?


There are thousands of apps and programs for download out there. Here are some of the most useful for macOS and Windows.



macOS apps


Spotlight is included in macOS. What, you don’t use Spotlight? You don’t even know what it is? OK, on your Mac, if you press CMD and spacebar you’ll get a blank search window. You can look for files, launch applications, search the web, lots of stuff. It’s useful, but Alfred is even better.


The free version of Alfred does more than Spotlight, and it looks better doing it. Alfred’s Powerpack (not free, naturally,) gives you a clipboard history, text expansion, workflows (combine actions, hotkeys, and keywords to get stuff done), hotkeys, and more.


Get Alfred here:


Note taking

Apple Notes is a decent note taking app, I guess. But do you know what’s better? Bear.


Bear organizes notes by hashtags instead of folders and you can link notes with hashtags. Like a stream of consciousness for your thoughts instead of one giant file. Bear has extensions for most browsers so you can create notes from web pages. Bear even imports your existing Apple Notes. Bear is free, but if you want to synchronize your notes across your devices, it’s $15/yr.


Get Bear here:



These days there are lots of apps for messaging; Messages, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Discord, Slack, and others. Instead of checking multiple services or having browser windows open all the time, Franz puts all of your messaging/chat clients in one interface. And it’s free.


Get Franz here:



Windows apps

Note taking

Lots of people used to use Evernote as their go-to note-taking app, but Evernote axed their free plan, so where to turn? OneNote by Microsoft is already on your Windows computer and is a great, cross-platform note-taking app. Completely free, available for macOS, IOS, Android, and already installed on your computer, what’s not to like?


ToDo lists

Todoist is still the king of ToDo lists (also known as task management.) Todoist is still completely free but there is a $30/yr plan that adds reminders, backups, labels, and more. Todoist runs as an extension in Chrome, or Firefox, plus it’s available on macOS, iOS, Android, Gmail, and Outlook.


Get Todoist here:


Email clients

If you want an email client on your computer instead of going to the web to read your email, the built-in Windows Mail app, is OK, but it can “forget” settings and sometimes it’ll stop working after an update. So, what else can you use for an email client?


There’s the free Thunderbird from Mozilla. Users familiar with Outlook will feel right at home in Thunderbird. For something more modern, try Mailbird. Free for two email accounts, the user interface is cleaner than either Thunderbird or the Microsoft Mail app. If you have more than two email accounts, you can get a lifetime subscription for $59 and configure as many email accounts as you want.

Get Thunderbird here:

Get Mailbird here:



Sharing your dinner

Does anyone remember back when we didn’t have Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and we had to get a camera, take a picture of our food, wait to get it developed, and then drive around to our friends and family so we could show them what we’re eating?


No? Me either.


Just stop it, people.


Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at

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Stopping spam calls Sat, 10 Nov 2018 16:05:56 +0000 Tech Talk #90 – Nov. 10, 2018

Blocking and reporting spam calls

Are you getting tired of getting spam and scam calls on your cell phone? You know; those calls about elections, solar panels, IRS problems, dubious charity donations, energy retrofits, health insurance, and all the rest.


Current cell phone technology offers ways to block these calls. Of course, the spammers know this and have adapted. Almost all scammers and robocallers use “number spoofing” to make it hard to block them. Just because a number starts with 661, doesn’t mean that’s where the scammer is calling from.


Is it hopeless? No, there are at least three ways to fight back against spam calls on your cell phone.


Block ‘em

If you answer a call or get a text message that you think is a scam, don’t talk to the caller or reply to any text message with STOP, as they’ll often ask you to do. If you do either of those things, they callers will know your number is in service and they’ll keep calling or texting you.


When the scammers call, you can block the number and report it, in an effort to prevent more calls or texts of that nature.


Android phones can report spam calls in the Phone app; open your recent calls list, pick out the scammer’s number, and choose Block/Report Spam. Of course, not all brands of Android phones or even carriers work exactly this way, so your blockage may vary.


Up until iOS 12, iPhones couldn’t report a call as spam; you could block a number, though. Much like Android phones, open the Phone app and find the call in your Recents list. Tap the “i” button and scroll down to Block this Caller.


iOS 12 does include a “report as spam” feature for developers, but it’s complicated and needs an “Unwanted Communication” feature to be turned on in Settings. Apple’s catching up to scammers and spammers.


Reporting text messages is a little bit easier: No matter what phone you have, just forward the text message to SPAM (7726). This lets your carrier know about the number so it can try and block future traffic from the number. Android users can also report text messages by going to the menu, then People & Options, then Block and checking Report as Spam. This sends the message to both your carrier and to Google, so Google can improve their spam blocking filters. iPhone users can report blue-bubble iMessages as spam with the Report Junk link that appears below messages from unknown users.


Stop ‘em

Verizon, AT&T Sprint, and T-Mobile all offer services or apps that can filter out spammers and scammers, sometimes before they even ring your phone. Of course, most of the services cost money.


Are there any apps I can put on my phone that will help ID and or block spammers and scammers? Of course there are. The two biggest are HiYa and RoboKiller. HiYa is free, and RoboKiller is $2.49 a month.


Here they are: and


The main difference between using an app and a service from your carrier is the app can stop the call from ringing your phone and/or let you know who it is but the carriers can stop call before it ever gets to your phone.


Silence ‘em

Ok, this is the “nuclear option,” if you will. Just set your phone to Do Not Disturb for anyone not in your Contacts list.


For both Android and iPhones, use your favorite search engine to look up the Do Not Disturb settings for your specific phone and carrier.


And yes, some real calls will be blocked if the number isn’t in your Contacts, but that’s what Voicemail is for, right?



It’s not just me, it can’t be…

Have you ever gone to YouTube to watch a particular music video and then realized it’s three hours later and you’re watching a tutorial on how to talk to a giraffe?


OK, just me, then.


Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at

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