Welcome back everyone! In an attempt to make this page more useful, help me by shooting me an email with tips and suggestions. I am working on some online tutorials and other useful things. I will also continue the Monday Morning Funny tradition. I hid the oldest archives because they are soooooo slow to view due to the Weebly servers.
Christmas season is here! It is time to buy presents for close family, distant family, the mailman, the plumber, the neighbor's pet chinchilla, your favorite IT professional (duh!) and everyone else on your scroll of good boys and girls. It is time to hit the stores for an average of 32 minutes per gift-getter times 79 recipients thereby wiping over 40 hours from your already profoundly busy life. Are you sick of driving all over town trying to find the last Furby??? While this piece isn't as timely as it could have been, I would like to briefly discuss safe and effective Web shopping. As per my norm, this discussion will follow a shotgun pattern rather than a precision, laser-guided missile approach. While this is intended to be a useful piece for you as a friend, it can and should also be useful to teach the kids tips on how to shop online. They will do it anyway, they might as well do it rightly to avoid getting bit! Here we go:
1. HTTPS is your friend when checking out from a web store. While I will not go so far as to say website URL's that begin with https:// are ALWAYS 100% foolproof at preventing bad guys from stealing your credit card info and/or identity, I am very comfortable is saying that if the site doesn't have this distinction (at least at checkout) you should not give personal information through it. "HTTP" (minus the S designating Secure) is NOT the same. I will spare you the technical mumbo jumbo, but suffice it to say that with a few hours of Google perusing you can find out how to steal info from someone using HTTP websites if you are in the right situation. You may have never noticed that these two items exist, but if you go to any reputable website checkout you will see it on your address bar.
2. If it seems too god to be true, it probably is. Not MY wisdom, but wise nevertheless.
3. When Goggling for something in Google Chrome, move your mouse over the double arrow that will appear to the right of the link you found in your search. It will bring you a preview of the website on the right. A quick glance will eliminate some websites as cheesy, poorly-made attempts to get your hard-earned dinero. Note also the green star with a check mark on the right side of the links. This is a note for you from AVG that the antivirus is familiar with the site and/or it is verifying it isn't virus-ridden.
4. Do NOT click on links emailed to you from strangers or even from websites you think you know....unless you are very sure of the sender. I can show you in 5 minutes how to copy ANY most website and "make it your own". Emails are the same way. I can send you an email that looks like it is from anyone I want. When in doubt, go directly to the website you are interested in to verify the special deal. An email should NEVER make you click a link to log on to an account, especially Paypal or your bank. Call the company if necessary.
5. Create an extra email account in which you do not mind Spam filling your inbox. Gmail, yahoo, hushmail, outlook.com, etc... all have free emails available. Use these rather than your primary one and ESPECIALLY rather than your school one. Don't call me to tell me you are filled with spam/viruses on your school email because you click on every link you see and enter every free iPad contest you find without having a sizable plate of no-bake cookies available as an appeasement for my wrath. (In addition, it is against the Computer Use Agreement and I don't want to get you in trouble. You have been warned. :)
6. Keep your computer tuned up and fit for the race. Update Windows as needed. Update your Antivirus and add Malwarebytes Antimalware from ninite.com or download.com. It is a free program (you do not need the paid version) and it will help keep the bad guys away.
7. Read comments/feedback/forum/ratings/reviews posts on the site. While some companies most certainly delete bad comments at times, in general you can get a feel for whether a site or an item is legit by looking through these gems of insight.
8. Pay with Paypal or a CREDIT card only. You have a lot more legal rights under Regulation Z and other laws if you use these forms of payment. Affinity credit cards will give you cash back too...but pay in full to avoid cancelling out your savings with interest.
1. Do your homework at a brick-and-mortar store as to what item you are looking for, then let loose the Internet hounds to find a deal. Touch, smell and squeeze the item. Do not be afraid to ask the local store to match a web price. There is no cost in asking.
2. Subscribe to ebates.com and shopathome.com. These are free websites that give rebates on purchases you make major online retailers' websites. They are legit and can save you a substantial amount of dough. There are other, similar programs that are likely fine, but I cannot vouch for them until I see the money. There is a risk of adware/targeted advertising from these and other, similar websites, but you are using your extra email account anyway, right? You merely click on the retailer within the site and it directs you to that site with a little electronic tag on your shopping cart that reminds itself to give you some cash for buying there. The way they exist is by negotiating for referrals and ad revenue from the web retailers. You can get same deals by routing through them as you do without, and pick up some extra coin in the process.
3. BLOGS! Hip2save.com is an outstanding starting point although visiting this site will cause you to want to hit a bunch of other ones. Collin, the nice woman that created the site, truly makes it hip to save. Her fun and useful videos are worth their weight in gold! She has her tentacles out there finding deals everywhere on the Interweb. Shop quickly, though...she has oodles of followers who are also watching closely. frugalfritzie.com, couponerslivingfree.com, frugalfilam.com and passionforsavings.com are nice and fun sites.
4. Consider Shoprunner and Amazon Prime. There are fees for these services (typically $79 a year) although I believe if you are a student you can get an Amazon Prime membership for a discounted price, or free, depending on the promotion at the time. Shoprunner also gives away free memberships. These services give you 2 day shipping for free and cheap next-day shipping on oodles of items you already buy from several places. Amazon Prime also gives you access to THOUSANDS of free movies and TV shows to stream from your computer or Kindle, a KIndle lending library, and other big deals/price breaks. AP also has pay-per-view movies at a decent price. I love my Amazon Prime account. Shoprunner is mostly useful for me at Christmas.
5. Print online coupons. There are many sites for this. You can typically go to any grocery or food item website and print coupons. Email the company who makes stuff you love and thank them for their super-de-dooper products. They will typically reward the feedback with coupons or freebies. At some stores you can stack online coupons with manufacturer's coupons from the Sunday paper.
6. Google "Discount Codes" with the name of your website to find discount codes you can use to reduce your cost. Retailmenot.com is my favorite of these sites, but others may work as well. They are free and can save you in discounts or shipping. They are not illegal or immoral. The company makes generic codes available...we might as well use them!
7. Ship-to-store options are often available. This is nice for a product that may not fit or be exactly right. Be sure the retailer will allow returns/exchanges locally.
8. Don't forget eBay and Amazon when shopping for anything. Amazon.com sells foods much more than eBay, but both have an enormous selection of things you would never expect to find. The prices are generally much cheaper, but will always give you an idea as to what a decent price is for an item that you are considering elsewhere. Use their manufacturer's model number, the UPC code and a description in the search box in separate searches. This is very helpful on eBay. Sometimes the seller (like I often do) will accidentally switch some letters or numbers. When a number is switched it results in a supply and demand boon for you. Fewer people are finding the item and bidding it up. Pretty soon, Yahtzee...a bargain! Be leery of other auction sites that charge you to bid. If you can buy an iPad for $23.45 there, there HAS to be a catch.
Be careful...but use the Web to your advantage this Christmas season. There is a savings gold mine to be found among the occasional landmines on the Web. Good luck and Happy Shopping!
I am very open to suggestions as to legit eCommerce websites. Comment any tips and I will add them here. If you have questions, give me a ring or shoot me an email.
I am in the process of adding a new content filter to our system. It will give us more flexibility with unblocking sites on the fly and will, more importantly, better protect the students. CIPA, the law that governs content filtering, requires certain things with filtering, so some good sites may be blocked as part of a bigger group. No, I have not turned into an Internet overlord that you have to sword fight to get a site unblocked. Call me at extension 242 or, shortly, I will have some teachers entered to be able to easily override the filter should I be on one of my many long naps. You can always cal my cell or shoot me a text. Thank you very much for being understanding as I do my job. If you have any questions about what is kosher, consult the tech usage agreement or call your administrator. Happy surfing!!!
On November 15th, 2012 if you use Google products such as Google Drive and Google Earth, you will need to use a different internet browser than Internet Explorer 8. You will see the warning signs shortly... Google Chrome should still be fine as will Mozilla Firefox. I am not 100% sure how we will be impacted, if at all. It will not be armageddon. The Mayan calendar says nothing about web suring... WHY is this happening??? This process a typical attempt by Microsoft to prompt us to buy more stuff. For example, to use the Google Apps you will need Internet Explorer 9 which is really mean to poor little XP machines like most of us have. Windows 7 plays very well with IE9. I realize this isn't ultra-exciting information, but it is something to plant in the back of your noggin if your home computer should get cranky in November on Google products. :)
Forewarned is...more than threewarned.
If you own any technology in your humble abode, you have likely experienced an "Oh Snap!!!" moment. For example, my brother had his child drop his pager (dating myself) in the toilet. I had my daughter use Windex to help Daddy clean her CD player. Many a phone has taken a swim. Here are a couple suggestions:
1. Remove power immediately. Remove the battery as soon as humanly possible. If it is plugged in, hit the breaker quickly. The faster you eliminate the toilet water from getting powered on the circuit board, the better the chance of survival.
2. Shake the device thoroughly if it is an item that will handle shaking it. Clean the outside of it with a paper towel.
3. Open the device to expose all places that are wet, if practical.
4. Blow out with canned air. Avoid using direct heat as it may damage your circuit boards and melt its adhesives.
5. Enclose in a container filled with dry white rice or dust-free cat litter. This will help draw moisture out of the item without damaging the components. Leave in this cocoon for at least 48 hours during which you pray fervently to your deity that the damage isn't permanent.
6. Blow back any residual dust/rice out with canned air and reassemble.
7. Take a deep breath and power it on.
8. Viola...there is a chance you have saved it from the electronic landfill. If not, do not throw it away. If it is a computer, bring it in for data recovery. Sell it on eBay being honest its condition...
I have started a page here for school-safe websites for kids and I need your help! Send me links to sites you either use or would like to use and I will post them on the new page by grade level. Likewise, if you see sites that SHOULD be safe and instead lead to the look of these kids in my caption picture, email me that link and I will block it. Thank you very much!!!! Internet safety is all our jobs! :)
1. Do your Windows updates when requested. Your school computer SHOULD be set on automatic, but if it asking for a Windows Update, let me know. Microsoft seems to have the protective power of balsawood, but it is especially prone to viruses if not updated.
2. Do your 3rd party updates. Java and Adobe, among others. They are generally ok, but since Microsoft is soft on security, these programs can be exploited to bring a bug to your world. If in doubt, give me a ring...
3. If you have time, subscribe to Krebs on Security, or a similar website, that discusses Windows and other updates BEFORE you install them. (You would have to turn off Automatic updates to do this). Sometimes, in their omniscience, Microsoft will send through an update that breaks a zillion computers, then will send out an update that tries to fix it, then will deny it ever happened. (Someone needs a position in government with thinking like that). There are times I wonder if this is on purpose..but I digress... (but who REALLY shot JFK???)
4. Antivirus... Pick one solid antivirus and a couple of removal products and stick with them. Antivirus products are not stronger in numbers... They conflict with each other, and, while they fight it out Mr. Virus says "Pardon me" and slips by. I reommend AVG or Microsoft Security Essentials for the antivirus and Malwarebytes Antimalware along with CCleaner as cleanup partners... My personal opinion is that Norton and McAfee, while strong, are soooo good that the resulting exhaused crawl of your poor computer is worse than a virus. It is like headlice treatments .. 3 choices...medicine, shave your head, or light your head on fire with a torch...either way the lice is gone, but at what cost??
5. Wisdom... Surf wisely. Don't shoot the bull's eye or any other game to win a free iPad. Don't trust the nice Prince from Nigeria who merely needs your Paypal and SS# to allow you to hold his money. He is actually a 13 year old kid from Singapore who collects data and makes 9 figures. Surf on familiar sites on the first few pages of Google. Read the description below the web address before going to the site. If it is a jumbled mess, pick another site.
6. Avoid adult, online gambling, dating, violent, game cheats and other categories of this ilk unless you are sure you know what you are clicking on (morals aside...these may lead to worse issues than a virus).
7. Torrents, file sharing, free download hack sites, etc... Sigh. I will word this carefully but bluntly. Think like an adult in "disease prevention" mode. If you visit these sites, it isn't merely what you do, it is what your friend does and his/her friend does, etc... Buy your software legally or expect to catch the virus the thief who gave it to you for free has...
8. Facebook and social media is also a hotbed for viruses. Periodically you will get a Facebook wall post from someone with very little in the way of description but a very clickable picture. Resist the temptation. Virus alert!!! Not only will you get a virus, the virus will send the post to every friend you have. Nothing says embarassment like your ID sharing a virus. Same with emails from social media. Read the title without clicking on them. If you need more information, go to the social media site directly. Don't click on emailed links back to social media as a shortcut to logging on to them.
9. Don't unsubscribe to odd emails/spams. Just delete them. Companies broadcast spam to a zillion potential addresses, then really go to town on those who respond. Why would a company who does not care about the anti-Spam laws respect your unsubscribe. If they try a few times to no avail, they will eventually go away.
10. If you get an odd box telling you that you are infected and showing the zillion infections plaguing your computer, the warning is likely a virus or a Phishing attempt. It will want your credit card to download the software that will fix the problem it created. This is called scareware or ransomeware. Immediately X-out of every screen and run your real antivirus and other tools. Be sure they are updated, of course. Examples of this are "Antivirus 2013", System Protector, or some other official sounding name.
11. Call me any time. I am happy to help. :)
As part of our Microsoft Open Agreement, each teacher is allowed one licensed copy of the newest Microsoft Office Suite on a home computer. The only caveat: it must be uninstalle if you leave the district or if the agreement ever ends. If you would like a copy for your home PC, bring it in and I will install it for you. :) Thanks all!!!!
I realize this is likely something you already know, but...just in case:
If the website is ever down, you can get your email by going to www.gmail.com and using your entire school email address in the username field. (email@example.com, not only mapplegate). You can check your email from anywhere using this method. This gives you the opportunity to read my spammy emails 24/7! :)
Thanks for visiting!
Welcome to the Half Way Tech Geek Blog... I will attempt to post learning aids, tutorials, safe websites, random thoughts and a Monday Morning Funny here as often as possible. Thanks for visiting!!!