Author Archive | Steve Bass

Using a PC? You Definitely Have Annoyances

Mac users must be sworn to secrecy; they rarely complain about their computers. A friend, plied with alcohol, reluctantly admitted that his MacBook suffered from random shutdowns. Like, no!

PC users, on the other hand, seem to be proud of their computing annoyances. Online bragging matches are common, with each participant trying to top all the other PC disaster stories.

You think I’m kidding about Mac and PC users? Try this on for size: Mac people vs. PC people: Top 5 differences. (Thanks to TechBite subscriber Gil.)

This week’s story is a collection (okay, a hodgepodge) of ways my PC annoys me, with, of course, work-arounds.

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PC Annoyances–and Fixes

PCs are annoying. They do unexpected things and act like little children. I know, because my computer’s always troubled — and from the e-mail I get, so’s yours.

This week: Solutions for some of the computing troubles and annoyances you’ve asked me to fix.

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Gas Saving Tips (‘Cause the Prices are Killing Us)

Planning a road trip? Maybe you’ve heard about the new gas pricing scheme used by many gas stations. And with gas at over $4 a gallon, I’ve retrofitted the gas gauge in my ancient, 13-mpg Roadtrek camper van. This week: Internet resources to help me (and maybe you) get the best deal on gasoline — and better mileage.

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Companies Hacked: Track E-Mail and Avoid Spam

Another hack attack: The bad guys gained access to the database that stores customers’ names and e-mail addresses for Capital One, JPMorgan, Brookstone, BestBuy, TiVo, Walgreens, Kroger, and a long list of others.

The breach occurred through Epsilon, the firm each of the companies used to manage their e-mail communication with customers.

Chances are good that if you’ve corresponded with any of the companies, you’ll see phishing e-mails in your inbox. They’ll likely be messages for you to confirm a recent order, or reconfirm or update a credit card.

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More Shopping For Bargains on the Internet

Is your bargain-hunting urge quelled? I hope not: I have a bunch more sites to help you find bargain-priced products, coupon codes for discounts or free shipping, and tools to make bargain hunting easier.

Before you start reading, take a look at Cheapsim, a site dedicated to finding cheap deals on hundreds of items, and in dozens of categories. It’s worth a look (and the owner, Max Levitte, is a TechBite freebie reader.)

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Shopping for Bargains on the Internet

Do you have a cheapskate gene, one that yearns for a wholesale price? I do and can’t bear to pay more for something if I can find the exact same thing for less money.

That’s this week’s topic: The sites I regularly visit with daily bargain-priced products, those with coupon codes for discounts or free shipping, and the tools to make bargain hunting easier.

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Ooma: A Nifty Way to Make Free Internet Calls

Ooma is a sure-fire winner for letting home users make free calls within the United States and pennies per call overseas.

Pick up the phone and you’ll hear a familiar dial tone (not that anyone dials anymore; heck, few people under 30 even get what that means). And once you’re connected, the voice quality is remarkable — as good as your landline — and better if you call another Ooma user.

Costco sells the Ooma for $179; Amazon‘s price is closer to $200. You can connect your existing landline to Ooma — corded or cordless — or buy Ooma’s $49 cordless handset.

I have lots of disclaimers, though, things for you to consider before sending your landline to the landfill.

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iPhone Meets the BBQ; Hermetically Seal Gizmos

You’re out there, wondering if I had any more CES products in the wings. (Actually, I just LOLed, thinking that maybe you’re not.)

It doesn’t matter, I still have some particularly juicy products to tell you about. And here are two more.

iPhone Meets the BBQ

Watch the roast with your iGrill

Have $100 to burn? (Gawd, I certainly don’t.) If you do, splurge on iGrill‘s fancy probe. It’s another thing specially designed for Apple aficionados.

Stick the iGrill’s probe into a leg of lamb, toss it on the barbecue, turn on your iPhone, and snap open another Anchor Steam. A connection’s made using Bluetooth between the iGrill and your choice of iGizmo — an iPhone, iPad, or iPod. You’ll be alerted when the roast’s done, or, I imagine, overdone, if you’re not paying attention.

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More Cool Stuff From CES

The Consumer Electronics Show is still on my mind — and the products I found are the topic of this week’s TechBite.

I still have lots of products in the queue, so these are short blurbs; if something gives you a jolt, I’ve included links so you can dig deeper.

LoJack for Notebooks

I get the weekly rap sheet from our local sheriff’s department, and I’d say that in auto and home burglaries, the notebook is the grab-and-run favorite.

Maybe you can’t prevent the theft, but AbsoluteSoftware‘s LoJack for Laptops might be able to recover your notebook. The software installs on a hidden location on the drive (MBR or partition tables; the company’s cagey with details) and is untouchable by the run-of-the-mill knucklehead thieves.

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CES Wows and Duds

The Consumer Electronics Show is a behemoth, with vendors hawking hundreds of iPad holders and trays, and millions of iPhone cases and protective films; there were just as many oh-look-at-me-too tablets (thanks, Apple, for creating this new industry). And, of course, there’s lots of noise, more booth babes than last year, and people tethered to their smart phones, tweeting their every movement.

Perfect if you have big thumbs.

I found a handful, maybe a dozen, innovative and smart products in out-of-the-way booths, and a few “oh, wow, I gotta have that” gems. I’ve got a few to tell you about this week — like the gizmos that help you save energy at home and earbuds that’ll knock your sox off.

In upcoming newsletters I’ve got hardware that brings TV and the Internet closer together, software that blocks cell-phone telemarketers, and a tool to recover my stolen notebook — or pay me a grand if it doesn’t.

At CES, I watched a 20-year-old whip out what looked like an error-free message on his iPhone in nothing flat. Me, I have the toughest time keeping my thumbs on my iPod’s keypad. Solving the problem is 4iThumbs2, a rubbery, plastic overlay. It has little bumps above where the letters are, giving a lovely, tactile feel when typing. It comes in two versions — landscape and portrait.

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