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This Content Isn't Available Right Now...
By Alan Zisman © 2023-03-16
Scrolling through your Facebook feed, you may have seen something like this:
I saw it this morning on a post from 'GR' in Facebook's Labour History & Music group - but you could see it anywhere, including a post from a friend showing up in your feed.
What makes it trickly is that when the person who posted - in this case
'GR' looks at their post, they will see the content. So they won't be
aware that there is a problem unless someone comments on their post,
pointing it out to them. (I try to take a screen shot and include it in
my comment so that the person who made the post will know what the rest
of us are seeing).
What's going on here isn't exactly clear - and can have a couple of
different causes. In the error message, Facebook makes it seem like it
may be a temporary problem - "the content isn't available right now".
They go on to explain that "...the owner only shared it with a small
group of people, changed who can see it or it's been deleted."
All true, but not necessarily helpful - in part because few of us pay
much attention to how we set our posts to be shared and partly because,
if we share someone else's post we have no way of telling how that
other person set their post to be shared.
Every post on Facebook has - behind the scenes - settings telling who
can view the post: Public (i.e. everybody), Friends, or some more
limited group of people.
Two emails today - one is bogus, the other is real. How can you tell?
By Alan Zisman © 2022-12-08
This morning, someone I know got an email in her Yahoo Mail inbox with the title: Upgrade Yahoo Terms of Service. It was illustrated with Yahoo logos and said:
We are contacting you regarding your
YAHOO! Email account, It looks like your account has been flagged due
to some violated terms and agreement, as they were initially speculated.
Please verify your Mail account today 12/09/2022
To avoid any loss of data, please click below to verify your account.
NOTE: Please make sure your password is correct before Updating your Yahoo account.
YAHOO! Mail Support Team.
Before rushing to click on the VERIFY HERE
link, it's useful to be able to see whether the link goes - web
browsers on laptop/desktop computers have a handy option letting you
hover your mouse over a link that pops up text showing where the link
goes. (That's harder to do on a phone or tablet - and even on a 'real'
computer, may need to be enables in the browser settings - perhaps by
turning on 'View Status Bar' or similar)....
Adding (and deleting) a new user in Windows 10 or 11
By Alan Zisman ©2022-03-29
time, you're going to have to add (or remove) a user on your Windows
computer. You can bet on it happening sooner or later. Here are some
-- you get in a new relationship and are suddenly sharing your computer with somebody new. You could
share the same user account and each have access to the other's
documents, photos, emails, and stuff. But do you really want to do
that? (Think sharing a toothbrush - or letting the new significant
other see the photos of your ex and the ex before that, and your
embarassing high school photos).
-- your grandchildren come over and want to use your computer. What does the Delete key do, grandma?
you're selling your old laptop; you'd like to show it to the potential
buyers working, but don't want to give them access to your stuff.
all those scenarios and many others, it makes sense to add a new user.
When you do that, the new user has their own log-in and password, along
with their own Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Music and other personal
At the same time, it's useful to know how to delete a
user - maybe you've broken up with that no-longer new relationship. Or
you've sold the old laptop and you want to get your stuff off it before
handing it over to the new owner....
What can we do about those Facebook faux-friends?
By Alan Zisman ©2022-03-04
seems like every day, I'm hearing about another person I know whose
Facebook friends have been receiving messages from people pretending to
Sometimes it's a message asking the recipient to
'Friend' them - even though the recipient knows they're already
Other times, they receive a message - with the
name and image of one of their Facebook friends just wanting to chat.
But after a few back and forths, the responses start to get a bit
generic or a bit odd - certainly not like the 'real' Facebook friend.
the purposes of keeping things straight, I'll refer to 'real-friends'
and 'faux-friends'. Or refer to 'real-you' and 'faux-you'.
recently written two posts about things you can do to make it less
likely that your Facebook account will be cloned by a faux-you, and to
make it harder - if it does happen - for the faux-you to message your
Securing your Facebook profile? Don't forget your photos
By Alan Zisman ©2022-02-28
My last blog post was titled Someone's sending out Friend requests pretending they're me! It was a response to the stream of posts I'm seeing from Facebook friends like this one:
explained that no, Gary hadn't been hacked - instead, someone had
copied his name and photo - publicly available from his Facebook page,
and used them to set up a new Facebook account - and then was messaging
the list of Gary's Facebook friends, also publicly available,
pretending to be 'the real' Gary.
Next I suggested how to view
the privacy settings of information in your Facebook profile, perhaps
changing most items from 'Public' to 'Friends Only', so random
strangers wouldn't get to see date of birth, high school, or other
Finally, I described how you can see
your Facebook Profile page (a.k.a. your 'Wall'), viewing it as a
'random stranger', to see what information is made public for the world
There's only one problem with all this - nothing in
those Privacy settings lets you control who can view the photos you've
uploaded to Facebook. So after you've followed all my instructions (at
least so far), that random stranger can still view your photos from
your Profile page, and save any to use to pretend to be you.
can lock down your photos - but it's not done with a single click in
your Facebook Privacy settings. And depending on how many photos you've
got up on Facebook, it can be a bit tedious. But it can be done....
Someone's sending out Friend requests pretending they're me!
By Alan Zisman ©2022-02-26
It seems I can't stop writing about Facebook.
Today, in my Facebook newsfeed, my FB (and real-life) Friend Gary posted:
been seeing a lot of these sorts of messages, from people who've heard
that some of their Facebook Friends are puzzled to receive Friend
requests, apparently from Gary, who's already their FB Friend.
natural reaction is for Gary to assume that his account has been
'hacked' - that someone has somehow by-passed Facebook's security,
maybe gotten his password. Many people who've had this happen then
change their passwords (not necessarily a bad thing). Some people I
know have gone as far as to abandon what they believe is a compromised
Facebook account, setting up a completely new account.
(They then have to contact all their Facebook friends and try to explain that they are the real them, as opposed to whoever sent them the earlier Friend request. Talk about confusing!)
fact, I'm convinced that there's no 'hacking' involved, and that the
only problem with Gary's (and many other's) Facebook account is that
too many of Facebook's default settings make it easy for this sort of
thing to happen. Luckily, these settings can be quickly and easily
changed to give you more protection.
Unfortunately, in Gary's
case - and many others - it's a bit late to make these changes. (But
Gary (et al) should do it now anyway).
Here's the thing - by
default, your Facebook existence (other than your password) is open to
the public. Your Facebook user name, the photo that appears beside your
name, information about you that you've chosen to give Facebook - where
you live, where you went to high school, maybe even a phone number -
are all public. Every one of your posts, every photo and video you've
shared are available to any who finds your name and clicks on it to see
your Facebook 'Wall'.
When some mysterious stranger clicks on Gary's name, for instance, they see:
Something(s) about those (Facebook) ads
By Alan Zisman © 2022-02-24
There's a wise saying that applies to many online services: "If you're not the customer than you're the product".
explains a lot about the behaviour of organizations like Facebook - we
like to think that Facebook is a sort of digital commons - a place
where we can post freely and interact with our friends (real and
virtual) and get the news about the world and groups we've chosen to
hear from. And all that's true, at least to a point.
Facebook's business model, all that content that we're creating or
looking at is merely filler to keep us watching as our newsfeed shows
us ads - 'sponsored' posts.
To an extent, Facebook has
democratized the ad business - when the folk band that I play with
creates an event, Facebook will send it out, for free, to at least some
of the folks who've 'liked' the band, but they offer to spread the news
more widely - for a fee. The cost can be relatively modest, starting
around $25 or so. More money spent means more people get the sponsored
post in their newsfeed.
If you've got time to kill, you can
adjust your Facebook ad settings - no, this won't get you fewer ads,
but you can adjust what ads you see, or don't see. In a web browser on
a laptop or desktop computer, click on the little arrow in the
top-right corner of your Facebook window. A menu drops down - pick Settings and Privacy, then Settings. Scroll down the list on the left to Ads. Next, pick Ad Settings - you'll see some interesting stuff, like Ads Shown Off-Facebook. But click on Categories Used to Reach You and then scroll down to Interest Categories. You'll see a short list, but can scroll down to See All Interests for a fascinating set of choices - each of which you can fine-tune....
Yet Another Facebook Scam
By Alan Zisman ©2022-02-22
Here's my Facebook scam of the day.
To understand it, you need a little bit of background on Facebook. Two things:
Thing One: while it often seems like 'anything goes' on Facebook, the
social network tries to apply what it refers to as 'community
standards' to posts - sometimes posts are censored, with the person
posting receiving a message that the post appears to violate community
standards. There is a process for appealing these decisions, though
it's not entrely clear (at least to me) on what basis either the
original decision or the appeal are made. You might want to take a look
at the online document 'The Facebook Community Standards outline what is and isn't allowed'.
Thing Two: along with individual Facebook users, Facebook carries a
large number of groups and pages; users are encouraged to 'follow'
groups and 'like' pages, and can generally write original posts or
comment on posts in these groups and pages. (Some groups may limit the
ability of individuals to post to them - or require that posts be
approved by the group's moderator before they appear online).
such as you or I can create groups and pages for topics or activities
that we're interested in. Since the distinction between groups and
pages is fuzzy, take a look at 'Facebook Page vs. Group: Which One Is Right for You?'
I follow or like quite a few groups and pages, I've created or become
involved in administering or moderating several of each.
morning, when I first took a look at my Facebook account, as usual,
there were half a dozen or so Notifications - in the web browser on my
laptop, Notifications are accessed by clicking on an icon showing a
bell, in the top-right of the Facebook window. Typical notifications
might include telling me that someone has replied to a comment I made
in a group, that someone else has 'liked' something that I've posted,
that a group I follow has added an event, etc.
Along with these, this morning I saw two unusual ones.
'Page Center Community standards mentioned Western Swing Music Society in a post: 'Please Review...' and a second one with identical wording mention ing MacLean Park Music - both the Western Swing Music Society and MacLean Park Music are Facebook pages that I administer.
Huh? These sound ominous.
follow up on a notification, you click on it in the list. Typically,
that takes you to the comment that's being referred to....
Meta description: If
you are looking for a platform to create a blog, then you need to
understand the features of each service. Learn the distinguishing
features of the most popular platforms.
So many men, so many minds. This phrase is great for choosing a
blogging platform. Today there is a huge variety of various services
that can be used by many people to unlock their potential.
Perhaps you are looking for a platform to create a free website,
distribute digital content, or share your opinion through written
content. That is why you cannot choose one single platform that is
suitable for all purposes. Even based on the example of top bloggers,
you can see how they use multiple platforms at once.
That is why in this article we want to offer you a selection of
various platforms to start your blogging career. Separately, we will
talk about the most popular platform for posting video content,
for those who are going to storm the Internet world with their
This morning's Facebook Messenger scam
By Alan Zisman © 2021-12-13
morning's scam started several weeks ago. On November 27, in my
Facebook messages, I received a message request, from an Instagram
account apparently belonging to an old friend of mine, who we'll call
'Eliza Greatly' (not her real name).
Facebook owns Instagram (along with the popular WhatsApp messaging
service) and it seems like Instagram users can message Facebook users.
I've known Eliza for decades, and we're Facebook friends.
So, at 5.12 a.m., eliza_greatly0992 messaged me:
-- How are you Alan ?
Facebook informed me that I didn't follow this user, who had 3
followers and 0 posts on Instagram. Nevertheless, a few hours later
(I'm rarely up and onlined at 5 a.m.) I replied (somewhat guardedly) to
their somewhat generic message:
-- Just fine, considering.... and you?
By replying, I was, in effect, giving them permission to continue the
conversation - and more. Facebook noted: 'You can now message and call
each other and see info like Active Status and when you've read
-- Am highly favored to be on top of
the ground and to be in my rights mind. Thank the lord for
blessing me keeping me safe and your family?
While that didn't sound like the Eliza I've known, a few days later, I replied:
-- All are well, thanks...
That was it until Saturday, Dec 11, at 11.20 p.m. when 'Eliza' got back to me:
-- It's good to hear from you.Just
wondering if you had about the ongoing (COVIC 19 GRANT RELEIF
FUNDS)federal federal government grant...
Have you gotten this scary warning in your web browser?
By Alan Zisman © 2021-12-03
A number of folks I know have gotten in touch concerned about getting a screen like this while trying to browse the Internet:
'Potential Security Risk Ahead' says Firefox.
Try to go to the same address in Google Chrome and you might see:
Scary, right? In both browsers, the blue default button simply backs
away from the 'potential security risk' and there's no visible way to
go ahead anyway.
Basic ways to
stay safe from online scams in 2021
(Image via https://twitter.com/HCC_TS)
Whether it’s on Facebook or through various phishing
techniques over email, cybercriminals aren’t showing any signs of
slowing down in 2021. In fact, online crime is growing at an alarming
The rate at which cybercrime is increasing is concerning to the
authorities but so too for many people who use the internet on a daily
basis. The fact cybercrime could cost over $10 trillion by 2025
makes it even more important that businesses and individuals make sure
they’re adequately protected online. New methods are constantly
cropping up, too, although there will always be basic precautions you
can take to make a hackers job harder to pull off.
Falling victim to an online scam can happen to anyone, too....
If something seems too good to be true...
By Alan Zisman ©2021-04-16
My mother always used to tell me (and I'll bet yours did too): 'If something seems to good to be true, it probably isn't'.
Nevertheless, I sometimes find myself wondering what if this time it's
for real? And sometimes, I'll take a gamble even though I know the odds
My Facebook feed, recently, was showing ads from what seemed like a
variety of different companies (none of which I'd ever heard of)
offering to sell large capacity USB flash drives for prices in the
range of US$20 for 1 TB storage or US$30 for 2 TB.
For comparison, Amazon lists several models of 1 TB flash drive, at prices like CDN$180 to $220 (approx US$145-175). No-name brands are typically cheaper, but for 1/7th the price, there's gotta be a catch, right?
But I could afford to gamble $20, so I went ahead. After all, it
claimed to be 40% for a Black Friday sale. $20 + $6 shipping, payable
arrived in 2 weeks - virtually no time at all (I'm still waiting for a
replacement battery for an old Macbook that I ordered in early
February, with promised delivery sometime between mid-April and
A slick little unit - nice design, a brushed steel case with a loop
on the end so it could be added to a set of keys. (Canadian quarter for
Plugged into both Mac and Windows laptops, it reported itself as having
1 TB capacity - just as advertised. I copied a small file or two and it
worked just fine.
What could go wrong? Well I'd heard reports of people receiving devices that reported themselves as having more space
than they actually had. It would have been nice to copy enough data to
this device to see what it's actual capacity was - but keep reading.
My next step was to try to copy a relatively hefty folder full of files
onto it. After all, the whole point of having a large capacity flash
drive would be to be able to store and carry around a lot of files....
Musicians want to play together over the Net - is it even possible?
By Alan Zisman © 2021-03-01
the past year or so, with pandemic lockdowns and restrictions on
getting together, musicians have seen opportunities for gigs disappear,
and even the ability to get together in a rehearsal space, basement or
garage become restricted.
Here in Vancouver, BC (Canada), during
the summer (2020), people were able to play music together outside - as
long as no more than 50 people gathered. Groups I played with were able
to practise - in backyards and covered car ports. As autumn moved in,
though, both colder/wetter weather and increasing infection rates
resulted in these options being no longer available.
many people were managing to work from home. Many meetings, public
events, and classes were taking place online, using platforms like
Zoom. My wife Linda, for instance, an aspiring water painter, has been
pretty happy with the classes she's taking online in place of in-person
lessons. She notes that in some ways they're better online - everyone
is able to see, close-up, what the instructor is painting.
may have seen social media posts with video clips of choirs,
orchestras, and other musical groups appearing to be performing
together, with each individual in their own window, Zoom-style. The
inference: it ought to be possible for musicians to get together online
to make music, playing together in real-time across the Internet.
I host a monthly accordion drop-in, the Vancouver Squeezebox Circle.
Lately, we've been getting together over Zoom - which works. As long as
only one person is playing music at a time. We can play together - as
we do in person. That works if only one person is audible to everyone,
and everyone else is muted. In the Squeezebox Circle Zoom
sessions, if other musicians forget to mute their mikes, the
sound of them playing along quickly gets weird and difficult to listen
a good option for a musical group trying to play together. In that
case, everyone needs to be able to hear one another. Seeing one another
is nice - but less necessary.
And all those videos of
choirs/bands/orchestras playing together that you may have seen? Bogus!
Each individual is filmed separately, and then the various video clips
are assumbled into a mosaic that makes it appear as if they're all
making music at the same time.
The problem - connections online
involve lag - so-called latency. The Internet works by sending data. in
small 'packets' over a complicated network, over a route that may hop
through a dozen servers (or more) between the sender and recipient.
While fast (most of the time), travel along this ever-changing route
does take measureable time. And this lag time can affect trying to play
Not surprisingly, connecting to a
computer further away requires more hops than someone local - but even
a local connection may make a bunch of hops if the destination is on a
different network from you. While all of my bandmates are in Vancouver,
they use a variety of different Internet service providers so it's a
complex web of connections.
But that's not the only cause of
delay. Sound is an analog signal - computers and the Internet work with
digital signals. Your gear needs to take the sounds you create and
convert them to digital equivalents that can be send over the Internet.
When these are received, the reverse happens - the digital code is
converted to analog sounds that you can hear through speakers or
headphones. These analog to digital conversions (and the reverse) are
quick, but take measureable time, adding to the delays.
Bottom line - there are going to be 'latency' issues for musicians
trying to play together in 'real time' across the Internet....
Should you update your operating system? How can you tell when it's time?
By Alan Zisman © 2021-02-13 Reader
alert - this blog post is mostly focused at Mac-users. Windows-users
are welcome to read it, of course, but it's not about you.
Last month, I wrote a blog post about how to decide it's time to upgrade your tech hardware....
but more often, we're faced with a related question - should I go ahead
and click Update when my Mac or Windows (or iOS - less often with
Android) device tells me there's a new version available.
seem like there's no right answer. Maybe the new version will fix bugs
- or maybe it will introduce new bugs. (Or both). Maybe it will make
your system less vulnerable to some online vulnerabilities - but you
may not have noticed these vulnerabilities affecting your digital life.
upgrading may seem like it's a pain and that it's probably going to
interupt whatever you were doing on your device, and force you to
restart at an awkward time. And it may force you to do things a
different way and maybe software (and sometimes hardware) you've been
using and rely on won't work any more.
As I said in that other
blog post, I know a bunch of people who are running older computers
(and phones and tablets). And most of them are running older versions
of the Mac or Windows operating system - many of them have gotten quite
used to clicking Cancel when they get an update notification - if they
notice it at all. Oh sure, they mean to get around to it. But now
they're so many versions behind.
Apple updates Mac OS on a more
or less annual basis - typically in June. The result is that each
individual new version is an incremental improvement over the previous
version, but it's generally not a big deal if a user skips one. Most
times, the new version 'obsoletes' some older Mac hardware, but
generally Apple supports its hardware for quite a long while. For
instance, the 2013 MacBook Air is supported by the current (2020-21)
Big Sur version 11 of Apple's Mac OS, but earlier MacBook Air models
are officially 'obsolete' - no longer supported.
So owners of
this 7 1/2 year old MacBook Air model could be running Apple's latest
and greatest Mac OS version. But quite a few haven't taken the plunge.
(That 2013 Air originally shipped with that year's current Mac OS X
version - OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion).
Even if Mac users have been
ignoring Apple's update suggestions, sometimes the need to update
comes crashingly to their attention. For instance, if they're using
Google's Chrome web browser. As I write, the current version of Chrome
is 88.0. If you're running Mac OS X ver 6/7/8/9 (Snow
Leopard/Lion/Mountain Lion/Mavericks), Chrome left you behind after
Or how about Zoom? During the COVID pandemic, lots
of people wanted to run Zoom, replacing person-to-person events and
interactions with digital video conferencing. Zoom supports Mac OS X
10.9 (Mavericks) or later. That covers a lot of territory - but leaves
out our hypothetical 2013 MacBook Air owner who never upgraded from
Mountain Lion. Want or need Zoom? Update your Mac OS version first.
- some 2013 MacBook Airs shipped with OS X 10.9 Mavericks - it all
depends whether you purchased your Air before or after the June 2013
release of Mavericks).
If it seems too good to be true....
-- a real-life Facebook scam
By Alan Zisman © 2021-02-01
I had an odd conversation, courtesy of Facebook Messages (viewed in my
web browser on my laptop). Appearing to be from my Facebook friend,
let's just call her 'M', it started off innocuously enough - let me
share a series of screen captures:
-- Read more...
My computer's running slow - is it time to get a new one?
By Alan Zisman © 2021-01-20
I know a lot of people who bought new Macs or Windows laptops or desktops sometime between 2011 and 2014 or so.
Pretty often, I hear "My computer's running slow - is it time to get a new one?"
while back, it would have been an easy question to answer - many people
and businesses were routinely upgrading their hardware every 3 years or
so; trying to use a 7-10 year old computer online would have been hard
Now, though, not so much.
My friend Barry,
for instance, got himself a new MacBook Air in 2013 - Intel Core i5
CPU, 8 GB RAM, solid state drive (SSD). Apple supports it with the
company's current Mac OS version and it does what he needs, quickly
What we really need to think about is what do people mean when they say their computer feels like it's running slow.
On the one hand, computers do
seem to get slower over time. As more software gets installed, more
programs want to load pieces of themselves at startup, slowing that
down. Many users clutter their computer Desktops with icons - which
slows the system down. An almost-full hard drive will slow everything
Freeing up space on the drive and a fresh operating system
(and applications) re-install can bring things back to that new, out of
the box experience.
At the same time, though, our perception of
acceptable speed has changed. While Barry's 2013 MacBook Air came
standard with quick SSD storage, most systems of that era -
particularly at lower and middle price points - used traditional hard
drives. Larger capacity solid state drives were particularly expensive,
and as a result many buyers opted for more economical hard drives.
then, though, many of us are using smartphones and tablets for a lot of
our online experiences - and taking for granted the solid state
performance of those devices. When we turn on our older laptops or
desktops, the slow boot time and application start-up time that comes
from reading large amounts of data from a traditional hard drive feels
slower than it used to - even if it's the pretty much the same amount
of time it took when the computer was new.
The computer may not be running any slower, but our expectations have sped up....
-- Read more...
Don't save, print, or bookmark websites - create shortcuts instead.
By Alan Zisman © 2020-07-16
do you find and return to a web page that you found useful? There are a
lot of standard ways, but there are also problems. How many of these
have you tried on your laptop or desktop computer? You could (for
Check your web browser's History
- this used to be more often done, I suspect, a few years back when the
design of browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari
included easy to access menu making it simple to find History. Clicking
that popped up a list of recently accessed websites - you could scroll
back in time for at least a while.
In today's Windows and
Macintosh browsers, what were once easy to find menu items are now
somewhat hidden - in Chrome (for Windows), look to the top-right and
you'll find three vertical dots - a design element taken from Google's
Android smartphone operating system. Click the dots to open a drop-down
menu with all sorts of potential useful features - Print, for instance.
Or Settings. Or even Exit. And the aforementioned History - with an
arrow beside it indicating that clicking it will open another list.
couple of problems using the History list. First, it's organized in
reverse chronological order, and jam-packed with websites you've
visited. Finding the one you want means scrolling through a long lst of
other site names that you don't want. As well, if you visited the website a week or a month or a year ago, good luck finding it!
-- read more...
You don't need expensive software to create PDF files
By Alan Zisman © 2020-07-15
PDF files have been around for quite a while - since 1993 in fact,
when Adobe announced the 'Portable Document Format' as a standard way
to view document that looked the same - and the same as they would in
print - on a variety of different devices. Prior to this, documents
looked different on screen from in print, and different from one type
of computer to another (think Macs and Windows) and even between
different computers of the same type.
This is handy - even if
PDF's tendency towards documents that are laid out as if they were
printed on paper can look odd on horizontal computer screens or on
small hand-held devices.
For a long time, to create or edit a
PDF, you needed expensive software that few owned - typically, Adobe
Acrobat. This was both a blessing and a curse - a blessing because if
you received a PDF, you knew it was probably legitimate, but a curse,
because if you wanted to create your own PDF you probably couldn't.
is no longer the case - at least for creating basic PDFs and making
simple annotations to existing PDFs. But lots of people don't realize
that they can do this - at least on laptop and desktop computers.
added the ability to create PDFs to its Macintosh computers when it
moved its operating system to OS X around 2000 or so... with that
change, the standard Mac 'print' dialog box added a PDF button, so that
anything that could be printed could be saved to a file in PDF format
instead - with the saved file looking like it would have if printed on
Mac-users can make basic changes to saved PDFs - removing
pages, combining files from multiple PDFs, adding arrows, underlines,
boxes or circles (filled or open), and adding bits of text by opening
the PDF in the Mac's built-in Preview app - no additional software
needed. (I've been meaning to go into detail about this for a while).
a long time, similar features were not built-into Windows, but there
were a number of free utilities that added the capability to 'print to
PDF' to Windows computers - I got into the habit of adding the free Cute PDF Writer program to Windows computers from Windows 98 to Windows 7; there are lots of other utilities, but Cute PDF works fine.
Windows 10, that was no longer necessary. With that Windows version,
Microsoft (finally) added the ability to - like on the Mac - save a PDF
version of anything that can be printed. And once again, many people
don't realize that they can do it, no additional software (especially,
no expensive Adobe Acrobat) needed. At least if you just want a basic
PDF file. (Adobe Acrobat has many additional capabilities, making it
worth the cost for some - especially for corporate users. For me, it's
way more than I need).
Like on the Mac, the way to create a PDF
in Windows 10 (or using add-in software like Cute PDF on earlier
Windows versions) is through the Print dialog box - again, anything
that can be printed can be saved in PDF format, with the resulting PDF
looking like an on-screen version of the paper document you would get
if you printed it on a physical printer.
Rather than keep
hundreds (or thousands) of email messages in my Gmail Inbox, I've
gotten into the habt of deleting most. Some, however, I want to save -
for instance, receipts of online purchases, in case there's an issue
later. I save these as PDFs, storing them in a 'Receipts' folder in my
main Documents folder.
Here's how I do it - using an example
email message viewed in Gmail using the Chrome web browser on my
Windows 10 laptop. (Remember, you can create a PDF from any Print
dialog - but in Windows,
the Print dialog boxes will look different depending on the program you're using. This can be confusing - see my blog post: You want to print a page? It's not as easy as it used to be so when you try to do this, what you see on screen may look different).
View the message on-screen. In Gmail, look for little printer icon near
the top-right of the window that's displaying the contents of the email
-- read more....
5 Common Skype Problems and How to Fix Them
might have set yourself up on Skype
using your Mac, ready to talk to a close friend
or relative, and
then all of a sudden you encounter issues which mean your call can’t go
or that it simply won’t be the same. It can be incredibly infuriating.
like so many tools in this
technologically advanced world of ours, can have an off day every now
Likewise, our mobile phones can too. One minute we might be playing the legendary
Frankie Dettori slots,
then the next minute our phone decides to malfunction and ruin what was
to be a fun, relaxing bit of entertainment. We encounter issues with
televisions, cars, printers - the lot. Technology isn’t completely
fact, it is hugely frustrating sometimes. We’ve all been there, right?
Skype can’t seem
to find my webcam, speakers, or microphone
with Skype in mind, we thought we’d cover a
few of the most common errors and how you can fix them. Don’t worry;
-- read more....
Got Windows 10? You don't need to invest in expensive photo editing software to adjust colours in the scans of your old photos
By Alan Zisman © 2020-04-14
Another tech support question...
has lots of albums full of photos. She wants to digitize them - and
then she wants to correct the colours of her pix - with age, the photos
have faded, and typically, as photos fade, the colours shift, becoming
She talked about this problem with a retailer, who was suggested that the industry standard, Adobe Photoshop was too expensive and too complex for her needs (true!) and pointed her to Adobe Lightroom
instead. Adobe wants users to get either of these applications by
subscription - starting at $10 a month. (Yes, you can get a 7-day free trial). I suggested to Suzanne that Lightroom may also be more complex than she wants to tackle.
There are lots of alternatives, both lower-cost and free - some (such as free (Windows, Mac, Linux) GIMP) powerful and complex. I've been using the free (Windows only) Irfanview
for years and years, and its Image/Color Correction option would let
Suzanne do what she needs - but again, while far simpler than, say,
Photoshop, Lightroom, or GIMP, there are just too many options - in
Irfanview, organized in old school menus - for many people to feel
These are far from the only options. A search for 'image editor free' claimed to give me 140 million hits!
(I didn't verify the results). Image editing software for Windows, for
Mac, for iPhone, iPad, and Android. Online image editing - if you have
photos in Cloud storage with Google Photos (my recommendation), Flickr,
or more, you can perform basic editing like colour correction right
there in the cloud.
But Suzanne is using Windows 10 on her
laptop - the computer where she plans to save her scans. And that means
that she already has software on her computer that will let her do what
she wants, with a relatively simple to use interface. So why not give
it a try?
is one of the set of apps that is included by Microsoft in every
Windows 10 installation (Windows 7 users need not apply). Like several
of the others, it's relatively low-powered, but perfectly functional
for basic uses - in this case, displaying users' on-computer image
libraries and allowing users to perform some basic image editing -
crop, rotation, colour correction and more.....
-- Read more...
Don't know how to setup Skype on your Mac?
By Alan Zisman © 2010-04-10
A friend of mine - let's call him Gary - was wanting Skype
on his Mac, and not sure how to go about it. These days, with folks
staying at home, video calling is a popular way to keep in touch with
friends and family. Apple's Facetime is
popular - but it's limited to people using Apple products - Macs,
iPhones, iPads. Want to connect to a Windows or Android user? Too bad.
has gotten a lot of attention recently - it's free and cross platform
and relatively easy to get up and running, but more recently, it's
gotten a lot of flack for privacy concerns. It uses an online meeting
metaphor - even if you want to just video-chat with one other person.
(See 6 Popular Video Conferencing Tools Compared).
Gary wanted Skype - which has some advantages - it's free and available
on all sorts of platforms. it comes from Microsoft, so it has a real
company backing it up - with a business model that doesn't rely on
selling your personal details. And it uses a phone-call metaphor,
perhaps more familiar than setting up a meeting.
around for a long time, allowing voice and video calls to other Skype
users (on computer, smartphone, or tablet) for free, while encouraging
users to send them a bit of money that can be spent connecting to phone
services - locally or long-distance - for inexpensive long-distance
phoning to people who don't have computers (or aren't Skype users).
There are lots of options now - but when Skype was new (it was first released in 2003 and peaked with 660 million users in 2010), it was a big deal.
So let's get Gary started:
Go to https://skype.com
and download the installer:
you're wanting it on an iPhone/iPad/Android device, the website will
point you to your appropriate app store. Mac (or Windows users) just
click on the blue Get Skype button to download the installer
appropriate for your laptop or desktop computer.
-- Read more...
So you think you want to buy an accordion pt 2 - Checking the accordion
By Alan Zisman © 2020-03-01 So you want to get an accordion.Hopefully you've already looked at Part 1 of
this blog and have decided what sort of accordion you want, and now
know a little bit about the differences between low-end, mid-range, and
high-end accordions.And you've checked your local online second hand listings site - perhaps Craigslist, perhaps Kijiji,
or other.... or perhaps you're in a local pawn shop or music store that
has some accordions. Or you're at a garage sale or an estate sale. Or
anywhere where you can get your hands on an accordion - whether you've
ever played accordion or not.How can you tell if an accordion's worth buying? Or if you should just walk away?I'm
assuming you're wanting to know if an accordion's playable or if it
needs expensive work to make it playable. If you just want something
cool and vintage to put on display, that's entirely up to your tastes.And only you can decide if this playable accordion is the right choice for the musical style(s) you want to play - though Part 1of
this blog can help you see what sorts of accordions are commonly used
in what sorts of musical styles. And only you can decide whether any
given accordion is too heavy or large for you to work with comfortably.
(Don't give up to soon - you can learn to work with an accordion that
seems to heavy right now. Within limits).So
you've got an accordion in your hands right now. I'm going to assume
you haven't played one before - if you have, you can roll your eyes but
still do all these tests.First things first:
-- the keys go on the right side. (You
laugh - but I know two people who started out playing with the keys on
the left, and not knowing that it felt awkward for a reason).-- Read more...
think you want to buy an accordion
pt 1: Types of Accordions
By Alan Zisman © 2020-02-28
Deidre posted in a Facebook accordion group: I'm in the US, &
looking to learn accordion. I play piano, organ & guitar, but
have NO exp w/accordion. Any advice, plz? I want to buy but want to be
wise in the process. Thank you all!
I replied... here's what I said with some elaboration (and images)...
there's a broader range of types, models, and styles of accordions than
most non-accordion players think and it's easy to end up with something
that isn't what you really want. Many accordions are very
ornate and novice buyers get 'seduced' by a pretty appearance and end
up buying something that's actually not in very good playing condition
; repairs are expensive (and technicians can be hard to find) and older
models - even in good shape - can be musically limited.
1) Don't be in a hurry to buy...
2) Don't buy online or without trying - unless you know what you want
and can see/hear it being played. Philadelphia's Liberty Bellows
for instance, posts video clips of each of their used models being
played and discussed, which can be a valuable tool to see and hear the
differences in various models
(Liberty Bellows also has a very good set of online lesson videos, covering a wide range of musical styles. Great resource!).
3) Store prices are higher than person-to-person 2nd hand prices, but
have the possibility of a warranty or return. Hopefully you'll be assured that the accordion is in good condition.
4) New instrument prices can be very high - lovely new models
from Italian accordion factories can easily cost €4000-10000. By
comparison, there are lots of used accordions listed on my local
(Vancouver, BC, Canada) Craigslist around CDN$300 (US$250
-- Read More
Eating gelato in Italy
By Alan Zisman © 2019-07-03
pizza, gelato is one of Italy's treasures that now can be found
worldwide. But - also like pizza - it's best experienced in Italy. In
Italy, gelato is an affordable treat - and one of the few things, in a
culture where coffee bars don't offer cups to take out, that you can
eat while you walk down the street.
While it might seem that
there's a gelato shop on every block in every town, not all gelato in
Italy is created equal. There are some things to look for to help you
get the best gelato.
Even though Google Translate will tell you
that 'gelato' is Italian for 'ice cream', that's not quite correct.
Unlike North American-style ice cream, gelato is made with milk, not
cream, so it's got much less fat. And slower churning means less air in
the mix - though we'll see that there are exceptions to this. But at
its best, gelato is denser than ice cream and it's typically at a
somewhat higher temperature - both of these result in more intense
Unlike many Italian food and drink varieties, though,
there's no regulation governing what can be sold as gelato. So -
especially in popular tourist strips - there will be no shortage of
shops featuring poor-quality, but eye-catching gelato.
look for a shop that claims its gelato is 'artigianale' - the same word
is used to indicate craft beer. It's meant to suggest small batch,
locally-made gelato as opposed to mass-produced factory-made stuff.
This is not, however, fool-proof - while food names like 'parmeggiano'
or 'prosciutto' are strictly defined, there are no regulations
governing what can be called gelato artigianale. If you see 'fatto in
casa', that will tell you the gelato is 'home-made' - made in the shop,
rather than trucked in.
Next, take a look at the display counter. Here's a stock photo:
And here's a photo taken at the counter at Spoleto's prize-winning Gelateria Crispini:
Notice any differences?
....-- Read more....
How to Install an SSL Certificate on a WordPress Site
First of all,
what exactly is an SSL Certificate? SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and
this digital certificate authenticates the identity of your website, and in
turn encrypts all the information being sent to the server using SSL
certificate serves as a type of electronic passport, which in turn establishes
your credentials while doing business on the Internet.
certificate is made up of the following information:
The name of the certificate
The serial number and expiration
date of the certificate.
A copy of the certificate holder’s
The digital signature of the
authority who has issued the certificate
certificate certifies that there is a secure channel between point A and point
B on the Internet.
So you want to
have an SSL certificate for your WordPress site. Since all of the above may be
nonsensical to you, here are the reasons why you should have the certificate.
If you have an eCommerce site, you will need to have this certificate before
you can accept any form of payment.
If you have any
password-protected pages on your website, you also want to know that this is
protected by an SSL certificate.
What if you don’t
buy and sell anything on your website, but you do collect sensitive information
from your visitors? With an SSL certificate, all information is encrypted and
How else can you
secure your website?
-- Read more...
You want to print a page? It's not as easy as it used to be
By Alan Zisman © 2019-03-06
Okay, so maybe when you were young your parents or grandparents talked about how much harder it was when they were your age - how they had to walk 5 miles every morning to get to school without complaining about the rain or snow. Or.....
when I got my first personal computer, in 1988, most programs (i.e.
apps) ran from a DOS command line - you had to know what to type to get
them started. And each had its own set of non-discoverable commands to
do common functions like print or even quit the program. In the popular
Word Perfect word processor, you pressed the F7 key to quit the
program, while pressing Shift+F7 opened the Print dialog.
popular Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, pressing the 'slash' (/) key displayed
a list of potential commands. Nothing in common with Word Perfect.
Windows had been around since late 1985 and promised that - like the
Mac, released the previous year - you would only have to learn how to
do a task once and it would work the same way in every program. Every
program designed for Windows, that is - and there weren't a lot of
those. It wouldn't be until Windows 95 was released that Windows became
But for a while, say the decade after the
release of Windows 95, it seemed like you really did only have to learn
how to do something once, in one program, and you could do it the same
way in any program.
Software designed for Windows had pretty
much replaced DOS-mode programs - Microsoft's Office suite, with its
Word word processor and Excel spreadsheet had become pretty standard,
with both Windows and Mac versions. If you were part of the minority
using Windows versions of Word Perfect or Lotus 1-2-3 you could use
those 'classic' commands that had been drilled into your memory. But
you could also use the same point and click commands that worked in
Word and Excel and so many other programs: To print, click the word
File in the menu bar, then Print in the drop-down menu.You'd get a similar Print dialog box in whatever program you were using.
close the program, click File, then Exit. (Or Quit if using a Mac).
Having a common user interface made it easier for people to become
comfortable trying out lots of different programs.
--- Read more...
'Your system files are automatically deleted'. Should I worry?
By Alan Zisman © 2019-02-17
The other day, a scary message popped up in my web browser.
In order to figure out whether I should be worried or not, let's back up a few steps. What was I doing online at the time?....
-- read more
© 2018-10-24Few of today’s advancements would
be here without the marvellous natural phenomena that drive them. It is
precisely one of these wonders - light, that is the subject of this
post. Here are five grand things that people did in celebration of
-- read more...
What is a VPN?
simple terms, a VPN (Virtual Private Network) assigns you a different
IP address by allowing you to connect to one of its provider's servers.
Your identity is hidden and you're protected from the spying eyes of
hackers, government organizations, and ISPs and dangers such as cyber
Benefits of using a VPN
traffic communication between you and the VPN server is highly
encrypted through cutting-edge security and encryption software so that
all your sensitive data such as passwords or credit card details are
kept under wraps and protected from any malicious software. Through a
VPN you're in full control of your online activities, you're protected
against intrusive surveillance of any ISPs, hackers can't tap in and intercept any data and you can bypass any censorships.
To help you decide which VPN is best for you we've rounded up the top 5 VPNs providing ultimate
-- Read more
Getting around Italy by Train
By Alan Zisman © 2018-09-18
We love Italy and go there whenever we can - though
it's more of a ordeal getting there from the West Coast of Canada than,
say, the UK. We just got back from our 10th trip this week. Much to the
surprise of some folks we know, though, we've never rented a car - when
we're there, we get around on foot much of the time, and when that
won't work, we go by train.
The Italian train system goes to
all the big cities and most of the small towns. (Not all of them - once
in a while we have to take a bus. But not usually). And train service
is reasonably comfortable, reasonably quick, and reasonably inexpensive
- about half the cost of comparable British service, for instance.
are some quirks - magnified by language, though the Italian train
system tried to offer its services in English alongside Italian.
few things to know to get started - most of the trains are part of a
nationalized country-wide network run by Gruppo Ferrovie dello Stato
Italiane under the name Trenitalia. There is some competition from ItaliaRail
- but they only operate between major cities. There are some local,
independent rail lines, like the Circumversuviana line that goes
between Naples and Sorrento, with stops including Pompeii. But most of
the time, you'll be dealing with Trenitalia - and that's what I'm going
to focus on.
Trenitalia offers three levels of trains: Regionale
trains are the local trains - they run, mostly within a single region,
as the name suggests - stopping at many small stations along the way.
Slowest, due to the frequent stops, but also the least expensive
option. No reserved seats. You can buy first class or second class
tickets - first class has 3 seats in a row, second class has 4 seats in
a row, but otherwise there's not much difference. (Not all trains have
first class seating available).
Intercity trains make fewer
stops at small stations - making for a faster run at a higher price.
Generally, tickets include reserved seating on these trains.
trains (Italian for 'arrow') offer the fastest service - only available
between major cities. You pay extra for the extra speed. For instance,
you can travel from downtown Rome to Venice in 3 hours and 45 minutes
on a Frecciargento ('Silver Arrow') or Frecciarossa ('Red Arrow') for
€50-75. Or you could take 11 hours (including 2 changes) on a series of
Regionale trains for €42. Or 6 hours on an Intercity train for €57.
I know which I would choose!
can book trips online and in advance - I'm told that tickets can be
discounted if bought online and in advance (and also if you purchase
round-trip tickets). I've rarely done this - My travel plans are rarely
so carefully organized that I want to commit to a specific train long
in advance. (You may be otherwise). However, I do find Trenitalia's
online scheduling information very useful and refer to it often - both
before travelling and while I'm in Italy. It lets me know if there is
train service where I'd like to go - and if so, how often it runs. If
there are a couple of trains each hour, then I can be pretty flexible
in my planning. If there's just one train in the afternoon and one in
the evening, though, I want to make sure I get to the station on time!
Trenitalia's website is available in English: https://ca.trenitalia.it-inter.com/
- you can customize it for your country, prefered currency, and
language. New feature (Sept 2018) - you can now enter Italian city
names with your choice of the English language name or the Italian
name: Rome vs Roma, Florence vs Firenze, Venice vs Venezia, etc.
Previously, even if you were using the English language version of the
website, you needed to use the Italian version of city names.-- Read more....
- Older blog postings....
|About This Blog...
I've been writing about computers, software, Internet and the rest of
technology since 1992, including a 17 year (1995-2012) stint as 'High
Tech Office' columnist for Business in Vancouver. This blog includes
thoughts on technology, society, and anything else that might interest
me. Comments, emailed to email@example.com are welcome - and may be published in whole or part. You can follow me on Facebook for notice of new blog postings.