Category Archives: Tips

Surprise! Your Yoga has some holes in it.

Researcher Discovers Superfish Spyware Installed on Lenovo PCs – NYTimes.com

Surprise! Your “Yoga”, has some holes in it. Designed to be as attractive and useful as any Apple device (and marketed unconvincingly as a replacement for your MacBook Air), the Yoga unfortunately came (past tense, according to Lenovo) with Superfish Spyware pre-installed. “Adware” and “Bloatware” – collectively known as “crapware” – are de rigueur for Windows purchasers, but Superfish takes this to a new level with an unsigned certificate providing easy access to your data for anyone who knows how to use it.

I met an insider years ago (p.s. – Pre-Snowden), who told me he was convinced Lenovo had code embedded in the computer ROM that allowed Chinese authorities full access to the device. He gave up on trying to expose this security “flaw” after everyone, including the FBI, told him he was paranoid. So, who’s paranoid now?

Tip: Savvy computer buyers shop for those “special” Windows computers without crapware. Or buy Macs.

 

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iPods and The Mystery of the Missing Songs

It was a calm, cold night—much as any other this wet December on the brink of a new year. I settled carefully down in my Queen Anne near the warmth of the radiator, hissing its gentle song, and propped my MacBook Pro on my lap to peruse the day’s email. For the most part there was little of note: The usual uncaptured spam, offers from Shutterfly and CVS, a note from my massage therapist, and several droll requests for assistance that required little thought and for which I had no interest. But just as I was to resign myself to another night struggling with the need to sleep in the absence of a full mind, the Subject: “Too few songs!!” caught my attention, and I seized upon this interesting message from an old acquaintance.

The fellow, whose anonymity I shall protect here, had over the years acquired quite a collection of iPods which he had managed to connect to assorted computer and audiophile equipment. He was no dunce certainly, and in fact had once worked for the diplomatic corps in a foreign post where he had kept a low profile until acquiring the wealth to enjoy his life with a gusto I envied, dabbling now and then in the legal profession, and as far as I could tell from my distance, primarily acquiring and enjoying a phenomenal collection of music in many styles and formats. With interest, I perused his query, which I edit for brevity as follows:

“Here’s something I do not understand.  My 2nd generation iPod, which has 20GB  of storage capacity, can hold around 2,000 songs.  My newer (like five years old) 60GB iPod can’t hold anywhere near as many.  Why?”

Clearly there was an explanation that went beyond the obvious assumption that he was mistaken either about the number of songs or the capacity of the devices—he assured me the numbers were accurate as provided. And so began another late night adventure, as I committed to resolving this mystery, when for the sake of my health, I might have been better sleeping.

Although I might have formed my own questions and submitted these to a higher internet authority, I started first by closing the lid of my laptop and leaning back in my chair, taking a deep breath, and entering my “memory palace”, where I was quite convinced I could locate a solution. A few moments later, and confident in what I had found, I started my iMac, plugged my iPhone into it, and launched iTunes to validate my deductions.

I include here an excerpt from the response to my client:

“Theoretically, we can assume that your music is recorded in its ‘largest’ format on iTunes on your computer. For example, you could use Apple Lossless format for the music on your computer and have GREAT quality (which would require a gigantic hard drive because of the large file format). You could listen to your music on your mobile iOS devices in the large format, but because they have less storage, you would be better off using much smaller files. You would sacrifice some of the music in terms of quality, but be able to put many more songs on the device than otherwise. And I postulate that you may have already configured your two iPods in this fashion, although you did not configure them both in the same way, causing an odd discrepancy in the number of songs that each device holds.

“I believe that the settings in iTunes are unique for each device. In the attached screenshot are the settings for my iPhone 6. Under Options, there is an option for ‘Convert higher bit rate songs to [128 kbps] AAC.’ If you had selected that for your OLD iPOD and your songs were all 256kbps or higher, and you used the DEFAULT (unchecked) setting for your newer iPod, then, since the lower 128kbps files are SMALLER, you could probably get a lot more songs on the old iPOD.

iTunes_convert_higher_bit_rate“This only uses greater compression when it syncs, leaving your songs on your iTunes on your computer, at whatever compression/quality level they were ripped.”

And here, with my apologies for a tale that has grown far too long, I conclude with a satisfactory answer, for it was only the very next afternoon that I received another electronic epistle confirming my solution to the mystery:

“TW:  When I plugged in the 60GB iPod and ‘downsampled’ higher bit rate songs to 256 kbps, I ended up with approx. 7,000 songs.  So that accounts for the older iPod seeming to hold more songs.”

B.

Why You Can’t Trust You’re Getting the Best Deal Online – WSJ

Why You Can’t Trust You’re Getting the Best Deal Online – WSJ.

Macintosh Users! Beware of Orbitz!!
(But if you use an iPhone, you might get a deal)

This article is about a study that concludes pricing is definitely different on web sites for a variety of reasons. Such as people on iOS devices getting lower prices, non-members getting higher prices, and so on. The article states that in 2012 Orbitz (online travel, no link provided deliberately) stopped “discriminating” (by giving Macintosh users higher prices for hotels) after experimenting with this for about a month, and there was no current evidence of this practice.

Wrong.

And then—oh help me please, I should have known better— I read the Comments, naively thinking there might be some value there. I forgot this was the Murdochian Wall Street Journal, with presumably throngs of Murdochian readers writing their mostly off-topic comments. Such as (and pardon me, I’m not going to directly quote all of these, because I will not read them again!):

  1. Everybody prices things differently for different customers. Who said the Internet was supposed to be “fair”?
  2. If it’s not illegal, how can it be wrong?
  3. Thomas Jefferson never guaranteed anyone the lowest price.
  4. You must be a “Socialist” because your opinion is clearly not the same as mine. (I love it when conservative whack-jobs drop the “S-Bomb”. Guys, I’m okay with socialism.)
  5. And then obviously racial references to Obama, Nike Jordan’s, and stupid denials that these are not racial comments. Puh-lease.

What do ANY of those comments have to do with the article? Pretty much, none, zero, nothing.

So, Yes, Virginia, when Orbitz, the travel web site, debuted in 2000, there was talk that it was going to offer the best prices because it was created by five of the six major airlines, and had special “favored nation” access to the lowest ticket rates. (Supposedly.) That was the impression. You were getting the lowest prices—or at least a pretty good shot at the lowest prices.

And that’s why it annoys me when I try to get a ticket on a flight that my colleague in the next cube over is booking on his DELL Windows PC, and on my Macintosh the same flight at the same price is impossible to find!! It’s just not there!! All my options are more expensive. And I’m logged in as an Orbitz MEMBER. I should get the best prices right? I logged out, I tried to get the flight on my Macintosh as a non-member. No dice.

Finally  I walked next door, opened a session on his DELL Windows PC, as a non-member of Orbitz, and…flight and price available. To me that means that Orbitz STILL (this happened in 2014) discriminates in some price-oriented way against Macintosh users, whether members or not. Because we have more money? Because we are willing to spend more money on a better computer? Because we are too creative and artistic to realize we are being gouged?

Too bad. I used to like Orbitz. Nowadays I might try Orbitz, but I always check another travel site, or the site of the airline itself. And if you want the best price, or the most flexibility in selecting a flight, I suggest you do the same.

It’s a Power Tool. It’s an Advantage.

In Safari on Macintosh, you can create a folder of bookmarks that open with a single click. What does that mean? Think about it for a second – you have, let’s say, five web pages that you look at all the time, maybe even all day long. Maybe news sites, maybe social media or blogs, maybe “dashboards” of stocks, or equipment you administer, a document control system, or knowledge base, Evernote, webmail, or some combination of the above. Every day or so, you load these sites from Bookmarks or a “Favorites” page of some kind (depending on your browser). Up one menu, down the next, open this panel, click, click, click, click. But wouldn’t it make sense to just launch them all with one button? Let’s do it.

First, Folders Full of Tabs on the Bookmarks Bar

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You probably know you can add Bookmarks to Safari on the “Bookmarks bar”. You may even know that you can have a folder full of bookmarks accessible there, which drop down in a menu (indicated in the image above, after “Hot”, by the little disclosure triangle—formerly known as a “twistie”.) But, did you know you can create a special folder (marked above with the little square) that will open all the bookmarks inside when you click it? “Workbench” is my folder full of bookmarks that open with one click!

ONE button, ONE click all my tabs in ONE window.

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All my “dashboards” and other web-based Admin tools available in one browser window.

How? Safari Help – it’s “Easy, but not Obvious“.

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Apple people, Macs are not perfect. Safari is not perfect. You have to work hard to figure out how to make this happen, and the option has been here for years! (And please, don’t get me started on the CRAZY interface in Safari and how you have Bookmarks and Favorites available in so many places and so many ways that you you can just get lost. Simplify THAT, Jonny Ive! Please!) Anyway…
You need to know how to Edit your Bookmarks in Safari.
Hint: Go to Bookmarks > Edit Bookmarks

  1. Create a new Bookmark folder
  2. Put the Bookmarks that you want to group together in that folder
  3. Put the folder in the Favorites bar
  4. [Control]-[click] the folder name, then choose “Automatically Open in Tabs”

Now, tell me how you do this in Windows and Internet Explorer? I know you can, sort of, with a lot of work. Way more work. Go ahead. Choose your tool.