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Tech Tips I'd Like To Remember


 

04 NOV 2017 - Apparently Adobe Flash is a necessary evil in the tech world. It has benefits that are not easily matched by the alternatives (HTML5), yet is old enough that Adobe no longer plans to develop it beyond security updates. The problem is that is a reactive strategy, and if users don't stay current with updates then the bad guys have a wide open door into unpatched systems.

The upside to Adobe Flash is that it not only can stream video, but also has the ability support an advertising platform. HTML5 apparently falls short in this area, which is why sites like mlb.com or nba.com rely on Flash to deliver streamed content along with advertising aimed at all those eyeballs.

But because Flash is so old it has accumulated a number of vulnerabilities to today's online threats. Hackers can utilize Flash to take control of unpatched systems. Aware of this, I dutifully removed flash from my system   - then found out I couldn't see baseball or basketball games even if I had a subscription.

A compromise is suggested and detailed by tomsguide.com - install the Flash plugin on your browser, but set it up so that it doesn't automatically run unless you say so.

 

01 OCT 2017 - So our 10 year-old Samsung 55" TV started acting weird. The volume would zoom to 0% all by itself and no amount of effort using the remote or the buttons on the side of the TV would affect it. Also the channels would cycle thru all by themselves. Also it would power on by itself... really the weirdest thing - when we realized we were having these problems I turned the TV off, figuring it was toast, and so everyone went about their business. 10 minutes later I walk thru the room whee the TV is located and it was on again, cycling thru channels and acting weird... reminded me of one of those horror shows.

Finally I unplugged it. By then we had resolved that a new (or different TV) would be needed and we had plans to use another one from the back bedroom. But before totally abandoning it, I checked online to see if others had experienced the same problem and whether there might be a solution.

Lo and behold - this was a common occurrence and the suggested solution was to open the back panel of the TV and unplug wires that powered the side buttons. Took me a while to get the TV on the floor and remove the panel, but once I did it was easy to find the cables for the side buttons and I disconnected them.

Sure enough, once the TV was powered on it worked fine again while using the remote. The power buttons on the side were no longer working, but those are rarely if ever used, so no great loss.

And we have our TV back - woo hoo!

 

01 OCT 2017 - Well this had been driving me crazy... I have a Dell Vostro 3460 laptop that is a nice little machine. I replaced the battery with an after-market extended version, which worked real well except for the error message when rebooting:

Warning: This battery is not recommended for this system use. It may only have limited features and non-optimized performance. Strike the F1 key to continue, F2 to run setup the utility.

Other than bad grammar, no other problems would occur. F1 would continue the reboot, the battery would charge fine, and it would last for several hours.

It became a hassle if programs would reboot the system when I wasn't around, such as Windows Updates. Then the boot process would sit there for hours at a time waiting for an F1 key to be pressed.

Of course I spent a great deal of time pouring over websites with users encountering the same problem. Suggested solutions didn't work - removing the battery and booting with only the power adapter plugged in, removing battery and power adapter then pressing the power button to discharge remnant memory, updating BIOS... nothing worked. And there's no way I was going to spend upwards of $100 on an official Dell battery - I don't even think they make them anymore.

Finally found a solution. I went into BIOS and discovered a setting for "Adapter Warnings". I disabled this function, rebooted and the nasty error message disappeared! Sweet - that stupid message had plagued me for several years.

Oh, and the new extended battery cost me $33 on Amazon.

 

23 SEP 2017iPhone - It's getting toward the end of the year and of course that means Apple will be releasing their new iPhone models. Normally I don't give more than a passing glance to this news since upgrading every year isn't what I can afford (let's be honest) and also I'm not a big fan of Apple.

I'd been seeing headlines about an iPhone X, which I'm guessing is Apple's strategy for decoupling from numeric versions. Imagine a few years from now and the iPhone 17 is now available... "iPhone 17 - the greatest iPhone ever!! So much better than iPhone 16!!!" So X is a way to shift to model names as opposed to numbers. Not a bad idea.

But I've also run across several news items about the smaller lines for the newly released iPhone 8. Remember when Apple would release a new model  and people would line up outside their stores, waiting with an unbridled enthusiam that can only come from a great marketing strategy, or people paid to stand in line, and/or lack of medication?

Yeah, so the 8 is also a new model that is less expensive and is competing with the iPhone X, which is creating additional headlines of it's own for hyped features as well as $1000 price tag. Greatest iPhone Ever!! [All new features that other phones already have but didn't dramatize like us!!] No wonder the lines for the 8 are smaller - people are waiting to see what the X is like. My guess is the X will easily outsell the 8... if you're invested in Apple products, you pretty much expect to pay a premium for the shiny Apple logo no matter how much it costs.

Here's a comparison of the iPhone 8 specs and the iPhone X. It's sort of written like something from the Apple marketing department, but the conclusion is to save your money and buy the less expensive iPhone 8.

 

 

8 SEP 2017 - Well the whole thing went to hell in a handbasket... About 6 weeks ago my Vostro 3460 started overheating badly and I had to set it aside. I couldn't do more than a few things with it before the fan would jump into high gear. Copying files to a USB key, downloading from the web, anything that seemed disk intensive would cause overheating.

My frustration grew to the point that I just put it aside. The only system I had left was the Surface Pro 3. But then that died on me too... what the hail?!!!

Long story short, I'm running the Vostro again but making sure it only sees light duty. No Photoshop, minimal Dropbox, and definitely no video editing. And I was finally able to reset the Surface using an old Win 8 image (the Win 10 image wouldn't work).

More and more I'm rethinking the whole "thin and light" strategy. I don't travel a lot so there's no need to sacrifice durability for a compact form. Sure, if you work for a corporation and they refresh units every 3 years, then knock yourself out. But I'm spending my own dime here and would like to see devices last more than a few years.

Especially now that I need to make sure neither the Surface nor the Vostro see anything more stressful that email and web surfing. Gonna have to start watching the Dell Outlet Twitter feed.

 

 

03 SEP 2017  - This is sort of how I feel about phone makers removing headphone jacks, and all the people who don't like it:

Headphone Jacks

 

 

19 AUG 2017 - Right now I'm creating this website on a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, with an Intel Core i7-4650U 1.70 GHz CPU, 8Gb RAM, and a 500 Gb hard drive. A nice little system, but I would not purchase another one. Not the best recommendation, but that's the truth.

The Surface is a wonderful notebook - it has an incredibly thin and light form factor. If I traveled regularly this would be a dream to carry. But as a tablet it falls well short of useful.

First of all the Microsoft Store is woefully light on applications. You're lucky to find something relatively common, like Words With Friends. But when you do it's generally not as well developed as the other platforms such as Apple or Android.

And as I stated before, there's just not much of a selection. Need For Speed is missing. So is Waze. Couldn't find a Reddit app or the Opera browser. It's just really thin on choices, and that's not a good thing when compared to the Apple Apps Store or Google's Play Store.

As far as the OS, Windows 10 is pretty stable but the tablet functions that were in Windows 8, and which would have greatly benefited the Surface, have been removed. That, in my opinion, was a mistake. Sure, Windows 8 tablet functionality was forced on everyone and actually crippled the desktop user. But if used as a tablet, there were some pretty well thought out features that would have made the Surface an even better product.

Unfortunately it is what it is - I walked into a Microsoft Store and asked a sales rep if there were any improvements planned for the Surface as a tablet. I sort of got this blank stare from him, as though I was asking a stupid question while not intending to buy anything. Like the Surface Pro as a computer and as a tablet, that wasn't a good combination.

 

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