Q: I bought a laptop about six months ago, and it already feels like it's running sluggish. It came with a bunch of programs on it that I don't need and don't use. Are they making it run slow? If so, can I get rid of them?
A: Most people believe that computers get slower with age, but that's actually a misconception. Computer hardware doesn't get slower, at least not noticeably. The difference in speed over several years is microscopic, barely even measurable. However, the operating system and the software on your computer does get significantly slower as you install programs that run in the background and as you upgrade to more feature packed versions of the software you have. To make things worse, new computers, especially Windows PCs tend to come with lots of "bloatware" right out of the box, getting you off to a slow start to begin with. Get rid of any programs you have on your computer that you don't use, and you'll have a leaner, faster machine. There are a few free great programs that will do the job for you. Unfortunately, neither of the two best applications for Windows have really great names: CCleaner and PC Decrapifier. In case you were wondering, yes, the extra "C" in CCleaner stands for "Crap." Despite their names that seem to be inspired by the jokes of adolescents, both of these applications do an excellent job of uninstalling software and removing settings that slow down your computer. For Mac users, there is a beta version of CCleaner available on their website, and there is also MacKeeper and CleanMyMac which do the same job. MacKeeper is the only software listed above that isn't free, but it offers many more options than the others. It is worth checking out, even though the price can get hefty.
Once you have one of the programs I mentioned above downloaded and installed, go through the list of applications. Ask yourself, when was the last time I used this program, and when do I expect the next time will be? If you've never used it, and you …
Q: I read your recent article about recycling computers and wanted to know more about what kind of toxic chemicals are inside. Can they harm the user?
A: First of all let me put your mind at ease — while there are toxic chemicals in computers, they exist in trace amounts that are unlikely to harm a human, and the computer case shields you from them. The problem arises when toss a bunch of them into a landfill. That’s why we need to manage our e-Waste.
In 2006 Greenpeace X-rayed a number of laptops to see what kind of toxic chemicals they held. They found that circuit boards contained the heavy metals Cadmium and Beryllium. The steel inside had hexavalent chromium baked into it. The wires contained PVC and the fans were coated in flame-retardent BFRs. The LCDs contained Mercury. But again, we’re talking trace amounts that are hidden away behind a plastic or aluminum case. Keep your kids from playing around inside and you should be fine.
Our worries shouldn’t be so much about how our computer’s chemical components might harm us, but how they might harm the environment after we’re done with them.
If you have a computer ready for the afterlife, don't throw it in the trash. Drop it off Tuesday through Saturday at the city's Household Hazardous Waste Facility located at 2675 Commonwealth Ave.
Q: The other day I received a direct message on Twitter from a colleague of mine that said, "Is this what you were talking about?" and a link to a web page. Like a dummy, I clicked the link. It took me to some random web page that didn't have anything to do with me. I messaged him back, and he had no idea what I was talking about. Then, I started getting messages from other friends on Twitter asking what I was talking about. Somebody hacked our Twitter accounts! What can we do to fix it?
A: Ouch! You're not alone though. In fact, Amanda Bynes, Britney Spears, Justin Beiber, Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, Donald Trump, Burger King, Jeep, NBC News, the Associated Press, the New York Times, and even President Obama have all had their Twitter accounts hacked. Anthony Weiner, MTV, BET and Chipotle all lied about their Twitter accounts being hacked, each for their own reasons. Let's not get into all that.
How do you fix it? There's a lot to do, but we'll help you get your Twitter account straightened out and secure.
The first things you need to do are log into your Twitter account and change your Twitter password. In case you may have downloaded a virus, you may want to do that from a different computer than you normally use. Make sure to pick a strong password. Make sure you change your password in your password management system too. (Also, in case you did download a virus, make sure to update your virus software and run a full scan.)
If you can't log into your Twitter account because the hacker changed the password, submit a password reset request. You should receive an email with a link to change your password. If you don't, it's because the hacker also changed the email address associated with your Twitter account. Now you'll have to contact Twitter with a support ticket to get access to your account.
Once you've gotten into your account and changed your password, you want to revoke the access of any and all third party applications that have …
Q: I am considering changing my internet service provider. However, a lot of my accounts on other websites are connected with the email address from my ISP. Is there any way I can keep my email address even if I change my ISP? If not, is there a service that will forward my emails from my old email address to my new email address?
A: Unfortunately, when you change service providers, you cannot take your email address with you. It's just like it used to be in the old days with phone numbers; you just can't transfer them. When you close that account, your email address will be closed with it. Also, there isn't any service that can forward your emails after you close the account either. Only the ISP could do that since they own the email servers, and it doesn't make good business sense to help people leave their service. The smartest thing to do is get an email account that will move with you. You can get a free email account from Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or Outlook.com, just to name a few. Then, once you have setup your new email account, you can set up forwarding on your old ISP email account to your new email address before you close it. You'll have to manually change those accounts online, but this will make it much easier. If you setup a Gmail account, you can create filters that automatically label any email addresses are forwarded from your old account so that you can keep track of which companies are still using your old email address.
To setup email forwarding in Comcast/Xfinity email, go to https://customer.comcast.com/Secure/UserSettings and sign in. Then click Email Settings, and Email Forwarding.
To setup email forwarding in att.net follow these instructions.
These are the two major Internet service providers in Jacksonville. If you are using a different Internet service provider, let us know in the comments down below.
Q: The rear-facing camera on my iPhone is foggy, but the front-facing camera is perfectly clear. What can I do to fix it?
A: It's fairly safe to rule out any software problem with your phone, especially since you said the front-facing camera is working properly. So, it has to be one of three causes: you either have a bad scratch or scratches on the lens of your camera or you have moisture inside your iPhone, or there is the possibility that your lens is just dirty.
Now, I am assuming that you have already tried to clean your camera lens, but even so, that's where I would start. Take a slightly damp cloth with a little bit of gentle soap on it, and rub the lens. Then, dry it off. After you're done with that, try taking a few pictures, and see if it's still not taking clear photos. If the pictures are still foggy, take the edge of your fingernail or a guitar pick, and gently scrape the lens. If any debris comes off, get that cloth back out and keep cleaning!
If that still doesn’t fix the problem, try feeling for ridges on the lens. If you find any, you have a scratched lens which is most likely your problem. Otherwise you probably have moisture in your iPhone. If moisture is the problem, there’s a simple fix you can try, although it’s a little bit unusual. Turn off your iPhone. Then, take a gallon size Ziplock baggie, and fill it with about a pound of rice. Now, take your iPhone and bury it in the bag of rice, and seal the bag. Leave it in there for a couple of days. Believe it or not, that should draw most of the moisture out of your phone. Now, take out your iPhone, turn it back on, and try to take a picture. With any luck, it will have cleared up.
If that doesn't work, it's time to take your iPhone to the Apple Store. They might not be able to do anything about it, because you may have violated your warranty, for instance if you have gotten your iPhone wet, but they'll be able to tell you what they can do, and they …
Q: There was a break in at my neighbor's house last night. If I hadn't seen the cops pull up as I was leaving for work, I wouldn't even had known about it. It made me realize just how few of my neighbors I actually know. Is there was a website or some other way I can get to know my neighbors that doesn't require going door to door and meeting my neighbors in person?
A: It is ironic that with Facebook and Twitter we can know what a random acquaintance from high school had for lunch, but we still might not know the name of three of our neighbors. There is a new social network called Nextdoor that is trying to fix that. Nextdoor is a private social network that only connects you to people who live in your neighborhood. To join, you have to prove where you live. To verify where you live, you can provide a credit or debit card to verify your street address, choose to have Nextdoor sent a postcard in the mail with a security code, or in some areas you can have Nextdoor call your landline telephone. Otherwise, you'll have to be verified by the Founding Member or a Lead Neighbor.
Once you've been verified, you can sign in to find out about all of the yard sales, missing puppies, and fun events in your neighborhood. In my neighborhood, folks are giving stuff away, having garage sales, posting information about church and theatre events, and talking about the car smash and grabs that happened last year. The cities of New York, San Diego, San Jose and Dallas have all adopted Nextdoor to improve communication with their residents. Now, you can even share and talk with folks in nearby neighborhoods, so you won't be limited to just your community. You can choose if you want your information and posts just shared with your neighborhood and/or with nearby neighborhoods. Also, like any self respecting social network, Nextdoor has an iPhone app, and is developing an Android app, so you can post and read others posts on the go.
To sign up for Nextdoor, download the …
Q: My son recently gave his mother an iPad as a birthday gift. He bought it earlier this year, but he decided he wanted an iPad mini instead. What's the best way to delete all of his data and accounts on the iPad, and get him moved over to the iPad Mini without losing all of his emails, contacts, music and apps?
A: It is really important to clear your iPad out before you give it to someone else. You don't want to hand out your personal information when you sell or give someone your iPad or iPhone. But, it's also good to do, even if the only reason is so that the other person has more room for their own stuff. So, here's what you do on your iPad to clear it out.
First, you want to back it up and sync it with his computer before you do anything to it. Backing it up saves his settings, Messages, photos in his Camera Roll, documents, saved games, and other data. Syncing his iPad saves all of his downloadable piurchased content such as movies, music, podcasts, and apps.
In general, you should sync and back up any iOS device, like an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch once a day, but if you only back it up once every couple of weeks, or even once a month, it's OK. I won't tell on you. Just keep in mind, you could lose anything that's on your iPad at any time since the last time you backed up and synced your iPad. So, the more often you back it up and sync it, the better.
Just plug his iPad into his computer, and you'll be able to back it up and sync it in iTunes. Once you're done with that you can take his iPad Mini and plug it into his computer, and restore it using the backup you just made of his old iPad. Just plug it in, and tap Restore iPad. If it asks you which backup to use, make sure to choose the most recent backup. Once iTunes is done restoring and syncing his content, he should have everything back and it should look just like his old iPad. Of course, it will look a little smaller since it is an iPad mini.
Now, the next step …
Q: I have an iPhone 4. I like the new iPhones, but I am not in the market for a new phone any time soon. I just bought my iPhone about 3 months ago. However, I really like iOS 7. Can I upgrade my iPhone 4 to iOS 7, should I upgrade it to iOS 7, and, of course, how do I upgrade it to iOS 7?
A: Every time Apple releases the latest version of iOS everyone rushes to download it. In fact, so many people were trying to download it on the 18th of September that when my wife tried to download it, it told her it would take 51 hours! However, just like Mom used to say, just because everyone else is doing something doesn't mean you should. The reviews have been saying that iOS 7 does not run well on the iPhone 4.
Technically, iOS 7 works on the iPhone 5S, 5C, 5, 4S and 4, but the older generation phones have lower and lower specs. In fact, Apple claims that every iPhone since the 4 can run up to twice as fast as the previous iPhone. So, an operating system designed to run on an iPhone 5S might not run perfectly on a phone that is three years older. It is likely because of that reason that the iPhone 4 does not get some of the latest and greatest features of iOS like Siri, camera filters, panoramic camera mode, and full screen Safari. Even with the missing features, according to Ars Technica, most applications take almost twice as long to launch in iOS 7 than they did in iOS 6.1.3.
Here's something that should also give you pause before you update to iOS 7: Once you update, there's no going back. Apple has made it so that once you upgrade to the latest version, you cannot downgrade to iOS 6.1.3 or earlier. It is somewhat possible to do with an iPhone 4, but you have to jailbreak your iPhone before you upgrade, and you have to have saved your SHSH blobs. No, I did not just make that up. Suffice it to say, if you think an SHSH blob sounds like a quiet monster from a B-rated movie, you probably don't want to mess with it.
However, if you still …
Q: Do you have a recommendation for a calendar app for my iPhone? I've kept my calendar as a list in my notes for years and have accidentally deleted it multiple times, which is all stupid, I know. I haven't found a calendar app yet that I like. I want to be able to integrate tasks I've given myself for the day and I'd like it to be easy to cut/paste from date to date. Suggestions?
A: Honestly, the built-in calendar app on the iPhone is pretty good, at least since iOS 7 came out. (Side note, if you have an iPhone 4S or higher and you haven't updated yet, you should update to iOS 7. It's great. However, if you have an iPhone 4, you should read my article before you update.) There are a few good alternatives like Cozi and Calendars by Readdle, Week Cal and Fantastical, but I honestly don't think you want a calendar app. I think you want a good task manager or to-do list app.
Maybe I am too much of a stickler for the Getting Things Done method, but you should only use a calendar for events that are set in time, not for tasks. In other words, the meeting you have scheduled for Tuesday at noon goes on the calendar, but the presentation that you have to get prepared for the meeting goes on your task list. You can set deadlines for your tasks, but you shouldn't put them on your calendar.
The built in app Reminders in iOS is actually a pretty decent basic task app, and you can even use Siri to set reminders for you. Clear is another simple to do list app that many people swear by. However, if you're looking for something a little more comprehensive, Toodledo is a great app that will let you organize your tasks by context and by location. You can also create sub-tasks, and even assign tasks to other people.
One last note. If you really just prefer keeping a text list of tasks, you may be able to restore those lost notes that you have accidently deleted. If you have a Gmail account or a …
Q: I have two old computers that I would like to donate to a school or organization. How can I erase any personal information on the hard drive before I donate them? Is there an inexpensive way to do this?
A: We've talked about this once before, but it never hurts to repeat. You have the right idea. You definitely want to wipe your computer before you give it away or sell it. If it’s a Windows PC you’re getting rid of, use a program like Eraser or CCleaner, or if it's a Mac, there’s a program called Permanent Eraser. All of these programs will completely eradicate any data, and they are free.
However, one of our listeners pointed out that these programs will not wipe the entire hard drive clean unless you wipe the operating system. This is true. To wipe the entire hard drive clean, you need to either boot it from the USB or CD/DVD drive or remove the hard drive and use a USB adapter to attach it as an external hard drive to another computer.
Most computers these days come with a recovery partition. Depending on who made your computer, you will press a button like F11 during the boot up process to access the recovery procedure. A prompt will tell you what button to push when you boot the computer. If you can create a bootable DVD or CD, there will be an option in the recovery menu. You'll have to look for the option in the menu or check the manufacturer's website for more information.
If you don't have a recovery partition, you should have received a bootable recovery disc. If you don't have a recovery partition and/or you can't find your recovery disc, you'll have to get one or create one. Check the manufacturer's website. If they offer one to download or send you for free or cost, you'll be able to order it there.
Another option is to take the hard drive out of your computers, and plug them into an external hard drive adapter. Then, plug the hard drive into another computer and run Eraser or CCleaner Also, If you simply …