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Tech Tips

PC or Apple? That is the Question...



When going to buy a new computer, people often ask whether they should buy a PC or an Apple (Mac) product. The answer is, unless you need to run a specific program that works on only one type of operating system, the decision between a Mac or a Windows computer comes down to personal preferences and how much money you wish to spend. Windows-based PCs tend to be less expensive.

Additionally, the Mac may require some getting used to after years of Windows. The same goes for Mac users being used to the Mac operating system and techniques then switching to a PC. The latest version of Microsoft’s Windows operating system, Windows 8, is noticeably different from previous versions. You may want to go to a store that sells both types of computers and try each one. Apple’s Mac computers cost a little more to start, but have their devoted followers for their elegant software and ease of use. Things are shifting, with software for PCs catching up to that for the Mac, but Macs are still generally less of a target for malicious software. Using special software, a Mac computer can also run a version of Windows if you can't decide which to choose or decide you want both.

Since both systems can easily handle standard tasks like e-mail, Web browsing, word processing and displaying photo, audio and video files, the type of machine that can run the software you like best may be a deciding factor.

20 Useful Microsoft Windows 8.1 Tips and Tricks


With the upgrade from Windows 8 to 8.1, Microsoft has made several changes mainly to improve on certain aspects that Windows 8 has received criticism for. For starters, there’s the return of the good old Start button, ability to create a lock screen slideshow, and even support for 3D printing! Click this link to take a look at this great list of tips and tricks to make Windows 8.1 work even better for you.

Sweeping Away a Search History (NYT)


With personal data privacy being a huge concern for most of us, it pays to browse the Internet wisely. This NY Times piece gives some sound advice for protecting your online presence. Follow this link to the NY Times piece called, Sweeping Away a Search History

How to Opt Out of Google’s Plan to Use Your Name and Comments in Ads


When Google announced last week that it would change its terms of service to allow it to show people’s social networking activity — like names, photos, ratings, reviews and comments — in ads across more than two million Web sites, it strongly emphasized that users could easily opt out.

Yet for some Google users, the opt-out process was not as easy as Google made it sound.

“Unfortunately, Google has joined Facebook in making it as confusing as possible for people to ‘opt out’ or control how their personal info is used,” Anna Varela, 47, a Web strategist at Georgia State University, wrote in an e-mail that echoed messages I received from other readers. She visited Google’s page for opting out, she wrote, but “found myself unsure if I should tick the opt-out box because it reads like you’re actually opting in.”

The opt-out box, found at the Google Plus settings page for shared endorsements, does use the language of opting in: “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads.”

To clear things up: People who do not want their profile information and comments used in ads must uncheck the box next to that phrase. The box is, by default, checked for Google Plus users.

Full NY Times Bits Blog entry

Five Tips for Getting Started With Windows 8.1


The website "All Things Digital" has a helpful posting about using the new Microsoft Windows 8.1 operating system. Find it at Five Tips for Getting Started With Windows 8.1. You'll learn some great ways to familiarize yourself with this new interface.

Home Printing Disaster? Try Print @ Library!


Printer frustrationNow you can print your documents on our printer.  If you can go online, you can print your documents to a printer in the Library's Technology Center.  Whether you have run out of ink or toner, had a paper jam you just can't clear or simply want the clarity of a color laser printout, we can help. 

From the Library’s Home or Adult Page click on "For Your Convenience" and then choose the "Print @ Library" link.  Follow the directions to send your document to our printer, and then come in to release your print job and pick up your printouts.  You must come to pick up your printouts at least 15 minutes before closing.  If you happen to be printing a large number of pages (over 30), you will want to come earlier in order to allow time for the job to print and be verified. 

How do I print from a mobile device like an iPad?
To print an email message or attachment, simply forward or send your email to


You will be sent a release code for the email message and each attachment. Use these release codes to retrieve your documents. Email forwarding is ideal for online email portals such as Yahoo!, Hotmail or Google Mail.

Printouts are $.25 per page, black and white or color.  Speak with one of our helpful Technology Center staff members for more information.

Free eAudiobook and eBook Downloads


Free eAudiobook and eBook downloadseAudiobooks are downloadable titles that you can play on your home computer or transfer to your compatible portable device. eBooks are books you can read on your device. These free download services are provided to patrons by the Sachem Public Library. To take books on the go, or simply read or listen from the comfort of your own home, visit the library's downloads page.

All you need is your valid Sachem Public Library card and you are set to start downloading books and magazines! Take a look, it's sure to become one of your favorite web destinations.

Document and Image Scanning in the Technology Center


Need to email a document that you only have on paper? Do you have a printed photo that you need to post on a website? Our Technology Center can help...
One of the services we provide to our users in the Technology Center is image scanning. If you have an old photo you would like to save, edit, print or share, our helpful Technology Center staff will scan documents onto your storage device for only $.50 per scan. Paper documents can be scanned to attach to emailed resumés or store for future use. Bring your USB flash drive to store the image or buy a reasonably priced flash drive in the Technology Center. We cannot scan to a floppy diskette, nor do our library computers have floppy disk drives. Speak with one of our helpful Technology Center staff members to find out how.

Avoiding Mobile Malware


Android has become the dominant mobile operating system around the world, and like Windows before it, malware writers typically target the most commonly used platform in hopes of snaring the most victims. Not all phones can run the latest, more secure versions of the Android system, which can make them more vulnerable to malicious apps. Third-party app sites help spread malicious software as well.

Common sense and a discerning eye can help keep your device safe. If you want to avoid malicious apps, get new software from trusted sources like the Google Play store or Amazon’s Android app store — and avoid installing any apps from random third-party sites.

Although it does not make developers go through a formal approval process when submitting new apps, Google does automatically scan apps that are added to its Google Play store for malware. The company has also withdrawn bad apps that have wormed their way into the store.

Sticking with apps from well-known developers or apps that have been professionally reviewed can help keep you away from the junk and scam programs that may have made it into the store. (Badly written or spammy apps are a universal problem and Apple’s App Store has plenty of those, too.)

Even when shopping in the Google Play store, you should thoroughly check out an app before installing it. Be wary of apps that seem to have a lot of downloads and high ratings — but a minimal amount of written reviews — since a scammer may be trying to get attention. You can also check the app’s Permissions tab on the Google Play page to see what parts of your Android phone or tablet it wants to use, and then avoid apps that look too invasive.

If you like to visit third-party app sites, you may want to consider installing mobile security software from a reliable company. Some apps, like Lookout or F-Secure, also help track lost phones and remotely wipe data — because a missing or stolen device may be more of a security problem than malware for many people anyway.

From, "Avoiding Mobile Malware" by J.D. Biersdorfer, New York Times Gadgetwise Blog, July 8, 2013 - http://nyti.ms/1a6tBMr

Internet Browser Toolbars


I'll warn you ahead of time, this is a long posting that is well-worth the time it takes to read.

I normally do six to eight Tech30, thirty minute technical/computer assistance, sessions each week. People bring in their laptop computers for my help in any number of different issues they face. Among the things that come up most often are strange pop-ups and weird search results. These problems are often the result of having browser toolbars installed on the computer. I've seen a single laptop with six different toolbars running.

Now I wish I could say otherwise, but alas there are some unscrupluous entities out there in Internetland. They exist for the sole purpose of making money off you without your knowledge. For that reason you might not even realize some of these toolbars were installed, because sometimes they come bundled with apps that you might actually want.

Not the worst of the bunch, but a prime example of this is Oracle's Java updates. Java is a programming language app that runs on your computer so other programs can run in the browser and on your machine. Billions of devices across the globe run Java. Why is that bad? It's not, but Oracle sells space in its Java update install package to other companies that provide browser toolbars. As of my last Java update at home the installation had pre-checked the "Install the Ask Toolbar and make Ask my default search provider" checkbox. I quickly unchecked that box before proceeding to install the update.

I don't personally use Ask as a search provider at home. I have my preferences and use them fairly exclusively. I don't want to change that, but if I did I would change it myself to whatever I wanted it to be. The point is, be careful with whatever you install on your computer. If you're not sure what it is or what it does, use your favorite search provider to research the app.

Some toolbars are there simply to help you use the toolbar provider's services. Yahoo's toolbar is in this category. It is meant to help you use the Yahoo services and if it does that well you end up using Yahoo more often. That helps Yahoo's bottom line.

Some toolbars change the selected search providers in your Internet browsers to their own, biased searches. What can that do? It can put results that benefit that company and it's affiliates above all the normal search results. Some change your browser home page to its own website. They can also misdirect or redirect links you click to the toolbar's preferred links. Additionally, the toolbar can cause random pop-ups, track and report all your Internet browsing to the toolbar owners. This is all done without your consent or knowledge, although they will claim it's all spelled out in the "Terms of Service" agreement that you agreed to when you installed their app. It's hard to agree to terms of service for an app you didn't realize was being installed in the first place, isn't it?

When all is said and done, be suspicious of everything you install on your computer. Toolbars can be your helpful friend, or your cunning nemesis. Remember that everything you install on your computer affects its speed and operation. The fewer things you install, the more efficiently your computer will run.

A Beginner's Guide to Windows 8


Windows 8 is a real change of pace from previous Windows operating systems. With many features best-suited to a touch screen device, new users are often at a loss of how to proceed. This Beginner's Guide will help you get started and learn the ins and outs of Windows 8.

Follow this link to go to SimpliGuide's Beginner's Guide to Windows 8

Media Conversion Services


Media Conversion FAQs
(Frequently Asked Questions)

Do you have old VHS tapes or audiocassettes that you want to convert to a newer format? The library has acquired two new machines for just that purpose. Library patrons can make appointments to learn how to use these machines to convert VHS tapes to DVD and audiocassettes to CD. Call the library at 588-5024 x 232 to make an appointment. Keep those memories alive for years to come.

Q. How much does it cost to use these conversion services?
A. The only fee involved is the cost of the blank media you will need. There is no service fee or hourly rate.

Q. What kinds of media can the library's machines convert and to what format?
A. We have acquired two different conversion machines, one to convert VHS tapes to DVDs and another to convert either audiocassettes or vinyl records to CD.

Q. I don't know anything about the machines or how they work, is there someone who can help me?
A. You will be instructed on the use of each machine the first time you use it. Instructions will be laminated and available for referral. If you have any problems using the equipment, a staff member will come to assist you.

Q. I have several VHS tapes, how many can I do in one session?
A. It depends on how long each tape is. Sessions are 2 hours (up to 3 hours if nobody is waiting to use the machnine) and the conversion process requires playing the videocassette at regular speed. If you have 3 tapes that are each 1/2 hour, you will be able to transfer all three. There is a short amount of additional time required for the finalization of the new DVD so it will play on other machines.

Q. If I have 3 short videocassettes can I put them all on one DVD?
A. A DVD-R will accept approximately 2 hours of video. If the total time of the short videos is less than 2 hours, you should have no problem putting them all on one DVD.

Q. I have a small format videocassette from a video camera, will your machine copy those too?
A. The system is only designed to handle standard VHS tapes, but you may be able to successfully convert a small format videocassette if you have the carrier that allows you to play the small cassette in a regular VCR. Unfortunately, some people have encountered problems with those carriers.

Q. Do I have to bring in my own blank CDs or DVDs?
A. While we do provide blank media at our cost, you're welcome to bring in your own blank media. The audio conversion machine takes CD-Rs. The video conversion machine takes DVD-R or DVD+R media. Although the video machine will also take DVD-RW discs, we do not recommend their use.

Q. How do I know if I need CDs or DVDs?
A. If you are converting audio materials, you need CDs, for videos, DVDs.

Q. I have a lot of videos to convert, can I make several back-to-back appointments?
A. No, due to the expected high demand for these services, at this time we permit only two 2 hour scheduled sessions per week. This may change to allow for more or less as we determine the level of usage the machines get each week. We do limit the amount of time used to 3 hours per day.

Q. I have several old vinyl records, will your conversion machine take out any noises that dust or scratches might produce as the records play?
A. The turntable unit of the audio converter is a standard audio turntable using a regular stylus (needle). Any hiss, pops or skips that occur during the playing of the records will be recorded onto the CDs you create. For best results the records should be dust free and unscratched.

Q. I have a collection of Disney videocassettes I would like to convert to DVD, is there anything special I should know?
A. As with many commercially recorded videocassettes, Disney videotapes may have a built-in copy protection protocol and the converter will almost definitely not allow a DVD to be created from those tapes. We cannot and will not assist in attempting to bypass their copy protections or otherwise breaking copyright.

Q. I have some Super8 movies from my parents, can I convert them at the library?
A. We have no equipment capable of converting any film type media. That means no 8mm, Super8, 16mm movies or photographic slides or negatives.

Q. Is the service available whenever the library is open?
A. The machines are available during all of the library's open hours, but the last 2 hour appointment each day will be no later than 2 hours before the library closes. However, in any case it is the user's responsibility to finish their current conversion before the library closes each day. We are currently unable to make assisted appointments on Sundays due to staffing restrictions.

Q. Can I pay somebody to do the conversions for me?
A. Being a self-service operation, we cannot make accommodations for you paying to have conversions done for you. Several Long Island commercial companies do offer conversion services for a fee.

Back Ups in Windows 8


Q. Is the File History software in Windows 8 a full backup program for the whole computer, or do I need to buy additional backup software?

A. The File History utility included with Windows 8 does not fully back up all the files on the computer. It does automatically back up the files you probably care the most about, though, like photos, documents and other items in your Windows libraries, as well as your contacts, your browser favorites and SkyDrive files. With File History, you can get back previous versions of those files, including those that were accidentally deleted from the computer.

You can find File History in the Windows 8 control panel, or you can quickly search for it. To search the computer for the File History utility, press Windows + C on the keyboard or click the right corner of the screen to bring up the Windows 8 “Charms” menu; on a touch-screen computer, put your finger on the right edge of the screen and slide it toward the middle. Select the Search icon on the Charms bar, type in “File History” and choose Settings. Select “File History” when it appears in the list to open the control panel.

Like most backup programs, you need another drive to store the File History archive. You can use an external USB drive or a network location, and Microsoft has instructions for setting up either method on its site.

Although File History has largely supplanted the older built-in Windows backup program, you can still find it on the computer. In the bottom left corner of the File History control panel, click the link for “Windows 7 File Recovery” to open the old Windows backup utility. If you prefer less poking around inside Windows, you can always get a third-party backup program.

From the New York Times Gadgetwise blog. 3/1/2013

The 10 faces of computer malware


Although it is written for IT people, this fairly comprehensive article may give you some deeper insights into what malware is and what it can do to your computer.

Click here to read the article as a PDF document.

Tech30 - Tech help in 30 minutes or less


Is there a particular website that you just can't seem to figure out? Do you have a problem with your email or with using a Microsoft Office product like Word, Excel, Publisher or PowerPoint? If you have a specific computer-related question that has been troubling you, then you might benefit from a 30 minute, one-on-one tech session.

A Tech30 session is an individualized session with a member of our Electronic Services staff. These sessions are designed to address a specific technical issue you may have, not as a class on using a particular application. If you should need an introduction to any of the Microsoft Office applications, please visit the library's online program calendar to view our upcoming workshops.

We offer walk-in assistance on Mondays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and Fridays from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Please call 588-5024 x 232 to make sure a Tech30 staff member will be available.

Download, fill in and carry in or mail this form to the "Technology Center" at the library address.