Google+ Is Getting Better

When I first started using Google+ it was largely because I really need to be on various social media platforms to reach whoever I can and also so I know what they’re like when others ask.

At first I thought Google+ was just a somewhat less useful Facebook imitator. That is starting to change. The new navigation helps, I think, though many will be sorry to see change. Integration is getting easier. I think the main problem remaining is that Google continues to try to lock people into their empire of products. I will not be changing to Blogger, not now, not ever. I hope that the API will allow good integration with other services.

In the meantime, I am contacting more people through Google+, though there is still a large overlap between my Facebook friends and those in my Google+ circles. It will be interesting to watch developments.

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Security and Perfomance Tip: Installing Software

I cannot think of anything that will spare computer users more annoyance and hardship than being careful of what they install on their computers. I’ve cleaned up several machines recently, and in every case there were multiple toolbars, numerous search providers, and a number of utilities. In each case the users could not tell me whether they used the software or not. In fact, they were unaware that it was on their computers.

But none of these items was actually malware. They don’t install themselves. They don’t do anything dangerous to your computer. By themselves, that is.

Any time you have more than one toolbar on your browser, however, you’re asking for trouble. The more programs are monitoring your browsing and providing you with suggestions, the slower things get. Many utilities must be started when your computer is started, and this makes your computer take longer to get going.

The main source of these utilities is the add on installations offered by some popular, and often necessary, programs. Frequently updates to Adobe Flash Player will offer to install a toolbar or the Chrome browser. Now the Chrome browser is a great thing. I have no problem with it. But you don’t need to install it unless you’re going to use it. At least it doesn’t slow anything down. But that toolbar you install because it’s pre-checked to “also install” along with that utility–it’s going to slow your browsing down.

Two points:

1. Always read each window of data when installing software. You’ve already given the installation program permission to install things. You need to make sure to uncheck anything you didn’t plan to install.

2. Don’t install anything that is an add-on or any piece of free software unless you know you want it and are going to use it. If you’re unsure, search the web for reviews and other information. Try to find reviews from well-known sources. If you’re one of my customers in the Pensacola area, pick up the phone and ask me. I don’t charge for such short phone calls for established customers.


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The Humor of Customer Support – Seriously!

TechRepublic has been running some of the humor of customer support, most of which has to do with clueless users and how funny some of their responses are. I am acquainted with this kind of humor and occasionally pass some of it on myself. I also know some stories of really dumb tech support guys, such as one to whom I provided the part number (his company’s part number) and the precise problem with that part at the beginning of the conversation. Three hours later, he finished his diagnosis and agreed to send a technician out—to replace the part I’d specified at the beginning of the conversation. Yes, I could have been wrong, but I provided the evidence as well.

So it doesn’t all go one way. In fact, I’ve found that the vast majority of problems in providing telephone support involve different vocabulary and a different way of looking at the situation. One very common source of confusion is the meaning of “CPU.” To me, that’s a chip on the motherboard that does the processing, i.e. central processing unit. To most of my clients, it’s the whole tower.

But it can get much worse than that. For example, one customer called me and when I asked what the problem was, he told me that he couldn’t get on the internet. So I started to ask him questions related to the browser, cables, lights, and so forth. The problem was that the computer wouldn’t turn on.

Well, that was the problem as I saw it. For him, the primary use for the computer was to get on the internet, and his problem was that he couldn’t do that. We very quickly solved our communication problem, because he was a smart guy and I like to think I’m pretty swift myself.

Now that one could be called a stupid user story. The average support tech would think that was a pretty silly way to look at it. But it could equally well be a stupid support tech story. I, the support tech failed to bridge the gap to my client’s situation. If one is trying to provide support and getting money for doing so, one needs to actually listen to and comprehend what the client is saying.

We don’t think of it as translation when we’re dealing with the same language. We were both speaking English, weren’t we? Well, not precisely. Besides dialects, we have specialized vocabulary in different fields and we also have our own way of looking at problems. I’ve learned a great deal from helping my wife do things with her computer.

Jody is a very intelligent woman and she is also systematic. It’s difficult to help someone who actually can’t follow directions, but she can. (Note that I don’t mean someone who misunderstands directions; I mean someone who doesn’t follow them.) When I was helping her yesterday in working with an image in GIMP, involving some work with layers, it quickly became clear.

To me, each of these processes is a series of steps. To her, they are combined goals. At the same time (almost perversely) to me some of those steps are so automatic that I don’t really think about them, and might forget to mention them. I often have to go back and add a step that I’d forgotten to mention. One thing that would catch me regularly was stating the location of a particular command. I have clearly in mind which GIMP commands are done from the menu and which from the toolbars. This is complicated by the fact that many might be done either way, but I have deeply ingrained habits as to which way I do them. Then I forget to actually state these things.

The only solution I know to these things is to learn how to listen and how to see what the other person wants to accomplish and how they view their work and their computer. In general, you’ll find that they are quite skilled in their area, and that the only thing that needs to be bridged is that communication gap.

That leaves those people who really are stupid, or the small number who will lie to you about what they’ve done or not done, and I don’t know what to do about them, but they are actually mercifully small in number.


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Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit

Português: Ícone do Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware

Português: Ícone do Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recommend Malwarebytes Anti-Malware regularly. I like to call it the “biggest broom” for sweeping out a computer that has been infected.

I want to alert you to a new tool from the same company, Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit (HT: TechRepublic). It’s still in Beta, but is quite well along in that testing. Be sure to read both of the linked articles and also the readme.rtf file (mentioned in those documents).

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Be Careful with Facebook Page Identities

I haven’t posted here much lately, but many more businesses are using Facebook pages, including some of the authors for my other company, Energion Publications.

One problem with Facebook pages is that you can change your identity. You can post on your page as the page, which means using your business (or public figure) identity. You can also post on the page as yourself (as an individual). This is particularly important when a page has multiple administrators. When you’re administering the page, you’re speaking for the company or organization that sponsors it.

Facebook has tried to make this easier using the “Voice” feature, which shows you which voice you’re using at the moment. The problem now is to pay attention to the information.

There’s an excellent article on SmallBiz Technology, Be Careful What You Click – It May Impact Your Online Reputation. Read it for more information on handling your page and your reputation.

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Do You Know How the Internet Works?

… and does it matter?

Most people probably don’t. Claire Evans on ScienceBlogs gives an overview with a look at how most of us relate to technology.

I often wonder whether technology can continue to progress at its current pace if less and less of us understand it. But perhaps it only requires a few … I don’t know!

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Empty RSS Feed on WordPress

English: This icon, known as the "feed ic...

Image via Wikipedia

This is probably an exceptionally rare cause for this problem, and once spotted, it’s incredibly obvious, but since it took me about a half an hour to find it, I thought I’d post a note. It might just save someone some time.

I found that suddenly I had no content in the RSS feed for one of my WordPress based sites. The feed had been working but suddenly stopped. I searched for various causes of this problem and even uploaded my WordPress files (other than wp-content).

It turned out to be incredibly simple. I’d created a directory “feeds” which, of course, overrode whatever WordPress wanted to provide using that permalink.

I would imagine that I intended the “feeds” directory for one of the other sites on the same account, but the why is less important than the solution – delete the offending directory!


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TweetDeck for Ubuntu

I’ve been missing TweetDeck on my main office system, which uses Ubuntu Linux, ever since Twitter bought it and eliminated Adobe Air. I was suspicious of the stability of Air, but I liked TweetDeck, and it worked.

I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t think of the solution myself, but rather found it here–TweetDeck for Windows installs just fine under Wine. Now I’m happy again and you’ll probably see more Tweets from me in the days ahead!


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Internet Security – A View from North of the Border

Cory Doctorow is a very well known science fiction writer, journalist, and a commentator on technology and social issues. He is interviewed in about the first 15 minutes of the Canadian (CBC) program Spark 170. I think what he’s saying is both prescient and very important.

It would be worthwhile for American readers to listen to the second interview as well, which gives a bit of a view of SOPA/PIPA from outside this country.



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Twitter Logon Problem – Continuous Over Capacity

For several days I had a problem logging into my Twitter account. I wondered at first whether I had been banned for some reason, but I couldn’t think of any reason for that. Then I checked that I could see my profile when not logged in, so all was well there.

Unfortunately, as soon as I logged in, I I went straight back to the fail whale.

To make a long story short, this behavior continued until I logged in using Tweetdeck. After that, I could log in with my browser again. I have no idea why this should be, and no way to duplicate the problem, but just in case it might work for someone else, I thought I’d document it.

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