Ad-Blocking – Pros and Cons

While it’s certainly true that ads on websites pay the bills associated with the website, they have also become a way for malware to get put on your computer.

Violet Blue wrote an article about this for Engadget titled, “You say advertising, I say block that malware.

The main point of the article is that major sites are sometimes incorporating malware through the advertising that they use. Not on purpose, of course, but just by the way the advertising is being done these days, it comes from a third party site. On a Forbes site, you had to turn off ad-blocking to see an article,  but when you did, it immediately sent you to a bogus phishing site.

If you want to be as safe as possible, ad-blockers should keep the advertising malware from showing up.

The ad blocker I use is a Chrome extension call Ublock Origin.

 

 

 

 

 

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Able2Extract PDF Converter

Almost monthly I get or find a PDF file that has some great information, but it’s not very useful since the information is tied up in the PDF format.

Sometimes I can copy and paste a PDF file, but a lot of times I can’t. Able2Extract PDF Converter version 10 is a way to not only convert files from PDFs to other formats, but also turn other formats into PDFs. It even allows you some basic editing of PDF documents. Here are the results of my tests.

  • They do give you a seven day free trial which will give you time to try it out for yourself.
  • While they want you to close down everything while it installs, I’m keeping my browser open so I can make notes.
  • I’m installing this on a Windows 10 machine and had no installation problems. It installs a icon on your desktop.
  • The license number is a 20 character number which has spaces in between, which makes it a pain to enter any license number – cut and paste would be nicer.
  • It gives you the option to immediately start the program which is what I did.

At this point you have two options – either Open a PDF file or Create a PDF.

Lets start with the Open option. In the case below I Opened a PDF book which I have written. You can then choose Edit – Select All Pages or Select Page Range and then choose the format you want it converted into. Excel, CSV, Word, PowerPoint, Publisher, OpenOffice, AutoCad and Image are all conversion options. It’s a fairly simple process.

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With this first document, I had trouble with the graphics displaying correctly. As you can see below, the graphics in the book all had a reddish tinge to them. The PDF on the right with the orange border, is what it should look like.

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When I converted the pages from a pdf to a Word docx file, the graphic printed correctly. I’m not sure what caused the graphics to display the reddish tinge.

One of the features I really like is that it’s easy to convert a PDF to a JPG. I find that more people are sending out PDF files which are not what I want for WordPress.com. I convert these PDFs to JPG which display easily in WordPress – that’s a nice feature for us bloggers.

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I tried this with another PDF and had the results above. When I tried to convert it to a .doc file it also didn’t convert correctly. This PDF did display correctly normally, so somehow A2E was having trouble convert this.

Another problem I had was in trying to convert a  .pub file into a PDF – it didn’t work. It has trouble with the .pub file and tried to install a Microsoft Office product. Publisher files are an older format, but it would be nice if they converted correctly.

Creating PDF Documents

Creating PDFs is a bit mis-named. What you are really doing is opening up a file that your have previously worked on and then converting it to a PDF file. It used to be that you need Adobe Acrobat to create PDF documents, but these days most programs have this capability. I can create PDFs in Microsoft Word 2010, Google Docs, Photoshop and my scanner even has those capabilities. The difference is that in A2E you have options for the documents you create. If you look at the graphic below it will show you some of those options. When I was writing books, I used Acrobat to create different PDF formats for different needs. The printer wanted one type of PDF with better resolution and I created smaller size PDFs for the books I wanted people to download. Similar options are available in A2E.

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Print Driver

A2E also adds a print driver so that you can print to PDF from any application. What I don’t appreciate is that A2E changed my default print driver to itself. Now I have to go back in and change it back to my normal printer. Not a big deal, but it may cause problems for some users.

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Pricing

$99.95 is the price for a single desktop/laptop installation. When you compare that to what Adobe Acrobat costs – $449 – it seems like a bargain. The program seems mainly aimed at corporate users. I’d like to see them offer a home version for less money.

Summary

For businesses, A2E offers many of the capabilities of Acrobat at less than a quarter of the cost. The problem is that it seems to have trouble with some PDFs. I would try it with your PDFs during the free trial and see if it works for you.

For personal use, it may not make sense as many program offer the capability to print to PDF or save as PDF. If you want more control such as when you might be authoring a book, it does give you more options which might be necessary.They also offer a free online version which will convert a PDF file to Word

Below is a video of the basic capabilities of Version 9. I asked the company about a Version 10 video and they replied,  “The options stayed the same, only PDF editing and some other minor changes are updated to new version.”

 

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Google Photos – Pros and Cons

Google Photos (GP) has an option to upload all your photos to their cloud account and they give you two options.

Option #1 is to upload them in their full resolution, but they count against your 15 gb free limit.

Option #2 is to upload them, but they downsize the picture and reduce the quality. The good deal is that there is no limit to the number of files you upload and everything is free.

This is also for video up to 1080p. If you have a resolution higher than this, then is will downsize it. I’m a bit concerned about moving large video files over my cellular connection.

Below is the original file which was 6000 x 4000. I uploaded this to Google Photos.

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I put the above photo into Google Photos and it did downsize the picture, but not by much. Here’s what it looks like after downloading from Google Photos.

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Features and Tips

  • After you set it up on your phone, any photos or video you take are sent directly to Google Photos.
  • The above application could be a problem if you are doing a long video. You might use lots of your data.
  • Collections are done by GP. It organizes groups of photos and makes a collection.
  • Computers – If you drag a number of photos into GP, you can create an Album.
  • You can’t seem to drag folders into GP.
  • The easiest way to back up all your pictures and videos from your computer is to use their Desktop app – https://photos.google.com/apps you can designate which folders to backup. I’ve also noticed that when you add a new picture to your computer, it will automatically be added to GP.See the picture below.

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Once you setup Google Photos download, you can look at it Settings by looking for the hidden icon in the lower right desktop screen. It will show you the screen below. Notice that it has a number of options to automatically backup pictures that are in a SD card or any sort of removable media.

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Another limitation I have noticed is that GP will not backup Photoshop /psd files. It will backup .png files, but you have to select that in the GP Settings Menu.

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I’m also noticing that a lot of my photos are not uploading. They don’t give a specific reason which is aggravating.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that GP on my phone is using 759 mb of data. I assume these are the thumbnails of all the pictures in my GP account. You can clear the data if you want. I’m going to wait and see how large this gets.

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Organization
One thing I don’t like about GP is that you lose all of the organization that you may have setup originally. While photos are put in date order, any other folders you may have setup gets lost. For that reason alone, I’m not going to rely on GP, but keep my own copies at home.

Deleting Photos on GP

Screenshot 2016-02-01 at 7.17.50 AM

If you look at the graphic above, it seems to indicate that if I delete a photo on GP, that it will also be deleted from other synced devices. I checked this on my phone and the pictures are not deleted from my phone after deletion from GP.

Here are more details on Google Photos from other sites.

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Phone Lost? Android Device Manager

If you have an Android phone/device, one of the easy ways to find it is to install Android Device Manager from the Google Play store, run it and then it gives you three options as seen below – Ring – Lock – Erase. You can also run ADM from a computer by logging into

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https://www.google.com/android/devicemanager

It will ask for your password – then just choose the phone you are looking for and it will find it.

The device that you are looking for, just has to have Location turned on in the Settings Menu.

Here are a couple of more links with more description from Google.

https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/6160491?hl=en

https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/3265955#location

Note – there’s another app you can install on your phone call Prey which can take a picture of the person who is using your phone.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.prey

 

 

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BBB Scam Tracker

One of the resolutions you might want to make for 2016 is – “Don’t Fall for a Scam.” The famous quote, “There’s a sucker born every minute, ” seems to be the motto of thousands of bad guys who want to take some of your hard-earned money.

I didn’t realize how pervasive the scams were until I went to a BBB website – Scam Tracker – which shows how many scams were reported in the last year – 13,012 in the U.S. and Canada. These are the only ones which are reported, so I’m sure the number is much higher. I get phishing emails and bogus awards and junk in my email every day so I’m sure the actual number would be in the millions if not billions.

One trick I use is to never answer phone calls that I don’t recognize on Caller ID. That way you can screen your calls and only answer and respond to honest callers. You may have a feature on your phone to block those calls or move them directly to voice mail.

The second tip is to NEVER click on email links. Even if it appears to be from a trusted friend. Many of those accounts may have been compromised. I frequently call or email friends and let them know that their email has been hacked.

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Marshmallow – Android 6 for Phones

Version 6 of Android named Marshmallow has a number of features which I will document on this page. Some are new and some are just reminders to myself. The design looks almost identical so it won’t be confusing when it’s installed.

  • App Data Backup
  • App Permissions Improved – if you go to Apps and then click on the Settings button you can see which apps are using what permissions.
  • Cellular Data – you can now not only see how much you have used, but setup a warning and a cap.
  • marshmallow-cellular-data
  • Do Not Disturb – 2 finger swipe from top and choose Do Not Disturb – has different options.
  • Fingerprint Support
  • Gallery – You can move pictures from your phone to Google Photos.
  • Google Now – Press and hold the Home button and Google will read the screen and make suggestions. It does want to learn even more information about you, so I have not enabled this yet.
  • Google Pay – is now supported if you have a supported phone.
  • Home Screen – press and hold  any part of the screen which is clear. You can now make changes.
  • Screenshot – Vol. Down and Power Button – note I have to remove my case for this to work. If you then go into the Notification Tray you can share or delete it the screen shot.
  • SD Cards
  • Swipe Two Fingers – brings down the Settings Menu.
  • System UI Tuner – press and hold Settings button. You can show battery percentage.
  • Uninstall – you can now do this straight from the screen it is on – you don’t have to go to the app list.
  • USB – when connecting the phone to a computer, the phone won’t be recognized as a usb device. You can charge but that is all. However, if you add yourself as a Developer, then under Developer options, choose Select USB Configuration – and then select MTP.
  • Vertical Scrolling on apps.

Problems

  • USB cable does not connect when plugging it into chromebook.

 

Below is a great video which shows most of the changes.

 

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Blue Yeti Microphone Review

Blue-Yeti

I was looking for a good all-purpose USB microphone and thought that the Blue Yeti USB microphone seemed like it might work well as it has some good reviews online.

At $100, it’s double the price of some other microphones, so that may be a consideration for some people, but for what you get, it seems like a bargain. It has four different modes – cardioid, stereo, omni-directional and bi-directional, so it should handle almost any situation.

The microphone and stand are large so they do take a fair amount of space. You can attach it to a microphone suspension boom if you take the Yeti off the stand it comes with.

It also includes a large usb cable with the instruction to plug it directly into the computer and not a usb hub.

I did an audio test and got good results when I was about 15 inches away from the microphone. I had the gain control in the middle. Below is what the audio looks like in Adobe Audition. When I looked at the areas when I wasn’t talking, even when the furnace was on, the noise level was a -54 which I don’t hear at normal levels, but is audible if you turn the speakers up. When the furnace was off the background noise was a -60, so a quiet environment does make a difference.

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In general, I am very happy with this microphone. It’s a bit large and not easy to take apart, but those are the only two negatives.

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