September 27, 2017

Google Keep is all I need for quick notes and photos

I use a Windows PC and an Android phone. Obviously, the first thing I did was set up my calendar and email.  After that, Keep was an obvious choice for a note-taking tool because it's timple to use and synchronized to my Google account and available on any device using the Keep app or   (To all you Evernote fans, I really just need a simple tool like Keep.) 

First, you choose how you want to create the note: type, type a list, draw, dictate, or take a photo.

1. Note
Tap or swipe your text, then tap the back arrow (or back key) to save the note. To differentiate notes, I like to colour them using the palette icon: important notes are yellow, lists green, phone numbers blue, unimportant notes gray. This helps if you have lots of notes! It's also easy to add a label - create your own labels of course.  I use: health, map, shop, todo, travel. Tap the hamburger icon ☰ and select todo to see all the notes (including archives) about things you forgot to do!  I actually type most "notes" on my PC but try the Swiftkey or Kii keyboard app on your phone to swipe rather than tap - gesture typing is faster once you get used to it.

2. List
Need a grocery list?  Easy. Type it at home on your PC and check off items on your phone as you buy them.

3. Draw
Want to 'write' your note instead of typing? Easy. Or draw a diagram - or erase parts of it.

4. Camera
Need to take a quick photo of something in a store? Easy. I take most photo notes on my phone with a price or comment. I might give it a tag "shop" or archive it if it's just for reference, rather than cluttering up my list of notes.

5. Voice
Last, but not least, you can dictate your note.  Very easy!  Well, it's easy on Android anyway, since you've probably already customized your voice dictation.

That's it. Make your life simpler with great tools.

May 31, 2017

Amazon has it figured out

I've been buying online for many years and I wish I had written a how-to book on e-commerce mistakes to avoid. That ship has sailed.  Amazon is a case study in how to do it right. Proof?  I find myself comparing sources and often find myself buying from (I live in Canada, which requires extra care online).  Here's a few reasons why Amazon gets my business so often. 

First, they have grown so much, they have a separate website for Canada, which means you don't have to convert prices. (Neer buy from stores that do not even mention which $ they use.)

2.  Amazon almost always has the item I am looking for - even items that have been disappeared from brick & mortar stores.  Best of all, they have lots of choice - even used items (I once bought a used book for $.01.) They list the item with the lowest price and shipping, with links to other items, which saves a lot of time. 

3.  They have the shipping problem figured out. One of my first online purchases was 4 stainless steel wine glasses. I contacted the only Canadian business that sold them using their web form, but they didn't even answer!  I  ordered from a U.S. website. By the time the box arrived at the door with unexpected customs fees, the delivery cost more than the glasses!  Fortunately things have improved since then. Amazon will indicate right at the top if they cannot ship to your address (if you are logged in). The shipping cost is often shown under the price, and sometimes the city it is shipped from.  Too many e-stores still make you create an account and proceed to payment before you can find out the shipping cost - what a waste of time. Last time I bothered to do that, the shipping for a very small item was $42 - Amazon charged $5 for the same thing.

4.  Customer reviews are invaluable - if you can filter out the obvious paid comments.  Just read the 1-star comments first. To go along with reviews, check the list of items customers "also viewed" or bought for useful accessories. Adding them now, rather than later, can pop your total over "free shipping" minimums - which are lower than most other e-stores. And many items offer free shipping. Small items usually arrive by postal mail.

👉I have one beef with - it's often impossible to know if the item will be shipped from Canada or another country. If the business does not want you to know where it is located, too bad. Although, if shipping is going to take 4 weeks, you can pretty well guess it's coming from China. Since there is no duty added to the cost, I assume it's a regulation loophole.

[I do not work for Amazon and am not being paid to write this. -Pat]

January 06, 2017

Removing links from Comments in Blogger

I finally got fed up with getting comments to my blog posts that contained links to websites.  I don't notice them when the "moderation" notice arrives in my mail but there they are once the comment is published.  These people manage to create a link in their comment on a normal word like "Thanks", Links in comments are never useful in my opinion.

The comment is made just to increase their website's ranking in Google Search. Blogger (and most other blog services) add rel="nofollow" to all links in comments, so search services won't index the link anyway. 

Blogger gives only the option of deleting a comment, not editing it. I found this page explaining how to remove links from blogger comments: I do not promise these techniques will work in the future.

1. If you are comfortable editing the template, just add this code to the style tag: .comment-content a {display:none;} 
2. If you use an old template that formats comments using an id named comments, use this code instead: #comments dl dd p a {display: none;}

3. To remove the link but display the text, add this code to the template right below the body tag:
<!--Remove Comment Links -->
</script> - please add a setting to prevent links in comments!

April 3, 2017: 
Today I had a request to remove a "link" to their business in a comment.  Apparently the solutions above no longer worked.  It took some searching but when I went to "edit" the post, on the right side I noticed was "Options". Under "Reader comments" I selected "Don't allow, hide existing". This removed the entire comment. I didn't touch "Backlinks" as I didn't want to break my own links in the post.

January 04, 2017

GPS Navigation Offline & Free

Most Android devices have Google Maps built in. I was amazed to discover you can download and store maps for a city or even larger region, and use them for turn-by-turn voice navigation when you are offline. (You should store your maps on an external SD card, as the files can quickly eat up your storage.)

Offline navigation is useful if you have poor reception on your mobile - or don't have a data plan at all!  Before you head out on the road, toggle to “Wi-fi only” to prevent connecting to online maps and use the maps stored on your phone instead. Your phone will function as it normally does.

* The first time I tested Google Maps offline, it wouldn't let me enter an address that was a house number on a highway number. Maybe there's some secret trick to make it work. So I just found the highway on the map, tapped about where I thought the address was, and proceeded with turn-by-turn voice navigation. Close enough - and what do you want for free?! About 8 years ago, an offline GPS navigation app cost me $80.

Google Maps Blog:

July 16, 2016

Windows 10 upgrade on my HP laptop

Well I finally upgraded to Windows 10.  Although I am already familiar with it's oddities on another pc, I am finding all sorts of problems.  System settings are all over the place, with old windows from Windows 7 to new ones designed for a touch screen. Sometime they even link to each other, sometimes not.  So here is my current list - I'll probably create a help page for the PDQ Library after I collect more.

Windows 10 Upgrade Tips
    1.  Customizing the date-time display in Windows 10
    2.  Microphone not compatible with Windows 10
    3.  Getting the Start Menu Back

1.  Customizing the date-time display in Windows 10

I prefer date-time stamps on files in Windows Explorer to look like this:
    16-07-16 3:06 pm

Click the Sth3art Menu (wWindows key), then Settings gear icon, then choose Time Date.
Time & Language window opens with Date & time already selected.
Click Change time and date formats
    Under Short date select "yy-MM-dd".
    Click back arrow to return to Time & Language
Under "Related settings" click Additional date, time & regional settings
    Under Region, select Change date, time or number formats
    In the Region window, the Formats tab is already selected.
    Under Short time select "h:mm tt" then click Apply at the bottom.
    Click on the Additional settings button at the bottom.
    In the Customize Format window, select the Time tab.
        Highlight the AM dropdown and type am then the TAB key.
        PM is now highlighted, so type pm then the TAB key.
        Click OK on all open windows and close them.

2.  Microphone not working in Windows 10

Click the Start Menu and the X key at same time to open the Control Panel. Select Sounds from the list.

On the Recording tab, right-click on Integrated Microphone Array (on my PC) and then click Enable - you should now see activity in the volume bar if the mic picks up any sound.

Next click the Start Menu then Settings then choose Time & Language.

From left of windows select Speech then under Microphone click Get Started to start the mic calibration.  You can now record sounds and use Cortana if you wish.

3.  Getting the Start Menu Back

If you've used Windows 7 for years, your Start Menu was probably organized into many folders and sub-folders.

If you upgraded from Windows 7 system and chose to "keep your existing programs and data", your old Start Menu is still there.  The "new" Start Menu still has your old folders and all the shortcuts in them -- but mashes them into the All apps list ALPHABETICALLY.  What a mess! To get your old Start Menu back in a form you can actually use, just add it to the Taskbar at the bottom of your screen as a "new toolbar".

First check out all the Start Menu locations to see which one you want to use.  Note: Replace XXX with your user name before using it. Copy each path in turn by typing Ctrl+C and paste it by typing Ctrl+V to open the path in Windows Explorer. Use Open in the File menu, or just paste into the address bar at the top.

"C:\Users\XXX\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu"
"C:\Users\Default\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu"
"C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu"

Copy the path of the folder you want to use (the quotes are required since the path has a space in it). To use the Programs subfolder, add "\Programs" to the path.

"C:\Users\XXX\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs"

Right-click on the Taskbar at the bottom of the screen and select Toolbars, then select New Toolbar...  In the window that opens, paste (Ctrl+V) into the Folder box.  The name Programs (or Start Menu) will appear in the Taskbar immediately left of the System and Notification icons.  When you click on the double chevrons to the right of the name, your menu of folders and programs will appear above it. Hover or select a folder to see its subfolders through the tree structure you so carefully created.