Business Processes

What are browser Add-Ins (Add-Ons), Extensions and Plug-Ins and why do I care?

It seems like every time you start to get on top of technology ‘lingo’, another term comes out. On top of that, depending on if you are a Google/Chromebook, Apple or Microsoft user, similar terms are given different names, so that you can’t tell that they’re really the same thing. Enter the world of web browser add-ins, aka add-ons, aka extensions, aka plug-ins.

There are four main browsers (you know, the program or window that you open to get to the web) – Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox. Most people have a favorite – whether it’s a favorite because they just accept the default browser on a new device, or because they specifically install a particular browser. Regardless of why you use one browser over another, you can probably improve the way your browser behaves by installing one (or more) tiny programs called add-ins (or add-ons or extensions or plug-ins). These little programs make a browser “smarter” and allow you to do more with the browser than you could before the add-in/add-on/extension/plug-in was installed.

For example, concerned about “them” knowing who you are and where you go on the web? Consider installing an extension that protects your privacy. Struggle with the ever-growing list of passwords? Install an add-on that manages your passwords. How about one that will pin a page to Pinterest for you instantly. Use Evernote? Install an add-on that will allow you to save a web page to Evernote with one click. Want to find coupon codes as you’re shopping (even on Amazon)? There’s an add-on for that. Do you want to more easily download videos you see online to your computer? Grab an add-on. The list goes on and on and on.

These add-ins (add-ons), extensions and plug-ins take your fuddy-duddy old browser and make it work for YOU, the way YOU want it to! What a concept!

Once installed, an add-in may add a new toolbar, or a new icon on the toolbar, or just change the behavior of your browser in some way or another. The behavior is usually described in a blurb before you actually install it.

Each browser has a different portfolio of these tiny programs available for use (though Internet Explorer probably has the fewest). They are updated all the time. If you’re trying to do something in a browser, check out the add-ins. Annoyed by a particular behavior of a browser (e.g. do you always get a message about cookies being installed on this site or that site)? Find an extension that blocks or changes that behavior.

Each of the main browsers has its own catalog:

List of addons for Mozilla

List of Chrome extensions

Internet Explorer Add-On Gallery

List of Safari Extensions

Here are directions to installing add-ins/extensions/plug-ins by browser:

Installing Internet Explorer Add-Ons

Installing Chrome Extensions

Installing Firefox Add-Ons

Installing Safari Extensions

Ransomware Viruses spreading quickly

Hi, All –

I know…I’ve been AWOL. It’s just been very busy. Not bad, just busy. Unfortunately, there’s a new threat to your computer and your data that is emerging (and growing rapidly) that compels me to actually ACT on writing a blog post, rather than just THINKING about it!

You may have heard the term ‘Ransomware’ on the news lately. This is serious business, and anyone, using any type of device can be vulnerable. Avoiding it isn’t as hard as you think, but you do need to PAY ATTENTION!

First, what is ‘Ransomware’. Ransom-ware is a kind of malware which prevents you from accessing the data you have stored on your computer. The malware ENCRYPTS (i.e. locks) ALL OF YOUR DOCUMENTS, EMAILS, PHOTOS, MUSIC – ANY data files you have on your computer, USB, External Hard Drive, and sometimes even your ENTIRE computer, programs and all (yes, this applies to servers, as well). Once it has infected the machine, it publishes a note of some sort forcing you to pay a ransom (thus, the ‘ransom-ware’ nomenclature) to get your data UNENCRYPTED (i.e. unlocked). (Wikipedia has a good description here).

How do you get infected? Typically, Ransom-ware operates by YOU clicking on an ATTACHMENT from someone – even potentially someone you know. The attachments are typically disguised (i.e. named) as invoices, shipping information, or some other innocuous name. These guys/gals (the “baddies”) are GOOD at what they do. They masquerade as people you know (friends, family, business colleagues). Once the malware is on your computer, it can scrape your email addresses (yes, even if you don’t save contacts to an address book), then pretend to be you and send the infection on before locking down your system, so you can’t get to YOUR data.

If you’re not expecting an invoice/shipping/whatever info from that person/business, do NOT open it. Call or email the person who sent it (using a clean, fresh email if you’re going to email) and ask them if they sent you an invoice or shipping documents or whatever. If they say ‘no’, DELETE, DELETE, DELETE!!!! Then, empty your trash can (i.e. deleted emails).

If you DO get infected, then you have two choices: One, pay the ransom (and they’re NOT cheap – we heard of one organization paying tens of thousands of dollars to get the key to unlock their data). Two, recover from a backup that was done PRIOR to you clicking on the email attachment. The backup should NOT be connected to your computer via a cable, or it, too, may have been encrypted. Contact your computer support person/organization to find the best backup system for you…one that won’t be susceptible to this type of attack.

Of course, your best protection against any type of attack is to use your head before opening ‘strange’ emails (even ‘strange’ emails from your friends) and having GOOD anti-virus/anti-malware software. You may not like paying for it, but it is critical in this day and age. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish! A good anti-virus/anti-malware software will warn you before opening…of course, you can ignore the warning, but…well, we go back to using your head and THINKING!!! If you do that, you should be safe.

Be safe out there!!

Do you hesitate to view a LinkedIn profile because that person will know you’ve checked it out?

I don’t know about you, but this “Big Brother” world kind of creeps me out sometimes. I’m old school. I’m more used to privacy.

Most weeks I’ll get an email from LinkedIn that says ‘Hey, check out the people who’ve viewed your profile’, and they show me THOSE PEOPLE’s profiles…plus, they try to get me to upgrade to LinkedIn Premium to get even more information. It took me a little while to realize this (not sure why…I just wasn’t thinking), but it suddenly dawned on me that if I can see that THEY viewed MY profile, then someone else can see that I viewed THEIR profile…and I may not want them to know that.

One time, I even had someone call me after I looked at their profile saying, “I saw that you looked up my profile on LinkedIn, can we chat…”. That really creeped me out. I didn’t know the guy at all…I was checking out his profile because someone ELSE had asked me an opinion on his credentials.

If I’m checking out a potential client, brushing up on who’s who before an important meeting (which you should ALWAYS do), checking out a potential employee’s profile, I don’t necessarily want them to know that I’ve been checking them out…so, I started thinking twice before checking out someone’s LinkedIn profile. Unfortunately, then I feel less prepared than I would have otherwise.

I was delighted when I found out about a Privacy Setting in LinkedIn that lets you adjust whether or not people get the details when you’ve checked out their profiles. YEAH!!!

It’s an easy (if hidden) setting…check it out…it only takes a second to adjust…honestly.

First, sign into LinkedIn.
Second, click on your photo (it’s on the top-right side of the screen).
You’ll see this set of selections:
Third, select the choice labeled ‘Select what others see when they’ve viewed your profile’
Once in this screen, pick your choice of ‘stealthness’
Don’t forget to SAVE!!

That’s it. You’re done. You can view LinkedIn profiles without people knowing that you’ve done it (or at least without them getting too much information about you).

Which device should I choose? How do I choose?

Time for another post, this one quick, from my 87-year-old Uncle’s. It is absolutely amazing that when I sit down with him, the blog topics just present themselves. Why? Because he’s 87, but doesn’t consider himself too old to learn technology. He’ll tackle most any technology…head-on. Is he always successful? No…but he tries!

So, I’m sitting here and from my chair in the living room, I can see a laptop (15″), an iPad mini, an original Kindle, a Kindle Fire, a Dell Venue (tablet), a netbook, an iPad (2nd gen). Wow. They all work. They all get use. Hmmm…listen carefully…THEY-ALL-GET-USE.

I spent a day or so watching him navigate between the devices…a little while on the iPad mini, a little while on the Dell, a longer time on the laptop. Finally, I HAD TO KNOW…why did he switch between devices? “Because”, came the simple answer, “each one does something different well.”

This, my dear friends is a lesson. Despite the marketing materials posted by each and every manufacturer that THEIR device and ONLY their device can solve all of your problems, it is really much more likely that one device or another is better for your depending on what you need to do.

So, before falling in love with a device just because it is ‘cute’ or ‘sexy’, decide what you actually want to DO on it, then evaluate that particular devices ability to handle that need. I’ve seen too many people disappointed in their iPad because it’s hard to manage their Microsoft Office docs in the way that they want. Or, people don’t like the Surface because it is a heavier than the iPad and they want to hold it with one hand while walking a job site. Or, a particular app or software won’t install because it is incompatible with Android. The list of disappointment goes on and on.

Before purchasing a new device (and face it, the upcoming holiday season is a prime device purchasing time), write down the top five USES you see for the new device, then make sure that the device does those functions well BEFORE you send your loved one on a wild-goose chase! They’ll thank you later…and the monetary investment will be worth it because the new device won’t just gather dust.

Bottom line: Don’t have unrealistic expectations about what ONE device can do. Maybe more than one device makes sense…maybe not. It all depends on your needs.

Another warning: Do NOT open PowerPoint Presentations from Strangers

Somehow, this seems appropriate during Halloween week…lots of warnings…lots of ‘be careful where you get your candy from’…Lots of ‘only trick-or-treat at houses you know’…that kind of thing.

Well, as we all know, the same sort of caution applies to entering ‘unknown places’ on your computer – be it opening emails from strangers (be careful), attachments from strangers (don’t do it), documents you find randomly surfing the web (be very, very cautious before doing it).

Enter the latest in the ‘Oh no, security on your computer isn’t all that’ string of potential threats that are out there.

Microsoft, yes Microsoft (it’s exploited most frequently because more machines are Microsoft than any other operating system), has discovered a POTENTIAL (this doesn’t mean you WILL or HAVE been compromised – just be aware) PowerPoint security flaw which could allow a stranger to totally take over your computer.

Thanks to TechCrunch for the head’s up! Click here for their excellent article by Greg Kumparak. For Microsoft’s security disclosure, click here (but it’s much duller than TechCrunch’s)

Here’s the low-down:

1. If you’re on ANY version of Windows, you’re probably affected

2. You have to open an infected PowerPoint (PPT or PPTX) presentation to have the vulnerability rear its ugly head.

3. The bug is part of the PowerPoint program which enables you to embed Excel files and the like inside of your presentations…that’s called OLE (‘Object Linking and Embedding’ for those of you who care about such things)…the bad guys do something to exploit a flaw in the security of such things and infect your computer along the way.

4. If the ‘bad thing’ runs, then the hackers can take over your computer as if they were the user who launched the PowerPoint presentation. What does this mean? Well, if you are like many of us with a laptop on which only YOU work, then you are an ADMINISTRATOR and can do ANYTHING on the computer…that means that the ‘bad guys’ will be an administrator too. If you’re on a Network, you’re not immune…it is just less likely that you’re an Administrator (and therefore, the bad guys have less access during an attack – they ‘captured’ a private instead of a general). If the evil ones invade, your Network Administrator will have to deal with the fallout.

5. One way to give you WARNING before just blithely opening random Powerpoint file is to ENABLE ‘User Account Control’ (available on Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and later). You can find this feature by searching for ‘User Account Control’. This is the screen:
Make sure that your settings are set to ‘Always Notify’ (I’ll admit, mine were NOT because I find the warnings so annoying, but I changed them back)…THEN, THINK TWICE before saying ‘yes, open this document’…because an innocent PowerPoint presentation should NOT be changing your system.

6. If you maintain your own system, then go to this Windows link and install the ‘FixIt’ patch…it will fix 15 of the 18 possible combinations of Office and supported Windows environments.

As always, people, be ALERT. We tell our kids to be alert on Halloween, but we need to be alert on our computers ALL THE TIME. If you don’t remember asking someone for a particular PowerPoint presentation, if you don’t know the person who wrote it, if you found a presentation on the web, if you don’t know the author/sender then DO NOT open that Presentation. STOP. Ask the person who sent it to you (if you know them) if they really DID send it to you. A minute of double-checking can save you HOURS of heartache…just ask all the people who have been sucked into the Windows scam or electric company charades or opened infected PDF’s.

Yes, you really MUST pay attention to the Heartbleed “bug”

(Sorry, I don’t usually send out posts so close together, but this one is important)

By now, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you MUST have heard about the “Heartbleed” Security flaw. And, yes, *sigh*, it DOES involve your passwords and online security.

Some of your most prevalent websites were affected, potentially exposing your personal information to nefarious plotters.

THIS APPLIES TO ALL YOU MAC USERS, as well!! It’s not a computer hardware security hole, but rather, a website logon security hole.

So…how do you know if you’ve been affected? Trust me, 99% of you who have online signons were affected. I found two TERRIFIC articles (thanks Mashable and GitHub) on whether or not the most popular websites are vulnerable.

For a list of those sites which you most likely use – and whether or not you need to change your password for that site – please click here:

Change any passwords where they recommend you change them.

NOTE: If a site has NOT been patched for the security flaw, then changing you password will do NO GOOD. Wait and change that password once the site has been patched. Check the list every day or two for the next couple of weeks.

Want to check out a site yourself (maybe a smaller site that isn’t on one of these lists)? Click here and enter the URL you need/want to check. (Thanks for Jane McLaughlin, Lifecycle Software, for this site)

For a LARGER list – the 10,000 most popular sites which could be exposed because of password vulnerability – check out this list:

Tip: To see if a particular website you frequent is on the list, open up the list, then hit CTRL+F (Windows users) and enter a part of the site name…you’ll be ‘searching’ for just sites containing whatever you typed in. Makes it a WHOLE LOT faster than scanning 10,000 lines.

If password management just makes your head spin, you might refresh yourself with some password management tools in an earlier post that we did:

It’s Friday, so how about BYOD?! (nope…not a typo)

When will “techie” people ever get tired of acronyms? Probably never. It’s a Friday afternoon, so I’m thinking about the BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) policy that one of the local eateries has, and trying to decide if that would be a good place for dinner. Enter into my mailbox a questions about BYOD (note the ‘D’ replacing the ‘B’). Is this person asking me about dining out options (with a typo)? Nope. They are asking about ‘Bring Your Own Device’ in the workplace.


BYOD means that employers don’t require employees to use the employer’s technology, but rather, the employee can use their OWN technology to connect into the employers systems, allowing the employee to work on equipment that is FAMILIAR to them. With the advent of laptops, tablets and smartphones, people want to connect to information using WHATEVER device they have handy, from WHEREVER they happen to be. Not in the office? No problem…give me a minute to sign in and I’ll get you that answer.

What’s good about this trend?

BYOD is only getting more popular. Don’t like that Blackberry that work gives you? Forward your email to your iPhone. Need to finish up a project before a big meeting tomorrow? Don’t stay late to get it done. Go home, have dinner with your family, put the kids to bed, then sign in to the system at work to finish off the document. Employees who have BYOD available to them tend to be more productive. Gotta love that!

What’s bad about this trend?

The data from the company is more ‘at risk’. The more people can access data from a myriad of places, the greater the potential for a data breach.

So, what’s the answer. Well, BYOD is a trend that is continuing. In fact, it will only increase. Therefore, companies should take the money that they would have spent on desktop/laptop hardware replacement and invest it into better security. Install a VPN. Monitor access of information carefully. Put alerts into place for signs of abuse.

Studies have shown that workers and students are far more productive if they are working on their own devices. The additional productivity can MORE THAN offset the additional cost of putting good security in place.

Above all, put your policies for BYOD into writing and get every employee/consultant to sign it – agreeing to your terms and conditions.

If you’re interested in learning more, there’s a great article here:

I did not author it, but I think that it lays out the pros/cons quite well…and clearly, confirms that BYOD isn’t going away!

SEO – top organic rankings, keywords – and avoiding scare tactics

Many of my clients have heard me go off on a rant or two about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and how to avoid getting taken to the cleaners by people promising you extraordinary ranking results.

What is SEO, you ask? SEO is the ability of a search engine (e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) to locate your web page in response to a search string that a user has entered. Simple example: If you’re looking to purchase a cupcake in Maui, Hawaii, then you might enter the following search in your favorite ‘Search’ box: cupcake bakery maui hi (NOTE: I know that there would be proper capitalization and punctuation if you were typing an email or letter, but ‘search’ doesn’t care about capitalization and grammar). Hit return. If you’re the local cupcake baker in Maui, then you want to come up at the top of the listings. That’s SEO. Getting your listing to appear at/near the top.

So now that we’re clear about what we’re discussing, let’s delve a bit further into HOW pages become ‘top’ of the list. Bottom line: Pages come up at the top of the list because they are RELEVANT. Search engines try to prioritize pages by how closely to the question posed during the search matches the specific page content…and it does it based upon finding KEYWORDS. Words on the web page that match the words in the search question.

The trick is to get your pages to show up near the top of results ‘organically’ (no, we’re not talking about Whole Foods). In this case, ‘organically’ means that you’re not paying for placement. Your pages appear in the results on their own merit…naturally.

The trick is two-fold. First, you have to come up with the questions that your potential clients are going to ask of a search engine when they’re trying to find you. Second, you want to get your page to appear near the top when they do ask the question. Being buried on page 5 of the results won’t do you alot of good.

It is possible to ‘do it yourself’, but it requires time, study, and a great deal more patience than I possess. Good marketing people know the ins and outs and can help your pages climb up the ladder of search results by targeting the correct keywords (words used in the search queries) that your potential customers are likely to use. That said, if you’re going to invest in marketing assistance, you don’t want to fritter away your hard-earned money – you want results. And all of the people who guarantee a ‘Number 1 result’ can actually be yanking your chain – ALOT – but they are not necessarily fibbing.

To quote Kim Landry of Hollister Creative, “Their [the people who say they’ll make you number one] guarantee is solid because a web page optimized for a keyword phrase for which no other web page is optimized will take the top spot in search results for that phrase. But that “win” won’t help your business because chances are, the reason none of your competitors optimize for that phrase is that no one searches for it.”


Kim continues by pointing out the following (which I have been preaching for years, so I’m feeling vindicated today by her corroboration). I’m going to paraphrase, but please, PLEASE visit her original post here.

First, your keywords and the content of your page have to be relevant. No one wants to end up on a page for butterflies when they searched “cupcakes”. Kim says: “The best keyword phrase is highly relevant to whatever you are “selling” on your page. It is a phrase your target audience would type into the search field to find exactly that. Brainstorm a list of phrases. Do a Google search on each one. If the results show pages selling something very similar to your page, the phrase is relevant.”

Second, find out how many people conduct searches on a given phrase using another FREE Google tool (we LOVE free tools here). Landry again: “Using the free (and amazing) Google Keyword Tool, find out how many people search your keyword phrase each month. High search volume is good, but low can be fine if your phrase is so specific that only a knowledgeable prospect who is ready to buy would search that phrase. If the search volume is zero, you can pose as an SEO expert and con your competitors into optimizing for this phrase.”

Third, know the competition for a particular phrase. Kim’s tip: “The Keyword Tool will also tell you if competition for your phrase is high, medium or low. High means it is a very popular phrase that many competitors are optimizing for. It will cost you to pursue a page one spot for that phrase. Fortunately, the Keyword Tool automatically suggests alternate phrases, some of which have medium or low competition.”

Bottom line: You need to know your customers, and what your customers need from you, to be able to optimize your website for search results. YOU know best. Do some homework. Give it thought. Then, engage a reputable marketing firm to ‘make it happen’. The results will speak for themselves!

Free Meeting Organizer – boy, does this save time and emails!

I don’t know about you, but for me one of the most aggravating parts of the Administrative side of my business is trying to organize meetings. Who’s available when? How do I organize all of the responses? Usually, I create something in Excel that works – sort of – but it’s tedious and manual and prone to mistakes.

Enter… Yes, a FREE tool that allows you – very simply – to organize meetings with no back and forth on availability.

Meeting Wizard is an incredibly simple, but elegant solution to this annoying administrative task. All that you and your invitees have access to email and a browser. It’s that simple. They promise it and they deliver!

To get started, you sign up for a free account. They only ask for the basics – your name, location and email address.

To start scheduling a meeting, click on ‘Create a Meeting’ (gee, they even label things with words that everyone can understand – what a pleasure!):

Meeting Wizard - Create a Meeting

I don’t know that I’d use this tool for a “specific time” meeting…I can do that right from my calendar, but I use the tool for ‘Propose one or more dates/times’. That’s the true beauty of this tool.

Select the dates/times that you’re proposing for your meeting. You just select a date/time from the drop-down, then click ‘add’. Select the duration of the meeting, the timezone and select ‘Continue’.

Meeting Wizard Select Dates and Times

Tell the people something about the meeting to which you are inviting them. It’s more likely that they’ll accept if you do :-)! People don’t like going to ‘mystery’ meetings.

Meeting Wizard send invite

Review the meeting invitation before you hit the ‘send’ button. You can even send an automatic reminder to participants a day or two in advance of the meeting.

Meeting Wizard - Review invitation

When the email goes out inviting participants to make their selections, they will get a link to Meeting Organizer. They don’t need a signon…they can just click on the link, then enter their response(s).

Meeting Wizard - Participant View

You’ll be able to see EVERYONE’s selections in one easy-to-review format…in fact, as meeting organizer, you can invite more people, change the meeting time, confirm the meeting, email people on the meeting list, send reminders, etc.:

Meeting Wizard - select the date

All of that back-and-forth and forth-and-back is taken care of. No fuss, no muss. Meeting scheduled.

What a terrific time-saver…and you don’t just need to limit it’s use to business…how about when you’re trying to schedule dinner with a bunch of your friends, or a weekend away with family. Give it a try, it’s painless – promise!!!

(Special thanks to one of our regular readers for telling us about this tool – it’s now an invaluable part of our virtual toolbox!)

USB Flash Drives – Don’t forget to wipe them before discarding them

Ahhh…those ubiquitous little USB drives that litter our desks, briefcases, pockets, purses. How handy they are. How easy to lose. And, typically, we carry our most important information on them – or our current ‘most important’ projects. Once you’re done with the drive, you may just hand it over to someone else to use, or delete the files and leave the drive on your desk for the next use.

Here’s the problem…even if you delete the files, they’re not really ‘gone’. Hackers (or other evil-minded people) can recover deleted files from Flash Drives – even if it’s hard for you to do.

So, how do you deal with this, given the need to keep/use USB Flash Drives?

When you deleted the files (ostensibly ’emptying’ the drive), or after you’ve ‘cut’ and ‘pasted’ the files on the flash drive to another location, WIPE the drive. Use a utility to erase it completely.

Enter ‘Disk Wipe’ by ( This little utility is great tool to add to your virtual bag of tricks.

Download it, then unzip the file and copy the contents (there is only one file) to a separate Flash Drive (not the one you want to wipe). Run the application. All you need to do is to select the drive letter and the number of times the utility should run over the data (the more passes, the more thoroughly the data is erased – use a minimum of three passes). You can decide whether you want “junk” data written in place of your data or whether you want all data erased. Your choice.

Press the ‘Erase’ button and wait. You can now leave the flash drive laying around, hand it off to someone else, or even lose it/throw it away without fear that the data it contained will fall into the wrong hands.

By the way, Roadkil’s utilities (and there are a BUNCH of them available for download) are free. The developer does ask that donations be made if you feel like you’re getting good value, so that they can continue to offer free apps.