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.

Some maintenance tools for Mac Computers – yes, Apple does need some maintenance

Well, this week was the “Great iPhone6 Release”…I have a few friends who probably haven’t put the device down since UPS or FedEx dropped it at their door yesterday. Hopefully, you’re not like that poor guy who dropped it (literally) as he was taking it out of the box (iPhone6 Guy).

Anyway, the iPhone frenzy put me into thinking about Apple products this week. Additionally, a client of mine requested some assistance with “speeding up” a slow Mac. “You know, I don’t normally work on Mac’s, right?” says I. “I know, but I trust you more than I trust me to figure it out” says she. So, off to Mac-land I go.

What I found is that despite Apple’s ‘you don’t have to do maintenance on our products’ stance, there really IS some maintenance that should be done on Apple desktops and laptops should they start becoming sluggish. With just a few minutes of attention, a VERY SLOW computer turned into a productive machine again.

What did we do? Well, a little Googling brought some tools to light. All of them are free or built in to Apple products.

My favorite place to start when faced with a technology issue is CNET…and wouldn’t you know that the first article I read was published by them: Five Tips for Cleaning and Speeding Up Your Mac

Item #1 on CNET’s list was my first stop.

A MacWorld article was next on my hit list: Favorite Mac Cleanup Tips

Items #2 and 3 were the tips we tried.

Our third stop was Speed Up Your Mac

From WikiHow, we took Item #2

After all the ‘dead wood’ was cleaned out, we made sure that the programs were all up-to-date (use the Settings area).

Some of the other tips in the articles sound useful, but we didn’t try them and still had success.

FINALLY, the BIG TEST: Turn the machine off all the way and back on.

Our apps opened up 80% faster than they had before we started! SUCCESS!!!

So, for those of you who are feeling your Mac is letting you down because it’s getting sluggish, take a few minutes to try these tips and see what happens. You have nothing to lose!

Happy iPhone6, everyone!!

Don’t be caught by these new PHONE scams (and yes, one of them claims it is Microsoft)

Hi, All –

This post is a bit different than some…a down and dirty warning about some old, but apparently resurrecting phone scams that are active right now.

IF SOMEONE CALLS YOU AND TELLS YOU THAT THEY ARE FROM MICROSOFT, A UTILITY COMPANY, OR THE IRS, then ask you/tell you something akin to the following:

Microsoft: Your computer system has been compromised
Utility Company: Your bill is past due and we’ll shut you off if you don’t pay within 2 hours
IRS: We’re going to arrest you if you don’t pay your back taxes immediately

What is the common thread to these things? They are all PHONY…SCAMS…SCUMBUCKETS…and other words that I won’t print!

If there is a Microsoft issue, or pretty much ANY issue with your computer, you will get an EMAIL which has identifying information in it (e.g. your name, account id, last 4 digits of your cc) which will give it some validity. Check the link that is in the email asking you to take action or to ‘learn more’ by hovering over it to make sure you are indeed going to the site you expect to go to (e.g. Go to a browser window and type in the URL of the company directly, then search their site for any known issues. Face it, large issues make the news…and the companies involved (think Target) don’t have time to call every person affected. You’ll get an email containing lots of validating information…and it will be personally addressed.

Utility companies are bound by LAW to go through a written, documented process before cutting off service. They will NEVER have you go to a local drug store and buy a prepaid debit card to pay the balance of the bill. If someone claims to be from a Utility company, then politely ask them if you can call back at the published number (the one on your bill) and ask to be reconnected to that person. If they’re for real, it will NOT be an issue.

The IRS will NEVER call without having sent PLENTY of notices via the mail. Again, they’re understaffed. They mail letters (one of the few who still does) about issues with taxes. They do NOT call you out of the blue and tell you that they’re going to throw you in jail tomorrow if you don’t pay up. You KNOW if you’re in trouble, and you probably have the direct numbers of a number of people that you’ve been dealing with while trying to get yourself out of trouble.

In all three cases, the scammers prey on panic. They try to BULLY you into “paying up”. When you hand over either money or personal information, they WIN. Do NOT let them get to you. Stay calm. Call the company back, or send an email to that organization’s customer service before forking over ANY personal information or dollars.

I have had two clients in the last few weeks who were ‘stung’ – one by the Utility scam, and one by the Microsoft scam. In both cases, it was panic, the need to NOT have the dire consequences occur that sent common sense out the window.

Please, PLEASE be careful and cautious. These scammers are probably thinking up a new twist on the approach as I write.

UPDATED 10/18/2014 – A client and friend of mine, Dan Crowley, shared this video that he made of a call with this type of scammer…stick with it till the end…I burst out laughing! Well played, Dan!

Dan’s Scam Video

Do you miss your old typewriter – the clicks and clacks of the keys? If you own an iPad, you are in for a treat.

If you are a technology native (i.e. computers were part of the fabric of society when you were growing up and video games ruled the land, then you are a technology ‘native’), then this won’t resonate with you. If, however, like me, you are a technology immigrant, then this might hit home.

I don’t know about you, but many a moon ago, I was forced by my parents to take typing because it would be ‘useful’ later in life. I was 18. I knew “everything”. Typing would play NO ROLE in my life, of that, I was certain. I went kicking and screaming to class, but you know what? I became a very proficient typist despite myself. Kids today are almost born knowing how to type, but back in the ‘dark ages’, we had to LEARN how to type…and we didn’t learn on a computer keyboard…we learned on a TYPEWRITER. Some may even have learned on a MANUAL typewriter (the strength of your fingers ruled how hard the keys struck the paper). I was lucky enough to learn on an IBM Selectric – the most “sophisticated” of electric typewriters.

Alas, the last typewriter that I owned probably left my closet or desk about 25 years ago, but sometimes, I just miss typing on a typewriter. I don’t know why…keyboards just all feel the same. Typewriters each had their own “personality”.

I do like being able to go back and edit later…without having to retype an entire document…but sometimes, I just want to type the “old fashioned way” – on an actual typewriter.

Imagine my delight and surprise when none other than Tom Hanks (yes, THAT Tom Hanks) developed a typewriter app for the iPad. It really and truly simulates the old feeling of a typewriter.

I realized that I wasn’t the only one who missed that old time feeling when I read that this app, ‘Hanx Writer’, shot to #1 in the Apple store upon its release.

Yes, it REALLY feels like a typewriter – even on a virtual keyboard. Yes, ‘Return’ does return the virtual carriage. Yes, the sounds are there. Yes, the keys ‘move’. Yes, the bell rings when you hit the end of the row.

…and yes, it is FREE!!!!

For those of you who miss the old-time feeling of a “real” typewriter, head over to the Apple Store IMMEDIATELY and download ‘Hanx Writer’.

For a terrific review/write-up, please check out this article by TechCrunch:

Perhaps some of your grandparents can introduce your kids to a slice of life “before computers”.

Have fun!

Lets do some quick and easy housekeeping on our computers

IF YOU DON’T WANT THE “FLUFF”, scan down to the next BOLD/CAPITAL heading for the “MEAT” of the post

Mea culpa, mea culpa. I have absolutely NO IDEA where the time goes, but it certainly flies. So sorry for being MIA, but the longer I didn’t write a post, the guiltier I got, then I got more embarrassed that I’d ‘abandoned’ you all. It was just a vicious circle. Finally, I decided that that was silly…just sit down and write SOMETHING, so here I am. If I haven’t written in a while, people will often say to me, “I think that coming up with the topics would be hard”. Actually, I have tons of topics…I lack the time to write the way that I want to write…to make the information sort of fun and accessible. I’ll try to do better…can’t promise, but I’ll try.

Next, people ask about my dear Uncle – 87-years-old and going strong. He’s well, thanks for your concern and thoughts. He currently has one laptop, one iPad, and two Android tablets. His home entertainment system (self-designed, self-put-togeether) rivals the best I’ve seen…it includes FOUR (yes, count ’em, four) Tivos, DVR’s and/or VCR’s, so that he NEVER has to watch TV live. I think he can record 6 shows on the Tivo, plus the assorted DVR/VCR devices for a total of 9 or 10 shows at one time. We always have plenty to watch when I visit.

Soooooooooooooo…on to the topic at hand.


A few weeks ago, my Godkids were visiting (they’re actually young adults now), and my goddaughter, a professional photographer, had to edit some photos for a wedding (shameless promotion: She’s great! – check out her work – she knows how to make a photoshoot fun: Laurel Houston Photography), and her computer was ‘misbehaving’. We all know the syndrome…big project due…little time to do it…computer decides it won’t work efficiently.

Time for a little computer “spa” time. Yes, right in the middle of the big project, so that it was possible to actually get through the job without pulling out her hair or wasting valuable time with time-sucking crashes. Two FREE tools installed. A few cleanup processes run. Computer back to functioning ‘normally’. Project finished on time (another shameless plug…link to the wedding photos: Alex and Allison’s Wedding).

What did we do?

First, go to Download and install the FREE utility (There’s a paid version that runs in the background all the time. The free version is ‘on demand’ meaning you have to run it manually). When you open up the newly installed Malwarebytes, you will see this screen:

Malwarebytes Main Screen

Click the large ‘Scan Now’ button. Malwarebytes is going to ‘do its thing’. What is it doing? It’s searching for any evil “stuff” that might have been dropped onto your computer without you knowing it. Some of the things are not malicious, some are evil. Whatever it is (and almost EVERY computer gets “stuff” if it’s connected to the internet), it tends to slow your computer down, or take resources that could be dedicated to your work.


Go away for a little while…this could take a few minutes or an hour (or more) for the scan. Remember, “watched computer doesn’t clean”! When the scan is done, you want it to say this:


If instead, it looks like this:


Click the ‘Quarantine All’ button ON THE LEFT SIDE. It will remove the offenders:


The resulting message will tell you that all is well now, and ask you to reboot your computer.

If the system finds issues, do the reboot after the quarantine, THEN RUN MALWAREBYTES AGAIN. Sometimes, everything isn’t caught the first time around. You want a ‘clean review’.

Now that you have any “cooties” cleared from your computer, it’s time to clean out your virtual closets, and throw away those shoes you haven’t worn in 5 years. No, I’m not making you go through your individual files and clean house there, but let your computer do a little housekeeping. Trust me, it does the heavy lifting, not you.

Go to and download and install the FREE CCleaner utility (again, there’s a paid version, but the free one will do just fine, thank you). When you open it up, you will see this screen:

CCleaner Main Screen

You can leave all of the default programs checked if you want, or manage what will be cleaned up. Note that there are two tabs (“Windows” and “Application”), so click both of them to see what will be tidied up.

Click the ‘Run Cleaner’ button on the lower-right side and let it “do it’s thing”. When it’s done, you’ll see this screen:



Next, click on the ‘Registry’ button on the left side:

CCleaner Registry

Click ‘Scan for Issues’.


When it has finished, leave everything checked and click ‘Fix Selected Issues’. You will be asked if you want to backup your registry. SAY YES!!! You can leave the default location and name, but make sure that you DO BACKUP.


Once you have backed up your registry, click ‘Fix All Selected Issues’


When it has finished, rerun your Registry Cleaner and repeat the steps above until the scan comes back empty. It can take a few passes. Sometimes you can’t see the boxes at the back of the closet until you’ve removed those at the front of the closet.

When it returns “clean”, reboot your computer…chances are that it starts up and moves a bit more easily.

Lastly, click on ‘Tools’ on the left side, then select ‘Startup’.

Click on the column heading ‘Enabled’ to sort by those processes which start when your computer starts and those that do not. Scroll down to the ‘Yes’ entries. Read the program name and published and decide if this program MUST START when your computer starts. The MORE ‘yes’ entries you have, the slower your computer will start. Remember, your programs will run even if they don’t start when your computer starts. For instance, I use Excel ALL THE TIME, but I do NOT have it start when my computer starts…it can open on its own when I need to use it.


Do not simply select ‘no’ to enable at startup. SOME OF THE PROCESSES NEED TO RUN. For example, you want your anti-virus to run, you want your backup service to run, etc. Anything that you WANT to be in the task bar in the lower-right corner…leave all of those as ‘yes’ to enabled. If you don’t know what something is, saying ‘no’ could make the computer not boot correctly. If you don’t know what something does, Google “Does insert program name need to run at startup”, and read the advice.

Reboot and away you go.

Your computer should be sailing along more smoothly now!

Happy virtual cleaning!

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:

Your Tech Tamer spotlighted by

Imagine our delight and surprise when we found out that we were to be‘s customer spotlight!

While no one goes around looking for reasons to call any kind of Tech Support, we’ve found that it’s never painful to get on the phone with the friendly folks at HostMySite.

Anyway, we enjoyed being interviewed for the article, and appreciate the fact that we’re recognized by one of our partners!

Check out the article:

(Besides the fact that I look possessed in the photo, I think that they wrote a very nice article)

Gentle Nudge to all you procrastinators: Windows XP support ends next week – April 8, 2014

Oh, my…where on earth does the time go? Sorry I’ve been AWOL, but first the holidays hit, then the winter that wouldn’t end, and before you know it, the calendar turns to April. Wow.

This is a quick, gentle reminder to everyone who is still nursing along an old Windows XP machine and doesn’t want to get rid of it…Next Tuesday, April 8th, 2014, Microsoft will officially stop supporting Windows XP. Does this mean that your computer will cease to work on that date? No. That said, you should be contemplating upgrading (if your hardware is newer) or replacing (if your hardware is older) for a variety of reasons.

In effect, this is a mini-Y2K.

Why do you care, you ask? Here are my (unofficial) thoughts:

1. The world if full of hackers…they are looking for ANY and EVERY opportunity to abuse technology. Once Microsoft stops ‘plugging the holes’, the hackers will just trawl the internet looking for computers connected to the internet that are running Windows XP. They’ll hack into those machines (because no one is trying to stop them any more) and either steal your information OR use your computer as a stepping stone to do their nefarious business on other computers.

2. Software that you have installed on your XP machine will no longer be upgraded/supported on the current operating system. If something goes wrong, you’ll be left on your own to recover from it.

3. Certain program warranties (e.g. credit card processing software) will not be warranted/protected/insured on an XP machine. If you suffer a theft/loss of data, it will be on you with no recourse to the merchant processor.

4. If your XP machine is newer, upgrade to Windows 7 (available from Microsoft resellers) or Windows 8.1 (after checking to make sure the system requirements are adequate). That will breath additional life into your machine for under (typically) $150.

5. If your XP machine is older, well…perhaps it is time for it to retire. Wipe your machine of any data, and dispose of it in an eco-friendly manner. Seriously, if you’ve gotten 5+ years off of your computer, it’s given you all that it has :-).

Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to the ‘Why didn’t I…’ curse!

Control your desktop from your iPad, Android, iPhone, or Tablet – Seriously

Happy Fall, everyone! If you live in the Northeast, I hope that you didn’t wash away in the deluge this weekend. It feels like fall now…leaves turning, Halloween decorations out, cooler weather. Time to settle in for the race to the New Year (yikes!). When I was shopping the other day, the entire front wall of a big, box store was Christmas Trees. WHAT?!?!? It’s not even Halloween yet! Seriously, I can’t stand it!!

But you’re not here to discuss the weather or upcoming holiday schedule.

To the topic at hand: I feel like one of the biggest challenges that I have in managing a wide variety of devices (I have four that I work with consistently – my laptop, my smartphone, an iPad and a Windows Surface tablet) is that the information or program I want is on a DIFFERENT device than the one that I’m on. Perhaps I have a program on one device that doesn’t run on the other device (e.g. Office on the iPad). Maybe a program is quite expensive and I don’t want to own multiple licenses.

I know that I can use Dropbox (or a similar online data service) to store information (If you don’t know what Dropbox is, or why it’s important, please check out this post:, but that doesn’t handle having to license the programs themeselves multiple times to install them on different devices (assuming that that program is available for multiple devices types). Additionally, some data is massive in nature (e.g. videos, music, photos, databases) and you may not want to pay for the space required to store it (personally, I have almost a terrabyte of data [that’s 1000 GB/gigabytes of data], and I don’t care to pay for an outside service to store it all. I don’t need to access much of it regularly, but when I do, I need it!). Maybe you just forgot to save the data to your online storage site. Maybe the data is sensitive and you don’t want it “out there”.

Regardless of your reason for not having every program and piece of data on every device, there is a wonderful, FREE tool (free for personal use, commercial usage requires payment) that allows you access to your PC from virtually any device. Enter Teamviewer.

Teamviewer allows you to control your PC (and thereby, run ALL of your PC programs) from almost any type of device. Whether that’s totally practical or not is up to you (personally, I really can’t do anything from my smartphone…just too small). The idea is that you CAN IF YOU WANT/NEED TO.

Rick Broida, a terrific author on CNET, created a terrific step-by-step. Rather than recreating it here, I’ll let you check out his article, “How to Control Your PC from Your iPad for Free“. Rick has laid out all the step-by-step instructions (with pictures and suggested settings). Download Teamviewer from and away you go!

Once you’ve installed and configured Teamviewer, you can access your PC from almost any of your other devices with just a few simple “clicks” (or taps). No longer is that critical piece of information “back home” when you need it HERE!

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!