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Microsoft Money

Many years ago, Microsoft Money was a common software program used for personal finances. Then Microsoft discontinued that software, and Quicken & Quickbooks became the mainstays of personal financial software. But to this day, I still encounter Microsoft Money loyalists.

If you’ve stuck with Microsoft Money all this time, then you need to know: Microsoft Money is still available. For free! When Microsoft stopped selling MS Money in 2010, they also released it as a zero-cost, no-activation download. They renamed it Money Plus Sunset Deluxe, and it continued to work with everyone’s old Money files. Best of all, it installs and works just fine on Windows 10!

However, I’ve just noticed that Microsoft removed all of their MPSD downloads. And when I search the internets, many of the other download-websites out there are bundling Microsoft Money with malware. Yikes!

If you’re looking to load Microsoft Money Sunset, I don’t want you running afoul of viruses! So I’ll host a clean copy of this software in my cloud storage, in case you ever need to use it. Feel free to use the link below to get a clean & safe installer for Microsoft Money:

Microsoft Money Sunset Deluxe

Windows 10 Gaming Performance Fix

Since March 2021, some gamers have had some real problems on their Windows 10 computers. The problem was not with your casual games, like Solitaire and Mahjongg, but with more demanding games, like CS: GO and GTAV. Many players could not resolve issues with stuttering and low frame rates, and it all traced back to Microsoft as the culprit.

Microsoft has finally developed a fix. And while the fix is included in a larger update next month, Microsoft has gone the extra mile and released the gaming fix now, as an optional update. If you’ve been suffering under this problem, go get the download now:

Click Start, go to Settings, then Update & Security. You should see the update in question (KB5004296 ), under the heading “Optional quality update available”:

Click “Download and install”, wait out the update process, and reboot when it appears finished. I hope this improves your future games!

Trend Micro Check

The Trend Micro company has come out with a new tool that I want to recommend. Trend Micro Check is a free browser extension that you can install in Google Chrome (or Microsoft Edge) that will protect you as you surf the web.

Specifically, Trend Micro Check blocks ads and trackers (like AdBlockPlus), warns you when you visit scam or misinformation websites (like Bitdefender Trafficlight) and also goes through your surfing history for baddies. If it finds anything worrisome in your browser history, it will report it to you and then offer to remove it.

You can install the extension from the Get Now button on this page, or try this direct link to it in the Google Play Store.

Is Facetime Coming to Windows?

The answer to this is a bit dicey. Or nuanced. But the explanation is worth it for your safety.

The Basics

Facetime is an Apple-owned iOS app that allows you to video chat with people on their iPhones and iPads,. To date, Facetime has only been able to connect you with other iOS devices. That means if you’re on an Android phone or a Windows computer, you can’t use Facetime!

Upcoming Changes

But in the near future, the iOS on modern iPhones and Apple tablets is going to update to version 15. And that update includes a nice change to Facetime: You’ll then be able to send invite links to non-Apple users, and rope them into your Facetime video chats!

There’s nothing to install, when you do this. Non-Apple users will receive a link that opens the Facetime chat in a browser window. It will probably be similar to receiving a Zoom link. PC and Android users will (still) not be able to initiate a Facetime chat, as only iOS users get to do that.

Why Is This Important?

Unfortunately, the nuance of what’s developing is getting lost in the headlines. Many tech articles are already cheerleading with “Facetime Coming to Windows” and that isn’t exactly true. And it is leading people down bad paths.

When some folks see that kind of news, they immediately search the internet for “Facetime for Windows” or similar. And they find free programs or extensions that claim it will install Facetime on your device. And this leads to an infection or adware getting on their machines.

Please do not install anything that says you can put Facetime on your non-Apple device. It is surely false and will only cause you trouble.

Retrofloppy.com

We’ve pretty much moved past digital storage media, such as CDs and DVDs, by now. If you’ve got any old discs laying around with important data on them, you should probably move your files off to an external hard drive or cloud storage. These days, very few computers come with an optical drive for reading such discs, and you also have to worry about disc rot as the years go by.

Don’t have a computer with an optical drive? No worries, you can always grab an external one from Amazon or other vendor. A USB-connecting CD/DVD drive should only set you back about $25. Same goes for floppy discs: you won’t ever see a floppy drive in a modern computer, but you can still buy a USB floppy reader from some tech stores and websites. Although here’s a warning, today’s floppy readers may not work for you if your diskettes are pre-2010 or from old Macintoshes…

But you should also know about Retrofloppy.com. If you’ve unearthed some floppies, and need the files off of them, Retrofloppy.com will gladly get your files for you, and provide them to you over the internet as a download. But that’s just the start of it.

Retrofloppy can handle virtually any kind of archaic storage media you have. Zip disks, tape drives, Bernoulli disks… If the media is undamaged, they can read it and copy off the data.

Even more, they can convert archaic file types to modern-day, universal files. Example: If your old digital camera saved some pictures to its disk as MVC files, Retrofloppy will change them over to JPG files for you.

Check out their pricing or contact them for a pricequote, if you think you might need their services.

LibreOffice: Setting Default File Types

LibreOffice is a lovely option for document creation, if you don’t want to drop money on Microsoft’s software. While Microsoft costs $70/yr or $150 for its basic office suites, LibreOffice is free, free, free.

But if you try LibreOffice, you should immediately adjust its default file types. Right out of the box, LibreOffice will save new files in the OpenDocument Format (ODF). And those aren’t as compatible or friendly with Microsoft Office software. If you share an ODF file with someone running Microsoft Office, they may not appreciate it.

But LibreOffice is made to be compatible with Microsoft Office. You can change LibreOffice to always save your files in the Microsoft file type. And as you create .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx files with Libre, you’ll be able to email them to Microsoft Office users with little to no fuss.

Adjusting LibreOffice’s Defaults

Open LibreOffice, click the Tools menu, then click Options.
(Mac users should click the LibreOffice menu, then click Preferences.)

On the left, click the Plus Sign next to Load/Save, then click General.

On the right, change ‘Document Type’ to Text Document.
Then set the ‘Always Save As’ field to Microsoft Word 2007-365 (*.docx).

Next, change ‘Document Type’ to Spreadsheet.
Then set the ‘Always Save As’ field to Microsoft Excel 2007-365 (*.xlsx).

Lastly, change ‘Document Type’ to Presentation.
Then set the ‘Always Save As’ field to Microsoft PowerPoint 2007-365 (*.pptx).

Click OK at the bottom.

Periods & Plus Signs in Gmail Addresses

Email address are generally case-insensitive, that is, it doesn’t matter if you use capital letter or lower-case. But Google has a few more tricks up its Gmail sleeve.

Periods: In any Gmail address, periods are ignored. So feel free to add periods anywhere in the username portion, if it makes your email address easier to read or understand.

As far as Google is concerned, joedfragmented@gmail.com is the same as joe.d.fragmented@gmail.com is the same as Joe.D.Frag.Mented@gmail.com . But one may look better than another on a resume, while another may be easier to relay over the phone, so choose appropriately!

Plus Signs: Plus Signs are also ignored in any Gmail address, along with anything that comes after the plus sign, up to the @ symbol. That means you can customize your email address with any words you like.

Betsy.NoSpam@gmail.com might be your address, but feel free to use:

  • Betsy.NoSpam+fundraiser@gmail.com
  • Betsy.NoSpam+whitehouse@gmail.com
  • Betsy.NoSpam+amazon@gmail.com

Messages sent to those extra addresses will still get through to you at your normal address. But the Plus Sign info will still be visible to you on the mail you receive. You can use this tool to know when someone is sharing or selling your info. And you can also use this in writing email rules!

Let’s say you give out Betsy.NoSpam+lottery@gmail.com for a contest. And after you didn’t win anything, you noticed a lot of spam coming in, sent to that +lottery-address. In Gmail (or your mail client), you could then write a Rule or Filter to auto-delete everything sent to that particular address.

The Mystery Shopper Scam

If you receive a letter hiring you to be a “secret shopper” at a big-name store, please understand it is almost certainly a scam. The letter may be extremely detailed, and it may be accompanied by a cashable bank check. But both are illegitimate and you stand to lose a lot of money if you participate. Here’s how this scam works:

The Setup & Instructions

The victim responds to a Facebook post or unexpected text, expressing interest in a money-making opportunity. The scammer sends over this kind of letter, along with a check for a large amount of money:

In short, the letter claims that the job is to pose as a secret shopper. The purported work involves entering Walmart stores and buying $2000 worth of gift cards, while casually taking notes on the store and customer service. The check amount exceeds the value of the gift cards, and the “shopper” is instructed to “keep the remaining money” as their pay.

The victim deposits the check into their bank account and immediately gets to work: Visiting stores, taking notes, buying gift cards. They return home, write out details on the shopping trips, and transmit all of the numbers from the backs of the gift cards to the “boss.”

It all seems like quick and easy work, and the average person will look at the math, and feel like they can make $470 in a heartbeat. But it takes a while for the other shoe to drop…

The Cunning Defense

Many scams use gift card purchases to rob people of their money, everyday, and the big-name stores know all about it. As a result, Walmart trains their employees to watch for questionable gift card purchases. Cashiers are told to gently inquire with any shoppers buying large quantities of gift cards. They truly want to stop this crime and protect their shoppers from losing money. Store workers are ready to explain the scams and save people from themselves.

But the “story” presented in this mystery-shopper-letter grooms the victim to be discreet and not respond to such questioning. If the mystery shopper “blows their cover”, then they will “fail in their mission”. This preps the victim to resist any in-store conversations that might help them spot the scam.

The Payoff & Switcheroo

So the victim has deposited the check, visited stores, purchased gift cards, and sent the info to the person running the show. Everything seems finished and quiet. How does the other shoe drop?

1-5 days later, the victim’s bank will contact them. The bank will inform them that the check they deposited for $2470 was fraudulent or illegitimate. The amount of the check has been reversed and removed from the victim’s account.

It may seem confusing, because right after the deposit, the money appears on the victim’s ledger and is viewable as “available funds” through the bank website or app. But that is not a promise or guarantee of any kind. It can take almost a week for the bank to verify the check and finalize the entire transaction. When a fraudulent deposit is caught and reversed, the person who deposited the check is held liable for the amount.

After the bank explains this to the victim, the scam truly reveals itself: A fake check & letter convinced the person to spend their own money on gift cards, and send them over to a stranger. The scammer emptied the gift cards and now has $2000 in untraceable, nonrefundable money, and the victim has lost $2000 from whatever account they used to buy the gift cards. Or more, if the bank assessed any fees for the bad check!

What To Do

If you’ve encountered this scam, you can report it. The FTC and your state’s OAG would like to hear from you!

If you’ve fallen victim to this type of scam, you may contact your local authorities. But please understand that they probably cannot help reverse gift card or wire transfers, and your money is likely gone.

If you really really want to find legitimate mystery shopper employment, that is possible. But never from a Facebook post or random text. Consider reaching out to the official Mystery Shopping Professionals Association, if you think this is a good career path for you.

HowManyOfMe.com

This website will tell you the frequency of occurrence for any name in the USA. Type in a name and it will report how many people in the US have that first name, that last name, and how many have both names.

HowManyOfMe.com might just be a quick bit of entertainment. It boggles my mind to see that there are 85 other people in the states with my full name. But I can also see this being a useful tool for anyone choosing a stage name or pseudonym.

QR Codes on Boarding Passes

A modern boarding pass (plane ticket) has a QR or Bar Code on it. Quickly scanning that code makes it easy for an airport employee to check you in and get you on your plane. But some people warn about those QR codes and their security.

USA Today and other news stories have been circulating for years, warning of the dangers of discarded boarding passes. Supposedly, hackers could pick up your tossed ticket, scan the QR code themselves, and glean your information. Then that info could be used against you in a scam or money-making scheme.

Basically True, But…

The basic info presented in these stories and articles is true. Most QR and Bar Codes on boarding passes contain your name and other PII, and that information is stored there in an insecure manner. Anyone can zap that code to read it, with the right, freely available tool.

You can test it for yourself, next time you have a boarding pass in hand. There are numerous free QR-Code-Reading apps you can download to your phone. Use one to scan your ticket, to see what lay underneath that strange sigil. Or there are websites that do the same thing: Simply upload a picture and it will regurgitate what’s in the QR code as plain text.

Reader’s Digest has reported on this. Kim Komando, as well. Krebs on Security did way back in 2015. That’s makes this a big deal, right?

Not That Big of a Deal

Nah. I can agree this is worth discussing, but I don’t think it’s worth the hype and paranoia that the news media would have you adopt.

First, the QR codes often contain the same info that is printed in plain English on your ticket. There’s a chance of other info, like your seating preference or your frequent flier number, being stored in the code. But there won’t be anything super-secret, like your account password or bank account, in there.

Next, while the potential for information abuse is there, it hasn’t become widespread. Notice that as you watch or read these news items, they report on what could happen, what hackers might do with your boarding pass. The reporting is largely hypothetical. That’s because the hackers are going after lower-hanging fruit. There are easier ways for scammers to target their victims than picking up trash and boot-strapping into one person’s accounts and identity.

You should still treat your boarding pass as a sensitive document. Like a utility bill or library card, you should store your boarding pass safely or shred it when you are done with it. You shouldn’t be careless with any document that reveals information about your identity. Don’t tempt fate. That said, this risk with boarding passes is low, and the news media are largely stirring the pot and cashing in on the attention economy.

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