Category: Apple (Page 1 of 3)

Antivirus for Very Old Computers

Many people continue to use vintage computers, running operating systems that are past their end-of-support date. While I recommend that these users upgrade to something modern and more secure, I understand when they stick with their classic machines. I don’t judge.

But if those computers are going to hit the internet, they do need antivirus. And as they age, it becomes more difficult to find an antivirus software that is willing to run on a much older OS. Below are some links to free antiviruses that are compatible with bygone OSes, like Vista and El Capitan.

Windows Computers

My favorite free antivirus for older PCs is Microsoft Security Essentials. But Microsoft pulled this from their sites, so use these links to get the 32-bit version or the 64-bit version . It will run on any XP, Vista or Win7 computer.

AVG still offers a free antivirus that works on XP and Vista and Windows 7.

You can also consider Avast Free Antivirus, which is equally compatible.

Apple Computers

There’s some debate on whether Macs need additional antivirus protection. For now, I’ll say: You are at greater risk if you’re using an out-of-date computer, so antivirus becomes more relevant if you’re not running the latest MacOS. If your MacOS is so old to be completely out of service, please get some antivirus ASAP.

AVG offers free antivirus for Macs here, and can install on MacOS 10.13 High Sierra or newer.

Avast offers free antivirus for Macs here, and can install on MacOS 10.11 El Capitan or newer.

Free Apps for Identifying Plants

Wondering if that volunteer plant in your garden is a weed or not? Curious about that gorgeous tree at the park? I know there’s some of you who won’t rest until you know the exact name of the mystery plant you’ve just spotted. And while it’s so easy to jump on social media to ask, it’s often easier and quicker to use better tools.

Powered by AI and plant photography catalogs, free apps can identify plants for you immediately! Take a picture of a plant using the app, and you’ll get detailed info on the spot. There are many such apps, and here a few reputable ones:

There are also websites for this as well, like Pl@ntNet and Plant.id!

The NewProfilePic App

There are always new mobile apps for you to discover, and it looks like NewProfilePic is this month’s all-star. This freebie, available through the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, will transform a selfie photo into something stylized and eye-catching.

All you have to do is upload any photo file((of a single, close-up of a human face. Sorry, no pets!)) you have access to from your mobile device, and dodge a few pop-up ads along the way. The app does the rest, giving you a few different photo filters to try out. And they claim you can check back each week for new filters and tweaks.

As this app took off in popularity, some websites started sounding an alarm about its safety. Claims of data-sharing with Russia are being passed around, but I don’t see any truth to that. It looks to me like these rumors are not based on hard facts, and only being reported on clickbait and junk news sites (nothing mainstream).

In other words, whatever info-collection this app is doing, it’s certainly less invasive than, say, Facebook or Google. If you want to try out this app, feel free and have fun!

Spam Text Messages

Here are options for dealing with spam received via text message:

Forward the Message to SPAM

When you get a spam text, forward it to 7726 (SPAM). This helps your carrier know about what spam is spreading where, and they’ll study the trends to prevent more spam from reaching you.

To forward a message on Apple devices, consider the section at this page titled “Forward older text messages.”

For Android devices, try these steps to forward a message any spam text to 7726.

Block the Sender

Most phones allow you to block a specific number from sending you texts. So when that annoying spam message arrives, block the sender’s number.

Here are the steps to block a text sender on iOS. On Android, try these steps or maybe these will help.

Note: If a spammer is spoofing your number, so that the text looks like it is coming from you, don’t block it. Just forward it to SPAM as described above, and contact your provider if it keeps happening.

Contact Your Provider

Each cellular provider offers different free tools for blocking unwanted calls and texts. If you are receiving a high level of spam messages, reach out to them. Ask them to review your account and phone settings, to be sure that all possible features are enabled, to block the maximum amount.

Report Spam to the Government

You are welcome to report unwanted communication (calls OR texts) to the FCC and the FTC. The DoNotCall Registry also wants your reports of spam.


Caveats

When acting on a spam text (to block it), take care to not tap on any attached files or links.

Do not reply to any spam text with any complaints or commentary. Do not try to unsubscribe, as this may create more spam for you!

Uninstalling Software

There are many ways to remove a piece of software from your computer.

Basic Methods

Windows

Many Windows apps can be uninstalled straight from the Start menu! Simply click Start, look through the Apps or Programs menu for the item you want to get rid of, and right-click on it. If you see Uninstall listed, click it and see if the program disappears.

Otherwise, click Start and go to Settings. Click Apps, then Apps & Features. You should see a list of the software installed on your system. Find the program you want to remove, and click the 3-dots button to the right of it. Click Uninstall and you’re on your way.

Or, you can go to the old-school Control Panel: Press Windows + R on your keyboard, and then type the word control into the Run window that appears. Open Programs & Features for another listing of your software, click a program and then use the Uninstall button at the top of the list.

MacOS

On Apple computers, users simply launch the Finder and click Applications on the left-hand column. Find the program you want to ditch and click-and-drag it to the Trashcan on the dock.

Android OS

On Android phones and tablets, long-press on an app, and drag it to the top of the screen. If it can be uninstalled, you should see an option for that appear. Drop the app onto the word Uninstall, and it should be removed.

iOS

On iPhones and iPads, long-press on an app, and all of your apps will start to wiggle! Tap the — or x-marker on an app to uninstall it. When done removing apps, make sure to exit jiggle-mode by pressing the Home button, or pressing the Done button in the upper-right corner.

Advanced Methods

Some programs, though, just don’t want to leave. If you’re seeing errors or nothing happen after a basic uninstall, you may need to resort to some advanced methods:

If a program won’t leave your Mac willingly, open the Apple menu and go to Force Quit. Look for the program there and kill it, then try again to uninstall.

Microsoft makes a special troubleshooting tool you can download, and it stands a chance of fixing something, so that you can try the basic method of uninstalling again.

If you’re trying to dislodge a stubborn antivirus program, there are special downloads for many of them that may help.

When all else fails, Revo Uninstaller is often the tool that will vanquish your foe. This is my go-to for anything that puts up too much of a fight, and it will rip out any recalcitrant software you point it at. Note: I only ever need the freeware edition, but they also offer paid versions, if you feel the need to show them some appreciation.

Voice-to-Text Typing

Speak to your computer and have it type what you’re saying! Windows and MacOS have voice typing tools built-in and you just have to launch them for your speech to flow into whatever document you’re creating.

Windows Users would press Win + H to open the dictation tool.

Apple users can press the Fn button twice to launch their dictation tool.

Once started, you can have this tool enter your spoken words anywhere you see the input cursor flashing. Feel free to dictate into a Word doc or email or status field on Facebook. After you’re done dictating, feel free to go back and edit for punctuation by hand.

And if you ever have any trouble with these built-in tools, there are websites that offer similar tools. This Voice Notepad website is handy, because you can switch between dictation and typing more gracefully. When you’re done, simply copy the text and paste it elsewhere.

Back Tap on Smartphones

iPhones

Most iPhones have a largely unknown feature called Back Tap. If you turn on this special ability, Back Tap will let you trigger an app or function when you tap the back of your iPhone. Back Tap can open Settings, or the Facebook app, or your Camera, whatever you yoke it to.

It’s like you have an invisible button back there that can do anything! Back Tap can be setup on any iPhone 8 and up that is running iOS 14 or newer. For detailed steps, check out these articles for how to set yours up.

First-time users of Back Tap are recommended to keep an eye on it for the first week or so, in case of accidental triggers. If you notice any misfires with Back Tap, you can modify the settings (Double or Triple Tap) or turn it off.

Android Phones

This feature is called Quick Tap on Android phones, but is not widely available yet. So far, it’s showing up only on select Google Pixel phones. Other manufacturers are slow to incorporate this into their phones, but you can always check your phone for this feature under: Settings -> System -> Gestures. If your phone supports Quick Tap, it will be at the top of the Gestures options list.

A warning: internet searches for “Android Quick Tap” will quickly reveal a workaround app called Tap Tap. BlueScreen Computer does not recommend this app. It does not come from the Google Play Store. It has not been vetted by Google. Installing Tap Tap requires you to hamstring & bypass your phone’s security. Please don’t risk it! If your Android phone doesn’t offer Quick Tap, you’re better off waiting to get it on a future phone.

Forbidden File Names

On a Windows computer, there are certain things you can’t do when naming a file. Microsoft is pretty helpful in telling you that you can’t use any of the following characters, as you type a new file name:

< > : ” / | \ ? *

But Microsoft doesn’t tell you that there are a few reserved words, that are forbidden:

CON PRN AUX NUL COM1 COM2 COM3 COM4 COM5 COM6 COM7 COM8 COM9 LPT1 LPT2 LPT3 LPT4 LPT5 LPT6 LPT7 LPT8 LPT9

Try naming a new file (or folder) one of those and you’ll get an error that is decidedly unhelpful. But try again with something slightly different (“Auxiliary” instead of “Aux”), and everything will work as normal.

Now for a small catch: Most of these Windows-based forbidden naming conventions are not present under MacOS. You can name your file “Con.docx” on an Apple. Or make a folder called “Retain for Later?” on your iMac.

But Mac users should still try to respect these Windows-based restrictions. Why? Because if down the road, you email or transfer those files/folders to a Windows computer, bad things can happen. When a file is added to a PC, and Windows finds that the file name violates the rules of the OS, then:

  1. The file may vanish.
  2. Windows Explorer may lock up or crash.
  3. The file may refuse to open or allow any changes to its file name.

Scan QR Codes with Your Phone’s Camera

The title says it all, but I’ll go into more detail: When you see a QR code in public, use your cellphone’s camera on it.

If you open your camera and point it at a QR code, the camera software can “figure it out.” Watch for a clickable link on your screen (you do not need to actually take a picture). If you tap the link that appears, it will do whatever the QR code is programmed for (take you to a website, start an email, etc.).

Do NOT download and install any 3rd party app for QR code reading. Those apps are wholly unnecessary at this point, and can contain adware or worse.

Don’t Panic: Pegasus Spyware

There’s a lot of news about the powerful spyware named Pegasus. And it is some nasty stuff, being able to infect a phone without anyone clicking anything! You can read about some basics about Pegasus here.

Unfortunately, this is one of those news topics where the media can be more inciteful than insightful. For example, the NYTimes has a long write-up on Pegasus that might make you a little anxious to read. By the 6th paragraph, they mention that “more than 1.65 billion Apple products in use worldwide have been vulnerable”. They don’t mention what you should do until the final (33rd) paragraph.

What should you do? Try my two-step plan:

1) Don’t Panic. 2) Update your iPhone.

The first step is because you’re probably not affected by Pegasus. This spyware, while it can do everything it says on the tin, was probably not something that was unleashed on the entire world. Instead, researchers are fairly sure that it was deliberately used against specific people. World leaders, politicians, activists or billionaires were the likely targets.

I’ll go out on a limb and wager that most of my readers don’t fit those categories. And for any who is a Pegasus target, they’ve probably already had their iPhone replaced or wiped.

Anyhow, the second step is what can give you full peace of mind, and may have already happened automagically. Many iDevices update on their own, and the latest iOS 14.8 update will patch iPhones against Pegasus. So go ahead and check for updates on your iPhone, and then put this nasty business out of your mind.

PS: Android phones might also be vulnerable to Pegasus, but the news media is not reporting a whole lot on that. I still recommend you Don’t Panic.

PPS: Yes, you can check your iPhone for Pegasus, but it rather involved and possibly not worth the effort. Still, if you are interested, here’s one method that appears to have no cost associated with it. I do not see any way to check an Android phone for Pegasus.

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