Debunking Chromebooks Myths

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Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

If you’re having to self-isolate or work from home (or simply not going out so much) in the current coronavirus pandemic you might be considering some new computer equipment. A Chromebook is an excellent choice, but you might have some reservations or even believe some of the myths.

For a start, Chromebooks are not just a browser with a keyboard. There’s so many apps (probably the same ones you use on our smartphone) that you can install to do all the things you do on a laptop. You can easily stream music and watch movies, even in full HD if you go for that option. Editing photos is a breeze.

“Ah, but I can’t use Microsoft Office!” Sorry, yes you can! You can use the Microsoft Office Mobile App or Office 365 online, and there’s an app for OneDrive.

You might think that Chromebooks are cheap and not worth buying. Not true. Yes, you get what you pay for, but there are some excellent budget models as well as very high-end ones.

Finally, you might think switching to a Chromebook is complicated. Sorry to disappoint you again, if you can use a laptop and a mobile you can use a Chromebook. You can also access your work on all three and synchronise etc.

Oh, and I didn’t mention that they’re stylish, light, have an incredibly fast start-up time, and a battery charge lasts forever!

Note: You can also make your own Chromebook from an old laptop, it just won’t have the same battery life etc.

Microsoft Office Mobile App

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Until now, if you wanted Microsoft Office on your mobile device you needed an app for each of the individual elements, namely Excel, Word and the like. With the recent release of a great new mobile app, all these have been combined into one app, including Microsoft Office Lens. You can uninstall the individual apps and enjoy a fully-integrated experience.

The apps have been redesigned from scratch and there are some new features, one that I’m finding especially useful is the ability to make notes with simple formatting that synchronise on all your devices. For me, the latter has obviated the need for a separate app I previously used for notes. All in all, an app well worth checking out.

Boring, but potentially useful!

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As the title suggests, this post is boring, but might be potentially useful. It’s simply about the consistent naming of computer files in order to help you improve productivity whilst using a laptop or whatever.

Life (by its very nature) comes in unexpected ways, sometimes throwing things at us that we can have difficulty dealing with, even if normally organised. One area of life that I can keep relatively organised is my computer, even allowing for the dreaded blue screen of death that could occur at any time.

Windows 10 has recently made it easier to locate files, but it’s still helpful to have a system. I use folders extensively and always make sure everything saved in OneDrive, to make sure it’s immediately backed up to the cloud. I also like to keep the contents of most folders in alphanumerical order and to assist this I prefix many files (such as letters, scanned documents, sermons and the like) with the date in a specific form.

I’m writing this on Wednesday 4 March 2020 (in my lunch break) and so today’s files will be prefixed with 200304 (the date in reverse order). This ensures files are kept in alphanumeric order and I can easily locate specific files on a specific date.

A boring post I know, but I hope this simple idea helps you.

Note: the screenshot above is my backup of posts on this site named in the way I’ve described. Click to see an enlarged image.

Microsoft Office Lens

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Years ago you used a photocopier, more recently scanners became available, firstly on their own and then incorporated into printers. You could also get portable scanners, where the document to be scanned is drawn through the device (I’ve still got one somewhere). But then came along the smartphone.

It’s so easy to snap a document on your mobile these days, and there’s also some great scanning apps available that add a myriad of features. One that I use practically every day is Microsoft Office Lens, usually sending the scanned image straight into Evernote (my note-taking app of choice that is multi-platform and synchronises across all devices). Why not check it out? It’s free, by the way.

Please note: Since posting this, the app has been included in the new Microsoft Office Mobile App which combines all the individual office apps into one.

Avira Free Antivirus Software

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I wrote about Windows Defender in 2017, suggesting that you didn’t need to pay for anti-virus software because the one bundled with Windows 10 does a good job and integrates perfectly with the OS. Since then Windows Defender has been improved* and does a really good job of keeping you safe online; so there’s really no need look for an alternative, and especially no need to pay good money for protection.

I know many of you remain unconvinced about free anti-virus software, and so even this post won’t convince you. But for the rest of you, please trust me when I tell you that free software really does do the business!

However, you might say that you really don’t trust Microsoft (despite the fact that you trust them with Windows 10 on your computer in the first place), in that case here’s a great free alternative.

I haven’t used Avira, but I have it on good authority that it’s the best free alternative to Windows Defender. It blocks all kinds of threats (including spyware, adware and the like), offers real-time protection and updates, and can repair infected files. It doesn’t hog system resources (unlike some paid-for products) and is speedy and efficient. There are even free add-ons that can boost your protection.

So my advice, for what it’s worth, is to stick with the free Windows Defender that comes bundled with Windows 10, and certainly don’t pay good money for what can actually be inferior. But if you must have something else, you can’t go far wrong with Avira!

* I think Windows Defender is called Windows Security now. That’s the label on the settings window and taskbar icon anyway. It was the anti-virus software recommended by WebUser magazine in 2019.

Staying Friends on Social Media

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The algorithms of social media often dictate that we live within an echo chamber of friends who share our outlook on life. But not everyone agrees with us, nor do we always agree with others. The old adage of ‘agreeing to disagree agreeably’ sometimes goes out of the window when passions run high, and social media can be a catalyst to entrench our opinions and polarise debate.

In an increasingly divisive society, we may need to relearn the concept of being nice, affirming each other and appreciating diversity.

When I post something on Facebook I expect disagreement, but I don’t expect rudeness. People can get so angry that others have a different, well-considered opinion from them, one that may be part of their very being.

Often on social media there is no engagement with the issue(s), just simply shouting an alternative opinion, with no concept of nuance in any discussion. We are not heard by shouting. There needs to be respect, both for ourselves and for others. It’s also perfectly acceptable to admit the merits of someone else’s position whilst not necessarily agreeing with it ourselves.

Please don’t think that I’m saying I’m perfect in this regard, I’m not. But I do feel we all need to take a careful and humble look at ourselves and how we respond to things posted on Facebook and social media generally.

Personally, I approach this as a person of faith, and so many of my attitudes, thoughts and actions derive from this and make me the person I am.

Paul writing to the Philippians says: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Here is the context of the whole passage, where Paul suggests we should have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Be kind to each other.

Should have gone to Specsavers!

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Those in the UK will readily appreciate the visual joke, but it clearly doesn’t take much working out. The title for this post is the tag line of adverts for the Specsavers chain of opticians and audiologists (yes, they do hearing tests as well).

It was over 10 years ago that I experienced a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) in my right eye. This sounds serious, but it’s simply a condition where part of your vitreous gel comes away from the retina at the back of your eye. It can occur as part of the natural ageing process and causes no long term harm, although it’s vital it’s checked out because it can lead to more serious conditions. It was quite dramatic when it happened because I didn’t know what was going on, and it’s often associated with flashes in the peripheral vision, along with floaters and very tiny dots (red blood cells) in your vision. It all cleared up without any problems, although floaters are fact of life as you get older. Fortunately, the brain adapts and they become less obvious.

Just under 2 years ago, the same thing happened in my left eye. I was public speaking at the time, but this time I knew what was happening, so I just carried on. As soon as possible afterwards I attended the eye casualty department of my local hospital, and they confirmed what I thought had happened.

I’ve had some occasional problems with that eye ever since, and so when I booked my routine eye test I jumped at the chance to have an extended test (for £10) that examined the back of my eyes in far more detail. Everything was fine and I could read the line of letters below the one described as 20/20 vision, so I was a happy bunny and celebrated with a cappuccino at Costa Coffee next door!

I have to be vigilant though, the symptoms of PVD are similar to retinal detachment. So please have regular eye tests, as they can show up a whole variety of problems that can be dealt with early. Most importantly, if you suspect anything amiss (especially if something like a dark curtain comes across your vision), seek urgent medical attention immediately.

To look after your eyes on a day-to-day basis; make sure you keep well-hydrated, get plenty of sleep, and avoid stress. All of those things, of course, are good for your general health and wellbeing.