Upgrade Now, Go Gray, Blast Off & More

by Bill Scobie

Microsoft is ending their last way to get a free Windows 10 upgrade, the one where you could claim you needed their “assistive technologies” built into Windows. This free upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 ends December 31. If you’ve been holding off but wish to upgrade, do it this month.

There is a cute brain hack that might make it easier to take time away from your smart phone. Go gray, turn off color. Both Android and iOS have features, usually in accessibility, to turn the screen to grayscale and it is amazing how that alone can dampen interest in always looking at the screen.

Google Maps has moved into outer space. There are five planets and nine moons you can explore without suffering the heavy Gs of a space launch. Simply go to Google Maps on a computer (not on a phone), make sure you are in satellite mode, zoom out until you see the planet Earth and a list of the planets and moons listed on the side.

A thousand (and maybe one) fonts can be sorted and previewed, with some interesting results, at The Anatomy of a Thousand Typefaces (getflourish.github.io/anatomy-of-typefaces). It could be more productive than staying on Facebook.

It might be time to discover different music or to find out what people are listening to outside the U.S. Both Spotify and SoundCloud offer ways to find the top 50 songs in different countries, as do other services like indie artist favorite bandcamp.com. And even services like Tunein.com and Shazam.com have ways to find and filter music popular in other countries.

If you’re using a Mac and a PC and miss being able to copy and paste between the two, you can now make that happen. With a Google account and a login and app downloaded from 1clipboard.io, you can have your clipboard and history of previous clips shared and used between all your computers. Of course, some might ask why you use so many different computers, but that’s a different column.

When using Google Docs and your fingers are getting tired, turn to its built-in Voice Typing. You must have the latest version of the Chrome browser on Mac or Windows and, of course, a microphone (something all laptops have built-in, as do all-in-one computers). Open a Google doc, click on the Tools menu and then click on Voice Typing. Activate the microphone icon, and be aware of ambient noise. You can turn off the mic icon when you don’t want your voice transcribed. Somewhat similar features are available in the smartphone versions of Chrome.

Encrypting your hard drive is a great security trick and may even be “required” in some industries. But don’t forget to encrypt those backup drives and USB sticks also.

Bill Scobie fixes computers and networks for small businesses and home. 628-2354 or bill@scobie.net

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