Teach Parents Tech!

Anything that saves time and gets the job done is okay as far as I’m concerned.  I’m pretty much on the go all the time so my time seems to just vanish  – a lot.  Where’d the time go?  Dunno, it just went.

Luckily the folks at Google are trying to help us all out.  If you’ve got a family member a thousand miles away who would like help cropping a digital photo (just as an example), you can send them a digital care package – a video showing them the basics!

Teach Parents Tech

teachparentstech.org is loaded with useful video "howtos"

There are quite a few helpful video tutorials covering common applications and how to get done what needs doin’.  Even if your Mom or Dad are not using the specific programs used in the examples you’ll usually find the concept helpful enough to get them pointed in the right direction.  Check it out.  Click the picture above -or- click teachparentstech.org.

Whew, that was easy!

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Humble Indie Bundle II

A few months back we all had an opportunity to download a bundle of computer games and name our own price!  You may have heard about it.  It was called the Humble Indie Bundle of games – the “indie” part referring to independent game developers.   The greatest part of the offer?  Most -or- all of the proceeds of that “fire sale” style Internet offer could be carved up between the developers of the games and a couple of really worthwhile charities.  One of the charities – of which I’m a huge supporter – is the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  (It’s a bit off-topic so when you get some time check them out).

These games are all cross-platform, meaning there are Windows versions, Macintosh versions and GNU/Linux versions.  Mind you the same files may not run on all three systems but you can download and install the one to match your current platform.  Hey, while you’re at it;  why not download all three?  Just take the amount you feel is appropriate for the purchase, divide by three and then donate one third – once for each platform!  If your Windows machine goes up in smoke and you replace it with a Mac or GNU/Linux machine – you’ll have some really cool games to play!

You can donate to some worthy causes and download your games at www.humblebundle.com

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Frankly Speaking

Penguin Computer & Telephone Solutions
8695 College Parkway, Suite 1120
Fort Myers, FL 33919

239.963.4680

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Leverage Smart DNS For Safer Surfing

I used to be concerned about the types of things my family might accidentally stumble upon while surfing the web.  The world wide web is an unregulated wild-west that can be dangerous to us, our children, our computers and occasionally in cases where we give up too much information – our finances.  When we click on a link in email or on a website we’re taking a risk.  Most of the time thankfully we go right were we expect.  We get the information or service we expect to get and that’s that.  Sometimes not.Computer Problems

There are not a lot of cost-free things in the world that come with built in peace of mind but I’ve found one.  I’ve found a way to make my computer systems safer and surfing the web faster and more reliable and it doesn’t cost me a dime.  I do it for my customers. You can do it too!

Let’s go over how it works first.  Imagine you’ve got a new Corncast Internet account.  They come out to your home and plug you in – you’re surfing in no time.  You request www.cnn.com and boom – you’re there.  Behind the scenes when you typed “www.cnn.com” into your computer and pressed ENTER the browser sent that info to a Domain Name System server (DNS server) on Corncast Internet’s network which in turn provided your browser with the location of www.cnn.com – an all numeric address …157.166.255.19.  Packets flew to 157.166.255.19 and requested info … packets flew back from 157.166.255.19 in reply and whamo – there’s www.cnn.com‘s homepage.  Think of the all-numeric address as a telephone number and think of the Domain Name System as the operator connecting your web “call”.

So you’ve got Corncast Internet and by default you have Corncast Internet’s DNS server, it’s speedy and dutiful – but not too smart.  It hands back an all numeric address to your browser without thinking.  What if it were a little bit smarter?  What if it knew that you were trying to go to a website that is known to install unwanted software on visitor’s computers and alerted you?  That would be smart.  What if it could keep track of all the different sites on the Internet and categorized them as … gambling sites, pornography sites, hate speech sites, malware installing sites, spyware installing sites, etc….  that kind of smart DNS server might prove useful if you wanted to avoid any one or even all of these things, right?

It would be really useful if you could have smart DNS pointing you toward the web instead of Corncast Internet’s “not too bright” DNS server.  It would be super nice if the smart DNS server was faster and more reliable.  It would be super useful if you could control what types of things you wanted to avoid while allowing things you weren’t worried about.  It would be tremendously useful if there were a website that would let you control this smart DNS server and all your changes were effective within minutes.

OpenDNS.com is not a new service, it’s been around for a while.  It comes in a few different service level varieties including a free version for home users (that’s where we’re at) as well as a monthly paid deluxe plan and an enterprise level plan too.  Of course the paid plans have a lot of really neat features that can make them worthwhile for folks “in the industry” but for those of you who just want to surf much safer – the cost-free plan is more than adequate.

screenshot of OpenDNS control panel

The OpenDNS control panel puts you in charge

If you’ve set up a wireless network in your home getting OpenDNS working will be a snap for you.  It’s done is three basic steps:

  1. Create an account and log into OpenDNS.com
  2. Let OpenDNS know your IP Address at all times.  This can be accomplished using software you install on your PC, Mac or Linux computer (directions on their site)
  3. Point your computers at the OpenDNS DNS servers instead of your ISPs DNS servers.  You can do this for one or all of your computers.

I set mine up for the entire network by adding the addresses of OpenDNS directly into my gateway router.  Now when anyone gets an ip address on my network they also automatically get the DNS servers I’d like them to use.  It doesn’t matter whether they’re using a laptop or an iPhone – if they connect to the Internet through my network they’re protected!


Penguin Computer & Telephone Solutions is not affiliated with OpenDNS.com – I do not own stock in OpenDNS.com.  OpenDNS.com is not paying me to endorse their product.

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Can you tell me how to get to Linux Street?

So, you might be asking yourself how you can switch to Linux?  There are a lot of reasons why you might like to do this.  Possibly you’ve heard people talking about it or read something written by one of your friends on Facebook.  Maybe someone has tweeted about it?  Maybe you heard something on the radio?  Something like this:

Linux Radio Promo

It doesn’t matter whether it’s the lower cost or the higher reliablilty or even whether you’re just curious to find out what all the fuss is about: there are some things you can do right now that will help you if and when you finally decide to take the plunge.  Common sense things you can do, like changing your applications.

  • Try using LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office.  It will open any Microsoft Office documents or spreadsheets you’ll receive and can even save your documents in a number of formats – even Microsoft Office formats.
  • If you’re using a local email client on your computer see if you can switch over to Thunderbird Email, it will automatically import your Outlook/Outlook Express addressbook and you can even bring your email over!
  • Install and use Firefox for browsing the web.  Windows comes with Internet Explorer as it’s default web browser and Macintosh computers use their Safari.  Firefox will import bookmarks and other goodies from either of these browsers.  Get on Firefox now.  It’s safer – (especially on Windows) and it’s remarkably intuitive.  When you land in Linuxville you’ll feel at home already
  • Install GnuCash as your financial software and use it instead of Quicken or Quickbooks.  GnuCash includes a wizard to help you import your existing Quicken data.  GnuCash is a true double-entry accounting software.  There are lots of tutorials available on the web for this software too, so you won’t be in the dark provided you look around a little.  It includes billing, budgeting, A/R and A/P capabilities likening it to Quickbooks along with the ease of use attributes reminiscent of Quicken.

There are so many more ways, but this is a start.  All of theses applications are cost free downloads.  They all support Windows or Mac or Linux operating systems.  Download, install and begin using these applications.  Familiarize yourself with how they work – when it’s time to switch over it’ll make things far less confusing.  You will already be familiar with them and how they work.  They’ll behave exactly the same way once you’ve switched over to Linux.

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