Ask Mr. Modem: The Perils Of Remote Access

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Click to read more about Mr. Modem.

Q. What do you think about letting other people take remote control of my computer to analyze and fix problems?

A. I would be inclined to use something like that right after I have a microchip implanted in my body so my cat knows where I am if I wander off. In short, I wouldn’t. To grant anyone that level of access, in my opinion, is – I believe the correct psychiatric term is “nutso.” That type of access is not limited or restricted; it is full, 100-percent, wide-open, help-yourself-to-my-data access.
Most remote repair services require you to install their software so they can take control of your system. You are then relying on the honesty and integrity of people you don’t know while effectively saying, “Hey, unknown people, I give you permission to poke around inside my computer and fix whatever you think needs fixing.”
For those who have had a computer problem resolved via remote third-party access, congratulations! But while you’re basking in the glow of problem resolution, keep in mind that there are many people who also wind up with compromised computers and new problems where none previously existed – sometimes days or even weeks later. At worse, steer clear; at best, caution is advised.

Q. I have a PDF form that I have to fill out each week, but I can’t always get the form to open so I can type into it. Is there some other way to do this? Thanks, Mr. M.

A. Fill Any PDF ( is an online PDF form filler-outer and is an easy way to crack open a PDF file. There is a video on the site that demonstrates how it works, so give it a try and you shouldn’t have any problem.

Mr. Modem’s Web Sites Of The Month

Einstein’s Big Idea
Filled with fascinating facts about the legendary E=MC2 genius and his life’s work, you will also find interesting articles about Einstein’s personal life (who knew he was a big fan of the Three Stooges?), as well as some interactive features that explain the science behind the famous equation that few of us understand.

Phone Arena
If you become woozy trying to sort through features in an attempt to figure out which mobile phone is best for you, at the Phone Arena you will find phone reviews by actual users who aren’t trying to sell you anything. How refreshing! You can also observe side-by-side comparisons, editor picks and obtain the latest news about phones, including when the next version of your phone will be released, thus rendering your new phone obsolete. (Hint: Obsolescence generally occurs within 30 minutes of purchase.)

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Ask Mr. Modem: A Second Chance With CTRL + Z

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Click to read more about Mr. Modem.

Q. Sometimes when I drag a file from one location with the intention of placing it in another location, I fumble with the mouse and it winds up in the wrong spot. When that happens, is there some way I can cancel what I just did so I can start over?

A. Windows does provide a second chance of sorts in the form of an Undo keystroke command for this type of oopsie. (It’s a technical term.) The universal Undo command is CTRL + Z, which works just about everywhere within Windows. You can use it copying or moving objects, pasting and even when editing a document or spreadsheet. (If only life had an Undo command…)

Q. I have been using Windows XP since it came out years ago. Do you have a crystal ball handy so you can tell me how long XP will be around? Thanks Mr. M.

A. Technically, Windows XP (released 10-25-01), is “no longer around” in the sense that it was replaced by Vista (released 1-30-07), Windows 7 (released 10-22-09) and Windows 8 (released 10-26-12). The fact that XP is no longer the new kid on the block doesn’t mean that it’s going to disappear from your computer or cause any particular problems other than those associated with any aging operating system.
Sometimes older operating systems become less cooperative than they were in their youth – something to which I can relate. If that occurs and you have the original XP installation CD, you have the option of having it reinstalled. If you don’t have the original XP installation CD, you will find several retailers on who still have it available for purchase.

Q. I like Microsoft’s Bing search engine, but I find the constantly changing backgrounds rather distracting. Is it possible to disable this feature?

A. Copy the following address into your browser’s Address field and press Enter: (That’s a zero, not the letter O.) If you are satisfied with the no-frills appearance of Bing, bookmark the above URL and you will never have to see a Bing background image again. Badda bing, badda boom.

Mr. Modem’s Web Sites Of The Month

Customer Service Scoreboard
Dissatisfied with customer service in general? You are not alone. Only 46 out of the 604 companies found on this site have been described as providing acceptable service. Ratings are based on consumer feedback, as well as overall friendliness and issue resolution.

How to Get Rid of Things
Learn how to get rid of everything from allergies to wrinkles, from adware to unsightly static cling. (Unfortunately, it does not pertain to people. I just checked and Uncle Rudy is still here. Just my luck.)

Physics Games
Online, physics-based games. Need I say more? Perhaps. Here you will find 99 free, online, physics-related games. There is nothing to install and nothing to download. Just click to select a game and start playing. Instructions for each game are rather sparse, so be prepared for some trial and error gaming.

Subscribe to Mr. Modem’s award-winning weekly computer-help newsletter using promo code CITYSUN and receive a free month with your six-month subscription.

Ask Mr. Modem: iPhone/iPad Printing

Click to read more about Mr. Modem.

Click to read more about Mr. Modem.

Q. Is there some way I can print directly from my iPad or iPhone?

A. There are several ways to accomplish this, though I found it easiest to purchase an AirPrint printer ( AirPrint printers are wireless printers approved by Apple to work with the iPhone, iPad and other iDevices.
I use an Epson Artisan 730 printer primarily for printing photos taken with my iPad and iPhone, but it can be used for printing documents, email and other items. Photo print quality is outstanding and setup was a snap by simply following the instructions that came with the printer.
There are also third-party apps such as Printopia ( and PrintCentral ( or go to the Apple App Store and search for other apps that will enable printing to a non AirPrint printer.

Q. I just bought a new PC with Windows 8. I know this sounds crazy, but I can’t figure out how to shut it down. Help!

A. What you are experiencing is quite common for new users of Windows 8. Our old friend, the Start button, is gone (let’s share a moment of silence), so what you will need to do is mouse on over the little gadget in the lower right corner of the screen, or you can move your cursor to the upper left corner for the same result or press the Windows Key + C.
In the slide-out menu that appears, also known as the Charms bar – which begs the question: Who comes up with these names? – click Settings > Power button, then click Shut Down from the menu. In the alternative, if you press CTRL + ALT + DEL and click the Power button in the bottom right-hand corner, you will be presented with the same Shut Down option.
For users who prefer alternatives to alternatives, if you are on the Desktop, press ALT + F4 and make your choice from the Shut Down, Restart, Sign Out and Switch User options.

Mr. Modem’s Web Sites Of The Month

What Was There?
Think of this site as a virtual time machine that will enable you to see how familiar places looked before they were ravaged by the passage of time – not unlike my high school yearbook photo. By combining Google Maps with historical photos of streets, buildings and locations, you can see how the past compares with the present.

Retail Me Not
This is one of my all-time favorite money-savings sites. Before I order anything online, I check here for applicable promo codes provided by the retailer and shared by other consumers. If a promo code is found, type in the code when placing an order and obtain whatever discount is associated with the purchase. There are scores of coupon and promo code categories that include everything from Accessories to Zithers. Well, okay, ZitherTown is no longer in business, unfortunately, but the list of categories is extensive.

For information about Mr. Modem’s award-winning weekly computer-help newsletter and Pulitzer-lacking eBooks, visit

Ask Mr. Modem: Windows 8 In A Nutshell

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Q. Now that Windows 8 has been released, have you tried it and if so, what do you think, Mr. M?

A. Overall, I like it, though it is clearly designed for touchscreen devices. Using it on a desktop computer with a touchscreen monitor is a bit awkward, though it can be used with a traditional mouse. Windows 8 represents a major overhaul of Windows, and while interesting, I prefer touchscreen interfaces on tablet computers, smartphones and other mobile devices. I will be sharing more info about Windows 8 in future columns and in my weekly newsletter at

Q. If I’m composing an e-mail, then minimize it to the Taskbar and open another window so I can check something, is the first screen that is minimized as secure as the open window I’m working in?

A. When it comes to security, there is no difference between a minimized window and one that’s open full screen. Both are operating within Windows, so your installed security protects Windows overall. Think of it in terms of activating your perimeter security system at home. Once it’s activated, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in one room or another, sitting, standing or asleep in a chair. It is your home’s perimeter that is protected, no matter what you’re doing within the house.

Mr. Modem’s Web Sites Of The Month

Entanglement –

A semi-relaxing game that requires you to manipulate tiles to create a Zen-like path, making it as long as possible without connecting it to any walls. The accompanying music is somewhat soothing, right up to the point that it becomes annoying.

YouTube TestTube –

If you’re an avid YouTuber, a visit to this “idea incubator” permits you to take a sneak peek at cool experimental features for the world’s largest video site.

Mr. Modem’s technology-tips eBooks and award-winning weekly computer-help newsletter, now in its 13th year of continuous publication, are available on

Ask Mr. Modem: Beware Of Security Scams

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Q. I received a message that warned me of security problems on my computer that could be fixed if I clicked a link and paid some outfit $24.95. My security programs show no problems. I’m inclined to think this is a scam. What do you think, Mr. M?

A. Any alert that appears out of nowhere, emanating from something you didn’t install or approve, should be considered a scam, malware or worse. Even if the message was legitimate, for it to analyze your computer without your permission means that your computer was hacked – broken into – which is illegal, not to mention how it can ruin your day.
This type of scam is successful because many users react instead of thinking it though and wind up paying to fix a problem that never existed in the first place. Delete the message, don’t click any links and be happy that you dodged a digital bullet.

Q. I received some promotional CDs that are smaller than normal. I put one in the tray but I’m afraid to slide it in for fear it will get stuck in my computer. Help!

A. As long as the center hole is the standard diameter of any other CD, and the CD doesn’t physically fall through the slider tray, the CD should be fine to use. If the tray does not physically support the CD, then a mini CD adapter is needed. Run a Google search and you will find a lovely assortment of adapters from which to choose.

Q. I’ve got a really dumb question, Mr. M., so here goes: When you scan a document, does it use printer ink? I just bought a printer/scanner that requires four ink cartridges, so I don’t want to waste any ink.

A. There are never any dumb questions here in Mr. Modemville, so I’m glad you asked. When you scan a document, it does’’t use any ink. Scanning creates a digital image. Think of it as taking a photo of the item being scanned. Printing a scanned document does consume printer ink, but if your printer isn’t churning out a printed sheet, it’s not consuming ink.

Mr. Modem’s Sites Of The Month

Classical NPR –
If you love classical music, visit this site one time and you will soon be coming Bach for more.

Federal Spending –
If your blood pressure is running low and it needs a boost, point your browser here to Boondoggle Central.

Mr. Modem’s technology-tips, eBooks and award-winning weekly computer-help newsletter – outstanding gifts for the coming holidays – are available on

Ask Mr. Modem: Avoid Skewed iPhone Photos

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Q. When I take photos with my iPhone or iPad, they are usually crooked or tilted. Is there some app or something I can do to keep my photos on an even keel when taking them?

A. There sure is, but you don’t need any third-party apps to do it. Photo Grid is included on your iPhone and iPad. It does exactly what its name suggests: it adds a grid overlay to the photo capture screen, which provides a straight-line reference when taking photos. To enable this option, go to Camera > Options > Grid, and toggle it on.

Q. How do I get my Windows Live Mail spell check back? It suddenly disappeared and refuses to work. Help!

A. Windows Live Mail (WLM) automatically checks messages and underlines, with a red squiggly line, any words it suspects are misspelled. If your Windows Live Mail is no longer doing this, it needs to be restarted, which is not difficult to do. Press the Menu button at the top of the screen, or press the ALT + M keystroke combo on your keyboard, then click Options > Spelling tab. Click to check the “Always check spelling before sending” option.
Also place check marks beside “Automatically correct common capitalization and spelling mistakes,” “Check my spelling as I type,” and “Check spelling in current input language.” Click OK to save your settings. Close then re-open Windows Live Mail and you’ll be spelling like a chump – oops – champ, once again.

Mr. Modem’s Sites Of The Month

Behold, the Mouse! –
In December of 1968 (Bill Gates was 13 at the time), scientists from the Stanford Research Institute presented demonstrations of new computing concepts that we now take for granted. In one video, researchers introduce a new device called a mouse. Also demonstrated were hypertext, dynamic file linking and a mind-blowing (hey, it was 1968) demonstration of something called “shared-screen collaboration.” Fascinating, in a geeky kind of way.

The Mountain –
 Vimeo Web is a website where people contribute unique videos. “The Mountain” is a week-long, time-lapse video of El Teide. El Teide, for those who don’t get out much, is the highest mountain in Spain, one of the best places on earth to photograph stars – not Tom Cruise-type stars, but stars as in twinkle-twinkle. Under “Also check out” you will find three additional videos: The Aurora, The Arctic Light and The Water. Each is well worth watching.

Mr. Modem’s technology-tips eBooks and award-winning weekly computer-help newsletter, now in its 13th year of continuous publication, are available on

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