Bargain Hunting…

November 30, 2008

A friend of mine sent me several great bargain hunting sites for posting on the blog to share with you:

Dealigg – a social bargain hunting web site.  Pay special attention to the “freebies” section on the site.  Enjoy free after mail-in rebate deals and freebies (usually with free shipping).  A link to the Dealigg freebies has been posted on the “freebies” page of this blog.

Dealigg – Do you receive sales circulars each week with your Sunday newspaper?  Here is a web site devoted to posting nationwide links to the sales circulars by Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, Kmart, Office Depot, Office Max, Radio Shack, Sears, Staples, Target, Wal-Mart and select local retailers..

PriceWatch – If you are into buying computer components, then this site is for you…  Finding merchants with low prices on computer components is PriceWatch’s specialty.  From video cards and sound cards to processors and memory, you can find great prices on just about every type of PC card or computer add-on component from a large number of vendors, each competing for your business on price.



Online Fraud – How to avoid being a participant…

November 29, 2008

FRAUD – deceiving another in order to damage them (for personal gain).  Fraud is a crime of deception where you decide to be a participant or not.  Online fraud comes in many flavors; from deceiving emails to deceiving software.

Are you a participant? 

In order for fraud to take place, the perpetrator must attract the participation of the victim.  This is usually done through trickery; ultimately for financial gain.  Computers and the internet have made it very easy for fraud to take place.  It is not limited to just our national borders, but is an international (worldwide) problem of great magnitude. You never see the perpetrator in cyberspace. They are invisible to us, and as a result, recouping your identity or any financial losses can be next to impossible.

Several examples:

  1. To provide a powerful example of how fraud can lead to identity theft, I encourage you to preview this video clip, “An Interview With An ID Thief”,  at Tech-for everyone [click here].
  2. One of the most common fraudulent methods out there right now are the rogue security applications that trick you into buying security software.  As an example, see this article [click here] ,composed by Bill Mullins-Tech Thoughts, on a rogue security application called “Personal Defender 2009”.
  3. Other fraudulent methods are through email.  As an example, a very seasoned computer friend of mine recently received the following email with the subject line: “Beloved (In Good Faith)” – (click graphic below for screenshot).  You would not believe how many people fall for this type of email.


Click to Enlarge

Fraud Email - Click to Enlarge

How not to participate…

If it is something that shows up on that computer monitor screen unsolicited (that you did not ask for), be very, very skeptical…  I know our computers prompt us for updates, etc…  but, if you are not sure of what you are doing, DO NOT PARTICIPATE.  If you are skeptical about an email you received and there is instructions or pleading for you to provide information, DO NOT PARTICIPATE.  If you are solicited in any manner, where money or account information is being requested, DO NOT PARTICIPATE

Tips from the FBI – Cyber Investigations Unit

Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.

Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials soliciting via e-mail for donations.

Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.

Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.

To ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.

Validate the legitimacy of the organization by directly accessing the recognized charity or aid organization’s website rather than following an alleged link to the site.

Attempt to verify the legitimacy of the non-profit status of the organization by using various Internet-based resources, which also may assist in confirming the actual existence of the organization.

Do not provide personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions: providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.

Where to report…

United States Processing ServiceLocal Level – I always tell people to start at their local level (i.e. State Police). Reason for this is that you can actually talk to a human being face-to-face, in a quick manner, to tell your story. If anything, psychologically, it will help.  For example, I had a friend that purchased a diamond ring on ebay for several thousand dollars and they received a “bolt”…  We contacted the State Police and believe it or not, the perpetrator was tracked down and charged; however, my friend ate the loss.



Internet Crime Complaint CenterInternet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) – Their mission is to serve as a vehicle to receive, develop, and refer criminal complaints regarding the rapidly expanding arena of cyber crime.  IC3 is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).




United State Postal Inspection ServiceUnited States Postal Inspection Service – To file a complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service if you suspect you are a victim of mail fraud.  If you have been victimized online, by fraudulent means, there may be instances where it could involve the actual mailing of money, checks, documents, etc… via “snail mail”.





Federal Trade CommissionFederal Trade Commission –   To file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if you suspect you are a victim of fraud.







When it comes to computers and the internet;

“Believe Nothing and Verify Everything”


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Touch up those photos…

November 29, 2008

If you are into digital photography, I am sure there has been those occasions where you wished you could edit or change the effects of your photos.  Most image editing software packages that ship with the digital cameras, in my opinion, are easy to get lost in and the user loses interest very quickly. 


Look no further…  A program that I have used for several years, that is FREE; that keeps getting better; that has an easy learning curve; AND has features that rival some of the commerical packages, is called PhotoFiltre. This program should be in everyone’s image editing toolbox.   

PhotoFiltre has a wide array of editing and imaging features that you nomally find in commercial software.  PhotoFiltre comes with a modern, well designed interface and is well suited for everything from simple resizing to advanced photo editing. The neat thing I have found about it is that it has been a learning tool for me as well.  I have never been able to take a program like Adobe Photoshop and learn it, due I can not focus long enough to learn about it.  I’m one of these IT guys that has  “brain train” and learns on the fly.  With PhotoFiltre, you can, on the fly, start out by learning simple adjustments (such as sharpening or resizing an image) and progress to more advanced adjustments (such as applying photo masks and applying filters). I use this program a lot for designing and editing projections slides at my Church and for touching up the digital photographs that I take.

There are actually 2-(two) editions of PhotoFiltre:

PhotoFiltre (Free Version)

PhotoFiltre Studio (Commercial Version) – which supports Layer management, animated GIF, automatic insertion of copyright,  and supports 8BF filters.

[CLICK HERE] to Google for PhotoFiltre Reviews… It is a highly rated program that I feel does not get the recognition that it truly deserves.




Two alternative photo / image editing programs that I recommend are:

Photobie – image editing software that combines features amateurs can use with advanced tools professionals will appreciate. Photobie is free for personal use with no Pro upgrade to pay for — all features are free. 

ArtWeaver – program for creative painting, i.e. Artweaver offers you all artistic effects which you need for your work.



Our keys are not even safe…

November 27, 2008

keyYou will often see articles on the blog, or references to other sites, about software vulnerabilities, internet security issues, information and privacy concerns; BUT I never dreamed I would be writing about your keys and how vulnerable they could be, if left out in open view.  Yes, I am referring to your house keys, car keys, office keys, etc…  Did you know that computer scientist have developed software that can perform duplications of a key (like your house key) without ever gaining physical access to the key?  Ok, I know this is not making any sense, but here is how this works.  By using a photograph of a key (from nearly any angle and distance), the software can measure and string together the depth of each cut (to get a keys bitting code); and together with the basic information on the brand & type of key, an exact duplication can be made.  Ok, you are probably at the point that you feel the need to look this up on (to confirm whether this is a hoax or not).  Well it is not a hoax (see source below) and what concerns me is that this is now public information and will seed the minds of those who live on the underbelly of the internet (if it has not already happened).  The counter defense for this is that companies are actively developing and marketing new locking systems that encode electromagnetic secrets as well as a physical code.  Basically the computer scientist’s involved wanted to demonstrate that this could be done by simply acquiring a photograph of a key.

To read more about this, click here to visit





Cleaning your LCD Monitor…

November 27, 2008

Today, for whatever reason, I noticed that my flat-panel LCD monitor (LCD – Liquid Crystal Display) had a smudge on it and was yelling “Clean Me”…

Most of the time when we decide to clean the monitor it is at a time when we are not really prepared to do it.  We’re sitting there and it is something obvious (like a smudge, a fingerprint, a bug etc.) that catches our attention and motivates us to to perform a cleaning.  As a result of this, we end up using glass cleaner and paper towels, which is a big “NO, NO”…  Paper towels or any paper product for that matter contains micro-particles that can scratch the monitor; AND glass cleaners contain chemicals that can damage the optical coating.

5 Step Process:

  1. Turn “OFF” the monitor (actually turn “off” everything including the computer, etc. OR better yet unplug the monitor from its’ power source).
  2. If available, use a can of compressed air to remove any dust particles.  Believe it or not, dust particles can causing scratches.
  3. Use a lint free soft cloth, dampen it with “water”, and gently wipe the screen off.  Do Not Spray liquid directly on the screen.
  4. Use a lint free “dry” soft cloth to finish the job.
  5. Post a sign, “Touch my screen and you’re a goner!”  For some reason, some people have to be all “touchy feely” with monitors.  LCD screens are not designed to be touched.

If your LCD monitor is really dirty, there are commercial LCD monitor cleaning solutions and micro-fiber cloths available at most office supply stores.



Free Shipping…

November 26, 2008

You can really get great deals by using the power of the internet.  One thing that I look for when making price comparisons is whether there is free shipping.  A site that I visit as a shopping launching point is called “FREESHIPPING.ORG”.  It is a collection of coupons and coupon code offerings (for FREE shipping) to over 850 stores.  With Christmas right around the corner, this site may come in handy.

Note:  This site and logo has been added to the “Freebies” section of the blog for future reference.





What digital camera should you buy?

November 25, 2008

I came across an article today, “General Advice for Purchasing a Digital Camera” (by TechPaul – Tech-for Everyone) that caught my attention.  I love digital cameras; however, I am an amateur photographer at heart.   I have owned quite a few cameras over the years and I have found that they keep getting better and cheaper. 

Digital camera purchases for Christmas is one of the hottest items out there. So, what digital camera should you buy?  I really can not tell you the exact one to purchase, but if you follow the the (2)-two steps outlined below, it will get you started in the right direction.

  1. Get the basics down…  I encourage you to review “TechPaul’s” advice [click here] on purchasing a digital camera to get some of the terminology down. Once you have a good idea about optical vs. digital zoom, image stabilization, megapixels, LCD viewfinder, etc. proceed to step 2.  TechPaul provides an excellent description of the key elements you need to know in a way that is understandable.  Thank you TechPaul…
  2. Start shopping…  Digital cameras are hot sellers, have come a long way in a short span of time, and are available everywhere.  The problem is that there are so many of them that it creates a dilemma.  Usually when I shop for a digital camera, it is either a camera that has caught my eye OR I’m just starting out, not knowing what I really am looking for.  Either way, the solution that I keep going back to is “Steve’s Digicam’s”. Steve’s Digicam’s web site is touted as “The consumer’s best source of digital camera information and news”. The reviews and information which is provided is phenomenal.  Since Christmas is coming, and a camera may be on your wishlist, I suggest you visit the site and click on “Holiday Wishlist”, which will walk you through the process of finding a camera that they have reviewed and rated. It is also an awesome site to teach you about digital photography.


Steve's Digicams