All posts by timlacey

Apple’s new Music Service is here!

I am experimenting with Apple’s new Music service.  My family has used Rhapsody, another music streaming service, for years.  Rhapsody, like Spotify and Apple Music, is a service where you pay a monthly fee of about $10 and you can play all of the music in their library.  You can play specific songs and albums and build playlists just for you.  You can even play it from your phones and tablets with or without internet access.  We are experimenting with Apple Music since we have a number of iPhones in our household and we’ve found the program to work very well on Apple products.  I’m happy to discuss this with you, but I won’t have a final opinion on it for a few more months (by late 2015 for sure).  So far, it’s looking like a good alternative to Spotify and Rhapsody, and much better than Pandora for people who like to listen to specific things instead of a radio-like music stream.


Office 365 for Windows 10 and Mac – a good combination

If you have a Mac and you use Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and so on), this is a big deal.  No more will you be using a special Mac version of Office. .. now the regular version of Office effectively runs on the Mac.  If you have an Office 365 account, your copies of Office will upgrade automatically (please see my note below about how to force the upgrade if you’re still waiting).  This is great.  Enjoy it.  If you need help or have questions, ask me.


The best way to buy Office these days is as a 5-user (works on 5 different computers simultaneously) license for $99/year.  No more CDs to install.  You simply go to, log in to your Microsoft account, and push the install button.  The licenses can be used on Macs or PCs and the 5-user license simply renews every year.  Let me know if you need help setting this up.  If you already own Office, this is the best way to upgrade!  Office 365 also comes with a full terabyte (1000 gigabytes) of storage on OneDrive, the Microsoft cloud-based file storage solution. And the Office 365 subscription includes programs like Publisher and Access.  For example, the kids use Publisher at school so why not have it at home as well for them?


Upgrading to Windows 10 but running an older version of office (Office 2010 or earlier)? Then I suggest that we set you up with Office 365 as well. Office 365 will work best with your up-to-date and current version of Windows. Since your Windows will now always be updating to the latest version, your Office should as well. Then everything will work the way Microsoft intends, which will make your life easier and make your computer simply better to use. I’ve been running Office 2016 with Windows 10 since March, 2015 and it’s worked well for me. I’ve also seen the changes rolling out and I’ve been impressed with Microsoft’s pace of refinement.


TO FORCE THE MAC UPDATE: Existing Mac user with an older copy of Office and a current Office 365 subscription? Apparently you can go to, log in to your Microsoft account, and select INSTALL to install the new version of Office for Mac on your Mac. It will install right over the old version and update everything.

Windows 10 will be here soon! July 29, 2015 it starts arriving!

On July 29, Microsoft is releasing Windows 10 as a free upgrade to everybody using Windows 7 or Windows 8.  This is a big deal.  Microsoft will be able to convert one billion customers to a unified version of Windows, making the world a much better place in the end by simplifying it.  Apple’s Macintosh has been doing this for years – they force their users to upgrade quite often and they make it easy and FREE.  The benefit is that once people perform the recommended updates, they are all using the latest version.  Software writers are forced to update their software or become obsolete.  Users are forced to adapt to new features and things.  But in the end, we all win since it puts everybody in a common state – simplifying the state of software for everybody.  Support becomes easier, software works better (since it can focus on supporting only the most recent versions of software), and people stay on top of the latest trends in a gradual, painless way (I hope).

I recommend that you DO NOT UPGRADE to Windows 10 when your computer asks you to.  I suggest you defer the installation until mid-August or even September.  And I suggest that you contact me for advice when the transition comes and we can make a plan.  Microsoft is more than happy to upgrade your machines (laptops, desktops, tablets) automatically, but certain things can be optimized PRIOR to the upgrade that will improve the way your devices work for you.

Factors and complications to consider while upgrading:

    • Converting from local accounts to Microsoft accounts on your devices will allow them to tap fully into Microsoft’s system, storing many of your settings in the cloud as part of your user profile.  These settings will carry across your devices, meaning that your preferences will follow you around.  Also, you can go from device to device seamlessly. But many people skip this step and use “local” accounts. This will rob you of many fabulous features.
    • Moving your files to the cloud.  This can be Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive, Box, or any other provider.  Different cloud storage locations work better for different purposes, but they all share a common beauty. . . they keep your files in the cloud and sync a copy of them to your devices. . so you never have to backup your files, photos, music and other files again.  (This assumes you are set up properly, however, and that all of your files are cloud-based).  I talk more about the cloud below and specifically about security in a cloud-based world.
    • Updating and cleaning up your applications.  If your files are in the cloud and your accounts are in the cloud, the only thing your computer has that aren’t based in the in the cloud are your applications – things like Photoshop, Office, Chrome, Quicken, Turbotax, Quickbooks, iTunes, etc. . . We can look at what you’re using and make sure it will work with windows 10.  Most high quality programs will easily transfer.  Some may need updates or conversions to newer versions or standards.  You don’t want to move to Windows 10 and have certain things in your life stop working as you expect.
    • Deciding whether to start from scratch or simply upgrade.  This also includes deciding how and whether to back up the system prior to the update so that in case of trouble, we can revert it.  In many cases, the upgrade is an opportunity to reset and clean up some things, so a fresh installation of Windows 10 is a great idea – especially if we first moved your files to the cloud, linked your settings to your Microsoft account, and took inventory of your applications.  A new computer always works best, and a new Windows 10 computer would be no exception.  Windows 10 is all about working better and faster than before, but if you upgrade and bits and pieces of your older machine are still there (preserved for you to keep everything compatible), you might not get the benefits of modernizing!
    • In rare cases, printers and devices that work with Windows 7 will not work with Windows 10. This happens when, for example, a printer manufacturer doesn’t release updated software for a 10 year old printer that is no longer in production.
    • Old computers that run Vista and XP can run Windows 10 as well, and will probably run faster and better with Windows 10. But since the upgrade is not free for those systems, it is either a time to buy a copy of Windows 10 for the old machine or to replace the old machine with something shiny and new. Deciding whether it’s a good time to also upgrade or replace your machine or hard drive.  We may decide that it’s cheaper and easier to buy a new machine rather than upgrade an old one and potentially create work for ourselves.  Or we may decide to replace the hard drive at the time of upgrading to give you the incredible speed of the new “Solid State Hard Drives” at the same time we’re doing the other work.  Solid state drives, unlike the dreaded hard drives of the past that are known for catastrophic failure, contain no moving parts, use less energy, and are many times faster.  Computers are plenty smart these days – most of their time is spent moving information around between the disk storage and the memory and such.  Once you have a solid state drive, that time goes away and the computer is 2-3 times faster in all ways.  It’s a very simple upgrade, and it wouldn’t add any time to the upgrade process.

Please give me a call at 619-459-0977 or e-mail me to make arrangements for Windows 10!


Code2 Sync for iCloud

Nearly all of my clients use iPhones, and nearly all of my clients use Outlook.

As a result, my clients fail to get the most use out of their calendars. To solve this, I simply install the iCloud control panel and Outlook plug-in on their devices, and then I use a tool called the Code2 Sync for iCloud.

The tool very easily syncs their iCloud calendar with their Outlook calendar, so that clients can start to use both, knowing that appointments and scheduled items will carry over between them.

Suddenly, clients can start to accept meetings in Outlook from e-mail, and then it will appear on their phones!  And they can add stuff on their phone while they’re out and about, and it will appear in their Outlook calendar.


The calendar is a great tool, and this lets people get the most out of it!


(Google users – I use GSyncIt for the same result)

Ad Block Plus

I have kids.  And kids need some help on the internet to avoid traps and sneaky ads.  But I’ve found that adults need help too, and as a result, I recommend that everybody install AD BLOCK PLUS on their computers.

It removes all the advertising (except for advertisng that Ad BlockPlus has already deemed to be safe and non-deceptive) from all web sites.  Ad Block Plus is created by a non-profit company devoted to making the internet safer for everyone.

You can find the program here:

You may need to visit this site from each of your web browsers and install them separately. So first install it on Internet Explorer, then Chrome, and then your other browsers (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Yandex, Safari, Firefox, Android, Opera are supported as of Feb, 2015)



I often find Malwarebytes Anti-malware software on machines that I work on. Typically these were installed by a knowledgable friend or other “computer guy.” This is truly a fabulous program and I love to see it. I install it on all my personal machines as well, since I find that it is a great safety check for any machine.

Recently I have used the “premium” version of this program, a version that they sell by subscription but which is also sold (for a limited time, I assume, $38.99 as of Feb, 2015) on as a lifetime license – a non-expiring license to the full version. Unlike the free version, the premium version runs all the time and runs IN ADDITION to whatever security software you may have. In many cases, it can be run alongside the built in security that comes with Windows 8 and 10. By doing this, you have 2 levels of security, both watching for different things. Currently this is the simplest adequate solution for most everyone.

So my advice is to:
Download and install the free version of malwarebytes. Run a scan and see if it finds anything.
Download at

Go to and purchase the code for lifetime premium service (available as of Feb. 2015 but not for long!)


In Malwarebytes, click on “Go Premium” and then select “I already have a license”

Insert the codes sent to you by Amazon after completing your purchase of the lifetime premium service.


Restoring Delete Prompts in Windows 8

With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft removed something we had all gotten quite used to.  I expect they were just trying to minimize the number of warnings and questions that pop up constantly as we use Windows computers.



When you delete a file or folder with control-x, the DELETE key, or by right-clicking a file or folder and selecting DELETE, Windows would prompt up with an “Are you sure you want to move this to the Recycle Bin” message.  Apparently they felt like that message was something people would not miss.  Well, they were wrong.  I have restored this functionality for clients who were disturbed that they were able to delete entire folders without even realizing it.



The solution is incredibly simple.

Step 1. Simply click on the RECYCLE BIN on your desktop with the right button (right-click) and a menu will appear. Select PROPERTIES from that menu.

Recycle Bin Properties Select

Step 2. Once the recycle bin properties window is open, simply check the box that says “Display delete confirmation dialog” and hit OK to save your settings.
Recycle Bin Properties Window

Step 3.  Test that it works by deleting an unneeded file from your computer.  If it doesn’t work, try restarting the computer, then try again.  If it still doesn’t work repeat these steps to make sure the check box got marked successfully.

delete confirmation

Digital Photo File Formats and Meta-data explained

This is the first blog entry for  To keep it simple, I am starting with a brief explanation of photo files, specifically JPG files.  Most consumer digital cameras and smartphones produce JPG (pronounced jay-peg).  JPG (wikipedia link) is short for Joint Photographic Experts Group and is simply a definition of how photographs are stored within computer files.

Felis silvestris silvestris small gradual decrease of quality.pngA JPG file does not store every single dot in the image – instead, it approximates the image to produce smaller files.  The cat here shows how the JPEG approximation works.

On the right, you can see how the image is broken up into large squares that provide a granular view of the object.  As you move to the right, the file uses less approximation and thus produces a more detailed image.  Typically any photograph that you take yourself with a camera will use approximation effects that you are unable to detect unless zooming in as far as possible into your image – something that is rarely done, especially with consumer-grade photos.

The level of approximation is also referred to as the “compression rate”.  The more compressed an image is, the more approximation is taking place.

Anyway, the JPG file contains the image, but it also contains a lot more.  When you take a picture with a digital camera, information is included with the image – information about your camera settings and about the date and time your photo was taken, among other details.  This is referred to as EXIF data, and it’s simply appended to the image and included in the JPG file.  This is great, because it means that the file will always contain that info.

Meta-Data and Dates for Photo Files

Some photo organizer software, such as Picasa, Adobe Photoshop, and others allow you to change this embedded information (referred to as meta-data since it is in addition to the primary image data) .  Say you took a picture with your camera and then the computer told you that the picture was taken in October of 2002.  Well, that simply means you didn’t set the clock in your camera.  But you can fix the date and time in the photo file using a computer program.  And those changes will get incorporated into the photo file, and retained with the file forever.

I often scan old photos, and the date and time are simply the date and time that I ran the photo through the scanner.  That is never going to be the correct date and time that the picture was taken, though, so I use software to update the information.  Most programs require you to specify a year, month, and date in order to date a photo.

Updating photo date information in Photoshop Elements

Adobe Photoshop is unique in that you can date a photograph with as much information as you’ve got – for instance, “1972” or “March, 1986”.

I like that feature a great deal, since I don’t like adding information to a file unless I know it is correct.  Often I can figure out the year of a photo at a minimum, but I have no idea what month and day it was taken.  And I don’t like making it up or simply selecting the first of a random month.

Adobe Photoshop cannot store this new date and time information in the photo’s EXIF information, however, since the EXIF standard requires a complete date composed of a year, month, and day.  Adobe solves this problem by adding yet another chunk of data (in what they call “Adobe XML” format) inside the EXIF data within the file.  The problem is that currently most non-Adobe programs do not make use of this Adobe-specific information.  Adobe recognizes that others don’t use their dates, so they store the date also in the typical EXIF format that includes a month and day to approximate the intended date.  The result – a photo I labeled as “May, 1967” in Photoshop shows up as April 29, 1967 in Picasa and Windows and iPhoto.  This is unfortunate, and I sincerely hope that the standards evolve in future years and that companies cooperate to produce a standard way of representing partial dates.  I do not understand why a major industry player like Adobe would produce an enhancement to the way photos are dated, only still to be ignored by other major players who are supporting the original, simple EXIF standard.  (This is similar to music – where embedded star ratings for songs are handled differently by iTunes and everyone else – why can’t we all just get along?)

Google Picasa here requires me to enter a year, month, and date whether I know them or not!  There’s no way for me to say “April, 2012 but actual date uncertain”.