Category Archives: Technology Implementation

I am interested in technology implementation. I am interested in how we practically use technology rather than trying to “do more” with technology. We keep shooting for the moon with new tech and new gadgets when we should be improving our basic understanding and personal use of the current capabilities.

The Time v3 Technology Company

Mission

The mission of Time v3 Technology is to promote better implementation of existing technology with brilliance at the basics because less is more in technology.

Electronics Repair

While most modern electronics malfunctions and damage are difficult or impossible to repair, the right tools and know-how make some repairs worthwhile.

  • Watch battery replacement.
  • Maintenance and repair of select mechanical watches.
  • Screen replacement for select smartphones.

Consumer Consulting

As retail moves online, especially for electronics, consumers often lack basic information required to make a purchase among the myriad options. This is especially true when ordering accessories, customizing, or replacing parts. Good accessories can transform tech from useless to – useful.

  • Answer common consumer questions in blog post format to maintain online presence and streamline support.
  • Online conferencing audio equipment consultation for businesses.
  • Home audio equipment consultation. For example, parents enabling effective online classes for their kids, to include music lessons.

https://nathanruffing.com/conferencing-studio-with-music-equipment/

Zero to Hero Tech Concepts Education

Everyday tech remains a mystery to most people. Most people are starting at zero. Even if schools taught tech effectively, much of the tech did not exist when today’s adult generations were in school. The underlying concepts are both unbelievably simple and usually apply to a wide range of consumer products even if the products look very different. The underlying concepts behind modern technology are life education worth investing in. Plus, as users we are so familiar with everyday tech, it can be fun to see how it works.

1. Audio technology.

Time v3 Zero to Hero in Audio Tech Class

2. The internet. What the internet is physically. Demonstrate how we are communicating electronically from physical buildings to underwater cables to server software to web browsers. OstranderNet!

(Currently a draft post, more than half complete)

3. “Ownership and renting” on the internet. How the internet can be owned or rented just like real estate and how ownership is important on the internet just like in real estate. Vimeo versus YouTube, Linux versus Windows, domains and websites versus social media.

https://nathanruffing.com/tag/to-blog/

4. Software selection. Software is made by people who are paid to control how consumers interact with computers and each other. Understanding underlying business motivations of software creators can help you select software that works for you.

https://nathanruffing.com/picking-your-friends-in-computer-software/

https://nathanruffing.com/software/

5. Home electric power. Electric power is a staple in the modern home. Simple demonstrations of what electric power is, where it comes from, and how it actually does things.

From Tesla versus Westinghouse/Edison to transformers to the AC waveform on an oscilloscope to watts and watt-hours to your circuit breaker box.

6. Data encryption. How can two computers send a message that can only be read by the two participants even if a hacker can see all of the traffic? OstranderNet.

7. Batteries. From lithium ion to lithium ion to lithium ion, performance measures and how batteries drive modern tech.

https://nathanruffing.com/smartphone/

8. Tech basics of digital cameras. Electrical engineers are often into photography because digital cameras nerdize art.

https://nathanruffing.com/zeroherocamera/

9. General tech consumer:

https://nathanruffing.com/feedback/

New Products

  • Time v3 Clock
  • Phone corral / “smartphones to home phone converter”.
  • Chess board integrated into computer
  • Chess board modification to Bluetooth
  • Gaming headset to standard audio adapter
  • Time v2 graphic clock
  • Game timer
Member (Pending)
  • IEEE
  • AWCI
  • NAWCC
  • Registered w state? per Jeff?

Audio Terminology

Stereo Versus Mono

Stereo sound means left and right can be a different audio signal. Usually the two signals are nearly identical, but sometimes the difference is very noticeable. A stereo signal is two mono signals. Most people are familiar with this concept.

“Channel”

When buying mixers, pay attention to what “channel” means. Each stereo input is two channels. Therefore a “four-channel” mixer or recorder can often only properly handle two inputs. Indeed each channel is a separate audio signal, but if configured as stereo, there will only be one volume control for two channels together, for example, among other inconveniences. The mixer I bought is 12 channels, 4 microphone (mono by their nature) and 4 stereo inputs for a total of 8 separate volume controls. 8 has been plenty for me and I expect to never exceed it in my whole life.

Balanced Audio Signal Versus Unbalanced Audio Signal

Balanced audio uses two separate conductors carrying the same audio signal with opposite polarity. There is also a third conductor called ground or shield. The advantage is any noise picked up by the cable is picked up equally on each of the two conductors and therefore the noise cancels itself out leaving only the audio signal. The most common example is a microphone connected to an XLR input. See the XLR pin diagram below as the archetypal balanced audio example.

Unbalanced audio uses a single conductor to carry the audio signal, plus a ground. The most common example is headphones. There are three conductors because of stereo sound but each of the signals is a single unbalanced audio signal to the headphone speakers.

Microphones: Dynamic, Condenser, Electret Condenser, MEMS

Dynamic microphones use a magnet and coil to produce the audio signal. Advantages: do not require phantom power as the moving coil produces the electric signal, no self-noise, better at loud sounds, usually rugged and durable. Disadvantages: not as good at capturing detail. The most common example is the Shure SM58 performance mic.

Condenser microphones are delicate studio microphones that require phantom power to charge a “backplate.” While they produce some self-noise, they are better than dynamic mics at capturing sound detail, especially with with quality phantom power and using balanced audio signal. The most common examples are studio music recording mics and tech nerd podcasts. There are large diaphragm and small diaphragm condenser mics but if you care about that you are reading beyond this post.

Electret condenser microphones cheap and small. They don’t match professional mics in quality but they are very good and make up for the quality with small size and price. They are condenser microphones because they use a capacitor (charged plate) to produce the signal, but they do not require phantom power because the “backplate” is chemically charged in a way that does not decay for hundreds of years – pretty much permanent charge, like a permanent magnet. Note: I have had little success connecting these microphones to an audio mixer. While the description says they do not require power, I have also heard that they require 5V or 12V or 3-12V that is provided automatically by the computer or phone they are connected to. … ?

Cell phones use MEMS microphones (MEMS = microelectro-mechanical systems) because MEMS microphones are etched directly onto a silicon chip, often together with required circuitry, and they require very little power.

Phantom Power

Condenser microphones require phantom power to charge a backplate.

  • Music mixers provide phantom power on their XLR inputs.
  • Phantom power is almost always de-selectable with a switch on the mixer.
  • Although dynamic mics do not require phantom power, most will not be damaged by it. Many musicians use phantom power with dynamic mics all the time without knowing what it is and the only result is a barely-audible hum.
XLR Input and Pin Diagram

An XLR input is a dedicated balanced input typically designed for microphones.

Male Versus Female

I don’t need to explain “the birds and the bees” here, but pay attention with XLR because it’s not immediately obvious especially when buying cables. Pictured above is female XLR that would require a male cable to connect.

TRRS Diagram

TRRS stands for “tip ring ring sleeve.” The only use I know for TRRS is stereo sound plus microphone:

*Note: some TRRS diagrams show the microphone as a ring and the sleeve as ground, but I believe this was probably an old standard now obsolete that was abandoned because the audio signal could interfere with the weak microphone signal.

TRS and TS

TRS is “tip ring sleeve.” The standard example is stereo headphones:

Notice the two signals on standard TRS headphones are unbalanced, therefore unbalanced stereo. Unbalanced sounds “bad” but it is just slightly more susceptible to noise than balanced audio, an effect less important than many other factors in most cases.

TS is, you guessed it, “tip sleeve.” The most common TS example is a mono audio signal. The tip is the audio signal and the sleeve is ground.

“Phone Plug” Sizes (“Phone Plug” = TRRS, TRS, & TS)

I quote “phone plugs” because although it may be the official term, you will have better luck searching TRRS / TRS / TS. “Phone plugs” come in the following sizes:

  • 1/4″ = 6.3mm = “phone plug” = “the big ones”
  • 1/8″ = 3.5mm = “mini-phone” = “normal headphone”
  • 2.5mm = “sub-mini phone plug” = “the tiny little ones”
Balanced Audio on TRS

TRS can be used to carry a (mono) balanced signal (not common). For example, see the female 6.3mm TRS input on the XLR diagram above. The TRS input says “BAL OR UNBAL” beside it. A TRS balanced signal looks like this:

Signal Levels: Passive, Powered, Amplified

These are not “official terms,” but I would say there are three “signal levels.”

A passive signal is the signal a microphone produces for example. The signal is generated by the physical movement of the internal parts of a microphone. These signals must be amplified and are therefore sensitive to noise because any noise picked up will be amplified along with the audio signal. For this reason, passive signals often use balanced audio. Passive signals cannot even drive headphones.

A powered signal is the most common type. Once any electronics are involved, there are small amplifiers to drive the signal. Any powered signal can drive headphones, but usually not a speaker without external power.

An amplified signal can by itself drive a large speaker that does not have external power. Notice, with mono audio, some amplifiers will output an amplified signal via TS capable of driving a large speaker. You must use a robust TS mono cable to carry this signal to drive the speaker and not all TS mono cables are capable of this.

RCA Connectors

RCA connectors are common enough to warrant their own heading. They usually carry unbalanced mono signals and come in color-coded pairs for stereo.

Analog Versus Digital

All signals I refer to here are analog. USB is a good example of digital. Digital signals can be manipulated by software and digital can travel lossless over long distances. Digital has its advantages, but the conversion to digital and back to analog means delay even locally so once you are dealing with digital signals, you cannot listen to locally-produced sounds in real-time because you can perceive the small delay.

Bluetooth Transmitter

Once you have an audio signal on a standard headphone TRS, notice how versatile a Bluetooth transmitter can be with battery-powered Bluetooth speakers. Search for a Bluetooth transmitter and find many options, very affordable.

Bluetooth Receiver

If you want to mix in a pre-recorded track, a Bluetooth receiver is a great option to connect a music-playing smartphone or other digital device to your mixer. Many options, very affordable.

Surround Sound

I don’t know! I’m sure a home theater system salesman can talk for hours about it for free though!

Online Conferencing Studio Using Music Equipment

For a quick guide to all audio terminology you have heard and halfway understand, click here.

The #1 most important aspect of online communication is the internet connection. #2 is the sound and once you have a quiet location, the best audio situation you can set up is with music equipment. Here’s how. I will progress in the following order:

  • Capturing your local sound with microphones
  • Using headsets and splitting microphones from speakers
  • Expanding and mixing multiple local participants, nearly unlimited, including musical instruments, who hear each other locally in real time
  • Connecting all local sound into the computer
  • Hearing the remote sound from the computer
  • Mixing the remote sound from the computer into what all participants hear
  • Mixer recommendations
Microphones Capturing Sound, XLR Inputs!

XLR XLR XLR! Microphone = XLR input.

The most important rule when using microphones with music equipment is the microphones should be plugged into XLR inputs. If you are new to music equipment, XLR inputs will appear obscure, complicated, expensive, and you will subconsciously try to avoid using them. Use XLR! XLR inputs are designed for microphones and once you accept that you must plug microphones into XLR you will buy the appropriate microphones and headsets for future purchases and you will happily buy the converters for any equipment you already have.

Committing to XLR is most difficult when selecting headsets. Fortunately, the difficulty can be summed up and solved by answering one question at the time of purchase:

“Can this headset be connected to XLR for the microphone and TRS for the speakers (headphone)?”

Headsets: Split Microphones from the Speakers

Many headsets are designed to be “plug-and-play” with one plug, often a 3.5mm TRRS (TRRS is a standard headphone jack with one extra ring). This is great for one person with no instrument. Sure, video chat with grandma at the click of a button. Not set up, go. However, as soon as you add any second device or a second participant, you are going to wish the microphone signal were split from the speaker signal. Also, of course, you want the microphone to terminate in XLR.

I recommend the Audio-Technica BPHS1. The headset audio is split exactly how you want it, XLR plus TRS. Some of the reviews I read were written by podcasters, indicating that the headset is often used with professional audio setups.

Expanding to Multiple Local Participants

If you have committed to XLR for your microphones, expanding is pretty much already finished. Plug in and go.

The only thing mixers may lack is enough headphone jacks for everybody. Fortunately that problem is solved for under $50 with a simple headphone splitter, for example the Behringer HA400

Locally, Better than In-Person

Music equipment mixing is so smooth and high-quality that you can have a normal conversation even talking over each other and the sound of multiple voices in a conversation will be arguably better than without the equipment. Elderly people or anybody who uses hearing aids may prefer headsets on a mixer to just talking! Mixing multiple sound sources is exactly what music equipment is designed for. Podcasters use mixers and routinely have natural conversations over headsets with four or more people. Delay? There is no delay. There is no processing and electrical signals travel faster than sound.

Connecting to the Computer, Local Sound Into Computer

The critical point of success when interfacing with a computer (in my opinion) is to keep the ‘in’ and ‘out’ signals analog and physically separate from each other all the way to the computer. This means your locally-generated mixed sound signal should enter the computer through a sound input TRS receptacle. Maybe it will be labeled ‘mic in’ on the computer, maybe ‘audio in.’ At a minimum, you should be able to separately identify the sound signal in the computer’s settings independent of what software you are using.

Connecting to the Computer, Remote Sound Out From Computer

The sound coming from the remote person (or people) from the computer must be fed into the mixer to be heard by all the local participants. The tricky thing here is, the remote sound should be heard by the local participants, but NOT mixed into the sound fed to the input on the computer. If the remote sound is fed into the computer, the remote person will hear himself on the internet delay, or “echo,” which most of us have experienced and we know it is nearly intolerable depending on the volume of the echo.

Note: some conference software may automatically cancel the echo but it’s better not to rely on the software.

Fortunately, many music mixers are designed to allow musicians to listen to a recorded music track that they don’t want recorded – because it’s already recorded and that’s how they are listening to it. This is perfect for conferencing because the remote sound can be fed into this input and deselected on the mixed output that is connected to the computer. The mixer then only sends sound produced locally, but the local participants hear the remote sound as though they are “recording over it.”

Mixer Recommendations

Almost all mixers will have XLR, phantom power, TRS inputs, at least one output, separate volumes for each input, etc. Being able to deselect one input from mixing to one output to eliminate the echo feedback into the computer is a bit unique. Below are two recommendations that have the capability.

On the Behringer XENYX 1202, you can plug the computer remote audio into the “2-TRACK” RCA input, deselect “2-TR TO CTRL ROOM” and use the “CTRL ROOM OUT” to send to the computer as it will include all audio except the remote audio. Local participants then hear everything over the headphone out. Perfect.

The Behringer XENYX 502 has a similar setup, but notice only one XLR input.

Cables and Adapters

The variety and number of cables and adapters is as many as there are combinations of plug types. See the cable requirements in an example setup below:

[setup diagram]

Expanding Notes

Internet conferencing lives and dies by the sound. Minimum quality sound is absolutely necessary to make online conferencing viable and really good sound can often make video nearly unnecessary in many situations.

Most people shy away from using music equipment for computer sound because it appears complicated and it is “not made for conferencing.” I think that’s why anyway? Maybe people feel like using professional equipment makes the online situation permanent? Maybe they assume it’s expensive? Really though, why not?

Regardless of the reason, musical sound equipment is the highest quality and most versatile, especially for the price. As an electrical engineer and amateur musician, I believe music equipment is the overall best solution to online conferencing sound. I would caveat that with the following statements:

  • You should commit to using music equipment and analog electric signals entirely up to the point where the sound enters the computer. The sound should be completely mixed before it gets digitized.
  • Attempting to take short-cuts mixing in the computer will complicate to the point you regret the attempt.
  • The primary complication is interfacing the music equipment with the computer, but if you commit to separating the signals, you simplify this.
  • A secondary complication is interfacing microphones of headsets that are often designed to connect to computers and conferencing and not music equipment. See the XLR / microphone discussion above.
  • Music equipment produces near perfect sound and being the analog electrical equivalent of real sound, your set-up does not “go obsolete” like digital equipment and software does. Computers must interface with analog audio at some point and electrical audio signals cannot become obsolete. (Watch me eat these words somehow? Never say never?)
  • Regardless of purpose-made conference system marketing, online conferencing set-up is always complicated.

Customer Experience Feedback

I provide this rating system as an end user. Businesses always asking my feedback, here it is systematically. This is what I look for. This applies to everything from brick and mortar stores to websites. This is largely technology driven.

1. Minimum Technology

Technology can enable efficiency, but it often does the opposite. I am an engineer. I can figure out your technology – but I do not want to. Do not give me a job when I’m trying to spend money with you. Do not explain your tech to me. If your tech is not self-evident, you have already failed.

2. Version Control

Misinformation is worse than no information. One calendar, one web page, a web page instead of an e-mail. We do not need more information. We need the right information, concisely, current, dated, clear, verified.

3. Identifying Me

I do not want another number, account, password, etc. You know this. My name is unique. Use that. My e-mail is more unique, use it. E-mail is better than using my phone number, which is better than using a tracking number, which is better than a QR code, which is better than having me sign up for an account, which is better than having me sign up for an account with ridiculous password requirements. Use the ID that exists already. Start with my name!

4. Simplicity

One that works is better than two or three or however many failures.

Businesses Rated

UPS, 1 star. You have to go out of your way to get 1 star. UPS goes out of its way

  • Minimum tech? No. I don’t need an account, a QR code, and a bar code to receive a single brown package with $200 worth of stuff in it.
  • Version control? Multiple blatant failures. One package includes two addresses 1. my home where I know I will not be at noon for the delivery attempt and 2. the UPS Access Point. One package includes three methods of identification 1. a QR code, 2. a tracking number, 3. an “InfoNotice” number. The UPS Access Point had hours posted on the store partially in one location and completely in another less-visible location. An extra address, two extra package IDs and an extra partial hours posting. That is five strikes against version control. FIVE. Abysmal.
  • Identifying me? UPS, you know my address (you know where I live!!), and my e-mail address. Ask me for my phone number and I will give you that. ID me with any of those things. Nope. You need me to create an account. Fail.
  • Simplicity? No. All you have to do is deliver a package to a human being. It is not complicated – but you manage to make it so.

How can you succeed? My package enters your system and you e-mail me the tracking number and the address / hours of the UPS Access Point where my package will arrive. No home delivery. No “InfoNotice” bar code. No message saying, “Shocker! You weren’t home today at noon!” No QR code scavenger hunt. No running down a brown truck. No “out for delivery.” Get it close at a stationary target, tell me where it is, give me a deadline, and I’ll do the rest.

 

Websites Below

Organizing Online Events and Conferences

When people attend an in-person conference, they want to know the address, possibly where to park, where the sign in desk is, and a calendar of events with locations perhaps room numbers. They want to know the following for the conference and each sub-event:

  • Who: event name / who is hosting the event / presenter’s name.
  • What: subject of the event / presentation.
  • Where: location.
  • When: date and time.
  • Why: because.

I don’t make this list because the information is usually lacking. The information is usually available somewhere. I provide this list because there is usually so much extra information that attendees can’t find these basic requirements!

The online / virtual version of this is currently Zoom meetings. Attendees need the following information and no more! For each presentation:

  • Who: single web address with the most current information / name of the conference / name of the host / name of presenters.
  • What: subject of the event / presentation.
  • Where: the Zoom access code / meeting ID.
  • When: date and time in Zulu or always with a specific time zone.
  • Why: because.

If the event can be conducted without attendees registering that is best. If the attendees must register, let them use their e-mail addresses for a username.

Do a run-through the day prior with a friend or colleague who is not in on the planning. If he / she cannot attend withing 5 minutes then your system is a failure and you probably need to delete extraneous instructions and eliminate steps.

Information, Categories, Items

Pretty much all information falls into categories. Each item within a category has the same questions associated with it. For example, if you are a university and you list degree programs along with the number of years of study for the degree program and even just one of those degree programs is part-time instead of full-time, you absolutely must list “full-time / part-time” for all the degree programs – or you have left doubt and failed to communicate.

Therefore, for all categories, you list the possible questions for each category and your site is not complete until all the answers are available for each item within the category. Example:

  • Degree Program category:
    • Full name of degree
    • Years of study to complete
    • Full-time / part-time
    • Accreditation
    • Which campus if multiple
    • Credit hours with units of measure of credit hours
    • Language of study if there could be doubt
    • Link to course list / curriculum
    • Prerequisites for study
    • Start date(s)
    • Application process including deadlines and associated decision dates listed by type of applicant or explicitly stated “for all applicants”
    • Tuition information or link to tuition information
    • Motivational video for the program as applicable
    • Testimonials as applicable
    • Contacts such as dean, admissions, student ambassadors, etc.
    • Date of last update.

This is one list for one category for one type of site. This type of list applies to all sites that present information at all, which is almost all sites. Do not start your Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page until you have created your list and systematically answered all the questions for each item within each category. Especially do not e-mail me for feedback. This is my feedback right here. Do your job. Anticipate your users’ questions and provide the appropriate information no matter how obvious you believe the information to be.

Payment Units

Units of payment must always conform to the following rules or you have failed to communicate:

  • Payments always include the currency.
  • A one-time payment is assumed if not stated. However, if there can be doubt as to whether a payment is one-time or periodically repeated, it is always called “one-time.” There is no exception. There is no substitution for this phrase. No other wording is appropriate.
  • Repeated payments always
    1. include a period stated in an amount of time
    2. explicitly state a beginning and an end
    3. explicitly state what period the payment applies to.

Example:

The tuition is 10,000 dollars per year and is paid in monthly installments during the time you are studying. The academic year being 9 months, you make 9 equal monthly payments per year that lead the month of study and total to the annual tuition. Other taxes and fees apply, see the list at this link for taxes and fees.

  • The word “fee” is typically reserved for something that is extra or unusual. For example, “tuition” already implies payment, so you do not say “tuition fee,” or use the word “fee” under the heading of “tuition.” “Fee” makes it sound extra or unusual. You should say, “the annual / monthly tuition is…,” Writing “fee” is redundant and confusing.
  • “Fee” can be added on to a word that is not automatically a payment, such as registration. For example “registration fee.” This says it is a payment and that the payment is for registration.
  • A “registration fee” would almost never be a repeated payment because one only registers one time. Once registering, you are registered and don’t keep registering.

Time and Time Zones

I don’t care how smart you think your website is. I don’t care if your website thinks it knows where your visitor is and therefore “conveniently” tells the user in his personal time zone. No matter how smart your website is, the internet is still global. You could be using my IP address for location and I could be using a VPN. My GPS location could be erroneous. There is one simple rule for posting times:

Post the time with its associated time zone, including whether it is daylight savings time, and including the +/- relative to Zulu.

This especially applies to sporting events. I see times given properly less than 10% of the time for sporting events. If pilots suddenly became this bad at global time communication, the world would come to an instant standstill with aviation accidents, delays, missed flights, etc. Follow this rule and you have properly posted a time. Do it not, and you have failed to communicate.

Assumption

This feedback assumes you want your visitors to leave your site informed. If your goal is that your visitors click around your site looking for information you purposely hid or omitted, then this does not apply. If you are trying to force users to contact you if they really want to know something, then by all means ignore this and keep playing your games. I am not a marketer and I know some counter-intuitive strategies work when it comes to selling to people. This feedback applies to those whose goal is to honestly inform site visitors.

Impetus for this Post

Unfair as this may be I am picking one site that finally drove me to write this post. Their site was actually pretty good but as usual lacked basic information that I am fairly certain was omitted or hidden inadvertently. I clicked around London Business School’s site for probably an hour trying to confirm which courses were full-time and which were part-time. I never found it. I sent them feedback but I am tired of submitting basic feedback like this. I feel like I work for free giving feedback while companies constantly spend money to change and update complicated sites that fail at the basics – and then spend more time and money requesting my feedback. Here it is! Here’s my feedback!

When LBS, a top business school, clearly does not follow the basics outlined in this post, the post needs to be written because they, if anybody, should be good at this. Now it is written.

If Your Product Costs More Than $1000

I pick $1000 for an arbitrary cut-off. The point is, this feedback always applies to sites for products that could be considered an investment like, for example, real estate or education. Investments are life decisions and clients need solid info to make a decision.

You aren’t selling a pack of gum. Answer all questions. Is the course full-time or part-time? Maybe it’s obvious to you. Maybe I should know and be able to assume. Maybe I should have contacts within your school who can tell me and if I am not resourceful enough to find the info then you don’t want me anyway. Fine, but if you wanted me informed to make a decision and consider your school, you failed. I left confused, alienated, and ultimately decided against business school (OK I was leaning against biz school anyway not trying to be too dramatic). Now my last memory is the frustration of your website that could have been avoided if you had heeded the basic advice on my humble individual blog here.

Picking your Friends in Computer Software

1. Why the club:

Click here for the CATC About page.

 

2. Why this subject first:

  • Your computer software largely determines your experience with the computer.
  • I have helped people with their software to keep their computer working fast.
  • The people who make your software know what your experience looks like. It is those people and their motivations that determine your experience in the long run.

3. Vocabulary for Software

4. Discussion Structure

  • We are going to discuss software by its function first.
    • I want to offer a solution only if there is a problem.
    • Define the problem! (software often offers bells and whistles that do things we don’t really want to do).
    • This is a comprehensive list. A key to this idea is that all other software should be uninstalled and add-on software should be carefully selected.
  • We will categorize software by “open source vs. closed source” and “free vs. costs money.”
  • A dollar sign ($) by the software mean the software company is for profit. An ‘ad’ symbol (ad) means that mining and selling user data is a major revenue source for the company.
  • Last, we’ll meet the people and companies and discuss their motives.

5. Software Functions List

  • Operating System
  • Word processor (includes many office functions)
  • Web browser
  • E-mail / contacts / calendar
  • Internet search
  • Media player
  • Video chat [or use your phone]
  • PDF Reader
  • Printer and scanner
  • Video editing
  • Gaming

Operating System

Word Processor

Web Browser

E-Mail / Calendar / Contacts

Web Search

  • DuckDuckGo is a good search engine that maintains user privacy.

Media Player

Video Chat

 

PDF Reader

Printer and Scanner

  • How much does an ink cartridge cost?
    • Can a printer physically continue to print in black and white if the color runs out?
  • How much does a printer actually cost?

Video Editing

6. My Start Menu

7. Settings

  • When you set up a computer, your question should be, “what is this computer doing that I need it to stop doing?”

8. Bloatware

  • When I buy a computer, I don’t install software, I spend most of my time un-installing software.
  • Your computer manufacturer may include software pre-installed. You probably want to un-install it.
  • I include “anti-virus” software under bloatware.
  • Desktop weather display is another example.

Click here to see which software I use and recommend in each category.

I made this presentation for the Columbus Area Technology Club. Click the logo for the CATC website:

Columbus Area Technology Club

About this Club

In technology, less is more, and knowledge is power.

Hi. I am Nathan Ruffing, the founder of this club. I graduated from Ohio State, Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2006. I served in the US Marines from 2007-2015. I do not work as an engineer. My friends from college are shaping the tech world in which we live. I started this club to bridge the gap between the rapidly advancing tech world and the average person. We are all tech consumers, like it or not. We can like it a lot more if we understand it.

Please understand that the goal of this club is actually “how to choose tech,” “which tech to choose,” and “how to use tech and be finished with it and move on with life.” It is not “how can I do more with tech.” Less is more!

This club is modeled off of the Tampa Bay Technology Center (in Florida). Click here for the TBTC website. My uncle is a member of the TBTC. He is in his 70s. He also happens to be the president of the homeowner’s association of his building. The club enabled him to create an informational website for his building. Click here to see the simple, effective website he learned to make from a template. You do not have to make a site. He is the most tech-savvy 70-year-old I know, but the site actually makes his management responsibilities easier and gives him more time to hang out by the beach and golf.

For now the club is free while I gage interest. One day, there may be a small fee for membership.

Future Topics

  • Your smart phone: How to keep it clean and under control.
  • Your digital camera: How to get the most from your DSLR camera. Click here for an example video.
  • Technology terminology: Internet, domain, Wi-Fi, Internet Service Provider (ISP), software, hardware, operating system, etc.
  • Your space on the internet: your own domain and basic website for ~$10 per month.

Zero to Hero with your Fancy Expensive Camera

Understand the settings of your DSLR and get the value from your investment!

I shot the photos in the video with the stock lens on a Canon T5i, but these settings apply to most or all expensive cameras, any brand, any type.

  1. Zoom / frame the photo.
  2. Aperture
  3. Shutter Speed
  4. ISO
  5. Focus Shoot!
  6. Focus, Shoot!

All the Software you Need

Your computer can be fast and clean and stay that way if you know what software to use. It won’t slow down and you won’t get malware. This is your comprehensive list of software. I do mean comprehensive. If it is not on this list, do not install it unless you need it for something specific.

Operating System

Windows. It’s Windows. I tried Linux for a brief trial (Mint and Ubuntu), and it is indeed lean and fast, but it is just not for regular people. It’s for programmers. Windows is still my choice.

Word Processing

Microsoft Office. It works. When Microsoft changes Office, they do so knowing that they can’t mess with the core of the product. I use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. I do not LOVE Microsoft, but Office is still the best.

Internet Browser

Mozilla Firefox. Mozilla is a non-profit software company, and they are good. The Firefox browser isn’t tracking you or advertising to you like many of the others.

Download Firefox here and learn about Mozilla as well.

Privacy Badger. I recently started using this anti-tracking software, and I like it. It is super-small, and requires no time or input from you. It runs within your browser and blocks sites from tracking you. It is made by another non-profit, Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Download Privacy Badger here.

E-Mail

FastMail. I recently switched to FastMail, because I decided to take action against the more traditional e-mail providers using my personal information to advertise. FastMail costs $3 per month, and it is the best subscription I pay for.

Check out FastMail here.

*I did not have to change my e-mail address to switch to FastMail because I own my own e-mail domain. I teach how to get started with a basic website as a service, click here. A domain and website cost about $5 per month depending on how you do it. Worth the $$.

If you switch to FastMail without your own domain, your e-mail address becomes @fastmail.com or one of several other choices that they own.

FastMail’s smartphone app is super-fast and super-lean also.

Media Player

VLC Media Player. It is free, and in my ~10 years using it, it has supported the most file types, which is especially important with the plethora of video formats out there. It is made by VideoLAN, which is a non-profit software organization.

Download VLC Media Player here and learn about VideoLAN as well.

(I also use Windows Media Player because it integrates well with Windows.)

Video Chat

Skype. Yes, I still use Skype. As with most video chat clients, video chat within Skype is free, but that’s not why I still have Skype. You can add credit (real money) and call real phones around the world. Calls to US phones are cheap in a pinch from any Wi-Fi in the world. Microsoft owns Skype now, which is pretty annoying, but I still use it.

PDF Reader

Adobe makes PDF and Adobe is very much a for-profit company, but they are good, and they have a vested interest in you, the consumer, being able to read PDF very conveniently. They sell the PDF editor only to those who create the PDFs. As long as you read PDFs and they remain convenient, Adobe continues to sell the editing software for big bucks.

Download Adobe Acrobat Reader here.

*When you download, uncheck the McAfee “anti-virus” boxes and the Chrome Extension!!! You don’t need the anti-virus software if you stick to these simple products! Also, turn off the auto-update on the reader. They update so often it is a nuisance.

Printer and Scanner

Most companies making home printers now make their money on the cartridges (not surprising) AND by advertising through their “printer software.” Steer clear! Spend a little more money for a real printer and save over the long-run! Also, as expensive as printing is, it’s actually not a bad idea to find a good printing store near you and just go print there when you need it.

I have a Brother MFC-9330CDW. At ~$350, it wasn’t cheap, but I have to be able to print. The cartridges aren’t cheap either, but the pages-per-cartridge is much higher than with an inkjet. It is a real printer, and it’s worth the investment.

Video Editing

I said I do everything you can do on a computer. Video editing requires serious software and it costs money. There is no free way around it. I use Adobe’s Creative Cloud. It is a little glitchy now and then, but Adobe’s support is really solid when you need it. I highly recommend, but only if you really need it, and only if you have a computer that can really run it. It is expensive. I pay for it in lieu of cable TV.

Click here for Adobe Creative Cloud.

Gaming

What a waste of time. I don’t.

Notes

Porn and other downloads or nefarious sites will of course ruin any safety you have with this very clean software. Also, trying to find free-ware and installing unknown software is well, …

If you don’t pay for the product, you are the product!

Thanks for visiting my site. Please share this post with all your friends with slow, frustrating computers!