Tag Archives: Consumer

In a world of constant new products, we must be educated just to choose. These posts help you to be an educated consumer.

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!

Nate’s Favorite Things 2017

This is the fourth edition of my attempt to surpass Oprah in her dominance of the favorite things market. It is my most interesting list yet and includes a lot more of my friends. Check them out, support them, and Merry Christmas!

1. Jigisha Patel’s “Positive” T-shirts

Check out the Dot Not Shop with creative T-shirts and other great gear. Comment at the bottom with suggestions for Jigisha. My favorite .not gear that doesn’t exist yet is YourFace.not  What .not shirt do you want to see next?

 2. Libby Harris’ Book Box Club

My friend Graeme’s entrepreneurial daughter started this online book club for teens. It’s based in the UK, so it must be cool and of course they are the English experts. Get your high school age kids into something positive on the vast internet!

3. Katie’s Tru Man Brand

I met Katie of Tru Man Brand appropriately enough during an Ohio State football game. I had already seen her “OH So Good” T-shirts out and about so that makes her Columbus famous at least. Get a cool Ohio T-shirt this year that is designed a little off the beaten path from the usual Buckeye gear. Click here for the Tru Man Brand store.

4. Meet Cbus TV

OK, it isn’t even out yet, but Meet Cbus TV is coming in 2018 and it’s part mine, so of course it’s one of my favorite things. Subscribe, or buy a T-shirt (coming soon), to support our effort to put a camera on the most interesting people in Columbus!

Meeting the most interesting people in Columbus.

5. Simple Kneads Gluten-Free Bread

They just keep growing and growing. Simple Kneads is in Whole Foods and expanding fast to a grocery near you. You can buy online while you wait for their arrival at the grocery.

6. Logitech Bluetooth Headset

If you talk on the phone, this product will change your life. This accessory is an absolute must-have.

  • Wireless
  • Hear conversation in both ears
  • Hands-free
  • Rechargeable with standard USB
  • Quickly switch between computer and phone

7. NutriBullet

High quality and essential for getting a healthy breakfast on the run in those always-short morning hours.

8. What to Watch

There is so much alternative media out there, I decided to select the best-of-the-best to help curb those at-work and late-night “end of the internets” binges. Click here or on the TV and you’ll earn a history degree by accident:

The Challenge

Oprah has around 365 live audience members at her show. I’ll shoot for 365 hits to this page. Help me out and help the small businesses by sharing.

Nate’s Favorite Things 2016

I have just two favorite things this year. They must be good then!

1. Audible and The Great Courses

The Great Courses are separate from, but available through Audible. They each deserve to be on my list in their own right, but I group them together because that’s how I buy them. I have an Audible subscription and I use many of my monthly credits on The Great Courses. Audible is Amazon’s way of selling audio books. For me, they have transformed several otherwise boring tasks such as removing wallpaper, yard work, and driving between Ohio and North Carolina, into riveting adventures. The Great Courses are series of lectures organized into 30 or 45 minute segments given by the best professors that academia has to offer on each subject. I am currently listening to my 4th. I highly recommend “History’s Greatest Stories of Exploration,” to start. You’ll be hooked! Better than fiction!

2. Darn Tough Socks

Have you ever been down to your last socks and thought, “This is gonna be a bad sock day.” Why? Why wear cheap, thin old socks? Throw them out! Donate them! The industrial revolution has brought all the comforts that technology can offer and you reject the efforts of our ancestors by wearing third-rate socks to save a few dollars? Socks touch your skin all day long. They have to deal with your sweaty feet. They support you when you stand and walk. They have to fit like gloves. If you spend more than $10,000 on a car in which you spend less than an hour per day, how can you justify saving $10 on socks? It’s ridiculous!

Darn Tough socks were part of the gear issued when I was in the military before we went on deployment. Great gear. Everybody loved them. They are expensive, but worth the money. There is only one drawback, they are not good for hot weather.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year! I hope you kick back with some new socks and listen to an audio book!

Oprah has 104 favorite things this year. That’s 2 new things per week, each week, all year long. Really!? Clearly my list is 52 times as authentic as hers.

Nate’s Favorite Things 2015

Oprah has 87 favorite things this year. For her favorite things, click her picture.

Oprah Christmas
Click the picture for Oprah’s favorite things.

Notice she has teamed up with Amazon this year! She must have stolen that idea from me, since I have been doing that right here on my website since March 2014. Oprah is rich and trendy. Her favorite things are expensive and trendy. My favorite things are just awesome. See below.

1. GE LED Light Bulbs

Technology has finally produced a bulb to truly replace the incandescent light bulb. These have all of the advantages of the incandescent bulb with none of the drawbacks of compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), and use less energy than CFLs. They even look just like regular light bulbs. Perfect for that guy on your list who just wants cash. One 60W equivalent that costs less than $6 saves more than $100 in electricity over the 22 year life of the bulb!

40 Watt Equivalent

60 Watt Equivalent

I have not bought anything more than a 60 watt. Maybe next year.

2. Simple Kneads Gluten-free Bread

Brand new product available to order only since last week! The best gluten-free bread available. Get it while it’s hot! My favorite is the sourdough.

3. The Best Phone Charger You Can Buy

Ever notice that some chargers charge your phone fast and some take a long time? That is because of the current rating of the charger. This thing puts out enough power to light that 40 watt (equivalent) bulb above! It also has a long cable with a little light on the end and a USB port so you can remove the cable.

4. The Best Car Charger You Can Buy

Same as above, but for your car.

5. Supplemental Battery

This will run any phone (even smart phones) for several days on a charge. I used it while traveling on my bike for days at a time.

6. Trailer Hitch Bike Rack

While not as beefy or secure as its name-brand $450 counterparts, it gets the job done for 130 bucks. It is certainly heavy-duty enough that the bikes will not come off on the highway. You can get it stolen twice and still spend the same as for the name-brand!

7. Go Buckeyes!

8. At a Glance Phrasebooks by Barron’s

For whatever language, At a Glance phrasebooks are the best you can buy. They have the usual phrases, as well as pronunciation, and a handy dictionary in the back. I have personally used the Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese. Good pocket size and sturdy cover. Only one fits in your pocket. This is the best one.

9. The Best Pens

How many different types of pens are out there? Way more than there should be. This should be the only type. They are the best.

10. Kindle Paperwhite and Carrying Case

The Kindle Paperwhite is the best e-reader out there. I haven’t used the other e-readers, so how do I know? Because you can’t improve on perfect. The screen looks like paper, the pages flip fast, and it has a built-in back light for reading at night. You’ll want to be able to carry it without scratching the screen and this case is just that. Nothing fancy, just a well-fitting cover.

11. Jump Rope

A great product for a great exercise. It has ball bearings, adjustable length, and what else do you need in a rope?

 

My Favorite Things

Oprah and I have a few things in common. For one, we both have favorite things. If you want to see her favorite things, click her picture. If you would rather see my favorite things, read on.

OPR120113_000

Check out the Amazon Affiliate program for an explanation of why I made this post.

If you have never read your e-mails, browsed Facebook, Netflix, or YouTube from your couch, then you are missing out, trust me. With this on my lap, my wireless roller ball mouse in one hand and the King of Beers in the other, I am king of my domain (my domain being my living room).


Borderline sadistic, this product makes you want there to be more flies to kill. For an extra $10, there is also a PRO version for those man-eating horse flies.

This flashlight got me through many aircraft pre-flights in Afghanistan with the white light, then switched colors to green for the flight. Single AA battery, durable metal, bright enough. Must-have flashlight.

Favorite movie, hands down.

Seriously? They sell Snickers bars on Amazon? It is my favorite candy bar, but I actually don’t recommend buying 48 at a time…