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My Rules to live by ONLINE

Over the years I've purchased many items from online stores.  Amazon, Walmart, QVC, Home Depot, Nordstrom, Toys 'r' us, Battery Express, B&G foods to name just a few.  I've booked trips, bought tickets to sporting events and movies.  I pay nearly 100% of my recurring monthly bills using apps provided by my banks.  I refrain from having too many credit cards open.  I've created a few rules for myself when entering credit card information in the WWW.  I've not had a problem in nearly 20 years.  The World Wide Web is only slightly older than that.  Not to be confused with the Internet which first was available to the government and then to Colleges and Universities somewhat later.

My first rule: 

My Second rule   

My Third rule:  


Now I am ready to buy. 

Rule #4: I always use the same single credit card for my online purchases.  This card has a "cap".  IE a certain maximum amount that can be charged.  When the transaction is complete I remove my credit card info from the site.  Not all sites allow this.  The Apple ID account comes to mind.  Therefor a credit card with a soon-to-be-expired date is preferable.  If that's not possible, I've been known to report that particular credit card has been lost.  The credit card company is happy to replace it which then invalidates the online card.  Hey if YAHOO can have 1 Billion accounts hacked, what makes you think ANY website is 100% secure?  Monitor your credit cards closely! 

At the point of purchase I take a "screen shot" of the final transaction.  Many sites offer to send an E-mail confirmation.  Do it!  A copy of the screen helps avoid problems.  Always get a phone number where you can reach a real person should something get screwed up. 

Rule #5:  If anything is unusual on the website, I will call BEFORE making online purchases to confirm that this business exists or I will avoid it all together.  


Shipping usually costs extra and price comparisons don't include this.  Sometimes you cannot get the final price until you have entered all the required information.  Rule #6:  If I am required to enter credit card info before I am told the final price, I DO NOT BUY FROM THAT SITE. 

Lastly, I want to track my purchases as they travel from state to state.  Most sites provide this to you.  If not, I think about not making future purchases from this site. 

Making my computer run longer on a single battery charge


Perhaps one of my most challenging efforts on my computer was to understand and effectively change Windows Power Options to make my laptop computer run longer when only on battery power.  On my Lenovo I was helped by installing a free APP called "Lenovo Companion".  I downloaded this from the official Lenovo Website.  Toshiba offers "ECO Charge Mode".

My first lesson was to understand the option "extend battery life". I'll discuss my experiences with Lenovo first. 

I turned on EXTEND BATTERY LIFE and found that my battery no longer charged past 60%.  This is easily found by mousing over the battery icon on the task bar.  My display also gave me an estimate of battery life in hours or minutes as it were.  I forgot about this for a few months until I wanted to use the laptop extensively without plugging it in.  Then I realized what I had done.  I had extended the battery life by not fully charging the battery!  Now I wanted to get 100% charged and was unable to reverse this option and there was no way to do it!  That led to installing the Lenovo App.  Eventually I worked my way down the list of options to the correct setting and turned this off.  The App referred to this as "Conservation Mode". 

Next I spent some time in the Windows Control Panel, under System & Security, choosing POWER OPTIONS.  The are voluminous settings.  I find the default settings on a new battery work just fine.  Balanced (Recommended) is selected.  The display is turned off after 5 minutes and in 10 minutes the computer is "put to sleep".  The screen brightness is lowered.  However on my old battery this was unacceptable. 

All kinds of things use up battery power.  The worst offenders are screen brightness & hard disk drive usage. So depending on how you use the computer when on battery power greatly effects how long the battery will last.  If you surf the Internet, open & close files, move or copy pictures from flash drives to your hard drive or do virus scans, battery life will be greatly reduced.

If you simply open a word processor to type and create documents, battery life will be greatly extended.  Especially if you are able to reduce Screen Brightness. 

When the battery power reaches 17% Battery Saver gets turned on automatically. 


Since upgrading to Windows 10 problem Sally has been unable to open Control Panel on her computer.  Control Panel is a critical windows App that is a gateway to all sorts of things.  Go here for a detailed discussion of Control Panel.   


 Our friend John worked with Sally at computer club meetings and eventually found that other folks posted similar problems.  This led us to a solution that involves changing WINDOWS/SYSTEM32 directories.  This can be a mine field and tricky to navigate. 

Buying a new device?  

Are you Windows users confused by all the choices?  There are some questions you should ask yourself before walking into "that computer store" and allowing a salesman to sell you a device.  Just looking for a cheap computer?  Really?  When you go shopping for shoes don't you try them on?  Do you buy tennis shoes when you want to go hiking?  You don't just buy the cheapest ones you can find, do you?  If so, this article is not for you.

I have 40 years of experience buying, building from scratch and using all kinds of computers.  They are indeed like buying a pair of shoes!  Buy what fits you.  If you want some free advice, read on.   I have no vested interest in what you buy.  I have no investments in any computer company nor benefit from any of what I write below.

My friend Bruce recently asked me “what kind of computer should I buy?”

He probably wanted a simple answer like “Lenovo, HP, Acer, Asus, Chromebook (a skinny Win 10 version) & Toshiba to name just a few. The Mac only comes from Apple but you do have some choice in size, speed, color, et. so read on!


He didn’t get a simple answer, at least not as simple as he wanted. 

You wouldn’t go to a Ford dealer without knowing if you wanted a car or a truck, would you?  We older & retired people tend to want things to be simple - like they used to be.  Well, if money doesn’t mean that much to you, then buy on price, under the general rule “you get what you pay for…”  Also check the warranty.  Furthermore, if you buy at a “brick & mortar” store, make sure they help you transfer your data to the new device.   There should be no cost for this.

You might be running some old, unsupported software.  Microsoft Movie Maker & Picasa comes to mind.  This will not transfer.  More on this later.

For everyone else, I would suggest you answer the following questions, which will indeed made your choice simple and then make your decision.  You’ll  be ready to march into a brick & mortar store, talk to the salesman & tell him what you want instead of being told what to buy. 

After reading this article, you may think of your task as daunting.  But a little effort up front could save you hundreds of dollars later on.  Just try to approach each point step by step.  Write your answers down.  Talk to other knowledgeable computer people.  Ask the salesmen at different stores.  Compare their answers. 

Generally speaking, I begin by asking myself the following questions:

If my computer works, why do I want a new one?



Do you have your data backed up or do you expect the salesman to move it from the old one to your new one?  Better ask!  On this page: THE MANY WAYS YOU CAN BACKUP YOUR OWN COMPUTER.


Your pictures & documents are usually the easiest to move over.  It gets a little more complicated when you think about your favorite websites and E-mail.  Is your email kept on your computer or “in the cloud”?

Answer the following questions for yourself before you go shopping:

Do you want a laptop or tower/desktop computer?  What do you have now?  Or is it a tablet that you want? How about an iPad or a 2 in 1 laptop like a Surface Pro? HP?  Lenovo?  Dell?  Apple?  Perhaps we have too much choice?

My answers:  


More things for you to consider:

By now you have some idea of what you want to buy and how you want to use it. But you aren't done yet!  Here are some technical details for you to be armed with, when you go shopping.  You'll be glad you spent a few minutes on this!

 What CPU size do you need? 

  Do you need to know the difference between one CPU & another? 

     Answer #1:  

     Answer #2:   

 Memory:  This is not storage. Then what is it?  


  4GB is a basic amount.  More is not necessarily better and you pay for it.  Consider your answer #1 and #2 from above.  Moving up to 8GB might be worth the price. 

My Answer:  

Next is hard disk drive size:  Commonly referred to as 'storage'.  My advise is to look for a minimum 500GB drive. 


CPU & Memory are not the only considerations for speedy computers or tablets & iPads, etc.  I suggest you understand, or at least be aware of one additional  concept when deciding on the size of a hard drive.  It's only important if you are buying a 'tower' or 'desktop' computer.  Click here if your answer is yes.  

Computers should have a minimum of 4 USB ports.  Why? My Answer:  

 If you shop for a laptop be sure to try out the keyboard.  The "feel" of the keyboard should be comfortable.  Remember the old IBM 'select-tric' typewriter?  It was the best typewriter made because the keys felt great and it was well designed!  ALL keyboards are not the same!

 If you settle on a laptop, battery life might be important.  I have 4 laptops and when running on battery power only, each lasts a different amount of time.  Click here to see my article on laptop battery’s.

Much of the difference in weight on a laptop is plastic replacing metal.  Old cars are made of steel.  If you drop them, uh, well ‘wreck them’, they don’t break much.  If you wreck – I mean drop new laptops, they break because most of the innards are plastic. 

Considering an iPad?

My first iPad was 16GB of storage.  BIG mistake.  Way too small. It doesn’t take much to fill up with pictures, email and Apps.  My second iPad was 64GB perfect for me.

My iPhone (purchased after my iPad) was 128 GB.  Way too BIG, but on the other hand I never worried about space.  My second phone was 64 GB.  Perfect.


My first iPad did not have cellular capabilities.  What does this mean? Answer:  

What do I buy Answer: It depends.  Is this your first iPad? On an Apple device its all about storage.  Are you going to have lots of pictures?   Are you going to move pictures from the phone to iPad or vice-versa?    Do you think you'll move them to your computer?  There are several ways to accomplish this.  We will take a "deep dive" into this topic in the fall 2018 computer club meetings


The price of electronic devices constantly changes.  Try to keep these general rules in mind:  Tower or desktop computers should be cheaper than laptops and Apple is more expensive than Microsoft.  Androids have fewer features that iPads but are cheaper.  The base of people using them simply means fewer people are around for you to ask help from.

Do worry about upgrading.  You'll never do it.  I never buy anything with the idea of 'upgrading later'.  That's an old idea.  Be wary of anyone trying to sell you on this idea.

There are older versions of iPads/iPhones available for purchase.  If it's your first one, check them out.  First ask yourself:  Would you buy an older Windows or Apple computer?

 ‘Extended warranties?’  Humm, interesting question.  Do you buy an extended warranty for your car? Refrigerator? Washer/dryer? You can get one nowadays on almost anything. The question is do you need it? If you want it because it makes you feel good, then do what feels right. Consumer Reports doesn’t favor them.  Neither do I.

Service Contracts. These are different from an extended warranty. You can get a service contract from a local store. Within the warranty period, the manufacturer usually provides phone service. After you settle on what to buy, then it’s time to ask about service contracts.   Have the salesman explain it. Get it in writing!

New computers come with all kinds of “try-before-you-buy” software already installed.  You might be sold a ‘service’ to setup your new device and ‘clean up’ all this trial software you don't want.  Also virus protection usually comes active, with 30 days to 6 months of ‘free’ use. I see these freebies as just another way to get your money.  Make other considerations for the Virus Protection as mentioned previously in this article.  If you have a phone number for warranty service, have it available to call when you first turn power up. 

After you have purchased your new device, you might want to search the internet and read about what happens when you first turn it on.

If you decide to buy from an internet store, click here to read my rules for buying online and you'll go back to the top of this page


I hope this article gives you some ideas of how to approach buying a new device.

Drop me a line and let me know....

Remember I said at the beginning of the article "give consideration to" your outdated computer software, even if you have the install CD, it might not install on your new computer.  Check on the internet before you buy.  Decide how you will replace the old software and with what new software you will buy.  


Email me if you have further questions.


Good Luck.