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Welcome to the Pittsburgh Tech Guy!  Your local source for good, dependable technical support and information!  Keep up with the latest Tech news here!

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Wednesday
Jan232019

How to use emoji in folder names on Windows 10

Naming folders is pretty basic. You can name a folder anything you want when you create it, or you can rename it later whenever you want. There are some restrictions for which characters you can’t use in a folder name e.g., you cannot use a slash or an asterisk in the name as both these characters are used by the system. What you can do is use emoji in folder names. It may not be the most intuitive way to name folders but if you benefit from visual elements, then adding one to a folder name might be a good idea.

Emoji in folder names

Windows 10 has a handy emoji panel in one of its newer versions. If you’re on Windows 10 1803 or 1809, you can access this panel by tapping Win+; on your keyboard.

To use emoji in a folder’s name, navigate to the folder, and click its name to edit it. When the name field enters edit mode, tap Win+; to open the emoji panel. Once the emoji panel is open, click the various emoji you want to include in the folder name.

You can use a combination of numbers, letters, and emoji. Once you’re done entering emoji, close the panel and tap the enter key once to save the new folder name.

The emoji won’t be colored. In fact, they won’t look anything like they do in the emoji panel. You will see the basic black and white emoji that Windows had before it added the emoji panel. This same trick works with naming files.

You won’t have any trouble using emoji in either file or folder names however, you will run into some difficulty when you try to access these files or folders over a network, via a link in other apps (e.g. linking a file in MS Word), or calling it in Command Prompt.

This is because, while Windows 10 can display emoji, it cannot change the rules that apply when files are linked to over the network or the command line. Both still have their own restrictions. That’s not to say you won’t be able to access them at all. You may need to figure out what unicode applies to the emoji you used and try that in the file/folder name when you try to link to it. Again, apps may have problems with it so if the file or folder is going to be shared with other users, it’s better to stick with alphanumeric names.

 

Wednesday
Jan232019

Google may break ad blockers with upcoming Chrome change

A Google plan to improve the Chrome web browser has triggered an explosion of concern that it'll also cripple extensions designed to block ads, improve privacy and protect against security problems.

Google's proposed approach would torpedo ad blocker uBlock Origin, tracker blocker Ghostery, privacy and password manager Privowny, JavaScript software blocker NoScript and a malware blocker from F-Secure, according to their developers.

In a statement Wednesday, though, Google said it's trying to improve Chrome while keeping all those extensions working.

"We want to make sure all fundamental use cases are still possible with these changes and are working with extension developers to make sure their extensions continue to work while optimizing the extensions platform and better protecting our users," the company said in a statement.

The controversy shows the difficulties that arise from Chrome's dominance 10 years after its debut. Google's browser accounts for 62 percent of website usage today, according to analytics firm StatCounter. But if a Google change causes problems, then extension authors and website developers can be stuck with it unless they can get millions of people to change to a different browser like Mozilla Firefox or Apple Safari.

Chrome's power also is amplified by the fact that other browsers, including Vivaldi, Opera, Brave and soon Microsoft Edge, use Chrome's open-source foundation, called Chromium.

Extensions let you customize web browser behavior to do things like take screenshots, manage tabs, disable websites' potentially risky JavaScript software and even replace photos of President Donald Trump with images of kittens. But ad blockers are a top extension use. Indeed, it was one of the uses Google specifically called for when it first revealed its Chrome extensions plan in 2008. uBlock Origin has been installed more than 10 million times, for example, according to Chrome Web Store statistics.

Ghostery developer Cliqz said Google's proposed change is radical, and threatened legal action if it goes forward.

"This would basically mean that Google is destroying ad blocking and privacy protection as we know it," the company said in a statement Wednesday. "Whether Google does this to protect their advertising business or simply to force its own rules on everyone else, it would be nothing less than another case of misuse of its market-dominating position. If this comes true, we will consider filing an antitrust complaint."

Chrome's Manifest v3 destiny

Google revealed the change way back in October as part of a broader plan to improve Chrome extensions. Some developers are only now noticing the part that could hurt ad blockers, called Manifest v3.

Manifest v3 is designed to improve Chrome extensions' performance, privacy and security. One part of that change, though, limits how extensions will be able to examine aspects of websites. The thorny limit affects how an extension can check if website elements originate from a list of hundreds of thousands of advertising sources. Google has proposed a limit of 30,000.

One extension designed to protect people who click on malicious links, Blockade.io, "will cease to function" under Google's Manifest v3 plan, said Brandon Dixon, who maintains the extension. "There is a 30K rule limit imposed, which is not enough to handle our ruleset (~250K)," Dixon said in a Wednesday mailing list post.

Safari and Firefox have embraced variations of Chrome's extensions technology, an approach that in principle makes life easier for extension authors trying to support multiple browsers. But Privowny's Daniel Glazman lamented the fizzling of an effort to turn Google's extensions technology into a web standard all browsers collectively develop and support.

The browser extension technology is "fully in the hands of Google, [which] can and will change it anytime based on its own interests only," Glazman said in a blog post Wednesday.

Google probably will amend its extensions plan, though not its aspiration to improve performance and security, Chrome team member Devlin Cronin said in a mailing list response Wednesday.

"This design is still in a draft state, and will likely change," Cronin said. "Our goal is not to break extensions."

Wednesday
Jan022019

Add Drive Shortcuts to your Desktop

Download and install TweakNow DriveShortcut.

This is anecdotal but during installation, my external monitor turned off and media that I was playing from my external drive began to stutter. As a precaution, I disconnected both the external drive and the monitor. You might want to disconnect external drives while you’re installing the app.

Once the app installs, you will need to configure it first. The app lets you pick which types of drives are added to the desktop. You can enable a desktop shortcut for CD drives, removable drives (external/USB), a fixed drive (internal drives), a network drive, and a RAM drive. Once you’ve selected the drive types you want to use the app for, Click the Save button at the top.

Close the window and the app will minimize to the system tray. Connect your external drive (or whichever drive you enabled the app for), and it will automatically be added to the desktop as a shortcut. Double-click it and you will be able to access the drive.

Wednesday
Jan022019

Windows 10 Finally Becomes Most Popular Desktop OS

Three years and five months. That's how long it took Microsoft to grow Windows 10's market share enough to grab the top spot in the desktop operating system rankings. The OS it knocked off the top spot isn't Windows 8, but the 9-year-old and still popular Windows 7.

While it's true to say that Windows 10 is now the most popular desktop OS, it's still a very close race. According to New Marketshare, in November last year Windows 7 held 38.89 percent of the market while Windows 10 was second with 38.14 percent. In December, the change happened, with Windows 10 increasing to 39.22 percent and Windows 7 dropping to 36.9 percent. That will likely now continue to be the trend, with Windows 10 steadily growing its share as more users upgrade away from Windows 7 by buying new hardware. For business users especially this will be the case.

Microsoft will no doubt be sighing with relief the change finally happened, but there's still a long way to go before it can truly leave Windows 7 behind. As The Verge points out, Windows 7 extended support doesn't end until Jan. 14, 2020.

Meanwhile, Windows 10 doesn't have much competition to worry Microsoft. Mac OS X 10.14 only manages 4.73 percent in third place and Linux is down in seventh place with just 2.00 percent. Microsoft's cause is also helped greatly by Windows being the overwhelming first choice for new hardware at all non-Apple retailers. Budget laptops for less than $600 all using Windows 10 also helps a lot.

Windows 10 is meant to be the last version of Windows, which suggests that the market share breakdown may never again have a change at the top. Unless Microsoft revolts and launches a Windows 11, where would that new contender appear from?

Monday
Dec242018

How to remove audio from a video with VLC Player

Extracting audio from a video is incredibly easy if you have a file conversion app. You can take almost any sort of video and convert it to MP3 to get just the audio. If, on the other hand, you want to remove audio from a video, it might seem a little tricky. A quick search might give you suggests for various apps that can do the trick but all you really need is VLC player.

Need to create a video, or more precisely a screencast? VLC player has you covered.

Remove audio from a video

Open VLC player from the Media menu in the title bar, and select Convert/Save.

On the Open Media window, click the Add button and select the video that you want to remove audio from, and then click the dropdown arrow next to the Convert/Save button. From the dropdown menu, select the Convert option.

This will open a new window. On this window, you will see a Profile field. Click the wrench button. This will open the Profile edition window. Give the profile a name, any name. Go to the Audio Codec tab, and make sure that the Audio option is unchecked. Click Create to return to the previous window. Give the file a name in the Destination File field and click the Start button.

You won’t see the video play in VLC player however the seek bar that normally shows video progress will show you conversion progress. The conversion won’t take too long unless you have a file that is hours long. Once it’s done, open the same location where the original file is saved and you will find a copy of it with the audio removed.

The output file is the same quality as the original, minus the audio. You can also use the same conversion window to change the output format of the video. The Profile Edition window is where you can select a different codec for converting the video. You should read up on which codecs are best for converting to certain file formats and then pick the right one.

We mentioned earlier that you can extract audio from a video by converting it to an MP3 file. If that’s what you need to do then you can use VLC player for that as well. Follow the above method but instead of leaving the Audio codec unchecked, check it and from the Codec dropdown, select MP3. Start the conversion and a new file containing only the audio from the video will be created. It shouldn’t take too long but again, as with the audio removal, if the file is hours long, it can take a while to convert to MP3.

Monday
Nov262018

Ways to Increase your Laptop battery life

Use the Windows Battery Performance Slider

The first stop on our battery-life betterment tour is the Windows battery performance slider, a recent addition to Windows 10. It aims to group all of the settings that affect battery life into a few easy-to-understand categories. The company that made your PC determines exactly which settings the battery slider controls. But in general, keep these guidelines in mind:
  • The Best Performance mode is for people willing to trade off battery runtime to gain performance and responsiveness. In this mode, Windows won't stop apps running in the background from consuming a lot of power.
  • The Better Performance setting limits resources for background apps, but it otherwise prioritizes power over efficiency.
  • Better Battery mode delivers longer battery life than the default settings on previous versions of Windows. (It's actually labeled "Recommended" on many PCs.)
  • Battery Saver mode, a slider choice that will appear only when your PC is unplugged, reduces the display brightness by 30 percent, prevents Windows update downloads, stops the Mail app from syncing, and suspends most background apps.

Close Specific Apps That Use Lots of Power

Multiple apps and processes running on your system will chew through battery life more quickly, and chances are you probably aren't actively using everything that's currently running on your PC. In Windows 10, the Settings App is the first step to find energy-hogging programs.

Type "see which apps are affecting your battery life" into the Windows search bar for a list of apps that are consuming the most power. If you see an app that you rarely use hogging a lot of power, make sure you close it. Often, these are apps you've opened in the background and forgot about, such as Spotify or Adobe Reader.

Next, type "See which processes start up automatically when you start Windows" into the search bar. This will open the Task Manager's Startup tab, which lists every utility that runs as soon as you start your PC. Anything with a name like "Download Assistant" or "Helper" is usually safe to disable. For example, unless you frequently open Spotify playlists, tracks, or albums from links in a web browser, you can disable the Spotify Web Helper.

To perform similar app purging in macOS, search for Users & Groups, then click the Login Items tab, where you'll find a list of apps that run in the background when you start up your Mac.

Use Battery Settings on macOS

Apple's MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro laptops don't have a battery slider, although many of the same settings described above are present in the Energy Saver preferences.

To open it, click on the Spotlight magnifying-glass icon in the upper right corner of the screen, search for Energy Saver, and then click on the Battery tab. If you want to approximate the Windows Better Battery or Battery Saver modes, make sure that the options "Put hard disks to sleep when possible" and "Slightly dim the display while on battery power" are checked, and the option "Enable Power Nap while on battery power" is unchecked. (With Power Nap enabled and your MacBook asleep, the machine will wake up now and then to check for updates. Disabling it keeps your MacBook fully asleep when it is asleep—until you choose wake it up.) On recent MacBook Pro laptops, the display brightness adjusts to 75 percent when you unplug the computer from power if you have "Slightly dim the display while on battery power" enabled.

So, if you want the best battery life, should you use Battery Saver all the time? Not exactly. Because Battery Saver mode disables some useful features, you might want to use it only when your battery is below 20 percent and a power outlet isn't near. Likewise, turning off Power Nap can mean it will take longer to catch up on notifications you've missed while you're away from your MacBook. That's why most users should use the Better Battery setting and enable Power Nap most of the time.

Simplify Your Workflow: Closing Apps, and Using Airplane Mode

On the other hand, if you're writing a novel or playing a local video file and don't need to be distracted by notifications, it's fine to enable Battery Saver. It's a good habit to adjust your laptop use in more battery-conserving ways, such as by sticking to one app at a time and closing everything else when you're not using it. It's a bit like turning off the lights when a room is vacant. If you're going back and forth between the kitchen and the pantry all the time, or between Firefox and Word, by all means keep both sets of lights and apps on and open. But if you're just cooking or watching a YouTube video, you'll be best served by turning off and closing everything else.

In addition to aiming to single-task, consider enabling Airplane mode in Windows, or turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in macOS if you know you'll be editing a document with no need for web access. In addition to eliminating distractions, Airplane mode eliminates a significant source of battery drain: not only the wireless radios themselves, but also the background apps and processes that constantly use them, such as updaters and push notifications.