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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Best Freeware Sites

The best freeware programs can be as good as or better than their commercial counterparts but finding them can be challenging. For example, I'd never pay for Microsoft Office when LibreOffice is just as good and it's completely free. And, this morning I opened an old AutoCAD drawing of our house using the free DraftSight program and honestly, I could tell little difference! That's not to say I'd use DraftSight in a business environment, but for drafting in a home use setting, it's truly an outstanding program.

Major Geeks 
This site offers freeware and shareware programs in the following categories: Android, Anti-Malware, Anti-Virus, Appearance, Back Up, Browsers, CD\DVD\Blu-Ray,Drive Utilities, Drivers, Graphics, Internet Tools, Multimedia, Networking, Office Tools, PC Games, System Tools, Macintosh etc. The site also offers miscellaneous information about programs, software and repair. 
     It can be somewhat difficult to navigate though. That said there is ONE WARNING!! There are a number of “Click here” places and sometimes it is difficult to tell EXACTLY what you are clicking on to download and it can result in downloading something you don't want.
     You MUST be VERY CAREFUL to make sure you are clicking on the correct link! Be especially alert for links that are advertisements that will take you to a different site that will "fix" your computer. Instead of “fix” you should substitute “infect.” DO NOT click on ANY advertisement or link that claims it will fix your registry or scan your computer. If you want your computer to be scanned online go to a commercial antivirus company website like Bit Defender or Norton or whatever one you like that sells their software in retail stores. Of course, when it come to clicking on ads, the best advice is just don't do it.

They offer software for your computer, mobile phone or tablet. Categories are Windows, Mac, Linux, Wb/Cloud, iPhone, tvOS, Android, Windows Phone, Self-Hosted, Chrome, Firefox and more.

Gizmo's Freeware 
This is a non-commercial community website staffed entirely by volunteers. The site contains no downloads, just advice and useful guidance to help you select the best freeware product for your needs. If you do find something useful there is a link directly to the site.

This site offers only the best downloads that have been tested for malware, adware and viruses and there are no added bundles, installers or toolbars. Categories: Browsers, Anti-Malware, System Tuning, Security, Photo/Image, Desktop, Drivers, CD/DVD and more.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Bible Study Apps

     Xiphos (formerly known as GnomeSword) is a Bible study tool written for Linux, UNIX, and Windows...that is a feature rich program for reading, study, and research using modules from The SWORD Project and elsewhere. It is open-source software, and available free-of-charge to all. 
     Another good program is The Word which consists of the main program (engine), and a list of add-on modules like Bibles, in different languages, commentaries, dictionaries, books, maps, fonts, different translation files, etc. 

    If you are Jewish then The Jewish Week has an article titled What Are The Top Jewish Apps? HERE that are available. Rabbi Miller also has an article titled New Tanach App for Android Has All the Bells and Whistles that is worth checking out.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


     SketchUp (formerly known as Google SketchUp) is a program that lets you do all types of 3D drawings. Imagine that you’ve bought a house and need to furnish it.  With this program you can see it in virtual form and three dimensions, change the furniture, the style, whatever you want until it reflects your personal style. 
     SketchUp comes with a 3D Gallery that lets you search for models and share yours.  These are any type of model that you can imagine: furniture, houses, cars and more. 
     SketchUp features include: 
* Easy to use 
* You can find out what part of the model is hit by the sun 
* Experiment with colors and textures 
* See the mock-ups 

    If you like decoration and drawing, you’ll have a great time with SketchUp. This program is simply great. 
    Its available in both free and commercial versions. Sketchup Make is the free version for home, personal, and educational use. Download direct from their site HERE.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Who Is Calling Me?

     Are phone scummers and assorted other low-life types calling you? The site Who Calls Me can often give you an idea of who it is that keeps calling. This is a user supplied database of phone numbers of telemarketers, non-profit organizations, charities, political surveyors, SCAM artists, and other companies that don't leave messages, disconnect once you answer, and simply interrupt your day. If you received a strange call, unwanted messages, or just came across a number you don't recognize and want more information about, most likely you are not the only one. Search for this phone number to see the reports of others. If there are no reports yet, leave your comment to start a conversation. 
     Fortunately our answering machine allows us to block calls, but there are so many of these that there must be 15-20 numbers in its database. A while back I accidentally answered one and some low life wanted to speak to a family member, but would not say why. I kept her busy for a minute while I looked up another phone number and advised her that the person she was seeking could better be reached at this new number. She said she was changing it in their database. The number I gave her was for the local FBI. 
     You can report them to the State Attorney General's office, but don't expect them to do anything.  Like most government agencies they are utterly worthless.  The Privacy Rights Clearing House has some interesting information on these kinds of calls.
     One interesting thing is those calls where the phone rings and there is no one on the line. What is happening? Random digit dialing devices are able to dial all possible phone number combinations, even unlisted numbers, and dial them much more rapidly than any person can. Some telemarketers use "predictive dialing" technology to call potential victims who are not on the National Do Not Call Registry. A computer dials many phone numbers in a short period of time. When an individual answers, the computer seeks a sales representative who is not occupied and connects the call. If all employees are handling other calls, the consumer hears dead silence. These are "abandoned calls." In most cases, these calls are from telemarketers.  As for the Do Not Call Registry, many telemarketers, generally criminals anyway, just ignore it.  The FTC has a Consumer Alert on "robocalls" HERE and HERE.
     If you are receiving a lot of abandoned calls you can call your local phone company. My phone company allows me to hang up on the caller then dial *57 and an attempt will be made to trace the call. There are restrictions on what calls can be traced and what the phone company will do. There is also a $10 fee for every call that is successfully traced. You could spend a fortune on this service and all for nothing. 
     My cell phone carrier, Verizon, is probably typical of what is and is NOT an unlawful call. Unwanted Calls are usually not against the law and typically include: Fax calls, Hang-up calls, Computer calls, Solicitation calls, Robocalls, Telemarketing calls, Debt collection calls, Obscene or Harassing Calls.
     Short version...except for the one being called nobody is really interested in stopping these calls.  After all, the scammers have to use the phone company's services to make the calls, so why would they want to put them out of business?  Your best defense is a good answering machine that allows you to to block the numbers.

Check out my post on Phone Scams 
C-net article - Screen unwanted calls without one-at-a-time blocking
Answering Machines with Call Blockers

Monday, January 11, 2016

Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?

     Unless you're from the United States or New Zealand you won't understand this post. Only these two countries allow pharmaceutical companies to advertise their medications directly to consumers via television and magazine ads, etc. 
     I am always amused, or is it concerned, about ads appearing on television for prescription medications where we are told, “Ask your doctor if (insert medication) is right for you.” Personally, I have always let the doctor decide if a product is right for me. One doctor told me he never prescribes any new medicine for at least a year after it comes out because he wants to be sure it works and there are no hidden problems with it. Guess he does not totally trust the drug companies.
    What concerns me is the ads for most of these medications usually have a mind-numbing list of side effects. Of course, during studies if even one person reports fire shooting out of their nostrils a side effect it has to be reported, but often this list of side effects sounds worse than the disease. 
     We keep seeing more and more of these ads. The amount of money spent by drug companies on advertising more than tripled between 1997 and 2005 since restrictions governing drug ads were relaxed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Wonder why the FDA did that?! 
     It has worked out well for the drug companies. Spending on prescription drugs has grown faster than any other type of health-care spending in the United States. Of course, doctors cooperate. It's money for them. In many cases if a doctor won't give a patient what they want the patient simply takes their business elsewhere. And, hospitals, physician groups, etc. measure a doctor's value by how much money they bring in. The truth is you could be a crappy doctor, but if you keep the money coming in, nobody cares. 
     Naturally, when a doctor prescribes a medication, you want to be able to make an informed decision and understand the specific risks and benefits and advertising certainly helps. The problem is these ads are designed to tout the medicine's benefits in a vague, general and emotionally driven way and the risks are downplayed. These ads prompt patients to ask their doctor for what they, the patient, thinks might be best. The ads are often misleading as to what the benefit of the drug is. When a patient comes in asking for something they saw on television, and many doctors will probably go along with the requests rather than argue with their patients. 
     Remember a drug called Vioxx? It was a pain medication that was heavily marketed but later pulled when it became apparent the drug increased the risk of heart attack in some people. They never showed that little side effect in the ads. What you see in these ads are people being happy and doing all kinds of fun stuff they couldn't do before taking the advertised drug. 
     Anyway, what grabbed by attention last night was the ad for Chantix, a drug to help people quit smoking. But, it could have been any number of other drugs. The ad shows a guy who tells us that he really loves being a non-smoker. Of course who can blame him? But, I had to wonder, did he dodge a bullet when it comes to the side effects?
     Common side effects of this medication include puking and nausea which may persist for several months, sleep disturbances, irritability, stomach pain, indigestion, constipation, a lot of farting, headaches, weakness, tiredness, unusual dreams, insomnia, dry mouth and/or a crappy taste in your mouth. In some patients it caused psychiatric symptoms such as behavioral changes, agitation and a depressed mood. Oh, by the way, some patients experienced suicidal behavior. Almost makes you think smoking would be safer.
     And, despite all the risk factors, the big question is, does it work? Well, according to a 2008 FDA video clip, the probability is in the neighborhood of 1 in 11 of being able to quit for one year if Chantix is used all by itself. 
     Even with this product success will require education, counseling and support. To be fair though, if accompanied by weekly counseling and support sessions, the chances do improve to 1 in 5 or even 1 in 4. Obviously, the counseling sessions have a LOT to do with the success rate. 
     The makers of Chantix put the success rate at a 44 percent chance after 12 weeks, but you know what? What happened was, in 12 weeks about 4 out of 10 people tested managed to go without a cigarette, but 12 weeks also just happened to be the length of their clinical trials and treatment period. 
     The truth is, this product substitutes a drug which satisfies the desire for nicotine for the nicotine itself. Also, the FDA website has a lot of information on this drug including the warning that Chantix can change the way people react to alcohol. Some patients experienced decreased tolerance to alcohol, including increased drunkenness, unusual or aggressive behavior, or they had no memory of things that happened. Also, there have been accounts of seizures in patients though these have been rare. 
     Here's a link to an interesting ad from back in the days before Claritin became an over the counter medicine. At the time, the ad could not even specify what condition the drug treated.
     Like I said, this post just happens to be mainly about Chantix, but it could have been about any product on Vaughn's Summaries - Drug manufacturers seek to minimize and trivialize the adverse side effects of the drugs they produce. To present a balanced picture, this page HIGHLIGHTS these adverse side effects. In each case, THE OFFICIAL INFORMATION IS "QUOTED VERBATIM" (fair use) from the drug companies' websites and TV commercials.

Six ways to tell if a viral story is a hoax

Visit The Conversation for complete details.

Reverse image search – this is one of the simplest verification tools that will often turn up photos posted with the current story are actually years old. Or, as in the case of a recent Facebook photo I saw of President and Mrs. Obama purporting to show them “saluting” the flag with their left hand, the image was simply reversed and a few touchups made. It took me less than one minute to find the original photo that had clearly been doctored in the Facebook post.

YouTube DataViewer - When watching the latest viral video on YouTube, it’s important to be on the look-out for “scrapes”: a scrape is an old video, which has been downloaded from YouTube and re-uploaded. Amnesty International has a simple but incredibly useful tool called YouTube DataViewer that will extract the clip’s upload time and all associated thumbnail images. 

Jeffrey’s Exif Viewer - Photos, videos and audio taken with digital cameras and smartphones contain Exchangeable Image File (EXIF) information: this is vital metadata about the make of the camera used, and the date, time and location the media was created. This information can be very useful if you’re suspicious of the creator’s account of the content’s origins.

FotoForensics - a tool that uses error level analysis (ELA) to identify parts of an image that may have been modified or “photoshopped”. 

WolframAlpha - is a “computational knowledge engine”, which allows you to check weather conditions in at a specific time and place. You can check to see if the actual weather matches the date and time a photo was supposed to have been taken. 

Google Maps Street View - identifying the location of a suspicious photo or video is a crucial part of the verification process...identify whether there are any reference points to compare, check whether distinctive landmarks match up and see if the landscape is the same.

Related: How Not to Publish Baloney 5 Easy Ways to Spot a B.S. News StoryBusiness Insider

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

More on Fake News

“Most Internet stories are not accurate.” Abraham Lincoln   

Fake News Watch – Fake/hoax news websites, satire websites, clickbait websites. After watching all of the hoax, fake, satire and click bait websites proliferate the internet, we thought is was time to start tracking and make a place for people to identify these sites more easily. We do not debunk each and every post. We do a few to help others be able to discern truth from fiction for themselves. Below are a few tips on identifying satire/hoax websites…

Urban Legends - The Internet is rife with it, especially news satire, or fake news, consisting of fictionalized accounts of current events presented in mock-journalistic style to lampoon politicians, celebrities, and social mores… 

Antiviral - Facebook is a big and maddening place. Antiviral wants to make it better. To that end, we're putting together a comprehensive guide to the new, bad, weird, and bullshit "news sites" that are appearing on your feed. 

Where anti-Obama fanatics get their ‘facts’… 

Televangelists - Facebook is filled with Biblically illiterate sheep posting, liking and sharing material pumped out, not by preachers, but by chief executive officers of religious 501c3 corporations who are dangerous spiritual criminals, feel-good non-preachers and con artists posing as men (and women) of God. 

Pimp Preacher Scams… 

Prophets And Pastors Of Profit - Many Christians, even though with innocent intentions, are very gullible, naive, and even childish in the fact that they have no discernment about wolves in sheep's clothing. All too often, seekers of God are falling prey to celebrity personalities, and they swoon over famous name preachers for no other reason than these individuals have a lofty title such as "senior pastor", "prophet", "prophetess", "evangelist", "reverend", "doctor", "bishop", or some other clergy name...

Monday, January 4, 2016

Complaint Form

Feel free to download this form from Dropbox and use as needed:


     Can advertisers really control people's behavior through subliminal messages? What a subliminal message really is: they are stimuli that lie below our threshold of conscious awareness. That means you can't perceive a subliminal message even if you’re looking for it.  These messages are not to be confused with supraliminal messages which are messages that we see and hear, but don’t consciously notice.    
     An example of a supraliminal message was demonstrated in a 1999 which showed that in a liquor store when German music was played, German wine was the top seller. But, when French music was played, French wines were the top seller. 

Subliminal messages are different and there are three types: 
1. Subvisual messages – cues that are flashed so quickly that they are not perceived.  
2. Subaudible messages – low volume audio messages are inserted into a louder audio source like music. 
3. Backmasking – an audio message that is recorded backwards. The claim is that subliminal messages have appeared in advertising, movies, and music. 

     The claim is that subliminal messages have appeared in advertising, movies, and music. But, often that is not the case because some people see meaning in anything if they’re looking hard for it and often, the message are really supraliminal. 
     The whole concept of subliminal advertising originated with a guy named James Vicary back in the 1950s when he made a claim that concession sales in movie theaters could be increased by flashing “Eat Popcorn” and “Drink Coke” on the screen during the movie. His claim was, as he later admitted, a hoax. 
     Movie editors like Disney have been criticized for putting subliminal messages in movies and in 1990 the band Judas Priest was accused of putting backward messages of “do it” in a song which allegedly caused the suicide of two teenagers. A judge found no evidence to support the claim. 
     But, do they really work? Researchers once agreed that subliminal messages were mostly ineffective. However, in recent years research has shown that subliminal messages can influence our thoughts and behavior. According to such research, subliminal messages in advertising can influence our purchasing behavior, but there are limitations. For subliminal messages to really work people must already want whatever the message suggests. For example, researchers found that subliminal messages on thirst only work on people who were already thirsty. If they weren't the messages didn't work. So, subliminal messages can’t make you do anything, but they can help direct you decision if the message already appeals to you. 
     There are also claims that subliminal audio messages are helpful in self-help programs aimed at people who want to lose weight, stop smoking, be a better salesman, etc. Research shows that these subliminal messages are effective, but only because of the placebo effect. As noted above, they work to some extent because the person already wants to lose weight or stop smoking. 
     Short version...subliminal messages can’t make you do something you do not already want to do. 

Seven Sneaky Subliminal Messages Hidden in Ads 
Subliminal Messages - a pdf paper on the subject 
The impact of subliminal priming and brand choice – a pdf paper from Science Direct 
Subliminal Advertising – from Psychologist World 
Subliminal Perception

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Weather Blog Called What's Up With That?

     This blog is about: presentation of weather and climate data in a form the public can understand and discuss. It is maintained by an AMS certified television meteorologist who spent 25 years on the air and who also operates a weather technology business, as well as continues daily forecasting on radio, just for fun. Weather measurement and weather presentation technology are his specialty. He also sells some nifty weather gadgets. He has a neat little widget….World Climate Widget – stats...that's kind of cool. VISIT SITE