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A Free(?) Trial

We all like free stuff. I especially like free samples at the pastry counter at Fresh Market.

But what if just by sampling one piece of chocolate cake at the counter, whole cakes — and the charges for them — started showing up at my house and on my credit card?

That’s what would happen if Fresh Market asked for my credit card — even though the chocolate cake samples were absolutely free.

This is how it often happens on the internet:

You see a product, service or subscription that advertises a 30-day free trial. To take advantage of the offer, you are asked to enter your credit card information. This should give you pause. If it’s free …

By asking for your payment information, the offer most likely includes fine print that says that your free trial will automatically become a paid subscription unless you contact them to cancel within a specific time.

You may intend to cancel, but may not realize — or you may forget — it’s your responsibility to do so. When you finally call to dispute the credit card charge, the company will probably cancel your order, but may not credit you for that first month’s payment.

My advice:

  • Be wary of free trials that require a credit card
  • Read some independent reviews about the product/service before you decide to sample it
  • Read the fine print about the cancellation policy before you sign up
  • Put a reminder (with the company’s contact information) on your calendar for a few days before the cancellation deadline

Enjoy free trials but be smart about them. Or just stick to the really free pastry…

A Birthday Gift

This week marks the one year birthday of the ITmail email series. Happy Birthday, ITmail!

In celebration of this milestone, I’ll share with you what I think is the best gift your computer can give you: the ability to fix itself.

Of course, if computers would not misbehave in the first place, we’d consider that the ultimate gift. But once you accept that they will misbehave from time to time, you might appreciate that they can often fix themselves.

I am talking about re-booting.

If your computer was working just fine and then freezes, won’t load a program, won’t display internet content, won’t type any characters, or otherwise acts up, you should try this first: shut it down, wait a few minutes, and start it up again. Many times the problem resolves itself.

To shut down your computer correctly:

Windows

Start button (lower left) > Shut Down

Macs

Apple Button (upper left) > Shut Down

(If the mouse or screen is unresponsive, you can shut down the computer by holding down the power button until the screen goes dark. When you start it up again the computer might tell you that it was shut down incorrectly, but since that was your only option, don’t feel chastised!)

You may never know what caused the errant behavior, and you probably don’t need to. As long as re-booting gets you back to work, you’ll forget your initial frustration.

If, however, re-booting does not fix the problem, you’ll need to look more closely into the circumstances. But at least when your tech person asks you if you tried to re-boot the machine, you can say “yes” and move on to the next step.

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Thank you for your support of the ITmail series. I look forward to sharing more information with you in Year #2. As always, please let me know if there is a topic you’d like me to cover.

Is Auto-Reply a Good Idea?

Is it a good idea to send an auto-reply email broadcasting that you are away with no access to email for a defined period of time?

It is — if you work in an office and you include in the email the name of someone else to contact.

Otherwise, think twice before doing it.

Why?

1) If you work from home or don’t work at all, do you want anyone and/or everyone who emails you to know you are away? Might that make your “empty” home more vulnerable? Your close friends will know you are away. No one else needs to know.

2) Will you really have no access to email? You — or someone you are with on vacation — will likely have a smartphone you can use to check your email. You can choose not to respond to an incoming email immediately, but of course you have that option anytime.

3) Consider your friends and their volume of incoming mail. Perhaps a friend wishes to email you something you’ll need at a later date. Does this friend need an auto-reply email stating what he/she already knows?

Only in specific cases is an auto-reply email a courtesy; more often it is just another email to be deleted.

An iPad Homepage

Complaints about the iPad are few and far between but I do hear one complaint — or perhaps it’s more of a disappointment — on a regular basis: “I wish I could designate a particular page that would open every time I open my browser (Safari) the way I did on my computer.”

You can.

On your computer, your web browser (Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome) opens to the same page every time: the page you designated as your homepage. On your iPad, the web browser (Safari) opens to the last webpage you viewed, no matter how long ago it was. Many people find this disconcerting.

If you wish to open to a particular webpage each time you access the internet, follow these steps:

  1. Locate the page that you wish to make your homepage by typing in its web address or Googling it.
  2. Tap the “Action” button on the tool bar on the upper left portion of the screen. (The Action button is a little rectangle with a right-pointing arrow going through it).
  3. Tap on the “Add to Home Screen” choice from the drop-down menu.
  4. Accept or change the name of the page that is offered.
  5. Ciick “Add.”

This action will create an icon on your iPad’s home screen (the screen with all of your icons that appears when you push the iPad Home Button).

Once you have this icon on the home screen, tap on it — rather than on the “Safari” icon — to open Safari to the page you chose.

For those of you who like to see the same familiar page when you open your internet browser, this tip will make using your iPad more enjoyable.