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“Accountable” Spouse

One of my clients spent the better part of the last two weeks on the phone pleading with the people at her internet service provider company to get her back online. They finally helped her, but only after they agreed to talk with her at all.

You see, a few months earlier this client’s husband passed away and, at the time of his death, only his name was listed on the internet service account. The company reps refused to talk with my client as she was not named on the account. To get on the account, she had to drive to the local office with her identification and his death certificate. Twice.

To avoid a similar scenario, add additional names to your household accounts so that survivors/spouses can make changes or get help. Many companies insist the account holder do this by phone. And, while you are at it, be sure that your spouse or significant other knows the passwords to your important online accounts.

Save yourself — or your spouse — this additional stress during what will already be a stressful time.

Hijacked Homepage

Did you ever click on your computer’s web browser expecting to see your familiar homepage and, instead, you see some unfamiliar page? You do it again. Same unfamiliar page. Your homepage has been “hijacked.”

If a business was trying to get your attention, what better way than to replace something you look at every day with their self-serving webpage? Really really annoying.

The “new page” often looks a lot like the familiar Google homepage: white background, prominent search box, blinking cursor. If you use this search engine, the sneaky company behind this page sends you to their preferred advertisers and likely sells your search information. Don’t reward them.

How did this happen? The new search engine probably got in your computer bundled with a legitimate program you did allow, you just didn’t realize you were allowing it. (Always look for offers that are “checked”; unless you “uncheck” them, you own them).

How do you get rid of this intruder? First, try to change your homepage back by going to “Settings” or “Preferences” in your browser and replacing the unwanted web address with your preferred one. Depending on how deeply the program infiltrated your computer, this may or may not work. You might need additional help.

If you can’t get rid of the unwanted page, navigate away from it. Put your cursor in the web address box at the top of the page (not the search box!) and type the address of the homepage you want. Even if you must do this each time you open your browser, it’s still worth it.

Don’t search from a page you don’t recognize.

Scanning Lots of Photos

If you can scan one picture, you can scan all the old family pictures, but is that really how you want to spend the next few years?

Scanning originals — one by one on your printer/copier/scanner — is time consuming, especially if it’s just the first step in a bigger save-the-family-photos project.

You have some options:

  • Purchase a high-speed scanner: Rather than place each image on your flatbed scanner, feed them through the high-speed scanner. These machines can be pricey, but scan fast(er) and you don’t have to part with your pictures. However, the size of the high-speed scanner determines the size of the originals you can scan, and you cannot scan images that are in books, albums or frames.
  • Send the originals to a scanning company: Scanning services will scan your images for a few cents each. Some will even digitally enhance/correct old or damaged photos. This is well worth the cost, but you have to part with your originals by either dropping them off or mailing them. Compare companies online for price, process, turnaround time, and what they send  back (downloadable images online, flash drive, disc). You also might inquire whether they digitize slides, audio tapes, and old videos as well.
  • Have a “scanner” come to your house: Some companies send someone with a high speed scanner to your house. You don’t have to part with your images, and you don’t have to scan them yourself. If such a service is available in your area, be sure you agree on the scope of work: will they take images out of frames? Is the fee based on time or production? In what format will your imaged photos be?
  • Take a picture of your pictures: In one second — literally — you can have a digital image of an old family photo. But is it a good enough likeness? Pictures of pictures can have shadows, be distorted (if not taken exactly head-on), or show bends or dog-eared imperfections in the photograph paper itself.

Perhaps the best plan is a combination of these options: buy a high-speed scanner for  photographs, use your flatbed scanner for books or albums, hire someone to do the slides and old movies, and, finally, take a picture of the elaborately framed portrait on the wall!

What you or your family might do with the digital images — videos, photo books, genealogy projects, illustrated memoirs, etc., is well worth the effort of scanning.

This vs That

The Internet is a valuable resource for learning about and comparing products or services. Here’s a tip to find information quickly:

In your favorite search engine, type the name of a product followed by “vs” (without the quotation marks). Your search results will highlight your item compared to its competitors.

For example:

  • Type “Haagen Dazs vs” and you”ll get search results comparing Haagen Dazs to Ben and Jerry’s and other popular brands of ice cream.
  • Type “TaylorMade vs” and read about similarities and differences among TaylorMade, Callaway, and Adams golf clubs.
  • Type “Fitbit vs” and read how Fitbit compares to other wearable fitness trackers.

Whether you are thinking about buying something or you wish to read about products similar to something you already own, use the “vs” in your search.