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Posts from the ‘Hardware’ Category

Voicemail to Email

Get your landline voicemail as an email!

If your landline is provided by Comcast (xfinity), and you use the xfinity voice mail system (not an answering machine box), you can receive your voice mail messages (text and audio) as an email.*

I love this feature.


  • You don’t have to “call in” to check your voice messages (but you do have to check your email).
  • If the caller doesn’t leave a message (many marketing calls don’t), you will not even be bothered.
  • If a robo caller does leave a message, you can “see” it faster than that you can listen to it, and delete it sooner.
Other notes
  • To set this up, you will need to have an xfinity account and know your username and password. You probably have an account if you already have Comcast service; your username and password can be located or reset.
  • Even if you delete the voice mail email, the voice mail message itself is still on the xfinity website. Go to your xfinity account periodically and delete old messages.
  • The voice-to-text is not always accurate. Best to listen to the audio (scroll to the bottom of the email to press “play”) if you question the translation.
To set this up:

* I am highlighting Comcast as most of my ITmail readers on Skidaway Island have Comcast. If you have a landline with another provider, check to see if it offers the same service.

Holiday Travel Tip

It’s holiday travel time to visit with family and friends. Visiting is fun; packing and unpacking … not so much.

Thank goodness for binder clips. They can make traveling with electronic devices — and their must-have charging cables — so much neater.

Go from this:

Screen Shot 2019-01-25 at 6.40.42 PM.png

To this:

Screen Shot 2019-01-25 at 6.40.48 PM.png
Safe travels

A Remote Idea

Can’t find your channel-changing television remote? Don’t worry. It will turn up eventually.

But you may be out of luck until then. (Gone are the days when TVs had actual buttons.)

Unless … you use your smartphone as a remote. Brilliant! The major television service providers offer free apps that can turn your smartphone into a remote control.

If, for example, you’ve misplaced the remote that came with your Comcast cable box, download the free “Xfinity TV Remote” app and use your phone as a remote.
It’s almost that easy.

  • You will still need the remote that came with the tv (you know, the one you never use) to turn the tv on and off.
  • You will need to sign in to your Xfinity account when you launch the app on your phone.
  • You may not have all the remote features on the app, but the basics are there.

To see if your TV service provider has a remote app, search the App Store (Apple) or the Google Play Store (Android) on your phone for the name of your provider, or search the internet for your provider and any information about a remote app.

If it works, you won’t miss what you want to watch. Unless you also lose your phone.

Internet Connected Devices

Your modem and router together provide wireless internet service in your house. Years ago these were two separate boxes; now they are combined into one box — the one with the flashing lights — provided by your network service provider. (At The Landings you either have AT&T or Comcast). If you get a new modem/router or change network providers, you will need to “introduce” all of your internet-dependent devices to the new modem one at a time.

All of them? 


How many do I have?

Probably more than you think. Don’t forget these:

  • Computers
  • Cell phones
  • Tablets
  • Smart watches
  • Printers
  • Smart televisions
  • Streaming TV players (Apple TV, Roku)
  • Wireless music systems (Sonos)
  • “Smart home” devices (Alexa, Echo)
  • “Smart home” controllers for security systems, thermostats, locks, lights, cameras, etc.

In the Settings menu of each device, identify your new network name and enter the new password. Until you do this successfully, your device(s) will not work as intended.

Suggestion: make a list of all of your Wi-Fi connected devices so if you get a new modem, you won’t forget any of them.

Buying Tech Toys

Your purchase of computer devices and accessories — whether online or in a store — should not be an uninformed or impulse buy. Too much information exists out there for you not to know important details about what you want.

However, shopping for technology devices can still be intimidating. Internet stores can be overwhelming, and brick-and-mortar stores have aisles of pricey items, confusing labels, and salespeople eager to sell you more than you need.

To make your shopping experience successful, I recommend that you do your homework first. The more confident you are about what you want, the more likely you are to end up with the right thing.

  • Search the internet — manufacturer websites, independent reviews, product comparisons, and videos about your product.
  • Ask your friends and family what model/brand they have and about their experience with it.
  • Determine who might be the one to help you (if needed) with your new purchase and what model/brand they have.
  • Seek recommendations from people in the tech field.
  • If you go to a store, bring your research with you: a computer printout of what you want, notes you’ve taken about what you need, pictures of — or the actual item — you need to replace.
  • Know the return policy! Electronics often have a shorter and more restrictive return policy than other items the store sells.

If, after all of that, you are still uncertain about your purchase, you can leave the item in your virtual shopping cart or put it back on the actual shelf. It will probably still be there if you change your mind.


One of my clients recently purchased a machine that turned out not to be what he wanted. He asked the salesperson for a “printer that just prints” because he didn’t want “all that other stuff.”

When I arrived to set up this new machine, my client asked me to show him how to make copies.

“This printer doesn’t make copies,” I explained, “It just prints.”

“But I asked for a machine that just prints copies. I already have a machine that prints from my computer.”

What he wanted was a stand-alone copier for large copy jobs. He confused “copying”and “printing.” I come across this quite often.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

Paper to paper copy: start with a paper document and create a paper copy of that document.

Electronic file to paper copy: start with an electronic document (in your computer, tablet, or phone) and create a paper copy of that document.

Paper to electronic file: start with a paper document and create an electronic copy of that document in your computer.

Most of us have the compact “all in one” machines that copy, print, and scan, and we don’t really care what the specific action is called, as long as we get what we want. But it is important to know the correct terminology, especially if you are going to go shopping.

Guest Etiquette

In this age of personal mobile computing, I am amazed that a house guest would need to use his/her host’s computer. But it happens, and the host usually regrets it. When the guest leaves, the computer is always different.

If your house guest asks to use your computer, create a “Guest” user account.* A guest account has access to the internet and to the computer’s programs, but not to your files and folders.

If you need to use your host’s computer, ask to use (or create) a Guest account. If that is not possible,

  • make note of how your host’s computer looks when you first boot it up and then leave it the way you found it
  • do not download programs or apps without the owner’s permission
  • close any windows you opened
  • do not save your favorites to their favorites list
  • email your files to yourself or upload them to cloud-based storage and then delete them from your host’s computer

To avoid these issues, travel with your own devices and suggest that your guests do the same. The only thing that should be shared is the Wi-Fi password.

* How you create a guest user account varies from Apple to Windows computers and among different Windows operating systems. For step by step instructions, search for “create guest account” and specify your computer and operating system.

Travel Tip

I’m just back from a whirlwind multi-state trip to visit family and friends. Visiting is fun; packing and unpacking … not so much.

Thank goodness for binder clips. They made traveling with my electronic devices — and their must-have charging cables — so much neater.

I went from this:
to this:
I hope this helps you too!

Shift Into Control

Here’s a weird thing that almost cost one of my clients a lot of work.

She had just started typing Chapter 5 of her latest novel and looked up from her keyboard to find that the only thing on her screen was the last sentence she had typed. Chapters 1 through 4 had disappeared.

If my assessment of what happened is what actually happened, this could easily happen to any of us.

I believe that the last sentence she typed started with a capital “A.” Instead of pressing the “Shift” key and then the letter “A,” she inadvertently pressed the “Control” (Ctrl) key — which is right below the Shift” key on Windows keyboards  — and the letter “A.” Rather than getting a capital A, she selected all the text in the document; “Control” plus the letter “A” is the keyboard shortcut for “Select All.”

If she did select all the text, whatever she typed next replaced everything that was selected. In this case, her whole document!

Fortunately, this is reversible if you recognize what happened right away. Click  “Undo” to undo the last action and keep clicking “Undo” until you walk back your steps to the step before you selected all of your text. Then re-type the sentence you meant to type, starting with a real capital “A.”

Unfortunately, my client didn’t know to do this. She panicked at the thought of having lost her work and thought if she closed the document and re-opened it, the previous version would re-appear. And it would have, if she had clicked “No” when asked if she wanted to save the changes. But she clicked “Yes” — telling the computer to save the most recent actions — and the first four chapters were gone.

Fortunately, she had dutifully backed up her file and was able to find the latest backed-up version and add back the newest changes. Phew!

I never realized how the proximity of the “Shift” and “Control” keys could so easily cause such a drastic consequence. I guess you need to keep one eye on the keyboard and one eye on the screen at all times. Good luck with that!


Call Back Survey

After working my way through a company’s tedious phone tree system, the last thing I want to do is agree to their call-back survey offer. Yet, I say “Yes” every time.

Here’s why:

I have no idea whether the person who eventually helps me knows if I have agreed to the follow-up survey, but on the chance that he/she does know, and might step up the level of service in return for my positive feedback, I agree to the survey.

Then, once the survey call comes in, I can choose to ignore it, or, depending on my experience, participate. Seems like a no-lose option.

Press #1 if you agree.

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