Mike Ingber * Upward Business Systems

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Have You Heard Of OCR?

 

OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition. OCR has been around for many years, but I get the impression that not too many people know about this incredibly valuable capability, so don’t feel alone if you have not heard of it.

So, what is OCR? When you scan a document into your computer, you are basically saving an image. Essentially, you are taking a photograph of your document. Unfortunately, an image does not have content that can be edited. OCR software converts that scanned document into an editable document.

Why is this an important capability?

So let’s say that you have an important fifteen page printed document that you do not have as a file on your computer. Perhaps you lost the file when your old computer died, or when it got infected by some nasty virus. Or maybe you accidentally deleted the file, and unfortunately do not have a backup. And now you realize that you need to be able to update or edit this document. Well, you could spend a few hours typing the document in. But the better approach is to scan the document, use OCR software to convert it into a Word or Excel (or other format) document, and save yourself a whole bunch of hours of typing.

Many printer/scanners come with built-in OCR capability, or you can purchase OCR software quite inexpensively. I have been using OmniPage recently, and have had quite good results with it.

OCR is certainly not perfect. You will probably find some formatting and content errors in your results, but this should still certainly beat typing in your document from scratch.

So, if you have any essential printed documents laying around, think about giving Optical Character Recognition a try!

Nothing Is Better Than An Up-To-Date Backup

Just recently, a client of mine was hit with a really nasty virus. This virus is in a fairly new category of malicious software called “ransomware”. Ransomware takes stealing money from you to a new, offensive level. Let me explain.

This particular virus that infected my client’s computer was an “encryption virus”. What this means is that the virus encrypted, or encoded, all of the data files on the hard drive. To be able to use the data again, you need to be able to decrypt (decode) the files. But you can’t do this without the encryption/decryption key. How do you get the encryption key? You pay the crooks their ransom.

Pretty offensive.

So, how to avoid being a victim?

There are certainly several things that all computer users should be doing to avoid being infected by malicious softare of all types:

  1. Keep your virus software up-to-date.
  2. Make sure you have an active firewall protecting you.
  3. Never open attachments from unknown sources.
  4. Don’t be fooled by the abundant fraudulent attempts to get you to click on offers to clean your computer, to fix computer problems that you probably don’t have, and countless other scams.

But in my opinion this list doesn’t include the single most important thing that all computer users should do regularly. Backups! Even with the most vigilant usage, it is still possible that malicious things will sneak into your computer. This is analogous to getting the flu even though you made sure to get a flu shot in November. If you have a recent backup, you can always recover your precious data.

As per human nature, many people don’t take backups seriously until after they have lost precious data. Don’t wait. Start implementing a good, thorough backup strategy today!

Why Another Tablet?

 

I love my two year old Android tablet. It is an inexpensive 7″ Acer tablet that fits in my hand beautifully, and has worked pretty much flawlessly in the time that I have owned it. And I am always impressed by the endless availability of excellent Apps for Android devices.

So why do I now own an HP Stream 8 tablet as well?

About two weeks ago I saw an ad for the HP Stream 8 for $179. A couple of things immediately caught my eye:

  1. It is Windows 8.1 (not Windows RT), so any Windows software can be installed.
  2. It comes with FREE 4G access for the lifetime of the device from T-Mobile (only 200MB per month, but hey, this is better than nothing).
  3. Generally, excellent reviews on Amazon.

I purchased the tablet from Amazon, and really do love this tablet for a few reasons:

  1. It is completely compatible with my other Windows 8 devices (desktop and laptop computer).
  2. It has a fully functioning Microsoft Office (I am writing this post using the tablet and my Bluetooth keyboard).
  3. It is much faster than my other tablet for using the Internet.
  4. It has a really nice display (I’ve watched a couple of movies and have enjoyed the up-close-and-personal feel).

This device has changed my perspective to some degree. I have always believed that there is plenty of room in our evolving world for competing technologies, such as laptops and tablets. I still do believe this whole heartedly. But now I also see the appeal of a device that lives comfortably in both technology worlds. I did not really expect to so enjoy what is essentially a tiny laptop. But I do!

And BTW, I just checked, and it is now available at Amazon for $149!

Don’t Social Engineer Me!

Remember viruses in the good old days (like the mid 90’s)? If you inserted an infected floppy disk into your computer, you were likely to catch the infection. Well, pretty much nobody has floppy disks anymore. Remember how viruses were typically spread a few years ago (and still are)? If you opened an infected attachment in an email that you received, the results were not likely to be pleasant. Well, people have started to understand this threat and are typically much more careful about opening attachments.

Unfortunately, the villains evolve along with the technology and as the knowledge of users increases. The rogues who want to infect us with their malware
(malicious software) are now very often trying to take advantage of the most vulnerable component of our systems. What is the most vulnerable component? The person sitting at the keyboard (or gesturing on the touch screen). This trend to try to fool us all is called “Social Engineering” and is worth being very aware of.

Let me offer an example. This morning, I received an email from Yahoo informing me that my email account needed to be updated, or that my email service would cease to work as of today! This email looked very official, and had an “update” button prominently displayed. The only problem … this email is completely fraudulent. I do not know what would have happened if I had indeed clicked on the update button, but I can assure you that I do not want to find out. Here are some clues that an email may be fake:

  • There are spelling or grammar errors
  • There is a tone of threat or fear involved
  • The email address of the sender is suspicious in nature
  • The link that you are being directed to click on is also suspicious in nature (hover your mouse over the link without clicking and see what the destination address is)

There are so many scams out there trying to fool us all. Fake notices about packages that couldn’t be delivered. Notices that you have an EZ Pass toll violation. Urgent promptings to update some software or hardware on your computer. Warnings that you have computer errors that need to be fixed now. And who can forget your friend that has travelled to Nigeria and urgently needs money to return home! The list is pretty much endless.

The villains have gotten very good at Social Engineering. Be extremely cautious when being asked to click on something or take some action on your computer. Always err on the side of caution. If you are not sure that something is legitimate, there is a very good chance it may not be.

We all need to evolve in our awareness. Don’t use infected floppies, don’t download questionable attachments, and don’t be Socially Engineered!

Word and WordPress Unite!

There always seems to be something new to find and explore, even in a program that you’ve possibly been using for well over a decade.

I accidentally stumbled upon the blogging features built right into Word, and was surprised at how seamlessly Word and WordPress work together. This interface is worth trying if you are familiar and comfortable with Word.

To use the blogging features in Word 2013, navigate as follows:

        File è Share è Post to Blog

Once you have done this, you will see a different set of Word tabs than are normally present at the top of the screen: Blog Post and Insert.

From the Blog Post ribbon, you have access to a simple, but reasonable array of formatting options, as well as some features for managing your blog. Basic text formatting options are pretty much the same as for normal Word documents. Features such as Spellcheck and Format Painter are also available. To use any of the blog features, you will be asked to login to WordPress. You can choose to have Word remember your password if you are comfortable doing so. Once you have logged in, you can publish a new blog post, open existing blog posts, add categories to your posts, or just go to your blog home page. And from the Insert ribbon, you are able to add other content to your post, such as pictures, tables, and hyperlinks.

So, poke around in your favorite programs every now and then. You may be surprised at what you find!

WordPress – A Few Steps While Getting Started

I have thoroughly enjoyed getting up and running with WordPress over the past week or two. Here are a few tips and suggestions for getting your blogging going with some style, based upon my recent experiences with WordPress.

  • Create your WordPress account.
  • Decide on some real basics, like the name of your blog and its URL.
  • Pick your Theme.  For example, I chose the Academica Theme for now. Try a few different themes to see what appeals to you.
  • Get comfortable with the Dashboard. This is basically the command center for a ton of WordPress options and features. You can get to the Dashboard from the Navigation Bar at the top of the screen.
  • Post your first blog! Of course, don’t hesitate to do some formatting on your new post to make it look good, much as you would do with a Word document.
  • From the Appearance Menu on the Dashboard, modify your Background with an image or with a color that suits you.
  • From the Appearance Menu, add some Widgets to your blog. Widgets let you add meaningful information to your blog. For example, I have added Widgets to display my categories, my blog calendar, and my contact info.
  • Also from the Appearance Menu, modify your Menus, for example by adding meaningful links or pages to help your blog readers navigate around.
  • From the Appearance Menu again, decide if you want Mobile themes enabled, which will optimize the display of your blog for mobile devices.
  • From the Settings Menu on the Dashboard, head to the General Settings, where you can specify options such as your time zone and your date/time formats, as well as uploading a blog icon.
  • And also from the Settings Menu, use the Reading Settings to control how your blog will look to your readers.

Of course there are many, many other important features and options, but this list offers a few suggestions to get started blogging with WordPress and add a little style to your posts.

Connecting the Dots

I have been reading more about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) recently.  SEO consists of techniques that you can use to have your website show up higher in the SERP (search engine results pages) of the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo).  Fundamentally, your website will improve in rankings if it has quality content, has been around for a while, and demonstrates “authority”.  The primary way that a website demonstrates authority is by having other websites refer to it through links.  But these links should be natural, rather than using questionable link farming techniques.  Using questionable techniques to improve your ranking can result in just the opposite of the desired result.  One of the best ways to have natural links back to your website is by creating links from many of the popular social platforms, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and WordPress.

So, now that I have a WordPress account and blog, I have begun adding some of these natural links.  My website now links to my new WordPress blog and to my LinkedIn profile.  My LinkedIn profile links back to my business website and to my blog.  And my WordPress blog links to my business website and to my LinkedIn profile.

Hopefully, over time, these SEO techniques (as well as some other changes I have been making to my business website) will help to improve my search engine rankings.  But at the very least, connecting the dots as I have done will make it easier for visitors to my sites to get around.