Category Archives: Websites

Up in the cloud

The “cloud” is a term that gets thrown around often these days but what is it exactly?

It’s a data storage service that operates online. Simply put, the cloud consists of any software that allows you to store your information on the Internet rather than on your computer, tablet or phone. These cloud software services can be set to public, private or semi-private, depending on what, if anything, you want to share with others.

Many companies depend on cloud services; you could be using a cloud service right now without even knowing it! Many popular web services like iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, even Netflix rely on the cloud. For instance, Netflix allows you to stream TV shows and movies from their catalogue of titles, which is stored and then accessed by users online.

Losing data because your laptop, tablet or phone crashed is very frustrating. One key element of the cloud is that it’s a convenient way to store a backup of your documents, music, movies, or photos. Additionally, the cloud extends the storage capacity of our existing devices by providing external storage resources. Many cloud storage services offer anywhere between 2GB and 5GB of free storage. Additionally cloud storage can be purchased if needed.

There are some important things to recognize about using the cloud to store your files. For instance, if your information is stored on any cloud-oriented service, deleting it from your device does not also remove it from the cloud. A common example of this would be if you deleted a picture from your smartphone that you had already posted on Facebook… Deleting the photo from the phone does not remove it from Facebook. The photo exists in two locations, the phone and Facebook, which requires removal from both independently.

The cloud is used all around us in our everyday lives. To use it safely, users should not store any secret personal or financial details about their life, such as scanned passports, lists of passwords or sensitive health information. These related documents should be stored on a computer/tablet/smartphone and a backup should be made on a USB flash drive as an alternative to using the cloud.

– Aneet Hundal (ETAG Volunteer Technology Writer)

Online Newspapers


In a nation as culturally diverse as Canada, there are millions of people living here who still have strong ties with the country they once called home. Likewise, there are also many people who were born in Canada, and have “moved away” from the province or city they grew up in, attended school, or worked at one time.

If you are at all like me, you are probably still interested in what is happening “back home”. The Internet provides you with ample means to stay in touch with your roots via that age-old tradition – the daily newspaper! If there is a particular newspaper from your home town that you would like to read, you may simply use Google to find a link to it, as most newspapers around the world are “online” to some extent these days.

There are also many websites that present you with a list of links to multiple newspapers from all corners of the world. A few of my favourites are:

Please note that much of the “general” newspaper content found online may be viewed for FREE, although many of them may charge for the “full content” of their daily editions in order to help pay their bills 🙂

In any case, why not give it a try to remain aware of the latest news and happenings from all points abroad, as you continue to embrace your new home sweet home in your corner of Canada.

– David Spearns (ETAG Volunteer Technology Tutor)

Old Time Radio

Old Time Radio

It may be hard to imagine a modern family room without one or more big screen televisions, computers, or video game consoles. For some generations, this idea seems foreign as they grew up without any television, let alone the Internet! Back in those days (before my time), instead of computers and television being the main focal point for family entertainment, it was the good old-fashioned radio that dominated the living rooms of North America and around the world.

In the days of Old Time Radio,  you had to use your imagination while listening to the dialogue, music, and sound effects (many of which may seem quite crude by today’s standards), but they engaged your mind just as much (if not more) than the current entertainment options that we now take for granted.

If you wish to take a step back in time, you can use the Internet to bring back to life the “golden days” of radio by visiting the Old Time Radio Network website. There are more than 12,000 old radio programs to be found that cater to all tastes, and it can be quite interesting and entertaining to listeners at any age.

Whether it was the “serials” like The Lone Ranger or “comedies” such as The Jack Benny Show, most of the popular radio programs of the radio era may be found and enjoyed by visiting the website. If you have a parent or grandparent who might remember these radio programs, it would be a wonderful treat for them to hear them once again, and I assure you that you will enjoy them also.

I personally get a kick out of the “commercials” and how consumer products were portrayed and pitched back then 🙂

For seniors living in retirement communities, it might be fun to have a regular gathering night around a laptop or tablet (just like they did around the radio) to bring back some very memorable times. Hopefully it will not create any conflicts over which shows are being played!

Technical Caveat:

At the website, the radio programs are recorded in .ram format (Real Audio Metadata), and thus they require a media player (such as Real Player) capable of playing Real Audio files. It can be downloaded from the following website: Download Real Player. If you do need to download and install this free software, make sure that you pay attention so that you only install the program in question, and also be alert to uncheck many of the optional “offers” that may come bundled with the media player itself.

See also:

– David Spearns (ETAG Volunteer Technology Tutor)

Never Miss the Bus Again

Transit Technology Upgrades

Technology has changed on today’s modern buses, since that lovable bus driver (Ralph Kramden – A.K.A. Jackie Gleason) graced our old black and white televisions on the Honeymooners sitcom show so many years ago. Modern transit systems boast such features as on-board computer and communication systems, automated payment facilities, GPS locators, and the announcement of upcoming stops, just to name a few.

Although this blog entry mentions only the cities of Mississauga, Brampton, and Oakville located in the GTA, you can quickly perform a search using Google to find out information regarding your own municipality’s transit system, with a couple of well-chosen keywords, such as “transit your city name”.

By visiting the website of you local transit system, (Mississauga – Brampton – Oakville), you can access virtually everything there is to know about it. When visiting the websites, you can find out things such as fares, routes and schedules, alerts, maps, and the one that I use the most – the trip planner. When you give the trip planner both your starting and destination addresses, and your required departure and arrival times, it will provide you with a detailed “itinerary” including specific times, buses, and transfers. SO useful!!!

Here are the links to each city’s trip planner service:
Mississauga Bus Transit Trip Planner
Brampton Bus Transit Trip Planner
Oakville Bus Transit Trip Planner

And, for the folks with smart phones and tablet computers, the story possibly gets even better!!! We have all likely heard the expression “there’s an APP for that”… By downloading and using an appropriate “app” for your local transit system, you can have up-to-the-minute and real-time updates on the status of your particular bus trip with just a few taps on your screen. How convenient is that??    🙂

Given the amount of gridlock on the streets and highways in the Greater Toronto Area, the good old-fashioned bus may be a very viable alternative to sitting in your car in stop and go traffic for hours. By using technology, your commuting experience can be a quite pleasant one, and you should never miss the bus again when you have the most current information at your fingertips.

– David Spearns (ETAG Volunteer Technology Tutor)

Nothing Fishy About CARP

CARP's logo

Many of us at that “certain age” have heard about the CARP organization. You can learn a little more about CARP on their Wikipedia page too.

“CARP is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization committed to a ‘New Vision of Aging for Canada’ promoting social change that will bring financial security, equitable access to health care and freedom from discrimination.” CARP’s mandate…”is to promote and protect the interests, rights and quality of life for Canadians as we age.”

The CARP website is jam-packed with many excellent articles and news stories of special interest to “seniors” of all ages. There are several features such as your finances, your health, and your rights, along with many benefits and events to keep you accurately informed and fully engaged in enjoying life as a “senior”.

It is certainly well worth a visit to their website, and I am confident that once you explore it a little, that you will find it very helpful and informative, and that you will bookmark the site in your Internet browser to make it easy to visit it often.

They have even provided a link to Zoomer Radio so that you can listen to some age-appropriate radio during your visit to the website.

Zoomer Magazine

Also, be sure to check out CARP’s upcoming event in April 2013. CARP’s Mississauga Zoomer Fair will be held on April 18th from 10am to 2pm at the Sheridan Centre. It will feature 35+ exhibits with lots of helpful information from organizations in the community. Visit CARP’s website for more details.

So, if you’re looking for helpful information of interest to those of us with greying (or disappearing) hair, I recommend that you visit the CARP website regularly 🙂

– David Spearns (ETAG Volunteer Technology Tutor)


Email Hoaxes

Countless Email messages are circulated around the world daily containing misinformation, rumours, urban legends, folklore, and myths. Although the Internet is an almost limitless source of useful information, some people just cannot be content with that, and for reasons known only to them, feel a need to mislead others by spreading false information.

It could be anything from the latest health scare or miracle cure, to a story about the next computer virus that is poised to attack your computer. Many of these “tall tales” sound quite plausible, and therefore the immediate tendency is to want to spread this new “knowledge” to your family and friends as a public service announcement. After all, who does not want to save the life of your family members and/or friends or protect their beloved computers from impending doom?

All too often, this information gets “forwarded” at “face value”, without doing any research into it at all to validate the information. To make matters even worse, these messages are often sent without using Bcc (Blind Carbon Copy), thus exposing Email addresses to others… When you send an E-Mail message to multiple recipients, it is usually considered proper Email etiquette to use Bcc (instead of “To” or “Cc”) to hide the list of Email addresses from the other recipients.

To reduce this Email plague of misinformation, you can investigate possible hoaxes on websites such as Snopes and Hoax Busters. These are tools you can use for free when trying to determine if something you read has already been identified as a hoax or scam. Visit Techrepublic for some additional website suggestions. I’ve personally found Snopes to be one of the more comprehensive sites for ferreting out hoaxes.

Whenever I receive an E-Mail message that sounds somewhat unbelievable, I usually use Google with a few choice “keywords” from the “story” (such as names, places, or other very specific information), and I also include the words “hoax” and “Snopes” in the search criteria. More often than not, there will be an entry in the Snopes (or one of the other sites) databases to tell you if the story is true or false.

Please be diligent, and take a moment to check the authenticity of any Email “story” before forwarding it along to others.

– David Spearns (ETAG Volunteer Technology Tutor)

Learn with Youtube

In addition to the ever-popular Google website, we have all likely visited Youtube for a variety of reasons, such as to view funny or entertaining videos, or to listen to our favourite selections of music; however it is also a virtual “gold mine” of very useful video information on just about anything in the world that you can imagine.

Read up a little more about Youtube on Wikipedia.

For example, if you just purchased a new television, camera, phone, or some other electronic device, and would like to know how to use it, YouTube just might be the answer. Alternatively, if you would simply like to know how to make peanut butter cookies (my favourite), or how to prepare some exotic meal, then why not let someone actually “show” you how to accomplish this?

Also, for those seeking technical knowledge such as how to use Microsoft Excel, Adobe Photoshop or some other piece of computer software, there are thousands of instructional videos on YouTube to help you along, regardless of your technical skill level.

On a personal note, we recently had a new “in wall” wired timer switch installed in our home to control our outdoor lights. The device came with a “manual” of convoluted programming instructions that were far less than intuitive, and quite frankly, not very helpful at all. I turned to YouTube for assistance, and almost immediately found a video of someone actually showing me step-by-step how to program our exact device.

The trick when using YouTube is to know which “keywords” to use when searching, so that you are not bombarded with millions of videos that I would call “false positives”. In this sense, I would define a “false positive” occurring when too many results are returned (because some of the “keywords” matched), but they have little or nothing to do with the video that you are seeking. For more information about keywords, please check out Wikipedia

An excellent “keyword” to use when searching on YouTube is the word “tutorial”. This one word, when combined with other very precise “keywords” such as the make, size, and model number of your device for example, can limit the search to the very specific item in question, and most of the time you will find some kind soul out there in cyberspace who is more than willing to show you exactly how to do whatever it is that you need to do.

Another useful “keyword” to use if you are trying to learn something new from scratch, would be the word “beginner”. This can be very helpful for learning new technology for the first time, allowing you to start slowly and work your way up into more complex topics.

So, if you are the kind of person who learns via the “visual route”, why not give YouTube a try the next time that you need to know how to do something?

Even with the proper “keywords”, you will still likely receive some “false positives”, but with practice, you will learn how to narrow your search. As with anything in life, “your mileage may vary”, but I have personally been extremely satisfied with the seemingly endless supply of videos found at the YouTube website, and use it almost daily.

– David Spearns (ETAG Volunteer Technology Tutor)

What is Pinterest?

Today we no longer require piles of magazines, some glue sticks and a pair of scissors to creatively convey your thoughts and ideas of the things you love. With the use of the Internet you can find videos and pictures that inspire you and compile it all on an attractive pin-board style website called Pinterest.

The concept behind Pinterest is to provide users with a way to collect and broadcast the things they find inspiring. It’s a simple and semi-addictive virtual pin-board that lets you seek out and organize collections of things you like, such as events, interests, projects, photos and hobbies.  The website has something for everyone. Subscribers of Pinterest use pin-boards to organize their creative endeavours, like planning a wedding, decorate their homes, create the dream wardrobe, and organize their favorite recipes all in one place.

Pinterest gained a lot of popularity in the spring of 2011 with the launch of the Pinterest iPhone and Android apps, making the interest discovery experience more personal and mobile than evers. In fact, the app launch generated over 11 million visits per week early in it’s existence.

Pinterest has a design and feel much like Facebook. Each user can upload a profile photo of their choice. There is also a stream of continuously updated posts that display content based on a particular users desired interests. Similar to other web tools you might have seen, Pinterest uses “Facebook connect” to allow Facebook members to log on to Pinterest through their Facebook accounts, which provides them the option to publish their Pinterest findings on their Facebook newsfeed.

Pinterest is FREE to join, similar to creating a new Gmail or Stumbleupon account. Getting started is easy. Staying away might get a little difficult. Let Pinterest be the vehicle to your own unique discovery.

– Simone Carpio (ETAG Lead Volunteer)