Sunday, August 29, 2010

Facebook Places & Your Privacy

The last couple of days there has been a post making the rounds on Facebook that reads ....

NOTICE!!! Facebook Launched Facebook Places yesterday. Anyone can find out where you are when you are logged in. It gives the actual address and map location of where you are as you use Facebook. Make sure your kids know. TO UNDO:go to"Account", "Account Settings."Notifications" then scroll ...down "Places..." and uncheck the 2 boxes. Make sure to SAVE changes and re-post this for others info.

There seems to be some confusion about what Facebook Places are, and the steps given to change your "Places" settings in the message above are not accurate. So I thought I'd try and help explain it a bit better here.

To better explain Facebook Places, think about some of your friend's posts you may have seen on Facebook for a minute. I have a friend who uses Facebook Places and another similar application called, Loopt.  Whenever this friend (we'll call him, John) goes anywhere, he uses his cell phone to post a message on Facebook telling his friends where he is.  The post does show a map and address of the business name he is at.

This is what Facebook Places does.  The idea is that if you're out at the mall, or movies, etc., you can share that information with your friends on Facebook ... so that if any of them just happen to be at the same place you are, then you guys can meet up.  The original concept behind Facebook Places is harmless. 

Below is a typical post that shows up on Facebook. John uses Facebook Places to share that he's at Starbucks getting coffee.

However, like anything else on Facebook, there are potential drawbacks and dangers folks should be aware of. Keep in mind that NOTHING on facebook is really private.  And depending on your privacy settings, you may be sharing information about your whereabouts with more people than you think. 

Some of my friends, for example, accept strangers as friends for game purposes.  The more friends you have on Facebook playing certain games, the better the game experience.  If your privacy settings are set for "friends only", keep in mind that even these strangers are seeing your whereabouts on Facebook Places.  And if you think back to grade-school and "stranger, danger" for a moment ... you might want to keep in mind that strangers are unknown variables.  In other words, if they're strangers, we don't really know if any of them are predators or sexual molesters, etc.

While adults may be willing to take the risk having their whereabouts tracked, I'd urge caution for your kids.  It's not a good idea to let your kids broadcast their whereabouts on Facebook just in case that information is inadvertently falling into the wrong hands.

Now that you understand what Facebook Places are, and what dangers to watch for ... let's change the settings.

Notification Settings  for Facebook Places

First, Facebook Places is an application, which means you don't have to use it.  If you don't use it, Facebook won't post where you are (with the exception of tagging).

Secondly, the instructions in the warning message above are wrong.  "Notifications" are emails sent by Facebook to you.  Facebook lets you specify which emails you would like to receive from them.  By default, you get an email for everything on Facebook (you may have noticed that your inbox is constantly flooded by emails from Facebook).  Changing your "notification" settings will stop Facebook from emailing you for every little thing.

The Facebook Places Notifications, have two settings that you can change. The first setting mentions "tagging".  If one of your friends is at Starbucks (for example), and you happen to be with them ... your friend might use Facebook Places to tell their friends that YOU are there with them (this is tagging).  Although you and your friend might not have arrived together at Startbucks, but ran into each other there by accident ...and your friend tells facebook you're there using Facebook Places ... you've been tagged.

So it's not bad enough that your whereabouts can be inadvertently advertised to the world,  but as you can see, your friends can also advertise your whereabouts without your knowledge through a process called, tagging).

The second notification just means that Facebook will email or text you if somebody comments on a Facebook Places post that you've been tagged in.

So in other words, if you see a checkmark under the email icon or phone icon, Facebook will email or text you anytime somebody tags you in a Facebook Places post or comments on that post. Unchecking these boxes means that you will not receive these emails or text messages .... which in turn means that you might never know if you've been tagged on Facebook Places (not good).  It's better to leave these boxes checked so that at least you will know sooner than later if somebody is tagging you in Facebook Places.

Privacy Settings for Facebook Places

There are a couple of other settings you can change to better protect your privacy with regards to Facebook Places. If you click ACCOUNT and then PRIVACY SETTINGS, you'll see Facebook Places in the list of settings.

If you click the "Customize Links" (bottom circle on image above), you'll be able to change the privacy settings for Facebook Places. This setting allows you to basically decide who will know when you check in using Facebook Places (or your friends do it for you).  I've changed my setting so that only I will know.

This basically means that nobody but me will ever see that I've checked somewhere using Facebook Places. Notice, I've also unchecked the box below the "Places I check into" setting.  While I'm not a 100% sure, I also think this means that even if I'm tagged in Facebook Places, nobody else will see that either.

For more information about Facebook Places, click here.

For more information about Facebook Privacy, click here

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ancestry Help Zone

Like many of my clients, my new passion is Genealogy.  I've discovered that I really like searching my family history and learning about all the characters in our family.

I've already been helping clients fix their genealogy software and scanner problems for years.  Now I've taken the next step in helping those same clients.  I've started a new web site specifically aimed at helping folks learn how to use the tools and resources used in genealogy research. 

This new site will share tips and other information on how to maximize your research time on sites like and as well as information on using Microsoft Word, Excel, scanners, etc.

While the site will be tailored specifically to genealogy research, I think others will find it helpful too because it will share general computer information as well.

I will be adding to the site regularly, so you might want to check it out and bookmark (or add to favorites) the site. The web address is:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Unable to open WPS Documents

Having trouble opening documents with the file extension .WPS?  If you don't have Mircrosoft Works (not to be confused with Word) on your computer, you won't be able to open .WPS files.

File extensions are the 3 letters after the period in a file extension.   These extensions tell the computer what program to use when you open a file.  The problem is that if you don't have that program installed on your computer, you can't open the document.

You may have seen the white icon with dots before like the one shown.  This is the standard "program not recognized" icon.  If you see this, it means that the computer doesn't know what program to use to open the document because that program isn't installed on your computer.  To solve the problem, you have to figure out what program originally created the document.  And to do this, you need to either determine the file extension or file type of the document.
If computer is configured to hide file extensions, you won't see them.  However, if you RIGHT click on the document's icon and select PROPERTIES, you will see the file type (i.e., what kind of document it is).  In this example, I right clicked on a Word document.  But this window looks the same for all documents you right click on.

Knowing what the file type is, will help you find the solution to your problem (which is opening the document).  If you are trying to open a Works document (which is the program that has the file extension .WPS), then you will see Microsoft Word for Works (or something similar) next to "Type of File".

If you have Microsoft Word installed on your computer, you can download a free Works Converter and install it on your computer.  This converter will let you open Word for Works in Microsoft Office.

Once the Works Converter is installed, just RIGHT CLICK on the Works document and select OPEN WITH and then Microsoft Word.  If you don't see "Open With" when you right click on the icon, hold the SHIFT key down on the keyboard and right click on the icon again (you should see it now).  If you don't see "Microsoft Word" listed in the document options, then you'll have to browse for the program in your program files and select it manually.

If you don't have Microsoft Works or Microsoft Word on your computer, the Works Converter won't help you.  And unfortunately, Open Office doesn't seem capable of opening .WPS files (not yet anyway). 

Microsoft Works is pre-installed on a lot of newer computers.  So if you know somebody that has Works on their computer, you can open the file on their computer (either email it to yourself or copy it to a flash drive). Otherwise, you can buy Microsoft Works for under $40.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Canon MP Navigator Software Has Stopped Working

If you own a Canon All-in-One printer, you probably have Canon's MP Navigator software installed on your computer. This software is necessary for using the scan features on the printer. 

While MP Navigator is nice software, sometimes it stops working.   Folks running 64-bit versions of Windows 7 or Vista often see the error "MP Navigator has stopped working" when they click the icon to run the program.  And unfortunately, uninstalling and reinstalling the software doesn't seem to fix the problem. 

The other day I was working on a computer that had this problem and after several email exchanges with suggestions from Canon tech support, the problem persisted.   I finally found the answer on a forum and wanted to share the solution here. 

If you see a consistent error message, "MP Navigator has stopped working" you might want to try these steps.  First thing you have to do though, is show your hidden folders.  To do this ...

  1. Click the START button and then CONTROL PANEL
  4. Click VIEW tab
  5. Under Advanced Settings, click "Show hidden files, folders,and drives"
  6. Click OK to exit window
Once the hidden folders are visible, you want to find the file named, "My websites on MSN".  For advanced users, the actual path to the file is:

C:\Users\\App Data\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Network Shortcuts\My Web Sites on MSN

For those folks who don't understand how to find a file using the path above, follow the instructions below:
  1. Click the START button and then COMPUTER
  2. Double click the C-Drive
  3. Double click the folder named USERS
  4. Double click your user folder (it may have your name or say HP Administrator on it)
  5. Double click the folder named APPLICATION DATA (App Data)
  6. Double click the folder named ROAMING
  7. Double click the folder named MICROSOFT
  8. Double click the folder named WINDOWS
  9. Double click the folder named NETWORK SHORTCUTS
  10. If you see an icon (or file) named "My MSN Shortcuts", delete it (and confirm deletion)
Once that file is removed, it's a good idea to undo our first set of steps and hide those folders again which are normally hidden. To do this, follow the first set of steps above.  However, when you get to step 5, be sure to check the appropriate option to "not show hidden files, folders and drives".