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Issue #397: Mar 1–7, 2015

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Q: I try to keep my computer happy by minimizing the updates that everyone in cyber-world seems to want me to have. But often those updates cause me problems – especially iTunes!

– George S.
Niceville, Florida

A:  I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that somewhere along the line you got burned by an update, George.  I think at some point or another we’ve all had that experience, where we trust Big Brother to send over and install updates while we’re sleeping, only to find a disaster on our hands the next day.  Oh, if only we hadn’t allowed those updates, right?

Well, that’s one of those things that sounds like a good idea, but when put into practice, it causes far more problems than it prevents.  I will grant you that on occasion, some software vendor will put out a well-intentioned patch that has been improperly tested, or which should have been more narrowly-focused and pushed out only to the small percentage of installations that are actually having a problem instead of arbitrarily to every registered user.  These one-size-fits-all patches are easiest for the vendors to create, but can, and sometimes do cause problems for the end-users.  However, (and it’s a very big “however”) by and large, a vendor only puts out a patch because a bug or security issue has been discovered in their software.  Microsoft, for instance, has a regularly scheduled patch day on the second and sometimes the fourth Tuesday of each month (at least in North America they do – for my international readers, if you want to know when your patch day is, write to me and I’ll see if I can find out for you).

By “minimizing the updates” that get installed on your computer, you are tacitly declining every feature fix and every security improvement that vendors develop.  Rather than receiving them automatically, you now have to A) Find out they exist, B) Go and get each of them, and C) Manually install them.  You’re likely running software from dozens of different vendors on your system, and making a lot of work for yourself.  If that’s not enough to convince you, what’s the first thing I always recommend when you’re having a problem?  Yup: Make sure you’re running the latest version, and have all the latest patches installed.

Q:  Jeff, do you handle questions about mac computers?  Occasionally the upper left part of my laptop screen becomes a jumble of vertical and horizontal bars that vary in size and flash.  I need to exit the app I’m using to rid the problem.  Any thoughts on cause and fix?

– Jim S.
Miramar Beach, Florida

A:  My expertise lies more in the realm of Windows than Mac, Jim, but congratulations on asking the question more politely than anyone ever has in the past. (You’d be shocked at some of the things Mac fans have written to me!)  Although I don’t have much direct experience with Macs, I am the sole holder of the geekudan black belt in the mystical art of Google-Fu.  One of my special powers is the ability to coerce search engines to cough-up answers to questions on just about any topic – including Mac computers.  It would help though, to know if this always happens with the same program.  If so, that might indicate a problem with the app rather than the OS.  Also, are you using Hot Corners (introduced in your version of OS X)?  Are you trying to run the app in its own work space?  Either of these might be contributing to your problem.  I would invite any Mac aficionados who think they can help Jim to head over to and comment on this article.

The Geek’s Website of the Week!

Name: Listen To YouTube

Nominated By: The Geek


Description: YouTube is a fantastic resource for finding not just video, but also audio of every type you can imagine.  I often use YouTube as a resource to find background music and sound effects for plays and videos of my own making.  The problem with YouTube’s online interface is that it’s very difficult to play exactly what you need right when when you need it, and it’s virtually impossible to embed YouTube content into your own work.  Wouldn’t it be super-sweet if there was a way to capture the audio of a YouTube video into a .mp3 file that you can edit, trim, embed, or even add to your music library?

Let me introduce you to Listen To YouTube.  This cool site does exactly what I said above.  You provide the link to any non-copyrighted video on YouTube, click a couple of buttons, and Listen To YouTube extracts the audio and instantly converts it into a downloadable .mp3 file.  The site doesn’t enforce the copyrights, but they do make it clear in their Terms of Service that their site is NOT to be used to violate someone else’s copyrights.

So, next time you’re in need of an audio clip to set just the right mood for that school play, church drama, or family vacation video, go looking for it on YouTube, then hit up for one of the easiest conversion experiences on the Internet.  Enjoy!

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