This blog is one way I am offering to share with fellow Third Agers, what I have learned, and have experienced, through a lifetime of using IT. I think of this as ‘thought grazing’ by us ‘silver surfers’ – click on the link above for a fuller explanation – particularly for those members of the University of the Third Age in Cardiff.
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Something I’ve only just recently become aware of is that people don’t know the difference between Google and an internet browser. Now this is a spectacular success for Google (the company) and drives their revenues up a lot, but means that users are potentially missing out on a lot in terms of their internet experience so this short note attempts to address that balance, albeit in a very small way!
How did this come about? Well principally because Google introduced an app for the iPhone and other smartphones and tablets called (unsurprisingly) … Google. It presents in a nice easy to use interface a way of searching for information on the internet – that is how Google started after all, which is how they also managed to corner the term for searching the internet – “just google it”. [You don’t hear many people saying – “just bing it”, or “just yahoo! it” – in fact in the case of the latter they just gave up and decided to use the Google search engine and ditch their own one.] So … at a stroke, new users to digital devices thought that the way to connect to the internet was through their “Google” app.
No, no – there is another way that presents you with so many other possibilities and no, no – you don’t have to restrict yourself to using just Google as your search tool. [In an earlier post I described some experiments with using DuckDuckGo and other search engines and I will return to that subject at another time.] So … what might you use?
Well even using Google’s Chrome browser is better than using the Google app on your smartphone or tablet. It probably uses the same software “under the hood” based on Google’s Open Source Chromium code base but it does offer the possibility of adding extensions, and allowing the use of alternative search engines.
But what else could you use? On my iOS (Apple mobile devices) I tend to use Apple’s Safari browser. On my desktop/laptop I tend to use Chrome, or Firefox (another Open Source project) from the Mozilla Foundation. Then there’s Microsoft’s Edge – supplied with Windows, or Opera (a lean, clean browsing machine), or I could be really radical and use something like Brave (and I am) which doesn’t track my browsing history … but I’ll leave that for another day, and for another post.
For today, the message is simple … don’t use the Google app as your main internet browser, just use it if you want to for simple searches. Find a browser you like and use that … and maybe even choose which search engine to use, it doesn’t need to be Google – I’m using Chrome with DuckDuckGo as I write this. You won’t regret making a change to your internet browsing/searching experience – believe me!
Now I’ve been uber-charitable about Apple and their MacOS, but yesterday and today I was introduced to the Spinning Beachball of Death which froze me out of doing anything on my iMac whilst I trawled the internet (on another machine) trying to find out what could be wrong.
I’d not left the machine on, in sleep mode, and yet it just crawled through boot and sign-in until it basically gave up the ghost when it got to the Desktop. What could it be?
Obviously it was probably a hardware problem … wasn’t it? Well a bit of Cmd + R work, running disk utility showed everything was in fine fettle, many re-boots later things seemed to be improving, but not all was right. What could it be? Try logging-in to another account on the same machine I thought. Well I had one, but it wasn’t an Admin account, but it was worth a try. This seemed to be much better so I was now thinking about Corruption of the User Profile and the need to Restore from a Time Machine backup … maybe. But then, out of the blue, all seemed to be well again … until this morning, when the SBOD returned.
This time I knew it was likely to be something to do with my User Profile, so I setup a new Admin account once I managed to get to the screen that allowed me to do that. Logged out, and then logged into the new account and, as I hoped, the login screamed through. I set up the machine and right at the end I was told that my Paragon NTFS for Mac (which allows me to read Windows files) needed to be updated as it was not optimal for my version of MacOS (High Sierra, 10.13.6). The penny dropped! This software wasn’t installed on my MacBook Pro. This piece of software was interfering with Finder on the iMac in some way to slow everything down. Quickly into System Preferences then, disable the NTFS for Mac driver, and re-boot. All seems to be well. Some hard lessons learnt and a lot of time wasted.
The lessons learnt?
- Have a spare Admin account on your machine so that you can check your user profile
- Disable, or Uninstall any software that you’re not using because inevitably it will go out of sync with something else
- Make sure that you know how to start your machine in a number of different ways to check for faults – I had to print out a cheat sheet to do this
- Make sure you have an up-to-date backup … just in case; I did, so that was my last option, and I’d have been OK … I think!