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Our Digital Club

The Digital Blog for Social Media and Computer Survival with a twist of Rotary.  
(Shared experiences from the Rotary Club of Norristown.)

Our Digital Club, Part 9 - Recovering from Browser Hijack

posted Feb 21, 2017, 6:53 AM by RotaryofNorristown   [ updated Feb 21, 2017, 6:54 AM ]

Our Digital Club, Part 8 - Backing up Photos for Free

posted Jun 24, 2016, 7:20 PM by RotaryofNorristown   [ updated Feb 17, 2017, 10:44 AM ]

Social media requires lots of digital pictures or photos, and eventually you run out of space storing them all.  You need them backed up in a safe place where you can get to them.  Which begs the question, why not store them in the cloud?  There are several paid cloud storage solutions for pictures if you are a professional photographer but there are some pretty good free ones for amateurs also.  Google+ Photos, Flickr and Amazon Prime all offer free picture storage with significant amount of space, some unlimited.

Flickr is a good example (owned by Yahoo).  All you have to do is set up a Free Flickr account creating a Yahoo email as ID.  To begin, go to the Flickr website  Create an account and log in.  There you can drag and drop import your photos right into the library.  Flickr also allows you to create folders called categories (where Google does not).  There’s even a built in photo editor on the website where you can remove red eye, brighten and crop etc.  There is a free app (for PC & Mac) which can automatically sync the photos on your computer right into the cloud library (even from Apple Photos).  And if you take pictures on your phone, there’s a mobile app which will automatically sync new pictures into the cloud library.  Flickr’s only restriction is 1 Terabyte of storage free, and photos may be 200mb or 1gb video max but thats many, manny years worth of pictures.  They will store videos also. Once it says all your photos are synced, you can delete them from your phone to save space if you like.
Google+ Photos is another alternative.  It has all of the capabilities of Flickr except it doesn’t have categories.  But it does have an awfully powerful shape/image recognition engine built into search.  For example if you type in car, it will find and display all the photos containing a car automatically without tagging.  Storage is unlimited but the photo maximum picture size is 16mb or 1080HD video.  That’s pretty large though and would work for most people unless you are shooting 4K video. Then you can upgrade the plan.
LYVE is still another hardware based approach.  Suppose you want to store your pictures locally (in your home) but you are willing to use the internet to sync them for convenience in one place.  Lyve makes a product (3”x3”x5” cube with an LCD face panel) which is a mini 2 terabyte server.  Once you install their computer based and mobile based software, it will sync your pictures to the little cube automatically via wifi. And they will scrolling display on the face panel with a little clock like a desktop picture cube.  And you can view any photo or video from any device configured to sync to the common account (like a an entire household).  No actual photos are kept in the cloud only meta data for syncing purposes.  These are available on Amazon for about $100

UPDATE:  The manufacturer Lyve Inc was purchased by Seagate who made a decision to shut down these web services on Dec 31,2016 which rendered these devices useless.

There are three great ways to backup (and share with others) your photos so there is no excuse for losing them.

Our Digital Club is a collection of Rotary social media and computing topics published at the Rotary Club of Norristown website

Our Digital Club, Part 5 - Computer Malware

posted Jul 23, 2015, 12:04 PM by RotaryofNorristown   [ updated Aug 30, 2015, 2:41 AM ]

Computer malware can ruin a PC, a website, even an entire company.  Malware is forever becoming more and more sophisticated and more dangerous.  And it is more prevalent now that web sites are used to spread it. At the same time, new, more advanced tools are developed every day, but can they keep up?  The stakes are high with the discovery of the latest ransomware such as Cryptowall.  A company or municipal government agency could be devastated.  Security experts agree the best defense against malware is good computing behavior.  Our club dedicated a program to a computer malware discussion and some tactics to defend against it. As good as anti-malware software may be, the best assurance of complete and clean recovery is restoring the computer to factory state and restoring data from a clean backup.

The entire program reviewed infamous viruses from the past, as well as the latest dangerous ransomware viruses.  Here are a few highlight slides from the program on July 23rd, 2015 ' The World Nastiest Computer Malware' 

Computer viruses were the original malware.  But they represent only one type of malware threat.

Among the famous viruses discussed here is a new one.  If you are a Gmail user, you need to be aware of the Gmail Filter Virus.  It's not a virus exactly but more a hack.  Once your account password has been compromised, the hacker creates a series of spam forwarding filters in your account and then logs off. Once you're compromised,  changing your password alone will leave the filters in place which continue to forward spam. And check your automated email signature feature. Hackers will hide spammy links there which get stamped on every email you send.

How do I avoid getting malware ?
*Your computing behavior
Log in as a standard user, not an administrator
Dont download software from unknown sources
Dont open email attachments from unknown persons
Don’t click on email links to access any websites
Ignore UPS and USPS email around the holidays saying we have your package, and “so called” fines from law enforcement & EZPass in email
*Apply patch updates from Microsoft & Apple (Windows updates 2nd Tuesday)
*Use security software (anti-malware/anti-virus) & keep it up to date
*Backup your valuable data and cycle your backups
*Consider uninstalling Adobe Flash & Java (old tech)

How do I know if my computer is already infected ?
*Computer is running exceptionally slowly
*Computer is locked and you cant access it
*Random mouse movements or messages popping up on their own (appears haunted)
*You type a specific web site address into the browser but you are taken to something looking different
*You see pop-up ads but you’re not browsing the internet
*Friends complain of spam from you (you might simply be hacked)
*Your computer talks to you

What if I am infected ?
*Stop backing up (corrupted data)
*Update your Antivirus Software definitions
    Try Microsoft's tool first. It is self booting and can detect rootkit viruses on the hard drive.
*Download the Microsoft Safety Scanner tool

(Similar to monthly Malicious Software Removal Tool)

*Run the Safety Scanner setup, agree to license EULA,  burn a boot CD
*Boot from the CD and scan your system
    Now use your antivirus software in manual mode.
    When booting from your hard drive, some viruses disable normal system functions in order to
    discourage removal as well as launch some self initiating re-infecting system processes.
*Disconnect the computer from the internet & networks
*Boot in ‘Safe Mode (Hold F8) until beep
*Manually perform a full scan using your antivirus software
    If all else fails or you wish to be absolutely certain . . .
*Last Resort…backup your data, restore your computer to factory state, reinstall your application software and restore your data. Only solution 100% reliable.

Apple Macs can get malware as well as PCs, there just arent nearly as many Mac viruses.

The free anti-virus solutions are often just as effective, but they usually don't include all the extras.

Most experts agree that you should decide how much work you would be willing to redo (in terms of time)  in the event of a disaster. Whatever that time span is, that should be your backup frequency.  e.g. if you are willing to recreate your data updating done in one week, than a weekly backup might be sufficient.
Also, you don't really have a backup unless it meets the criteria of the 3-2-1 Backup Rule.

Here is the link for the Western Digital 1 Terabyte My Passport Ultra very fast USB 3.0 drive (comes with backup software and hardware encryption) at Amazon for around $70 (although 500gb would probably be large enough). It can automatically password encrypt your data using the highest AES256 standard and it does it in hardware not software, so it is lightning fast. USB 3.0 is downward compatible to work with computers with older USB 2.0 ports.

The issue with cycling backups.. what if the infection is in the process of corrupting or encrypting data while you are backing up?  You will be backing up bad data.  You need to go back far enough to be sure the data is clean.

There is no substitute for strong login passwords.  Also 2nd factor authentication ought to be the norm. The goal of the 2nd factor is to further prove that it is really you logging in and not someone else remotely logging on with your password.  Some logon schemes authorize only your computer.  One way they do this is by requesting a pin code on the screen which they texted to your cell  phone, the first time you log on to that computer.  If you have both the password and the pin (from your phone) they assume it is you. Or they may use biometric technology such as voice recognition.   If your bank does't have 2nd factor authentication and you do online banking, change banks.

Our Digital Club is a collection of Rotary social media and computing topics published at the Rotary Club of Norristown website

Our Digital Club, Part 4 - 2 Way Info, Collecting Information via Web Forms

posted Jul 4, 2015, 5:37 AM by RotaryofNorristown   [ updated Feb 17, 2017, 10:42 AM ]

Club websites are the information compendium of any club.  It’s the one place where an interested web surfer can come to find a trunk load of information indexed and organized by topic so it is easy, not only to learn everything you’d want to know about a club, but use as a reference source to look up or access information not only about the club but information culled from other Rotary sources.  And given the URL, or .com or .net naming standard, it is easy to locate. 

But are you using your website to collect information?  Web sites can not only communicate outward but inward as well. An easy mechanism for doing this is to use web forms.  Web forms are built into many web site construction tools.  They can be used for a variety of needs.  Some examples are registration, requests for information, sign up lists and even interactive surveys.  There are many web form software packages which can be purchased but Google offers Google Forms as a free vehicle to make it ridiculously easy to quickly design a form with rudimentary input rules, collect the information and even communicate the composite results, if you choose. 

Google Forms can be embedded on your web site or they can be distributed through email.  Basically there are two steps to use forms on a web site, 1 - build the form, 2 - paste in (embed) the code.
It is straightforward to use ‘Google Forms”. Just embed the form on your site (provided it supports embedded custom HTML).
It is supported by ClubRunner and by the Google Sites tools.  One of the best uses is to use it as a 'Request for Information' form.  This allows a prospective Rotarian the ability to provide basic information (some optional) such as contact information and even communicate their specific interest in Rotary. Here is one such example .  
At the same time, it allows you to build a list of interested prospects.  Don’t forget to put a link allowing them to subscribe to your newsletter.

Here is a tutorial for building a survey type form in Google Forms for use on a ClubRunner Website.

This technique can be very handy to collect web visitor information.  But Google Forms can also be embedded in an email (especially a ClubRunner email).  This makes doing club surveys a snap.

It’s easy peasy.  All you need is a free Google Account.

Digital Club is a collection of Rotary social media and computing topics published at the Rotary Club of Norristown website

Our Digital Club, Part 3 - Give Us A Call

posted Nov 21, 2014, 7:30 AM by RotaryofNorristown   [ updated Aug 29, 2016, 7:39 PM ]

us, operators are standing by.

It’s important for the club to be reachable. Sometimes there is no substitute for picking up the phone and calling. Years ago, if you wanted to have a dedicated club phone number, you had to have a dedicated line and a phone handset. Modern telephony technology has changed all of that. No longer must you have a landline telephone attached to the end of your number. Now you can leverage entire virtual PBX systems using voice over IP technology to handle all of your telephony needs and they are highly configurable with a full range of services.

Pay services such as RingCentral or Line2 are excellent VOIP services and can do anything your club might dream up. But there is also a free alternative from Google Inc. Google Voice does most of what these pay services offer and naturally, it’s free. All you have to do is have a Google account and register and pick a number from the available bank of local numbers.

Google Voice can do call answering, call forwarding, call screening, call blocking, message transcripting and lots more. Once you set up your club Google Voice account, you add the phones and emails you wish to use as destinations to receive calls or transcripted messages. The phones must be verified by text message in order to prove they are actually yours. You can even have rules and schedules for how calls are handled. For instance, you can have calls are accepted or forwarded during the day but also have them go to the answering machine at night. And you can have it forward to and ring multiple phones at the same time.

You don’t have to answer every time a call is forwarded though to you. The answering system is top notch. It will take a message and it will even transcribe it and email it to you (and others). If it is not convenient you can call them back as soon as possible. Or if you are picking up messages and it really needs to go to someone else in the club, you can forward the email and that person will be able to play the actual message on their computer.

Should you choose to screen all incoming calls, once screening is turned on by visiting the web site, should you receive a call, the caller will hear "please state your name". Next Google Voice will put them on hold and call you and let you know someone is waiting, you will hear their name and voice and you have the option of pressing 1 to allow the call to forward through, otherwise it goes to a recording.  Everything is configurable by visiting your account on the Google Voice website. It is very handy when club roles change.

The Norristown club receives quite a few, membership, bike collection and scholarship questions by phone. As long as you publicize the Google Voice number on your website or business cards, people will find you.

Digital Club is a collection of Rotary social media and computing topics published at the Rotary Club of Norristown website

Our Digital Club, Part 2 - Maps, You are Here ===> X

posted Oct 27, 2014, 8:57 PM by RotaryofNorristown   [ updated Apr 17, 2016, 12:40 AM ]

Google Maps is a universal mapping service provided free by Google, Inc. Not only does it include great navigation maps but also satellite imagery and street view perspectives. And it offers point to point directions and navigation. Most times, anyone doing a web search to find your club will end up using Google Maps to locate you or to get there. So it is very important to be visible and findable on Google Maps. Also, if you register as a business, you will appear in web searches twice. Once because of your normal web site being found and again as a place of business.

The key to make this all happen is to make sure that your club is registered on Google Places. Google Places is a free online business directory of local businesses and organizations. Getting registered requires providing Google with some information about your club, including location. And then subsequently verifying that information. Google also offers Google + Local Business Pages should you want to feature your club on Google, you can do both. But Google Places is the critical piece to get on the map.

Why is it important to register? Local web searches for a Rotary club near you will list your club on the map only if you are registered. Otherwise, an interested inquirer would have to already know and type in your street address to find your location. Also Rotary uses data from Google Places to aid in listing you correctly on the Rotary "Club Locator” service. If this data is invalid, you won’t be found.

It’s easy to register but it is a 2 step process. You’ll need to set up a Google Account first if you don’t have one.
To register, open your browser and go to  

Google will ask you to agree to terms and conditions.  And then it will ask you to search for your business to be sure it does’t already exist. And when it is not found, it will let you enter your address.  Most clubs enter “organization” for the category code. If you don’t have a club phone number, now’s a good time to get a free Google Voice account (covered in part 3).

Finally, it will ask to send you a verification postcard to the address you gave.

Google will register your club for 30 days unverified but in order to remain permanently registered, Google will want to be sure you really do business there. They will send you a registration verification code by postal mail to the club address within 2 weeks. And it looks like junk mail so you must look for it. Once you receive the verification code, you must revisit the site and enter the code they sent you.

Here is an excellent video which walks through the entire process.

Typical search for “rotary" 

That’s it. Web searches should now list you along with other area Rotary clubs so your prospective Rotarians will easily find you.

Digital Club is a collection of Rotary social media and computing topics published at the Rotary Club of Norristown website

Our Digital Club, Part 1 - "Getting Your Club Noticed"

posted Oct 14, 2014, 6:03 AM by RotaryofNorristown   [ updated Feb 17, 2017, 10:27 AM ]

Two years ago, District Governor Tony Janetta visited the Norristown club and participated in the monthly board meeting. He had come prepared and he already knew that, other than a new Facebook page, the Norristown club was not showing up in web searches and was conspicuously missing in the world of social media. He pointed out that by not establishing a club digital footprint and web presence, the club was missing a huge opportunity to be found by potential candidate Rotarians. So he challenged the club.

The club responded by forming a small web committee and building a web site using Google Sites (we had no budget at the time and Google Sites is free). Sites is a very reliable, robust platform. The development tools included are extremely powerful, easy to use and flexible. Once our public website was functional, we built another private site area for “Members Only" (requiring login and used for club administration) and a third site focused specifically on "Membership Building" and “Speaker Planning”. Aside from purchasing a domain name, we incurred no costs.

Since the time the website went live, we have also licensed Club Runner, but mainly to augment our other services with online attendance, dues management and eBulletin publication. With the website functioning, we also setup a LinkedIn account and a Twitter account. On the homepage we advertise a Google Voice phone number (also free) established for the club where people can call or leave us messages. These can be screened, emailed, routed and forwarded to any phone.

Two years have passed. We have accumulated followers and we are learning to use these internet channels to inform, advertise, market the Rotary Brand and attract Rotary member interest. It is a lot of initial work and time investment but, it is starting to pay off. In fact, our most recent member and most recent prospect found us through the internet, and we have had numerous interested candidates find us and inquire this past year. The membership chair receives an email indicating when someone has filled out the inquiry form. We get on average, half a dozen membership inquiries per year. Anyone inquiring is offered to be added to our newsletter and invited to lunch. A portion of the club's public website is dedicated to marketing the Rotary brand so that others understand what Rotary does and can make their own membership decision. We also registered our physical meeting place address as a business with Google Places, so that the club would start showing up on Google Maps (see Part 2).

A club website is the internet gem of every club, even though other channels are more socially engaging, the website is the compendium of organized club knowledge. So our other channel posts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) usually include a link to direct internet visitors back to the related website club story where the complete story and a lot more comprehensive Rotary brand information, can be found. Website stories are our club blog. It’s hard to keep Rotarians still enough to photograph without posing, they love to pose. But large "action" pictures generate more interest. Once they are directed to the the web homepage, visitors can also get the big picture about Rotary. In fact, multiple internet channels can point to the very same web site story, drawing an audience to the website. This is a common technique used with web blogs to grow a blog audience. Twitter is very effective at this.

The cardinal rule of any website is to keep information current and updated or refreshed regularly. If web visitors see the same content they saw on their last visit or it is obsolete information, they will never visit again. The Norristown Club site is updated twice a week. The club tweets on Twitter at least once or twice a week (usually with pictures, and we often get retweeted by others) and we have found that once we have followed and attracted about a hundred Twitter followers, it gains momentum and people begin finding and following us on their own, unsolicited. The same is true for LinkedIn which is updated weekly. Progress is measured using Google Analytics to report the number of web visitors that come to the site and which pages get visited.

Example using numerous social media channels to engage and ultimately direct people to the website

Engaging in social media and making it work for you, is not something you can do overnight. But if you plan ahead and commit to maintaining and updating what you build, sooner or later, the benefits of club visibility and web presence will get your club noticed.   

Digital Club is a collection of Rotary social media and computing topics published at the Rotary Club of Norristown website

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