John Torro, Times Correspondent

John Torro

John is the Solutions columnist for the Times. John started out in the computer industry in 1978 by writing Assembler language programs on punch cards, long before Windows made computing attainable for normal people with mouse clicks and icons. Over the course of his career, John has been a software developer and a systems and network manager for various mainframe and mini computers as well as Windows servers.

John stresses "common sense computing" and urges his readers to keep their systems simple, safe and streamlined in an effort to avoid aggravation.

John is a native New Yorker but has lived in Palm Harbor since 1981. John is married and has three grown children. He is passionate about sports and enjoys all types of music as well as playing and collecting guitars.

E-mail: personaltech@tampabay.com

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  1. Solutions: Windows 8 upgrade is optional

    Personal Finance

    I have Windows 8 on my new computer. I do not want to upgrade to 8.1, as I heard it is a mega download and because I do not have a touchscreen. Is there any advantage to Windows 8.1 over 8 if you do not have a touchscreen? I use my computer for emails and Web surfing.

    Actually, the Windows 8.1 update contained several mouse and keyboard improvements. There is a power button right on the Start screen that lets you more easily power down or enter sleep mode — no more searching for the "magic Charm" spot to click Settings just to power down. There are also some new right-click options on Tiles. The most useful change for me was the Title Bar for full-screen apps that now allows you to minimize or close the window without having to ''grab'' the top of the window and drag it to the bottom. Much more civilized. If you're happy and working on 8, there are no other compelling reasons to upgrade. Eventually, you will need to, but for now, you sound like you're in a good place computerwise. And like I always say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."...

  2. Beware of browser hijack

    News

    I am getting random word links, with pop up windows, when the mouse goes over the link. I am not getting them on banking or financial pages. An example: on the City of St Petersburg site, www.stpete.org/utilitybill/ the word "computer" turned into a link with pop-up window page that contains the following: "Free Local job search, Search thousands of jobs: monster.com: Aid by Highlight, click here". There are several other words turned into links such as access, backdraft, online account and more. I am using Internet Explorer v11, Windows 7 and Microsoft Security Essentials. I tried to correct the problem with a full scan and using Security Essentials and IE Tools (Internet options, programs, manage add-ons, disable all), but had no luck. Using Google I found a website, Wafflesatnoon.com, that offers free software to correct the problem, I am afraid of using free software. ...

  3. Solutions: Don't click on pop-ups

    Business

    I have Microsoft Outlook email and Microsoft Office Word 2007, and almost daily a pop-up comes up with the following message: "A tool to aid in developing services for Windows NT Microsoft Windows. … " My daughter said never click on the pop-ups, so I have not. What is your opinion?

    My opinion is that your daughter is smart. It looks as if that issue has something to do with Garmin Maps GPS software. If you have that installed and don't use it, go to Control Panel, Programs and Uninstall a Program and remove it. If you need to keep it, remove it from your Start Programs menu....

  4. Solutions: How to get rid of 'PUP' programs

    Personal Tech

    I have Malwarebytes and Windows Defender as my protectors. I am trying to remove Trovi.com. I keep getting this annoying website with more tabs. I have tried to eliminate it several times, without luck. Every time I think it's gone, it comes back. When I Google info on uninstalling it I get several suggestions which, of course, will give me more trash. Is another protector out there?

    Trovi is known as a 'potentially unwanted program' (PUP) and should show as such on a MalwareBytes scan. Make sure your Malwarebytes is up-to-date with the latest definition, which as of July 23 is 2.0.2.1012. Trovi takes over your Internet search engine and is usually installed as an add-on application from some other software you may have installed. It is important you read the EULA (end user legal agreement) and/or other install instructions when installing any program....

  5. Solutions: Solving 'Run Error 383'

    Personal Tech

    I tried to update Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and got this message: "Run Error '383' text property is read only." Can you help?

    There are two possible steps to fix this issue depending on whether it is due to missing Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0 Common Controls (mscomctl.ocx and comctl32.ocx) or a problem in your current Malwarebytes configuration files/registry. Always try the easiest fix first, which in this case is downloading the Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0 Common Controls: Go to microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=10019 and click the Download button. On the Web page, click to expand the Install Instructions and follow the steps. If you still experience the error when running Malwarebytes, proceed to this:...

  6. Solutions: Notebook downloads fast but desktop is slow

    Personal Tech

    I have a 4-month-old Notebook, Wi-Fi connected, Windows 8, running at 1.50 GHz, and a 2-week-old desktop, cable connected, Windows 8.1, running at 1.40 GHz. Facebook experience on the Notebook is lightning fast downloading pictures, info, etc. On the desktop it is pain­stakingly slow with intermittent messages, lasting for a few seconds, that connection to the website has failed but then is quickly reestablished. Takes maybe 30 seconds before scroll bar can be used. When activated once, it stops for perhaps another 30 seconds. Various sessions with tech supports have been unable to determine why this is happening. ...

  7. Solutions: Security systems for an older laptop

    Personal Tech

    I have a Dell Latitude D620, with Windows XP Pro. It is serviceable on the road to check email and other lightweight tasks. You've recommended Windows Security Essentials and Windows Defender as good security programs. Since Microsoft ceased support of Windows XP, neither program will run on the laptop. Are there other anti-virus programs, free or paid, suitable for an older computer and Windows XP? ...

  8. Solutions: Should computer get hot when watching videos?

    Personal Tech

    I'm running Windows 7 on my HP Notebook. The computer runs fine and is cool until I view a video. Then the computer gets quite hot. Do I have any reason to be concerned, and if so what can I do about it?

    What you're seeing is normal as long if it is not a prolonged period beyond the running of the video. That particular action can be CPU-intensive, which is why the fan kicks in. Go into Internet Explorer, Tools, Internet Options, Advanced tab. Under Accelerated Graphics make sure that "Use software rendering instead of GPU rendering" is not checked. That would be the default setting already if your video/system board has a separate GPU (graphics processor unit, like a CPU just for graphics). Almost all modern PC's come with one. Also, check HP's support website and make sure that you have the latest video drivers. ...

  9. Solutions: Problems sending email using Word

    Personal Tech

    I purchased a new computer earlier this year with Windows 8. My old computer used XP, and I never had any problems with it. Now, when I send emails to three of my friends, they get many pages of code with no conversion to text. I am using Microsoft Word. Any recommendations for a fix?

    If you are sending out Microsoft Office Word documents in your email with a later version from your Windows 8 PC, it is possible that your friends do not have a matching version on their PCs. That would explain the "code," which is actually just the binary encoding of the Word document. Your friends can go to www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=4 to download/install the Microsoft Office Word Viewer. This should allow them to read your Word documents....

  10. Solutions: Windows 7 or Windows 8?

    Personal Tech

    I have a problem similar to the person who wrote you not long ago. Like the writer of that question, I have an older computer with Windows XP. You suggested buying a new computer with Windows 8. A friend of mine advised me to get a new computer with Windows 7 because Windows 8 has problems with interface and touch screen configurations that make it difficult to use. Do you have an opinion about this matter? ...

  11. Solutions: Be sure Windows update is installed

    Personal Tech

    Note to readers: Microsoft released the Windows 8.1 Update on April 8. This is not to be confused with Windows 8.1, which was an upgrade to the original Windows 8 release and which was made available last year. With me? I know, it's confusing. The important thing is that as of May 13, Microsoft will not be releasing security updates for Windows 8.1 unless you have installed the Windows 8.1 Update. To make sure it is installed, press the Windows key and type "windows update" (without the quotes) and then click the Windows Update link that appears at the top of the Search list. Click Review Update History, scroll down to about April 8 and make sure you see Windows 8.1 Update for x64-based Systems (KB2919355). If not, click the back arrow and then click the "Important Updates" link to the right. It should be listed. Click the check box to select it, click Install and let Windows Update do its thing....

  12. Solutions: Getting Explorer to open to full screen

    Personal Tech

    I run Windows 7 with Internet Explorer 11. When I open Internet Explorer from a shortcut on my desktop, it doesn't open on the full screen. It opens maybe about a quarter of the screen at the top. I have to click on the enlarge square on the top right to make it open to full screen. When I open Internet Explorer from the tool bar, clicking on the icon, it automatically opens to full screen. Is there a fix for this? When I first got Windows 7, I didn't have this problem, and I never had the problem with XP....

  13. Solutions: How to combat blank Web pages

    Personal Tech

    Note to readers: A new Windows 8.1 update is coming soon. Still no Start button, but they are moving in that direction in trying to make it easier to use. Check out the changes at www.cnet.com/products/windows-8-1-update.

    •••

    I am having so much trouble with the "blank page" nonsense on my computer. I purchased heavy-duty scanners and found out that it is not a virus. It's just attached to my Internet Explorer. It keeps changing my home page back to msn.com and will not allow me to open any URL tabs. It just opens three or four blank pages. There are quite a few fixes online but I would rather not go into the registry....

  14. Solutions: Check air vents to keep computer from overheating

    Personal Tech

    My HP notebook with Windows 7 is 3 years old and runs fine. My concern is that when I watch TV shows or movies, I can feel the computer getting hot. Is this normal?

    Let's start by saying that the worst thing you can do to a laptop, aside from throwing it into a tub of water, is to rest it on a bed, a blanket or a soft cushion. This cuts off much of the air intake and will lead to the components inside starting to over-heat. Most modern laptop vents are on the side, but even those can easily get covered when resting on a soft surface. You'll notice the heat, the high fan activity noise and then the gradual slowing of the CPU. Left for too long in this condition, it will shut down to prevent further damage. By that time, it can be too late. It is literally cooked. Check to see where you laptops air vents are located, and make sure they are getting plenty of air circulation when you're in your TV watching position....

  15. Solutions: Best touchpad to buy

    Personal Tech

    Would you please tell me what the best touchpad would be theses days? Also would I put Windows 8 on it? I was wondering because of the problems I have heard about Outlook and Windows 8.

    All tablets come with the operating system already installed, so there is no choice involved. I've got more than a few tablets hanging around the house, covering just about every type except the Windows tablets. So I cannot comment on the Windows Surface tablet directly, although the Windows 8 interface was made for and works much better on touchscreens. The most important consideration when buying a tablet is the availability of applications. Apple iPads are the standard and always a safe choice. They are also the most expensive — an important consideration. The few inexpensive "browser only" tablets that I've used I found hard to work with. The same way laptops have overtaken desktops, tablets will eventually be the device of choice for home users. I love Microsoft products and I wouldn't be adverse to using a Microsoft Surface tablet, but if I had to buy a new tablet tomorrow, it would be an iPad....